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Penn alumnus Greg Van Roten signed with the Las Vegas Raiders for his ninth NFL season (Photo courtesy of Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez/Panthers)

The 2023-24 NFL season is officially underway, with week one already in the books. It’s time to check in on the Penn alumni that’ll be playing in the pros this year.

Greg Van Roten — Guard, Las Vegas Raiders

Van Roten spent last season with the Buffalo Bills and then signed with the Raiders this offseason. The former Red and Blue star came into the NFL as an undrafted free agent back in 2012. He has since spent time with a myriad of other teams including the Packers, Seahawks, Jaguars, Panthers, and Jets, in addition to the Bills and Raiders. Van Roten also had a stint with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.

This season he will be tasked with protecting the Raiders’ new quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo. In his ninth NFL season, Van Roten has proven to be a solid veteran and a great depth piece for many teams looking to bolster their offensive line. The Raiders swung for the fences when they handed Garoppolo a massive contract this offseason, and the playoff expectations are buzzing.

Credit: Chase Sutton Penn alumnus and Kansas City wide receiver Justin Watson is now a two-time NFL champion, with the Chiefs winning the Super Bowl in February.

Justin Watson — Wide Receiver, Kansas City Chiefs

In the AFC West alongside Van Roten, Watson looks to continue his career with the Chiefs after re-signing back in April. He had a superb season in 2022, starting five games and scoring a pair of touchdowns as a rotational receiver. He had 15 catches for 315 yards over the course of the season and with the Chiefs winning the Super Bowl in February, Watson is now a two-time NFL champion, with his team aspiring to repeat in 2024. 

Watson will hope for a more featured role, especially since star tight end Travis Kelce missed week one due to injury. In the Chiefs' first game against the Detroit Lions, he notched two receptions for 45 yards. He is a candidate to be a breakout player for the Chiefs this year, especially with superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes at the helm of this explosive offense.

Penn football alumnus and Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski at training camp on Aug. 20 (Photo by Erik Drost | CC BY 2.0).

Kevin Stefanski — Head Coach, Cleveland Browns

Stefanski enters the 2023 season with sky-high expectations. After trading for quarterback Deshaun Watson in March 2022, it's boom or bust for the Browns. With an excellent running back in Nick Chubb and solid defense led by defensive end Myles Garrett, the Browns have a lot of talent and potential to make a run in the playoffs. Of course, much of their success or downfall will be based on Watson’s play, and it remains to be seen if he can return to his MVP level form. 

If this team’s trajectory spirals downward, Stefanski may be on the coaching hot seat. However, picking up an impressive win over the Bengals this past weekend was a great way to start and steer this team in the right direction.