NFL Training Camp Preview: 15 Worst Starters in the NFL Today
Let me preface this in saying, I have the utmost respect for all those that suit up on Sundays and play the most physically demanding of all professional sports.
I also have respect for the dedication and talent required to not only make the NFL, but maintain a starting position on an NFL roster.
That said, looking through the preseason depth charts, there are more than a few players who appear to be out of their depth with the rest of their colleagues.
In the NFL today, depth and balance are an absolute necessity. The science of game planning has been developed to the point where every liability will be exploited.
This list will profile the top 15 players who will become targets of that exploitation in 2010.
Trent Edwards, Brian Brohm, or Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buffalo Bills
The fact that Chan Gailey has created an open competition between all three of their quarterbacks should be representative of his faith in Trent Edwards.
Edwards, who has been at the helm for three consecutive losing seasons, is still favored to win the quarterback competition. However, Gailey has been impressed with the development of Brian Brohm.
Plus, Ryan Fitzpatrick was able to manage the Bills offense in five of their six 2010 wins.
Regardless of the outcome, the quarterback competition in Buffalo will still produce one of the weakest starters at that position.
The Bills also failed to add any NFL-ready talent to their offensive line, making the job at quarterback all the more difficult.
Dwayne Jarrett, WR, Carolina Panthers
Carolina is another team facing uncertainty at the quarterback position. Matt Moore looks to begin his first season as a starting quarterback with one of the weakest receiving corps in the league.
If Steve Smith's recovery stays on schedule, he could be available for Week One. If he is not, the Panthers will look to fourth-year wideout Dwayne Jarrett as their primary option.
In his three previous seasons, Jarrett has amassed one touchdown and has failed to surpass 20 receptions in a single season.
In Steve Smith's absence, Moore will be left with Jarrett. To say the Panthers wide receiver situation is in shambles could be the understatement of the NFL season.
Tom Zbikowski or Ken Hamlin, Safety, Baltimore Ravens
The latest news from Baltimore has Ed Reed starting the season on the PUP (physically unable to play) list, keeping him off the field for at least six weeks.
In his absence, the Ravens become thin in what would otherwise be considered their best position.
Tom Zbikowski and Ken Hamlin are talented players who would provide value to any franchise. However, neither appears to be capable of replacing Ed Reed.
Zbikowski and Hamlin will thrive in spot duty and on special teams, but if they are required to take the majority of the snaps on defense, they will be exposed in their shortcomings.
The Ravens defense may be good enough to compensate for their inefficiencies at safety. However, if the Pittsburgh Steelers can be used as an example, a defense doesn't easily rebound from losing their Hall of Fame safety.
James Hardy, WR, Buffalo Bills
Coming out of Indiana, the sky was the limit for Hardy, a 6'5" wide receiver with great speed and NFL catching ability.
Two years into his NFL career, Hardy has failed to provide the Bills with a glimpse of his potential.
Hardy missed the majority of 2009 with a torn ACL. In 2008, as a rookie, Hardy caught only nine passes despite suiting up for 14 games.
Most recently, Hardy arrived at the offseason workouts out of shape. In addition to missing a team mini camp, Hardy's attitude doesn't appear to be one of someone looking to realize their potential.
Sheldon Brown, CB, Cleveland Browns
Sheldon Brown has been able to compete at a high level for several seasons. Those competitive seasons were in Philadelphia, not Cleveland.
Brown, 31, is at the stage in his career where he should make the change to safety to best make use of his abilities.
In Philadelphia, with all of their blitz packages and pass rush talent, it isn't paramount that the cornerbacks have great man-on-man coverage abilities or blazing speed.
In Cleveland, Sheldon Brown will have fewer teammates to rely upon and will likely struggle with younger, faster wide receivers.
Zane Beadles, OG, Denver Broncos
With failed offseason attempts at left and right tackle, the Broncos have decided to move Beadles to left guard, where he will likely win the starting position.
Beadles had a productive career at Utah. However, playing against elevated talent at the Senior Bowl proved to be a real challenge for Beadles. He was out worked and out skilled by almost every defensive linemen at the Senior Bowl.
If that is to be considered a big step up in competition for Beadles, I fear for his ability to adapt to the speed and skill required to play in the NFL.
What's more, with the loss of Ryan Clady, the Broncos appear to have one of the weakest offensive lines in recent memory, so expect Beadles' inexperience and insufficiencies to be exposed on a weekly basis.
Tyler Polumbus, LT, Denver Broncos
Staying with the Broncos, it appears as though undrafted Tyler Polumbus is next in line to fill the immeasurable hole left by Ryan Clady.
Polumbus has the size to play left tackle, but in 2009, Polumbus played just eight awful games in his attempt at right tackle.
In 2010, it appears as though he was able to parlay that performance into a starting position to protect Kyle Orton's blind side.
It is becoming more and more obvious that Josh McDaniels and the Broncos should have focused more on their needs on the offensive lines, as opposed to using two first round picks on a quarterback and wide receiver.
Derrick Harvey, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars
Derrick Harvey is on the cusp of adding himself to a long list of disappointing prospects from the University of Florida. The third-year pass rusher has yet to equal any of the expectations of an eighth overall pick.
On the heels of a lackluster rookie season, Harvey was given a starting role for the 2009 season. Playing the entire 16 game season, Harvey amassed only two sacks and struggled to interrupt anything in the opposing backfield.
With the addition of Aaron Kampmann, and draft picks, Tyson Alualu and Austen Lane, Harvey will have no shortage of competition in 2010.
With Kampmann blitzing from the strong side, Harvey will be in a position to sink or swim. Will he benefit from the diminished attention or will he continue to struggle in the professional ranks?
Jonathan Goff, MLB, New York Giants
In writing this article, I hoped to avoid mistaking inexperience for a lack of ability. This happens to be an exception.
Jonathan Goff could be a Pro Bowl level talent, but given he has compiled only 27 tackles in his two year NFL career, I have to question the decision making in the Giant front office.
Antonio Pierce had been expiring for the majority of 2009, yet in cutting him, they have still left themselves ill prepared for the beginning of 2010.
I'm sure Goff will eventually become a good NFL middle linebacker, but having such limited experience at such a crucial position could cause problems for the Giants.
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphi Eagles
Jeremey Maclin is a good football player, but to consider him a starting wideout is a stretch.
Based on the recent Philadelphia wide receivers, Jeremy Maclin looks like a godsend. However, on most teams, he would only line up as a slot receiver.
Don't get me wrong, Maclin would be an above average slot receiver, but as a primary flanker, Maclin doesn't have the height, the catching ability, or the durability to make catches over the middle.
With an inexperienced quarterback, reliable wide receivers will be paramount to the Eagles' success. I hope Maclin makes strides in the offseason, but I'm doubtful that he'll be able to make catches against top NFL corners.
Asante Samuel, CB, Philadelphia Eagles
It's probably going to sound a little ridiculous including a Pro Bowl corner to this list, however, Samuel makes this list, not for his coverage abilities, but for everything else.
In 2009, no corner missed more tackles than Asante Samuel, whether it be an inability or an unwillingness, Samuel just can't make tackles. When an individual player is responsible for 19 missed tackles, it's almost unfathomable that they could retain their position as a starter, let alone make the Pro Bowl.
Adding to the issue of missed tackles, Samuel is widely regarded as being uncoachable. He doesn't follow instructions, he doesn't listen to his coaches, and the team suffers because of it.
For all his abilities in coverage, Samuel is becoming a liability in all other aspects of the game.
Jonathan Wade, CB, Detroit Lions
Free agent signing Jonathan Wade has still yet to show the potential of a third round pick. In 2007, Wade was drafted by the Rams; however, three years of mediocre play found Wade clinging to the bottom of the depth chart.
The Lions, in desperate need of depth at corner, were willing to take a chance on Wade's potential. However, potential will only get you so far. If Jonathan Wade could hardly keep a job in St. Louis, there's a good chance he won't fare well as a starter in Detroit.
Rookie Amari Spievey will push Wade, but according to reports coming out of training camp, the rookie still has a long way to go.
Deuce Lutui, OG, Arizona Cardinals
Deuce Lutui became a restricted free agent at the end of the 2009 season. With Reggie Wells and Rex Hardnot waiting behind him on the depth chart, there was little to guarantee Lutui would have a starting job in 2010.
As a professional, competitor, and teammate, one would expect Lutui to enter the season in peak form with intentions of beating out his competition in training camp.
Instead, Lutui skipped the offseason workout program while waiting for a restricted free agent tender. When he did report to camp, he weighed in at 396 pounds, at least 40-50 pounds over his regular game weight.
Currently, Lutui is listed as the starting right guard for the Cardinals, but that may change by the end of the offseason.
Demetrius Bell, LT, Buffalo Bills
In 2009, Demetrius Bell was regarded as an average starting left tackle. He had the size, skill, and footwork to handle most pass rushers in the NFL.
Unfortunately, towards the end of the 2009 season, Bell torn his ACL. If Bell is to start the season on the active roster, which is expected, he will be less than a year removed from a major knee surgery.
An average tackle in 2009 now becomes a potential liability in 2010. If Bell loses anything with regards to speed or footwork, it could be a long season for quarterbacks in Buffalo.
The Bills had an opportunity to avoid this problem, but instead opted to draft a running back ninth overall. Now to start 2010, they have yet to decide upon the starting quarterback who will play behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL.
Justin Gage, WR, Tennessee Titans
Justin Gage has had a decent career in the NFL. Entering his eighth season, Gage has worked his from a second string receiver to a starting flanker.
Originally a fifth round selection, Gage was never regarded as an elite receiver, and at 29-years-old, it appears as though his skills are on the decline.
2007 was a career year for Gage, his first season with the Titans.
However, more recently, Gage has struggled with injury problems, and his production has steadily diminished.
Kenny Britt appeared to be in line for a starting job in 2010; however, a lack of consistency and questionable work ethic has kept him behind Gage and Washington.
Britt will have to show a marked improvement over the offseason to challenge Gage for his starting position, but the Titans, as a whole, will need to revamp their receiving corps.