Tar Heels in NFL camps: Javonte Williams making early impression in Denver; 4 of 27 former UNC players in camps expected to start

By R.L. Bynum

Three weekends away from Week 1 of the NFL season, there is a lot of excitement about two rookie listed as backup running backs — the Denver Broncos’ Javonte Williams and the New York Jets’ Michael Carter.

They are two of 27 Tar Heels in NFL training camps.

In the Mile High City, Williams played more in Denver’s exhibition opener and is getting first-team reps because presumed starter Melvin Gordon III has dealt with a minor groin injury.

Williams had four carries for 29 yards in the Broncos’ 33–6 romp Saturday in Minnesota. He had a touchdown nullified by a Jerry Jeudy holding penalty.

“I definitely had butterflies, this being my first game,” Williams said. “The first couple of plays got my confidence back up and made it feel like football again.”

His habit of breaking tackles is already getting the attention of everybody in Broncos camp.

“I like breaking tackles and that’s something Coach Fangio had told me before the game,” Williams said of Denver head coach Vic Fangio, “that he was going to keep a tab of how many tackles I broke, so that’s definitely something I try to do during a game.”

Carter, playing behind presumed starter Tevin Coleman, had seven carries for 22 yards in the Jets’ 12–7 win over the New York Giants in their exhibition opener.

The only four Tar Heels currently listed as starters are Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Eric Ebron, Washington strongside linebacker Cole Holcomb, Chicago Bears strongside linebacker Robert Quinn and New Orleans Saints left defensive tackle Jalen Dalton.

The most Tar Heels in one camp are with the Buffalo Bills, which have backup quarterback Mitch Trubisky, backup weakside linebacker Andre Smith, running back Antonio Williams and wide receiver Bug Howard.

The Minnesota Vikings have three Tar Heels in backup fullback Jake Bargas, backup strong safety Myles Dorn and third-string weakside linebacker Chazz Surratt.

Former UNC players who were on NFL rosters last season but currently are not in an NFL camp include defensive back Tre Boston (released by Carolina Panthers on March 17), center Russell Bodine (released by Detroit Lions on March 8), running back T.J. Logan and defensive end Kareem Martin.

Tar Heels in NFL camps

Jake Bargas, Minnesota Vikings fullback
— Listed as the backup behind C.J. Ham 
— Played one game last season
Giovani Bernard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back
— Listed as third string behind Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II
— Signed with Bucs as a free agent after eight seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals
Dyami Brown, Washington wide receiver
— Listed as one of the three second-string WRs
— Picked in third round of the 2021 NFL draft
Michael Carter, New York Jets running back
— Listed as backup behind Tevin Coleman
— Picked in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL draft
Aaron Crawford, Baltimore Ravens defensive Tackle
— Listed as third string nose tackle behind Brandon Williams and Justin Ellis
— Played one game for the Ravens last season
Jalen Dalton, New Orleans Saints defensive tackle
—  Listed as left defensive tackle starter
—  Spent all of last season on injured reserve with a triceps injury
Myles Dorn, Minnesota Vikings safety
— Listed as backup strong safety behind Harrison Smith
Eric Ebron, Pittsburgh Steelers tight end
— Listed as starter
— Caught 56 passes for 558 yards and five touchdowns last season
Charlie Heck, Houston Texans offensive tackle
— Listed as backup left tackle behind Laremy Tunsil
— Played three games last season starting one
Cole Holcomb, Washington linebacker
— Listed as starter at strongside linebacker
— In 11 games last season, 10 as a starter, he had 72 tackles
Mack Hollins, Miami Dolphins wide receiver
— Listed as one of three third-string WRs
— In 16 games last season, caught 16 passes for 226 yards and one TD
Bug Howard, Buffalo Bills tight end
— Signed with Bills on July 30
— Was member of Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad last season
James Hurst, New Orleans Saints offensive tackle
— Listed as backup left tackle
— Played 12 games last season
Dazz Newsome, Chicago Bears wide receiver
— Listed as one of three third-string WRs
— Picked in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL draft
R.J. Prince, New England Patriots offensive tackle
— Listed as third-string right tackle behind Trent Brown and Korey Cunningham
— Played one game and spent most of last season on the Baltimore Raven’s practice squad
Austin Proehl, Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver
— Listed as one of three third-string WRs
— Last played for the XFL’s Seattle Dragons
Robert Quinn, Chicago Bears linebacker
— Listed as starting strongside linebacker
— In 15 games, 13 as a starter, he had 20 tackles
Anthony Ratliff-Williams, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver
— Listed as one of three fourth-string WRs
— Finished last season with a reserve contract with the Las Vegas Raiders
Andre Smith, Buffalo Bills linebacker
— Listed as backup weakside linebacker behind Matt Milano
— Signed two-year deal in offseason after collecting seven tackles in 12 games last season
M.J. Stewart Jr., Cleveland Browns cornerback
— Listed as third-string right cornerback
— Had 22 tackles and two interceptions in 16 games last season
Jason Strowbridge, Miami Dolphins defensive end
— Listed as third-string left defensive end behind Emmanuel Ogbah and Adam Butler
— In eight games last season, he had three tackles
Chazz Surratt, Minnesota Vikings linebacker
— Listed as third string weakside linebacker
— Picked in the third round of the 2021 NFL draft
William Sweet, Atlanta Falcons offensive tackle
— Signed with Falcons in May
— Finished last season on the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad
Ryan Switzer, Cleveland Browns wide receiver
— Listed as one of three third-string WRs
— Finished last season on Browns’ practice squad
Mitchell Trubisky, Buffalo Bills quarterback
— Listed as back up to Josh Allen
— Completed 199 of 297 passes last season for 16 TDs and 8 INTs
Antonio Williams, Buffalo Bills running back
— Listed as fourth string
— Played one game last season, rushing for 63 yards and two TDs
Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos running back
— Listed as backup behind Melvin Gordon III
— Picked in the second round of the 2021 NFL draft

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