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Football players with Utah ties make their first impressions at NFL minicamps

One player signed a deal, one player was waived, and other updates.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) University of Utah running back TJ Pledger performs in front of scouts and coaches for Utah Pro Day at the Spence Eccles Field House on Thursday, March 24, 2022.

The majority of NFL teams held their rookie minicamps this week. A slew of college football players who played in the state of Utah — from first-round draft picks to undrafted invitees — were looking to make an impression.

Here’s a look at how some of Utah’s best have fared in their first NFL experience.

LB Devin Lloyd, Jacksonville Jaguars

Lloyd was the state of Utah’s highest NFL draft pick, a first-round pick who got the chance to bear hug commissioner Roger Goodell on the opening night of the draft.

Now that he’s with the Jaguars, he’s finding out just how different life at the next level can be. He said recently that the team runs a 3-4 defense, which he never ran at the University of Utah. But he said he is enjoying learning the new scheme.

“This is my first time in a 3-4, but I love it,” Lloyd told reporters. “I feel like if you look at the people that we have and we’re not even practicing with the vets or anything like that, but even the guys we have right now, everybody’s athletic. Everybody has to do a lot of things which fits to my skill set.

RB T.J. Pledger, Arizona Cardinals

The former Utes running back who in 2021 amassed 694 yards on 104 carries didn’t get picked on NFL draft night. But now, he can call himself a pro.

Pledger was invited to a rookie minicamp with the Arizona Cardinals over the weekend and signed with the team shortly thereafter.

Pledger wore No. 22 during the Cardinals minicamp in an apparent reference to late teammates Aaron Lowe and Ty Jordan.

RB Tyler Allgeier, Atlanta Falcons

Allgeier may have gotten lost at the airport upon arriving to Atlanta to join his new team. But from the looks of it, the former BYU running back is already acclimating with the Falcons after signing his rookie contract last week.

Allgeier, picked 151st overall by the Falcons, received the team playbook a week before his arrival, and he seems some similarities in the schemes.

“This is a whole different offense, a whole different scheme, but there are a lot of the same things I was being asked to do in college,” Allgeier told the team’s website. “It’s about mastering that and then continuing to develop my game.”

C James Empey, Dallas Cowboys

Empey, former BYU center, had the opportunity to try out with the Cowboys at their rookie minicamp. But it seems he’ll have an uphill battle in trying to make the team.

The official website for the Cowboys mentioned last week that despite having good experience and a high football IQ, Empey’s age could be an issue. At 25, he’s much closer to his prime than many NFL rookies. It also might make it difficult for him to develop his body further.

“With that being said, his frame may already be filled out,” the website said. “A little undersized at under 300 pounds, he struggled against the stronger defensive lineman at the college level and when he was on an island one-on-one.”

WR Britain Covey, Philadelphia Eagles

The Utes’ star returner made a splash during minicamp earlier this month. At least one observer has identified Covey as the standout among the Eagles’ undrafted rookies.

“... My favorite here is the old guy. Covey, 25, was a Freshman All-American at Utah in 2015. With a knee injury and two religious mission years in between, he finished with 184 catches and five punt or kickoff return TDs at Utah. He’s tiny (5-8, 169), but his agility is real,” the Athletic’s Nick Baumgardner predicts.

OL Braxton Jones, Chicago Bears

The former Murray High and Southern Utah star was drafted in the fifth round and said he can’t wait to get his chance to protect quarterback Justin Fields.

“I watched him all last year. I’m just excited to get in and make an impact immediately and do my job,” Jones told the Bears team site. “... You’re getting a coachable guy that’s going to come in and soak up all the information he can. ... Some guys have reached their full potential and the peak of their best play. I think I’m only halfway there, 60 percent there. I’m a guy with a ceiling that’s very high.”

WR Savon Scarver, Chicago Bears

After participating in a minicamp with the Chicago Bears, the former Utah State return specialist is looking for a new home.

Scarver was reportedly cut from the Bears, per a report from Pro Football Network.

RB Jaylen Warren, Pittsburgh Steelers

Warren, who played at Utah State and Snow College before transferring to Oklahoma State, looks primed to be a depth piece at running back.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote recently that Warren is one of the running backs with the “fewest barriers of entry given the uninspiring depth behind Najee Harris.” So it seems that as long as Warren continues to do his part and doesn’t get hurt, he could get on the depth chart.

LB Nephi Sewell and WR Rashid Shaheed, New Orleans Saints

Sewell, the former Ute will wear No. 45 for the Saints. Shaheed, who played receiver at Weber State, will wear No. 38.