With the second batch of preseason games just around the corner, Tuesday was a relatively quiet day in the land of the League. Still, a few starting positions seemed to snap into focus and a couple of key NFC playmakers returned to practice. Here's what you may have missed:
- Rookie Kwon Alexander is making waves in Tampa Bay; the reports out of the Bucs' camp on Tuesday have the former LSU Tiger starting at middle linebacker come the beginning of the season. After the Bucs gave Bruce Carter a significant four-year contract in the offseason, he was expected to be guaranteed a starting position in the team's linebacker corps. But with Lavonte Davis and Alexander now occupying two of the three starting spots in the team's defense, Carter will be left to compete with Danny Lansanah for the final opening. Meanwhile, Alexander's value as an IDP could be something to keep an eye on over the final three preseason games. He was a tackling machine at LSU, picking up 90 tackles (including 7.5 for a loss) and 1.5 sacks in 2014.
- Kiko Alonso was back on the practice field for the Eagles on Tuesday, sporting a helmet but limiting his participation after missing two weeks with a concussion. Head coach Chip Kelly said he'll likely be back to full-go by the end of the week. The big return from the LeSean McCoy trade, Alonso could make his debut Saturday when the Eagles face the Ravens in the team's second preseason game of the year. He's expected to see plenty of snaps at inside linebacker for the Eagles this year after a rookie season in which he piled up four interceptions, two fumble recoveries, two sacks and 87 tackles.
- 49ers wide receiver Jerome Simpson was officially suspended for six games, effectively ending his bid for the team's No. 3 spot. It's Simpson's second straight season with a multi-game suspension. If he had been able to win the third wideout slot in San Francisco's offense, there might have been incentive to keep Simpson (deep) on your bench in case of ideal matchups against poor pass defenses. But with six games off the table and low placement on the 49ers' depth chart, Simpson will likely be passed up by plenty of fantasy owners in the late rounds on draft day.
- Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan said he expects Geno Smith to miss the first four games of the season because of the broken jaw Smith suffered in the now-infamous locker room skirmish from last Tuesday. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is likely to start those four games, and Smith's absence could end up being more than four games if Fitzpatrick stays away from turnovers and pilots the Jets to a couple of wins. New York faces a middling Browns team, two teams with plenty of firepower in the Colts and Eagles, and a Dolphins team with plenty of potential in the first four weeks of the year. It will be interesting to see what first-year head coach Todd Bowles does if Fitzpatrick plays adequate football in Smith's absence.
- The tight end situation in Green Bay took an interesting turn, with Richard Rodgers seemingly overtaking Andrew Quarless as the team's No. 1 option. After the two essentially split last year's snaps, it looks like Rodgers will be the Packers' top tight end this year. While quarterback Aaron Rodgers is replete with weapons, the second-year tight end Rodgers could see valuable targets in the red zone because of his size (6-4, 257 pounds) and good hands. He caught 20 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie last season.
- Carolina wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin returned to practice Tuesday after taking a few days off since the team's first preseason game. Benjamin caught a trio of passes for 36 yards and a touchdown, and didn't look to be hampered in any way by his hamstring. The days off were likely just precautionary, providing the second-year wideout with rest before what promises to be a long and productive season. He caught 73 passes for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns last year.