The solid play of Marion Barber for the Bears in the preseason has some saying Chester Taylor is now expendable as Chicago's backup running back. With that in mind, what player has stepped up so far in the first two weeks and which veteran could find himself on the waiver wire very soon as a result?
Bills tailback Fred Jackson, who has worked his way to being a legitimate starting running back, looks like he's being pushed out in favor of second-year running back C.J. Spiller. Spiller has shown some big-play ability, but he's not been as steady or as tough as Jackson. Still, Spiller is more versatile and is the big-play threat. Jackson has read the tea leaves and knows he's about to be replaced and wants out if that's the case.
Releasing Jackson could be a mistake because he has a role and could end up back in the starting lineup if Spiller falters. However, Spiller is going to get every chance because he was a top-10 pick and management wants to see its investment deliver returns.
Ben Tate only has one game under his belt, and a preseason game at that, after missing all of his rookie year. But what an outing it was. Tate tore up the Saints -- 9 carries, 95 yards, 1 TD -- and you get the sense that there is more to come.
He is going to end up backing up Arian Foster, which means Steve Slaton, a 1,000-yard rusher not that long ago, could be looking for work. The Texans could look to deal him, but they may not get much in return given his health/fumbling issues. And with Tate being a high pick, and making the most of his preseason carries, I don't see him not making the team barring injury.
It is a tough year for a young player to bump a veteran starter from the lineup with so little time to get trained. But pay close attention to teams with new head coaches, coordinators and even front office executives. Seventh-round pick Bruce Miller in San Francisco came to camp as a defensive lineman who hadn't played fullback since high school, but he's shown enough so far to make Moran Norris expendable.
Up in New England, the switch to the 4-3 defense and the addition of Albert Haynesworth, Andre Carter and Mark Anderson is going to make it tough for Gerard Warren to make the defensive line group, especially when Ron Brace comes off the PUP list.
Javon Ringer is no Chris Johnson, but he and a couple of other talented young runners are good enough for a team in transition. The Titans don't need Johnson, at least not for the kind of cap-busting money he wants (and probably will end up getting). Don't get me wrong: Johnson is arguably the most dangerous runner in the game, but I seem to recall hearing a thing or two about the NFL now being a quarterback league.
Tennessee got its quarterback of the future -- or at least they hope they did -- when they drafted Jake Locker this past spring. With that in mind, they'd be better served spending their loot on building the best possible line to protect Locker rather than on a slightly built runner whose loss would be mitigated by Javon Ringer, a first-round caliber runner who dropped in the draft because of an ill-timed knee surgery; Jamie Harper, a 233-pound bull out of Clemson who could be Mike Munchak's version of Mike Tolbert; and USC's shifty Stafon Johnson, who's looked dynamite these past couple weeks.