Former Illini, area players in the NFL

Former Illini, area players in the NFL

One game down, 14 to go today and two on Monday as the 2017 NFL season gets underway with more than a dozen former Illini and area standouts on active rosters. Staff writer SCOTT RICHEY has the breakdown:Jeff Allen, Houston Texans

The former Illini is penciled in as the Texans' starting right guard for the second straight season. After starting his NFL career with four seasons in Kansas City, Allen made 14 starts at right guard for Houston last season.

Geronimo Allison, Green Bay Packers

Allison won't play in Green Bay's opener against San Francisco because of a one-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Then he'll battle in a loaded wide receiver group for the Packers upon his return.

Arrelious Benn, Jacksonville Jaguars

Benn's career looked finished when he missed the 2013-15 seasons with injuries. His comeback began with 15 appearances last season with the Jaguars, and he was named Jacksonville's special teams captain on Monday.

Vontae Davis, Indianapolis Colts

The veteran cornerback will miss at least Sunday's opener against the Los Angeles Rams and could be out several weeks with a groin injury suffered two weeks ago in a preseason win against Pittsburgh.

Clayton Fejedelem, Cincinnati Bengals 

Injuries in the Bengals' secondary got Fejedelem plenty of preseason snaps at safety, and the team's special teams snaps leader (318 of possible 442) in 2016 heads into Week 1 as the backup at free safety.

Michael Hoomanawanui, Cincinnati Bengals

Healthy again this season after spending all of 2016 on injured reserve with an ankle injury, the 6-3, 271-pound tight end is currently third on the Saints' depth chart behind Colby Fleener and Josh Hill.

Ted Karras, New England Patriots

After playing in all 16 games last season for the eventual Super Bowl champions, Karras was slated to begin this season on the practice squad. That was until he was signed and activated just hours before the Patriots' season-opening loss Thursday night.

Matt LaCosse, New York Giants

A knee injury sidelined the former Illini in 2016, and he spent the entire season on injured reserve. Currently fourth on the Giants' depth chart at tight end, his last game action came in 2015 when he caught three passes in two games.

Corey Liuget, Los Angeles Chargers

Liuget has been a maintsay in the Chargers' defensive front since his rookie year in 2011, but he's coming off a 2016 season that saw him make the fewest tackles in a full, 16-game season and fail to make sack for the first time in his career.

Justin March-Lillard, Miami Dolphins

The former Danville and Akron standout signed with Miami after being one of the last players cut by the Kansas City Chiefs last weekend. He had 22 tackles in five games in 2016 for the Chiefs, but spent more than half the season on injured reserve.

Whitney Mercilus, Houston Texans

Mercilus has solidified his spot at strong-side linebacker in a dangerous Houston defense, playing opposite Jadeveon Clowney and behind J.J. Watt. The converted defensive end had 53 tackles and 7 1 / 2 sacks last season.

Hardy Nickerson, Cincinnati Bengals

The undrafted free agent survived Cincinnati's final cut and could spend the first few weeks of the season as the Bengals' backup middle linebacker with Vincent Rey likely starting on the outside in place of the suspended Vontaze Burfict.

Dawuane Smoot, Jacksonville Jaguars

A third-round draft pick — No. 68 overall — this April, Smoot joined fellow former Illini Benn on the Jaguars' active roster for their opener in Houston. He's listed third on Jacksonville's depth chart at left defensive end.

Akeem Spence, Detroit Lions

Spence will start the season backing up A'Shawn Robinson at defensive tackle as part of a rebuilt defensive line. The former Illini is one of four newcomers in the Lions' top eight after spending the past four seasons with Tampa Bay.

Jihad Ward, Oakland Raiders

The versatile 2016 second-round pick could either back up rookie Eddie Vanderdoes at defensive tackle or two-time Pro Bowler Khalil Mack at defensive end this season after playing both positions last year and totaling 30 tackles and a fumble recovery.

Tavon Wilson, Detroit Lions

Wilson made 87 tackles and had two interceptions in 2016 in his first season in Detroit after four with the New England Patriots. He'll start at strong safety for the second straight season for the Lions when they face Arizona today.

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