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Depth Chart Watch: This Week's NFL Job Battles

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 WR: The Bears finally came to their senses and named Johnny Knox the starter over Roy Williams, who is looking like one of the biggest free agent busts from this offseason. Williams was targeted just once Sunday, and given the success of Dane Sanzenbacher, it's possible Williams could fall to the fourth or fifth receiver job when Earl Bennett returns from injury, making him worthless in just about every fantasy league.

BENGALS WR: Jerome Simpson is back in the starting lineup, but the man who took his place a week ago Andre Caldwell still had five targets to Simpson's three, so it doesn't look like a whole lot is going to change in Cincinnati. While a wideout may pop up every now and then this season, it looks like the only Bengal one to own is A.J. Green, who had 118 yards on four catches Sunday.

BROWNS RB: Peyton Hillis' return to the lineup after missing a game with strep throat went about as expected. Though the 4.6 yards/carry figure was nice, he did it on only 10 carries, as he lost so much weight from the illness that the Browns wanted to protect him. He also caught five passes for 23 yards. Montario Hardesty's overall numbers were similar, as he had 22 yards rushing and 49 yards receiving. As Hillis gets stronger, expect him to shoulder a bit more of the load, but Hardesty will be waiting in the wings for another chance.

CARDINALS RB: The Cardinals welcomed back Beanie Wells, and with good reason. He carried the ball 27 times for 138 yards and scored three touchdowns. That's something that Chester Taylor, last week's starter, is just not capable of doing, and LaRod Stephens-Howling and Alfonso Smith aren't likely to have a day like that any time soon, either.

COLTS QB: With Kerry Collins out Monday night due to a concussion, Curtis Painter got the start and threw for 281 yards and two TDs. Of course, those TDs (both to Pierre Garcon) accounted for more than half of those yards, and he was just 11-for-28 on his other pass attempts. He may have earned another start with the effort, but this doesn't look like the place to go looking for a fantasy gem.

COWBOYS WR: Dez Bryant scored twice, but the Cowboys still missed Miles Austin down the stretch. Austin's replacement, Laurent Robinson, wasn't bad at all - Robinson was targeted a team-high 10 times and caught seven passes for 116 yards. With the bye week coming up, and Austin expected to return in week 6, Robinson's days may be numbered, but at least he was able to perform when called to do so.

DOLPHINS QB: That Chad Henne hurt his shoulder on a play in which there was miscommunication among his offensive players seems fitting for the 0-4 Dolphins. Matt Moore came into the game in relief and did nothing special (17-for-26 for 167 yards and an interception), but with the Dolphins going nowhere fast and a bye coming up this week, it wouldn't be a shock to see Miami make a change to breathe some life into the franchise.

DOLPHINS RB: Daniel Thomas' absence due to a hamstring forced the Dolphins to try to fit the square peg of Reggie Bush into the round hole of the Miami offense, with the expected disappointing results: 13 carries for 50 yards and just two catches for 15 yards. It's baffling that Miami has been unable to figure out how to use Bush this year, and Sunday's results only further cement Thomas' spot at the top of the depth chart.

49ERS RB: This was supposed to be the week that Kendall Hunter finally put Frank Gore out to pasture. With Gore off to a rough start in the first three weeks and nursing an ankle injury, Hunter started Sunday while Gore came off the bench. Hunter wasn't exactly bad he had nine carries for 38 yards and added two catches for 62 yards but Gore played like he was five years younger, running for 127 yards on just 15 carries, including a 12-yard touchdown. The ankle appears to be fine, and Gore will regain his rightful spot in the starting lineup this coming week.

GIANTS WR: Mario Manningham returned to action after missing one game due to a concussion, but has his spot in the pecking order been supplanted by upstart Victor Cruz? Though Manningham was targeted five times, he didn't appear to be on the same page as Eli Manning and only caught one pass for 10 yards. Meanwhile, Victor Cruz, despite a gaffe that nearly cost the team the game, was targeted nine times and finished with six catches for 98 yards. He also appeared to be on the field a lot more than Manningham during crunch time. The time is now to pick up Cruz if you haven't already.

PACKERS RB: Ryan Grant missed Sunday's game with a bruised kidney, which is too bad, because he was clearly better than James Starks the last time both played in the same game. Starks had the job to himself Sunday, but despite decent numbers (13 carries for 63 yards, five catches for 38 yards), he took a back seat to the Aaron Rodgers show. Grant has already been cleared to play this week, so it'll be interesting to see who the Packers go to in the backfield.

PACKERS WR: Donald Driver left Sunday's game with what looked like a serious knee injury, but was able to return (and score) in the second half. He doesn't know what's wrong with the knee, but a torn ACL has been ruled out. Still, if he is to miss any time, the Packers are loaded with wide receivers just waiting for an opportunity. Jordy Nelson has already stepped up a few times in the last year, and James Jones and Randall Cobb should both see a few more targets if Driver misses any action.

RAMS RB: Given how well Cadillac Williams has played backing up the oft-injured Steven Jackson this season, it was rather surprising that he didn't touch the ball in Sunday's loss to Washington. Even more baffling was that Jackson had just 45 yards on 17 carries. Don't be surprised if it's learned that Williams' hamstring injury is worse than originally reported.

REDSKINS RB: In one of the more surprising fantasy explosions this year, Ryan Torain, who had not received a single carry in the first three weeks of the season, was unleashed to the tune of 19 carries for 135 yards against St. Louis on Sunday. Just when we were getting used to Tim Hightower as a reliable starter, a sluggish week of practice and a mild shoulder injury suffered on Sunday contributed to a lackluster stat line of eight carries for 24 yards. Given that Roy Helu had a better day on Sunday than Hightower as well and that Mike Shanahan loves playing "Musical Running Backs," don't be surprised to see Hightower spending even more time on the bench in the coming weeks.

SAINTS WR: Marques Colston came back from a broken collarbone much more quickly than expected, and as a result, it seemed like none of the Saints' receivers are going to be worth a whole lot the rest of the way. True, Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, and Robert Meachem all have their moments, but as long as Drew Brees is throwing to Colston, tight end Jimmy Graham (the real go-to guy in that offense) and running back Darren Sproles, there won't be enough balls to go around to make Moore, Henderson and Meachem regular fantasy plays. Case in point: Henderson was shut out Sunday and was only targeted once.

SEAHAWKS WR: Before leaving Sunday's game with a concussion, Mike Williams scored his first touchdown of the season, but he still doesn't seem like a major part of the offense, especially now that Sidney Rice is active. Doug Baldwin, who set season-highs with five catches for 84 yards, and Ben Obomanu, who caught a TD pass of his own, will see more targets if Williams misses any time. But Rice is probably the receiver who will benefit the most from being the only reliable wideout on the roster when Williams can't go.

STEELERS QB: Although Ben Roethlisberger played the entire game against Houston on Sunday, his sprained left foot puts his Week 5 status in jeopardy. Given how poorly he's been playing lately, it's possible the Steelers will play it safe with Big Ben and put in Charlie Batch against Tennessee instead.

STEELERS RB: The strained hamstring injury suffered by Rashard Mendenhall on Sunday is not believed to be serious, but he's likely to miss a little time nonetheless. Isaac Redman, who had six carries for a team-high 40 yards Sunday, would get first crack at running behind the shaky Pittsburgh offensive line, while Mewelde Moore, who had 34 rushing yards of his own, would back him up.

TEXANS RB: Despite the fact that Ben Tate started the season strong while Arian Foster nursed his hamstring injury, Foster laid to rest any doubts as to who the top dog is on the Houston rushing offense. Foster carried the ball 10 times (though two carries were called back due to penalties) during Houston's dominating opening drive against Pittsburgh, and finished the game with 155 yards on 30 carries, including a 42-yard touchdown. Meanwhile, Tate hurt his groin on his first carry and finished the day with just one more tote. Tate should be healthy in time for this week's game, but with Foster back to 100%, Tate should be back in the reserve role.

TEXANS WR: The fantasy world held its collective breath when all-world receiver Andre Johnson pulled up lame Sunday. His hamstring injury will keep him out for some time, but the Texans don't seem to know how long it will be. Coach Gary Kubiak was characteristically vague: "I don't know if that's three or four days or a few weeks." Jacoby Jones will take Johnson's spot in the lineup, and Kevin Walter, as well as tight end Owen Daniels, should both be in line for more targets, though it should be noted that only Daniels made a contribution to the Houston offense on Sunday.

TENNESSEE WR: Damian Williams took the place of starter Kenny Britt, who is out for the year with a knee injury, but he caught just one pass for four yards, which was perhaps an indication as to why he wasn't starting in the first place. Then again, that four-yarder was for a touchdown. Nate Washington is now the undisputed No. 1, but Lavelle Hawkins and recent signee Donnie Avery should also figure into the mix.