Job Battles: Preseason Week 1 Update

Job Battles: Preseason Week 1 Update

This article is part of our Job Battles series.

QUARTERBACK

Baker Mayfield vs Sam Darnold, CAR

Mayfield started Carolina's preseason game and Darnold played afterward. The ensuing events don't really matter; this is still ostensibly an even competition but one where there is major reason to think Mayfield is in the driver seat.

Geno Smith vs Drew Lock, SEA

Smith probably isn't as secure as Mayfield, but this is largely a similar theme to the Carolina case. Much as the competition between Smith and Lock is ongoing, Smith hasn't done anything obvious to hurt his prior standing as the favorite.

RUNNING BACK

Damien Williams vs Tyler Allgeier vs Qadree Ollison, ATL

The Falcons rejected Ollison last year and opted for a dreary season of Mike Davis instead, so it's difficult to tell how serious the Falcons might consider him for a roster spot. With Cordarrelle Patterson resting it was Ollison who started Atlanta's preseason opener over Williams and Allgeier, however, so if that meant anything then maybe Ollison has a better chance of making the roster in 2022.

It's still difficult to reason how. What changed? Ollison ran well in the game, producing 33 yards on five carries, but his traits and functions are redundant to Allgeier, the rookie fifth-round pick with a substantially better prospect profile than what Ollison had out of Pittsburgh in 2019.

Williams was in any case the second running back on the field, and with a signing bonus nearly 15x Ollison's we can reason Williams is higher than Ollison on the

QUARTERBACK

Baker Mayfield vs Sam Darnold, CAR

Mayfield started Carolina's preseason game and Darnold played afterward. The ensuing events don't really matter; this is still ostensibly an even competition but one where there is major reason to think Mayfield is in the driver seat.

Geno Smith vs Drew Lock, SEA

Smith probably isn't as secure as Mayfield, but this is largely a similar theme to the Carolina case. Much as the competition between Smith and Lock is ongoing, Smith hasn't done anything obvious to hurt his prior standing as the favorite.

RUNNING BACK

Damien Williams vs Tyler Allgeier vs Qadree Ollison, ATL

The Falcons rejected Ollison last year and opted for a dreary season of Mike Davis instead, so it's difficult to tell how serious the Falcons might consider him for a roster spot. With Cordarrelle Patterson resting it was Ollison who started Atlanta's preseason opener over Williams and Allgeier, however, so if that meant anything then maybe Ollison has a better chance of making the roster in 2022.

It's still difficult to reason how. What changed? Ollison ran well in the game, producing 33 yards on five carries, but his traits and functions are redundant to Allgeier, the rookie fifth-round pick with a substantially better prospect profile than what Ollison had out of Pittsburgh in 2019.

Williams was in any case the second running back on the field, and with a signing bonus nearly 15x Ollison's we can reason Williams is higher than Ollison on the real depth chart. Williams is Atlanta's only proven passing down option after Patterson, so either Atlanta plays it risky with passing down depth or Ollison seemingly just loses out to Allgeier, who ran for 25 yards on three carries.

Justice Hill vs Tyler Badie vs Mike Davis, BAL

Although J.K. Dobbins (knee) recently returned to practice, it's not clear when he nor Gus Edwards (knee) might be back to full strength. Behind them there's Hill, the former fourth-round pick returning from a training camp Achilles tear, Badie, the sixth-round pick rookie out of Missouri, and Davis, the 29-year-old journeyman who most recently disappointed with the Falcons. Nate McCrary is also hanging around but appears to be at the back of the line. If Edwards remains on the PUP list going into the regular season then the Ravens could keep all of Hill, Badie and Davis. Davis is arguably the most unique of the three for his denser build for inside running functions, which don't really suit Badie and Hill. That said, at least one would likely be cut if Dobbins and Edwards are both at full strength. Davis had the best preseason debut numbers of the group, though we don't really need preseason numbers to know what Davis is at this point – Edwards' return could thwart Davis specifically.

Dameon Pierce vs Marlon Mack vs Rex Burkhead, HOU

To what meaning is unclear, but Marlon Mack was the starter for Houston's first preseason game. If Mack is the presumed starter, then it's doubtful his six yards for three carries will alter his status either way. It's not clear whether he has any meaningful job security, though.

A preseason game doesn't mean anything for player evaluation, but Pierce looked more or less like the same productive player he was at Florida. Pierce's dense build (218) at a low height (5-foot-10) gives him a good anchor to hold ground against contact, so it was good to see him pair that with some shifty cuts as he ran for 49 yards on five carries.

Although Burkhead didn't play in the preseason opener his roster spot appears relatively secure, and if it is then he might especially factor into passing down work. Mack has no real history as a passing down player and Pierce is a wildcard there until he's tested.

Isiah Pacheco vs Jerick McKinnon vs Ronald Jones, KC

McKinnon was listed as second, Jones third and Pacheco fourth on an unofficial depth chart released by the Chiefs, but Pacheco and McKinnon have reportedly run ahead of Jones in all Kansas City training camp practices. If the practice reps reflect the depth chart then Jones might not make the team. It would be a confusing outcome for a lot of reasons, namely that Kansas City would be paying $750,000 in an up front cap penalty for the privilege of signing and cutting Jones. That's 71.6 percent of what they could have paid to simply re-sign Darrel Williams, if they apparently prefer him (which it would seemingly follow they do if they weren't to keep Jones).

It would make enough sense for the Chiefs to keep all four players – Pachecho isn't making it to the practice squad after they've hyped him so much, and the Chiefs otherwise need to run more and better than ever in light of the Tyreek Hill trade and two-high scourge. Starter Clyde Edwards-Helaire has unsurprisingly proved less than durable at 5-foot-7, 204 pounds, and in the scenario they cut Jones the Chiefs would have just Pacheco remaining as a viable runner. Pacheco nearly went undrafted – could the Chiefs really be pinning so much hope and responsibility onto the third to last regulation pick in the seventh round? Nothing is stopping them from whatever they might want to do, but perhaps there are still things to sort out.

J.J. Taylor vs Pierre Strong vs Kevin Harris, NE

It's tough to tell where this one is headed in light of James White's retirement, but there might be some substantial level of opportunity for whoever earns the RB3 role behind Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson. Taylor was first of the group to play in New England's preseason opener, followed by Harris and then Strong. Harris had a rushing touchdown but only five yards on his other six carries, while Taylor (five carries for 16 yards) and Strong (six carries for 25 yards) didn't do much either.

The three players are very different, and their traits predisposed toward some tasks better than others. Taylor might be the most polished pass catcher of the group but is perilously small and slowish at 5-foot-5, 185 pounds. Strong is the fast one (4.39 40) but is somewhat skinny at 5-foot-11, 207 pounds. Harris (5-foot-10, 221 pounds) has an ideal frame and may be the best size-adjusted athlete of the three (38.5-inch vertical, 126-inch broad jump), but he might be the most redundant of the three to Harris and Stevenson. Harris' passing down work is also unproven.

Update: Sorry, I should have mentioned Ty Montgomery in this. He's reportedly doing well in training camp for the Patriots, easy as it might be to dismiss him at this point. Montgomery's durability historically does not cooperate but to be fair he never really played poorly at any point, he sort of just stopped playing. If Montgomery gets the reps that might have otherwise gone to White then he could take on a much bigger role than expected, perhaps even slightly at the expense of Stevenson's presumed passing down monopoly.

Antonio Gibson vs Brian Robinson, WAS

Gibson had a bad game in Washington's preseason opener, fumbling on one play while Robinson ran for a touchdown on another. Robinson is lighter than Gibson at nearly two inches taller and is more than two tenths of a second slower than Gibson in the 40, but if Washington prefers an impotent threat from scrimmage to a fumble risk then Gibson could be in trouble all the same.

WIDE RECEIVER

Mecole Hardman vs Skyy Moore vs Marquez Valdes-Scantling vs Justin Watson, KC

There doesn't seem to be much or anything changing with Hardman, Moore and Valdes-Scantling comprising the WR2-WR4 in whatever order, but it might be worth noting that Watson appears to be a roster lock and has seen plenty of work with Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City training camp. Perhaps Watson is little more than a camp standout – it happens all the time, and Watson was basically a bust with the Buccaneers – but the former fifth-round pick was extremely productive in college and logged standout athletic testing. At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds Watson is Kansas City's second-tallest receiver and at a much denser build than Valdes-Scantling (207 at 6-foot-4). That could make Watson a candidate for Big Slot reps.

Jauan Jennings vs Danny Gray, SF

This is a tough matchup to sort out because the players in question are fighting for the same role (WR3 behind Samuel and Aiyuk) but have nearly opposite traits. That's normally a recipe for a timeshare, and that could certainly be the case here, but if one of them pushes the issue enough it could influence Shanahan's game-planning inclinations.

In the meantime we know Jennings is huge (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) but slow (4.72-second 40) and Gray is skinny (6-feet, 186 pounds) but blazing fast (4.33-second 40). Jennings' lack of speed means he can't function outside except for maybe the red zone, but Jennings makes his money by bullying smaller defenders from the slot, where he poses a wide catch radius and a substantial tackle-breaking threat after the catch. Gray's thinness might preclude him from those tasks Jennings excels at, and in the red-zone especially the game starts to tilt toward Jennings' favor. But in hurryup situations or anywhere before field goal range Gray could pose such a compelling big-play threat as a downfield receiver that he jumps ahead of Jennings in those parts of the field. Gray made one of the preseason's most entertaining plays against Green Bay, burning the defense for a 76-yard touchdown while producing two catches for 99 yards and the score on four targets.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mario Puig
Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.
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