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OTA Standouts Who Will Struggle to Survive Final NFL Roster Cuts

Andrew GardaFeatured ColumnistMay 27, 2013

OTA Standouts Who Will Struggle to Survive Final NFL Roster Cuts

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    Every year we get the same story, even though the names change from season to season.

    "Look out, Player X has looked fantastic in OTAs and looks like he'll be a big part of this!"

    It's guys running around in shorts and shells without contact, but every year the media gets carried away by heralding some camp warrior as if he were a Hall of Famer in the making.

    About 75 percent of those guys don't even end up starting—maybe a good 50 percent of those don't even make the roster.

    We're still in the thick of OTAs, but here are six names for whom overblown narratives in May will turn to unemployment checks by September.

Michael Jenkins, WR, New England Patriots

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    Michael Jenkins is one of those guys who does just enough to stick on a roster but never produces to his perceived ability. Whether by injury or mediocrity, his production is the textbook definition of "just OK."

    The report card on him during these OTAs is good. He is able to use his size to make catches in traffic and has been able to get some separation on occasion despite a lack of speed.

    I'm not sure how excited to get over a guy who makes "tough" catches in traffic when there isn't any tackling or hitting.

     

    Why He Won't Make the Cut

    The Patriots are clearly looking for youth in their wide receivers, having replaced Wes Welker walk with Danny Amendola and then drafting several young wide receivers. Jenkins is very old and hasn't produced all that well in some time—though you can point to the Vikings' quarterback issues the last two seasons as one reason.

    That said, I watched Jenkins a ton last year and came away just as unimpressed as I have every time he has caught my eye.

    Right now, the Pats have 12 receivers on the roster and will certainly pare down. Jenkins may look good in OTAs, but when the pads come on, he'll revert back to his usual self.

    The team may look for veterans to have around, but Julian Edelman is a longtime Patriot, Amendola is entering his fifth year and Donald Jones is as good as Jenkins but half his age.

    I just don't see the value in Jenkins come September.

     

    Why I Could Be Wrong

    Jenkins has a cheap one-year contract with no guaranteed money. Sure, it makes him easy to cut, but it also makes him a cheap option to keep.

    Also, while the Patriots aren't afraid to roll out the rookies and young players, the receivers do lack experience. Even Amendola hasn't seen a ton of postseason work. Jenkins saw some playoff action with the Atlanta Falcons, and it might be worth having him around to keep everyone focused.

Chilo Rachal, OG, Arizona Cardinals

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    Rachal has been running with the first team in OTAs, and given how awful the Cardinals offensive line has been the last few seasons, one could see new blood getting a long look-see even in spring.

    Still, while Rachal was once a promising guard in San Francisco, his play declined there and wasn't any good when he was in Chicago. He ended up being benched for Chris Spencer (himself not quite an All-Pro) and then abruptly quitting the team.

     

    Why He Won't Make the Cut

    The Cardinals didn't take Jonathan Cooper to take tours of the Grand Canyon and experience the fine cuisine. They got him to play.  

    After watching Rachal flame out on his last couple stops, I don't care how well he does now; I have serious reservations about his ability to perform when push comes to shove.

    The guy sulked and left after being demoted in Chicago. What will happen when someone takes his job in Arizona? (And that will happen.)

    The Cardinals cannot afford to have any weak spots on the line—even for depth. Rachal doesn't have what it takes—physically or mentally—to make the opening-day roster.

     

    Why I Could Be Wrong

    Like Michael Jenkins with the Patriots, Rachal is cheap, and the Cardinals will need the depth. All it would take is a minor injury for Arizona to need the extra body.

    Rachal also could finally turn things back around, and the one thing he can do—run block—is definitely something the Cardinals will need. They have to get the run game going to help protect Carson Palmer.

Matt Slauson, OG, Chicago Bears

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    The Chicago Bears offensive line was marginally better in 2012 than it had been in some time, but they knew they couldn't stand pat with the group they had. Along with adding Jermon Bushrod for left tackle, they acquired Matt Slauson.

    Slauson had an outstanding 2012, never giving up a sack. He also never missed a game in the three seasons he was a starter for the Jets.

    Though there haven't been many reports regarding Slauson's OTA performance, he most definitely is a "standout" at this point considering his experience in the league.

    So why would he not make the cut?

     

    Why He Won't Make the Cut

    Yes, he had a tremendous 2012. The other two seasons for the Jets, he struggled. And that was with All-Pro-level support from Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Ferguson.

    Slauson is weak as a run-blocker and at times gets overpowered in pass protection as well. One season does not a career make, and having watched plenty of Jets games, I've seen a lot more bad than good.

    The Jets (and Jets fans) were happy to see him go. Considering the state of that team, that's a little disturbing.

    Once Kyle Long gets settled, Slauson will see the bench. Since he's only in town on a cheap one-year contract, he may be shown the door.

     

    Why I Could Be Wrong

    Sometimes it takes a couple of years for a guard to turn the corner and get going, and it could be that we just saw it happen with Slauson in 2012. That the Jets let him go isn't completely damning; after all, this is a team that is still betting on Mark Sanchez to some extent.

    More than anything, the Bears need pass-blockers for new head coach Marc Trestman's offense, and Slauson can do that.

    If it all came together for him last season, there's room for him and Kyle Long both as starters this year.

    Considering how much everyone has struggled, if he's at least competent they'd find room.

Ted Ginn, KR/PR, Carolina Panthers

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    The Carolina Panthers brought Ted Ginn Jr. in to handle return duties. The hope is that he'll get the offense some better field position and give Cam Newton a break from the long fields he has seen so far.

    Ginn can break one long, and as yet, he seems to be the guy to beat for the return job.

     

    Why He Won't Make the Cut

    It looks as though the team will take a long glance at rookie Kenjon Barner for return duties as well. Barner was impressive at times when I watched him at the Senior Bowl, and while he may not have the size for carrying the ball (5'9", 196 lbs), he has tremendous speed and great hands.

    He's cheaper as well and can do more than one thing. Even if he can't take an every-down pounding, he won't be asked to in this offense.

    Ginn, on the other hand, is barely a receiver when not shagging punts. His value is only the return game, and when Barner proves to be a better (and cheaper) option, there is no reason to have him around.

    On top of that, his contract won't cost them much even if they cut him—only $300,000 is guaranteed—but $1.1 million is an awful lot for a decent return specialist if you have someone for less who is just as good.

     

    Why I Could Be Wrong

    Ginn was pretty productive for the San Francisco 49ers, averaging 23.5 yards per kickoff and 11 yards on punt returns. He has had six return touchdowns in his career as well.

    The Panthers may not feel great about trusting return duties to a rookie or their other options. They might decide that they could split duties and use Ginn for one return role and someone else for the other.

    The Panthers also lack a strong third option at wide receiver and could decide to use Ginn for that as well.

Louis Murphy, WR, New York Giants

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    Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks both missed the start of OTAs, which allowed other players like former Oakland Raider and Carolina Panther Louis Murphy to shine.

    Murphy saw a ton of work from Eli Manning, and the young receiver did a good job stretching the field.

    We've seen this at other times as he has flashed speed before and certainly has promise.

    The problem for Murphy has been injury and consistency.

     

    Why He Won't Make the Cut

    It's great to perform when there's no contact and no pads, but once that changes, so does production for many players. Murphy has struggled to make an impact since his second year in Oakland, and he couldn't stick in Carolina.

    This is the same Carolina which has nobody beyond Steve Smith and maybe Brandon LaFell.

    It's also not a great sign when they brought Ramses Barden back after letting Barden dangle all offseason. He'll have to shine to even have a chance to stick with Barden, Rueben Randle and Jerrel Jernigan around.

    Oh, and that's all before Cruz and Nicks come back.

    It sure doesn't sound good for a streaky receiver trying to make his mark on a new team.

     

    Why I Could Be Wrong

    The Giants could use the vertical threat Murphy represents, and while he does have guys like Barden to compete with, nobody—not Barden, Jernigan nor Randle—has been so outstanding in the past that a strong summer performance can't get Murphy on the roster.

    Murphy has a lot to prove. He can play with a chip on his shoulder, and the Giants were super excited for him to come to camp. They clearly feel he can add something to the offense as a deep threat.

Isaiah Green, CB, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Green isn't completely a new face, as he was signed late last season. However, he still hasn't been with the team all that long and might as well be brand new because of it.

    He's incredibly driven and has worked hard in OTAs so far, catching the eye of the staff. Not only can he play defensive back, but he can contribute on special teams as well.

    Green did a good job in rookie orientation (he could be there because of how little he played last season) and definitely has some momentum going into the rest of the summer.

     

    Why He Won't Make the Cut

    While he has talent, he's buried deep on the roster at defensive back. It's going to be very hard to change that—special teams efforts or not.

    He still can sit on the practice squad a little longer as well, so the Steelers might be able to stash him there and see if he can develop more.

    It's a great story when an undrafted guy comes out of (virtually) nowhere to get a spot on a roster, much less a starting job.

    It's also a rare story, and for good reason. A guy who is undrafted tends to have serious flaws which are very hard to overcome. Green has the physical tools, but his time at Fresno State (a very small school) was wildly inconsistent and lacked turnovers.

    When you have issues like that in a smaller venue like Fresno State, it's a steep climb up to the pro level.

    The climb may be too steep for Green right now.

     

    Why I Could Be Wrong

    You can always have a shot at sticking if you are willing to get your nose bloody on special teams, and Green is more than willing.

    On top of that, he has a huge chip on his shoulder and very much wants to prove he can play at the pro level.

    It's hard to bet against a guy like that.

    Finally, while this roster has plenty of defensive backs, there are few guys with a solid lock on a spot. Sure, he won't unseat Ike Taylor, but guys like Josh Victorian and DeMarcus Van Dyke are not untouchable.

    Green could surprise us all.

     

    Andrew Garda is the former NFC North Lead Writer and a current NFL analyst and video personality for Bleacher Report. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at Footballguys and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.

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