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15 Players Everyone Must Watch During the 2011 NFL Preseason

Robert HoffmanCorrespondent IAugust 3, 2011

15 Players Everyone Must Watch During the 2011 NFL Preseason

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    A week until NFL football.

    Boy, that sounds nice even if it is the preseason. The free-agency signing period has given fans a lot to chew on. There are a lot of new faces in new places.

    There are players who haven't changed addresses, but still carry the same level of, if not more, intrigue.

    Who are you just dying to see line up, so much so you will be waiting for the NFL Network re-broadcast at 2:00 a.m. in the morning?

    Have your voice heard. Submit the player or players you would like to see the most in the comments section.

    In the meantime, here are 15 players to watch this preseason.

1. Kyle Orton, QB (Denver Broncos)

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    This was not supposed to be the script in Denver.

    Tim Tebow was supposed to be the starter. Orton was supposed to be traded away to the Miami Dolphins, and the Broncos' quarterback situation was supposed to be crystal clear.

    Then the trade fell through, either due to the compensation Denver was asking for or due to Orton's conditions for a re-negotiated contract.

    After that, the Broncos had no choice but to let Orton practice. The situation has gotten messier because Orton has clearly outplayed Tebow during the first week of practice.

    The soap opera added another plot twist, as Adam Schefter is reporting that Orton has been declared the starter.

    So, will Orton keep the job? I'll be tuning into the first quarter of Denver's preseason games to find out.


2. Tim Tebow, QB (Denver Broncos)

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    Of course, I'll also be watching the second and third quarters of Broncos games. 

    If Tim Tebow can't even beat out Brady Quinn for the backup job, that's a major story and a major disappointment for a Denver team that selected him with the 25th pick in the first round a year ago.

    Yet, that's nothing compared to the disappointment of underwear maker, Jockey. How will they feel now that their spokesman will be sitting on their product instead of running around and throwing while in it on Sundays?

3. Albert Haynesworth, DT (New England Patriots)

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    The big fella couldn't even bother to get in shape in Washington, yet he gets traded to New England and immediately dominates a practice.

    Some players just won’t play up to their talent levels on certain teams, while they will on other squads. It's pretty obvious New England coach Bill Belichick knows how to get the most out of his players.

    Bet on Washington coach Mike Shanahan cringing every time he watches tape of Haynesworth up until the two teams meet on Dec. 11.

4. Tony Romo, QB (Dallas Cowboys)

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    Romo was having a statistically-productive season before he broke his clavicle in Week 7 against the New York Giants.

    But the Cowboys were only 1-5 in his starts. During the rest of the season, backup Jon Kitna went 4-5 with similarly good statistics.

    If Romo is rusty or suffers a setback, the Cowboys won’t hesitate to go back to "Plan Kitna."

5. Johnathan Jospeh, CB (Houston Texans)

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    The Texans gave up 267.5 yards through the air in 2010. That clearly wasn't acceptable, and Houston knew it.

    They drafted cornerbacks Brandon Harris and Roc Carmichael, and safety Shiloh Keo. In free agency they signed Chicago Bears' safety Danieal Manning, but none of these moves has the same impact as adding Joseph.

    I can't say that giving anyone nearly $49 million dollars is ever a bargain. But, in Joseph's case, it just might be close.

6. Matt Moore, QB (Miami Dolphins)

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    Many Dolphins fans are clearly dissatisfied with starter Chad Henne, to the extent that a number of them booed him at an open team practice at Sun Life Stadium Monday night.

    Without a trade for the Broncos' Kyle Orton, the hopes for a better alternative fall on Matt Moore, who went 4-1 as a starter in 2009 with an impressive quarterback rating of 98.5. 

    Then in 2010, Moore really struggled, as he threw 10 interceptions and just five touchdowns for a passer rating of 55.6. He was benched in favor of Jimmy Clausen, then was re-inserted when Clausen played poorly.  Moore's season ended prematurely in Week 9 after suffering a shoulder injury resulting from a hit by the Saints' Sedrick Ellis.

    South Florida is clearly hoping Moore reverts to his 2009 form.

7. John Beck, QB (Washington Redskins)

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    Last time John Beck got a chance to run a football team, he had trouble taking the snap from center in Miami. Now Mike Shanahan is trusting him or journeyman Rex Grossman to run the Redskins?

    I don’t buy it, but maybe Beck has matured as a quarterback and has the confidence needed to succeed in the league. It’s now or never for the BYU Cougar, who came into the league over-aged and will turn 30 this month.

8. Colt McCoy (QB, Cleveland Browns)

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    McCoy has talent. His 135 completed passes out of 222 attempts (a completion percentage of 60.8) for 1,576 yards, six touchdowns and nine interceptions in eight games may or may not show that.

    But he does show promise.

    The real question is, can he stay healthy?

    Whether it was getting knocked out of a Texas A&M game with a severely pinched nerve in 2006, a shoulder injury that put him out of the National Championship game against Alabama, a variety of other ailments during his college career or a sprained ankle that caused him to miss time in his rookie season in 2010, McCoy’s durability—but not his toughness—has been suspect for most of his career.

    At a listed 6'1" and 215 pounds—and that’s even a stretch, as I have met the former Longhorn—he would be defying the odds to start all 16 games in 2011, and new Browns head coach Pat Shurmur will be holding his breath every time McCoy takes a shot in the preseason.

9. Reggie Bush, RB (Miami Dolphins)

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    Bush has played exactly 60 of 80 games during his five-year career and has never rushed for more than 600 yards in a regular season, yet he plans on being the feature back in Miami.

    While head coach Tony Sparano wouldn't mind that one bit, Dolphins fans would likely settle for Bush just making the big plays that have been missing from Miami for so long.

10. Kevin Kolb, QB (Arizona Cardinals)

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    I don't necessarily want to see Kolb play because I don't feel he will be all that good as the starter in Arizona.

    But I think you have to watch because anytime a quarterback is dealt for as high a price as Kolb was (a second-round pick and a starting cornerback in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie), the pressure to succeed will be immense.

    Adding to the suspense is the fact that Kolb only has seven career starts, so it's similar to the Cardinals playing the lottery.

    You can play along too, the difference is it won't cost you five years, $63.5 million dollars with $21.5 million dollars guaranteed, along with the aforementioned trade compensation.

11. Mike Sims-Walker, WR (St. Louis Rams)

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    How badly did the St. Louis Rams need a go-to wide receiver? Their leading receiver last season had 85 catches.

    Doesn't sound too bad, does it?

    Except for the fact that Danny Amendola only gained 689 yards on those 85 catches. He also had three touchdown grabs, which tied for the team lead.

    Sims-Walker had a disappointing 2010 with 43 catches for 562 yards and seven touchdowns.

    Sims-Walker has never averaged less than 13 yards per reception in his career and will improve the Rams' receiving corps by leaps and bounds. Just watch.

12. Curtis Painter, QB (Indianapolis Colts)

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    Yes, another quarterback. What did you expect...a punter?

    And yes, another name I never expected to be typing.

    Peyton Manning’s recovery from neck surgery is going slowly, and there are no assurances he’ll be ready for the season-opener. Painter has completed nine passes in his NFL career on 28 attempts for 83 yards. I’d be sufficiently worried, Colts fans.

    This could be why the Colts recently signed Dan Orlovsky to compete for snaps. Third-stringers/camp-fodder Nate Davis and Mike Hartline aren’t realistic options in this scenario either.

    No more quarterbacks on this list. I promise.

13. Ryan Grant, RB (Green Bay Packers)

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    In 2010, Grant suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the team's opener against Philadelphia. In 2009, he rushed for 1,253 yards and 11 touchdowns.

    The talented former Notre Dame running back has had very little action in roughly 17 months.

    Can he rebound? And if he does, how scary good will the Packers' offense be?

    The defending champs are returning several valuable players from injured reserve, and it will be fascinating to see Jermichael Finley, Mike Neal, Brad Jones and others return to form as well.

14. Ndamukong Suh, DT (Detroit)

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    His 10 sacks don't begin to describe how impressive Suh was in his rookie year.

    This offseason, the Lions drafted Nick Fairley in the first round to pair with the 2010 Defensive Rookie of the Year. While Fairley reportedly injured his foot, when he gets on the field it will be Suh who benefits immediately.

    Let's hope we get a glimpse of both dynamic players in the preseason.

15. The Philadelphia Eagles' New Additions

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    Okay, this is cheating a little bit. You can't just pick one player to see on the Eagles when the team is testing the old adage, "You can't buy a Super Bowl."

    Whether it's Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Vince Young, Ronnie Brown, Ryan Harris, Evan Mathis, Johnnie Lee Higgins or Jarrad Page, the real question is whether or not all of these new acquisitions plus a bevy of draft picks can find some chemistry in the month or so before the regular season.

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