NFL Veterans Who Could Earn Another Chance with Big Training Camp Performance
The preseason is a time for hope and renewal in the NFL, but it is also a tenuous experience for many players.
From rookies looking to make a name for themselves or simply latch onto a roster to veterans fighting for their livelihood, players will vie for jobs during the annual proving ground that is training camp.
Here are six veterans who will need to show they still have their stuff if they are going to retain their spots on the depth chart or even on their team altogether. Their clubs have upgraded at the position, or the veterans have begun to fade in the twilight of their careers.
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Atlanta Falcons
The writing is on the wall for Jacquizz Rodgers.
The Atlanta Falcons running back has been a tease for years, unable to realize the potential some saw in him. He has been behind two aging running backs over the past five seasons—Michael Turner and Steven Jackson—and he has been unable to gain much ground.
Even with Jackson out for a big spell last season, Rodgers couldn't get much going. Antone Smith had nearly half of Rodgers' rushing yards on five carries.
Rodgers has 899 career rushing yards in three seasons, and the Falcons took Devonta Freeman in the fourth round of this year's draft. If he can stay healthy, Jackson will be back for one more year, meaning Rodgers is going to be squeezed on that depth chart.
It's likely Rodgers makes the team as the No. 3—assuming Freeman can be penciled in as Jackson's backup—given there isn't much behind him on the depth chart. But he'll need to have a good camp to challenge his rookie peer, as a lackluster one might put him on the bubble.
Dustin Hopkins, K, Buffalo Bills
Dustin Hopkins isn't a veteran in the true essence of the word—he is entering his second season, after all—but he may need to put on an epic show this training camp to save his job.
Selected in the sixth round of the 2013 draft, Hopkins was supposed to be the kicker of the future for the Buffalo Bills, if there is such a thing. Unfortunately, a groin injury intervened to cut his rookie season out from under him.
The Bills rebounded nicely, however, signing Dan Carpenter after the Miami Dolphins released him. Carpenter may have been signed off the scrap heap, but he sure didn't play like it.
Perhaps inspired after his release, Carpenter had a great season in Buffalo. He hit career highs in field-goal percentage (91.7) and made field goals (33), including seven against his former team. It was so good that the Bills gave him a four-year extension this offseason that includes over $2.1 million in dead money if he is cut this year.
Does that sound like a guy who is on the roster bubble? Meanwhile, Hopkins is coming back from injury, and there is little reason to keep two kickers around, though apparently head coach Doug Marrone has said Hopkins would be the team's kickoff specialist, per the team site.
Hopkins has his work cut out for him.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Miami Dolphins
It has been a rough offseason for running back Knowshon Moreno.
The former Denver Bronco signed a meager one-year, $3 million deal with the Miami Dolphins despite coming off a career year. While it might have been a depressed market at running back all around, Moreno didn't seem to get his money's worth from his agent.
He then reportedly showed up to Dolphins minicamp out of shape, as tweeted by Miami Herald reporter Armando Salguero. In the meantime, incumbent back Lamar Miller was solid, per ESPN.com's James Walker, leading some to believe he would win the starting job.
That was before Moreno, 27, had surgery to clean up his knee, one that will have kept him out for about a month, according to NFL.com's Dan Hanzus. If he was out of shape before surgery, what are the odds he shows up to training camp fully fit?
The Dolphins may not be inclined to cut bait with Moreno, given there isn't much at the position behind Miller—Daniel Thomas is awful, after all. A one-year deal gives Miami an easy out if necessary, however.
Moreno is going to need to turn his fortunes around with a good training camp if he is going to win the starting gig.
Santana Moss, WR, Washington
It has been a long, productive career for wide receiver Santana Moss. But he is going to have a tough time holding onto a job this year thanks to a productive offseason by the front office in Washington.
Fellow receivers DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts signed with Washington this past offseason. That is in addition to Pierre Garcon—who led the team in receiving last season—and speedster Aldrick Robinson, not to mention other youngsters like Leonard Hankerson and rookie Ryan Grant.
At best, Moss is likely the fifth receiver on the team heading into camp. While his veteran guile and leadership might be worthwhile keeping around for Washington, youth and upside might be more valuable to the team. His production hasn't exactly been otherworldly either—Moss has averaged 43 receptions for 536 yards over the past three seasons.
The 35-year-old might need to have the best training camp of his career to make the team he's been with for the past nine seasons.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals stuck with running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, 29, for some perplexing reason last season.
Sure, he scored seven touchdowns, but he was quite the plodder, averaging 3.4 yards per carry and producing almost nothing in the passing game. The Law Firm's rookie counterpart, meanwhile, averaged 4.1 yards per carry and caught 52 more passes than Green-Ellis.
That may be why the Bengals drafted Jeremy Hill out of LSU in the second round of the 2014 draft to go with last year's rookie sensation, Giovani Bernard. Hill is also a big back who could be the thunder to Bernard's lightning, and he has youth on his side.
Conventional wisdom says Green-Ellis is on the chopping block. There is still hope, however.
Hill isn't a shoo-in to be the No. 2, at least not yet. Should he stumble in the preseason while Green-Ellis experiences a rushing renaissance, the Bengals might have a tough time letting the veteran back go. Even failing that, Green-Ellis might stick on the roster as the No. 3 back.
Stephen Hill, WR, New York Jets
Third-year wide receiver Stephen Hill for the New York Jets has been an abject disappointment thus far in his career. An athletic marvel, Hill has simply never been able to tap into his potential at the NFL level. He has had his moments, but the second-round pick hasn't been consistent.
The Jets may not be able to afford to cut him, but his job is no longer guaranteed this offseason.
New York signed Eric Decker to a big deal and drafted Shaq Evans out of UCLA and Jalen Saunders out of Oklahoma. The Jets also have David Nelson and Jeremy Kerley.
That is not the most inspiring lot, but a poor preseason could sink Hill, to whom the latest regime may have little loyalty. General manager John Idzik was stuck with a poor offensive roster—including Hill—when he took over in 2013, after all.
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