This will be a two-parter. I will begin with the offense today and will likely discuss the defense very soon.
David Garrard has looked inconsistent before his recent injury, but he is still expected to be the starter, as he should. Offense taking a bit to get going is nothing new to the pre-season schedule. Luke McCown has continued to show why he was chosen to be the verteran back-up despite being hurt last year. He has the ability to be a spot starter in this league, which is something you like to see in a veteran back-up. Blaine Gabbert has looked pretty impressive thus far. He is probably not ready to be a starter and he shouldn’t be until 2012 at the earliest, but he has shown that he does indeed have a ton of potential. He has made “wow” throws during every practice so far.
Maurice Jones-Drew has basically been limited to the sideline thus farm, but it would be naive to believe that he won’t still be the same elite runningback that he has been. Rashad Jennings continues to impress and it would be an issue if he does not receive more playing time this year. Deji Karim continues to look like a good third option and displays the same explosiveness from last year. Undrafted free agent rookie Dujuan Harris has looked like a clone of Karim and could be someone to watch out for to make the roster or practice squad. Not much has really been reported on Greg Jones, but by all accounts, Brock Bolen has been impressive. I know this is being a bit bold, but with his injury history and his age, it may not be the worst idea to release or trade Jones.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Mike Thomas has looked phenomenal and continues to build on what he did last year. I know I am in the minority, but I truly believe that Thomas has the ability to be a number 1 type of guy. Jason Hill has been okay in practice, but it’s been documented before that he is at his best in games. Either way, Thomas and Hill should be the starters. Cecil Shorts III has looked amazing in training camp; running very fluid and catching pretty much everything but the injury bug, which is what I like to see. He has at least the slot receiver role locked down. Kassim Osgood will make the team as a specialist again. The remaining spots look to be between Jarett Dillard, Tiquan Underwood, John Matthews, and a few undrafted guys such as Armon Binns, Jamar Newsome, Dontrelle Inman, and Greg Ellingson. For sure, one will make it, but I can see two making it with another on the practice squad. All but Underwood have pretty much shown some promise. I see Dillard sticking around and either Binns or Newsome being on the roster with the other being on the practice squad. Probably Binns on the roster as it seems he would generate more interest from other teams than Newsome.
Marcedes Lewis just signed an extension today, which is very good news. He is the best all-around tight end in the league and with another elite year receiving, he will probably be an elite tight end. In his absence thus far, Zach Miller has had a few struggles. Moreso toward the beginning though. He had a case of the dropsies, but would still make some good catches. Hopefully it isn’t a problem that sticks as we continue to progress through the season. Zach Potter will probably return as a blocking tight end, especially since Miller got beaten by undrafted rookie linebacker Scott Lutrus in the Oklahoma. If anyone else were to make a run to be on the roster, at this moment, it would look to be Tommy Gallarda has he has made some plays, but I see him as more of a potential practice squad guy.
The offensive line as a whole has struggled so far. Whether that is legitimate struggling by them or just the defensive line being that much improved has yet to be seen. Most likely, it is a combination. At offensive tackle, not much has been talked about regarding Eugene Monroe, but Eben Britton has received some criticism — especially with how well Austen Lane has been doing. Neither is in danger of losing their starting spot though. Kevin Haslam and Daniel Baldridge are back to try to make the roster with Haslam again being the favorite although he hasn’t looked too impressive thus far. Haslam also can play at guard. I don’t see Guy Whimper making the team and Cameron Bradfield is the only undrafted tackle on the roster. He, however, is also the favorite out of the undrafted guys to possibly stick around. There are quite a few of undrafted guards, but I don’t really see any of them making it. Uche Nwaneri, rookie Will Rackley, and Jason Spitz will be the main guys to look at at the position. As far as center goes, any of the guards I just mentioned can play there, but at this moment, the spot remains to be Brad Meester’s. John Estes is expected to make the roster as a back-up and could potentially be a future starter. Bradley Vierling is also a guy to watch. If I had to venture to guess, I would think the following make it assuming Meester is brought back: Monroe, Rackley, Meester, Nwaneri, Britton, Haslam, Spitz, Estes. Baldridge and Vierling would probably return to the practice squad as I believe both are still eligible to be on it. Bradfield could also join them there.