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LB in NFL: Training Camp Preview

The arrival of August means it’s officially NFL Training Camp season, and another 17 Long Beach athletes are trying to make teams this year. This Thursday and Friday see the first full week of preseason games, and then local products have another three and a half weeks to earn their way onto a team. On August 31 at 1 p.m., all 32 teams will have to cut their rosters down to 53 players, with those who were cut scrambling to find a practice squad spot.

Here’s a quick look at who’s vying for a spot:

Long Beach Poly

As usual, the Jackrabbits lead the way with nine players currently on training camp rosters, the majority of whom are expected to comfortably make rosters this year. The longest-tenured is Marcedes Lewis, who is entering his 14th NFL season and should be the Packers’ top blocking tight end. DeSean Jackson is back with the Eagles entering his 12th NFL season, and still climbing up the all-time receiving yardage ranks–he’s at No. 45 all-time entering the season with more than 10,000 yards.

A Pro Bowler like Lewis and Jackson, Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey is entering his ninth year in Tennessee, with big hopes for another standout season. Another player with big hopes is JuJu Smith-Schuster, who enters his third season with the Steelers as the team’s top wideout after the departure of Antonio Brown.

Jamize Olawale is going into his eighth NFL season and is the Cowboys’ top fullback. Jayon Brown will be in his third year with the Titans, where the first depth chart of the season shows him starting at inside linebacker. 

The Jackrabbit youngsters are JoJo Wicker, who will try to make the Washington roster this year after practice squad duty with them last year, and rookies Iman Marshall and Quinton Bell. Marshall looks to be a backup corner for the Ravens while Bell is fighting for a defensive line spot with the Raiders.


Bruins alum Joel Bitonio is headed into his sixth NFL season and is coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance, and will get the fun of experiencing something new this year: expectations. His Cleveland Browns have gone from doormat to divisional favorite, and the stud offensive lineman Bitonio has been a big part of the turnaround.


Panthers alum John Ross will have a lot of attention this year with a training camp injury to top Bengals wideout AJ Green. Ross enters his third year and is hoping for a breakout season in 2019.


Compton alum Datone Jones is the area’s journeyman, as the seventh-year lineman has played for four teams, including this year’s destination of the Jacksonville Jaguars.


For the first time in history, Lakewood has four former players on training camp rosters. Matt Pryor spent the whole year with the Eagles last year on the inactive roster, but looks like a big part of their plans for this season, his second. Ryan Pope, a Lakewood and LBCC standout, signed undrafted with the Lions but has a good shot to make the roster. Jeremy McNichols and Toa Lobendahn both transferred out of Lakewood before graduating, and are competing with the Titans and Jets, respectively, for roster spots.

Prior to this season only three Lakewood alums ever made an NFL roster, so some success from this group would make a big impact on Lancers history.


Elijah Walker and Darren Gardenhire became the first Cabrillo alums to sign rookie camp contracts, as both went undrafted but found Spring homes with the Seahawks. Gardenhire made the preseason roster for the team and is competing well for a roster spot.


Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.