Heading into the 3rd week of the 2013 NFL pre-season, many position battles are still underway, even as we inch closer to the regular season. The following are some of the most intriguing and ‘must-watch’ position battles that are still underway.
As the pre-season moves forward, there still is not a distinct winner of the battle for the 3rd quarterback position, being fought between rookie Tyler Bray and 3rd year player Ricky Stanzi. Despite Bray’s unimpressive last outing, he still has the upper hand at winning the position. This is due to Stanzi having been drafted by the Pioli regime and not the Reid/Dorsey regime. An indicator of Stanzi’s dwindling chances of winning the battle is his absence from the most recent pre-season matchup, against the San Francisco 49ers last weekend. Stanzi’s absence from last week’s game was not due to illness or injury, but just for the reason that the coaches simply did not put him into the game. The game began with a healthy amount of playing time for starter Alex Smith, followed by Chase Daniel in the 3rd quarter and Tyler Bray in the 4th quarter to round out the game. This is the last thing Ricky Stanzi needs is to not be getting any game time, which is vital in proving he deserves the 3rd quarterback spot.
Two games still remain in this year’s pre-season, but time is rapidly running out for Ricky Stanzi. Regardless of the fact that Tyler Bray has not earned the 3rd roster spot as of yet, Stanzi will be required to be prepared to impress in the next two weeks if he is going to have any chance at snatching what is likely to be the last quarterback to survive the final roster cuts.
The battle for the starting left Inside-Linebacker role is currently underway between former Philadelphia Eagles Linebacker Akeem Jordan and rookie Nico Johnson. Jordon, being the more experienced of the two, is currently listed as the main man at left Inside-Linebacker, however this decision is in no way final. If Johnson can make a showing in the next two weeks of pre-season, the tables could very well turn. At present, neither player has produced at a high enough level to overtake the other in the race for the starting job, which, if this trend were to continue, would indicate Jordan would manage to retain the starter role at least for the beginning of the regular season.
Though not as an exciting point of discussion as the other Linebacker positions, Akeem Jordon, a seasoned veteran and Nico Johnson, an anticipated rookie, make for an interesting situation. (Also keep in mind that Jordan and Johnson are both surrounded by pro-bowlers and established veterans, which will only assist them in becoming better players.)
With Jamaal Charles as the most proven and established player on the entire team as the starter at running back, that role is most definitely not up for grabs and won’t be for quite some time, but the spot just beneath him is. The role of backup running back has been up-in-the-air since Thomas Jones retired after the 2010 NFL season which has meant there has been a fairly frequent rotation of players coming and going from the backup running back position. Rookie Knile Davis and 3rd year player Shaun Draughn are the two most productive candidates fighting it out for the backup role. Draughn was the official backup to Jamaal Charles during the 2012 season, however did not receive much playing time due to Charles’ much improved health. What Draughn did show though, was potential as a reliable backup. Whether this potential carries over into the current season will be determined by Draughn’s performance in the two remaining pre-season matchups before the regular season arrives.
Knile Davis, while an injury risk himself, has shown an impressively fluid transition to the professional level so far. In last week’s matchup versus the San Francisco 49ers, Davis flashed his speed and quickness while averaging over 3.5 yards per carry over 10 attempts for a combined total of 37 yards for the day. Again, this position battle is not settled, but Davis has seemed to be pulling ahead of his competition, and if this trend continues, will likely end up being named the official backup to Jamaal Charles by September.
Former Miami Dolphins tight end Anthony Fasano was signed this off-season to come in and make an immediate impact and he has done just that by just about securing the starting job at tight end. One spot down the depth chart, 2nd string, is a competition, where rookie tight Travis Kelce and 4th year player Tony Moeaki are battling for that 2nd string spot. The most disappointing fact in all this is that former starter Tony Moeaki has dropped (unofficially) all the way to 3rd on the depth chart, even by rookie Travis Kelce. Moeaki being a constant injury concern has meant the coaches have slowly lost faith in his ability to stay on the field for an adequate number of games during the regular season. If Moeaki continues to show his capabilities on the field and avoid injury, it would not be at all surprising to see him retake the 2nd string position, especially as Kelce has not had the prolific pre-season one would have hoped for him to have.
Rookie tackle and number one overall draft pick Eric Fisher has been a large topic of discussion as he has not produced at a high level as immediately as was hoped. Having said this, Fisher is playing at a position which he has never played at. Naturally, Fisher is a left tackle, but due to the Chiefs’ situation at left tackle, Fisher has been forced to play on the right side, at least for now. At this stage there is really no need for concern by the fans.
With the recent trading of Jon Baldwin, former Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Donnie Avery has been promoted to a starting role beside established veteran Dwayne Bowe. Avery proved he could produce at a high level while in Indianapolis and now with this perfect opportunity in Kansas City, is primed to show off his blazing speed.
So far this pre-season, the entire defensive line has really stepped up their game. Tyson Jackson has had success eating up blockers, making way for the faster hard-hitting linebacking core consisting of Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and more. Former New York Jets defensive end Mike DeVito has made an incredible transition to a new defense, showing power and speed off the line. Finally, 2nd year defensive tackle and scouting combine phenomenon Dontari Poe has begun to show why he was drafted so highly in 2012, pushing the opposing guards and centres backwards and, like his teammates, paving the way to the quarterback for the all-pro linebacking core that the Chiefs have.
While most of the starters are set along the defensive line, expect to see a rotation of players going on this season. This defensive line may be turning into what fans have been waiting for, for so long.
Wide Receivers Dexter McCluster and Devon Wylie and Safety Quintin Demps are all sharing reps at kick and punt returner this pre-season. Wylie and McCluster have both shown improvement in their return production and are competing for a permanent punt returner role.
Safety Quintin Demps has been the stand-out player in recent weeks, scoring a touchdown from a 49ers kick-off last weekend, among other impressive performances has made Demps a known name among the fans. Demps, Wylie and McCluster all seem to be competing for the permanent job at kick returner, but who will be the main man or whether the kick return formation will feature duel kick returners is uncertain and will most likely remain unknown until September.