Green Bay Packers
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Young players Jerron McMillian, M.D. Jennings and Anthony Levine were going down to the wire to emerge as the winner for the frequently employed nickel safety. Veteran star Charles Woodson, who made the switch from cornerback to safety in the base scheme at the start of camp, will continue to be used in the slot on passing downs. McMillian, a fourth-round draft pick this year, would add a hard-hitting presence to the defense if paired with Morgan Burnett, the other starting safety. "The secondary is still right where we were (last week)," coach Mike McCarthy said on Sunday. "I stand by what I said last week. There will be decisions that will be made in the secondary off the Kansas City game."
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Running back Cedric Benson. Rodgers feels "the best is yet to come" for the 29-year-old Benson. The accomplished veteran, whom the Packers signed off the street midway through camp, made a good first impression on his new teammates as he returned to Cincinnati to play his former team. In true Benson style, he ran hard downhill and averaged a robust 6.3 yards with six carries for 38 yards, along with one catch for 10 yards. Despite being cast in a pass-oriented offense, a fourth straight 1,000-yard rushing season for Benson isn't out of the question.
ROOKIE REPORT: Outside linebacker Dezman Moses (undrafted) looks to be a roster keeper as a backup. He added to his strong preseason with four tackles, a quarterback hit and a pass breakup against the Bengals. ... Inside linebacker Terrell Manning (fifth round) is making a late push for a roster spot. The third-stringer had a quarterback hit in last week's game and has been making plays on special teams. ... Third-string quarterback B.J. Coleman (seventh) has a dismal passer rating of 18.8 in limited playing time. He's just 5-of-11 for 44 yards with an interception.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: J'Marcus Webb remains the starter at left tackle, a job he has essentially won by default. He didn't do anything to win the job Friday night against the Giants, but backup Chris Williams didn't do anything to take the job either. Webb, who got the majority of the first-team reps, got beat by Osi Umenyiora in the first quarter, resulting in a 2-yard loss by Matt Forte. Williams whiffed on Umenyiora in the second quarter, forcing Jay Cutler to throw the ball away to avoid a sack. Coach Lovie Smith has said the evaluation process will continue, but no change is expected. "I would like some resolution," Webb said. "(But) that's not up to me. I feel like if I keep working hard, everything will work out."
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Brandon Marshall caught five passes for 51 yards vs. the Giants Friday night, including a 21-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. Marshall had receptions of eight and 11 yards to set up the score. But quarterback Jay Cutler said he and his go-to guy still have work to do before the start of the regular season. "He makes life easy," Cutler said of Marshall. "But we missed too many things out there. I was talking to him when we came out. We just have to clean it up." A week earlier, Marshall had two catches for 61 yards, including a 41-yarder to open the game.
ROOKIE REPORT: Third-round free safety Brandon Hardin, who suffered a neck injury in the second preseason game, was placed on injured reserve. He had been working with the second team throughout training camp and the preseason. ... Undrafted punter Ryan Quigley filled in for injured Adam Podlesh and averaged 43.6 yards on seven kicks with three inside the 20. ... Second-round wide receiver Alshon Jeffery had his least productive game with just one catch for nine yards and was unable to hang on to a high pass from Jay Cutler at the goal line that would have been an excellent catch. ... Undrafted wide receiver Joe Anderson had the game-winning 12-yard touchdown reception Friday night.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Unhappy with the punt and kickoff coverage the first two games, the Lions signed three-time special teams Pro Bowler Kassim Osgood. By doing so, they put at least three players on notice. The task of making the 53-man roster got a little tougher for receivers Maurice Stovall, Nate Hughes and Dominique Curry. The Lions will probably carry six receivers and four of them will be Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Titus Young and rookie Ryan Broyles. The other two spots will go to special teams players. Osgood, provided that he still has some juice left in his 32-year-old tank, will be the fifth.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: There's a little mind game coach Jim Schwartz seems to be playing with third-year defensive end Willie Young. No matter how well Young plays, Schwartz downplays it. "Let's not put him in the Hall of Fame just yet," Schwartz said. Young, who will play a big role backing up Kyle Vanden Bosch, has been one of the best defensive players in each of the three exhibition games. He had a sack-fumble in the first game, blocked a punt in the second and, on Saturday, made a one-handed interception. "I'm doing what I've always done, ever since I had my dad on the sideline in Pop Warner - just being a playmaker," Young said. "Just flying around making plays with my defense and making the best of my opportunity. It's four guys to the ball, that's how our defensive line is built. We thrive on that."
ROOKIE REPORT: Second round pick Ryan Broyles may not be running at full speed as he continues to gain strength after ACL surgery last November, but he knows how to get open. He's caught two passes in each of the two games he's played in, despite limited reps. He is still unable to return punts. ... Defensive end Ronnell Lewis, drafted in the fourth round primarily to bolster the special teams, had his best performance Saturday. He had two special teams tackles, including one on the opening kickoff inside the 20. ... Kellen Moore, who will be the third quarterback if the Lions choose to keep three - they released R.J. Archer - had his best day Saturday. He was 10 for 19 for 87 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Punt returner has become an interesting battle because the most reliable option might not make the team. Cornerback Marcus Sherels handled the job last season, but that's mostly because the Vikings were ridiculously thin at cornerback. This year, the team has beefed up its depth and quality at corner. Sherels isn't explosive, but his ball security is second to none and he's also the best backup to little-used kick returner Percy Harvin. Other options are rookies Jarius Wright, a receiver, and Josh Robinson, a cornerback. Wright has done nothing this camp, except return a punt 24 yards against the Chargers. Hamstring problems and a concussion have kept Robinson from showing his true worth at punt returner.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley had his best week since undergoing season-ending hip surgery before the 2011 season. Brinkley was hampered by hip and groin issues during OTAs and mini-camp. He's also been questioned frequently through the media by coach Leslie Frazier, who isn't convinced that Brinkley has enough trust in his hip to turn his game loose. In Friday's 12-10 loss to the Chargers, Brinkley had four tackles, two sacks and a third quarterback hurry. Granted, the Chargers started backups at center, left guard, left tackle and quarterback. But, hey, it was a step in the right direction for Brinkley.
ROOKIE REPORT: Left tackle Matt Kalil, the fourth overall pick, had his worst preseason game. He wasn't torched, but he did lose some battles against speed-rushing Chargers outside linebacker Larry English. ... Free safety Harrison Smith, the 29th overall pick, showed off his nasty side with a helmet-to-helmet blow against receiver Mike Willie late in the game. It drew a penalty flag and probably will bring a fine from the league as well. Smith was forced to return to the game late because four other safeties were hurt that night. ... Tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison, a fourth-round pick, continues to surprise people with his readiness for the league. A minor knee injury against the Chargers shouldn't slow him down.
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