Risers & Fallers: McNabb, Quinn impress

(By Christopher Liss)

Another week of the NFL preseason is in the books. Let's take a look at the key players whose values have changed in the last seven days.


Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles: McNabb reported no soreness or swelling in his knee after playing Friday and completing 6 of 9 passes for 138 yards in his preseason debut. McNabb didn't register a rushing attempt, but we wouldn't read anything into that during the preseason. McNabb's a pocket passer, first and foremost these days, but we stil expect him to scramble when necessary this season, so long as his recover from ACL surgery remains smooth.

Matt Schaub, QB, Texans: Schaub completed 9 of 12 attempts for 108 yards and scored on a five-yard naked bootleg in Houston's preseason victory over Arizona. While we don't typically make much of preseason performances, they take on more significance when a player is unproven or in a new system. Schaub meets both those criteria, and so far he's looking like a significant upgrade over David Carr.

Daunte Culpepper, QB, Raiders: Culpepper completed 6 of 8 passes for two touchdowns and also had three carries for 13 yards against the 49ers. Neither Andrew Walter nor Josh McCown played particularly well Saturday night, and Culpepper is likely to start the Raiders next preseason game against the Rams. If healthy, Culpepper should win the starting job. While we wouldn't expect the pre-2005 version, there's still a little upside here given his big receivers (Ronald Curry, Jerry Porter, Mike Williams) and his ability to sneak in a couple scores on the ground.

Brady Quinn, QB, Browns: Quinn had an impressive pro debut, going 13 of 20 for 155 yards and two touchdowns, albeit against the Lions' third and fourth string defenses in the fourth quarter. While Quinn isn't likely to start out of the gate, he's building momentum for that eventual move to take place. If Charlie Frye and/or Derek Anderson struggle early on, it could take place sooner rather than later.

Willie Parker, RB, Steelers: Parker had four carries for just four yards against the Redskins on Saturday, but that his swollen knee was healthy enough for him to see any action at all in the team's third preseason game is a good sign. With Kevan Barlow in danger of being cut and Najeh Davenport dinged up yet again, look for Parker to be the workhorse again this season, only in a more wide-open and dynamic offense under new offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.

LaMont Jordan, RB, Raiders: Jordan had eight carries for 67 yards and a touchdown against the 49ers on Saturday night. He also caught a pass for 19 yards. At this point, Jordan doesn't have a whole lot of competition for the job with Michael Bush's status uncertain and Dominic Rhodes suspended for the season's first four games.

Tony Hunt, RB, Eagles: Hunt punched in the two goal-line scores against the Panthers on Friday. While he's still battling Correll Buckhalter for the backup running back job, Hunt figures to get short-yardage work regardless, and that alone would make him useable in deeper leagues. If Hunt wins the No. 2 job outright, he should be one of the top-10 backup running backs on your cheat sheet.

Chris Brown, RB, Titans: Brown rushed 10 times for 67 yards in Friday's preseason game against the Patriots, while LenDale White (ankle) missed the contest. The team had been impressed with White this summer, but at this point we have to think Brown has retaken the lead for (though by no means locked up) the job.

James Jones, WR, Packers: Jones, who had four receptions for 58 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday's rout of the Seahawks, is having such a good camp that he might unseat Greg Jennings for the team's No. 2 receiver job. Jones has a nice combination of downfield speed and the toughness to make catches over the middle of the field, so he's worth keeping an eye on even if he starts out as the Packers' No. 3 wideout.

Mike Williams, WR, Raiders: Williams' strong camp has earned him a spot on the team, and he has a chance to win the No. 3 wide receiver job behind Jerry Porter and Ronald Curry. Head coach Lane Kiffin called him a "dangerous red-zone player," so there's some touchdown upside for the 6-foot-5, 230-pound wideout.


Alex Smith, QB, 49ers: Smith is having a nice preseason and looked very sharp against the Raiders on Saturday night, but temper your expectations here. The preseason means very little for players not competing for jobs, and in his third year Smith already knows the team's system. We're not saying he won't take the next step forward this year, only that his strong preseason to date shouldn't be considered a big indicator one way or another.

Vince Young, QB, Titans: While Young played poorly against New England Friday, we don't think it means much. Young's not fighting for his job, was likely rusty after being suspended for the team's first game and proved what he could do during the second half of last season when he nearly led a below-average supporting cast to the playoffs.

Eli Manning, QB, Giants: While Manning had a terrific game against the Ravens' No. 1 defense, we're not reading much into a preseason performance. Manning's looked brilliant at times during the regular season only to regress into an inaccurate and interception-prone player. At this point in his career he'll need to string together half a dozen good regular season games before we're sold that he's turned the corner.

Travis Henry, RB, Broncos: An MRI showed that Henry had a first-degree sprain of his medial collateral ligament. While the Broncos will likely be cautious with him for the remainder of the preseason, his status for the regular season opener on September 9 is not in jeopardy. A first-degree sprain is the mildest variety, and if it were the regular season, it's likely Henry wouldn't even miss a game.


JaMarcus Russell, QB, Raiders: While Andrew Walter and Josh McCown were just short-term placeholders for Russell, no matter when he signed, a healthy Daunte Culpepper could delay Russell's ascension to the starting job more significantly. Culpepper still has more to prove before the Raiders would entrust him with the job, but should that happen, Russell, like former No. 1 overall pick Carson Palmer before him, could spend his rookie season almost entirely on the sidelines.

LenDale White, RB, Titans: In addition to a swollen left ankle, White also has a swollen knee and didn't practice on Sunday. In the meantime, Chris Brown had a big game against the Patriots. White had the early lead for the starting job, but his inability to stay healthy has likely dropped him to No. 2 on the depth chart.

Michael Bush, RB, Raiders: Bush, who's trying to return from a broken leg, might start the year on the PUP list, meaning he'd have to miss the season's first six games, or even worse, could be placed on injured reserve, meaning he'd miss the entire season. In any event, he's not currently in the mix for carries early on.

Maurice Stovall, WR, Buccaneers: Stovall caught one pass for five yards for Tampa Bay on Saturday, but he ended a key drive by fumbling the ball away inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Coach Jon Gruden mentioned Stovall's fumble a couple of times in the post-game press conference which doesn't bode well, and that, coupled with a poor preseason, might have Stovall behind Joey Galloway, David Boston, Michael Clayton and Ike Hilliard on the team's depth chart.

Greg Jennings, WR, Packers: Jennings, who hasn't had a reception in either of Green Bay's two preseason games, complained earlier in the week about being ignored. Jennings isn't pleased with his role in the offense, which has so far consisted of being the fourth option on most pass plays. On the flip side, rookie James Jones continues to be impressive and could push Jennings for the No. 2 receiver job.

Reggie Williams, WR, Jaguars: Williams, who's appeared moping and uninterested during practices, has also had trouble learning new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter's system. He might not survive the final training camp cuts.

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