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Philadelphia Stars See First Player Signed By NFL in 2023

The Philadelphia Stars have finally seen a player sign with the NFL, and it may not be who you think.

The Philadelphia Stars had a rough 2023 season, call it a championship hangover if you so choose. They stumbled from first place in their division to out of the playoffs after a three game losing streak to close out the year. A lot of the Stars problems were tied to injuries, and how widespread they were losing players at times.

One unit hit particularly hard throughout the year was the defensive line. Players who appeared in all ten games were the minority on this unit, and many key players or starters missed time. This created a lot of issues as the Stars struggled to plug holes in the ship before they sank. One of their free agent solutions to this need turned into a gem.

LaBryan Ray Deserves This Opportunity

The Stars signed LaBryan Ray, a former New England Patriots player in 2022. Ray also attended Alabama after being ranked a 5 star prospect, so you know he is a top flight talent. After four seasons at Alabama in which his production was paltry at best due to injuries, he declared for the 2022 NFL Draft.

During his time at Alabama he had appeared in 45 games starting just 9 of them. He collected 76 tackles, and 6 sacks forcing a loss of 49 yards. After signing with the Patriots, he nearly made the active roster. He was let go in final cuts, and re-signed to the practice squad where he would spend the entire season.

During the 2022 season he was coached by DeMarcus Covington in his fourth season as the defensive line coach with New England, and with Alabama he worked under Freddie Roach a former Crimson Tide and Patriot player in the early 2000’s.

Not Long for New England

After his season with New England he looked like he was well on his way to sticking with the Patriots. He signed a futures deal coming off of the 2022 season. That was until February rolled around and they opted to release Bryan before the draft.

This release led Bryan to find a new, but temporary home with the USFL’s Stars. He was signed, and played in 7 games starting 5 of them. This resulted in 8 tackles, and 3 sacks. One of the big knocks on Ray was that he played less than 1,000 snaps in college missing time due to injury in four of five seasons. This didn’t allow him to properly develop. That’s where the USFL comes in, and allows him to get the on field playing time at the professional level.

Getting much needed repetitions in the USFL, helped Ray land his next opportunity with the NFL. Having just worked out with the Carolina Panthers alongside one of his Stars running mates; Tyler Clark, it is believed Ray will be signing with the Panthers.

In Carolina he will likely play defensive end in a 3-4 scheme run by Ejiro Evero formerly of the Broncos, and Rams. Another 3-4 defensive guru is on staff as well in Dom Capers, and the defensive line coach is Todd Wash, a veteran defensive line coach who has been in the NFL coaching defensive line, or coordinating since 2008.

Nothing is Given that Isn’t Earned

Ray isn’t out of the woods yet, and will be in competition with no less than 7 other defensive linemen for a role at defensive end out of training camp. At 6’3 285 pounds he might be a more natural fit at 3-4 defensive end than a few of the guys who are primarily used to playing as a 4-3 tackle. This could be his one main advantage. He is actually the smallest defensive lineman in this rotation as well. If this translates to most productive pass rusher in camp that could ultimately end up being the edge he needs to make the roster.

One advantage for Ray, he is just 25 years old, turning 26 in December. He has now gotten in game professional repetitions while learning under his defensive line coach Brandon Macguire in the USFL, and proved, that he can in fact produce a pass rush while with the Stars. All of this adds up to Ray getting a fair shot to make Carolina’s roster.

If you are a fan of the USFL check out our interview with Ray’s USFL Defensive Line Coach below

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