12 Position Battles Heading into Preseason Week 2
With every team now having a preseason game in the books, we have some added clarity into some training camp battles.
As for some others, they remain murky.
Here’s where things stand around the league:
Tampa Bay running back: The oft-injured Doug Martin had 19 yards on five carries in the team’s preseason opener against the Vikings. Bobby Rainey had five carries for 20 yards but it was Martin who got the carries with the first-team offense.
New York Giants running back: If you were hoping for some clarity here, we might have gotten a little. Rashad Jennings started and had two carries for 14 yards before being replaced by Andre Williams, who had minus-2 yards on two carries on the second drive. Shane Vereen was on the field for all of New York’s third downs in the first quarter, though he had just one carry for four yards.
Cincinnati wide receiver No. 2: Mohamed Sanu got the start and caught a touchdown pass. Marvin Jones, coming back from an injury that cost him the entire 2014 season, worked with the second unit. Jones reached double digits in TD catches in 2013, but it appears he is clearly behind Sanu, who should see plenty of one-on-one coverage opposite A.J. Green and emerging TE Tyler Eifert.
Oakland running back: Latavius Murray was impressive in Oakland’s opener and is clearly the top dog over Trent Richardson and Taiwan Jones. Murray had six carries for 35 yards against the Rams, while Richardson – now a journeyman? – had five carries for 18 yards.
Buffalo quarterback: Matt Cassel started and completed 7-of-8 passes but for just 45 yards, showing that the veteran knows how to win a QB battle. He didn’t try anything risky. Tyrod Taylor played second and was 5-of-8 for 49 yards while also scrambling six times for 47 yards. He also pushed the ball down the field more than Cassel. E.J. Manuel played the entire second half and was 4-of-8 for 77 yards and a touchdown – against the third stringers. Rex Ryan said Taylor will start the next preseason game and it’s likely a decision about the opening day starter will be made after that.
New York Jets running back: With the Jets’ QB position now settled – at least for six to 10 weeks – it was a chance for Chris Ivory to nail down the starting running back position. He did a nice job with the starters, gaining 25 yards on six carries, including converting a fourth-and-1. All of his carries came on the opening drive, and he was relieved by Bilal Powell who had 35 yards on eight carries against Detroit’s backups. Zac Stacy ran third string, gaining nine yards on three attempts.
Detroit running back: This wasn’t considered a battle entering camp, but rookie Ameer Abdullah is forcing his way into the conversation with Joique Bell. Working against New York’s first-team defense – Bell remains on the PUP List after off-season surgeries on his knee and Achilles’ tendon – Abdullah had 67 yards on seven carries, one of which was an electrifying 45-yard TD run. This is a situation that Bears watching.
Cleveland running back: Isaiah Crowell started but rotated with Terrence West. Neither was particularly impressive. Crowell had six yards on four carries, while West had 10 yards on his four attempts. Rookie Duke Johnson remains out of action.
San Diego running back: Rookie Melvin Gordon got the start and while his stat line of six carries for 11 yards wasn’t impressive, he didn’t have a lot of help from the Chargers’ blocking. Even though Gordon started, Danny Woodhead replaced him on third downs, scoring on an 8-yard third-down run. Branden Oliver got plenty of work with the backups and had 53 yards on 10 carries, but it appears the job is Gordon’s at this point with Woodhead as the third-down back.
New England running back: With LeGarrette Blount – who is already suspended for the opener – out with an injury, Jonas Gray shined, gaining 75 yards on seven carries, including a 55-yard TD run. The job is there to win – at least until Bill Belichick decides to change backs.
Green Bay wide receivers: This isn’t really a battle, but it should be noted that Davante Adams was targeted six times, including two in the red zone, by Aaron Rodgers. Jordy Nelson (3) and Randall Cobb (2) combined for five targets. That was the good news. The bad was that Adams managed just three catches for 17 yards and did not score.
Houston quarterback: Brian Hoyer got the start but played in just one series, leading the Texans to a touchdown against San Francisco. Hoyer completed half of his four passes for 67 yards and a touchdown, a 58-yarder to newcomer Cecil Shorts. Ryan Mallett then took over and played into the third quarter, completing 10-of-11 passes for 90 yards. Mallett will start the second preseason game.
Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.