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Preseason Job Battles: Camp Competitions Heat Up

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 continues to appear unhappy, but he didn't follow through on his threat to sit out the preseason. Chester Taylor, sitting behind him on the depth chart, might be in trouble, as both Marion Barber and the cheaper Kahlil Bell looked better in the Saturday's game against Buffalo. As long as Forte plays, he should have just about all of the value at the position for the Bears, but a disgruntled running back could open up an opportunity for someone else.

Devin Hester looks safe as the starting flanker, but Johnny Knox and Roy Williams are battling it out as the starting split end. Chicago receivers coach Darryl Drake said Williams "isn't going to be handed anything" and that Knox has to "improve from where he's at," so this battle looks far from over. For what it's worth, the official depth chart has Williams and Hester as starters with Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett as second stringers.

Andy Dalton started the preseason opener, and though he threw an interception on his first pass, he completed 11 of his last 14 attempts. If he's already starting the opener, it looks like only injury should keep him - rather than veteran Bruce Gradkowski - from being under center on Opening Day. That said, Dalton's 4.6 yards/attempt leave a bit to be desired and might be some indication as to how poor the Cincinnati passing game will be this season.

Of all of the Cincinnati wideout options, only rookie A.J. Green appears to be shining. Unless Andre Caldwell or Jordan Shipley step up this summer, expect Jerome Simpson to start opposite Green, who caught four passes in his debut.

Lee Evans traded to Baltimore on Friday, suddenly the Bills have a hole in their starting lineup. Steve Johnson is a the clear No. 1, and Roscoe Parrish appears to have the slot job wrapped up, but there are plenty of contenders for Evans' vacated slot. David Nelson looks like the frontrunner, but lesser lights like Craig Davis, Marcus Easley and Donald Jones are competing as well. Jones started the game Saturday, so he looks like he has a slim lead over Davis and Easley, and he may push Nelson as well.

The situation is still a bit fluid. Brian Robiskie and Josh Cribbs are tops on the depth chart, but Mohamed Massaquoi is hurt and the Browns are high on Little, who has been putting in extensive practice work in the red zone and didn't look bad in his debut. Cribbs, who has caught exactly one touchdown pass in each of the last three years, matched that total with a 27-yard score from Colt McCoy. With Massaquoi hurt, Cribbs could take advantage and snag the starting job if he keeps this up.

Beanie Wells is clearly the top dog, but it's worth noting that his top contender, Ryan Williams, was the third running back in the opener, rather than the second. That distinction belonged to LaRod Stephens-Howling. Williams looked a bit better, for what it's worth, so he should still be considered the Cardinals running back to own if Wells can't perform his job.

Although Early Doucet is having a good camp, Andre Roberts is officially the No. 2 receiver - for now. Coach Ken Whisenhunt made sure to stress that he doesn't "really get caught up in the No. 2. We run so many different packages where we use three receivers or even four receivers and there are a lot of times we tailor specific packages to fit the individual strengths of the receivers." That's all well and good, but the Cardinals aren't exactly overflowing with good receivers, apart from starter Larry Fitzgerald.

Norv Turner recently stated he wants to rotate between Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert this year. Mathews certainly has more upside, and he'll probably start more frequently, but as long as the San Diego coach is intent on having them share the ball, neither will have the fantasy value of a No. 1 back.

Jerheme Urban is surprisingly ahead of Steve Breaston for the No. 2 spot, but that's just the opening depth chart. Breaston is still expected to win the job, and rookie Jon Baldwin might beat out Urban as well.

Delone Carter had a strong debut and may figure into goal-line situations this year. With Joseph Addai's injury risks and Donald Brown's general ineffectiveness, Carter may be a name to remember in deep leagues, even though he's currently the third choice on the depth chart.

Coach Tony Sparano claims there is no competition in camp at the quarterback position, but some consider his strong statements as a ploy to boost Henne's confidence. Matt Moore has looked pretty good so far, so if Henne continues to bring the mediocrity, Moore could steal this job from him.

The first depth chart had Reggie Bush ahead of rookie Daniel Thomas, but Bush ended up not playing in the opener and may not be in game shape yet. Thomas didn't run the ball well, though he had a nice catch. Bush is returning punts in practice, which is not usually a role given to your first-string running back. We still expect Thomas to carry the ball a lot more than Bush this year.

Jeremy Maclin's illness is still unknown, and it's becoming a concern. Andy Reid thinks Maclin will be ready, and if so, he pairs with DeSean Jackson (who ended his holdout) to form one of the league's most explosive starting duos. Steven Smith signed from the Giants, but won't be ready by the start of the year, so Jason Avant is slotted in as the third receiver. Chad Hall and Riley Cooper are names to know if Maclin's illness is more serious, but assuming it's not, the Eagles appear set.

David Garrard's back is becoming a bit of a concern, as it's a disc problem, rather than a muscle problem. He sat out the opener, but he's practicing and should play in the second game this week. Blaine Gabbert played as well as could be expected against New England, but he's probably not ready to be a starter on Opening Day. For Jacksonville's sake, let's hope Garrard's back holds up.

Maurice Jones-Drew (knee) may not be ready until the regular season, but he's running at full speed and taking part in drills and other practices. Still, if he has a setback, expect Rashad Jennings to step in and contribute decent numbers. Jennings ran for 459 yards on 84 carries for a sparkling 5.5 YPC last season.

Mikel Leshoure was all set to vulture some touchdowns from Jahvid Best when he tore his Achilles' tendon, finishing his rookie year before it even started. Best had the job all to himself for a day or two, but the Browns signed Jerome Harrison and Mike Bell just to keep him honest. Aaron Brown and Maurice Morris are still around, as well. Harrison's historic late-season run in 2009 makes him an intriguing sleeper.

Ryan Grant might be the incumbent, and he might be practicing with the first team, but James Starks looks pretty good. Of course, Starks rolled an ankle in the preseason opener while Grant is now fully healthy, so Starks isn't taking the job just yet. Rookie Alex Green, who should eventually pass both (if not this year, then maybe next year), sat out the opener with a sore hamstring.

Jimmy Clausen practiced with the first team last week and started the preseason opener, but Cam Newton played with the first-team offense as well. Newton didn't play great, but was good enough in his debut, and fans chanted for him while Clausen was on the field. Newton practiced with the first string Monday and may have already passed Clausen on the depth chart. Derek Anderson looks like he'll be used as the third quarterback this year, rather than as a veteran presence in the starting lineup.

The torn ACL suffered by David Gettis looks to most benefit Legedu Naanee, as he's now written in pencil into the starting lineup opposite Steve Smith. Armanti Edwards is playing the Wildcat, but probably won't be used frequently otherwise. One name to note: Brandon LaFell. He had one big catch from Newton and barely missed on another - could they ultimately be a big-play combo?

The Patriots have six viable candidates for significant time this year, but one, Kevin Faulk, was placed on the PUP list, effectively making him a non-entity on draft day. BenJarvus Green-Ellis should continue to head the committee, and Danny Woodhead should make the team as a change-of-pace guy, but he needs to watch out for rookie Stevan Ridley, who was very busy in the opener, rushing for 64 yards and two scores. Fellow rookie Shane Vereen sat out with a hamstring injury and has to be considered behind Ridley at this point.

Who is starting in Oakland? We think maybe Jacoby Ford, with Louis Murphy and Chaz Schilens fighting for the No. 2 spot, but all three are hurt. Could this be the year that Darrius Heyward-Bey steps up? He's gotten a lot of reps with the first team due to the injuries, but he also has been quite a bust in his two years in the league. Rookie Denarious Moore figures to see some extra action as well. This unit is deeper than you think, but still lacks that clear-cut No. 1.

Steven Jackson is definitely the starter, but the Rams picked up a couple of decent backups in Cadillac Williams and Jerious Williams to spell him, and even Keith Toston could have value this year, considering the injury histories of the players ahead of him on the depth chart. Williams, Norwood and Toston played well in the opener Saturday.

Mike Sims-Walker and Danny Amendola appear to be the only wide receivers assured of roster spots, and Sims-Walker got hurt in the opener and will miss the next game, so the other numerous contenders can all state their cases in the coming weeks. Danario Alexander (three catches for 43 yards in the opener) should win the starting job if he stays healthy, but that's a big if. Donnie Avery missed the opener, and his days look numbered. Plenty of other names will pop up this month, as the pecking order in St. Louis is far from settled.

Rookie Lance Kendricks looked good in the opener, and with Fendi Onobun (groin) and Michael Hoomanawanui (concussion) sitting out, Kendricks is putting some distance between himself and the other contenders. Hoomanawanui has been cleared to practice, and last year's part-time starter Billy Bajema is also still a possibility, but this race looks like Kendricks' to lose.

The Ravens signed Ricky Williams a week ago to back up Ray Rice. Rice is in no danger of losing significant value as a lead back, but Williams could be used as a goal-line back this year. It's unknown at this time if the Ravens are going to use Williams that way, so feel free to continue to invest a first-round pick in Rice.

Rookies Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss have bright futures, but those bright futures may not come to be in 2011, as the Ravens decided they needed another veteran to go with Anquan Boldin. Lee Evans can stretch defenses, but he's never been quite as good as his reputation.

With John Beck (groin) out for the opener, Rex Grossman made his case for the starting job, completed 19-of-26 passes for 207 yards and a score. Beck is already back and practicing, and he's a favorite of Mike Shanahan, so don't go running out to draft Rex Grossman just yet. Actually, even if Grossman wins the starting job, that's still good advice.

Torain out with a broken hand (he's seeing a hand specialist Tuesday), Tim Hightower is now the heavy favorite to win the starting job. As long as he holds onto the ball, he should win the job, but that's easier said than done. Evan Royster was ahead of fellow rookie Roy Helu on Friday, and he looked much better, so he might be considered the No. 3. Regardless, any of the quartet could lead the Redskins in carries in 2011, so they're all worth knowing.

Santana Moss is the clear No. 1, and he caught a touchdown pass in the opener, but the contenders for the other starting job (Jabar Gaffney, Anthony Armstrong and Donte Stallworth) all played well, and Leonard Hankerson is in contention as well. Stay tuned.

Very impressive touchdown run for Mark Ingram in his debut, but he didn't do much else. Pierre Thomas started, while Ingram did his damage against the San Francisco backups. Darren Sproles had just one carry, and Chris Ivory remains on the shelf, so it looks like this duel will come down to Thomas vs. Ingram.

New acquisition Jerricho Cotchery has a bit more experience than most of the other Pittsburgh receivers, but he's currently slated to be the fifth receiver. Meanwhile, Antonio Brown is shooting up the charts with Hines Ward and Emmanuel Sanders both hurt. He may have already passed Sanders on the depth chart, while the veteran Ward showed a steep decline last season and might not be able to hold off the young Brown. Only Mike Wallace is a sure thing on this crew.

The team's first depth chart had Bernard Berrian ahead of Michael Jenkins for the starting job opposite Percy Harvin. It's still an unofficial depth chart, but at least it shows the Vikes might stick with Berrian despite his struggles last year. Jenkins won't go without a fight, however.