Some Cougs set, others battling for NFL spots

THERE IS ONLY one more preseason game left until the NFL regular season begins. That's good news for some former Cougs, and bad news for others. See who is still in the mix for a starting job, who is on the verge of being relegated to the bench, or worse, free agency.

Deone Bucannon: The hard-hitting rookie defensive back has a strong hold on the starting strong safety position for the Arizona Cardinals. Bucannon led the team in tackles with six in the Cardinals’ Sunday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Barring injury or something unexpected, Bucannon will start the opener opposite of free safety Tyrann Mathieu in the Arizona backfield.

John Fullington (pictured above): The Green Bay Packers’ starting offensive line revealed some holes on Friday against the Oakland Raiders. Fullington is not a part of the starting group, but if the first-string falters consistently, there could be a shuffling of some reserves, which would give Fullington a potential shot at more playing time. That shot seems like a long one at this point though, as Fullington took only four snaps against the Raiders and is more concerned with making the team at this point as an undrafted free agent.

Andrew Furney: As expected, the New York Jets cut Furney on Saturday. Nick Folk holds onto that job firmly in part because he has guaranteed money in the recent contract he signed. Folk made a 31-yarded against the New York Giants on Friday and Furney made his only extra-point opportunity in the game. But his rock-solid preseason performance may have opened enough eyes somewhere else and he could get picked up in the coming days.

Jeff Tuel: The Buffalo Bills’ backup spot at quarterback appears to belong to Tuel. The former Cougar QB is second on the depth chart behind E.J. Manuel, and the third man on the list, Thad Lewis, did not play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday. Manuel threw for almost 200 yards and had a touchdown pass and an interception. He was also sacked four times. Meanwhile, Tuel completed 8 of his 14 passes, and totaled 90 yards through the air.

Travis Long: Although Long only made one solo tackle against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the former Cougar has increased his value by playing multiple roles on the team. Long is still not listed on the depth chart at outside linebacker or inside linebacker, but that might be because the Philadelphia Eagles have using him all over the field. Unlike his competition, Brandon Graham, Long has played as both an inside and outside linebacker, plus as a defensive end. Graham, who is listed at No. 4 on the outside linebacker depth list, is primarily a pass-rusher, so Long could have the edge because of his versatility. The only problem is that Graham is a strong pass-rusher. Graham recorded a sack against the Steelers on Thursday, and he has two of the Eagles’ five in the preseason.

Marquess Wilson: The collarbone injury that Wilson suffered in practice at the beginning of August has turned into seriously bad news for the Chicago Bears’ wide receiver. The team estimates that Wilson, who broke his collarbone in three different places, will be out until at least the middle of the season. And if the Bears place Wilson on injured reserve, he will not be eligible to return to action until Week 10. The Bears signed Santonio Holmes last week, and Josh Morgan is now listed at the No. 3 wide receiver spot. It is likely that the Bears will run with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Holmes and Morgan until Wilson returns, and maybe even after he returns.

Jed Collins: Collins remains the man at fullback for the Detroit Lions, although the only time he showed up on the statistics sheet was as a receiver. Collins was targeted twice and made one reception for three yards in the Lions’ 13-12 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Friday.

Husain Abdullah: The Kansas City Chiefs were overmatched against the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday, losing 30-12. Judging from the score, it seems normal that Abdullah and the entire Chiefs defense didn’t do much to stop the Vikings. That was the case as the Chiefs sacked quarterback Matt Cassel, but could not do much more than that. Abdullah is the starting free safety for the Chiefs, but did not post any statistics against the Vikings.

Ropati Pitoitua: Things looked good at first -- with a solo stop and two total tackles in the Tennessee Titans’ Saturday matchup against the Atlanta Falcons, Pitoitua remained relevant in the battle for defensive end. But Pitoitua, as CF.C reported in our blog, broke his hand in the win. Still, coach Ken Whisenhunt says he expects him to be available for the season opener at Kansas City. Jurrell Casey, the other defensive end who is listed ahead of Pitoitua on the Titans’ depth chart, made three solo tackles including a sack. The Titans will be using the 3-4 defense this season, meaning that they can use two defensive ends on either side of the nose tackle, or convert one of the ends to a defensive tackle. As the No. 2 on the depth chart, Pitoitua figures to be firmly in the mix, whether it’s alongside Casey or in rotation.

Brandon Gibson: The starting slot receiver for the Miami Dolphins is still recovering from a torn patellar tendon injury that he suffered last year, but has been targeted plenty during this preseason. However, Gibson was not targeted in Saturday’s win over the Dallas Cowboys. Still, look for him in the next preseason game as well as the season opener because he has been in the action and is listed as the only No. 3 wide-out on the Dolphins’ depth chart. He is expected to switch off at the slot with rookie Jarvis Landry.

Depth chart link: CLICK HERE

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