While he signed his contract late, rookie WR Roddy White should have no problems winning a starting job over incumbent starting WR Dez White. Roddy White has much better down field ability and has better hands. Most close to the team believe the younger White will move up to the first-team offense before the end of the month.
While veteran RB Stephen Davis continues to rehab his surgically repaired knee, his successor could be rookie RB Eric Shelton. The team has a lot of backs on the roster, but it doesn't have one that has the size and ability of Shelton. Fourth-year RB DeShaun Foster is the clear starter but because he's had a history of injuries, look for Shelton to handle a lot of the short-yardage work. Shelton's power and Foster's speed could be a real nice combo for the team this season.
While most are talking about Bernard Berrian and Justin Gage's fight to win the No. 2 wide receiver job, don't forget about the receiver who held that job last year, Bobby Wade, who's had a fine camp. Wade seems to be picking up new offensive coordinator Ron Turner's system well and has been catching almost everything in sight. Wade's most likely role for the team is as the third receiver because he runs good routes and has good hands.
The coaches have been very impressed with the leadership qualities of new starting MLB Sam Cowart. Some believe he's a younger version of former Raiders' and Vikings' MLB Greg Biekert. Cowart doesn't look to have lost much closing speed to the ball despite a spate of injuries over the years. Third-year MLB E.J. Henderson has put together a fine camp as well and will back him up and also contribute on special teams.
New Orleans Saints
He hasn't gotten much publicity in the battle for the No. 3 wide receiver job, but third-year veteran Talman Gardner has performed so well in camp that he has just as good a chance to win that job as the other two receivers (Az Hakim and Devery Henderson). Hakim and Henderson offer more speed, but Gardner has better size and so far has shown to have better hands.
New York Giants
The coaching staff seems pretty pleased with that they've seen from rookie RB Brandon Jacobs, who figures to be the primary short-yardage back. Because he's also shown the ability to catch the ball, he could have an expanded role in their offense.
All eyes will be on new starting WR Greg Lewis, who was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2003. What's so amazing about his meteoric rise is that he was the No. 4 receiver on his team at the University of Illinois. The Eagles were actually scouting another player at the time when they spotted Lewis and liked what they saw on film and signed him right after the draft. Some within the organization believe he could actually be an impact receiver if given the chance at an expanded role.
San Francisco 49ers
The defense this year looks like it's going to be well ahead of the offense. So much so that veteran DE Andre Carter, who is being moved to linebacker, is going to be coming off the bench. The fact that he's not going to be on the field as much as he has been in the past actually may be a good thing since he's had so many problems with his back.
While the team has had some contact with free agent OLB Peter Boulware since rookie OLB Dan Cody suffered a serious knee injury early last week, it's believed that the only way Boulware would play again for the team is if he took a heavily incentive based deal. What's interesting is Boulware turned down a restructured deal prior to being released that would have still paid him around $2 million.
Because of the rapid development of rookie WR Chris Henry and the sudden resurgence of third-year WR Kelley Washington, veteran WR Peter Warrick is no lock to remain with the team. Throw in his salary for this season is for over $2 million and you can see why Warrick is expendable. WR T.J. Housmandzadeh would play more in the slot if the team winds up releasing Warrick.
Rookie RB Lionel Gates is putting up a fine camp and is moving up the ladder on the depth chart at a rapid pace. Gates will have to prove that he can handle his blocking assignments if he's to win the No. 2 job, but all indications are that he's closing in on that role.
Practice observers have been very impressed with ILB Morlon Greenwood, who will start next to veteran LB Kailee Wong in the team's 3-4 scheme. Greenwood saw time inside in recent seasons with the Dolphins when MLB Zach Thomas got hurt and fared well. Greenwood, some say, is in the best shape of his career.
The team should get a very good look at their backup receivers now that No. 3 WR Brandon Stokley (shoulder) will miss the rest of camp. With No. 2 WR Reggie Wayne a possible unrestricted free agent after the season, the coaching staff could be looking for his successor from their current roster. Third-year WR Aaron Moorehead, who is the son of former NFL TE Emory Moorehead, is a very intriguing player and one to watch. While he was signed as an undrafted free agent, he has very good size and ability.
New England Patriots
One of the stars of camp so far has been rookie QB Matt Cassel. Some who have watched him in practice have been so impressed with his performance that they believe he could be a starter down the road for another team. It wouldn't surprise anyone if he was traded in a few years for decent compensation.
New York Jets
The tight end position looks like it's going to be more involved this season under new offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger. The top two at the position, Doug Jolley and Chris Baker, have been raving about their inclusion in the passing offense, which is a clear departure when Paul Hackett was the coordinator. Heimerdinger talked recently about how Jolley could be another Frank Wycheck in their passing attack, which is pretty high praise.
While he was signed as one of their prized free agents this off-season, the team is using DE Derrick Burgess more as a designated pass rusher instead of a starter. Burgess, who's had his share of injuries in the past, could actually benefit from not being counted on as an every down player.
NFL Camp Notes
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