Evan Silva

Position Battles

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Running with the Ones

Monday, August 11, 2008

Broncos No. 2 Tailback
Competitors: Michael Pittman/Andre Hall/Ryan Torain/Anthony Alridge

With Pittman switched to fullback, a path was cleared for Torain to grab the second spot behind Selvin Young and perhaps make a run at the starting job. But a shattered elbow will likely shelve him for the season. Pittman has returned to tailback, but Hall stands second on the depth chart and Alridge, a speedy scatback who went undrafted despite a highly productive senior season at Houston, is threatening for spot duty. Like Mike Bell last year, Pittman didn't show enough as a ball carrier for Mike Shanahan to want him there originally, so don't count on him having a big role. It's Hall's job to lose and Alridge's to win. Though Hall figures to be second when the season opens, expect in-season change behind Young. Alridge may only be 5'9/179, but possesses 4.2-4.3 speed and, as a former wide receiver, loads of experience as a route runner. His profile is not too unlike Texans third-round pick Steve Slaton's, and Alridge is faster. He's just not nearly as well known. Fact: No player in D-I executed more 40+ yard plays than Alridge between 2005 and 2007.

Current Leader: Andre Hall
Projected Week 1 Winner: Andre Hall

Bengals No. 2 Tailback
Competitors: Kenny Watson/Chris Perry/DeDe Dorsey

Watson missed much of the spring with an undisclosed injury, but he's back and virtually entrenched as Rudi Johnson's backup. After a lost season, Johnson is again experiencing hamstring woes and has an uncertain return. Perry should be healthy by now, but he's been durable enough to carry the ball just 73 times in his four-year career and probably won't stay that way. Dorsey is the most explosive runner in this backfield, but just returned from injury himself. He and Perry may be in direct competition for a roster spot. While Perry figures to hang around if he doesn't break down this preseason, he can't do what Watson did in 2007; shoulder a heavy weekly workload. Look for Watson to open the season as Rudi's complement and the Bengals' third-down back, and make several starts during the year.

Current Leader: Kenny Watson
Projected Week 1 Winner: Kenny Watson

Dolphins No. 1 Quarterback
Competitors: Josh McCown/John Beck/Chad Henne

McCown topped what coach Tony Sparano admitted was a seniority-based opening depth chart and has predictably been inconsistent in camp. While his numerous career starts are something of an advantage, McCown just isn't starting-caliber and Miami is rebuilding. If Beck had done anything to justify it in practice, he'd be the favorite to start in Week 1. But he's been the worst of all three, and with Henne gaining steam, the battle is wide open. Henne generally isn't even a great practice player, but if he keeps up his poise in preseason games, the Dolphins probably won't delay his rise. Their line is big with potential, Henne held up to a ton of hits at Michigan, and he has the biggest arm to connect with speedy wideouts Derek Hagan and Ted Ginn Jr.

Current Leader: Josh McCown
Projected Week 1 Winner: Chad Henne

Jets No. 1 Tight End
Competitors: Chris Baker/Dustin Keller/Bubba Franks

Franks is dropping balls in practice left and right and hasn't been much more than a blocker in years. Old pal Brett Favre's addition may help his chances of making the club, but Franks isn't a true threat to start. Baker was listed atop the Jets' first depth chart, though it may have been in alphabetical order, as Franks was second, Keller was third, and Jason Pociask was behind them. Despite Baker's contract dispute and Keller's impressive camp, Baker will likely be the Jets' starter because he can block and catch. At 6'2/239, Keller might be able to pick up a blitzing free safety or corner, but he won't move any linemen. Keller will play from the slot when coordinator Brian Schottenheimer runs his spread looks, but he will not be a starter as a rookie.

Current Leader: Chris Baker
Projected Week 1 Winner: Chris Baker

Chiefs No. 2 Receiver
Competitors: Devard Darling/Will Franklin/Jeff Webb/Maurice Price

Tony Gonzalez and Dwayne Bowe are really Kansas City's top two receivers, but the winner here could wind up with a solid number of deep threat targets. Webb is the most established, but the Chiefs realize his ceiling is the lowest and don't want him as more than a fourth option. Franklin and Price are vying for third receiver/slot duties at the moment, with Franklin leading. Franklin is the ideal outside complement to Bowe because he can burn, a skill that wouldn't be capitalized on as an inside receiver. Darling can run too, but he's been in the league five years and has 18 career catches. At some point, it's time to give up on a guy who couldn't beat out Randy Hymes, Travis Taylor, or Clarence Moore for years in a perennially bad Ravens offense.

Current Leader: Devard Darling
Projected Week 1 Winner: Will Franklin

Chargers No. 2 Tailback
Competitors: Jacob Hester/Darren Sproles/Marcus Thomas

With LaDainian Tomlinson nearing 30 (29 in June), this position may finally matter. It never did when Michael Turner was backing up because LT has missed one game in his seven-year career, in 2004 when Jesse Chatman was second on the depth chart. Hester holds that distinction now, but he's more of a utilityman whose game doesn't stand out in any area. The sleeper is Thomas, a power back and adept pass catcher. Sproles is likely to be third on the depth chart and play special teams, but act as a pace change if Tomlinson gets injured. Thomas still needs a monster preseason, and draft status is working against him, but he might prove the best option to carry the load if needed. LT owners should watch this battle during exhibition season.

Current Leader: Jacob Hester
Projected Week 1 Winner: Jacob Hester

Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva

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