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Preseason Week 2 winners, losers: Redskins' QB saga worsens

Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden admitted Sunday that his longtime favorite, Colt McCoy, was no longer part of the starting competition at quarterback, revealing that McCoy could miss multiple weeks of the regular season as he continues to come back from the leg injury that ended his 2018 season in December. Teammate Chris Thompson told The Washington Post that McCoy "thought this was his chance" to be a Week 1 starter (a wise assessment by the quarterback, who is heading into his ninth NFL season and his fifth with Washington), while Adrian Petersonpublicly backed McCoy for the job. But after three follow-up surgeries this offseason on his broken leg, he's not healthy enough to seize the opportunity in front of him, marking another tough break in a career littered with injuries.

That leaves veteran Case Keenum and first-round pick Dwayne Haskins splitting reps. Keenum looks like the favorite to start, but he's been erratic in camp, like he was during Washington's second preseason game (3 of 7 for 52 yards). Haskins' performance, meanwhile, included one of the best passes by any quarterback all preseason, a 55-yard touchdown toss made while stepping up against pressure. Unfortunately, his next six possessions included five punts and a lost fumble. Haskins doesn't appear ready yet, but then, it's been tough to evaluate any of the quarterbacks, because the left tackle position has become a turnstile, with Trent Williams holding out.

"I think (the left tackle spot) is making Dwayne Haskins have to think more, not process things as calmly," Peterson told ESPN's Josina Anderson this week. "Matter of fact, I think it's impacting all of our QBs. Guys are coming off the edge in practice right there on the quarterback and the running back. It's been a struggle."

It's not clear how the Redskins envisioned their three-pronged quarterback battle going this offseason, but this surely isn't it.

The rest of this week's winners and losers are below:

On the upswing

This sounds meaningless, but it's really not. The best access reporters get all year comes in training camp. Players and teams show up looking different than when we last saw them, and Samuel clearly appears primed to make a leap in Year 3. He needs to stay healthy, but the starting receiver combination of Samuel and D.J. Moore helping out Cam Newton is worth getting excited about. Former Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman, who made Samuel one of his last picks for Carolina before being fired and taking on the job of Giants GM, is somewhere in New Jersey saying, "I told you so."

McVaying the preseason: The NFL is no longer content to take Rams coach Sean McVay's former assistants away from him. The league is now largely adopting his cautious approach to the preseason.

McVay essentially benched all of his starters for the entire 2018 preseason, then proceeded to make a run to the Super Bowl. This preseason, more teams, like the Bears, Jaguars, Eagles and Patriots, are following suit. The rise in joint practices, which allow for less strenuous simulations of game action, and the influence of sports science have combined to dramatically reduce or eliminate snaps for established starters. Don't be surprised if many teams go to their backups quickly even in the third preseason week, which used to serve as a "dress rehearsal" for the regular season.

With the current collective bargaining agreement ending after the 2020 season, it's looking like the days of a four-game preseason schedule are mercifully set to end soon.

But Bill Belichick primarily uses September to clear his throat. He's worried about the long game, and Gordon's availability will give Tom Brady plenty of receiving options. Meyers has become such a factor that the coaches kept him out of some team drills against the Titans last week, in an effort to force Brady to pass to someone else. This is shaping up to be a year of heavy James White usage, and Sony Michel has shown significant growth in the passing game during a strong camp. There are a lot of ways the Patriots' season can go sideways, but I don't think a lack of pass-catching targets ranks near the top of Belichick's concerns. It rarely is. This is a team that once started Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney in an AFC Championship Game and leaned on Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson often during a 12-4 season. This group will do.

Jameis Winston's chances of getting a long-term deal in Tampa: News this weekend that Bucs general manager Jason Licht signed a five-year extension was one of the most surprising developments of the summer. What explains the apparent rush to lock Licht down before seeing how Year 1 of the Bruce Arians era goes? The Bucs have gone 27-52 since Licht took over in 2014, and his signature move remains drafting Winston No. 1 overall in 2015. With Licht now having secured a new long-term deal, it's easier to imagine the Bucs committing to Winston, too, if this final season of Winston's rookie contract goes smoothly. As Licht should know well after four years with Winston, who has a 21-33 record as a starter and is tied (with Blake Bortles) for the second-most interceptions thrown in the NFL since he entered the league, that's a big if.

The Kaare Vedvik impossible dream: The dream was on the minute the Vikings announced they acquired Vedvik as a "kicker/punter" from the Ravens earlier this month. Could Vedvik be the NFL's version of two-way MLB star Shohei Ohtani, playing two positions at once and saving a roster spot in the process?

The early signs in Minnesota have Vedvik likely to win the punting job, with veteran incumbent Dan Bailey more likely to be the team's starting kicker. Vedvik looked the part while averaging 46 yards on three punts Sunday night and kicked an extra point, but Bailey kicked the team's only field goal. There's still a chance that Vedvik, who has gone on a remarkable journey to get to this point, takes over both jobs at some stage in his career, if not Week 1. I am confused by how badly I want this to happen.

Ryan Fitzpatrick's chances to be a Week 1 starter: There's no need to read between the lines when it comes to how Dolphins coach Brian Flores views his top two quarterbacks. Flores has continually praised Fitzpatrick's leadership, intelligence, decision-making and work in meeting rooms. Rosen, on the other hand, has been publicly chided by Flores for his body language, holding the ball too long and his struggles to get his team in and out of the huddle on time. Rosen made some nice throws again in the Dolphins' second preseason game, but Fitzpatrick's lack of meaningful reps in the preseason is more telling. He's being treated as the starter and, while Flores insisted on Monday that the competition is not over, Flores already indicated Fitzpatrick should start the third preseason game.

Corey Ballentine, Giants cornerback: Ballentine spent his first post-draft weeks recovering physically and emotionally from a gunshot wound suffered during an incident that claimed the life of his best friend. The rookie was limited during the Giants' offseason program, but he's been one of the stories of training camp by consistently excelling in practice, earning first-team reps and intercepting a pass in the preseason opener. While sixth-round picks often don't make the roster, Ballentine looks headed for regular-season snaps.

Jacoby Brissett's free agency potential: Being a backup in a Frank Reich offense can prove lucrative -- just ask Nick Foles. The latest news regarding Andrew Luck's calf injury traveling south to his ankle doesn't necessarily mean Luck will miss regular-season action, but the odds are increasing. Even if Luck returns for Week 1, the chances of Brissett seeing meaningful time for the Colts in his final season under contract appear high.

After a season to learn Reich's system, Brissett will be set up to succeed with receiver T.Y. Hilton, a gang of quality tight ends and Reich's play-calling. A few starts can make a big difference in creating an inflated free-agent market, as Kevin Kolb or Brock Osweiler could surely tell you.

Trending down

The Los Angeles Chargers: Welcome to L.A. Chargers training camp, brought to you by the makers of San Diego Chargers training camp. For an organization that seemed to shake its Charlie Brown luck a year ago, safety Derwin James' foot surgery felt like a blast from the past.

It's hard to overstate the impact of James -- who burst onto the scene as a rookie last season -- on the Chargers' secondary, including his ability to make those around him better. Second-round pick Nasir Adderley has missed nearly all of training camp with a hamstring injury, and his return isn't in sight. Jaylen Watkins has struggled to return from a torn ACL, though he picked off a pass in the Chargers' second preseason game. At this point, the expected starters in Week 1 will be Adrian Phillips and Rayshawn Jenkins.

James' loss could be mirrored on offense by left tackle Russell Okung's absence. The 10th-year veteran suffered a life-threatening pulmonary embolism in June. He is with the team, but he hasn't practiced yet. It's uncertain when -- or if -- he'll return, but the Chargers are preparing to roll with second-year undrafted free agent Trent Scott at left tackle and Sam Tevi, who struggled badly last year, at right tackle. The Chargers drafted tackle Trey Pipkins from Sioux Falls in the third round, but he has looked like a project thus far. As Philip Rivers knows well, entire seasons have been sunk by less.

Laquon Treadwell's chances of making the Vikings: Even before the report last week that Treadwell was on the trade block, the 2016 first-round pick looked very unlikely to make the team. Second-year pro Chad Beebe, an undrafted player, appears locked into the team's No. 3 receiver role.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer admitted after Sunday night's game that the team was attempting to "showcase" Treadwellagainst the Seahawks, and he responded with four catches for 47 yards on four targets and a drawn pass interference call. That might be enough to fetch a conditional late-round pick from someone.

The Texans' offensive line: It took a few weeks of training camp for the Texans to realize that Matt Kalil may not be their answer at left tackle. While he's still slated to start because the team has no better options, Kalil has reportedly struggled in camp, according to Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle. First-round pick Tytus Howard, who looked like an option at one of the tackle spots, hasn't distinguished himself at guard. Kalil is coming off a knee injury that cost him all of last season and is due $5.25 million more in 2019 in non-guaranteed pay, so the Texans could still possibly cut him if they can somehow flip Jadeveon Clowney for a better left tackle option.

The Cardinals' defense: It's not a big deal that Kliff Kingsbury's offense struggled against the Raiders. Any offense Kingsbury shows in the preseason isn't going to look remotely like what it will be in September, although the lingering offensive line injuries are problematic. It is a big deal, however, that the Cardinals have lost two starters from a defense that was already perilously thin.

Starting cornerback Robert Alford is expected to miss half the season, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, after suffering an injury in practice last week. And before that, the Cardinalsreleased defensive lineman Darius Philon following his assault arrest, eating $5 million in guaranteed money in the process. Bad teams don't have quality backups and there was no worse team in 2018 than the Cardinals, so perhaps it is no surprise the depth chart is thin in terms of replacements for Alford and Philon, with Patrick Peterson also set to miss games thanks to a six-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

The Jets' trouble spots: This is the most compelling Jets roster in a long time, and the offense has the makings of an explosive group. But the weak spots on the depth chart are among the league's worst at multiple positions, and training camp hasn't helped matters. Trumaine Johnson's hamstring injury has helped expose an already-thin cornerback group. Inside linebacker Avery Williamson's torn ACL, suffered in the team's second preseason game, is a cruel blow that has already left coach Adam Gase with regrets. They don't have an obvious replacement on the roster after trading away linebacker Darron Lee. Last year's starting outside rusher, Brandon Copeland, looks unlikely to make the team at a position without a true outside pass-rush threat. With Chris Herndonsuspended four games for violating the league's policy and program on substances of abuse, the team's top tight ends to open the year will probably be Ryan Griffin and fourth-round pick Trevon Wesco.

Having been hired in June, new general manager Joe Douglas is in a difficult spot, trying to build a team from players he didn't sign. He'll earn his money making a ton of moves after roster cuts, likely needing to find castoffs to perform meaningful roles. The top of the Jets' roster is exciting, but the bottom still resembles the group that finished fourth-to-last in scoring differential in 2018.

Tavon Young, Ravens cornerback: The Ravens thought enough of Young's future to give the slot cornerback a three-year contract back in February. The neck injury that is expected to end Young's season slipped under the radar this week, perhaps because few defenses are better built to withstand such an injury. The Ravens remain deep at cornerback, with Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr still around. Carr could move inside, but that's not where he plays best, and Smith, 31, has reportedly shown his age in camp.

D.K. Metcalf, Seahawks receiver: Metcalf saw his final season at Ole Miss cut short by neck surgery, missed time in training camp with an oblique injury and will undergo surgery this week on his knee. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll expressed optimism that the second-round pick won't be out long, but his ability to survive a rookie season without much training camp work is fair to question.

Marcus Mariota's job security: I don't put much stock into the concept that Ryan Tannehill could start for the Titans in Week 1, if only because no local Tennessee reporters have mentioned this is remotely possible, and Titans management has declared there is no quarterback competition. Even the comments by ESPN's Dianna Russini last week that helped start a firestorm around this topic cited "a tone in Tennessee right now that this coaching staff just wants a quarterback to go out there and be the best quarterback there," rather than sourced reporting.

That doesn't mean Mariota's job is ensured that far past Week 1, and this month probably hasn't helped. I found it interesting that Paul Kuharsky, who has covered every day of Mariota's career as a beat writer, said this week he's "closer to done with Marcus than I've ever been" because of an uninspiring offseason. It's not that Tannehill is consistently out-shining Mariota in practice. It's that there isn't an obvious separation between the two players. This isn't a huge surprise, and it's worth wondering if the Titans will one day view Mariota, the second overall pick in 2015, like the Dolphins came to view Tannehill before trading him away this year: as a homegrown quarterback who couldn't push the organization beyond spinning its wheels.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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