Inside the NFL

Loads of news and notes Tuesday from in and around the league:

QB Jay Fiedler was named the starter for the Dolphins' season opener. He beat out A.J. Feeley, but coach Dave Wannstedt did not commit to who would start past the team's first game.

"Jay has played better then he probably has since he has been here," Wannstedt said. "He has had a very good offseason and he is 100 percent healthy. >From the mini-camps on through training camp on through the preseason games, he has done a very good job of executing the offense and doing what is expected of the quarterback position."

RB Travis Minor will start Sunday, with Sammy Morris and Leonard Henry getting snaps as well. "I talked to Travis this morning and I talked to Sammy this morning, and yeah, the statistics showed that Sammy had more yards (in the preseason), but they are both going to play," coach Dave Wannstedt said. "I wouldn't be surprised if Leonard Henry played some this week. The guy that is hot is who we will stay with. We said we were going to play running back by committee and that is what we are going to do starting this thing off and see how it falls."

K Todd France was released by the Giants, who signed veteran Steve Christie. France had appeared to win the kicking job when Bill Gramatica was released, but coach Tom Coughlin opted for Christie's experience.

TE Jeremy Shockey, around whom much of the offense has been predicated, insists he'll play Sunday. He was recovering from foot surgery (stress fracture) when he pulled a hamstring. Now he's ready, "all better," he says, and if that's true, it would provide a tremendous boost to the struggling offense.

FS Brent Alexander appears to have won the starting job over Omar Stoutmire. Alexander was signed as an UFA over the off-season.

HB Chris Cooley "probably" will start ahead of Mike Sellers and Brian Kozlowski against the Bucs. He had five catches for 69 yards in the preseason.

LB Mike Barrow isn't expected to play against the Bucs because of tendinitis in his knee. Barrow missed the entire preseason and hasn't recovered.

LT Chris Samuels (ankle) returned to limited practice Monday and should play against the Bucs.

RG Randy Thomas (neck) returned to limited practice Monday and should play against the Bucs.

S Sean Taylor (ill/thigh) missed practice Monday while having an illness checked out. His thigh bruise isn't considered serious and he should practice Wednesday and play against the Bucs.

QB Joey Harrington will be well-rested for the Lions opener at Chicago. He sat out the final preseason game last week. Harrington said he would have preferred to play at least a few series in the final tuneup but coach Steve Mariucci didn't want to take any chances on an injury. In three preseason games, Harrington completed 21 of 39 passes (53.8 percent) for 211 yards and two touchdowns without an interception.

WR Charles Rogers has shown much more confidence and a higher comfort level. Perhaps even more important, he sailed through training camp and the preseason without missing a single practice session with injury. He caught six balls for 101 yards and a touchdown in the preseason.

FS Brock Marion suffered a bone bruise on his right knee in the Lions' final preseason game. But he went through a full practice Monday and said he expects to be in the starting lineup for the season opener Sunday at Chicago. Marion, the quarterback of the defensive secondary, said the knee is sore but he has very little swelling.

DE Kalimba Edwards is considered the Lions' most effective edge pass rusher when he is healthy. But he did not practice last week and sat out the final preseason game but said he expect to play in the season opener at Chicago. Edwards underwent two sports hernia surgeries last year and was sidelined last week when the final scar tissue tore. He says he is fully recovered now, however.

OLB James Davis (sprained ankle) has returned to practice after missing most of the preseason. Davis is expected to be the Lions starting weak side linebacker. Even if he doesn't start in the season opener at Chicago, Davis is expected to get considerable playing time in a linebacking corps that is young and thin.

OT Bryant McKinnie (knee) returned to practice and will start Sunday.

RB Moe Williams will start against Dallas. He's a veteran who makes minimal mistakes, is excellent at pass protection and normally serves as the third-down and short-yardage back.

RB Onterrio Smith will get the bulk of the carries against Dallas. Smith, who is awaiting a decision on his appeal of a four-game league suspension, is strong enough and young enough to carry the load.

WR Marcus Robinson has been a disappointment since signing as a free agent from Baltimore. A mild hamstring strain knocked him out of all but the preseason opener. He's ready to play, and has a lot to prove.

QB A.J. Feeley will begin the season as Jay Fiedler's backup, coach Dave Wannstedt said. However, Wannstedt didn't commit to Fiedler past the first game of the season.

RB Sammy Morris will back up Travis Minor Sunday, with Leonard Henry getting snaps as well. "I talked to Travis this morning and I talked to Sammy this morning, and yeah, the statistics showed that Sammy had more yards (in the preseason), but they are both going to play," coach Dave Wannstedt said. "I wouldn't be surprised if Leonard Henry played some this week. The guy that is hot is who we will stay with. We said we were going to play running back by committee and that is what we are going to do starting this thing off and see how it falls."

TE Visanthe Shiancoe played in place of Jeremy Shockey during the preseason. But he doesn't play with any of the flair and effectiveness Shockey brings to the table.

LB Reggie Torbor, drafted in the fourth round as a DE from Auburn, was switched immediately to SLB. He had 13 tackles in the four summer games with a sack. At 6-3 and 252, he will be used in pass-coverage situations, as a reserve SLB, sometimes as a pass-rushing DE.

FS Omar Stoutmire appears to have lost his job to 11-year veteran Brent Alexander.

DE Osi Umenyiora is trying to unseat veteran Keith Washington on the right side. In either case, both will see action but the quickness off the snap by Umenyiora has intrigued several teams, resulting in many trade offers. San Diego, it is said, offered to take him instead of the Giants' first round pick next year in the Eli Manning trade -- and the Giants refused.

QB Mark Brunell didn't sparkle during the preseason. But he played well enough to create expectations of a solid year in Joe Gibbs' offense.

QB Patrick Ramsey improved over the past couple weeks but never threatened Mark Brunell. He is re-learning the pro game after two years under Steve Spurrier.

RB Clinton Portis carried just 20 times for 77 yards in the preseason. But he showed enough to expect another big season.

RB Ladell Betts rushed for two touchdowns in the preseason finale. He appears recovered from the hamstring injury that forced him to miss most of August.

WR Laveranues Coles had five catches for 91 yards in the preseason. He hasn't seemed bothered by the stress fracture in his toe of late.

WR Rod Gardner had three catches for 32 yards in the preseason. He still is viewed as only a decent complement to Laveranues Coles.

WR James Thrash had just two catches for 14 yards in the preseason. But he looked really impressive at times in camp. His value goes well beyond statistics.

K John Hall was 4-for-4 in the preseason, his long attempt from 39 yards.

LB LaVar Arrington has built expectations of a strong start to the season. He sacked Falcons QB Michael Vick once and took him down another time in just five plays.

LB Marcus Washington enjoyed a good preseason and will be a vital part of Gregg Williams' defense.

QB Mike McMahon has a career completion record of 42.3 percent in four NFL seasons. He goes into the regular season as the backup to Lions starter Joey Harrington with a 50.7 completion mark in four preseason appearances. McMahon completed 36 of 71 pass attempts for 354 yards. He had one touchdown pass and was intercepted twice.

RB Kevin Jones will launch his NFL career with minimal preseason experience. Jones, a first-round pick who is expected to start in the Lions' base offense, got only 13 carries in games against Cleveland and Baltimore but averaged five yards per carry and showed the big-play potential the Lions have lacked since the retirement of Barry Sanders.

RB Artose Pinner isn't expected to get the most carries out of the Lions backfield. But he has a definite role in Steve Mariucci's West Coast offense. Pinner carried 18 times for 51 yards, averaging just 2.8 yards per carry, in four preseason games and caught four passes for 25 yards. He is considered a strong downhill runner and also catches the ball well out of the backfield. He is considered the No. 2 RB behind rookie Kevin Jones.

WR Roy Williams caught just three passes for 40 yards in the preseason. But he will be in the Lions starting lineup for the season opener Sunday at Chicago. Williams, the seventh player taken in the draft last April, has the size, speed and strength to match Charles Rogers in giving the Lions two big-play receivers at the disposal of QB Joey Harrington.

WR Az-Zahir Hakim will be used primarily in the slot in three- and four-receiver sets. Hakim did not live up to expectations in his first season with the Lions and was coming off a serious hip injury, which reduced his quickness and speed last year. He is healthy now, however, and is expected to be more productive as the No. 3 or 4 receiver.

TE Casey Fitzsimmons won't be the Lions starting TE in the season opener Sunday. But his development in his second NFL season will give QB Joey Harrington a reliable alternative in a passing game built around young WRs Charles Rogers and Roy Williams. FitzSimmons, who will play behind Stephen Alexander, led Lions receivers in the preseason with eight catches for 67 yards and a touchdown.

PK Jason Hanson is starting his 13th season as the Lions placekicker. He has a field goal accuracy mark of 80.7 percent. Except for the 2002 season, when he went 0-for-3 on field goal attempts of 50 yards or more, he has hit at least 50 percent of his field goals from that distance over the past five seasons. He was four-for-four from 50 and beyond last year.

S Deandre' Eiland was released by the Vikings.

S Omare Lowe was claimed on waivers from the Jets.

RB Michael Bennett (knee) is out for the opener and might not return until Week 3 against Chicago.

WR Marcus Robinson (hamstring) missed the final three preseason games. He is expected to be listed as questionable for the opener.

CB Brian Williams (knee) is on track to play nickel back against Dallas. He should regain his starting position the following week.

QB Daunte Culpepper has never looked better. He completed 76.5 percent of his passes and had a 134.4 QB rating during the preseason.

QB Gus Frerotte is rock-solid as a dependable backup. He completed 65.3 percent of his preseason passes.

WR Randy Moss is 10 pounds heavier and still able to blow past DBs. He and Daunte Culpepper hooked up for two deep TDs in three preseason games.

WR Nate Burleson is a hard-working player who beat out Marcus Robinson for the No. 2 position. Burleson won't win any dazzle points, but he runs crisp routes, gets open and catches the ball. 3.

TE Jim Kleinsasser has had a quiet summer. The Vikings have broken in No. 2 TE Jermaine Wiggins and searched for the Nos. 3-4 tight ends. But Kleinsasser remains the best blocking tight end in the NFL and an evolving pass catcher.

PK Brett Conway made all three of his extra points in the preseason finale. He'll kick against a live rush in practice Wednesday for the first time since kicking for the Giants and Browns last season.

DT Kevin Williams should make the Pro Bowl this season. There's weight-room big (like Chris Hovan is) and there is big big, like Williams is. He's just bigger and stronger than most of the offensive linemen he faces.

LB E.J. Henderson might be a year or more from Pro Bowl consideration. But there's no doubt the Vikings have inserted a hard-hitting player with a nasty attitude in the middle. He's also significantly faster and quicker than the previous starter, Greg Biekert, who retired.

DE Kenechi Udeze has shown no signs of his old shoulder injury. That's the one that dropped him from the top 10 players in the draft to the Vikings at No. 20. In fact, one of his team-leading two sacks in the preseason came when he reached out with his right arm, which his attached to the shoulder that bothered him last season at USC, and pulled down a QB.

K Morten Andersen has signed with Minnesota, who cut Brett Conway. Conway, signed last week, was expected to open the season for the Vikings after coach Mike Tice specifically said on Monday the team would not sign Andersen because of his inability to handle kickoff duties.

RB Quentin Griffin couldn't have done any more to help his stock this preseason. He ran well in all four games he played. One test to come is whether he can handle goal-line carries. Mike Anderson was a candidate to be Denver's goal-line back, but he's out for the season with a groin injury. Coaches have said Griffin will get every chance to be the featured back inside the 10-yard line.

RB Garrison Hearst was held out of Denver's final preseason game to keep him healthy. In his few chances to play -- the Broncos were extra cautious with him so he was fresh heading into the season -- Hearst looked strong and should be a solid backup behind Quentin Griffin.

WR Ashley Lelie played in four preseason games and was held without a catch in three of them. Denver needs Lelie to play much better now that the games count. He had one of his worst games last year at Kansas City, with two drops on long passes.

CB Lenny Walls had minor ankle surgery early in camp and only played in one preseason game. Although Walls said he's in good shape, the Broncos could choose to ease him back into the lineup and use Kelly Herndon as the starter opposite Champ Bailey.

QB Jake Plummer hasn't thrown a touchdown pass since last season's playoff loss at Indianapolis. He was better in his last test of the preseason, in Denver's second-to-last game against Houston. After struggling for the first three preseason games, Plummer completed 12-of-22 passes for 159 yards against the Texans and had a touchdown run.

QB Danny Kanell struggled when he started the Broncos' final preseason game. But it's hard to blame him. He was playing with second- and third-string players against Arizona's starting defense. Kanell had a very strong preseason otherwise.

WR Rod Smith had two of his best games last season against Kansas City. At Kansas City in Week 5, Smith caught eight passes for a season-high 130 yards. During a December home game against the Chiefs last year, he grabbed seven balls for 85 yards.

WR Darius Watts had a sparkling preseason, but it's what he will do once the games count. But Watts, a rookie second-round pick, played plenty with the starters as Denver's No. 3 receiver, so there shouldn't be much adjustment once the regular season starts.

TE Jeb Putzier finds himself as the best pass-catching tight end on the Broncos roster. That was after the team surprisingly cut veterans Jed Weaver and Byron Chamberlain. Putzier had a good preseason and could have a big year if he's made enough progress as a blocker to stay on the field most of the time.

K Jason Elam was automatic in the preseason. He went 11-for-11 during Denver's five games, including 3-for-3 from 40 yards or more away.

DT Luther Elliss will give the defense a boost if he is able to play against Kansas City. Elliss partially tore a pectoral muscle in Denver's second-to-last preseason game. He has maintained he thinks he can play in Sunday's game.

LB D.J. Williams looked good in preseason. And while he may still make some mistakes, he'll also make some plays if the Broncos decide to start him. Denver has to choose two starting outside linebackers between Williams, Donnie Spragan and Jashon Sykes, who returned for Denver's last preseason game after missing three games with a sprained knee.

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