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Thursday NFL News and Notes

Thursday NFL News and Notes

NFL Preseason Preview - Jacksonville (1-1) at Green Bay (2-0)

The Green Bay Packers will try to move their preseason record to a perfect 3-0 on Thursday night, when Mike McCarthy's club plays host to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the third tune-up for each squad.

Green Bay, which finished the 2006 regular season with four straight wins, has thus far defeated both Pittsburgh (13-9) and Seattle (48-13) in the preseason. In last Saturday's rout of the Seahawks, the Pack took advantage of six Seattle turnovers, including fumbles that were returned for touchdowns by Green Bay linebackers Nick Barnett and Tracy White.

On the offensive side of the football, quarterback Brett Favre was a solid 7- of-12 for 74 yards and a touchdown, while backup Aaron Rodgers finished 10- of-16 for 97 yards and a pair of scores.

Rookie running back Brandon Jackson, who is attempting to win the top backfield job, finished with 54 yards on 13 carries and can secure his first- string status with a strong outing against the Jaguars.

Jackson's presumed top competition for the position, holdover Vernand Morency, has been bothered by knee problems throughout training camp and is not likely to be available for Thursday.

Fullback Brandon Miree, who has missed Green Bay's first two preseason games with a shoulder problem, is expected to see action, however.

The Packers' starters are likely to play the entire first half and perhaps into the third quarter, in keeping with preseason Week 3 custom.

The big story for the Jaguars on Thursday night will be the play of a wide receiving corps that has seen contentious competition for jobs throughout camp. Ex-Brown Dennis Northcutt and holdover Ernest Wilford have been running with the first-team for most of the preseason, with former first-round draft choices Matt Jones and Reggie Williams resigned to backup duties. Williams, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2004 Draft, is widely believed to be among those on the roster bubble.

One player whose job appears to be set in stone is quarterback Byron Leftwich, who has played well and remained healthy during the '07 warm-up period after injuries and inconsistency has dogged him in years past. Leftwich is 13-of-22 for 159 yards with a touchdown during the preseason, and threw for 81 yards in the Jags' 31-19 win over Tampa Bay last Saturday.

On the injury front for Jacksonville, safety and first-round draft pick Reggie Nelson (knee) will be among the notables not able to suit up on Thursday.

Jacksonville won the only preseason meeting played between the Jags and the Pack all-time, taking a 9-7 home triumph prior to the 2004 season.

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NFL Preseason Preview - New Orleans (1-2) at Kansas City (0-2)

The Kansas City Chiefs will try to secure their first win of the 2007 preseason on Thursday night, when Herm Edwards' club plays host to the New Orleans Saints in the next-to-last tune-up for both squads.

The penultimate preseason game is typically the most important one for all NFL teams, as starters are generally slated to see their most extended minutes prior to the start of the regular season.

In the case of the Chiefs, that means one final chance for second-year-pro Brodie Croyle to secure the job of No. 1 quarterback. Croyle came into training camp battling veteran Damon Huard for those duties, but a persistent calf injury has limited Huard in practice and could keep him out of Thursday's tilt.

Huard, who has completed 11-of-19 passes for 131 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in a pair of preseason outings, is expected to play the entire first half and possibly into the third quarter against the Saints.

Whoever plays quarterback is unlikely to be sharing the backfield with Pro Bowl running back Larry Johnson, who this week ended a holdout by inking a five-year-contract extension reportedly worth more than $43 million. Johnson has recently told reporters that his status for the Week 1 tilt against Houston is in question.

Also not scheduled to appear is running back Priest Holmes, who has not faced contact during training camp following a 22-month layoff from football.

With Johnson and Holmes unavailable, the Chiefs have dropped preseason games to the Browns (16-12) and Dolphins (11-10) in the past two weeks.

The Saints, meanwhile, will be attempting to maintain the positive momentum garnered from a 27-19 win in Cincinnati last Saturday.

Quarterback Drew Brees was a perfect 6-for-6 for 55 yards in the victory, and is now 18-of-20 passing for 173 yards in his past two outings.

On the injury front for New Orleans this week, wideout Marques Colston (knee), center Jeff Faine (calf), and linebacker Scott Fujita (heel) are among the notables who could be held out for precautionary reasons on Thursday.

The all-time preseason series between New Orleans and Kansas City is knotted, 4-4, with the Chiefs tying the series by virtue of a 10-9 home victory prior to last season.

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Thursday's NFL starter report

Jacksonville Jaguars at Green Bay Packers (+2 ½, 39)

Don’t count on seeing Green Bay’s first-stringers for the usual three quarters against the Jaguars in the club’s third game of the preseason on Thursday.

"We have some other issues that need to be addressed," Packers coach Mike McCarthy told reporters. "No. 1, the health of our football team. No. 2, we have a lot of jobs that are still up in the air, so we'll probably play a bunch of different combinations of players both on special teams and offense and defense throughout the second and third quarter.

"I want to see those guys when (the Jaguars) have their ones in the game, too."

Jacksonville starters will play into the third quarter after most were in for at least the majority of the opening half during Saturday’s 31-19 win over Tampa Bay. Green Bay will be Byron Leftwich’s last major test before Week 1.

“We’ll play (Leftwich) a little longer and see how the flow of the game goes,” Jacksonville coach Del Rio said.

New Orleans Saints at Kansas City Chiefs (-1½ , 37 ½)

Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards will start quarterback Brodie Croyle on Thursday and could name the 24-year-old his No. 1 guy sooner rather than later.

Croyle, who’s been battling snap-for-snap with veteran Damon Huard for the starting QB job all preseason, will play the first half and possibly a possession in the third. Huard was scheduled to come in after that, but a sore right calf that kept him out of Monday’s practice could throw a wrench in those plans while limiting his chances of holding off Croyle.

“It’s hard to go out there knowing you’ve got three or four series, because you feel like every play you’ve got to make something happen,” Croyle said to reporters. “I’d love playing into the third quarter. You can get yourself into a pretty good rhythm.”

The rest of Kansas City’s offensive and defensive starters will also see extensive action and may employ a game plan for the first time this year. Running back Larry Johnson, who ended his training camp holdout Tuesday, is said to be in good shape and participated in team drills Wednesday but won't play against the Saints.

New Orleans will likely play its first-stringers into the second half because head coach Sean Payton wants them to get used to coming out after halftime. New Orleans jumped out to a 17-12 lead by the half against the Bengals, paced by a 6-of-6 performance from quarterback Drew Brees and a rushing TD from both Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush.

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2007 NFL Preseason Notes


Jacksonville Jaguars - QB Rotation: Byron Leftwich, David Garrard, Quinn Gray, Lester Ricard.

The Jaguars intend to play most of their starters through the first three quarters of the game. The first half will be similar to a real game because both sides are expected to play their starters for at least a half. The starters then get only a token appearance in the final preseason game next week.

QB Byron Leftwich says the preseason is tough because the team doesn't game-plan, but the Jaguars' first-team offense has punted five times in six series against the Dolphins and Bucs' first-string defenses.

Jacksonville has a new offensive coordinator in Dirk Koetter, the former Boise State and Arizona State pass-happy coach.

In the first two preseason games, drives by the Jaguars' first-team offense punted five times in six series against the first-string defenses. And the one successful series was kept alive by a penalty. Coach Jack Del Rio said, "I would not call it concern. I would call it clearly we have a lot of work to do."

Rookie safety Reggie Nelson will miss Thursday's game with an ankle injury. Second-year player Jamaal Fudge and veteran Sammy Knight will replace Nelson in Green Bay.

Rookie Justin Durant will probably start at linebacker because Thomas is out and Clint Ingram remains sidelined with an ankle injury.

Jaguars center Brad Meester broke a bone in his right foot and will be sidelined at least 7 weeks. Meester has started 108 games for Jacksonville in seven years.

Free agent safety Sammy Knight joined the team last week. Jacksonville replaced starters Deon Grant and Donovin Darius in the offseason. The Jaguars drafted safety Reggie Nelson with the 21st overall pick, and he has played well. Strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh has also been impressive, but the team's backups have mostly struggled.

Green Bay Packers - QB Rotation: Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Ingle Martin, rookie Paul Thompson.

HC Mike McCarthy said the Packers will not play starters the traditional three quarters.

Because of injuries at running back, fullback and offensive line, coach Mike McCarthy wants to limit the exposure of the starters and risk losing any more depth at those positions. What's more, he wants to put players who are on the fence, such as ends Larry Birdine and Jason Hunter, safety Charlie Peprah, linebacker Desmond Bishop and defensive tackle Daniel Muir, a chance to play against the Jaguars' No. 1 units.

RBs thin. RB Vernand Morency isn't ready to return to the field, nor is RB A.J. Pope. Rookie DeShawn Wynn (thigh) is still day-to-day and was not guaranteed of returning for the Jacksonville game, leaving RB Jackson, rookie Corey White and veteran Noah Herron to handle the rushing load. Coach Mike McCarthy said RB Vernand Morency (knee) might be back for the Tennessee game Aug. 30

Fourth-string QB Paul Thompson's performance was not what the Packers were looking for. Thompson completed five of 10 passes for 49 yards and was intercepted twice.

In a move Monday to shore up his weakest position on defense, coach Mike McCarthy announced that S Atari Bigby would start Thursday. He will likely enter the regular season with him opposite free safety Nick Collins. CB Jarrett Bush also was moved ahead of Patrick Dendy as the nickel back in the 4-2-5 defense. Dendy has held that job since Week 5 last season but Bush is a faster.

Defensive tackle Justin Harrell is off to a sluggish start. The 16th pick in the 2007 draft is trying to play himself into shape after not having played football since mid-September because of a torn biceps.

New Orleans Saints - QB Rotation: Drew Brees (1st Q+), Jamie Martin (2nd Q+), Matt Baker, rookie Tyler Palko, Jason Fife (see below).

"I'll probably try to stick with a half (for regulars) and a half (reserves) in this game," HC Sean Payton said. "Try to get into the third quarter with the starters. I probably won't stay to that rotation with a couple of players, probably (Drew) Brees, probably into the second quarter to get Jamie Martin some work, and we'll see where we're at with the third quarterback if we get to one." Then most will barely play at all in the final preseason game against Miami.

Middle linebacker Mark Simoneau will not play because of a bruised right knee. Also not expected to play are tackle Jammal Brown (knee), WRs Marques Colston (knee) and Devery Henderson (hamstring), defensive linemen Brian Young (foot) and Rob Ninkovich (knee), CB Jason David (excused, wife expecting child). Center Jeff Faine and linebacker Scott Fujita are both scheduled to return after missing time with injuries.

At this point, it still looks like undrafted rookie Tyler Palko is leading the race for the No. 3 quarterback job. But Baker probably showed enough to stick around for the rest of the preseason. Either Baker or Jason Fife will likely be released by the first set of roster cuts next week.

Fourth game for the Saints, after opening in the Hall of Fame Game (8/5).

WRs thin: Saints WR Marques Colston (sore right knee) will miss his second straight game and Devery Henderson (hamstring) is ailing.

First round pick WR Robert Meachem appears tentative. His progress during camp has been slow. Meachem has gotten his share of first-team reps, but he can't seem to make a breakthrough. When Devery Henderson and David Patten were out with injuries at the beginning of last week, Moore was running with the first group. Don't look for much from Meachem this season.

K.C. Chiefs - QB Rotation: Brodie Croyle (first half), Damon Huard (3rd Q+), Casey Printers, rookie Jeff Terrell (see below).

QB Brodie Croyle will start against New Orleans and play most, if not all, of the first half and then perhaps into the third quarter. QB Damon Huard has a sore leg and has missed practices. He had ice pack on his chronically sore right calf.

Edwards wants to see plenty of QB Brodie Croyle. "Brodie's going to get more snaps in the preseason," Edwards said. "Because he's a young quarterback, and Damon's a veteran. He doesn't need as many snaps."

Chiefs coach Herm Edwards said: "We're preparing for the opener (against Houston). The young guys will play a lot. We might (game) plan a little toward the end of the preseason."

Cornerback depth a concern. Veteran starters Ty Law and Patrick Surtain are fine, but the pickings are slim after that.

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