Thursday NFL News and Notes

Thursday NFL News and Notes

NFL Preseason Preview - N.Y. Jets (2-1) at Philadelphia (1-2)

(Sports Network) - A lingering quarterback controversy will take center stage at Lincoln Financial Field Thursday night, when the New York Jets visit the Philadelphia Eagles in the final preseason tune-up for both teams.

The play of Jets second-year signal-caller Kellen Clemens has been a hot- button topic during training camp, as the Oregon product has outplayed incumbent Chad Pennington throughout the month of August.

Clemens has completed 28-of-39 passes for 352 yards and four touchdowns with a pair of interceptions in three preseason games, posting an impressive quarterback rating of 112.3.

Pennington, meanwhile, has looked shaky. After starting all 16 games and leading the Jets to the postseason a year ago, the Marshall product is 12- of-21 for 129 yards with a touchdown and two picks, for a lackluster rating of 51.6.

Jets head coach Eric Mangini has emphatically denied that Pennington's starting job is in jeopardy, but another strong outing from Clemens, who should see extended time on Thursday night, will only make the debate rage louder.

Among the other roster spots still to be won include the third running back job behind Thomas Jones and Leon Washington, which is likely a battle between Danny Ware (38 carries, 150 yards, 1 TD in the preseason) and Alvin Banks (5 carries, 11 yards).

Philadelphia, meanwhile, figures to be in the business of remaining healthy on Friday night. Quarterback Donovan McNabb and running back Brian Westbrook are among the starters expected to see little-to-no time in the Birds' final preseason contest, which means a great deal of minutes for rookies such as quarterback Kevin Kolb and running back Tony Hunt.

Kolb (Houston) has played reasonably well in his first preseason, completing 48-of-73 passes for 397 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating of 84.1.

Hunt (Penn State) has basically locked up the short-yardage running back role by carrying 18 times for 43 yards and two touchdowns and also catching five passes out of the backfield.

Thursday will mark the 29th all-time preseason meeting between the Jets and Eagles, with New York holding a 17-11 edge in the series. The Jets won the most recent such matchup, 20-17, at home prior to last season.

Philadelphia, which is 7-0 all-time against the Jets during the regular season, will put that perfect mark on the line at the Meadowlands on October 14th.

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NFL Preseason Preview - Washington (2-1) at Jacksonville (2-1)

(Sports Network) - A pair of teams looking to polish off winning preseasons will meet at ALLTEL Stadium Thursday night, when the Jacksonville Jaguars play host to the Washington Redskins in the final tune-up for each.

One season after disappointing their respective fan bases by failing to return to the playoffs, both Jacksonville and Washington are seeking to build toward bounce-back years in 2007.

The Jaguars have picked up some momentum by winning their last two preseason games, downing the Buccaneers (31-19) and Packers (21-13).

Roster questions remain for Jack Del Rio's squad, with a contentious battle at wide receiver among the top storylines heading into Thursday's contest. The Redskins game will mark an opportunity for players like former first-round pick Reggie Williams and youngsters Charles Sharon, John Broussard, and Mike Walker to make their bid for roster spots.

Williams has placed his employment in jeopardy with a quiet preseason in which he has only three receptions for 38 yards.

Elsewhere on the roster, quarterback Byron Leftwich, who is attempting to establish his place as the starter after an injury-plagued 2006, has played reasonably well during the warm-up period. Leftwich is 19-of-38 passing for 226 yards and a touchdown in his three August appearances.

Leftwich should play only briefly versus Washington.

The Redskins' main directive on Thursday night, meanwhile, could be to stay healthy in advance of the regular season opener against Miami.

Washington received a scare in its preseason loss to Pittsburgh on Aug. 18th, when quarterback Jason Campbell suffered a left knee bruise following a low hit. Campbell did not play in last week's lightning-shortened 13-7 win over Baltimore, and his status for Thursday's contest is in question.

A couple of new faces will be in the lineup for Washington, however, as recently acquired guard Pete Kendall and fullback Fred Beasley are each slated to see time. Kendall was picked up in a trade from the Jets earlier this week, while the former 49er Beasley was signed off the free agent wire.

The Redskins and Jaguars have met one other time in the preseason, with Jacksonville pulling out a 17-15 home win prior to the 2003 campaign.

Washington also faced Jacksonville in Week 4 of the 2006 regular season, scoring a 36-30 overtime victory at FedEx Field.

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NFL Preseason Preview - Buffalo (1-2) at Detroit (2-1)

(Sports Network) - The Detroit Lions will have one more opportunity to prove to their fans that they are headed in the right direction on Thursday night, when Rod Marinelli's crew welcomes the Buffalo Bills to town in the final preseason warm-up for both clubs.

One season after finishing 3-13, Detroit has won two of its three preseason games and has shown signs of progress in doing so. Prior to last week's 37-10 loss at the hands of Indianapolis, a game in which the Lions were playing without quarterbacks Jon Kitna and Dan Orlovsky, Detroit had displayed offensive fireworks in wins over the Browns (27-26) and Bengals (23-20).

Kitna is an impressive 15-of-21 passing for 189 yards with a touchdown for a passer rating of 115.0 during the preseason to date. The veteran, who missed last week's loss with back problems, could appear briefly against the Bills.

Orlovsky (turf toe) is not expected to play, however, meaning J.T. O'Sullivan will again take most of the Lions' snaps. Recently-resigned rookie Phil Horvath will also be available in the game.

O'Sullivan was 24-of-34 for 232 yards with a touchdown pass and two interceptions versus the Colts last week.

Buffalo, meanwhile, will be seeking to build on its finest offensive performance of the preseason to date, which came in a 28-17 loss to Tennessee last Friday.

Three Bills quarterbacks combined for 305 passing yards in the loss, with starter J.P. Losman (9-of-20, 180 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) and backups Trent Edwards (7-of-10, 100 yards) and Craig Nall (4-of-7, 38 yards) all getting in on the act.

Losman and the rest of the Bills' offensive starters are expected to play sparingly in the preseason finale, though that allowance might not extend to the defense.

While the offense played well against Tennessee, the Buffalo defense allowed a preseason-high 28 points and struggled to contain quarterback Vince Young (13- of-19, 162 yards, 1 TD).

Detroit leads the all-time preseason series with the Bills, 15-10-1, but was a 20-13 home loser in the last such matchup, prior to last season.

The Lions rebounded to win the '06 regular season meeting between the clubs, a 20-17 victory at Ford Field in Week 6.

Buffalo head coach Dick Jauron was defensive coordinator of the Lions in 2004-05, and was interim head coach for the final five games of his tenure there.

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NFL Preseason Preview - N.Y. Giants (1-2) at New England (1-2)

(Sports Network) - A pair of teams trying to avoid posting losing marks in the preseason will convene at Gillette Stadium Thursday night, as the New England Patriots play host to the New York Giants in the final tune-up for each.

The Patriots, who are a popular pick to win Super Bowl XLII, are looking for a touch of positive momentum heading into their regular season opener against the Jets on Sept. 9th. Bill Belichick's squad was dominant at times in its most recent contest, a 24-7 win at Carolina last Friday night.

Quarterback Tom Brady was a sharp 17-of-22 passing for 167 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the victory.

Brady and most of his New England starting brethren are expected to see little-to-no time in the final preseason game, though Patriots fans will be on the lookout for a couple of notable team members that could be active.

Cornerback Asante Samuel could be in uniform for the first time this preseason after holding out for most of training camp due to a contract dispute. Samuel returned to the team on Tuesday, and his playing status has not been determined for the Giants game.

Less likely to play is wide receiver Randy Moss, who has been battling a hamstring injury since the eighth day of training camp and has yet to appear in a preseason game with New England.

The Giants, meanwhile, will be simply hoping to emerge from the Patriots game without any new injuries. Tom Coughlin's club is in particular peril at the wide receiver spot, where David Tyree is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a broken wrist and Plaxico Burress has recently missed practice time with back problems.

One position that could be worth watching for the G-Men on Thursday is quarterback, where Anthony Wright, Jared Lorenzen, and Tim Hasselbeck are battling for a space on the depth chart behind starter Eli Manning. None of the three has completed 50 percent of their passes during the preseason, and Lorenzen is the only member of the backup trio who has thrown a touchdown pass.

Lorenzen did not play in last week's 20-12 loss to the Jets after suffering a concussion in the club's previous outing, however.

The Giants hold a 11-5 lead in the all-time preseason series with the Patriots, including a 31-23 home victory prior to last season.

The Patriots hold a 4-3 advantage in the regular season series, and will look to extend that edge when the teams meet on Dec. 29th at Giants Stadium.

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NFL Preseason Preview - Cleveland (2-1) at Chicago (3-0)

(Sports Network) - The Chicago Bears will try to polish off what would be the NFL's only perfect record of the 2007 preseason on Thursday night, when Lovie Smith's team welcomes the Cleveland Browns to Soldier Field in the final tune- up for each club.

Chicago, which has defeated Houston (20-19), Indianapolis (27-24), and San Francisco (31-28) by a combined seven points during the month of August, is attempting to go 4-0 in the preseason for the first time since 1994. That season, the Bears went 9-7 during the regular season and made the playoffs under then-head coach Dave Wannstedt.

More important than the record for Chicago, however, will be the play of quarterback Rex Grossman. Grossman has endured a shaky, turnover-laden preseason in which he has made questionable decisions and had trouble receiving the snap from center.

Grossman was 13-of-20 for 211 yards with a pair of touchdown passes in last week's win over the 49ers, but also fumbled a snap and threw an interception that was returned 52 yards for a touchdown by San Francisco cornerback Walt Harris.

Grossman is expected to start against the Browns but is not expected to play more than a few series, along with the rest of Chicago's regulars.

Quarterback play will also be a hot-button topic for Cleveland, which is trying to find a starter out of a group that includes incumbents Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson.

Neither Frye (22-of-32 passing, 232 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT) nor Anderson (20- of-33, 215 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT) have distinguished themselves with their preseason play to date, but both appear to be the only realistic candidates to start in the Browns' regular season opener against Pittsburgh on September 9th.

Rookie Brady Quinn, the No. 22 overall draft pick out of Notre Dame, has outplayed both of the veterans, albeit against lesser competition.

Quinn is 20-of-31 for 236 yards and three touchdown passes in two appearances, for an excellent passer rating of 119.8. Quinn could see extensive time on Thursday night, and could fuel the present debate about his starting prospects with another strong outing.

Ken Dorsey (13-of-18, 120 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT in the preseason), who appears to be a long shot to make the 53-man roster, is expected to play as well for the Browns.

Cleveland leads the all-time preseason series with Chicago, 15-7, but was a 20-7 home loser when the teams met prior to the 2006 campaign.

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NFL Preseason Preview - Green Bay (2-1) at Tennessee (2-1)

(Sports Network) - A pair of teams vying to polish off winning preseason records will meet in the Music City on Thursday night, when the Tennessee Titans play host to the Green Bay Packers in the final warm-up for both squads.

The host Titans come off their strongest performance of the preseason to date, a 28-17 takedown of the Buffalo Bills last Friday night. In the win, Tennessee quarterback and reigning NFL Rookie of the Year Vince Young posted his finest performance of the preseason to date, completing 13-of-19 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown in the victory.

Previous to the Bills game, Young had only made headlines of the negative variety, first getting into a practice field scrap with teammate Donnie Nickey then serving a one-game suspension for going AWOL from the Titans' team dormitory for a night.

Young is unlikely to see much time on Thursday, in keeping with preseason tradition, meaning backups Kerry Collins and Tim Rattay should receive a majority of the snaps.

One player that could be worth watching for Tennessee is recently-signed defensive tackle Corey Simon, who figures to be wearing a Titans uniform for the first time. Simon, who last played in 2005 as a member of the Colts, would likely see only limited snaps if he is deemed able to play.

Green Bay, meanwhile, will be seeking to rebound after falling to Jacksonville (21-13) last week in its first loss of the preseason.

Quarterback Brett Favre looked sharp in defeat, however, completing 14-of-20 passes for 130 yards in a losing effort. Running back Brandon Jackson, who is expected to serve as the Pack's No. 1 running back as a rookie, added a one- yard touchdown run in the triumph but was also knocked out of the contest after suffering a concussion.

Favre, Jackson, and the team's other starters are expected to play no more than two or three series against the Titans.

With Vernand Morency (knee) not yet ready to return to the field, most of Green Bay's rushing on Thursday will likely be performed by rookie DeShawn Wynn and fellow backup Noah Herron.

One injured Packers defender not expected to see action is rookie safety Aaron Rouse (hamstring).

Tennessee leads the all-time preseason series with Green Bay, 4-3, breaking a deadlock in the series with a 35-21 road victory prior to last season.

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NFL Preseason Preview - Dallas (2-1) at Minnesota (1-2)

(Sports Network) - A pair of teams trying to end the preseason on a winning note will meet at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome Thursday night, as the Dallas Cowboys visit the Minnesota Vikings in the final August warm-up for each team.

Dallas was handed its first setback of the preseason last week, when Wade Phillips' squad dropped a 28-16 decision to Houston. Minnesota, meanwhile, was a 30-13 loser at Seattle.

The Cowboys didn't play particularly well in any phase against the Texans, though quarterback Tony Romo did enough in a 14-of-22, two-touchdown passing performance to reassure Dallas fans that he can deliver the goods during the regular season.

Romo heads into the Minnesota game, where he will likely play only limited snaps, with a solid preseason passer rating of 89.7. Backups Brad Johnson and Matt Moore will likely see most of the time at signal-caller for Dallas on Thursday.

Among the injured Cowboys who won't take part on Thursday are cornerback Terence Newman (heel) and linebacker Greg Ellis (Achilles).

As for Minnesota, Thursday will mark a final opportunity for expected starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson to polish his skills in advance of the team's regular season opener against Atlanta September 9th.

Jackson, a second-year pro out of Alabama State, has played to mixed reviews thus far in the preseason. The quarterback has completed 19-of-33 passes for 212 yards without a touchdown or an interception in three appearances.

Succeeding Jackson in Thursday's lineup will be backups Brooks Bollinger, Tyler Thigpen, and perhaps recently-acquired veteran Kelly Holcomb.

Holcomb, who started 22 games in Cleveland and Buffalo since entering the league in 1995, is expected to battle Bollinger for No. 2 quarterback duties. Thigpen, a rookie out of Coastal Carolina, is reportedly headed for the practice squad, meaning the loser of the Bollinger/Holcomb duel would be the Vikings' third-stringer.

Minnesota starters are slated to play one series against Dallas.

Minnesota owns a 4-3-1 advantage in its all-time preseason series with Dallas, including a 10-10 tie when the teams met in the 2006 preseason.

The Vikings and Cowboys will also square off in regular season play, with their date scheduled for Oct. 21st at Texas Stadium.

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NFL Preseason Preview - Pittsburgh (3-1) at Carolina (1-2)

(Sports Network) - The Carolina Panthers will attempt to close out a shaky preseason on a strong note Thursday night, when John Fox's squad hosts the Pittsburgh Steleers in the final tune-up for both squads.

Carolina has been more or less dominated in a pair of preseason games, falling hard to Philadelphia (27-10) and New England (24-7) after opening the warm-up period with a 24-21 win over the Giants.

Quarterback Jake Delhomme has played to mixed reviews, completing 25-of-44 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns with an interception for a passer rating of 80.7, and the depth chart behind him is uncertain as the preseason nears its end.

Expected No. 3 quarterback Brett Basanez was lost for the year with a broken wrist suffered in last week's loss to the Patriots, while backup David Carr is expected to be held out of action on Thursday with a broken toe. Delhomme (side) is also not 100 percent heading into the Pittsburgh game, meaning Dalton Bell, the club's fourth-stringer out of West Texas A&M, is slated to receive most of the Panthers' QB reps versus the Steelers.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Bell has completed 3-of-5 passes for 19 yards during the preseason to date.

For the Steelers, the Thursday night focus will be in a different part of the backfield, namely at the running back position.

The depth chart is crowded behind starter Willie Parker and probable No. 2 Najeh Davenport, with Carey Davis and Dan Kreider and tailbacks Gary Russell and Verron Haynes all battling for what could be just two open spots on the 53-man roster.

The first-year players Davis (137 yards on 14 total touches in the preseason) and Russell (28 carries, 129 rushing yards) have played extremely well during the preseason to date, and another strong performance from either or both could make it very difficult for new head coach Mike Tomlin to cut them.

Pittsburgh's starters are expected to play only sparingly against the Panthers, in keeping with final game of the preseason tradition, and luminaries such as wide receiver Hines Ward (broken nose) should be held out altogether.

The all-time preseason series between Pittsburgh and Carolina is tied, 4-4, with the Panthers knotting the series by virtue of a 15-13 road victory prior to last season.

The teams also met in Week 15 of the 2006 season, with Pittsburgh laying a 37-3 blowout on Carolina in Charlotte.

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NFL Preseason Preview - San Francisco (1-2) at San Diego (2-1)

(Sports Network) - The San Francisco 49ers will be looking across the field at a familiar face on Thursday night, when Mike Nolan's squad visits the San Diego Chargers in the final preseason game for each team.

Chargers head coach Norv Turner, a Bay Area native who spent last season as offensive coordinator in San Francisco, now finds himself at the helm of a club who some expect to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLII. Prior to arriving in San Diego, Turner received high marks for molding a Niners attack that last year saw quarterback Alex Smith and running back Frank Gore post breakout seasons.

Gore has yet to play in the 2007 preseason after suffering a broken hand early in training camp, and is not expected to be in uniform on Thursday. But Turner will get an up-close-and-personal look at Smith, who has looked sharp under the tutelage of new coordinator Jim Hostler this summer.

Smith, who is expected to play only briefly against the Bolts, is 16-of-25 passing for 211 yards, a touchdown, and a passer rating of 103.9 in three preseason appearances.

The former No. 1 overall draft pick out of Utah will be followed in Thursday's lineup by backups Trent Dilfer and Shaun Hill.

Turner's Chargers, meanwhile, are expected to feature their starters on both sides of the ball for roughly 10 plays each.

That group will not include top running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Michael Turner, however. Tomlinson does not appear in the preseason for precautionary reasons, and Turner will sit out with a broken ankle.

That should spell a large number of carries for former Kansas State star Darren Sproles, who has had an impressive preseason thus far.

Sproles has carried 13 times for 83 yards and a touchdown out of the backfield, has caught a team-best 12 passes for 117 yards, and also scored on an 81-yard punt return against St. Louis in the Chargers' second tune-up of '07.

The 49ers hold a 18-17 lead in their all-time preseason series with the Chargers, breaking a deadlock in the series with a 23-14 home win prior to last season.

The teams also met in Week 6 of the 2006 regular season, with San Diego earning a 48-19 triumph at Monster Park.

The most memorable game played between the two franchises was Super Bowl XXIX, won by the Niners, 49-26.

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NFL Preseason Preview - Oakland (2-1) at Seattle (2-1)

(Sports Network) - Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin will get one more opportunity to evaluate his quarterbacks on Thursday night, when Oakland visits Seattle in the final preseason tune-up for each team.

Signal-callers Josh McCown, Andrew Walter, and Daunte Culpepper have each received one start in the preseason to date, and all have fared reasonably well during their time in the lineup.

Kiffin made the QB picture a bit clearer earlier this week when he declared the quest for the job as a "two-man race" between McCown and Culpepper. That was bad news for Walter (20-of-33 passing, 154 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT), who started eight games last season but is subject to being cut if and when Oakland signs No. 1 overall draft pick JaMarcus Russell.

McCown (19-of-35 passing, 277 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT in the preseason) will start Thursday's contest, with Culpepper (15-of-28 passing, 200 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT) succeeding him in the lineup.

Oakland, which opens the regular season at home against Detroit on Sept. 9th, has defeated the Cardinals (27-23) and Rams (20-10) so far this preseason, while falling to the 49ers (26-21).

The Raiders finished a league-worst 2-14 last year, after going 4-1 in the preseason.

Like Oakland, Seattle goes into its final preseason tilt with some intriguing roster battles still unfolding.

The Seahawks reportedly have key decisions to be made at safety, linebacker, and tight end, with veterans such as Michael Boulware, Kevin Bentley, and Niko Koutovides needing strong outings against the Raiders to guarantee their positions on the 53-man roster.

Seattle's starters, including quarterback Matt Hasslbeck and running back Shaun Alexander, are expected to see only limited reps in the final preseason tune-up.

The Seahawks have sandwiched preseason wins over the Chargers (24-16) and Vikings (30-13) around a blowout loss to the Packers (48-13) at Lambeau Field.

Seattle will open the regular campaign at home against Tampa Bay on Sept. 9th.

The Seahawks lead the all-time preseason series with the Raiders, 3-2, breaking a deadlock in the series with a 30-7 home victory prior to last season. Seattle also claimed a 16-0 decision when the teams met at Qwest Field in Week 9 of the 2006 regular season.

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NFL Preseason Preview - Miami (2-1) at New Orleans (2-2)

(Sports Network) - The work-in-progress offense of the Miami Dolphins will receive one more opportunity to brush up on Thursday night, when Cam Cameron's club visits the New Orleans Saints in the final preseason tune-up for each.

Cameron, the first-year head coach and former offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers, has been fighting an uphill battle in shaping his offense while also contending with his own heightened level of responsibility.

Quarterback Trent Green is the most notable of the new faces on the Miami offense, and has played to mixed reviews thus far in the preseason. The 37- year-old veteran has completed 17-of-33 passes for 143 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions and a passer rating of 47.9.

Despite his struggles, Green is being tabbed to play sparingly if at all on Thursday before yielding to backups Cleo Lemon and John Beck, while starting running back candidates Ronnie Brown and Jesse Chatman are not expected to be in the lineup.

One offensive player that needs a strong game against the Saints is first- round draft choice Ted Ginn, Jr., whose preseason output has thus far consisted of four catches for 38 yards. Ginn has also handled punt and kickoff returns with very little fanfare.

Defensively, Miami will once again be without linebacker Joey Porter (knee), who recently returned to the practice field but is targeting the Sept. 9 regular season opener against Washington for his Dolphins debut.

New Orleans' tack on Thursday night will be to avoid injury, as quarterback Drew Brees and many of his fellow starters will be rested for precautionary reasons.

Veteran backup Jamie Martin, who has completed 27-of-40 passes for 259 yards with an interception during the preseason to date, will get the start on Thursday before yielding to third-string candidates Tyler Palko and Matt Baker.

Running backs Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush are also expected to be held out of New Orleans' preseason finale.

First-round draft choice and wide receiver Robert Meachem, who has four catches for 32 yards and a touchdown in August, should receive extensive playing time for Sean Payton's squad.

The Saints open the regular season next Thursday at Indianapolis in the NFL's formal 2007 debut.

Miami leads the all-time preseason series with New Orleans, 11-6, extending its advantage with a 20-19 victory in the last such meeting, at the Superdome prior to the 2004 season.

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NFL Preseason Preview - Kansas City (0-3) at St. Louis (1-2)

(Sports Network) - The Kansas City Chiefs will be trying to avoid their second winless preseason in the last three years on Thursday night, when Herm Edwards' squad visits the in-state rival St. Louis Rams in the final August tune-up for each team.

The Chiefs, who are 3-12 in the preseason since 2003, have dropped warm-up contests against the Browns (16-12), Dolphins (11-10), and Saints (30-7) thus far in August. Kansas City last went 0-4 in the preseason in 2005, rebounding for a 10-6 regular season but missing the postseason under then-head coach Dick Vermeil.

At the heart of the Chiefs' problems during this preseason has been an offense that has produced a grand total of two touchdowns in three games. The team's scoring average of 9.7 per game is the lowest in the NFL during the 2007 warm- up period.

In response to the struggles of second-year quarterback Brodie Croyle, Edwards last week named veteran Damon Huard the starter heading into the team's regular season opener at Houston Sept. 9th.

Croyle comes into St. Louis having completed just 16-of-36 passes for 176 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions during the preseason, for a woeful passer rating of 34.0

Huard did not play against the Saints last week due to a calf problem, and is not likely to be in uniform on Thursday, meaning Croyle will get one more opportunity to redeem himself.

Also expected to be held out is running back Larry Johnson, who is working himself back into game condition after an extended holdout and is eyeing a return to the field against the Texans.

Fellow running back Priest Holmes is not slated to play either.

The Rams, meanwhile, have not been much better offensively than their Show-Me- State rival during the preseason, ranking ahead of only the Chiefs with 36 points scored thus far.

Playing for most of August without star running back Steven Jackson, whose '07 preseason resume' consists of two receptions for eight yards, quarterback Marc Bulger has yet to throw a touchdown pass during the warm-up period. Bulger, who is expected to play sparingly if at all on Thursday, is 22-of-40 passing for 230 yards with two picks during the preseason to date.

Both of St. Louis' TD passes in the preseason have gone from second-string quarterback Gus Frerotte to backup wideout Marques Hagans.

The Rams open the regular season at home against Carolina on Sept. 9th.

St. Louis holds a 10-7 edge in the all-time preseason series with the Chiefs, but was a 16-12 road loser when the teams met prior to last season. Kansas City also defeated the Rams in a 2006 regular season meeting, claiming a 31-17 triumph at the Edward Jones Dome in Week 9.

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NFL Preseason Preview - Arizona (0-3) at Denver (1-2)

(Sports Network) - The Arizona Cardinals will try to avoid their first winless preseason since 1990 on Thursday night, when first-year head coach Ken Whisenhunt leads his team into Invesco Field at Mile High to meet the Denver Broncos.

The Cardinals have long been regarded as one of the NFL's most hapless franchises, but for all its struggles, Arizona generally manages to find the win column a few times during the warm-up period. The Cardinals have posted a winning preseason mark eight times since 1990, while managing to finish above .500 in the regular season just once over that span.

In 1990, Arizona followed an 0-4 preseason by going 5-11 in the regular season under then-first-year head coach Joe Bugel.

This preseason, the Cardinals have looked good at times but have dropped consecutive decisions to the Raiders (27-23), Texans (33-20), and Chargers (33-31).

Arizona's 93 points allowed in the tune-up period are the most surrendered in the league this year.

The Cardinals, who will open the regular campaign on Monday, September 10th at San Francisco, are expected to rest many of their starters in keeping with final-game-of-preseason tradition.

The Broncos are also expected to feature their starters sparingly in preseason game number four, which means quarterback Jay Cutler will make only a brief appearance if he sees action at all.

Cutler has been steady in his first preseason as the starter, completing 17- of-31 passes for 191 yards with a touchdown in three appearances.

Expected starting running back Travis Henry (knee), who did not play in last week's 17-16 loss to Cleveland, is closer to returning to the field but will likely be held out of the Arizona contest for precautionary reasons.

The Broncos open the regular season on September 9th at Buffalo.

Denver holds a 12-5 edge in the all-time preseason series with Arizona, including a 29-23 road victory prior to last season.

The Broncos are 7-0-1 against the Cardinals in the regular season series, including a 37-20 road victory in Week 15 of the 2006 campaign.

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NFL Preseason Preview - Houston (2-1) at Tampa Bay (2-1)

(Sports Network) - Roster spots will be at stake at Raymond James Stadium on Thursday night, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play host the Houston Texans in the final preseason tune-up for each club.

Jon Gruden's Bucs are attempting to establish their depth chart behind starting quarterback Jeff Garcia, with Bruce Gradkowski and Luke McCown each trying to secure the backup job.

Gradkowski, who mostly struggled in 11 starts as a rookie in 2006, has bounced back with an impressive preseason. The Toledo product has completed 23-of-38 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns for an impressive passer rating of 108.1.

McCown, a one-time starter for the Cleveland Browns, has also been solid, completing 21-of-30 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown in his first year removed from a serious knee injury.

Former starter Chris Simms, the fourth quarterback in Tampa Bay camp, has not played in the preseason while recovering from a ruptured spleen, and is likely to be placed on the Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) list or cut when the club pares down its roster to the 53-man maximum on Saturday.

Houston's major roster dilemma is in another part of the backfield, namely at running back. Holdovers Ron Dayne, Samkon Gado, and Wali Lundy are all looking for backup jobs behind starter Ahman Green, and only two of the three are likely to make the final roster.

Also at issue is the fullback position, where Vonta Leach looks secure as the starter but veteran Jameel Cook and rookie Jon Abbate will have just one more opportunity to make their case for a job.

Defensively, Houston has a dilemma at strong side linebacker, where newcomer Danny Clark has outplayed holdover Charlie Anderson and can affirm his status as a starter with a solid performance on Thursday night.

Both the Texans and Buccaneers are expected to rest many of their starters in keeping with final-game-of-the-preseason custom. Houston opens at home against Kansas City in Sept. 9th, and Tampa Bay travels to Seattle for its regular season lid-lifter.

Tampa Bay has a 4-1 lead in its all-time preseason series with Houston, but was a 16-13 road loser when the teams met prior to last season.

The Texans will play host to the Buccaneers for a regular season matchup on December 9.

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Dolphins, Saints will rest starters, but showcase young QBs
By ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW ORLEANS -- The fact most starters will sit out when the Dolphins and Saints meet for their final preseason game Thursday night only raises the stakes for those who will play.

''You call this game whatever you want,'' first-year Miami coach Cam Cameron said. ''But there is going to be a whole group of guys in Dolphin uniforms that this is the biggest game of their life. It really is. No one looks at it that way. But the guys playing are, because this is their opportunity.''

NFL coaches will have to cut 22 players this weekend to trim their rosters from the current preseason limit of 75 players to 53 for the regular season.

Cameron said he does not expect any of his projected starters to play a down in New Orleans. Included among those being rested are running backs Ronnie Brown and Jesse Chatman, even though they are still competing for the starting nod.

Also expected to sit out is top draft pick Ted Ginn Jr. The former Ohio State receiver is not a projected starter. To the contrary, he has struggled. But he also has been hampered by a minor thigh injury.

Saints coach Sean Payton said he normally would prefer to rest all his starters in the preseason finale, but wants his top two receivers, Marques Colston and Devery Henderson, to get some work after they missed the past two exhibition games.

Henderson has been out with a hamstring pull from an Aug. 10 game against Buffalo. Colston has been sidelined by soreness in his right knee that gradually developed during the first three weeks of training camp, when the Saints were practicing twice a day.

Both receivers practiced this week and are expected to play for at least a few series with No. 2 quarterback Jamie Martin, who'll get the start while Drew Brees sits out.

''Obviously, the injury and sitting out a couple days has kind of slowed me, but it feels good to be back out running around,'' Colston said. ''I'm just anxious to get back into a game situation.''

Meanwhile, the Saints' top draft pick, receiver Robert Meachem, needs to perform well once Colston and Henderson come out. While Meachem is all but certain to make the roster, his playing time could be limited if he doesn't improve his reliability catching the ball.

As happens sometimes with talented rookies, Meachem made a few remarkable catches during training camp, but dropped too many routine ones. He also has been bothered with right knee soreness as he recovers from athroscopic surgery performed a few weeks before training camp began.

While Payton appears satisfied with Meachem's attitude, the coach has shown an aversion to playing anyone who makes more than the rare mistake or struggles to play at full speed.

''His work ethic is outstanding. He stays after practice. He desires to be successful,'' Payton said. ''The thing is getting him back to 100 percent and getting him up to speed with what we're doing. ... It's tough when he's hampered. But he's been a great worker and he prepares hard and does a good job in the classroom, as well.''

Even if the game has little bearing on who sees the most action when things count, it will feature a pair of rookie quarterbacks who've provided fans with some excitement when they've gotten a chance.

John Beck, seen as Miami's quarterback of the future, threw for 162 yards and two scores in the second half of the Dolphins' 31-28 exhibition loss to Tampa Bay last weekend.

Tyler Palko, who in college starred at Pittsburgh, energized the Louisiana Superdome crowd while playing nearly three quarters against Buffalo earlier this month. He's expected to play the second half.

Payton kept only two quarterbacks on the active roster much of last season, but has said he's willing to keep Palko as a third based on the rookie's progress so far.

''Coach has given me a chance to improve and keep working with this offense and hopefully develop into something,'' said Palko, who is 21-of-37 for 244 yards during August.

Palko has one touchdown pass - an impressive toss to Meachem in the corner of the end zone - but also has been intercepted three times.

''My (number) plate is still above my locker, so I'm going to keep working my tail off to where hopefully I'll get a chance to compete and continue to move up,'' Palko said. ''I'll be ready to go for whatever (Payton) calls and execute it, have fun and hopefully get everybody in that Superdome all riled up again.''

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Seattle the final test in battle for Raiders QB job
By ASSOCIATED PRESS

SEATTLE -- Maybe he's just fortunate, but Mike Holmgren has never faced the situation in front of first-year Oakland coach Lane Kiffin.

In his long career, from being an assistant in San Francisco to his head coaching days in Green Bay and Seattle, Holmgren has always gone into the final preseason game set on his starting quarterback.

Lucky?

''I prefer fine coaching,'' Holmgren cracked.

The quarterback debate is at the forefront for Kiffin, who will use Thursday night's preseason finale between the Oakland Raiders and the Seattle Seahawks as the final test for who will get the starting nod when Oakland opens the regular season against Detroit on Sept. 9.

The competition that began with three QBs - all who had starting experience in the NFL - is now down to Josh McCown and Daunte Culpepper. Kiffin said Tuesday that Andrew Walter, who started eight games last season for the Raiders, would be the No. 3 quarterback.

''We're both still relatively new to this thing, as is everybody, for that matter, but at the same time, I just go out and work,'' McCown said of him and Culpepper. ''I don't put any chips on my shoulder or make myself get going like I am the underdog.''

McCown will get the start against the Seahawks, with Culpepper getting about an equal number of snaps, although Kiffin didn't say how long either will play. Other than the quarterback position, Kiffin intends on pulling most of his starters after the first series or two.

A quarterback competition of this extent likely could have been avoided if there wasn't a contentious, ongoing contract dispute between the Raiders and No. 1 draft pick JaMarcus Russell, a holdout all summer. Kiffin's hopes of tutoring Russell in his offense, then handing him the reins vanished after Russell missed the opening days of training camp.

If Oakland cannot sign Russell by the 10th week of the regular season, Russell will not be able to play in 2007. If he's not signed by next April's draft, Russell will go back into the draft pool.

''I know that players even better than coaches understand the professional side of it,'' Kiffin said about Russell.

Culpepper, who signed with the Raiders on July 31 after being cut in Miami, is making a strong push to be the starter, despite missing offseason minicamps and finding himself well behind McCown and Walter in learning Kiffin's system.

His best outing came in Oakland's second preseason game against San Francisco. Culpepper went 6-for-8 for 75 yards, threw for a pair of touchdowns and showed there was still some mobility left in his reconstructed knee.

''We signed Daunte to compete to be the starting quarterback and that's exactly what he's done. If he's the starter, he's the starter,'' Kiffin said.

''That's the first conversation I had before we ever signed him, making sure he understood he's going to get a great shot at being the starting quarterback. He may not be the starter, he may be the backup, and I needed to know how he was going to handle that, and he was great.''

McCown, acquired in a trade with Detroit, followed up with a strong outing last week against St. Louis: 6-for-9 for 138 yards.

''I felt like this last game, in particular, I came out and threw the ball better, accurately, like I expect myself to throw,'' McCown said. ''So from those standpoints, yeah, I think I've continued to improve and get to the point where I want to be at throwing the football.''

Along with the quarterback debate, the Raiders are still deciding who will be their offensive line anchor at center. Former San Francisco center Jeremy Newberry has been dominant when on the field, but the Raiders are being cautious with his aging knees.

Meanwhile, most questions in the Seahawks lineup already are settled, with most of the competitions now surrounding reserves at safety, tight end and linebacker.

Nate Burleson and D.J. Hackett are still competing to start opposite Deion Branch at wide receiver, and Darryl Tapp appears to have moved ahead of Bryce Fisher at defensive end. But in both cases, the Seahawks rotate multiple players at those positions.

Most of Seattle's starters are likely to play sparingly Thursday.

''I hear players around the league say that there's too many preseason games,'' Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. ''It sort of bothers me when I hear them say that because if it wasn't for these preseason games, I wouldn't be in the NFL. I wouldn't even ever had a chance.''

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Broncos starters will sit out exhibition finale despite problems
By ASSOCIATED PRESS

DENVER -- Mike Shanahan isn't going to deviate from his plan to rest his starters in the final exhibition tuneup against Arizona.

Despite a dismal defensive showing in the preseason and an offense that never had all its parts working together, Shanahan won't alter his strategy.

''No change in philosophy,'' said the Denver Broncos coach who prefers to use the last preseason game as a job interview for the final half-dozen or so roster spots.

New Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt is going to make his starters earn their time off Thursday night.

''We're going to go one, maybe two series,'' Whisenhunt said. ''If they play extremely well in the first series, maybe they'll be out.''

The most notable newcomer to the Cardinals' starting lineup is cornerback Rod Hood, who has supplanted Antrel Rolle, their first-round pick in 2005.

Arizona's second-year quarterback Matt Leinart has looked sharp, completing 17 of 23 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in his last two games. But the Cardinals are still harping on him to improve his footwork.

''It's a constant battle,'' Whisenhunt said. ''He's been in some bad habits that are hard to break, and he's working hard to get out of those habits.''

Leinart said he just has ''to get in a groove and get comfortable.''

But not too comfortable because he'll be in a baseball cap by the time the first quarter is over - just like fellow 2006 draftee Jay Cutler, who has spent all preseason working behind a makeshift line, handing off to a patchwork backfield and throwing to an improvised cast of receivers.

The Broncos' top three wide receivers - Javon Walker, Brandon Marshall, Brandon Stokley - have all missed time, along with tight end Tony Scheffler. Rod Smith has yet to practice as he continues his recovery from offseason hip surgery that will sideline him through the first six weeks of the season at minimum.

Denver's top two running backs, Travis Henry (knee) and Mike Bell (hip) were hurt at Dallas two weeks ago and won't return until the opener Sept. 9 at Buffalo.

Left guard Ben Hamilton has been slow to recover from a concussion early in camp. He was expected to practice this week, but became nauseated doing some drills and his return was put off indefinitely.

''He's seeing specialists, seeing the best in the world, and when he's ready to come back, he'll come back,'' Shanahan said. ''Hopefully, it's sooner rather than later.''

The Broncos assembled a roster in the offseason that would have made any fantasy player proud.

They added Henry, Stokley and tight end Daniel Graham on offense, cornerback Dre' Bly and tackle Sam Adams on defense and Todd Sauerbrun and Paul Smith on special teams. Then, they drafted Jarvis Moss, Tim Crowder and Marcus Thomas to plug the middle and pressure the passer.

But all three rookies have seen their development stunted by injury, Sauerbrun had a mediocre camp and Cutler never really has lined up with the front-line unit. Denver's biggest worry, however, is on defense, where the starters have allowed 44 points in roughly six quarters.

The Broncos have been slow to adapt to new boss Jim Bates' system and sorely miss the leadership and play of middle linebacker Al Wilson, their captain and leading tackler last year whose neck injury and high salary led to his release in the offseason.

D.J. Williams is trying to replace him, but all three of Denver's preseason opponents have exploited his inexperience and completed big plays over a wide-open middle. Denver's strong secondary had been the lone bright spot before the Browns repeatedly burned Bly last week.

Shanahan blamed the defensive doldrums on a mixture of new personnel and a new scheme. Still, he figures he's seen enough of the starters and things can get ironed out in practice.

''Well, if I needed to see more, they'd be playing'' Thursday night, Shanahan said. ''We've done this every year since I've been here, so this is no different than any other year.''

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Final preseason game meaningful for some Lions and Bills
August 29, 2007

DETROIT (AP) -Edwin Mulitalo is well aware the NFL's final preseason games are regarded as meaningless.

Entering his ninth season in the league and first with the Detroit Lions, Mulitalo doesn't agree with the popular notion.

To the guard, much is at stake Thursday night when Detroit hosts the Buffalo Bills in the last exhibition for both teams.

``It's important for us because we're still piecing guys together on the offensive line,'' Mulitalo insisted. ``The offensive line is a unique position group because we have to be cohesive to play well. That only happens by playing together in games because you can't simulate everything in practice.

``Have we jelled yet? I'm not sure. But have we come a long ways? Yes.''

The Lions need their reshaped offensive line to improve because last year quarterback Jon Kitna was sacked an NFL-high 63 times, and they averaged a league-low 71 yards rushing per game.

Detroit can't expect Kitna to take every snap, as he did last season, if he gets hit that many times - or to win consistently if the running game stays grounded.

Mulitalo, who started 102 games for Baltimore from 1999-2006, was signed as a free agent. Tackle George Foster was acquired in a trade, along with running back Tatum Bell from Denver for cornerback Dre' Bly, after starting all but three games the past three seasons for the Broncos.

The Lions hope those two experienced newcomers will bolster a line with holdovers Jeff Backus, Dominic Raiola and Damien Woody.

``This is the best I've felt about our line since I've been here,'' said Raiola, who was drafted in 2001 and started every game the last five seasons. ``We might've had 15 different combinations last year because of injuries, so hopefully we can stay healthy and help this offense be as good as it can be.

``Even though this is the last preseason game, we can't just go out there and dodge bullets hoping to stay healthy. We need to fly around and hit people.''

At least a pair of Bills likely will be playing with a reckless abandon, too.

Rookie Paul Posluszny and John DiGiorgio still are competing for a chance to be Buffalo's starting middle linebacker when the season opens Sept. 9 at home against Denver.

``They'll both play a good deal and then we'll talk it over and see where it goes,'' said Bills coach Dick Jauron, who coached the Lions for five games during the 2005 season. ``I like both of those guys. Both of them will also contribute on special teams.

``Depending who our starter is, then the other guy will get more special teams time.''

Posluszny said early in training camp that he and DiGiorgio were told they would alternate starts and that plan would put him with the first group at Detroit.

``I just think it's another chance for us to prove ourselves,'' Posluszny said. ``Final audition? I'm not sure.''

Just as the final preseason game seems to be dismissed, the one before it usually is perceived as relatively important, with the starters getting more time on the field than in other exhibitions.

Detroit (2-1) and Buffalo (1-2) both lost those games. Tennessee topped the Bills 28-17. The Colts beat the Lions 37-10, but Raiola said a tweak here or there could've made the difference.

``As bad as it looked on the outside, we weren't discouraged after watching the film,'' he said.

Buffalo plans to use starters, such as quarterback J.P. Losman, for about two series on Thursday.

The Lions do not expect Kitna to play, giving him a chance to rest his back and providing extensive playing time for backup J.T. O'Sullivan.

``He is going to get another full game,'' Detroit coach Rod Marinelli said. ``This is invaluable experience for him.''

The Lions scheduled running back Kevin Jones for an evaluation Thursday on his surgically repaired foot, which has kept him out this preseason and might lead to him missing the first six weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list.

``We've got to be smart,'' Marinelli said. ``Hopefully, we'll get some information and see where we're at.''

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Two defensive stars likely to miss game as preseason concludes
August 29, 2007

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -Asante Samuel is back with the Patriots and preparing for the regular season. Michael Strahan remains away from the Giants and may never play again.

While their teammates wrap up the exhibition season against each other Thursday night, the two defensive stars who held out of training camp almost certainly will be on the sidelines.

Samuel, who shared the NFL lead with 10 interceptions last season, signed a one-year, $7.79 million contract on Tuesday for his fifth season with New England and has been given a roster exemption.

Strahan, a seven-time Pro Bowl player and the league's all-time sacks leader, has been mulling retirement and has missed New York's entire camp. He spoke Tuesday morning with Giants general manager Jerry Reese and a decision is expected late this week.

Justin Tuck has filled in well in place of Strahan at left end and the defensive line has played solidly in the last two games. Mathias Kiwanuka has moved from defensive line to strongside linebacker.

Samuel's return would send Randall Gay, who has been filling in, back to a role in the nickel defense.

``I've never been in a situation like that,'' Samuel said of missing so much practice time. ``It's new for me and I'm ready for the challenge, though. Hopefully, I'll overcome it.''

He could be in the starting lineup for the Patriots' season opener Sept. 9 at the New York Jets. The Giants begin the season that night at Dallas.

``I just don't think you can prepare your team for the season by just focusing it totally on your preseason opponents,'' New England coach Bill Belichick said. ``There are going to be things that are going to come up during the year where we just want to cover it ... and then we allocate time to our preseason opponents.''

Many starters play sparingly or not at all in the last exhibition game.

``I don't know how much we are going to play,'' said Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who has been playing well. ``What is really our goal is to go down there and get one good drive and try to get a score. That probably would be it. Run the ball, get some first downs and go down and get a touchdown or a field goal. We want to stay sharp and in tune.''

New York (1-2) has been hit hard by injuries during the exhibition season. In last Saturday's 20-12 loss to the Jets, weakside linebacker Kawika Mitchell pulled a groin muscle.

``The whistle is still going to blow. The ball is going to be kicked off,'' said Reggie Torbor, who is expected to start for Mitchell. ``That's the way you have to look at it. When the guys can get back, they will get back. We just have to hold it down.''

The place-kicking job appears to be the only one still open on the Giants. Veteran Lawrence Tynes and free agent Josh Huston are competing for it.

For the Patriots (1-2), Tom Brady started and played midway through the third quarter of their 24-7 win at Carolina last Friday. Last season, he didn't play at all in the last exhibition game.

Randy Moss could miss his fourth straight game with a hamstring injury that Belichick said is improving, leaving another newcomer, Donte' Stallworth, as the top wide receiver.

``There's still a lot of things I've got to work on,'' Stallworth said. ``I missed the early part of camp'' for physical reasons.

The Patriots and Giants meet again this year in what should be a much more important game - the last one of the regular season.

``It's good to go against a player you will see later in the year,'' New York guard Chris Snee said. ``Obviously, he is going to watch the film and make adjustments to you.''

But so much can happen between then and now: the loss of key players to injuries, the improvement of young players, the return of star players.

``Certainly, we play close attention to the Giants because they're on our schedule this year, but then again, it is the last game,'' Belichick said. ``It's so far away that there's going to be a lot of changes.''

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Re: Thursday NFL News and Notes

2007 NFL Preseason Notes

NFL clubs trimmed their rosters to 75 players by Aug. 28. The final cutdown to 53 players is Sept. 1.


THURSDAY'S GAMES 8/30/07

Buffalo Bills - QB Rotation: J.P. Losman (1-2 series), Craig Nall (1-2 series), rookie Trent Edwards (will finish the game).

Coach Dick Jauron said that QB J.P. Losman and the rest of the veteran starters would play two series "at the most." Jauron said Craig Nall would relieve Losman at quarterback and play a series or two, depending on how the game goes. Rookie Trent Edwards then would play the rest of the game.

Cornerback Terrence McGee will not play due to the concussion he suffered against Tennessee Friday. WR Lee Evans (sore calf) is very likely to sit out.

Secondary hurting: Backup cornerback Kiwaukee Thomas is expected to play in the preseason finale despite dislocating a finger on his left hand Monday. Buffalo will play without starting cornerback Terrence McGee, who is recovering from a concussion last week.

Jauron said that even with the opening game against Denver just two weeks away, he hasn't decided who the team's starting right guard will be.

The offensive line is starting to get hit with some injuries. Second-year man Brad Butler, who was involved in the competition at right guard, has been out almost a week with a hamstring injury, and as he continues to limp. Now second-year man Aaron Merz is sitting out with a shoulder injury.

The Bills plan to use more three-and four-receiver formations because they know they must involve WRs Reed and Parrish.

Cornerback depth a concern: They dealt Nate Clements in the offseason, and 8-year veteran CB Jason Webster has missed two practices with a leg injury. Other CB options are Kiwaukee Thomas, Ashton Youboty and Jabari Greer. "Webster is ahead of those guys, but we need depth at that position," Bills defensive backs coach George Catavolos said.

Detroit Lions - QB Rotation: J.T. O'Sullivan, Jon Kitna, Dan Orlovsky, Phil Horvath (see below).

Lions QB Jon Kitna practiced Tuesday and said his back is feeling healthy enough to play, but he still might sit out Thursday. If Kitna plays, it likely will be for one or two series. QB Dan Orlovsky didn't practice or play last week because of turf toe.

Secondary thin: Daniel Bullocks, whose range and tackling had upgraded the free safety position, is out for the season because of a knee injury sustained Saturday. Idrees Bashir and rookie Gerald Alexander will compete for the job.

The Lions have increased the amount of game-plan preparation for the last two exhibition games, but the emphasis is still on how they perform, not the opponent.

NY Giants - QB Rotation: Eli Manning (1-2 series), Jared Lorenzen, Anthony Wright, Tim Hasselbeck.

It's a cameo appearance by the starters in the preseason finale in New England. QB Eli Manning figures to play no more than one or two series. Tom Coughlin said Reuben Droughns will play both FB and RB against New England.

LB Kawika Mitchell, who strained his groin on Saturday is likely out and LB Gerris Wilkinson is recovering from a knee injury suffered early in camp. LB Reggie Torbor will be the starter on the weak side for now.

Cornerback Sam Madison, who pulled his hamstring, will probably be out. Safety Will Demps is expected to miss two weeks with a dislocated right elbow. At corner, Madison's absence will most likely be filled by Corey Webster, the team's second-round pick in 2005. The other options are rookie Aaron Ross and second-year corner Kevin Dockery.

WRs thin. Plaxico Burress has back trouble and spent the entire practice session getting treatment inside the Giants' locker room. With so many injured players already to deal with, coach Tom Coughlin admitted that it's troubling not to have his No. 1 wide receiver on the field for the final practice before the preseason finale. WR Sinorice Moss (ankle) is hurting along with WR David Tyree (out). WR Michael Jennings is out for the season. WR Amani Toomer is still testing his reconstructed knee. TE Jeremy Shockey is experiencing "tightness" in his hamstring.

HC Tom Coughlin brought in Chris Palmer as QB coach and moved Kevin Gilbride over to offensive coordinator.

New England Patriots - QB Rotation: Tom Brady, Matt Cassel, Vinnie Testaverde, rookie Matt Gutierrez.

WRs thin: Jabar Gaffney was sidelined for the second day in a row with what appeared to be a leg injury, while Randy Moss remained out of practice, as he has since pulling up Aug. 1

NY Jets - QB Rotation: Chad Pennington, Kellen Clemens, Marques Tuiasosopo, rookie Brett Ratliff.

The final preseason game should go a long way in clearing up the backup QB situation. Kellen Clemens has solidified the No. 2 spot, but either Marques Tuiasosopo or Brad Smith could be named third-string.

QB Chad Pennington, who has led the Jets to just one TD and two field goals in 14 series this preseason, insisted he's not worried about the offense. Coach Eric Mangini said he's undecided on whether the starters will play vs. the Eagles. He said he'll likely decide on a "case-by-case" basis.

RB Thomas Jones (leg) is still ailing and won't play. RB Leon Washington has been starting, but the Jets are looking for a third back, and rookie free agent Danny Ware could be their guy. Rookie free agent Alvin Banks and veteran Tony Hollings are also in the mix.

With Pete Kendall traded late last week to the Redskins, the offensive line, which strives on chemistry and continuity, has become a significant question mark after weeks of rotating left guards in and out of the lineup.

They will turn over the left-guard job to rookie Jacob Bender or Adrien Clarke, whose NFL resume consists of only 13 games and four starts, all with the Eagles in 2005. Clarke started the first two preseason games, but Bender, a sixth-round pick from Nicholls State, is working with the regulars this week. The Jets have brought back retired offensive lineman Lomas Brown to work with D'Brickashaw Ferguson.

The offense is in the second year of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's high-tech scheme that features an array of shifts and motions.

Philadelphia Eagles - QB Rotation: A.J. Feeley (will start), Donovan McNabb, rookie Kevin Kolb (see below).

A.J. Feeley will be the starting quarterback. The majority of the projected opening-day starters will be on the sideline.

Last week, it was an emotional one for the Eagles, as LB Jeremiah Trotter, one of the more popular players in team history and a four-time Pro Bowler, was released in a surprising move. Following an emotionally charged 20 hours that culminated with a tearful meeting with his former teammates and coaches, Trotter agreed that the decision made by head coach Andy Reid to let him go was the correct one. "This one hit me like a ton of bricks," Brian Dawkins said. "I was shocked," QB McNabb said.

Defensive line thin: DTs Montae Reagor and Ian Scott continue to miss practice time with knee injuries.

Washington Redskins - QB Rotation: Jason Campbell, Todd Collins, Mark Brunell, rookie Jordan Palmer (see below).

After injuring his left knee in the Washington Redskins' second preseason game on Aug. 18, QB Jason Campbell is set to start.Campbell said he hopes to get into a "quick rhythm" against the Jaguars and does not expect to play too long.

Tailback Clinton Portis, who has missed nearly all of training camp with tendinitis in his right knee, returned for Tuesday's practice and also could play. Joe Gibbs said that Portis ideally would be able to get four or five. carries

Left tackle Chris Samuels (knee sprain) still is not practicing fully and will not play, while left guard Pete Kendall, acquired from the Jets last week, practiced with the Redskins for the first time and will play with the starters. Cornerback Shawn Springs (Achilles' tendon) expects to be back for the game, while LB Marcus Washington (dislocated elbow) returned to practice but will not play in Jacksonville.

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

Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said No. 3 QB Quinn Gray will take the majority of the snaps Thursday.

The first-team offense's opportunities to continue testing the new plays have been virtually eliminated. Against the Redskins, the first-team offense will see little action.

Del Rio said that the players that missed last week's game at Green Bay will not play on Thursday.

Inconsistent and struggling appears to be the current state of the club's first-team offense. The Jaguars are averaging 348 yards per game, with 242.3 coming from the passing game so far this preseason. But Leftwich's completion percentage (50 percent) and 77.3 passer rating have drawn scrutiny, especially when comparing his numbers to those of backup David Garrard, who is completing 78.4 percent of his passes and has a 118.4 passer rating.

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

DE Paul Spicer will sit out of Thursday's preseason finale because of recurring back spasms.

Rookie safety Reggie Nelson has been hurting. Second-year player Jamaal Fudge and veteran Sammy Knight have replaced him.

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.

Cleveland Browns
- QB Rotation: Charlie Frye (1-2 series), Derek Anderson (will follow), rookie Brady Quinn (extra playing time), Ken Dorsey (see below).

Coach Romeo Crennel said Charlie Frye will start in Chicago and Derek Anderson will come in next. Because the starters usually only play a series or two, Brady Quinn might get a fair amount of playing time.

Rob Chudzinski is the Browns new offensive coordinator.

Browns center LeCharles Bentley was placed Tuesday on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, meaning he will have at least the first six weeks of the season. Starting left guard Eric Steinbach (knee) is back at practice but not 100%.

The O-line has been in flux with right tackle Ryan Tucker getting suspended the first four games of the season because of steroid use. That bumped rookie Joe Thomas up to the starting job at left tackle and moved Kevin Shaffer from left to right. Backup guard/center Lennie Friedman has worked in Steinbach's place.

Browns DE Orpheus Roye, a 12-year pro, will undergo arthroscopic on his right knee and be lost for the rest of the preseason. It's a blow to their 3-4 defense. While Roye is out, four players will try out in his place: backup NT Shaun Smith, J'Vonne Parker, Simon Fraser and Orien Harris.

Chicago Bears - QB Rotation: Rex Grossman (2-3 series), Brian Griese, Kyle Orton, rookie Chris Leak (see below).

Lovie Smith said starters will play a quarter at the most, and don't be surprised if their workload is less than that. His strategy for this game is that it's more about evaluating the back end of the roster.

The Bears have remained mostly healthy through the first three games and figure to use this game as a measuring stick for one or two final cuts and decisions about the practice squad. The roster must be cut to 53 by Saturday.

Love Smith likes the depth: "It's the deepest team we've had. We have to see how it turns out, but we talk a lot about getting our 53-man roster as strong as we could. I would definitely say that is the case. We have good backups."

Dallas Cowboys - QB Rotation: Tony Romo, Brad Johnson, Richard Bartel and Matt Moore (see below).

QB Tony Romo and the rest of the starters won't play much in the preseason finale at Minnesota. Wade Phillips wants to give several players who are fighting for roster spots an opportunity to prove themselves. QB Matt Moore is one of those players who could use one more game of extended time.

Secondary thin: Cornerback was already a concern, and made worse by CB Terence Newman nursing an acute plantar fascia injury. Saturday's game exposed nickel corner Aaron Glenn, who was trying to replace Newman, for what he is: an aging, undersized corner who can't cover the bigger, more physical receivers. And Jacques Reeves, Joey Thomas and Alan Ball still look raw and unpolished.

Look for more blitzing: The Cowboys were a read-and-react defensive scheme under Bill Parcells, but Phillips and new DC Brian Stewart bring in more of an attacking, disruptive philosophy. They also want defensive players to take third-down conversions personally.

Phillips has tweaked the 3-4 defensive scheme, moving strong safety Roy Williams closer to the line of scrimmage and allowing outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware, and when healthy, Greg Ellis to blitz more.

Wade Phillips is the new coach (Chargers' defensive coordinator in 2006).

Minnesota Vikings - QB Rotation: Tarvaris Jackson (one series), Brooks Bollinger, Kelly Holcomb, Tyrus Thigpen (see below).

QB Jackson is expected to play only the first series with the other starters. The rest of the reps will be split by Holcomb and Bollinger, who played his way out of the competition with Jackson with a 30.4 passer rating, including two interceptions at Seattle on Saturday.

Safeties Mike Doss (calf) and Tank Williams (unknown) and receiver Bobby Wade (ankle) might sit out the preseason finale on Thursday. Linebacker Vinny Ciuricu (finger) is expected to return after missing a game.

QB Brooks Bollinger played four series last week and completed six of 11 passes for 52 yards with two interceptions and one sack. Bollinger appeared indecisive, a major no-no in a scheme that stresses quick decision-making, and posted a dismal 27.7 quarterback rating.

The Vikings acquired veteran QB Kelly Holcomb in a trade with the Eagles on Monday. Holcomb, 34, is entering his 12th season and has 21 career starts, nearly twice as many as the other three quarterbacks on the Vikings' roster combined.

The Vikings have a new defensive coordinator in Leslie Frazier.

Green Bay Packers - QB Rotation: Brett Favre (2-3 series), Aaron Rodgers, rookie Paul Thompson.

Coach Mike McCarthy said QB Brett Favre would play two and possibly three series in Tennessee. He had considered not using him at all.

RB Noah Herron would start at running back for injured Brandon Jackson, backed by rookie DeSahwn Wynn and Corey White. Vernand Morency, who has been sidelined since July 28 with a patellar strain, has hopes of playing against the Eagles. He was trying to simulate the actions of a running back Monday in practice.

The Packers lost Pro Bowl WR Donald Driver to a foot sprain. James Jones will start at flanker for injured Donald Driver. When the Packers use three wide receivers, Greg Jennings will replace Driver in the slot and Ruvell Martin will work at split end.

Coach Mike McCarthy's decision to withhold starters Al Harris and Charles Woodson against the Titans means Jarrett Bush and Will Blackmon will start and the others will play even more than usual.

Cornerback Tramon Williams will return punts Thursday in Tennessee. On kickoffs, Stock said he'd go with David Clowney, Noah Herron and DeShawn Wynn against the Titans.

Out of the Tennessee game are wide receivers Donald Driver (foot) and Shaun Bodiford (knee), tackle Tony Moll (stinger), guards Jason Spitz (calf) and Tony Palmer (hamstring), running backs Vernand Morency (knee) and Jackson, defensive ends Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (knee) and Montgomery, linebackers Spencer Havner (back) and (knee), and rookie Aaron Rouse.

Tennessee Titans - QB Rotation: Vince Young (first half and into the 3rd Q), Kerry Collins, Tim Rattay (see below).

Jeff Fisher said except for a few players, the starters will play through at least one series in the third quarter against the Packers.

RB Chris Henry (hamstring) and defensive end Antwan Odom (hip flexor) did not practice Tuesday, but Fisher said they have a chance to play Thursday night in the preseason finale against the Packers.

Fisher added about the defense: "We are limited. We have 60 minutes and probably 70 defensive plays and we are going to play a lot of people."

With the emergence of Michael Griffin and Cortland Finnegan, it's almost certain the Titans will have two new starting cornerbacks in the regular season opener. That would end Reynaldo Hill's run of two years as a starter. He missed a significant portion of training camp with a groin injury. Nick Harper is the starter on the left side and Griffin's recent play could have the rookie in line to start on the right side.

Defensive line thin: Needing depth for a unit hit hard by injuries, the Titans claimed former Panthers defensive end Jason Hall off waivers. The Titans have lost two rookie defensive linemen for the season: end Jacob Ford with a torn Achilles and tackle Antonio Johnson with an ACL injury.

Houston Texans - QB Rotation: Matt Schaub, Sage Rosenfels, rookie Jared Zabransky (see below).

Because QBs Quinton Porter and Bradlee Van Pelt were waived Sunday, rookie Jared Zabransky is going to get extensive playing time against the Buccaneers. Matt Schaub isn't expected to play against the Buccaneers. Kubiak said, "It's obvious we're going to play Zabransky a great deal. How much Sage Rosenfels plays, I'll let you know."

30-year old RB Ahman Green hasn't played much. The bulk of the carries has been split between Wali Lundy and Samkon Gado, who are battling for the No. 3 job.

Secondary thin: Secondary coach Jon Hoke is taking volunteers to play safety in practice. Starters C.C. Brown and Jason Simmons suffered bruised shoulders against Dallas. Rookie Brandon Harrison suffered a concussion. The Texans have lost starting strong safety Glenn Earl for the entire 2007 season.

New offensive coordinator Mike Sherman is putting in a plan for more balance to the offense this fall.

Tampa Bay Bucs - QB Rotation: Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown, Bruce Gradkowski, Chris Simms.

Chris Simms will get more playing time against Houston.

Offensive line problems: Rookie left guard Arron Sears is on crutches and out 10 days. Reserve guard Jeb Terry suffered an ankle injury against Jacksonville and center John Wade was overcome by the stifling conditions at the Buccaneers' complex last weel.

Jeff Garcia's presence has prompted Coach Jon Gruden to consider the shotgun as a legitimate option for his version of the West Coast attack. Gruden is eager to expand his playbook in terms of rollouts and bootlegs to capitalize on Garcia's mobility.

Defensively, the Bucs are considering new packages in an effort to disrupt timing and generate more heat on opposing quarterbacks. Last season, QBs feasted against Tampa Bay's defense, posting a cumulative 91.0 rating.

Don't be surprised if new MLB Jerry Mackey sees substantial playing time in the final preseason game. Mackey, 22, was reacquired in a trade with the Jets on Tuesday, three days after Antoine Cash suffered a season-ending knee injury at Jacksonville.

Gruden has been preaching for an aggressive team. "We've got to be a more physical football team," Gruden said. "That was an area that got away from us a bit last year. This year, I want to see us hit in most every practice. And I want us to hit hard."

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