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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.

BILLS RB: Despite C.J. Spiller's strong play this summer including two touchdowns in Saturday's victory over Cincinnati the Bills aren't making any depth chart changes yet. Fred Jackson, Marshawn Lynch and Spiller all fit into the puzzle somehow, but just how is anybody's guess. Spiller's value is tied to the health (or lack thereof) of his two teammates, but he's certainly taken advantage of their absence. Lynch should be back from his ankle injury in time for the regular season, but he'll be rusty and won't see as much action as Spiller, though he could be used as a goal-line back initially. He's still just 24, so he will have plenty of trade value once all three Bills are healthy. Jackson, who broke his left hand on August 13, is probably a couple of weeks behind Lynch.

BRONCOS RB: Knowshon Moreno is running and cutting very gingerly and may have a partially-torn hamstring, but he's still expected to practice a little this week. Although Moreno is likely to be held out of the preseason finale, the Broncos released new acquisition Justin Fargas, a strong indication that they think Moreno - not to mention Correll Buckhalter is healthy. Moreno's injury could limit him at the start of the regular season, but he doesn't appear to be in any danger of missing significant time.

BUCCANEERS RB: Coach Raheem Morris says that Derrick Ward is out of shape, which seems to indicate that Kareem Huggins is clearly ahead of him on the depth chart. Oft-injured Cadillac Williams is definitely the starter, but Morris has talked about using "the hot back" this year, so Huggins is worth a look.

BUCCANEERS WR: Rookie Mike Williams has cemented one starting job, while the other one comes down to Maurice Stovall or Sammie Stroughter. Stovall has a sore ankle and he'll miss Thursday's game with Houston, so it makes sense that he would fall behind Stroughter, who has been deemed the "lead dog" by his coach. Arrelious Benn and Michael Clayton could take advantage of Stovall's injury as well.

CARDINALS QB: When Kurt Warner retired, it was assumed that Matt Leinart's coronation would soon follow, but it's looking more and more like Derek Anderson has passed Leinart on the depth chart. Anderson started the key third preseason game, and while both quarterbacks played well in the game, and Leinart has completed an excellent 82 percent of his passes during the exhibition season, the whispers are that he may not have what it takes to lead the Cardinals. Granted, Warner's shoes in that regard are hard to fill, but at least Anderson has had some success in the NFL. Coach Ken Whisenhunt hasn't set a timetable for naming a starter, so it looks like the last preseason game will be huge in determining the job.

RAIDERS QB: Jason Campbell left Saturday's game with a neck stinger, but it was the injury to his wrist that puts his Week 1 status in doubt. The veteran Bruce Gradkowski, played well in Campbell's stead, and figures to start if Campbell can't go, but Kyle Boller is also in the mix. For what it's worth, Campbell participated in Monday's walk-through and was able to throw passes of 20-30 yards.

RAIDERS RB: Just when it looked like Michael Bush was going to beat out Darren McFadden, Bush broke his thumb and will need surgery. The Raiders still hope that Bush will be ready for the start of the regular season, but it's hard for a running back to come back from an injury like that so quickly. Bump McFadden up a few slots on your cheat sheet, because all signs point to a him receiving the first handoff of the season.

RAIDERS WR: With Chaz Schilens out three-to-six weeks following arthroscopic surgery on his knee, Louis Murphy assumes his position at the top of the depth chart. Murphy caught a 74-yard touchdown on Saturday, and he's likely to start opposite Darrius Heyward-Bey. The two will compete to see who stays in the starting lineup when Schilens returns, but it's possible if both play well that Schilens will be No. 3 when he's healthy.

RAMS QB: Sam Bradford made a strong case to open the season as the starter on Aug. 26, throwing for 189 yards and two scores in one half of work. A.J. Feeley sat out the game with minor injuries, and Bradford will start in the preseason finale as well. Unless he falls on his face, expect him to be behind center on Opening Day.

RAMS WR: The season-ending injury to Donnie Avery will open up plenty of opportunities in St. Louis. Laurent Robinson possibly moves into the No. 1 spot, and Danny Amendola will starting with him, at least for now. Keenan Burton, Brandon Gibson and Mardy Gilyard all are contenders for the third receiver, but as Robinson and Amendola don't have track records and the Rams will be passing a lot in fourth quarters this year, there's an opportunity here to find a fantasy dark horse.

REDSKINS RB: This one has gotten interesting. Clinton Portis, the only back in this deep group that has showed much this summer, sprained his ankle. He was probably going to sit out the preseason finale regardless, but now someone could be auditioning for an Opening Day gig. That someone could very well be Ryan Torain, as both Willie Parker and Larry Johnson are in danger of being cut from the team. Johnson may have saved his job with a nice game the last time around, but it's obvious that this position is going to be getting the usual Mike Shanahan treatment: no one knows anything.

REDSKINS WR: Joey Galloway finally showed a little something in Friday's game, catching three passes. Right now he has a starting job either by name or by default, or by some combination of both. Devin Thomas was held out of the last game, which seems a little strange, as the third game of the preseason is usually the one that provides the most clues as to how the regular season will start. He's third on the depth chart, behind Santana Moss and Galloway, but if he's in Shanahan's doghouse, he could fall behind Anthony Armstrong as well.

SAINTS RB: Chris Ivory's 76-yard touchdown on a screen pass was a stunning combination of power, speed and elusiveness. More importantly, it probably means the end of the Ladell Betts/DeShawn Wynn experiment. Ivory's obviously not going to get a lot of carries between the 20s, but if he takes the Mike Bell goal-line role, he makes for an interesting sleeper in the Saints' explosive offense.

SEAHAWKS RB: No matter who starts, it looks like a timeshare in Seattle, as Pete Carroll is still uncertain who to play among Justin Forsett, Leon Washington and Julius Jones. Forsett appears to have the most upside, if for no other reason than his youth and health, but Washington was electric at times with the Jets. Jones is the least likely to make a significant fantasy impact this year.

TEXANS RB: This one appears to be over. While Arian Foster passed the century mark in the third preseason game, Steve Slaton injured his toe and carried the ball only twice. More importantly, Slaton was elevated to lead kickoff returner before the game, meaning the Texans really didn't consider him a starter at that point. While Slaton could still have value as a backup, especially in leagues that count return yards, it's clear Foster is the Houston running back to own this year.

TITANS WR: Both Nate Washington (wrist) and Justin Gage (thumb) sat out Saturday's game with injuries, and in their stead, Kenny Britt caught four passes for 33 yards. Britt has been lackluster during the preseason, but as the healthiest of the trio, he probably has the most upside. Washington's wrist injury has been bothering him off-and-on for months, so there's some chance he won't be starting come Sept. 12.

VIKINGS WR: The big news in Minnesota last week was Sidney Rice's hip injury. It required surgery that's likely to cost him half the season. Percy Harvin would be the obvious beneficiary of Rice's absence, but his migraines have lingered all summer. The good news is that Harvin was able to play on Saturday, and he even caught two passes. Even better, he feels he and his doctors may have turned the corner in treating his debilitating headaches. Bernard Berrian will likely jump into a starting role until Rice returns, but the Vikes picked up a couple of veterans in the past week, including one (Javon Walker) who has some experience playing with Brett Favre, The other (Greg Camarillo) went from being traded from Miami on Wednesday to leading the Vikings in receiving on Saturday. Walker and Camarillo will duke it out for the No. 3 receiver slot, but suddenly things don't look as bad for the Vikings as they did last week at this time.