NFL Preseason Week 4: Highlighting This Week's Most Intriguing Storylines
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Most years Week 4 of the NFL preseason wouldn't be considered too exciting. However, due to injuries and major position battles, the final "practice" game before the regular season has more intriguing storylines than ever.
It seems that this preseason has been more exciting and intense than any in recent history. While all performances need to be taken with a grain of salt, this final week will provide everything teams need to know before final roster cuts are made this weekend.
These intriguing storylines and more is what we'll look at as we highlight preseason Week 4.
Jeff Tuel as the Buffalo Bills' Starting Quarterback
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When it was announced that Jeff Tuel would likely be starting at quarterback for the Buffalo Bills by Tim Graham of the Buffalo News, it sent shockwaves throughout the NFL community.
He'll become the first undrafted rookie quarterback to start an opening game for a team when Week 1 of the regular season rolls around. While he's played well throughout the preseason, he'll need to take his game to a whole other level once the real games begin.
Tuel needs to prove this week that he's capable of leading the Bills offense successfully. In a league where every single game matters, Buffalo can't afford a poor performance if they want any chance in the AFC East this year.
Seeing how well Tuel plays this week at home against the Detroit Lions will be a storyline to watch.
Will Terrelle Pryor Start for the Oakland Raiders?
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Had someone told you two months ago that Terrelle Pryor had a shot at starting at quarterback for the Oakland Raiders this year, you would have laughed in their face.
However, this is absolutely the case as we head into Week 4 of the preseason. Pryor played exceptional football last week against the Chicago Bears, and now he'll get the start against the Seattle Seahawks this week.
A strong performance from Pryor would likely be enough to propel him atop the Raiders' depth chart at quarterback. In fact, Jerry McDonald of the Contra Costa Times has this to say about Pryor and the starting job in Oakland:
Pryor can win the job by showing he has some of the qualities Flynn was signed to provide, the biggest being leadership and avoiding turnovers.
The real loser in all this talk is quarterback Matt Flynn, who could once again see himself as a backup for his second team in two years.
Holding onto the Ball Is Priority No. 1 for Ronnie Hillman
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Putting the ball on the ground can be the biggest killer for running backs in the NFL today. That's why Ronnie Hillman having three fumbles in three preseason games is such a big deal.
Simply put, Hillman can't afford another fumble in the Denver Broncos' final preseason game. While he's back practicing with the No. 1 offense, according to Mike Klis of The Denver Post, a fumble this week against the Arizona Cardinals will almost certainly put him in a backup role for the regular season.
With both Montee Ball and Knowshon Moreno nipping at Hillman's heel, holding onto the football this week is the No. 1 priority for Hillman.
Keenan Allen Needs to Show the Ability to Make Big Plays
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After falling down draft boards in the 2013 NFL draft, wide receiver Keenan Allen has yet to prove that his draft-day tumble was a huge mistake.
He's only recorded six receptions this preseason (two in each game) for a total of 48 yards. Those aren't very good numbers for someone who is battling for a starting job as the slot receiver for an NFL team.
In order for Allen to overtake Eddie Royal as the slot receiver for the San Diego Chargers, he'll need to put together a strong showing in his final preseason game. By reeling in a handful of receptions and making a few big plays, the Chargers would have a hard time not giving Allen plenty of snaps in the regular season.
Look for San Diego's quarterbacks to target Allen early and often to see exactly how bad Allen wants a starting job.
Last Chance for Jonathan Baldwin?
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Getting traded to the San Francisco 49ers might have been the greatest thing to ever happen to wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin.
He's reportedly a lock to make the final roster in San Francisco, according to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. This isn't due to how well he has played since being traded, but rather due to the fact that the 49ers have serious need at the receiver position.
What San Francisco would love to see, however, is Baldwin play an impressive game in its preseason finale. That would go a long way toward making the franchise feel much more comfortable about the overall outlook for the offense.
Can Either Justin Rogers or Ron Brooks Step Up in Buffalo?
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With cornerback Stephon Gilmore sidelined for up to six games with an injured wrist, the Buffalo Bills have a major issue.
The Bills were already thin at cornerback before Gilmore got injured, and now they have even less depth. This puts quite a bit of pressure on both Justin Rogers and Ron Brooks to pick up the slack in Gilmore's absence.
With the starting job opposite Leodis McKelvin up for grabs, whoever plays better this week between Rogers and Brooks will likely start Week 1 against the New England Patriots. However, the Bills would love to see one of these players rise to the occasion in the final preseason game and prove that there won't be too big of a drop-off with Gilmore recovering.
Taylor Mays Needs to Play Extremely Well to Avoid Getting Cut
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Had safety George Iloka not injured his wrist, it's likely that Taylor Mays wouldn't even be on the Cincinnati Bengals' roster anymore. Considering that Mays entered training camp on the roster bubble, Iloka's injury was a rather fortunate one for the fourth-year safety.
However, the Bengals now need depth at the safety position and Mays has more experience than rookie Shawn Williams. It seems like Mays has been in the NFL forever, but his career has nothing much to show of it.
He'll need to have a strong showing in this week's game to lock down a starting job. If he doesn't, he could be subject to one of the final roster cuts that Cincinnati makes this year.
Will This Be the End of Tim Tebow?
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Despite ESPN doing everything in their power to keep the legend of Tim Tebow alive, there is a strong possibility that the 2013 season will be absolutely Tebow-less.
He failed to get a single snap in Week 3 of the preseason after an absolutely horrid performance in Week 2. Another goose-egg of a performance, or another zero-snap performance, will likely be the end of Tebow's time with the New England Patriots.
Of course, if the Patriots do play Tebow and he plays extremely well, the Patriots might be forced to keep him on the final 53-man roster.