Written by Evan McShane (@veryreasonable)
The road to the Super Bowl starts today as the Wils Card Round of the NFL Playoff kicks off at 4:30pm ET. But before we sit down to watch the Colts (as well as five former Hoosiers) try and continue their run to the Super Bowl, let’s see how the former Hoosiers did in the league this past season.
Roger Saffold, LG, Los Angeles Rams
Roger Saffold had another fantastic season with the LA Rams as their explosive offense produced a 13-3 season and a first-round bye in the playoffs. Saffold is the longest-tenured player on the Rams and his time with the franchise is paying off in a big way. This is Saffold’s ninth season with LA and he is performing better than ever. The Rams’ offensive line has been dominant under head coach Sean McVay and Roger Saffold plays a huge role in their success by filling the right guard spot.
As a Hoosier, Saffold started 41 out of 42 games in his college career. The past three seasons, he has started 46 of a possible 48 games for the Rams. Saffold is an anchor on the field and a local hero off of it. Representing Indiana like a true pro, Saffold has long been involved with giving back to charity. He has been active with Big Brothers Big Sisters, United Way, and others. Saffold was honored as the Community Impact Player of the Week in December for his numerous contributions, including efforts to raise awareness for bullying and cyber bullying. He won’t be scoring touchdowns or putting up stats, but Roger Saffold embodies what it means to be a Hoosier in every sense.
Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears
Jordan Howard is another Hoosier experiencing great team success. The Bears are having their best season in nearly a decade under new head coach Matt Nagy. Howard nearly reached the 1,000-yard mark for the third straight season, finishing the year with 935 rushing yards. He added nine touchdowns and 20 receptions for 145 yards. Howard played in every game, continuing an impressive durability streak for a young running back. While Howard did see a decrease in carries from last year, he found great success in the Bears final game against the Vikings where he scored two touchdowns and eclipsed 100 yards rushing.
Howard provided one of his many highlights when he ran over a defender in a game against the Buffalo Bills.
The Bears are primed for playoff time and in the dead of winter, running the football will be a major key to success. Chicago will look to lean on Howard and an elite defense to carry them through the postseason. As for Howard’s future, it looks like he will find a home as a feature back elsewhere next season. Howard has been in trade rumors surrounding the Bears. It’s possible that his decline in carries is related to Matt Nagy’s desire to run more of a spread offense. Howard, a power back, would best thrive in a more traditional offense and rushing attack. Nevertheless, at age 24, Jordan Howard has an incredibly bright future and Hoosier fans should enjoy rooting for him for years to come.
Tevin Coleman, RB, Atlanta Falcons
Tevin Coleman saw an increase in his workload this season as fellow running back Devonta Freeman was lost for the year due to injury. As IU fans remember from his days as a Hoosier, Coleman had a unique combination of power, skill, and explosiveness. In his fourth NFL season, Coleman saw increases in his carries, rushing yards, and receptions. Coleman ran for 800 yards on 167 carries for four rushing touchdowns, including this run against the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. He recorded career bests in yards per attempt and yards per game. As a receiver, Coleman caught 32 passes for 276 yards and five touchdowns.
Coleman recorded a number of explosive plays. His longest run of the season went for 65 yards and he averaged nearly five yards per carry. Atlanta finished the year with a 7-9 record, missing the playoffs. Coleman is set to be a free agent this summer and with his exceptional versatility, he will likely be a coveted player this offseason. Hopefully he’s able to sign with a team that can offer opportunity and success. Like Howard, Coleman is still young and will continue to be fun for Hoosier fans to watch at the NFL level.
Dan Feeney, LG, Los Angeles Chargers
Dan Feeney started every game for the playoff-bound Chargers this season. The Chargers finished the year 12-4 and will play at Baltimore in the Wild Card on Sunday. Feeney battled knee injuries all season, but his toughness kept him from missing time. In his second year in the NFL, it’s impressive for Feeney to have found a starting spot on a contending team. At Indiana, his gifts as a lineman were obvious. Watching his ability translate to the NFL has been a joy to watch. Another young Hoosier at 24 years old, IU fans will enjoy following Dan Feeney’s NFL journey.
Nate Sudfeld, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Yet another Hoosier in the playoffs. Fresh off of winning a Super Bowl, Nate Sudfeld spent this season backing up Carson Wentz and Nick Foles for the Eagles. Philly will play in Chicago on Sunday. Starting QB Carson Wentz was declared out for the year earlier this season with a back injury. Nick Foles has started the past few weeks and the Eagles offense looks rejuvenated. In week 17, Sudfeld saw some game action and he made the most of it. He threw his first touchdown pass of his career – hopefully the first of many.
Eagles’ coach Doug Pederson is well-known for being a solid developer of quarterback talent. Although Sudfeld has been a backup throughout his career so far, he is likely benefiting from good coaching and excellent quarterback competition in Foles and Wentz. If Hoosier fans get their wish, someday Sudfeld will earn a chance to get serious playing time in the NFL.
Chris Covington, LB, Dallas Cowboys
Chris Covington was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Covington has made remarkable strides over the past five years. In 2014, Covington came to Bloomington as a two-star quarterback from Chicago. He appeared in five games at QB for IU before tearing his ACL. As a sophomore, he made the switch to linebacker that would ultimately land him a career in football. Covington appeared in five games for Dallas this season and made one tackle. As he develops, he will be another Hoosier in the NFL for IU fans to keep an eye on.
Cody Latimer, WR, New York Giants
That ridiculous one-handed touchdown catch Cody Latimer made in week 17 was one to remember. That catch may have caught the Giants eye for next season. Latimer was dropped by the Broncos before the start of the season, but New York quickly signed him. He appeared in six games and caught 11 passes for 190 yards.
The Giants are rebuilding and at age 26, Latimer should get a good chance at making next year’s roster. If for some reason the Giants go in a different direction, it would remain likely that another team would give Latimer a shot. He has continually showed flashes of great potential over the past five seasons.
Ian Thomas, TE, Carolina Panthers
Ian Thomas was selected by the Panthers in the fourth round of the draft. An ideal physical build for an NFL tight end, Thomas made perfect sense for Carolina. As a rookie he appeared in every game and started in six. Thomas’ involvement in the passing game was not consistent, although that’s to be expected for a rookie adjusting to an NFL offense.
The most promising part of Thomas’ first season was his performance over the last five games. He had 25 receptions for 246 yards and two touchdowns combined. During that five-game stretch, Thomas averaged five catches for nearly 50 yards per game. If he can produce like that on a consistent basis next year, Ian Thomas could evolve into one of the NFL’s premier tight ends. Carolina utilizes their tight ends well, so Thomas should have ample opportunity. The potential success of Ian Thomas will give IU fans extra reason to watch football on Sundays.
Jason Spriggs, OT, Green Bay Packers
This former Hoosier great’s NFL career has been a run of bad luck. Spriggs has dealt with injuries, poor play and now a coaching change. However, he played better in 2018 and was healthy to play in 13 of the Packers 16 games and started twice. For his career Spriggs has played in 36 games with nine starts over the past three seasons.
Due to increasing demand for size, speed, and overall athleticism at the linebacker position, Tegray Scales did not get drafted in 2018. He signed with the Rams before being waived after four months of training camp. In December, Scales had a brief stint with the Colts before the Pittsburgh Steelers signed him to a “Reserve/Future” contract. The Steelers will treat Tegray as a developmental prospect. A franchise known for defensive prowess, perhaps this is where Tegray Scales can find a home in the NFL.
Simmie Cobbs originally signed with Washington in un-drafted free agency. Many expected Cobbs to get drafted, but a poor NFL combine performance didn’t help his case. Nevertheless, he made his was on the practice squad and hauled in a touchdown in the preseason. The New Orleans Saints took a liking to Cobbs and signed him to their practice squad in December. With great size and instincts, Cobbs is an intriguing prospect for the Saints. Hopefully Cobbs can get acclimated with the offense this offseason and develop some chemistry with quarterback Drew Brees.
Former Hoosier wide out Shane Wynn generated some buzz during training camp with the Jaguars. However, a foot injury toward the end of preseason effectively ruined his chances at making the roster. Wynn was able to recover from injury and his prior performances earned him a spot on the Saints practice squad alongside Simmie Cobbs.
A beloved Hoosier and former lockdown cornerback, Rashard Fant suffered bad injury luck at the wrong time. Fant was signed to the Bears practice squad in September, but he was placed on injured reserve and was unable to play this year.