Tar Heels in NFL: Williams, Trubisky, Ezeudu projected starters; Hollins turning heads; 29 UNC alums in camps

By R.L. Bynum

Bolstered by eight rookies — three with the New York Giants — the number of Tar Heels in NFL camps is a mammoth 29 players, with some fighting for roster spots, many battling to move up the depth charts and others projected to start.

Some of the headliners in camps have been running back Javonte Williams, quarterback Mitch Trubisky, wide receiver Mack Hollins and offensive guard Joshua Ezeudu.

Williams has been getting first-team reps in Denver Broncos camp after backing up and splitting carries with veteran Melvin Gordon III last season.

Both got 203 carries last season, with Gordon rushing for 918 yards and eight touchdowns and Williams collecting 903 yards and four touchdowns. Receiving was a different story, though, with Williams catching 43 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns and Gordon only pulling down 28 catches for 213 yards and two touchdowns.

The news for Williams’ former offensive backfield teammate Michael Carter isn’t as good. After rushing for 639 yards last season, he’s listed as the backup to Iowa State rookie and second-round NFL draft pick Breece Hall. Carter has battled a minor ankle injury, but participated in practice Wednesday after not making the field the day before.

After getting limited action last season as Josh Allen’s backup with the Buffalo Bills, Trubisky is getting his chance to start with the Pittsburgh Steelers after the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger. He’s competing against Mason Rudolph and former Pittsburgh Panthers star Kenny Pickett, but is getting first-team reps and is the projected starter.

Some reports indicate, however, that Trubisky has struggled in practice. He was 0 of 16 in a “seven-shots drill” where the offense and defense face off at the 2-yard line.

After two seasons with the Miami Dolphins, last season as a team captain, Hollins signed with the Las Vegas Raiders and has impressed many since camp started.

The team seeks an outside receiver who can play with Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow. Coming into camp, Demarcus Robinson was expected to be that guy, but Hollins’ work in camp has changed that.

“A name that I keep hearing since we’ve been here is Mack Hollins,” NFL Network’s James Palmer said Monday. “In the red zone period that I was just watching, he made the catch of the day up and over a defender in the corner of the end zone. He’s a bigger body receiver. We know he’s gonna make this team because of the special teams player he is.”

Hollins started in the Raiders’ 27-11 exhibition victory Thursday in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, over the Jacksonville Jaguars. He caught the only pass targeted to him for a one-yard loss.

The only other Tar Heel who played last season and has changed teams is M.J. Stewart Jr., who went from the Cleveland Browns to the Houston Texans, where he’s listed as the backup free safety behind Terrence Brooks. Stewart had an interception and a team-leading 10 tackles in the Browns’ 48–37 playoff win over the Steelers.

Ezeudu, an All-ACC Honorable mention last season at UNC as a junior, is the only rookie UNC alum projected to start, one of five Tar Heels on the New York Giants camp roster. The third-round NFL draft pick is not a lock to start at left guard, though, as he battles Shane Lemieux, who started the past two seasons.

Another rookie, Marcus McKethan, is battling to work up the Giants’ depth chart at right guard.

“They’re working hard,” Giants coach Brian Daboll said of Ezeudu and McKethan. “They’re trying to do the things the way we’re asking them to do. They have good physical demeanor about themselves. They pick things up well. There were a lot of good reps out there for them, and some they probably wish they had back, but that’s for all of us.”

The third Giants rookie is Tomon Fox, who is listed as fourth-string strongside linebacker.

Also in Giants camp are wide receiver Austin Proehl and running back Antonio Williams, who each were on the Buffalo Bills practice squad last season. Proehl didn’t join the Bills until Nov. 4.

Other rookie Tar Heels in camps are running back Ty Chandler (Minnesota Vikings), linebacker Jeremiah Gemmel (San Francisco 49ers), quarterback Sam Howell (Washington Commanders), cornerback Kyler McMichael (Tampa Bay Bucs) and offensive tackle Jordan Tucker (Pittsburgh Steelers).

Howell is playing behind projected starter Carson Wentz in Washington and battling Taylor Henicke to earn the backup role.

Besides Ezeudu, Trubisky and Williams, other Tar Heels projected to start are linebacker Cole Holcomb (Washington Commanders), left tackle James Hurst (New Orleans Saints) and defensive end Robert Quinn (Chicago Bears).

Two Minnesota Vikings have moved up the depth chart. Jake Bargas is listed as the backup at fullback after playing only one game last season. Chazz Surratt, who had no statistics in limited action over seven games last season, is listed as the backup weakside linebacker. Also in Vikings camp is Ty Chandler, who is listed as a fourth-string running back.

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Dazz Newsome, who spent most of last season on the Chicago Bears’ practice squad, is listed as the backup at one of the wide receiver spots. He only got into three games last season, catching two passes for 23 yards and returning four punts for 47 yards.

The NFL suspended Buffalo Bills linebacker Andre Smith, who got limited playing time last season, for the first six games of the season for allegedly using performance-enhancing drugs. He won’t be able to play until the Bills’ Oct. 30 home game against the Green Bay Packers.

After an impressive USFL season with the Philadelphia Stars, tight end Bug Howard is in Tampa Bay Bucs camp. In 10 games for the Stars, he caught 30 passes on 49 targets for 371 yards and four touchdowns. He went to camp with the Buffalo Bills last season but was waived on Aug. 24.

After battling injuries, Ryan Switzer announced his retirement on July 18. He spent all of last season on the Browns’ injured reserve list after undergoing ankle surgery in August.

Eight-year NFL veteran tight end Eric Ebron is a free agent after his contract expired following two seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ebron, who spent the last few weeks of last season on injured reserve, worked out with the New York Giants last week but wasn’t signed.

Where Tar Heels stand in training camp

Jake Bargas, Minnesota Vikings fullback
Place on depth chart — Backup behind C.J. Ham
2021 statistics —
1 game, no statistics
Exhibition opener — 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 15 at Las Vegas, NFL Network
Season opener — 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. Green Bay, Fox
———————————————
Giovani Bernard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back
Place on depth chart — Fourth string behind Leonard Fornette, Rachaad White and Ke’Shawn Vaughn
2021 statistics —
12 games, 8 rushes, 58 yards (24 longest); 23 catches, 123 yards, 3 TDs, 1 fumble; 1 kickoff return for 18 yards; 2 punt returns, 7 yards
Exhibition opener — 7:30 Saturday, Aug. 13 vs. Miami
Season opener — 8:20 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 at Dallas, NBC
———————————————
Dyami Brown, Washington Commanders wide receiver
Place on depth chart —
Backup to Curtis Samuel (according to ESPN); fifth string behind Terry McLaurin, Samuel, Jahan Dotson and Cam Sims (according to CBS Sports)
2021 statistics — 15 games, 12 receptions on 25 targets, 165 yards (13.8 average; longest 48 yards); 1 rush for -4 yards
Exhibition opener —
1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13 vs. Carolina, WRAL or WRAZ
Season opener — 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. Jacksonville, Fox———————————————
Michael Carter, New York Jets running back
Place on depth chart — Backup behind Breece Hall (Carter limited by a minor ankle injury)
2021 statistics — 14 games, 147 carries, 639 yards (4.3 average, longest 55), 4 TDs; 36 receptions on 55 targets, 325 yards (9.0 average; longest 23)
Exhibition opener —
7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12 at Philadelphia
Season opener — 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. Baltimore, CBS
———————————————
Ty Chandler, Minnesota Vikings running back
Place on depth chart — Fourth string behind Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison and Kene Nwangwu
2021 statistics (UNC) — 13 games, 182 carries, 1,092 yards (6.0 average, longest 60), 13 TDs; 24 receptions, 216 yards (16.6 average; longest 75)
Exhibition opener —
4:25 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 15 at Las Vegas, NFL Network
Season opener — 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. Green Bay, Fox
———————————————
Aaron Crawford, Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle
Place on depth chart — Fourth string nose tackle behind Michael Pierce, Travis Jones and Isaiah Mack
2021 season — Spent season on injured reserve list with an undisclosed injury
Exhibition opener —
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11 vs. Tennessee
Season opener — 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 at New York Jets, CBS
———————————————
Jalen Dalton, Atlanta Falcons defensive lineman
Place on depth chart — Third-string right defensive end (base 3-4 defense  behind Grady Jarrett and Derrick Tangelo
2021 season (New Orleans Saints) — Missed season with a triceps injury
Exhibition opener —
6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12 at Detroit, NFL Network
Season opener — 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. New Orleans
———————————————
Myles Dorn, Minnesota Vikings safety
Place on depth chart —
Fourth string free safety behind Lewis Cine, Camryn Bynum and Josh Metellus
2021 statistics —
2 games, 1 tackle, 1 assist, 1 special-teams tackle, 1 special-teams assist
Exhibition opener — 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 15 at Las Vegas, NFL Network
Season opener — 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. Green Bay, Fox
———————————————
Joshua Ezeudu, New York Giants guard
Place on depth chart — Starting left guard (according to ESPN); third string behind Max Garcia and Shane Lemieux (according to CBS)
2021 statistics (UNC) — Played 737 snaps in 12 games, starting 11 and was All-ACC Honorable Mention
Exhibition opener —
7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11 at New England, NFL Network
Season opener — 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 at Tennessee, Fox
———————————————
Tomon Fox, New York Giants linebacker
Place on depth chart — Fourth string strongside linebacker behind Azeez Ojulari, Oshane Ximines and Elerson Smith
2021 statistics (UNC) — 13 games, 23 solo tackles, 10 assists, 33 total tackles, 8.5 sacks, 10 tackles for losses, hurried QB six times
Exhibition opener —
7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11 at New England, NFL Network
Season opener — 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 at Tennessee, Fox
———————————————
Jeremiah Gemmel, San Francisco 49ers linebacker
Place on depth chart — Third-string strongside linebacker (base 4-3 defense) behind Azeez Al-Shaair and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles
2021 statistics (UNC) — 13 games, 44 solo tackles, 31 assists, 75 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for losses, 15 sacks, 1 interception, hurried QB seven times
Exhibition opener —
8:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12 vs. Green Bay, NFL Network
Season opener — 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 at Chicago, Fox
———————————————
Charlie Heck, Houston Texans tackle
Place on depth chart —
Backup left tackle behind Laremy Tunsil (according to ESPN)
2021 statistics — 15 games, 13 starts, 709 offensive snaps, 41 special-teams snaps
Exhibition opener — 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13 vs. New Orleans
Season opener — 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. Indianapolis, CBS
———————————————
Cole Holcomb, Washington Commanders linebacker
Place on depth chart —
Starting weakside linebacker
2021 statistics — 16 games, 83 tackles, 55 assists, 2 tackles for losses, 2 interceptions, 1 TD, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles, 1 recovered fumble
Exhibition opener —
1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13 vs. Carolina, WRAL or WRAZ
Season opener — 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. Jacksonville, Fox
———————————————
Mack Hollins, Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver
Place on depth chart —
Backup behind Hunter Renfrow for one wide receiver spot (Davante Adams starter for the other spot)
2021 statistics (Miami Dolphins)— 17 games, 14 catches, 223 yards (15.9 average, 65 longest), 4 TDs; 5 special-teams tackles; 1 tackle
Exhibition opener —
1 catch on 1 target for a one-yard loss in 27-10 Thursday victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars
Next exhibition opener — 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 14 vs. Minnesota
Season opener — 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 at Los Angeles Chargers, CBS
———————————————
Bug Howard, Tampa Bay Bucs tight end
Place on depth chart — Fifth string behind Cameron Brate, Kyle Rudolph, Cade Otton and Ko Kieft
2022 USFL statistics with Philadelphia Stars — 10 games, 8 starts, 30 catches on 49 targets, 371 yards (41 longest), 115 yards after the catch, 12.4 average, four touchdowns (went to 2021 camp with Buffalo Bills but was waived on Aug. 24)
Exhibition opener —
7:30 Saturday, Aug. 13 vs. Miami
Season opener — 8:20 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 at Dallas, NBC
———————————————
Sam Howell, Washington Commanders quarterback
Place on depth chart — Third string behind Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke
2021 statistics (UNC) — 12 games, 217–347, 9 interceptions, 24 TDs, 3,056 yards (76 longest); 183 rushes, 828 yards (62 longest), 11 TDs
Exhibition opener —
1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13 vs. Carolina, WRAL or WRAZ
Season opener — 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. Jacksonville, Fox
———————————————
James Hurst, New Orleans Saints tackle
Place on depth chart —
Starting left tackle
2021 statistics — 14 games; 12 starts; 724 offensive snaps, 52 special-teams snaps
Exhibition opener —
8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13 at Houston
Season opener — 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 at Atlanta, Fox
———————————————
Marcus McKethan, New York Giants guard
Place on depth chart — Fourth-string right guard behind Mark Glowinski, Ben Bredeson and Jamil Douglas (according to ESPN); Third string behind Glowinski and Douglas (according to CBS)
2021 statistics (UNC) — 13 games, 887 snaps, All-ACC Honorable Mention
Exhibition opener — 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11 at New England, NFL Network
Season opener — 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 at Tennessee, Fox
———————————————
Kyler McMichael, Tampa Bay Bucs cornerback
Place on depth chart — Not listed
2021 statistics (UNC) — 12 games, 12 solo tackles, six assists, 18 total tackles, 1 interception
Exhibition opener —
7:30 Saturday, Aug. 13 vs. Miami
Season opener — 8:20 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 at Dallas, NBC
———————————————
Dazz Newsome, Chicago Bears wide receiver
Place on depth chart —
Backup at one wide receiver position behind Byron Pringle (Darnell Mooney starter at other wide receiver spot)
2021 statistics — 3 games, 2 catches, 23 yards; 4 punt returns, 47 yards; 1 special-teams tackle
Exhibition opener —
1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13 vs. Kansas City, NFL Network
Season opener — 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. San Francisco, Fox
———————————————
Austin Proehl, New York Giants wide receiver
Place on depth chart — Among many competing for third-string wide receiver
2021 season (Buffalo Bills) — Spent part of last season, beginning Nov. 4, on practice squad
Exhibition opener —
7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11 at New England, NFL Network
Season opener — 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 at Tennessee, Fox
———————————————
Robert Quinn, Chicago Bears defensive end
Place on depth chart — Starting right defensive end
2021 statistics — 16 games, 38 tackles, 11 assists, 18½ sacks, 16 tackles for losses, 11 QB hits, 4 forced fumbles
Exhibition opener —
1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13 vs. Kansas City, NFL Network
Season opener — 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. San Francisco, Fox
———————————————
Andre Smith, Buffalo Bills weakside linebacker
Place on depth chart — Third string weakside linebacker but suspended for first six games (alleged performance-enhancing substance usage)
2021 statistics — 13 games, 4 tackles, 5 assists, 3 special-teams tackles, 5 special-teams assists
Exhibition opener —
4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13 vs. Indianapolis, NFL Network
Smith’s first game — 8:20 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30 vs. Green Bay, NBC
———————————————
M.J. Stewart Jr., Houston Texans safety
Place on depth chart —
Backup free safety behind Terrence Brooks
2021 statistics (Cleveland Browns) — 12 games, 30 tackles, 9 assists, 2 tackles for losses, 1 forced fumble, 4 special-teams tackles, 1 pass breakup; 1 kickoff return, 20 yards
Exhibition opener — 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13 vs. New Orleans
Season opener — 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. Indianapolis, CBS
———————————————
Chazz Surratt, Minnesota Vikings weakside linebacker
Place on depth chart —
Backup weakside linebacker behind Danielle Hunter
2021 statistics — 7 games, no statistics
Exhibition opener — 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 15 at Las Vegas, NFL Network
Season opener — 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. Green Bay, Fox
———————————————
Mitchell Trubisky, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback
Place on depth chart — Starter ahead of Mason Rudolph and Kenny Pickett
2021 statistics (Buffalo Bills) — 6 games; 6 of 8 passing for 43 yards (longest 15), 1 interception; 13 rushes for 24 yards (longest 22)
Exhibition opener — 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13 vs. Seattle, NFL Network
Season opener — 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 at Cincinnati, CBS
———————————————
Jordan Tucker, Pittsburgh Steelers tackle
Place on depth chart — Third-string right tackle behind Chukwuma Okorafor and Chaz Green
2021 statistics (UNC) — 13 games, 709 snaps
Exhibition opener —
7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13 vs. Seattle, NFL Network
Season opener — 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 at Cincinnati, CBS
———————————————
Antonio Williams, New York Giants running back
Place on depth chart — Fourth string behind Saquon Barkley, Matt Breida and Gary Brightwell
2021 season (Buffalo Bills) — Spent season on practice squad
Exhibition opener —
7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11 at New England, NFL Network
Season opener — 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 at Tennessee, Fox
———————————————
Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos running back
Place on depth chart —
Starter ahead of Melvin Gordon III
2021 statistics — 17 games, 203 carries, 903 yards (4.4 average; longest 49 yards), 4 TDs; 43 catches on 53 targets, 316 yards (7.3 average, 42 longest), 1 TD
Exhibition opener — 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13 vs. Dallas, NFL Network
Season opener — 8:15 p.m. Monday, Sept. 12 at Seattle, ESPN, ABC
———————————————

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