Chad Clifton

Ten guys who should be looking over their shoulder

10. Greg Olsen
Mike Martz says he’s committed to Olsen, but he shouldn’t get too comfortable. Martz traditionally doesn’t utilize the tight end and prefers to rely on them as blockers. Olsen is an adequate blocker but he’s no Brandon Manumaleuna, who’s waiting in the wings to take snaps away.

9. Matt Leinart
The Cardinals will be patient with Leinart, but if they’re in contention and he’s not getting the job done, Derek Anderson will be called upon. Leinart has all the skills necessary to be an elite quarterback, but the work ethic just hasn’t been there. Maybe this is the year it all clicks.

8. Nate Clements
Clements was benched briefly last season, less than three years into his monster contract in San Francisco. He’s firmly on the hot seat once again, but luckily for him the 49ers secondary is extremely thin. Given the size of his contract though, the 49ers may be quick to cut ties with him if he fails to perform up to expectations.

7. James Harrison
Two years removed from Defensive Player of the Year honors, the clock is ticking loudly for the 32 year old Harrison. His starting position may not be in jeopardy yet but he’ll likely start to lose snaps to rookie Jason Worilds, who is being groomed as his replacement.

6. Chad Clifton
The 34-year-old Clifton returns for another season in Green Bay, but 1st-round pick Byran Bulaga is breathing down his neck. The starting job belongs to Clifton for now, but at the first sign of struggles Bulaga could get the call.

5. Albert Haynesworth
Haynesworth and Mike Shanahan haven’t exactly gotten off on the right foot, making him an obvious addition to the list. The only reason he isn’t higher is the fact that an adequate replacement isn’t readily available. The decline in talent from Haynesworth to Jeremy Jarmon, Ma’ake Kemoeatu or Darrion Scott is significant.

4. Jake Delhomme
Since returning to the NFL in 1999, only one Browns quarterback has started 16 games (Tim Couch, 2001) and Delhomme isn’t likely to join the list. Browns fans will be calling for Seneca Wallace (or even Colt McCoy) after every interception.

3. Darren Sharper
For much of the offseason it looked as though the Saints weren’t even interested in bringing Sharper back for another season. It now looks as though he’ll be playing in New Orleans, but his job may not be safe. 2009 1st-round pick Malcolm Jenkins has switched over to free safety and should see significant playing time, even if it is in a reserve role.

Nov 1, 2009; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman (56) celebrates after a tackle in the first quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers defeated the Raiders 24-16. Photo via Newscom

If he doesn't return to form, it could be "lights out" for Merriman in San Diego

2. Brandon Jacobs
The Giants have become frustrated with Jacobs, who seems to have worn down faster than the average running back. He’s 28 years old and is coming off a disappointing season in which he averaged just 3.7 yards per carry. Ahmad Bradshaw, who has averaged 5.2 yards per carry for his career, could steal away a significant chuck of his carries this season.

1. Shawne Merriman
Health issues and a steroid suspension have derailed Merriman’s once promising career. After missing nearly the entire 2008 season, Merriman totaled just four sacks in 14 games in 2009. The Chargers expect to compete for a Super Bowl title this season, so they’ll waste no time turning over Merriman’s duties to 2009 1st-round pick Larry English if necessary.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Bears, Browns, Cardinals, Chargers, Giants, Packers, Redskins, Saints, Steelers Comments Off

Training Camp Preview: Packers

GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 22: Defensive end B.J. Raji #90 of the Green Bay Packers runs in pursuit against the Buffalo Bills at Lambeau Field on August 22, 2009 in Green Bay. Wisconsin.  (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

The Packers are expecting Raji to start at nose tackle

Biggest Question Mark: B.J. Raji
Is their 2009 1st-round pick ready to step into the role of nose tackle? The Packers are moving Ryan Pickett to defensive end with hopes that Raji is ready to live up to lofty expectations. In a reserve role in 2009, Raji didn’t show much promise. But to be the fair, the Packers didn’t do him any favors by lining him up at both end and tackle. Now that he’s limited to one specific role, they hope his career takes off.

Position Battle to Watch: Left Tackle
Chad Clifton returns to the position he’s held for a number of years, but 2010 1st-round pick Bryan Bulaga is the left tackle of the future. The Packers are geared up to win immediately, so they won’t rush Bulaga into the lineup. But they’ll certainly give him a look if the Packers offensive line struggles the way they did at the start of the 2009 season.

Impact Rookie: Bryan Bulaga
The Packers aren’t expecting much immediate impact from this year’s rookie class – Bulaga included. He doesn’t have a starting role guaranteed, but should provide depth at both tackle positions and possible at guard as well.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Packers Comments Off