Photo: Courtesy of the Cleveland Browns

Gamecock rookies get NFL careers underway

Clowney meet expectations, Shaw makes strong 1st impression

DE Jadeveon Clowney: Round 1, Pick 1 — Houston Texans

After the Texans selected Clowney with the No. 1 overall pick in May, there was more than a little pressure put on the former consensus All-American to succeed. But by all indications, he’s lived up to the hype after his first two preseason games in the NFL. During his time on the field — which is limited, due to the fact that starters generally don’t play much in preseason — he has recorded three solo tackles that have all gone viral on social media because of their ferocity. He nearly decapitated running backs from both the Cardinals and the Falcons and dropped Atlanta poster boy Matt Ryan for a minus-seven yard sack. As of this week, Clowney has been dealing with an injury that’s kept him out of practice, but according to head coach Bill O’Brien, playing time for this year’s top pick isn’t in question for Houston’s season opener against Washington.

WR Bruce Ellington: Round 4, Pick 106 — San Francisco 49ers

Ellington, the only other Gamecock to be selected in May’s draft, has been big for the 49ers in both preseason contests. The fourth-rounder has hauled in seven receptions for 59 yards across both games, and he’s taken four combined kick-off returns for 118 yards.

QB Connor Shaw: Undrafted Free Agent — Cleveland Browns

Despite going undrafted, Shaw has been one of the most closely followed rookies to come out of South Carolina in recent memory. It may be because of his status as one of the best quarterbacks in Gamecock history, but it’s more likely because of his proximity to Cleveland’s quarterback melting pot. The likes of Tyler Thigpen and Vince Young have come and gone in Shaw’s tenure with the Browns, but he’s still in for fight for the third and final QB spot with newly-signed veteran Rex Grossman. Although avoiding the practice squad looks to be an uphill climb for Shaw, he made head coach Mike Pettine’s decision much harder after his breakout performance in the Browns’ second preseason game. After seeing no playing time in week one, Shaw’s NFL debut against Washington saw him go 8-for-9 passing for 123 yards and a miraculous Hail Mary touchdown. In typical Connor Shaw fashion, he’s quickly become a fan favorite in Ohio. As of Thursday afternoon, he has over 77-percent of the fan vote in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer’s “Which quarterback should start for the Cleveland Browns in the regular season opener?” poll. After Brian Hoyer was named Cleveland’s starter, relegating Johnny Manziel to the second team, it is still a toss up as to whether Shaw will be on the Browns’ active roster come September.

CB Victor Hampton: Undrafted Free Agent — Cincinnati Bengals

Hampton had to wait the longest of any Gamecock to get his shot at an NFL roster, but after joining the Bengals in June, the cornerback has found a way to stick around. After failing to see the field in Cincinnati’s first preseason game, Hampton found playing time against the Jets in week two, recording one pass defense on the day.

CB Jimmy Legree: Undrafted Free Agent — Arizona Cardinals

Legree initially signed on with the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks after going undrafted, but he had switched to division rivals Arizona before the end of the month. With the Cardinals, he has played in both preseason games and recorded a combined two tackles.

OG Ronald Patrick: Undrafted Free Agent — Dallas Cowboys

Like Legree, Patrick found a landing spot in the NFL just hours after the draft ended. But the offensive lineman has remained with the same team throughout the preseason. Patrick has come off the bench for the Cowboys in both of their preseason games against San Diego and Baltimore.

DT Kelcy Quarles: Undrafted Free Agent — New York Giants

Quarles joined Patrick in the NFC East and signed with the Giants on draft night and has remained with New York since. The Giants have played three preseason games after opening the NFL’s exhibition slate at the annual Hall of Fame Game, with Quarles seeing action in two games. The All-American from last year recorded an assisted tackle in the opening game against Buffalo, missed game two with an injury then notched a solo tackle in New York’s third preseason game against the Colts.

DE Chaz Sutton: Undrafted Free Agent — Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Chaz Sutton latched on to Tampa Bay shortly after the draft and has remained on the roster through training camp. The defensive end never saw the field in the Buccaneers’ first preseason game but managed to record a solo tackle in Tampa’s latest contest against the Dolphins.

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