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Depth Chart Watch: What's at Stake in the Preseason?

Kenn Ruby

Kenn Ruby

Kenn has been writing and editing for RotoWire since 2003. Though he attended Northwestern with the co-founders of RotoWire, he is not considered a made member of the RotoWire Northwestern mafia, as he can't trace back all of his ancestors to Dan Okrent.

BEARS RB: Matt Forte had an 89-yard score in Saturday's preseason loss to Oakland. Chester Taylor was signed in the offseason to share the carries with Forte, but he doesn't seem capable of exploding like Forte did on Saturday. If you're looking for a sleeper for your second RB who could produce first-RB numbers, look to the Windy City.

BILLS QB: It looks like Brian Brohm and Ryan Fitzpatrick are alternating at the No. 2 spot right now, indicating that Trent Edwards has won the starting job. It hasn't been officially announced yet, but there's no reason to think otherwise.

BILLS RB: Head coach Chan Gailey won't reveal what C.J. Spiller's role is going to be in this year's offense, but if the last preseason game is any indication, he deserves to be the starter. With both Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch on the shelf, Spiller gained 54 yards on 10 carries, one of which was a spectacular 31-yard score. Lynch should be back soon, possibly as early as the next game, but he's also the only one of the three who might get dealt.

BILLS TE: Shawn Nelson has been suspended for the first four games of the season. With Derek Schouman out for the next three-to-six weeks with a knee injury, Jonathan Stupar has backed into the starting job. Actually, Stupar earned the job with his play on the field this summer, but he's not much of a fantasy option in the Buffalo offense.

BRONCOS QB: Although coach Josh McDaniels indicated that there would be a real battle, Kyle Orton has all but won the starting job. Brady Quinn is now competing with Tim Tebow for the backup job, but Tebow missed Saturday's game with a rib injury.

BRONCOS RB: New acquisition Justin Fargas had nine carries for just 13 yards in Saturday's game, as the Broncos wanted to see what they have in him before attempting to reshuffle their depth chart. Starter Knowshon Moreno will probably return in the next week or so, so Fargas is probably just competing with Correll Buckhalter (who might miss the whole preseason with a back injury) for the backup job.

BRONCOS WR: Jabar Gaffney (six catches for 98 yards) and Eric Decker (five for 66) excelled on Saturday while nominal starter Eddie Royal caught just one pass for the second game in a row. One should take preseason numbers with a grain of salt, but it's clear Gaffney has good chemistry with Kyle Orton right now and that Decker could be pushing Royal for a starting job as well.

BUCCANEERS QB: Starter Josh Freeman fractured the thumb on his throwing hand, putting his Week 1 status in jeopardy. Even if he's able to play (and he probably won't be able to practice much between now and then), he'll be in some pain and will obviously have a tougher time holding and throwing the ball. Josh Johnson will step into the starting role until Freeman returns.

BUCCANEERS RB: While Cadillac Williams remains entrenched as the starter, he's not exactly the healthiest guy in the world, making the race for the backup job worth noting. Derrick Ward has had a bad summer, and in addition to a recent head injury he suffered, he seems to be losing his confidence. Meanwhile, Kareem Huggins has come out of nowhere to possibly steal his job. If Ware doesn't watch out, he may not even make the team.

CHIEFS RB: For the second game in a row, Jamaal Charles outplayed Thomas Jones. Most aren't fooled by coach Todd Haley's talk of "going with the hot hand" and putting Jones atop the depth chart; Charles is the starter, plain and simple. Jones may steal some carries at the goal-line, but at this stage of their relative careers, Charles is the better back.

FALCONS WR: Harry Douglas was finally back on the field for the August 19 game. After suffering an ACL injury last year, Douglas continues to push Michael Jenkins for a starting job. Jenkins is still on target to return by the beginning of the season, but he's missed all of camp with a shoulder injury. Douglas' and Jenkins' competition thinned by one as Kerry Meier suffered a knee injury and will miss the entire season.

LIONS RB: Kevin Smith saw the field in Detroit's second preseason game, which was a bit of a surprise, but perhaps he rushed back because he's feeling nervous about losing his starting job to rookie Jahvid Best. It looks like Best will be the starter in the regular-season opener, but it remains to be seen how many carries Smith will be able to siphon away.

PANTHERS WR: The Carolina offense really needs Steve Smith to return. It looked out of sync against a strong Jets defense on Saturday, with none of the receiving candidates doing much to improve his chances for a starting job. Dwayne Jarrett, who caught three passes, still has the lead over the likes of Kenny Moore and Brandon LaFell.

PATRIOTS RB: Like the last few years in New England, any running back could be the go-to guy in any given week this year. Fred Taylor, who had 11 carries for 54 yards on August 19, seems to have the burst back that was missing the last couple of seasons. He'll probably remain in a timeshare with Laurence Maroney, with Sammy Morris backing them up, but this weekend's game may be the telltale sign as to who has the leg up here.

RAMS QB: Although he outplayed Sam Bradford in the last game, A.J. Feeley suffered minor thumb and elbow injuries and will not be able to play in Thursday's game. Bradford, who was sacked four times in his debut, managed to stay on his feet this time, but he wasn't as successful throwing the ball. Still, he should get plenty of playing time with the first-team offense on Saturday, and if Feeley's injuries linger, Bradford could be starting for Week 1.

REDSKINS RB: Week two of the preseason was supposed to be Larry Johnson's "showcase" game, but he had just four yards on eight carries against the stingy Baltimore defense. Clinton Portis' job looks safe for now, but No. 3 back Willie Parker will get the showcase treatment in the next game.

REDSKINS WR: Anthony Armstrong has come out of nowhere to take snaps with the first unit and could be a dark horse to start opposite Santana Moss. Right now, Joey Galloway is holding onto that job in name only, as Devin Thomas was expected to wrest it away from him. Thomas has been quiet this month, so he'll need to come up big to hold off Galloway and Armstrong and win a spot in the starting lineup.

SAINTS RB: Another week, another backup running back going down for the Saints. This week it's P.J. Hill who will be taken out of the goal-line mix. Hill's out for the year with a triceps injury, meaning Chris Ivory (who had 20 carries for 66 yards in the last preseason game) and Ladell Betts are probably competing for the coveted spot of TD Vulture. The Saints added DeShawn Wynn for depth, but he's probably not going to make a dent in the depth chart unless there's another injury.

SEAHAWKS RB: Now that Leon Washington is back from the gruesome leg injury he suffered late last season, there's a bit of a logjam in the Seattle backfield. Justin Forsett is probably still the top guy, but Julius Jones should continue to take the ball away from him at times, and Washington will get plenty of third-down carries. We still like Forsett to ultimately earn the full-time job as Jones hasn't done much this summer, but for the time being, expect a timeshare in Seattle.

TEXANS RB: One Houston reporter opined that Houston is "definitely thinking" of Arian Foster as the starter with Steve Slaton as the change-of-pace back, and Saturday's preseason game seemed to confirm that theory. Foster got all of the work with the first-team offense while Slaton did not carry the ball until the third quarter (though he was active in the return game). Slaton held onto the ball this week while Foster fumbled once, but it'll take a lot more fumbles for Slaton to catch up to Foster now.

TITANS WR: The Titans signed Nate Washington to potentially be a No. 1 receiver, but he hasn't yet shown the consistency needed to nail down the role. He's battling incumbents Kenny Britt and Justin Gage for two starting jobs, and it's possible we won't know who wins the jobs until just before Week 1. Gage missed Monday's game with a sore thumb, so he's probably lagging behind Washington and Britt for now.

VIKINGS QB: Something happened here last week. You probably saw something about it on TV.

VIKINGS WR: Although Brett Favre is back, he still doesn't have his starters playing. Percy Harvin came back to practice in the last week, but left in an ambulance when his migraines became too debilitating. He's expected to return soon, but it's a situation that bears watching. The news is also bad on Sidney Rice, who felt pain in his hip when practicing Friday and may not be able to play in the regular-season opener. Bump Bernard Berrian up a bit more on your cheat sheet, as he's the only experienced healthy receiver Minnesota has right now. The Vikes are looking to sign Javon Walker, but he's four years removed from his last productive season.