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NFL Buckeyes season primer: AFC Edition

A look at all the former Ohio State players who will line up for AFC teams this weekend.

Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

While it is still unclear when we will see Ohio State take the field again, we know for a fact that a plethora of Buckeyes will be taking part in this weekend’s action as the NFL season is now upon us. OSU has been nothing short of a factory for professional football players, and the numbers are there to back that up. As things currently stand, they have the second-most active NFL players of any college program, behind only Alabama.

In fact, Ohio State is responsible for the most defensive ends (seven) in the league of any program, and is tied with Clemson for the most wide receivers in the league (seven) as well. They also lay claim to 11 active defensive backs, including six corners and five safeties — second-most behind only the Crimson Tide.

Overall, there will be at least one former Buckeye in 15 of the 16 games this opening weekend, with the only outlier being the matchup between the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets. With tonight featuring the season opener between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans, let’s run through all of the Ohio State products kicking off the year in the AFC, with the NFC teams coming on Saturday.

The two crossover games (Raiders @ Panthers, Steelers @ Giants) will be covered in Saturday’s NFC breakdown.

Houston Texans @ Kansas City Chiefs

Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET

Texans: Gareon Conley (IR), Bradley Roby
Chiefs: N/A

Thursday night’s season opener will feature only one Ohio State player actually taking the field, as veteran NFL corner Bradley Roby will suit up for the Texans. He is entering his seventh season in the league, and his second with Houston after spending his first five years in Denver. Over 89 games in his career (39 starts), he has compiled nine interceptions and totaled 68 pass breakups.

He was set to lineup alongside fellow Buckeye Gareon Conley, but unfortunately the fourth-year DB will begin the season on the injured reserve with a nagging ankle injury. Conley will miss at least three weeks.

Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

Dolphins: Jerome Baker
Patriots: Rashod Berry (PS), John Simon

Miami Dolphins v New York Giants

Jerome Baker is entering his third season with the Miami Dolphins, starting in 26 of his previous 32 games played with the team. His NFL career has gotten off to a fantastic start, compiling 205 total tackles through his first two seasons while also adding 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and a pair of interceptions.

On the other side, John Simon is entering year eight of his professional career, and his third with New England. A veteran of 81 games played in the NFL, Simon started 12 games for the Patriots last season, contributing four sacks, a forced fumble and a pick, and is in line to start at defensive end again this year. The Patriots also have Rashod Berry, the former OSU tight end who went undrafted in the 2020 NFL Draft, signed to their practice squad.

Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

Colts: Parris Campbell, Malik Hooker, Tyquan Lewis
Jaguars: DaVon Hamilton, Andrew Norwell

The Colts have a trio of Buckeyes on their roster, which is fitting considering Ohio State is used to playing in Lucas Oil Stadium every year for the B1G title game. Parris Campbell and Malik Hooker are both looking to bounce back from injury-ridden seasons in 2019, and both should be starting for Indy at their respective positions. Tyquan Lewis has yet to really earn much playing time along a solid Colts D-line that added DeForest Buckner in the offseason, so he will likely function in more of a reserve role.

Andrew Norwell was a staple of the Panthers offensive line after he was drafted back in 2014, and was named a First Team All-Pro in 2017 with Carolina. As a result, Jacksonville signed him to a five-year, $66.5 million contract the following year, and he has continued to shine in the blocking game. Hamilton is one of nine Buckeye rookies making their NFL debut this season after the defensive tackle was selected by the Jags in the third round.

Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

Browns: Malcolm Pridgeon (opt out), Denzel Ward
Ravens: J.K. Dobbins, Malik Harrison

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Denzel Ward was the next in line of a long list of standout defensive backs to come out of Ohio State, making the Pro Bowl in his very first season with the Browns. Last year did not go quite as he had hoped, missing four games with a hamstring injury in a secondary that was beat up as a whole. However, he has continued to be a lockdown corner when healthy, with five picks and 22 PBUs in 24 starts. Offensive lineman Malcolm Pridgeon opted out of the season over COVID-19 concerns.

The Ravens feature of pair of highly-touted Buckeye rookies, with J.K. Dobbins joining a powerful backfield alongside Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram. Dobbins ran for over 2,000 yards in his final season at Ohio State, and will likely split carries with the veteran Ingram. Harrison was a third round pick for Baltimore, and he too could see split time in year one as he fights for time with fellow rookie Patrick Queen. By season’s end, both could be playing significant roles for the Ravens.

Los Angeles Chargers @ Cincinatti Bengals

Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET

Chargers: Joey Bosa, K.J. Hill
Bengals: Vonn Bell, Sam Hubbard, Michael Jordan, Billy Price, Isaiah Prince (opt out)

Joey Bosa is heading into year four with the Chargers, and he has performed exactly as expected after a dominant collegiate career at Ohio State. A Pro Bowler in each of his first three seasons, the older Bosa brother has racked up 148 tackles and 26 sacks as he has quickly become one of the best defensive ends in football. He is now joined by rookie wide receiver K.J. Hill, who fell entirely too far in the draft and is ready to show teams that they made a mistake by passing on the sure-handed wideout.

Cincinnati is chock full of Buckeyes, with Michael Jordan, Sam Hubbard and Vonn Bell all starting for the Bengals. Bell spent his first four seasons in New Orleans, compiling a total of 348 tackles and 14 PBUs over 45 starts before signing with his new team, where has he since been named a captain. Hubbard started all 15 games he played in a year ago, with 8.5 sacks and a forced fumble for the Bengals in 2019. Jordan is entering his second year in the league after starting nine games for Cinci his rookie season, while Price will begin the campaign in a reserve role.

Tennesse Titans at Denver Broncos

Monday, 10:10 p.m. ET

Titans: Mike Vrabel (head coach)
Broncos: Dre’Mont Jones, Nick Vannett

AFC Championship - Tennessee Titans v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

While the Titans don't have any Buckeyes on their active roster, they are led by a former Ohio State player in Mike Vrabel. Now entering his third year as the headman in Tennessee, Vrabel was able to get his guys much farther than anyone had anticipated a year ago after a 9-7 season saw them go all the way to the AFC Championship game, where they fell to the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Vrabel was joined on his coaching staff by Kerry Coombs, who has since left the Titans and returned back to coach Ohio State’s defense.

Vannett has played a bit of a limited role early in his career between the Seahawks and the Steelers, but has still managed to catch 61 passes for 591 yards and four TDs over his four years in the league. He will now look to take advantage of a new-look Broncos offense, but it is unclear if he will be able to suit up for Monday’s contest against the Titans as he is currently in the concussion protocol. Jones has been turning heads in preseason practice, and will look to build off a rookie season that saw him contribute 3.5 sacks.