Todd Herremans will miss Friday night's preseason game against the Cleveland Browns in order to attend a family funeral. In Herremans' place, rookie fifth-round pick Dennis Kelly is slated to get the start at right tackle.
It will be Kelly's first time playing with the first-team offense in game action, though the Purdue product spent time with the ones while Herremans was sidelined during Training Camp. After practicing with the starters Wednesday, Kelly expressed his excitement for the opportunity under Cleveland's Friday night lights.
"I think it's going to be very valuable," said Kelly, who added that he found out he'd be starting Wednesday morning. "It's going to put me under the spotlight I guess you could say. It's going to give me an opportunity to play with the ones during a game, so hopefully I take advantage of the opportunity and show the coaches that if I'm called upon I'll be ready to play."
A Chicago native, Kelly said that about eight members of his family were already planning to make the six-hour trek in order to watch the rookie play in person for the first time, making his starting debut even more special. A left tackle at Purdue, Kelly says he feels more at home on the right side after spending the majority of his preseason time there.
"It's been challenging at first, just trying to get used to the whole different technique," Kelly said. "It's pretty different ... just trying to break that habit and get into what coach Mudd teaches. It's been coming along.
"When I played at Purdue I played left tackle so that became kind of a natural position for me, but now that I'm playing at right and getting a lot of reps at right, it becomes pretty natural. I'm right-handed, so it becomes pretty easy."
Kelly noted that his performance against the Patriots got better as the second half wore on because he wasn't quite used to coming off the bench cold. Against the Browns, he'll get the opportunity to start from scratch, but he'll be facing a first-team defense in live action for the first time.
"During practice, we go up against the ones or the twos, but at times those are drills, those are 3rd-and-8 or 3rd-and-long, so they kind of have an idea what the play's going to be," he said. "Whereas, if you're in a game, it's a little different, the intensity might be a little bit more. So I think that should be good to see how I handle that."
Upon first glance, the most striking thing about Kelly is his mammoth 6-8 frame. But even at that height, Kelly isn't immune to pre-game butterflies.
"Going into the first game, it didn't really hit me until we were running out of the tunnel that I'm actually playing in an NFL game," he said. "It might be a little different now that I know I'll be starting, so we'll see. It should be fun."
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