Former Cal players Jordan Kunaszyk, Ian Bunting and Patrick Laird – all of whom signed with NFL teams as free agents -- played in preseason NFL games last week, and each had some high points as they try to make the final rosters.
The most impressive – and perhaps the most surprising – was Bunting, a tight end who signed with the Chicago Bears. He had a team-high 77 receiving yards on three catches while being targeted four times in the Bears’ 23-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers last Thursday.
Bunting did fumble once, although the Bears recovered it, and committed two false-start penalties. He also appeared to miss a block that led to a sack. However, Bears head coach Matt Nagy absolved Bunting of some of the blame on that play in this video.
Nonetheless, Bunting took responsibility.
“I gotta block him,” Bunting said, according to NBCsports.com. “Plain and simple, I need to be there for my quarterback. That’s my fault. I gotta get in his way and not let him get to the quarterback.”
That site also noted that Pro Football Focus gave Bunting the highest grade of any of the Bears’ tight ends for that game performance.
Bunting played 22 snaps in all.
It will still be an uphill climb for Bunting to make the regular-season squad, but he is at least giving himself a chance.
So is Kunaszyk, a linebacker who signed with the Panthers. In that same Bears-Panthers games, Kunaszyk played 17 defensive snaps and 18 special-teams snaps. If he is to make the team, Kunaszyk must show his worth on special teams.
Kunaszyk recorded two tackles, one of which was a sack for minus-5 yards, against Chicago.
A photo of the sack was taken by a Chicago Tribune photographer.
Laird, Cal’s leading rusher each of the past two seasons, signed with the Miami Dolphins, and he made an impression on his 19-yard run in Miami’s 34-27 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
Laird had six carries for 24 yards in the game.
As the Miami Herald noted, “It’s not surprising to see why undrafted running back Patrick Laird was ahead of seventh-rounder Myles Gaskin in the depth chart released last week. Laird has a burst that was evident in his 19-yard run Thursday.”
Laird seems to be battling Gaskin for the final roster spot, and Friday’s exhibition game against Tampa Bay may help define Laird’s status.