7 NFL Starters Likely to Lose Their Jobs Soon

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistOctober 7, 2021

7 NFL Starters Likely to Lose Their Jobs Soon

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    Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

    While coaches resist the urge to hit the panic button amid a slow start to the season, they'll make necessary changes to pull their teams out of a rut or replace a weak link on the roster.  

    Every week, clubs have to tweak starting lineups because of injuries, but in some cases, underperforming veterans lose their starting positions because of subpar production or the rise of a high-potential backup.

    We'll take a look at seven players who could soon lose their starting spots—potentially within the next few weeks—and reserves capable of taking on bigger roles.

    All of the players listed below have started the majority of games this season or opened the past two outings with the first unit.

Bashaud Breeland, CB, Minnesota Vikings

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    The Minnesota Vikings may have already moved on from Bashaud Breeland, though that's unclear following last week's game against the Cleveland Browns.

    According to ESPN's Courtney Cronin, Breeland took a big hit and went into the medical tent early in the game against the Browns. Cameron Dantzler replaced him for the remainder of the contest. Cronin caught wind of speculation that the team may have benched the eighth-year veteran for giving up a big play and his poor coverage in the red zone.

    Through four games, Breeland has surrendered 22 completions on 26 targets for 299 yards and four touchdowns. He's allowed a 154.2 passer rating in coverage. With those numbers, the Vikings might have opted to insert Dantzler out of necessity.

    Breeland hasn't recorded a pass breakup this season. Though he's an experienced veteran with a solid resume, the Vikings may start Dantzler going forward. The second-year third-rounder out of Mississippi State has two breakups in three outings.

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers

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    Jimmy Garoppolo exited San Francisco's Week 4 game against the Seattle Seahawks with a calf injury, which allowed Trey Lance to take over the offense. In relief, the rookie quarterback finished 9-of-18 for 157 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 41 yards.

    The 49ers think Garoppolo could play against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 5, but head coach Kyle Shanahan doesn't seem as tethered to his veteran quarterback.

    "We've got a rookie quarterback right now, and hopefully Jimmy's better and not as bad as we think, but Trey is here for a reason," Shanahan told reporters.

    Since 2018, Garoppolo has missed 23 games, so the 49ers have frequently relied on backup quarterbacks in the recent past. This time, they handpicked a player who they hope can be the future at the position.

    This should go without saying, but if Lance plays well in Garoppolo's absence, he could hold on to the starting job. As a result, San Francisco would likely entertain trade offers for its oft-injured veteran signal-caller.

Mark Ingram II, RB, Houston Texans

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    Matt Patterson/Associated Press

    After a decent season-opening performance with 26 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown, Mark Ingram II has seen his rush attempts and snap count steadily decline.

    Over the past two weeks, he's recorded 12 carries for 45 yards while playing fewer than 35 percent of the offensive snaps. Because the Houston Texans trailed for most of those games, none of their running backs have logged double-digit carries since Week 2.

    Ingram, 31, isn't much of a threat as a pass-catcher, and he's averaging a career-low 3.3 yards per carry.

    David Johnson isn't the same dynamic playmaker from years past, but he averages 4.2 yards per rush attempt and still poses a threat as a receiver. He's caught eight passes for 67 yards and a touchdown this season.

    With Phillip Lindsay averaging a measly 1.3 yards per carry, Johnson is the most efficient running back on the roster. He could help an offense that ranks 28th in scoring with the third-fewest yards.

Bobby Price, DB, Detroit Lions

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    The Detroit Lions need to find a fill-in starter on the boundary opposite Amani Oruwariye.

    After Week 1, the club placed Jeff Okudah on injured reserve with a ruptured Achilles. His replacement, Ifeatu Melifonwu, who started in Week 2, will also miss significant time with a quadriceps injury. Over the past two games, the Lions have turned to Bobby Price, a second-year undrafted player out of Norfolk State.

    As a collegian, Price played safety, but he's a 6'3", 208-pound defensive back who fits the team's mold of big-bodied boundary defenders. In his rookie season, he didn't play a snap on defense and spent most of his time with the practice squad.

    According to Next Gen Stats (h/t ESPN's Seth Walder), Price had a solid Week 3 performance against the Baltimore Ravens, allowing one reception on seven targets for five yards. In the Lions' last outing, he struggled in a matchup with Chicago Bears wideout Darnell Mooney, who caught five passes for 125 yards. 

    Because of Price's inexperience, the Lions will have to accept his inconsistencies if they keep him on the field. Nevertheless, at 0-4, they may want to insert veteran cornerback Daryl Worley into the lineup to patch up a glaring hole in their pass defense.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

    Ben Roethlisberger doesn't deserve all the blame for the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive issues. The line has had its hiccups with four new primary starters, but the unit put together a solid performance against the Green Bay Packers last week.

    According to ESPN Stats & Info (h/t Brooke Pryor), Roethlisberger experienced pocket pressure on seven percent of his 40 dropbacks. Yet the Steelers signal-caller struggled to establish a rhythm and threw an interception for his third consecutive outing. 

    Perhaps Roethlisberger needs a longer adjustment period under new offensive coordinator Matt Canada, but he's been off target on routine or open-window throws. The 39-year-old quarterback attributed those misses to poor mechanics. 

    "I was dropping my elbow down, and when you drop your elbow, the ball isn't as accurate," Roethlisberger told reporters. "That's just on me to make the better throws. We had some plays. We had some guys open on the sidelines early. Probably throwing the ball a little faster than I want to at times. At the end of the day, you have to make the throws."

    Remember, Roethlisberger had reconstructive surgery on his elbow during the 2019 season, which may explain his questionable mechanics. On top of that, he's battling pectoral and hip injuries. At his age, he's physically on the decline. Without proper form, don't expect much improvement from him. 

    Per CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, the Steelers have growing concerns about Roethlisberger's abilities, which may force them to make the difficult decision to bench him for Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins.

Devin Singletary, RB, Buffalo Bills

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    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    The Buffalo Bills could have a solid two-man backfield with Devin Singletary and Zack Moss splitting the load. Yet the latter has played more offensive snaps over the last two weeks with a defined role in the red zone.

    For the season opener, Buffalo listed Moss as a healthy scratch. Since then, he's scored in every game. The Utah product is tied with tight end Dawson Knox with a team-leading four touchdowns.

    While Singletary leads the Bills in rushing yards (259), Moss has scored three touchdowns on the ground—all within seven yards of the goal line.

    As the team's preferred finisher on the ground, Moss could take over the featured role if he provides a little more in the short passing game. He's hauled in just five passes for 39 yards and a score. Even though it's a small sample, the second-year tailback has a higher catch rate (83.3 percent) than Singletary (63.6 percent).

    Last week, the Bills' top two ball-carriers recorded 14 rush attempts apiece, but Moss' well-rounded skill set may allow him to touch the ball 15-18 times per game.

Daniel Sorensen, S, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The Kansas City Chiefs have allowed the second-most yards and points through four weeks. They desperately need playmakers on defense and cannot afford too many mistakes on that side of the ball.

    Despite their small margin for error, the Chiefs continue to play Daniel Sorensen on just about every snap (97 percent). Sure, he's made some stops and recorded a crucial pass breakup against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 3, but the 31-year-old safety has whiffed on 18.9 percent of his tackles.

    Sorensen's tackling issues raise some concerns because he's a defender who sees a lot of action closer to the line of scrimmage. Furthermore, the eighth-year veteran has recorded multiple interceptions in just three seasons. The Chiefs should attempt to develop a safety with more upside in coverage.

    Kansas City selected safety Juan Thornhill in the second round of the 2019 draft. As a rookie, he recorded five pass breakups and three interceptions but tore his ACL late in the campaign. 

    After a nondescript second term with three pass breakups and an interception, Thornhill had a highlight moment when he laid out to snag an interception this past preseason. Still, play-caller Steve Spagnuolo seems more comfortable with Sorensen, but that could change if Kansas City's defense continues to allow opponents to go up and down the field.


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