Two weeks of 2020 NFL action are in the books. Last week, we introduced our Pro MACtion Update column, highlighting the professional debut of former Miami (OH) kicker Sam Sloman and fellow RedHawk alum Ben Roethlisberger in his highly-anticipated return.
For Week 2, a couple of undrafted rookie free agents take the spotlight along with two wide receivers who delivered stellar performances Sunday.
Reggie Gilliam, TE, Buffalo Bills
Toledo — 2016-19
Gilliam was not invited to the NFL Combine last spring. Then COVID-19 swept the nation and the pandemic canceled his Toledo pro day. Still, the former Toledo tight end keeps finding a way to progress his NFL career despite the hurdles. After filming his own pro day using a phone and a tripod, Gilliam signed with the Bills as an undrafted free agent. He was expected to compete for a fullback position on the roster, but the Bills switched him back to his primary college position in early September.
Two games into his professional career, Gilliam already has a touchdown reception. Contributing in this manner is a rarity for an undrafted rookie prospect, but the Bills already see potential in Gilliam’s playmaking near the goal line. His 1-yard touchdown catch marked Bills’ first points in their 31-28 victory over the Dolphins on Sunday. It was also Gilliam’s first career reception — a grand entrance into the NFL.
Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots
Kent State — 2006-08
The former Kent State quarterback dons three Super Bowl rings on his fingers and holds a Super Bowl MVP in his trophy case, but the 11-year veteran is still unearthing more accomplishments in New England. Edelman earned a career-high 179 receiving yards on Sunday Night Football, catching eight passes from his new quarterback Cam Newton. The annual playoff hero achieved 100 receiving yards for the 15th time in his regular season career and became the first player of 2020 to catch six passes for 15+ yards in a game.
Edelman currently sits among the leaderboards for wide receivers this season. He trails only Stefon Diggs and Calvin Ridley for most receiving yards in the NFL with 236 in his first two contests.
Diontae Johnson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Toledo — 2015-18
Johnson’s performance against the Broncos calls for an entire film session. The former All-MAC wideout at Toledo dazzled with his speed and agility in an outing which featured eight catches and 92 yards. He’s a challenge for opposing cornerbacks to tackle given his craftiness and arsenal of speed-changing moves in the open field.
Johnson also caught a touchdown pass in tight coverage delivered from former Miami RedHawk quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, a score which extended Pittsburgh’s lead to 24-14 in the fourth quarter.
Big Ben extends the play out of the pocket and finds @Juiceup__3 in the end zone. Touchdown, @steelers! #HereWeGo— NFL (@NFL) September 20, 2020
: #DENvsPIT on CBS
: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app: https://t.co/gdttfTQjuY pic.twitter.com/Ulu5134HZS
How about Johnson’s gazelle-like speed on his return game? We saw plenty of this at Toledo when Johnson averaged 22.8 yards per kick return and 25.5 yards per punt return. Now in the pros, he returned a punt for a touchdown against Denver but it was negated due to a block in the back penalty. The 2019 third round pick received another opportunity to display his special teams skills though, as Johnson’s slickness made five defenders miss on a fourth quarter safety punt runback.
This is why Diontae Johnson is the Punt Returner and why he's so great after the catch. What an absurd return. In total makes 5 guys miss on this play. pic.twitter.com/P5wE1KWWWq— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) September 21, 2020
LeVante Bellamy, RB, Denver Broncos
Western Michigan — 2015-19
One year ago, LeVante Bellamy was rushing his way to MAC Offensive Player of the Year honors for the Western Michigan Broncos. This past Sunday, he spent a game as a member of the active roster for the Denver Broncos. Bellamy, an undrafted free agent, was cut by Denver in the first week of September but immediately signed to the practice squad.
Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay is out approximately 2-4 weeks with a toe sprain which caused the team to upgrade Bellamy to the active roster. Following the promotion, Bellamy logged 14 special teams snaps against the Steelers in his NFL debut. He has yet to line up in the backfield on offense, but that opportunity may come soon for college football’s reigning rushing touchdown leader.