College free agent linebacker Jayson DiManche is doing everything he can. Though Hard Knocks focused more on his conditioning and exhaustion towards the end of the game against Tennessee, DiManche is currently second on the team with eight tackles during the preseason -- four behind team-leader Shawn Williams (12). In two games against the Falcons and Titans, the Bengals defense has generated only four quarterback sacks, and one belongs to DiManche.
One NFC scout admitted that their predraft grades and analysis was wrong.
"We (messed) up," an NFC scout said last week after watching DiManche play well in his first preseason game against Atlanta. "We had him rated and we went a different way. We should have drafted him. By the time we called, he signed with Cincinnati."
"The kid’s not bad at all," the scout said. "He was a little undersized in school and a little raw, but he made plays. I don’t think he was coached real well in college. They kind of freelanced a lot. You see him now, with the way they’re using him, and it’s no secret he should have been drafted."
Unfortunately he's third on the depth chart behind Vontaze Burfict and Sean Porter as the team's weakside linebacker. Fortunately (for DiManche), Porter may be forced to undergo season-ending shoulder injury to repair a torn labrum, allowing the rookie linebacker an easier road to make the 53-man roster as a college free agent.
And he has that inspiration with players like Burfict, James Harrison, Vinnie Rey and Emmanuel Lamur -- former undrafted free agents currently on Cincinnati's roster that made it into the NFL -- to draw from.
"You see the guys who are established here, like James (Harrison) and Vontaze (Burfict)," DiManche said. "So it’s more than just saying you have a chance. It holds true from the people you are seeing."
DiManche is modeling his game after Harrison.
"It’s crazy," DiManche said. "For the longest time, he was one of my favorite linebackers ever to play the game. I’ve followed him since I started watching football. I try to model a lot of moves after him. The way he plays with that leverage. That power and speed around that edge. And the physical force he is. A lot of guys look up to him. It’s an honor to be on the team with him."
First he needs to make the team, but even if he doesn't, it wouldn't deviate too much from Harrison's career. After signing with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 2002, Harrison was released three times and spent time on and off the team's practice squad. At one point in 2003, he signed with the Baltimore Ravens who shipped him off to the Rhein Fire of the now defunct NFL Europe. He was later released by the Ravens and nearly retired and would have if not for a Clark Haggins weight-lifting accident in 2004. The rest is history.
DiManche only has two games and the intervening practices to make his final argument for a spot. If he's unable, he'll need clear waivers during final cuts to join the practice squad. And based on the scout's comments about making a mistake, we highly doubt that he will.