NFL Preseason Week 4: Top Unanswered Questions Heading into Thursday Night
With the NFL preseason coming to a close this weekend, there are still several teams trying to sort out unanswered questions.
The Denver Broncos, New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers are among the teams that need to find some answers at key positions before the season gets going.
Or face the consequences in Week 1.
Who’s starting at running back in Denver?
Broncos head coach John Fox thought he had a concrete answer to questions about the Denver backfield in the form of running back Ronnie Hillman.
But things are murkier now. Hillman fumbled in the last two preseason games, prompting Fox to give rookie Montee Ball reps with the first team earlier this week.
Although Hillman has since regained the top spot on the depth chart, coaches have resorted to unconventional methods to help him hold onto the ball.
Yes, it was RB Montee Ball working with Peyton Manning's first-team offense. Ronnie Hillman was carrying around a football everywhere.— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) August 26, 2013
Knowshon Moreno should also factor into the mix, as he’s the surest back at pass protection.
The team will get one last chance to sort out things when it takes on the Arizona Cardinals on Friday, but questions surrounding the running-back situation could drag into the regular season.
Will it be Mark Sanchez or Geno Smith at quarterback in New York?
The Jets are everyone’s favorite punching bag, and their ineptitude at quarterback is a big reason why.
Mark Sanchez isn’t practicing due to a shoulder injury, so that means Geno Smith was expected to by default get to start the final preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Against the Giants, Smith looked terrible in this game, throwing three interceptions and running out of the back of the end zone for this embarrassing safety.
Head coach Rex Ryan still hasn’t named a starter, so Smith will have one final chance to impress the staff and leapfrog Sanchez.
(However, at the time of this article's publication, it's been preseason standout Matt Simms who has been under center for the Jets as they take on Philadelphia in the final preseason game for both teams.)
Can Bjoern Werner produce this year?
Werner was a star at Florida State last season, so the Indianapolis Colts thought they’d get an immediate impact player when they used the 24th overall pick to draft him in April.
Yet, he’s been underwhelming in the preseason. He missed the first game with a knee injury, and he hasn’t made much noise in the two games he’s actually played.
The Monday Morning Quarterback’s Greg Bedard recently pointed out some of his shortcomings:
And it’s not even in Werner’s new techniques where he’s struggling (although he needs development vs. the run). He actually plays in space well for a first-time performer. It’s as a sub-package end, the same position he played at Florida State, where Werner has been lacking. He has average burst at the snap, and hasn’t shown many pass-rush moves.
He’ll have one last chance to prove himself against the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday.
Who will start opposite Anquan Boldin in San Francisco?
Michael Crabtree is still recovering from his Achilles injury, so that leaves a gaping hole opposite Anquan Boldin for the 49ers at wide receiver. The team just traded away disappointing first-round pick A.J. Jenkins for fellow underachiever Jon Baldwin, who likely won’t start either.
Instead, it’ll probably be Marlon Moore, a four-year veteran who managed only six catches last season. But Baldwin, Quinton Patton and Kyle Williams are all still in the mix, and the team’s game against the San Diego Chargers should help clarify the matter.
All in all, there likely still won’t be too much clarity even after Week 4 of the preseason.
Sanchez and Moore are probably entrenched as starters, no matter what happens. But Werner’s starting prospects and the Denver running back situation could stay fluid for the majority of the regular season.
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