With the preseason in full swing and the regular season approaching, the NFL is once again dominating the sports rumor mill as teams look to complete their rosters and depth charts.
Each and every team in the league has plenty of question marks, no matter how good or bad they are. There are disgruntled players and uncertain positional battles galore, so it comes as no surprise that NFL insiders are flooding social media with rumors and speculation.
Here is the latest buzz that football fans will certainly be monitoring throughout the preseason with the regular season very much on the horizon.
Perhaps no positional battle in the league is turning more heads than the one between Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer for the Cleveland Browns' starting quarterback job.
Manziel is the exciting rookie whom casual fans want to see on the field, while Hoyer is the steady veteran who would likely be a better caretaker and game manager than Johnny Football.
Hoyer has seemingly been in the lead since OTAs, with the Browns' coaching staff bringing Manziel along slowly, but the tide may be turning.
According to ESPN's Bob Holtzman, the Heisman Trophy winner has moved ahead of the incumbent in the race to become the starter:
Reported 2 wks ago browns players expected Hoyer to start week 1. Starting to think they were wrong. Team source says Manziel now ahead.— bob holtzman (@BobHoltzmanESPN) August 10, 2014
This rumor comes on the heels of the Browns' first preseason game against the Detroit Lions. Neither signal-caller was great, but neither was bad either. Manziel bested Hoyer in terms of quarterback rating (79 to 65.2) and provided an added element by rushing for 27 yards as well.
Following the preseason opener, Browns safety Donte Whitner admitted to Peter King of Monday Morning QB that there is equal support for both quarterbacks to win the starting job.
"It's been fierce," Whitner said. "Two guys fighting for their lives. It's close. I'd say (the locker room) is split about 50-50. We know they both can play."
If the locker room can't decide who is better equipped to lead the team, then the decision is probably an extremely difficult one for head coach Mike Pettine as well. With that said, the second preseason game should make his decision a bit easier.
Provided Holtzman's report is accurate, though, Manziel only needs to be as good as Hoyer from this point forward in order to overtake him officially.
There usually isn't much talk regarding offensive linemen during the preseason, but San Francisco 49ers guard Alex Boone is a special exception. The fifth-year man out of Ohio State went undrafted in 2010 but has since developed into one of the steadiest guards in football.
Boone clearly feels as though he has outperformed his contract, which is why he has held out of the Niners' training camp to this point.
San Francisco must either play the waiting game, give in to his contract demands or trade him. If the Niners do decide to deal him, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport is reporting that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have interest:
According to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com, though, the 49ers are not currently interested in trading Boone away:
Several teams have interest in 49ers holdout guard Alex Boone. Niners have displayed no inclination to deal him. Could be looong holdout— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) August 9, 2014
The 49ers are definitely stuck in a tough spot, and it is difficult to say what they should do definitively. Their offensive line is obviously weaker without him, though, so the organization should at least consider doing everything possible to keep him happy and get him on the field.
If that can't be accomplished, then it will be interesting to see what Boone might fetch on the trade market considering the fact that the Niners don't have much invested in him.
Niners linebacker Aldon Smith is among the NFL's best pass-rushers when he is on the field, but it remains to be seen how often that will happen in 2014.
According to ESPN.com's Adam Schefter, all signs point toward Smith receiving a "significant" suspension due to off-field issues that include three felony gun charges as well as a DUI.
An official decision has yet to be made by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, but Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com is reporting that the 49ers are expecting Smith to miss as much as half the season:
Source: 49ers do not know verdict of potential NFL discipline for Aldon Smith, but they're bracing for 6 to 8 games.— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoCSN) August 8, 2014
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That would obviously take much of the sting out of San Francisco's defense, but it would be a better alternative than losing him for the entire campaign. The Niners have known about the likelihood of a lengthy suspension for quite some time, which means they have been able to plan ahead.
Replacing a player of Smith's caliber simply isn't possible, but the 49ers play such great team defense that they should be able to survive and thrive even if he does miss eight games.
Being without Smith for the first part of the season could ultimately be beneficial since Smith will be rested for the stretch run. The 49ers would obviously rather have Smith for the entire year, but they won't be crippled regardless.
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