Tampa Bay-grown NFL players could make for a powerful lineup

On ‘The Road To Miami Gardens,’ you can find an array of area players; plus shoutout to former Gator Eddy Pineiro
San Francisco running back Matt Breida (22) is one of the Tampa Bay area products shining in the NFL. The region is one of the national leaders in producing pro football talent. Gary Landers  |  AP
San Francisco running back Matt Breida (22) is one of the Tampa Bay area products shining in the NFL. The region is one of the national leaders in producing pro football talent. Gary Landers | AP
Published September 16
Updated September 22

If you look at the Week 1 NFL active rosters (not practice squad), you can find enough players from area high schools to field an All-Tampa Bay NFL team. Times staff writer Bob Putnam put together a list that has a player at nearly every position.

The roster of players reflect some interesting data distributed by NFL Communications this week. It broke down Week 1 active rosters by city and determined that Miami has the most rostered players with 27. Tampa ranked fifth with 13, but, of course, the NFL calculations didn’t look more broadly at county or region.

The Packers' Geronimo Allison, who played at Spoto High School, celebrates his touchdown catch during the first half of the Packers-Vikings game at Lambeau Field. Mike Roemer  |  AP
The Packers' Geronimo Allison, who played at Spoto High School, celebrates his touchdown catch during the first half of the Packers-Vikings game at Lambeau Field. Mike Roemer | AP

By high school, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas ranked first with 13 players. The school has led the nation in players on NFL Kickoff rosters for seven of the past eight seasons (2012, 2014-19). It tied for the lead in 2013. Lakewood ranked second, however, with seven players. Florida tops the list of states with the most NFL players (212), but that doesn’t necessarily seem to be reflected in the play of the Sunshine State’s collegiate or NFL teams.

Tampa Bay All NFL Offense
Pos. Name School College NFL Team
QB Alex McGough Gaither FIU Texans
RB Matt Breida Nature Coast Ga. Southern 49ers
WR Marques Valdez-Scantling Lakewood USF Packers
WR Geronimo Allison Spoto Illinois Packers
WR Nelson Agholor Berkley Prep USC Eagles
TE Tyler Higbee East Lake Western Kentucky Rams
OL Mason Cole East Lake Michigan Cardinals
OL Isaiah Wynn Lakewood Georgia Patriots
OL Jon Halapio St. Pete Catholic Florida Giants
OL Ted Larsen Palm Harbo U. N.C. State Bears
OL Charley Hughlett Hillsborough UCF Browns
UTL Byron Pringle Robinson Kansas St. Chiefs
KR Diontae Johnson Lennard Toledo Steelers

Key Reserves: TE Andrew Beck (Plant/Texas/Broncos; WR Josh Bellamy (Boca Ciega/UCF/Jets); WR Deon Cain (Tampa Bay Tech/Colts/Clemson; TE Sean Culkin (Indian Rocks Christian/Missouri/Chargers; WR Chris Moore (Jefferson/Cincinnati/Ravens).

Tampa Bay All NFL Defense
Pos. Name School College NFL Team
DL Byron Cowart Armwood Auburn/Maryland Patriots
DL Joey Ivie Pasco UF Chiefs
DL Dante Fowler Lakewood UF Rams
LB Azeez Al-Shaair Hillsborough FAU 49ers
LB Anthony Chickillo Alonso Miami Steelers
LB Shaquem Griffin Lakewood UCF Seahawks
DB Shaquill Griffin Lakewood UCF Seahawks
DB Vernon Hargreaves Wharton UF Bucs
DB Rayshawn Jenkins Admiral Farragut Miami Chargers
DB Jahleel Addae Riverview Cent. Michigan Texans
DB Anthony Brown Hillsborough Purdue Cowboys

Key Reserve: DB Amani Oruwariye (Gaither/Penn St./Lions)

Competitive Nature

Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, left, greets Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew (15) following Sunday's game. David J. Phillip  |  AP
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, left, greets Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew (15) following Sunday's game. David J. Phillip | AP

Six of the 10 early contests Sunday featured games decided by six points or less. In all six, the winning team either had to run out the clock or stave off a comeback try. The Seahawks picked up a crucial first down to seal a 28-26 victory over the Steelers. The Lions held off the Chargers 13-10, and the Colts survived the Titans 19-17 after taking the lead in the fourth quarter. The Packers fought off a Vikings comeback try to win 21-16, and the Jaguars came up short against the Texans when they went for two after scoring in the final seconds to pull within one. The Jaguars’ 13-12 loss may be the most intriguing. Jacksonville could have tied the score and likely sent the game to overtime. Instead, coach Doug Marrone opted for the drama, going for two with a handoff to running back Leonard Fournette that came up short. “We had a bunch of different plays called (depending on the defense),” Marrone said. “At the end of the day, we were fine with any of them. We came up a couple of inches short, and we lost the game.” Fournette believed he got in. Marrone said he decided before the last possession that he would go for two points if the Jaguars (0-2) scored a touchdown. “I said, ‘If we start driving the football and score with a certain amount of time left, I’m going to go for 2,’ ” he said. “I immediately had the play in mind before the drive even started. I was very, very comfortable with it. It just didn’t work.” Still, Jacksonville got a solid effort from rookie QB Gardner Minshew, who likely will earn a mention on this page every Monday until he shaves his mustache.

Bucs’ next foe playing small

The Giants, who were undefeated in the preseason, are off to their sixth 0-2 start since 2013, and they were booed by the fans as they left the field at halftime of their 28-14 loss to the Bills. Second-year running back Saquon Barkley is showing no signs of a sophomore slump. He rushed for 107 yards on 18 carries, including a 27-yard touchdown run on New York’s opening drive. Yet longtime Giants quarterback Eli Manning remained pedestrian with 245 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. New York is particularly struggling on third down, having converted only 5-of-23 in the first two games. And the Giants defense gave up drives of 98, 75, 75 and 70 yards. If the Jets lose to the Browns tonight, Buffalo will be 2-0 at the Meadowlands, while the home teams will be 0-3. I wonder who will finish the year with the most victories at MetLife Stadium.

MORE ON BUCS OPPONENT: Giants making a mess in the Meadowlands

Mobile magic

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson looks for a receiver in the first half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass) Nick Wass  |  AP
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson looks for a receiver in the first half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass) Nick Wass | AP

Two of the league’s most mobile young quarterbacks put on a show in Baltimore. Arizona rookie Kyler Murray and Baltimore second-year signal caller Lamar Jackson turned in standout performances in the Ravens’ 23-17 victory. At one point in the first half, the two went a combined 23 of 29 passing. So why did Baltimore go up 17-6 in the first half and hold on for victory? The Cardinals drove inside the Ravens 10-yard line twice in the first half but settled for field goals. Jackson finished with nearly 400 yards of total offense (272 passing, 120 rushing). Murray was 25 of 40 passing for 349 yards. He joins Cam Newton as the only quarterbacks to throw for 300 yards in each of their first two NFL games.

The dregs of the day

Free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (29) and the Dolphins struggled through another loss Sunday and has now been outscored 102-10 in their first two games. Fitzpatrick has received permission to explore a trade. Lynne Sladky  |  AP
Free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (29) and the Dolphins struggled through another loss Sunday and has now been outscored 102-10 in their first two games. Fitzpatrick has received permission to explore a trade. Lynne Sladky | AP

Despite the close games in the 1 p.m. window, those who watched the over-the-air broadcasts in Tampa Bay got treated to two of the day’s worst. On WTSP-Ch. 10, the Patriots thwarted the Dolphins 43-0. Miami seemingly continues to aim for the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft. It has been outscored 102-10 in the season’s first two weeks. Ex-Buc Ryan Fitzpatrick passed for 89 yards and was intercepted three times, two of which the Patriots returned for touchdowns. Yet, Miami plans to start him in Week 3. I don’t know why. On WTVT-Ch. 13, the Cowboys moved to 2-0 with an easy win against Washington. The fans at Washington’s FedEx Field seemed to be evenly divided. See, it’s not just Tampa Bay where the visitors invade and try to dominate the cheers.

MORE ON MINKAH: Fitzpatrick’s trade request a problem for Dolphins

Accusations against Brown still looms

The Patriots-Dolphins game was played with the specter of sexual assault allegations hanging over newly acquired New England receiver Antonio Brown. Brown saw his first action with the Patriots and caught four passes for 54 yards and a touchdown in a win. With league officials set to meet with Brown’s accuser, Britney Taylor, today, ESPN reported that Brown rejected a $2 million settlement with Taylor. “As a rape victim of Antonio Brown, deciding to speak out has been an incredibly difficult decision,” Taylor said. “I have found strength in my faith, my family, and from the accounts of other survivors of sexual assault. Speaking out removes the shame that I have felt for the past year and places it on the person responsible for my rape.” Darren Heitner, a lawyer representing Brown, said Brown and Taylor had “a consensual personal relationship.” He told the Associated Press last week Brown planned to countersue. New England activated the four-time All-Pro receiver after he wasn’t placed on the commissioner’s exempt list. No criminal charges have been filed, and the NFL hasn’t fully developed its investigation, so Brown was able to play.

One more salute for a ‘Starr’

Former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre escorts Cherry Starr, wife of former Green Bay Packers Bart Starr out of the tunnel before Sunday's Packers-Vikings game. Matt Ludtke  |  AP
Former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre escorts Cherry Starr, wife of former Green Bay Packers Bart Starr out of the tunnel before Sunday's Packers-Vikings game. Matt Ludtke | AP

The Packers paid tribute to their late Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr at halftime of their home opener against the Minnesota Vikings. His wife Cherry was escorted from the tunnel by Hall of Fame QB Brett Favre and her son Bart Jr. to midfield, where she hugged commissioner Roger Goodell. Team president Mark Murphy presented her a 1960s helmet with a number 15 decal in honor of her husband, who died at age 85 in late May. Cherry Starr thanked the organization, Goodell and the fans, saying, “For 63 years, you have loved and embraced us and supported us.” The team then played a tribute video for the quarterback who led Green Bay to five NFL championships and wins in the first two Super Bowls.The 1966 NFL MVP, Starr had been in failing health since suffering two strokes and a heart attack five years ago.

One kick exorcises demons?

Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro, center, celebrates his game-winning field goal with free safety Eddie Jackson (39) and cornerback Prince Amukamara against the Broncos Sunday. David Zalubowski  |  AP
Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro, center, celebrates his game-winning field goal with free safety Eddie Jackson (39) and cornerback Prince Amukamara against the Broncos Sunday. David Zalubowski | AP

Former Gator Eddy Pineiro kicked a 53-yard field goal as time expired to give the Bears a wild 16-14 win over the Broncos. In a town that knows all too well about kicking woes, perhaps we can relate to Chicago’s sense that Pineiro’s one winner has erased the ghosts of 2018, when then-Bears kicker Cody Parkey hit the upright five times and ended Chicago’s wild-card game with the now-infamous double doink, hitting the upright and the cross bar. But Pineiro delivered after Denver fans thought the game had ended. The officials put one second back on the clock to set up the dramatic kick. A few more like that and Bears fans might put up a statue of Pineiro in Millennium Park.

Uh-oh, look who’s 0-2

Entering Sunday night’s Eagles-Falcons game, eight teams found themselves 0-2: the Panthers, Giants, Steelers, Bengals, Jaguars, Dolphins, Broncos and Washington. What’s it mean? Let’s repeat the stats: Since 1990, only 12.6 percent of 0-2 teams have made the postseason. Their average finish: 6-10.

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