Roster battles are under way in Week 1 of the NFL preseason. There were a lot of thing people expected and quite a few surprises too. Which players staked an early claim on starting jobs around the league?
Chicago Bears – Jon Bostic dims memory of D.J. Williams
D.J. Williams was supposed to ease the transition of the Chicago Bears away from Brian Urlacher while the team groomed a more permanent replacement in Jon Bostic. A calf injury accelerated the process and it didn’t take the rookie long to send a message that he was for real. With the starters still on the field in Carolina, Bostic snared a Cam Newton pass and returned in 51 yards for a touchdown. He finished the night with two tackles as well. The longer Williams is out, the less chance he has of ever seeing the field.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Chad Henne closing on Blaine Gabbert
Blaine Gabbert knew the score when he walked onto the practice field for the 2013 season. All the fans and most of the experts doubted he could lead the Jacksonville Jaguars. One game in and nothing has changed. Gabbert completed five passes for 19 yards and an interception while his competition, Chad Henne had an efficient night completing eight for 87 yards. Another week like that and head coach Gus Bradley might feel Henne is the safer pick as he continues to reshape the roster.
Philadelphia Eagles – Michael Vick outpaces Nick Foles
Chip Kelly wanted Nick Foles in the picture when he took over as head coach. That is why the Philadelphia Eagles refused to trade him. That decision looks like a miscalculation in the early going. Foles wasn’t terrible completing five of six passes for 43 yards. The problem was Michael Vick did far better, going four of five for 94 yards and a touchdown including a pretty bomb to DeSean Jackson. Like any offensive coach Kelly will ride the hot hand into the regular season. If Foles can’t find his groove soon then Vick could leave him in the dust before the preseason is half over.
Cincinnati Bengals – Jermaine Gresham keeps Tyler Eifert quiet
The hype was huge surrounding Tyler Eifert when the Cincinnati Bengals plucked him in the first round of the draft. Few stopped to think that their current starting tight end Jermaine Gresham might take that personal. While it wasn’t an overwhelming statement, the veteran at least stayed active againstAtlanta, collecting two passes for 21 yards. Eifert meanwhile didn’t register a catch and made no significant play during the game. Hopes are still high for him but as it stands Gresham is in no danger of losing the starting job.
Kansas City Chiefs – Anthony Fasano takes lead in tight end derby
Lost in the Alex Smith hoopla is the logjam the Kansas City Chiefs have at tight end. Tony Moeki was penciled in at his usual starting spot but he had company nipping at his heels in free agent Anthony Fasano and rookie Travis Kelce. Moeki failed to catch any passes against New Orleans while Kelce collected a pretty 17-yard toss, but it was Fasano who had the overall best effort with two catches for 21 yards. It doesn’t guarantee him anything but if he can continue to lead on the NFL stat sheet this preseason than Andy Reid won’t have any qualms about replacing Moeki with someone more reliable.