5 Players with the Most to Gain in Thursday Night's Preseason Finales
All 32 teams in the NFL will be officially done with the 2012 preseason schedule by the end of Thursday night.
By Friday, coaches and GMs will be making the tough roster decisions and calling those who didn't make it into the places they don't want to go.
Before then, however, 75 players on every roster get one last chance to prove they belong.
In the following slides, we break down the players with the most to gain in Thursday night's preseason finales.
RT Jason Smith, Jets
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The Jets dealt for Jason Smith this week, hoping the former first-round pick can turn around his drowning NFL career on a team that desperately needs help on the offensive line.
In the deal, New York sent fellow struggling tackle Wayne Hunter to St. Louis.
Smith hasn't been with the Jets for long, but it's possible they'll get a look at him tonight against the Philadelphia Eagles. At the very least, New York needs to get an idea of what it has.
It should be a small sample size—maybe five to 10 plays—but Smith can go a long way in showing his new employers that he's ready to take over the right tackle job in 2012.
QB Graham Harrell, Packers
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The Packers have publicly backed Graham Harrell all preseason, despite three performances that have outsiders worried.
For Harrell, throwing out another stinker Thursday against the Kansas City Chiefs could make GM Ted Thompson and his staff think long and hard about acquiring a different backup quarterback. He's scheduled to get a long look, with Aaron Rodgers either playing one series or not at all.
Harrell needs to show some signs of growth to ensure he's going to be the Packers' backup quarterback beyond Friday's roster cutdown. It looks likely he'll stick now, but a promising performance against the Chiefs will lock him in.
CB Kevin Barnes, Lions
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The Lions swung a deal this week for Kevin Barnes, who played in 15 games last season as the Washington Redskins' nickel corner.
In Detroit, Barnes will get a chance to earn a starting job opposite Chris Houston. Jacob Lacey and Bill Bentley remain in that mix, but neither have officially taken the job by force this preseason.
With a strong debut tonight against the Buffalo Bills, Barnes could take one step towards acquiring that starting job.
QB Colt McCoy, Browns
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One has to wonder if Thursday night's matchup with the Chicago Bears will be Colt McCoy's last time wearing a Browns uniform in 2012.
He's scheduled to start at quarterback, but Cleveland could be showcasing him to a range of suitors who need backup quarterbacks. He'll get a long look under center against the Bears' backup defense.
A Friday trade certainly seems like a possibility if McCoy plays well tonight.
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OK, so I cheated. The refs aren't players, and this is a list of five players with the most to gain.
But is there any group of people on the field Thursday night with more to gain than the replacement refs?
Since taking over, these men and women have been lashed and poked fun at by fans, media, coaches and players. To be perfectly fair, the replacement refs have brought a lot of the embarrassment on themselves with bad calls, explanations of calls and all-around confusion.
Simply put, Thursday night needs to go smoothly and without incident for these refs. They will be in charge of at least Week 1 of the regular season, so there's still time to win over those who have thrown them under the bus and backed over them.
Can they do it tonight? Or will the mockery continue?