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Preseason Job Battles: Forte Could Bear Fewer TDs

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.


Although Matt Forte will get most of the carries between the 20s, Michael Bush is setting up to be a red-zone vulture. He scored from eight and one Saturday and looks like the goal-line back. Continue to draft Forte with confidence, but with the caveat that he's unlikely to rack up the TDs.


Alshon Jeffery had another nice game and has seven receptions for 97 yards in two games. He might still be behind Earl Bennett for the No. 3 job, but his ceiling is much higher, and he could pass Bennett before the season begins and even catch Devin Hester as well. Jeffery is nipping at his heels.


The Bengals have a lot of options in the role opposite A.J. Green. Armon Binns and Brandon Tate are "No. 2 and No. 2A," but game action will probably dictate where they end up. Binns and Andrew Hawkins didn't play in last week's exhibition game, while Mohamed Sanu kept his hopes alive by catching a touchdown pass.


Jermaine Gresham has a sprained knee. He should be OK, but he probably won't play this week, and it's getting close to Opening Day. Veteran Donald Lee is the backup.


Ronnie Hillman is expected to win the backup job to Willis McGahee, but he has to get on the field to do it. He finally got on the practice field Monday after missing the first two exhibition games. Lance Ball is penciled in as the backup, but if Hillman can show he's healthy, he should overtake him. Knowshon Moreno and Xavier Omon are still around for depth, but that's it.


Coach Pat Shurmur said Trent Richardson has made good progress and may be ahead of schedule, but there's no concrete timetable yet, so Montario Hardesty or Brandon Jackson could start Opening Day. Both runners scored touchdowns last in the last exhibition game, but Hardesty, who gained 45 yards on 12 carries, was better and performed against better defenses. He definitely has the lead over Jackson.


Mohamed Massaquoi claimed he didn't suffer a concussion a week ago, but he was held out of Thursday's game as a precaution (though he's practicing), which let Josh Gordon close the gap even more. Gordon will eventually start, but will it be from Day One? Josh Cribbs, Travis Benjamin and Jordan Norwood aren't going to win that job.


LeGarrette Blount suffered what at first looked like a serious knee injury but is instead a minor groin injury in Friday's game. Still, even if the injury is minor, he's already behind Doug Martin, so Blount's chances of winning the job took a hit. Blount is back on the practice field, but it looks more and more like Martin every day.


John Skelton was once again a bit better than his competitor, Kevin Kolb, for the starting job, though neither played enough to make the decision crystal clear. Skelton completed all three of his attempts while Kolb took three sacks. For what it's worth, it appears the Cardinals are leaning toward Skelton, who will start the next preseason game. Owners of Larry Fitzgerald are waiting with baited breath.


Ryan Williams finally got on the field in an exhibition game, rushing for 25 yards on five attempts, but once again Beanie Wells sat out. Williams hasn't quite won the job yet, but the oft-injured Wells has to play or the Cardinals won't have a choice but to give it to Williams.


Ronnie Brown started and got the most touches by far - of the San Diego RB candidates against the Cowboys on Saturday. Most of his damage was done by his four catches for 37 yards, but six carries (to Le'Ron McClain's two) seem to indicate that he'll have the job until Ryan Mathews returns, probably sometime in September.


Vincent Brown's broken ankle probably benefited Eddie Royal more than anyone else. While Brown, who should miss at least eight weeks, was all set to play behind Malcom Floyd and Robert Meachem, Royal now has a secure hold on the slot position. Royal missed practice with a sore groin, but Roscoe Parrish is the only receiver of note behind Royal on the depth chart.


Vulture alert! Although Jamaal Charles (in limited duty) has looked better, Peyton Hillis has two short-yardage touchdowns so far during preseason. The Chiefs will want to protect Charles as much as possible this year, and what better way than to let Hillis get the one-yard score after Charles just ran for 73 yards?


Dwayne Bowe signed a tender and passing his conditioning tests, but he'll need to learn the playbook fast to be ready for the regular season. That said, he's now the undisputed top receiver, so Jon Baldwin and Steve Breaston, among others, fall down a notch. Baldwin is still an interesting sleeper, and with Bowe commanding double teams, he could shine in 2012.


Coach Chuck Pagano pegged Donald Brown as the clear starter. Delone Carter and Mewelde Moore, who both missed Sunday's game with injuries, will back him up.


Austin Collie suffered his fourth concussion in the last two years Sunday, and it doesn't look good. Don't be surprised to see him shut down for a while, though Collie claims it's not a concussion and is feeling good. Buyer beware. Donnie Avery (who missed the game with thigh injury), T.Y. Hilton and Lavon Brazill are next in line, and starter Reggie Wayne could get used even more heavily. Brazill played with the first team with Avery and Collie out, so he might have the best chance of winning a significant role, but Avery is expected to play this weekend against Washington.


Miles Austin already missed practice and might not play during the preseason, but Dez Bryant rolled his ankle Monday in practice and also discovered he had patellar tendinitis. With both stars out, the race for the third receiver which already had a lot of candidates takes on added importance. Kevin Ogletree seems to be in the lead, but Cole Beasley, Danny Coale, Dwayne Harris and Andre Holmes have a chance.


Jason Witten has a slightly lacerated spleen and must remain "still and idle" for at least a week. Sounds fun. He doesn't need surgery, but his regular-season status (and 139-game streak) is in doubt. John Phillips is expected to take the reins at tight end until Witten returns, but he missed some time with a sprained ankle and didn't catch a pass despite starting Saturday. Meanwhile, rookie James Hanna caught four passes for 31 yards. Hanna has work to do when it comes to blocking, but he could benefit most from a prolonged Witten absence.


Ryan Tannehill didn't play well in his last start, but that doesn't matter: he was announced as the regular-season starter Monday. Matt Moore will back him up until David Garrard is ready, and depending on how well Tannehill plays, Garrard (or Moore) might no longer be needed.


Michael Vick suffered a rib contusion Monday, as his injury-filled career rolls on. With former Northwestern star Mike Kafka out with a hand injury, Nick Foles was called into action a little early and played very well. Chances are, one of these backups will have to play this year given Vick's style of play, but after Monday's performance, it's possible Foles will leapfrog Kafka.


It looked like Brandon Jacobs suffered a serious knee injury in San Francisco's last exhibition game, but the MRI came back clean and he could be ready in time for the regular season. Although he's fourth on the depth chart, he likely will get a lot of goal-line work, so an extended absence could have fantasy repercussions. Frank Gore, who is already the workhorse, might see a little more action in the red zone, while Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James will benefit from having one less mouth to feed.


Ahmad Bradshaw limited with a minor hand injury, the Giants' backup job takes on added importance. Rookie David Wilson played with the first team Monday, while D.J. Ware, who struggled against the Jets on Saturday, is behind him. Wilson's speed makes him an intriguing prospect, and he'll get plenty of carries this year even if Bradshaw stays healthy.


Coach Mike Mularkey said there's no guarantee Maurice Jones-Drew will earn playing time even if he ends his holdout. Rashad Jennings might get a short-term boost in that case, but it's obvious MJD won't be on the bench for long. Still, the holdout has had no end in sight, and now Jones-Drew might be looking for a trade. Jennings' stock continues to go up, and Montell Owens looks like he'll back up Jennings for now, especially with Keith Toston out a couple of weeks with a hamstring injury.


The Jets have had enough problems this summer with their offensive line, but the holes at wide receiver could also be problematic in 2012. Santonio Holmes (ribs) could miss the rest of the preseason, and he hasn't even been cleared for contact. Chaz Schilens (ankle) will sit out again Saturday because of an ankle injury. Jeremy Kerley (hamstring) is at least practicing, and rookie Stephen Hill is healthy (at least compared to the others), but even if Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow get time to throw, there may not be anyone worth throwing to.


Mikel Leshoure returned to practice, but Jahvid Best looks like he'll start the year on the PUP list, and there's no timetable for his return. Kevin Smith's hold on the job gets stronger by the day, especially with the likes of Joique Bell, Keiland Williams and the injured Stefan Logan offering up little challenge. If Smith gets off to a poor start, however, Leshoure could grab the job when he returns from his suspension in Week 3.


Although Titus Young and Nate Burleson have both had strong camps, Ryan Broyles played Friday and caught two passes. A torn ACL torpedoed Broyles' lofty draft status, but he has more talent than Young and Burleson and could overtake either or both and win the No. 2 job. That's a bit unlikely this late in summer, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see him in the starting lineup before the end of the season.


Cedric Benson may be the starter when the season begins, as James Starks (turf toe) is still a couple of weeks away from returning. More important, Alex Green got on the field for last week's game and should get plenty of carries in the first half this week. Any of these three could lead the Packers in rushing this year, but right now we'd put our money on Benson.


Louis Murphy appears to have the edge over Seyi Ajirotutu and Kealoha Pilares for the No. 3 WR spot, though David Gettis will be a contender when he fully heals from a torn ACL. Unfortunately, Gettis is not playing yet, and it wouldn't be shocking if he went on the PUP list.


Jacoby Ford suffered a sprained left foot Friday and is going to miss some time. He injured the same foot last season and missed six games, so his status for the start of the season is in jeopardy. Rod Streator has caught a ton of passes, and with Denarius Moore (hamstring) not yet back in practice, Streator could find himself in the starting lineup before long.


No one has really staked their claim. Brandon Gibson returned to practice Monday after missing Sunday's game, but Tuesday's practice was cut short due to soreness. Brian Quick has looked good in camp, but he suffered back spasms Sunday. It looks like Steven Smith and Danny Amendola are safe, but that doesn't mean they'll start. Your guess is as good as ours.


With Tim Hightower (knee) and Roy Helu (both Achilles') both out, Evan Royster still only got two carries. Still, he's clearly the healthiest of the trio, though Hightower is practicing and may play this week. When all are healthy, it's anybody's game, but rarely are all healthy at once. Royster is in the lead by default, but Hightower could still make some noise.


Leonard Hankerson, Santana Moss and Josh Morgan are competing for two spots in the rotation, though all should make the team. The pecking order appears immaterial at this point, but there could be a drop-off from the person deemed worthy of the "No. 2" moniker and the others. Bet on Hankerson for now, but there's still a few weeks left.


Nick Toon once again missed a game, and he's doubtful this week, but he still seems to be penciled in as the No. 4 wideout, especially with Adrian Arrington out after undergoing knee surgery. Joseph Morgan (three catches - including 53-yard TD for 68 yards) had a nice game Friday, and if Toon doesn't come back soon, Morgan could be in the conversation for his job, though the Saints signed Greg Camarillo on Sunday, which might push Morgan out of contention.


There was only one field-goal attempt in Friday's game, and Garrett Hartley nailed it from 37 yards. Hartley is still the favorite over John Kasay, but the competition likely will not be decided until after the team's final two preseason games.


Tarvaris Jackson was benched for the first game and did not play in the second preseason game either. Coach Pete Carroll said Jackson is sitting because the team knows what they have, but it looks like Russell Wilson has won backup job, at least, and Jackson will not be kept around. Carroll said Jackson is still in running to be Week 1 starter, but it doesn't look like it from his preseason usage, and if the Seahawks are trying to trade Jackson, as has been reported, one would think they'd try to showcase him a little. Seattle is happy with Matt Flynn and Wilson, who will start this week, so Jackson is certainly expendable. For Wilson, a good showing in the upcoming exhibition could vault him over Flynn.


Terrell Owens made his Seattle debut Saturday, and the split-end job is up for grabs, but he looked rusty. Not only did he not catch any of his five targets, but he dropped an easy touchdown pass. Don't be surprised if he's cut before the end of camp. In the meantime, Doug Baldwin (hamstring) and Ben Obomanu (neck) were both held out Saturday. Either could still win the split end job as well, but Golden Tate and Braylon Edwards are still around too.


Some interesting movement here in the last week. First, Rashard Mendenhall was surprising taken off the PUP list, which means maybe he'll be ready to return within the first six weeks of the season. Second, Isaac Redman missed Sunday's game with groin and hip injuries. Jonathan Dwyer is probably next in line and has averaged more than eight yards per carry this preseason. Chris Rainey and Baron Batch are next in line.


The Texans should score a lot of points this year, which means the Shayne Graham vs. Randy Bullock competition is of some interest. Graham made two long field goals (from 48 and 49) while Bullock missed his only attempt (albeit from 51 yards) Saturday. It's still too early to hand this one out, but it helps to know that they're both booting it into the end zone on kickoffs.


Although Jake Locker was terrible in his last start and it looked like Matt Hasselbeck had pulled even with him, The Tennessean still reported Monday that Locker would win the starting job. So we don't have to keep talking about this every week.


Adrian Peterson might not get majority of carries in the early going, so bump up Toby Gerhart a little. Peterson is less than eight months removed from tearing his ACL, but he's practicing more and more every day. Peterson wants to play this Friday, but the Vikings are likely to play it safe with their star and keep him out until the regular season starts. Gerhart will be ready.