Winners and Losers from OTAs in Each NFL Division

Scott CarasikContributor IIJune 22, 2013

Winners and Losers from OTAs in Each NFL Division

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    OTAs are the time of the year when players can go from getting cut to a getting chance in training camp. Or it's time when a player can go from a potential starter to being completely cut.

    Sadly, there are guys who have been in the league for years who won't end up with jobs despite being cut so quickly this offseason.

    On the flip side, there are guys who have earned jobs or expanded roles by showing flashes of what they can do in the OTAs.

    Follow along as we cover who the winners and losers in each division are for this year's OTAs.

AFC East Winner: Patriots Running Back George Winn

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    Rarely does a mid-June OTA tryout end up on the 90-man roster after OTAs end. George Winn is the exception. Multiple reports from the practices had him as an elusive back who deserved a roster spot during the OTA action.

    He signed his contract with the Patriots on June 17, per their official website.

    Winn will be one of those surprise players who also ends up on the final roster for the Patriots—especially if the Patriots need to make sure they have enough competent running backs after Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley.

    His elusive nature, combined with his abilities as an all-around back, left people scratching their heads as to why he wasn't even drafted this year. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots use him and how many carries he'll get early.

AFC East Loser: New York Jets Wide Receivers

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    The New York Jets are horribly in need of someone to step up and be the leader of the group of wide receivers. Unfortunately, no one stepped up in practices, per Brian Costello of the New York Post, so they'll have to hope someone can turn it up a notch once they get to training camp.

    The talent is there. With Stephen Hill and Santonio Holmes both out, the Jets had to rely on Jeremy Kerley and Clyde Gates as their top receivers for OTAs.

    Sadly, no one showed that he was going to take a starting job, and the Jets quarterback situation looks just as bad as it did last year because of it. 

NFC East Winner: Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Nick Foles

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    While there is no official starter just yet for the Eagles, Nick Foles has proven to be the big winner in OTA's this offseason. Michael Vick has been practicing with the second team and has been performing to a lower level than what would be expected from a former starter, according to John Gonzalez of CSNPhilly.com.

    Foles isn't what one would normally consider to be the prototypical Chip Kelly quarterback. However, he's got a good arm and can lead the Eagles receivers effectively. The upgraded offensive line with Lane Johnson, Jason Peters and Jason Kelce all in the equation this year should protect him much better.

    Even more than that, the former Arizona quarterback will have the best chance to turn his sophomore year into a great one now that he has more chemistry with his offensive line and receivers.

NFC East Loser: Dallas Cowboys Competing for a Full-Time Fullback Role

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    In Dallas, there is something unique happening with the Cowboys offense. Not only has head coach Jason Garrett been forced to pass his play-calling duties over to offensive coordinator Bill Callahan, but the offense they are running seems to rarely employ a fullback.

    On the bright side, this will mean much more playing time for guys like Caleb McSurdy—who is competing for goal-line fullback, per Mike Fisher of CBS Dallas—and the tight end trio of Donte Rosario, Gavin Escobar and James Hanna as possible H-backs

    By employing more of an H-back than a true tight end, the Cowboys will be able to show more looks in their offense. They can also keep the same personnel on the field and run multiple different sets, which only confuses defenses.

    Unfortunately, it will make getting the job as a fullback ridiculously tough.

AFC South Winner: Indianapolis Colts Wide Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey

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    After flaming out as the No. 1 receiver for the Oakland Raiders, Darrius Heyward-Bey looked like a true draft bust who would never make it in the NFL. Then again, looking at who his quarterbacks have been, that could have easily be why he never lived to his potential has.

    Heyward-Bey could end up being one of the biggest steals of the offseason with a good training camp. According to Yahoo! Sports, he's already left an impression on Andrew Luck and will continue to compete for a starting job across from Reggie Wayne.

    His OTA performance will go a long way to helping him earn that spot, as he showcased his size, speed and a football acuity that no one realized he had.

AFC South Loser: Houston Texans Safety Shiloh Keo

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    Shiloh Keo was looking to be in line for the starting free safety job for the Texans going into this offseason. Then the Texans took D.J. Swearinger in the second round of the 2013 draft and signed Ed Reed and cut that dream to pieces.

    Even worse is the chance that Keo even makes the roster. During OTAs, while Ed Reed was in Colorado rehabbing his hip, Keo was getting jumped on the depth chart by Swearinger by splitting snaps with the rookie.

    If Keo wants to end up on the final roster, he'll have to learn how to play strong safety and compete with the weaker talent in Eddie Pleasant and Jawanza Starling. 

NFC South Winner: Atlanta Falcons Defender Kroy Biermann

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    When it comes to role players, few guys are as valuable to their team as Kroy Biermann is to the Atlanta Falcons. However, he really started separating himself from the rest of the players this offseason by playing much more linebacker than he ever had.

    By showing more versatility, the sixth-year pro out of Montana may not only save his long-term roster future, but he could open up another spot for one of the younger players on the roster should the Falcons want to use him more as a linebacker than a defensive end.

    With Biermann playing more linebacker, the Falcons' nickel packages will look a lot different than they did last season. The 2-4-5 nickel that made guys like Cameron Wake and Elvis Dumervil stars could allow Biermann to be that next nasty pass-rusher for Mike Nolan.

NFC South Loser: New Orleans Saints Linebacker Victor Butler

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    Victor Butler was a bit of a dark horse as a future Pro Bowl player for the Saints. At least, that's what he was supposed to be when he signed with the team to follow new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and the 3-4 defense that is being implemented in New Orleans.

    Then the unthinkable happened in OTAs. 

    Butler tore his ACL and is now out for the season, according Larry Holder of NOLA.com. After being carted off the field, the Saints lost arguably their best shot at a true pass-rusher this season.

    But no need to fear, Saints fans. The combination of Junior Galette, Will Smith, Chase Thomas and Martez Wilson should be a solid rotation. Still, Butler had the potential to be the next great 3-4 pass-rusher.

AFC North Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers Cornerback Cortez Allen

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    Cortez Allen has been developing into the best cornerback that the Steelers have on the roster. The former Citadel Bulldog has been working his way up the depth chart his first two seasons in the league and should be the starting left cornerback for the Steelers.

    His size at 6'1" and around 200 pounds is just one of the assets that the third-year corner has going for him. He started out in OTAs as the left corner with Ike Taylor on the right side.

    In a unique move, Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the Steelers want to use Allen as the slot corner in their nickel packages with William Gay at left corner. This will only put him in a better position to make more plays.

AFC North Loser: Baltimore Ravens Linebacker Courtney Upshaw

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    After being considered for a starting role at outside linebacker, Courtney Upshaw did something really stupid this offseason: He showed up in camp overweight. And not overweight for his position, but he was well over his weight from the 2012 season.

    A combination of poor eating habits and eating way too much has led the Ravens linebacker to look more like a defensive tackle than his home position. While beating out Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil would have been an uphill battle for Upshaw, showing up overweight kills his chances to be the starter.

    Upshaw could make a solid outside linebacker long term, but he's going to have to realize that his eating habits need to change. Let's hope that this is his wake-up call.

NFC North Winner: Detroit Lions First-Round Pick Ezekiel Ansah

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    In theory, the combination of Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Ezekiel Ansah is not just deadly, it's arguably the best in the league. You have three top-10 talents from their respective drafts who are all ideal fits in their fit in the Wide 9 4-3.

    So far, Suh has lived up to his billing, while Fairley has potential to be a top 3-technique in the NFL. Ansah will have to get up to speed quickly, but luckily, he already has been picking up on the NFL techniques and combined them with his already excellent instincts.

    Ansah should be a monster as the starting left defensive end for the Lions. It looks like he's already on the way with his performance in OTAs.

NFC North Loser: Former Bears Offensive Lineman Gabe Carimi

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    After just completely no-showing the entire Bears OTA schedule, Gabe Carimi showed with his actions that he didn't believe he had a future in Chicago.

    And it turns out he was right. 

    He went from being a potential competitor for a starting job to being stuck in no man's land behind a group of talented players in Tampa at guard after the Buccaneers traded nothing but a sixth-round pick for the former No. 29 overall selection.

    There is a silver lining here. Carimi will get moved back to tackle, where he will compete with Demar Dotson and should win the starting job on the right side. Let's just hope the knee problems he's had in the past don't spring back up.

    Either way, losing your roster spot for missing OTAs isn't the way to go out.

AFC West Winner: Oakland Raiders Defensive Tackle Signings

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    Vance Walker and Pat Sims were brought in to be the starting defensive tackles for the Raiders this season. Both men have been third defensive tackles in their former teams' rotations, but now, they are likely going to be the starters after the Raiders let go of Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly.

    Walker and Sims are both known as run-stuffers. However, they each fill a unique role and should be able to develop into an excellent tandem for this season. Sims is a prototypical 1-technique nose tackle who can shoot the A-gaps, whereas Walker is the prototypical 3-technique under tackle who shoots B-gaps.

    They should work well in concert with each other. And according to Raiders head coach Dennis Allen, per Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times, they already are.

AFC West Loser: Running Back Willis McGahee

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    Willis McGahee—formerly of the Denver Broncos—had thought that he was on his way back to the starting job. With Knowshon Moreno failing and Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball being unproven, the Broncos needed to see if McGahee still had the tread left on the tires.

    He had limited reps during practices at the latest OTAs, but unfortunately for the 31-year-old running back, he was cut right after the Broncos' latest camps. According to Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com, he was cut because of salary issues and his attitude. 

    This will leave his replacements, Hillman and Ball, with the brunt of the work this season. Hopefully they can replace his production and carry the running game this year.

NFC West Winner: St. Louis Rams Quarterback Sam Bradford

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    After spending the first few years of his career with the offense being run through Steven Jackson—who is now with the Atlanta Falcons—Sam Bradford finally will have the offense designed around his talents as a quarterback. 

    As I noted about the Rams quarterback here, he finally has the talent around him to be great, both on the offensive line and at receiver. Now, he also has the scheme to bring him to greatness. 

    If there's anyone who's going to be a winner for this season, it will be Bradford. His new combination of receivers will have a ton of impact on the scheme. And now, the Rams will be able to finally give opposing teams something different than their old Steven Jackson-oriented offense.

NFC West Loser: San Francisco 49ers Wide Receiver Michael Crabtree

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    Unfortunately for the San Francisco 49ers, their biggest loss this offseason was their star wide receiver, Michael Crabtree. During OTAs, he had an Achilles tendon tear. This is an injury that could completely change his ability to have a great career. 

    While this injury normally sidelines guys for an entire season, Crabtree could try to come back toward the end of the year, according to ESPN.com.

    The bright side of the whole situation is that this will allow AJ Jenkins to either put up or shut up as the star wide receiver the 49ers hoped he could be when they took him in the first round of the 2012 draft.

     

    Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.