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2011 NFL Predictions: 10 Veterans Battling for Positions

Andrew McCluskeyCorrespondent IAugust 22, 2011

2011 NFL Predictions: 10 Veterans Battling for Positions

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    Every year we have players battling for their place on the team.

    Whether it is a starting job or simply a roster spot, these battles are some of the most heavily-watched story lines of the preseason.

    With the constant influx and development of young talent into the league, that puts the onus on the aging veterans to hold on to their roster spots. The NFL is the ultimate "what have you done for me lately" league.

    If you can't carry your own weight anymore, there are few teams that will carry you on their roster.

    Here is a breakdown of 10 veterans that may be losing their job before the regular season starts.

Derrick Mason

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    With the Jets bringing back Santonio Holmes, and bringing in Plaxico Burress, there is no doubt that their wide receiver corps is crowded.

    Mason, the 14-year veteran, is now battling with rookie Jeremy Kerley out of TCU, who has impressed his coaches and teammates thus far.

    Kerley even had Rex Ryan telling the New York Post "Kerley's got a chance to be something special."

    Mason, meanwhile, has yet to make a name for himself and stand out with his new team. After flirting with retirement already, and disappointing in 2010, Mason may continue to fall to the bottom of the depth chart.

    If Mason doesn't win the job as the No. 3 wideout, I wouldn't be surprised to see him call it quits for good.

Rex Grossman

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    Hard to believe that Rex Grossman once started in a Super Bowl, isn't it?

    Now Grossman finds himself battling for a job against John Beck. Coach Mike Shanahan has saiif that the quarterback battle is close right now, but he is also on record saying he really likes Beck.

    Grossman lit up the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first preseason game, going 19-26 for 207 yards and a touchdown.

    Unfortunately for Rex, he came crashing back down to earth against the Colts, going 7-12 with 88 yards and an interception.

    With Beck having the lead before the preseason even started, Grossman is going to need to shine the rest of the preseason if he wants to be named the Redskins signal-caller for Week .

Asante Samuel

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    After acquiring Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie from the Cardinals and Nnamdi Asomugha in free agency, the Eagles are stacked at cornerback and have the deepest secondary in the NFL.

    Unfortunately for Asante Samuel, that means he is no longer a clear-cut starter.

    Asomugha is clearly the most talented of them all and will be the No.1 on the depth chart; and right now, all signs point to Rodgers-Cromartie getting the second spot.

    Samuel has expressed his displeasure with the Eagles picking up two new players at his position and there has even been some discussion of a trade.

    While this seems unlikely, right now it appears Samuel will have to take a backseat to the new arrivals.

Jerricho Cotchery

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    The former Jet Jerricho Cotchery made the jump to the Steel City this offseason.

    He enters a wide receivers corps that is very competitive. Currently highlighted by Hines Ward and Mike Wallace, Cotchery comes in competing with Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.

    Sanders broke out last year (passing another veteran in Antwaan Randle El) to take the No. 3 spot on the depth chart. He underwent foot surgery this offseason, but is set to return soon.

    Cotchery is really going to need to impress if he plans on being anything more than a roster filler.

    Barring injury, it is likely that the spot will go to Sanders.

Alex Smith

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    Alex Smith hasn't had an easy career.

    He has already been labeled as a bust time and time again—and losing and regaining his spot several times in the process.

    Many have accepted the fact that it is just a matter of time before the 49ers can find a suitable replacement, and some are speculating rookie Colin Kaepernick will make a run at the job.

    However, I believe that Smith will enter the season as the team's starter.

    Kaepernick is just too raw to take over right now and Smith could see some improvement now that he has the offensive-minded Jim Harbaugh as coach.

    While the job may be safe for now, don't be surprised to see Karpernick get a chance at some point this season if Smith fails early.

Kevin Faulk

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    Even though he is currently on the PUP, Kevin Faulk is on the door step of being pushed out of New England.

    After tearing his ACL early last season many thought the Patriots had lost a huge part of their offense.

    Then Danny Woodhead happened.

    Now with two new rookie backs finding their way on to the roster, and Sammy Morris being brought back, it appears there just isn't room for an aging Kevin Faulk.

    Rookie Stevan Ridley has impressed early, BenJarvus Green-Ellis looks ready to repeat his 2010 performance and Danny Woodhead is still as elusive as he ever was.

    Unless injuries occur (which is always a possibility) we may have already seen the last of Kevin Faulk in a Patriots uniform.

David Garrard

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    David Garrard has been a solid starter for the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he has never been able to get them over the hump in becoming elite.

    When the Jaguars spent their first-round pick on Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, it was clear change was coming.

    With two preseason games remaining, there is the chance that Jacksonville decides to move on early and throw the keys to Gabbert. But neither QB has really stood out so far this preseason and the assumption is that Garrard will keep the job unless Gabbert really impresses.

    I expect to see Garrard out there Week 1, but the competition is far from over.

Ryan Grant

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    Ryan Grant suffered a severe ankle injury last season opened the door for James Starks, and Starks went on to become the premiere back for the Packers giving them a huge postseason on their way to a Super Bowl championship.

    Coming into the 2011 season, as long as he was healthy, it was expected that Grant would again be the starter. Right now it is too early to tell as neither Grant nor Starks has yet to really stand out this preseason.

    However, if the Packers have any doubts about Grant's ankle, then we could see a heavy dose of Starks to start the season.

    I expect this to be a battle for carries all season long, while the final two games of preseason could determine early carries.

Pierre Thomas

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    Pierre Thomas may have be considered one of the better backs in the NFL if he was able to put together a full season.

    Thomas has proven that he can be an effective runner, but every time he is in position to take the reigns, he gets hurt.

    Last year Chris Ivory stepped in and filled the role well until he too suffered an injury.

    Now the Saints have spent a first-round pick on Alabama running back Mark Ingram. Ingram has looked solid so far, making it likely Thomas' opportunities and contributions will be further diminished.

    The signing of Darren Sproles for passing snd third down situations doesn't help Thomas' cause either.

    I believe Thomas will get the nod as the starter come Week 1, but Ingram is breathing down his neck.

Charlie Whitehurst

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    After two years as San Diego's third-string quarterback, Whitehurst found a chance to play in Seattle.

    He was coming into the season as the expected starter, but the Seahawks signed Tarvaris Jackson and Jackson has been favored by Pete Carroll. Whitehurst still has a chance to compete for the job, but all signs point to him as backup.

    He has performed well thus far in the preseason, going 28-39 for 212 yards and a touchdown in two games.

    Whitehurst certainly seems poised to give Jackson a run for his money. However, I don't believe Seattle brought Jackson in to be a backup and will be given every chance, and then some, to be the starter.

    If I was a Seattle fan I would expect the quarterback position to be volatile this year.

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