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Cougs in the NFL: Saturday cuts a mixed bag for former Washington State players

UPDATED: Sun., Sept. 3, 2017, 9:21 p.m.

Oakland Raiders safety Shalom Luani (26) is congratulated by Anthony Cioffi (37) after intercepting a pass against the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday. Luani made the Raiders’ 53-man roster two days later. (Ben Margot / AP)
Oakland Raiders safety Shalom Luani (26) is congratulated by Anthony Cioffi (37) after intercepting a pass against the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday. Luani made the Raiders’ 53-man roster two days later. (Ben Margot / AP)

Shalom Luani had four preseason games to prove to the Oakland Raiders he was worth one of their 53 coveted roster spots. He apparently auditioned well because on Saturday, the Raiders opted to retain the former Washington State safety/linebacker.

Luani gained full-time employment in the NFL after an impressive preseason that saw him make 14 tackles as a defensive back for the Raiders while defending one pass and intercepting another. The former Cougar, who was selected in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft, is listed only as a defensive back on Oakland’s 53-man roster but has been playing safety for the Raiders.

“There’s not one game where I go in and think I’ve made my mark,” Luani recently told SB Nation. “Every game, I go in there and prove myself, that I’m the one. Just play ball. That’s all I gotta do, just play ball.”

Luani wasn’t the only Cougar who got good news on Saturday. By contrast, a few former WSU players received the call no player wants and were informed they’d been let go. Here’s a complete breakdown:

Deone Bucannon, Arizona Cardinals (In) – Of all the Cougars who received a phone call, Bucannon was easily the least anxious. The former WSU cornerback, now a “Money linebacker” for the Cardinals, was one of the most productive players on offense or defense for Arizona last season, recording 100 tackles. Bucannon, who had offseason ankle surgery, was activated from the PUP (physically unable to perform) list and is back practicing with the Cardinals.

“We’ll just see how he progresses each day,” Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. “He’s still a little stiff. He’s got to get into football shape real fast.”

Gabe Marks, New York Jets (practice squad) – Marks, the prolific WSU receiver who left campus as the Pac-12’s all-time leading pass-catcher, took the bad news before the good news. Marks didn’t make the cut in New York, but the Jets later offered him a spot on the practice squad. If WSU fans and reporters learned anything about Marks while he was in Pullman, it’s that the ex-Cougar wideout trains like he plays – at full speed – so even if he’s not contributing on Sundays, he’ll surely make the N.Y. defensive backs better every other day of the week.

Joe Dahl, Detroit Lions (In) – Dahl, the Spokanite who starred on the Cougars’ offensive line, is an extremely valuable asset for Detroit. The University High graduate has played all five positions on the Lions’ line and will have a chance to start at either guard or tackle this season.

Kache Palacio, Seattle Seahawks (Out) – Simply put, the Seahawks are just too dang talented to keep someone like Palacio, who had his moments in the preseason but just not enough of them to warrant a spot on the 53. Palacio earned a practice squad spot with Seattle last year, so keep an eye on the former WSU linebacker.

Marquess Wilson, New York Jets (Out) – Wilson didn’t wait anxiously by the telephone Saturday like many of his former WSU teammates. The former Cougar wideout, who’s been battling a hip injury, was waived more than a week earlier. He had three catches for 20 yards in a preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans, but was ruled out in Week 2.

Destiny Vaeao, Philadelphia Eagles (In) – Vaeao was one of five defensive tackles the Eagles held onto Saturday and the 2016 undrafted free agent now enters his second NFL season in Philadelphia.

Xavier Cooper, San Francisco 49ers (Out then in) – His old employers didn’t think he was worth keeping around, but Cooper found somebody else who thought he could add value to their 53-man roster. On Saturday, Cooper was released by the Cleveland Browns. On Sunday, he was snagged by the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners claimed the former WSU defensive lineman on waivers and Cooper stole a roster spot from another defensive lineman, Ronald Blair, who was placed on short-term injured reserve.

John Fullington, New Orleans Saints (Out) – It seemed 2017 was Fullington’s best chance to finally crack a 53-man roster, but the ex-Cougar offensive lineman didn’t make the cut. Reports indicate Fullington, who played 62 snaps in New Orleans’ preseason opener, could still earn a practice squad spot.

Vince Mayle, Baltimore Ravens (In) – Mayle was considered “on the bubble,” so it was a relief when he learned he’d be spending the season with the Ravens, who claimed the former WSU receiver on waivers in late December. Mayle’s converted to tight end and is one of four listed on Baltimore’s 53. The Sacramento, California, native has also made a decent impact on special teams – part of the reason the Ravens wanted to retain him.