The third week of preseason games in the NFL typically provides starting players and those on the fringe of starting the biggest chance to show what they can do before the season officially kicks off two weeks later.
But what players have the most to lose this weekend? There will be jobs won and lost on the field during Week 3 of the preseason, and here are four players who have to perform up to expectations or else they will find themselves on the bench during Week 1 of the regular season.
Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
Mark Sanchez has been Mark Sanchez so far this preseason, and that’s not a good thing for the fifth-year man out of USC. He has thrown an interception in both of his first two preseason games and is barely holding off Geno Smith for the starting job with the New York Jets.
That means Sanchez will be on the sidelines waiting for his chance to prove his worth rather than being able to come out of the gates fast and claim the job on his own. He missed out on a massive opportunity against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and he seemingly has just one more chance to keep the rookie Smith at bay.
It’s unlikely that Sanchez will be able to do enough to claim the job this weekend, and the job will likely be decided by Smith’s ability to manage the first-team offense against the rival Giants.
Da’Quan Bowers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay defensive end Da’Quan Bowers has been in the dog house with head coach Greg Schiano during most of training camp as the team wants to see more consistent performances from the promising defensive end.
After a training camp practice, Tampa Tribune beat writer Roy Cummings tweeted the following.
Bucs LDE Da'Quan Bowers is coming off what Bucs believe was his best practice of camp, but overall he has not played as well as hoped.— Roy Cummings (@RCummingsTBO) August 1, 2013
And ever since, it has seemed like the Buccaneers have been trying to light a fire under the third-year defensive end.
Bowers didn’t get the start at his usual defensive end position during a Week 2 preseason game against the New England Patriots, and he has been playing more snaps than any other projected first-team players.
And despite comments from a press conference obtained by Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com from Schiano that Bowers has “improved in this training camp,” there is an admission from the coach that “Consistency is the big thing right now.”
So with an upcoming matchup with the Miami Dolphins, who don’t have the most impressive offensive line in the NFL, Bowers has a chance to stand out. He seems to have the perfect opportunity to grasp the starting job and prove himself to his coach, and I believe he will do so this weekend.
Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts
When the Colts brought in Andrew Luck’s college offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton this offseason, there was a general notion that Coby Fleener would benefit from the move. After all, Luck and Fleener had success together at Stanford under Hamilton just two years ago.
Just take a look at over eight minutes of Fleener and Luck embarrassing defenses in the video below.
But Fleener has yet to deliver on this promise with the Colts, as fellow rookie Dwayne Allen took most of the spotlight at tight end last season.
Both Allen and Fleener will return from injury this week to play in the third preseason game against the Browns, according to Indy Star writer Zak Keefer.
Keefer also points out that Fleener’s preseason has featured some disappointing moments such as a fumble, a dropped touchdown and multiple injuries.
Allen has already proven that he can block and catch in the NFL, so Fleener faces an uphill battle. But he’s got a coach and quarterback who know what he’s capable of who can vouch for him, so I can see him having a solid game this weekend and forcing the Colts to use more two-tight-end sets to include Allen and Fleener in the offense.
A.J. Jenkins, Kansas City Chiefs
When a player is traded from one team to another, it’s usually a sign that the teams actively want the players involved. But in the case of the A.J. Jenkins/Jon Baldwin trade, that might not be true.
Kansas City general manager John Dorsey told USA Today’s Tom Pelissero that “It’s time for him to contribute,” and that he believed the biggest beneficiaries of the trade were the players involved, because it gives them a change of scenery.
This is not a ringing endorsement for the second-year receiver out of Illinois, who has yet to catch a pass during a regular-season NFL game. The team’s general manager brought him in to give him one last chance to prove himself and did so by shipping out his own out-of-favor wide receiver in Baldwin.
NFL.com had conflicting information about him on a draft profile for the 2012 NFL Draft, with draft analyst Mike Mayock commenting that he was a second-round player who “gets in and out of his breaks smoothly,” and is generally a good player.
But the draft profile also states that he had fifth-round value, and that he lacked effort and had poor technique when getting off the line at the snap.
Jenkins will be lost in the shuffle at wide receiver in Kansas City if he can’t prove himself this weekend, because Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery and Dexter McCluster all have the advantage over Jenkins as things stand now. And if Jenkins can’t shine past some of the other names in camp for the Chiefs, he could find himself without a job this year.
I don’t have any reason to believe Jenkins will be able to prove himself worthy of his first-round draft status, but Andy Reid has made great use of quick receivers in the past. I suspect he’ll make the roster, but what he does from there is still a mystery.