NFL training camps have officially kicked off. This makes the next several weeks very critical ones for certain players trying to avoid the dreaded roster cut down. By the close of the preseason, all teams will whittle down their rosters to a final 53 men.
Older players competing against fresher legs will have to find ways to stand out and prove themselves capable of keeping a final roster spot. This will be the case for a new Denver running back trying to sustain his NFL career.
In other cases, off-field issues and suspensions will be considered when deciding the fates of several players. It is an exciting time for football fans that have been waiting since February for the game to return. Unfortunately, the same time could deal heartache and disappointment for the following eight veterans.
Geno Smith, quarterback, New York Giants
Smith signed a one-year deal with the team in free agency. The former New York Jets second-round pick has unfortunately never played up to those expectations.
With that said, Smith must prove himself worthy of a roster spot when competing with Josh Johnson and rookie Davis Webb. The 26-year-old quarterback received limited work in OTAs due to an ACL tear he suffered last October.
The positive is, Smith is embracing his role as a backup and is doing all he can to soak in Eli Manning’s best practices.
“This is definitely an opportunity for me to learn and to get better,” Smith said back in March . “I want to carry my notepad around and whatever I see Eli doing, whether it’s in the classroom, on the field or off the field, I want to write it down.”
Great mental preparation is half the battle. Meanwhile, the Giants selected Webb in the third round to add as extra insurance. Should either Webb or Johnson outplay the oft-injured Smith, or he goes down again, it could spell doom.
A healthy training camp is a must in order for Smith to avoid the roster bubble.
Zach Miller, tight end, Chicago Bears
Miller’s tenure with the Bears could be abruptly cut short if he doesn’t have a productive training camp. The 32-year-old tight end saw his 2016 season come to a halt after he injured his foot in Week 10.
The injury is lingering and as of mid-June, it was not even a sure bet that Miller would be ready for training camp, per The Chicago Tribune.
With Miller’s health and longevity up in the air, the Bears nabbed Adam Shaheen in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. They also signed the 26 year old Dion Sims to a three-year, $18 million contract in free agency. The tight end additions serve as preliminary warning to Miller that his days could be numbered.
In all, the Bears currently house six tight ends on their roster. Miller is clearly dispensable if he can’t get back to 100 percent in the upcoming weeks.
Jamaal Charles, running back, Denver Broncos
Charles is in an unusual predicament for the first time in his Pro Bowl-caliber career. He is with a new team where his lock for a permanent roster spot is anything but secure.
Charles will compete with Denver’s younger running backs, C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker this summer for the starting job. It is critical that Charles not skip a beat in order to remain on the Broncos’ roster come cut time.
Charles signed with Denver after multiple injuries crippled his production his final two seasons with Kansas City. The 30-year-old running back was held out of minicamp in June, but is reportedly feeling back to his old self.
“I am doing everything. I have been cutting the last couple of days with the guys during the offseason workouts,” Charles said back in June. ‘I feel like the way I am cutting that I am back to the normal me, man. It feels good to be moving around again. I have been knowing this the whole offseason [that the knee was fine].”
It was reported in May that Charles had a “50-50” chance to make the Broncos’ final roster. Charles signed a deal that guaranteed him no money. This makes him an easy release if he fails to make his mark in training camp.
Graham Gano, kicker, Carolina Panthers
Gano’s kick lost a step in 2016 when it was revealed he played with a broken bone in his foot, according to the team’s official website. He has been with the Panthers since 2012, and his 78.9 percent field goal conversion rate marks his lowest since playing in Carolina.
During the offseason, the Panthers reportedly told Gano that they would either sign a younger kicker or draft one. The latter is exactly what happened when the team selected Harrison Butker in the seventh round of this year’s draft. Gano spoke about competing this summer with the rookie
Training camp will be the tell-all as to whether Gano keeps his starting job, or possibly finds himself ousted by a rookie.
Michael Floyd, wide receiver, Minnesota Vikings
Floyd will be attempting to salvage his job with the third team that has employed him since December of 2016. A DUI arrest caused Floyd’s former Arizona Cardinals squad to immediately release him. He signed on with the New England Patriots just in time to become a Super Bowl champion.
Now, Floyd will be fighting to remain with the Vikings this summer. A series of disputed failed alcohol tests have Floyd on thin ice with head coach Mike Zimmer. On top of that, the league just handed Floyd a four-game suspension stemming from the above-mentioned DUI conviction.
Beyond starters Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, the team is quite loaded up at wide receiver. Floyd is currently listed as a third-stringer behind second-year pass catcher Laquon Treadwell.
To avoid any further potential off-field hassles, the Vikings might just see fit to release Floyd if he fails to convince that he is worth waiting four games to start in 2017.
Kyle Fuller, cornerback, Chicago Bears
Fuller missed the entire 2016 campaign due to a lingering knee injury. He has also fallen out of the good graces of his coaching staff, according to Jay Mullin of CSN Chicago.
Not surprisingly, the Bears decided to pass on Fuller’s fifth-year option. The team also added enhancements at cornerback, in that of Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper in free agency. Per the report, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has declared a “competition”.
“Absolutely, I mean, it’s wide open,” Fangio said, per Mullin. “I hope to see Kyle healthy and out there running around. Moving like he’s 100 percent, and we’ll go from there.”
This is at least more encouraging than the news that circulated in April prior to the draft. It was speculated by The Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs that Fuller would not make the Bears’ final roster.
Fuller is going to have to really knock some socks off to outshine his starter-caliber new teammates.
Richard Rodgers, tight end, Green Bay Packers
Rodgers’ involvement in the Packers’ offense regressed with the presence of tight end Jared Cook in 2016. This was after he put up a 58-catch, 510-yard, eight-touchdown campaign in 2015.
Now, Rodgers has to share the field with the Pro Bowl tight end Martellus Bennett.
Not too surprisingly with the addition of Bennett, it is rumored that Rodgers is not a lock to make the Packers’ final roster, per Scout.com. The 25-year-old tight end lacks the blocking skills and speed that Bennett brings to the table.
Plus, Bennett recently went on record to say that he and quarterback Aaron Rodgers are developing a tremendous chemistry. There is not a lot here to make a case that Rodgers should remain with the Packers at the conclusion of training camp.
NaVorro Bowman, linebacker, San Francisco 49ers
Bowman is just 29 years old, but is in danger of becoming a roster bubble casualty. Past surgeries and injuries resulted in Bowman performing at a sub-par level as reported in June by Grant Cohn of The Press Democrat.
“This week during OTAs, Bowman couldn’t even keep up with Garrett Celek, a blocking tight end who probably won’t make the 49ers’ final roster, per the report. Celek is not a quick player, but he beat Bowman easily. On one play, Bowman had to reach out and desperately grab Celek’s jersey because Celek easily ran past him. That would be a penalty in a real game.”
Bowman is an original third-round pick from 2010. He missed 12 games in 2016 after tearing his Achilles last October. During his four games, Bowman registered just one sack and 35 combined tackles.
It was rumored, then vehemently denied by the 49ers, that Bowman was put on the trade block in May.
The four-time All-Pro will need to draw better reviews in training camp than he previously did in June to secure his spot.