Position Battles That Could Be Won or Lost in NFL Preseason Week 3
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Week 3 of the NFL preseason is typically designated as the week when teams roll out their starters a bit longer than usual. The idea is to provide key contributors of the team an opportunity for a dress rehearsal before the serious action begins.
Though most of the bubble guys will see limited reps in these games, many crucial position battles throughout the league will gain clarity as the starter's reps and intensity get amped up for one last show.
Come Tuesday, many familiar names and wide-eyed youngsters will be sent home for good, as each team must cut its roster down from 90 to 75 players.
Find out which of these players could step into starting roles for the first time in their brief NFL careers and who is in danger of hitting the waiver wire as this pivotal week of football action gets underway.
Christine Michael vs. Robert Turbin
This Friday, Seattle will suit up to play the Green Bay Packers in what's sure to be an exciting dress rehearsal matchup.
All eyes should be on Seattle’s backfield and what has turned into one of the hottest position battles of the preseason.
Second-year pro Robert Turbin has been fighting to preserve his backup role behind Marshawn Lynch, while Christine Michael, the second-round stud from Texas A&M, continues to push hard for the honor.
Both Turbin and Michael are big, physical runners built in the same mold as Lynch. However, Michael brings an explosive element to the position unmatched by his teammates. This was on full display in his first-ever NFL action in the Seahawks’ preseason opener. Aiding Michael’s case for a promotion was the foot injury which forced Turbin to miss most of training camp as well as the first contest of the year.
Those added reps for Michael made it possible for him to rush 16 times for an impressive 89 yards. Unfortunately, he was held out of the second game due to back spasms, which then allowed Turbin to step up and show what he can do. His day was less impressive than Michael's, at least statistically speaking, but he did flash some big-play ability and ran with a purpose all day long.
Both running backs have been impressive in their lone opportunities thus far as they gear up for a pivotal contest in Week 3. This game should provide the looks needed for running backs coach Sherman Smith and head coach Pete Carroll to make a decision on which of these two backs deserves to run with the second team from here on out.
Regardless of who wins the battle for the backup job heading into opening day, this evaluation process is sure to be an ongoing one, as the real battle here is for the right to replace the “Beast Mode” a few years down the line.
B.J. Daniels, Colt McCoy and Scott Tolzien All Square Off
It’s difficult to gauge the performance of your quarterbacks when the receiving corps is fraught with uncertainty.
So far this preseason, McCoy has failed to impress anyone in the 49ers organization. Through two games, he has completed only six of 13 passes for 76 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
Rather than making a case as the backup, McCoy could be playing his way onto the waiver wire if he doesn’t step it up this Sunday against the Vikings.
Faring no better so far is last year’s third-stringer Scott Tolzien, who has received the bulk of the reps in the preseason. You may remember Tolzien from last year when he beat out the talented youngster Josh Johnson for the third quarterback spot. Johnson has since gone on to thrive behind Andy Dalton in Cincinnati.
Meanwhile, Tolzien has been given every opportunity this preseason to advance his NFL career, but he could be doing more damage than anything else. His inability to sustain drives and put points on the board in the first two games has forced Jim Harbaugh to add a new challenger.
Seventh-round rookie quarterback/athlete B.J. Daniels looked impressive in his limited opportunity during last week’s game, leading the 49ers to their first touchdown drive of the entire preseason.
As a result, Harbaugh stated that Daniels will split reps with McCoy and Tolzien with the second-team unit all week, per Jimmy Durkin of the San Jose Mercury News.
This should add an interesting element to a competition that’s already wide open.
Sunday’s exhibition is going to be a critical game for the coaching staff to evaluate and determine the winner of the backup quarterback job.
Tim Tebow's Last Stand!
At this point, Tim Tebow isn’t competing with Tom Brady or Ryan Mallett on the depth chart. His primary competition is himself.
The Patriots have traditionally carried only two quarterbacks on the active roster, and Tebow is currently listed as the third. If a fourth QB on the roster magically appeared, it would be safe to assume Tebow would not be listed ahead of him.
Tebow “the quarterback” has essentially looked inept for the most part with all things related to throwing the ball. Last week, he completed just a single pass for minus-one yard. That came in nearly an entire half of football and should be serious cause for concern. At least he has continued to have success running the ball—which is something he’s been able to do his entire football career. But to have real success in the NFL, a quarterback must be able to find and hit targets downfield.
It’s no secret that Tebow’s accuracy as a passer has been horrific throughout his time in the NFL; nothing seems to have changed since adorning the Patriots' colors.
In fact, he just might be the most inaccurate quarterback in the NFL.
The real question is: Can he prove his worth as a versatile weapon and provide enough value in other areas of the team?
The answer to this question could be the determining factor in his battle to make the Patriots roster.
With that said, how he performs under center this Thursday against Detroit will be the most critical element in the team’s decision to keep him around or not. He may be able to provide a few wrinkles to the offense, and he also has shown he can step in at quarterback in the event of an injury—he needs to demonstrate those capabilities in Week 3 or start thinking about life after football.
If Tebow fails to get significant reps in this contest, consider that an ominous sign for making the team.
The Oakland Receiver Showdown
There hasn’t been much finalized in the Raiders' receiving corps so far this summer. Rod Streater and Denarius Moore seem to be the front-runners for the top two wide receiver spots, but the entire unit remains cloaked in mystery.
Seventh-round rookie Brice Butler has emerged out of nowhere to potentially steal the third receiver position away from the second-year pro Juron Criner.
Butler has flashed early and often with impressive highlight catches, as he leads the team in receiving yards with 108. Conversely, Criner has only managed a single reception all preseason and has been significantly outshined by Butler.
Relative unknown and former Dallas Cowboys receiver Andre Holmes has looked impressive in his first season with the Raiders despite a looming four-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs.
On the field, however, Holmes has made a strong case for a roster spot, as he has made the most of every opportunity afforded to him.
The makeup of the entire receiving corps should gain some clarity Friday night against the Chicago Bears.
Two players who could stand to gain the most from solid performances in Week 3 are Criner and Butler.
Will the more experienced Criner find a way to make plays this preseason, or will he fade into the background as Butler takes center stage?
Who Wins the Starting Will Linebacker Job in Baltimore?
The loss of inside linebackers Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe has left two gaping holes for the Ravens to fill this offseason. The Mike linebacker position, once occupied by future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, has been turned over to long-time veteran Daryl Smith, who seems to have that job locked down.
The Will linebacker position, however, still remains up for grabs, as Jameel McClain remains unavailable due to a spinal cord contusion.
Josh Bynes has since stepped up to emerge as the starter, at least for the time being, over speedy rookie Arthur Brown. Brown still has a decent chance to sway the coaches in the Ravens' third preseason outing against the Panthers.
It seems the Ravens would prefer Brown to win the starting job given his high draft status and impressive athletic potential, but Bynes has made it difficult for the coaches to ignore his contributions. He has clearly outperformed Brown so far by making more plays with slightly fewer opportunities, but must hold him off down the stretch if he hopes to complete the surprise upset and start on opening day.
As for Arthur Brown, it’s critical he finds his way to the ball-carrier early and often against Carolina or he could be spending the majority of his rookie season making a living on special teams.