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Combatants: Mike Adams, Max Starks and Trai Essex
This battle illustrates a major difference between what we can learn from practice and what we can learn from game action.
In practice, Adams looked like a guy who was easily the team’s most impressive rookie. He was holding blocks well and was good in pass protection as well. In game action, however, he showed there’s still some miles to be traveled before he’s ready for prime time. He gave up at least two sacks against backup defensive linemen. That’s not a good start, but it wasn’t all bad for Adams, who is still the best bet to start at left tackle.
The problem is that Adams will miss about two weeks now as he recovers from an injury. That will rob him of some valuable playing time and there’s always the worry that an injury will nag into the season and ruin effectiveness. Only time will tell there.
Starks still hasn’t been on the field. He’s recovering from injury and hopes to be ready by the start of the regular season, but nothing is certain yet. I don’t think the Steelers would have brought him back on board if he wasn’t likely to be ready, however. He likely isn’t going to start, but he’ll be a quality backup.
The wild card has been Essex, who’s been solid but who was beaten out in practice by Adams. Essex could be the first guy in if Adams isn’t ready and Starks is still recovering too. I wouldn’t be comfortable with Essex starting long-term, but he should be okay for a week or two.