Former Philadelphia Stars return specialist and wide receiver Maurice Alexander displayed his impressive vision as a returner against the Indianapolis Colts in a preseason game Saturday afternoon. Alexander, nicknamed “Hard Time”, is competing for a spot on the Detroit Lions’ 53-man roster or practice squad as a return specialist.
Hard Time returned four kicks for 152 yards, including an impressive 61-yard return that he nearly took back for a touchdown late in the second quarter. On his next return attempt, Alexander gained 45 yards.
Alexander also caught three of four targets for 16 yards and returned three punts for a total of 22 yards while fair catching another punt. Alexander was the only Lions players to return kicks or punts during the game.
Detroit’s top three receivers are Aman-Ra St-Brown, DJ Chark, and Josh Reynolds. Kalil Raymond, Quintez Cephus, Tom Kennedy, and Trinity Benson will compete for jobs behind the top receivers and the Lions will get injured rookie Jameson Williams back at some point. The Lions also seemed more interested in getting looks at undrafted rookie Kalil Pimpleton as a receiver than they did with Alexander.
Alexander’s chance at sticking around in the NFL will be as a returner, at least in Detroit.
In 2021 Kalif Raymond handled punt returns for Detroit while Godwin Igwebuike was the team’s kick returner. Tom Kennedy has also been used as a kick returner and punt returner and caught two touchdown passes against the Colts on Saturday.
By Tuesday at 4:00pm eastern time, the Lions along with the other 31 franchises will be forced to trim their rosters from 85 players to 80 en route to a 53-man active roster and 16-man practice squad.
Given how well Alexander played against Indianapolis, it would be a surprise if he was let go before the final preseason game.
If the Lions cut Alexander, it’s certainly possible that other teams could add Alexander to their roster or practice squad with another strong performance in the team’s final preseason game.
Other former Philadelphia Stars players from the 2022 season could be less lucky this week. Two Stars players (Jaguars RB Matt Colburn and Chiefs WR Devin Gray) were released last week as teams cut down from 90 to 85-man rosters.
Including Alexander, six Stars remain on NFL rosters as of Sunday morning.
Channing Stribling (CB, Commanders) – Stribling played in 35% of the defensive snaps for the Commanders on Saturday and also saw five special teams reps. The Commanders played their top group of cornerbacks of Kendall Fuller, William Jackson, and Benjamin St.-Juste against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ first drive with Steve Buechele. Stribling and rookie draft pick Christian Holmes played more snaps than Josh Drayden and DeJuan Neal at outside cornerback during the contest. Slot cornerback Danny Johnson is likely the first corner off the bench and Holmes appears to be the team’s fifth corner right now. Stribling seems to be in the best position of any 2022 Stars player to make a team’s 53-man roster.
Bug Howard (TE, Buccaneers) – With Cameron Brate sitting out, Kyle Rudolph and Cade Otton got the start at tight end for the Buccaneers on Saturday. Otton was not targeted as a receiver and Rudolph caught one of three targets for three yards. Rookie sixth round pick Ko Kieft was also not targeted but recorded two special teams tackles, which will go a long way towards securing a roster spot. Howard made a special teams tackle and was targeted on one pass while undrafted rookie J.J. Howland also received a target late in the fourth quarter. Howland and Kieft seem like they have a decent shot at making the practice squad but Howard is fighting tooth and nail to get a spot. It’s possible that Howard could get picked up on another team’s practice squad if he doesn’t make it with the Buccaneers.
Dexter Williams (RB, Packers) – After the Packers’ first preseason game it looked like Williams had a chance to make the team but after two weeks it’s clear that Williams is the sixth and final back for the Packers right now. Williams played in just 13 snaps at the end of the game this week and was less involved in special teams than the other backs competing for roster spots. It’s possible that Williams could land on another team’s practice squad.
Alex Akingbulu (OT, Commanders) – Akingbulu played in 51% of the Commanders’ offensive snaps in the second preseason week. Left tackle Charles Leno sat out the game while right tackle Sam Cosimi saw action with the first team offense. Cornelius Lucas, expected swing tackle, got the start at left tackle. Starting guards Wes Schweitzer and Andrew Norwell missed the game so guard/tackle reserves Saahdiq Charles and Aaron Monterio got starts at guard for the Commanders. Akingbulu’s lack of usage as a reserve guard seemingly hurts his chances of making the team or sticking around on the practice squad. Monterio was listed as a tackle but got the nod at guard due to further injuries at backup guard with Trai Turner and Nolan Laufenberg. When Lucas left after 19 snaps, he was replaced by Willie Beavers and Akingbulu came on to replace Cosimi at right tackle. Akingbulu saw more action this week with Rashod Hill out due to injury, but if Hill comes back soon Akingbulu seems to be at the bottom of the totem pole in Washington along the offensive line.
K.J. Costello (QB, Saints) – Has not played in either of the Saints’ first preseason games. Ian Book played the entire game at quarterback for the Saints this past week. It would be a surprise if Costello survived the cutdown to even the 80-man roster.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver and 2022 USFL MVP KaVontae Turpin returned a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown on Saturday night. Turpin’s doing his part to raise awareness in the level of play that the USFL had in 2022. Turpin returned a kick for a touchdown against Philadelphia when the Generals met the Stars in Canton for postseason action.
The XFL draft is scheduled to take place on November 16 on ESPN according to XFL St. Louis head coach Anthony Becht. Last year’s USFL Draft was not televised, and it will be interesting to see what the league plans for the draft in 2023.
With Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett headed to the Notre Dame football assignment with NBC, it will be interesting to see if the network returns to the broadcast duo or tries another first-time pairing for the 2023 season.
J’Mar Smith revealed on a Twitch stream that he officially signed a contract to return to Birmingham in 2023. So far, no news on any Stars who have signed on to return for the 2023 season.