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Dave's Take
Preseason - August
  • Look for the Steelers' Hines Ward to end his holdout and report to the team in the near future. Like all teams, the Steelers frown upon holdouts but are unique because they refuse to acquiesce to a player's demands. Generally, the team is active in locking up players they want to retain, however that wasn't necessary in Ward's case because he has one year left on the contract he signed in 2001. Expect Ward in camp soon and a contract extension announcement by the end of training camp or shortly thereafter.

  • The Seahawks' Shaun Alexander unexpectedly agreed to sign his franchise tender and report to training camp on time, although he was late arriving due to the birth of his daughter. Alexander reversed fields on his holdout stance once the team agreed to not place the franchise tag on him in 2006. Although Alexander has stated he expects to be a Seahawk in 2006, it says here this will be his last season with the team unless he agrees to a contract extension on the team's terms.

  • Cardinals coach Dennis Green pulled another training camp surprise this year with the release of defensive tackle Wendell Bryant one day before camp was to begin. Green shocked the league last year by cutting starting center Pete Kendall on reporting day. A 2002 1st round pick, Bryant never lived up to expectations and wasn't guaranteed a roster spot in 2005. Green's reasoning that Bryant was cut because the team realized they didn't have a role for him makes sense but teammates might question why a player that worked hard in the off-season wasn't cut earlier in order to give him a better chance with another team. However, Green was clearly sending the team another message that nobody's job is safe.

  • Keeping with the Cardinals, the assumption with the team's running back depth chart was that the starting job would be contested between J.J. Arrington, the team's 2nd round draft pick, and Marcel Shipp, with Arrington the likely starter. However, Shipp has been sidelined with a hamstring injury and is on the physically unable to perform list. With Shipp's 2005 salary at $1.425-million and plenty of other options available (James Jackson, Troy Hambrick, J.R. Redmond, Damian Anderson, Josh Scobey), don't look for Green to keep Shipp around unless he proves his worth during training camp.

  • Don’t look for Bubba Franks to report to the Packers unless the team’s gives into the tight end’s salary demands. Slapped with the transition tag, Franks failed to receive any solid contract offers during the off-season and has not yet signed the transition tender. However, the team does not have any other viable options to start at the position so Franks and his agent clearly have the upper hand in contract negotiations.

  • With starting center Jeremy Newberry possibly out for the season after his latest knee operation and rookie 2nd round pick David Baas out six weeks with a torn hamstring, the 49ers have been reduced to using last year's starting left guard, Eric Heitmann, at center and a rookie 3rd round pick, Adam Snyder, at left guard. If these changes remain intact, the team will enter the season with new starters at every position along the offensive line. Left tackle Jonas Jennings in his first season with the team after been signed as a free agent from Buffalo, right tackle Kwame Harris started on the left side in 2004 and right guard Justin Smiley, a 2nd round pick in 2004, started nine games at left guard in 2004. Suffice it to say, this isn't the model for success new head coach Mike Nolan had in mind for protecting the 1st pick in the draft, quarterback Alex Smith. Look for the 49ers to bring in some veteran stopgaps midway through training camp.

  • Keeping with the 49ers, it's become more apparent that 2004 1st round pick Rashaun Woods is an unqualified bust. Woods' rookie season was a washout after he missed portions of last year's training camp with a hamstring injury. This year, Woods has been hampered by a groin injury that has resulted in him sliding down the depth chart. The previous administration was responsible for Woods' selection and teams rarely dump 1st round picks after only one season but this might be the rare instance where a team decides to cut their losses early.

  • Bucs coach Jon Gruden was very vocal in his criticism of last year's kicker, Martin Gramatica, and early indications are the team may struggle in that department again this season. Matt Bryant and Todd France were brought in to compete for the job but have struggled early in camp. It won't come as a surprise if Gruden, who prefers veteran players, brings in a proven player prior to the season opener.

  • The initial speculation surrounding the Texans selection of running back Vernand Morancy in the 3rd round of this years draft was that the team wanted him to compete with oft-injured Domanick Davis for the starting position. However, that flawed logic was revealed when word leaked of the team's interest in signing Davis to a lucrative long-term extension. It's now clear Morancy was selected because of the team's unhappiness with back-ups Tony Hollings and Jonathan Wells. In fact, with the team expected to keep two fullbacks (Moran Norris and Jarrod Baxter), it's likely Hollings and Wells are now competing for one roster spot.

  • Interesting that certain teams are excellent at finding players with potential in the late rounds of the draft or as rookie free agents. Case in point is the Packers who seem to unearth offensive line prospects every year. Starting right tackle Mark Tauscher was a 7th round pick, the team's top back-up at tackle, Kevin Barry, was undrafted while Pro Bowl center Mike Flanagan was picked in the 3rd round. One of the team's starting guards last year, the since departed Marco Rivera, was picked 6th round. Two years ago, they found guard prospect Steve Morley in the Canadian Football League. At center, the heir apparent to Flanagan, Scott Wells, was picked in the 7th round of the 2004 draft. This year, rookie free agent center Chris White has impressed the coaches and may battle his way onto the roster if he continues to play well in training camp.

  • It appears the Raiders may finally be giving up on safety Derrick Gibson. Picked in the 1st round of the 2001 draft, Gibson has struggled with injuries and been ineffective when in the line-up. He lacks the instincts to play safety and seems to be a step slow on every play. Former Packer Marques Anderson has already supplanted Gibson on the depth chart at strong safety with Gibson being relegated to the role of dime back. Look for Anderson to open the season starting alongside Stuart Schweigert, the team's 2004 3rd round selection. This combination isn't exactly going to scare offensive coordinators around the league.

  • Keeping with the Raiders, cornerback Fabian Washington, the team's 1st round pick this year, has been unimpressive thus far in training camp and is certainly not a lock to be in the starting line-up with Charles Woodson when the season begins. As things currently stand, 2003 1st round pick Asomugha Nnamdi is starting with Woodson while 2nd round pick Stanford Routt is the team's nickel back, leaving Washington, Denard Walker and Renaldo Hill out of the rotation in the team's base defense. However, look for this situation to be in state of flux for most of the pre-season as the team attempts to come up with the right combination.

  • Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil dropped a surprise this week by suggesting wide receiver Samie Parker, expected to win the starting job opposite Eddie Kennison, would play in roughly 35 offensive plays per game. Vermeil is either putting up a smoke screen for defensive coordinators to consider, putting Parker on notice that he needs to step up or the team has decided to utilize more two tight ends sets to get Kris Wilson involved and to design plays to take advantage of the skills of the team's other wide receivers. Bottom line is not to expect big things from Parker in 2005.

  • After having an off-season to learn the playbook, Cowboys receiver Quincy Morgan was expected to challenge Terry Glenn for the starting spot opposite Keyshawn Johnson. However, Morgan hasn't impressed thus far in training camp and coach Bill Parcells has indicated the 3rd wideout position is now up for grabs amongst Morgan, Patrick Crayton, Terrance Copper, Zuriel Smith and Ahmad Merritt.

  • The 49ers have indicated they feel recently acquired cornerback Willie Middlebrooks, picked by the Broncos in the 1st round of the 2001 draft, will compete with 2004 2nd round pick Shawntee Spencer for a starting spot opposite Ahmad Plummer. This tells us one or perhaps two things - Spencer is more or less useless or the 49ers brass has lost their collective mind. Or perhaps they're trying to motivate Spencer by telling him a guy who has rarely seen the field in a base defense in his four years is his main challenger for a starting job. It might be a long season in San Francisco in 2005.