The dog days are here. Nearly two weeks into training camp, teams are tired of practicing against each other. Beat writers are struggling to find new storylines. Everyone needs a change of pace.
That will arrive this week with the true start of the preseason. Before the games begin, let's take another look at some early winners and losers from camp thus far. (Our first roundup is right here.)
James White, New England Patriots: No rookie in the league has had a more steadily growing drumbeat than the fourth-round rookie out of Wisconsin. Teammates, coaches and media alike have raved about White's three-down potential. White has seen a lot of short-yardage work, and there are questions about whether White could cut into Stevan Ridley's early yardage work.
Kenny Britt, St. Louis Rams: It's hard to believe, but he's consistently lining up as a starter. And winning. Britt is listed as a starter on the Rams' initial depth chart. Training camp is about earning snaps, and Britt is making believers out of the Rams coaching staff. Chris Givens might be relegated to being a role player.
Mike Williams, Buffalo Bills: He's moved ahead of Robert Woods in the Bills' wideout competition after a few solid weeks of practices. Woods lit up the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, but it's not a good sign that Woods was playing with second- and third-teamers.
Matt Schaub, Oakland Raiders: The quarterback competition with Derek Carr hasn't developed because Schaub has been sharp while Carr has been up and down. The rookie will need a strong preseason to make Raiders coaches think about a midseason change, but it's clear Schaub won't be challenged anytime soon.
Ronnie Hillman, Denver Broncos: Following Montee Ball's appendectomy, Hillman is in position to play a lot this preseason (and early in the 2014 season). Coaches have been pumping Hillman up, not C.J. Anderson.
49ers' run defense: When it rains, it pours. They lost Glenn Dorsey to a torn biceps muscle -- Dorsey was a vastly underrated run stuffer last year. Linebacker NaVorro Bowman isn't likely to be back until midseason; Aldon Smith is facing a potential suspension; and nose tackle Ian Williams has undergone four ankle surgeries since February. Dorsey's injury should not be overlooked.
Hakeem Nicks, Indianapolis Colts: Durability is a skill in the NFL, and Nicks doesn't have it. He hasn't stayed consistently healthy since the Giants won the Super Bowl. It's not a good sign that Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton openly questioned Nicks' conditioning. After losing running back Vick Ballard and guard Donald Thomas for the season, the Colts are crossing their fingers that Nicks comes through as a free-agent pickup and Reggie Wayne recovers well from his ACL tear.
Cyrus Kouandjio, Buffalo Bills: He was expected to take over the starting right tackle job, but practice reviews have been uniformly poor. He was on my "moving down" list even before a very rough effort in the preseason opener.
Jon Baldwin, Detroit Lions: It's rare to see a first-round pick fall out of the league before their third season, but it looks likely to happen to Baldwin after the 49ers released him. It sounds like Baldwin's work ethic was an issue, and we don't expect him to make the Lions' 53-man roster after he was claimed him off waivers.
Jonathan Cooper, Arizona Cardinals: Last year's top-10 pick has struggled to regain his form coming off a broken leg. Coach Bruce Arians said he was disappointed in Cooper and started to give him some backup reps at Monday's practice.