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What we don't know after three preseason weeks

Three preseason weeks are in the books. We learned a lot over the weekend, but not every starting job around the league is locked up. With just 10 days remaining before the season opener, there still are a few key hanging questions around the NFL.

What we still don't know:

Buffalo Bills starting quarterback: Coach Doug Marrone says the Bills will "plan" for undrafted rookie Jeff Tuelto start in Week 1 against the New England Patriots, but that plan will change if rookie EJ Manuel can return to practice next week.

I've seen a number of outlets report Tuel as the definite starter. That's not the case. Manuel has a reasonable chance to be ready in time, so let's wait until next week to break out those stats about undrafted rookie quarterbacks never starting in Week 1. (OK, it hasn't happened since at least 1950.) Kevin Kolb is out indefinitely with a concussion, so Matt Leinart and Thaddeus Lewis will compete for the No. 3 quarterback job.

New York Jets starting quarterback:Mark Sanchez (shoulder) isn't going to practice all week. That leaves Geno Smith taking all the reps for the first-team offense for a second consecutive week. Coach Rex Ryan doesn't want to name a starter, which shows Sanchez will probably get the job back when healthy.

It would be a surprise if Smith didn't start the season opener, even if he wins the job by default. But Smith's three-interception performance in the third preseason game showed that the rookie isn't ready. He might not keep those first-team reps for long.

Oakland Raiders starting quarterback: This wasn't supposed to be an open competition. Matt Flynn's contract and veteran status made him the presumptive starter all summer. General manager Reggie McKenzie said as much. Flynn's rough preseason outings has coach Dennis Allen thinking otherwise. Flynn had nine dropbacks from center against Chicago. They included two interceptions, a sack and fumble.

Terrelle Pryor has shown a knack for improvisation even if he's not always accurate. He's more equipped to play behind a brutal offensive line. He'll start the team's preseason finale while Flynn sits out with a mysterious arm injury. It's Pryor's job to lose now.

Denver Broncos starting running back:Coach John Fox supported starting running back Ronnie Hillman in public, and then he took away his first-team practice reps. Rookie Montee Ball, who has looked unremarkable as a runner in the preseason, practiced with the "ones" on Monday. Knowshon Moreno has outplayed both youngsters. The Broncos wanted Ball to take this job, and Hillman to step up from a year ago. It didn't happen in August.

Chip Kelly's offense:The former Oregon coach gave hints about his offense in the preseason, but tight end Brent Celek hinted that Kelly was keeping it a big "reveal" in Week 1 against the Washington Redskins. Mike Shanahan similarly kept most of his Robert Griffin III-led offense under wraps until the regular season started last year. The offenses in Jacksonville and Buffalo also are going to play fast.

San Francisco's starting wide receivers: Well, it won't be A.J. Jenkins. After the trade to acquire Jon Baldwin, the 49ers' top receivers after Anquan Boldin are Marlon Moore, Quinton Patton, Baldwin and Kyle Williams, probably in that order. It looks like Moore will be the Week 1 starter for a Super Bowl contender, which is bizarre.

Pittsburgh's starting running back:With Le'Veon Bell sidelined, this should be Isaac Redman's job. But Redman can't get healthy either. It's also unclear if first-round draft pick Jarvis Jones will pass Jason Worilds on the outside linebacker depth chart before the opener.

Brian Urlacher's successor:D.J. Williams can't get back on the field, so this looks like rookie Jon Bostic's job. He's looked the part in the preseason. The Chicago Bears got a surprising amount of love in our "Around The League Podcast" NFC North Preview.

Honorable mention: Philadelphia's free safety, the Jets' starting running back, the Denver Broncos' starting tight end and the Oakland wide receiver group are among the other open questions.

And a few things we do know

  1. Undrafted rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Zach Sudfeld will play huge roles with the New England Patriots. Throw in Aaron Dobson as a starter and rookie Josh Boyce getting snaps, and the Patriots will have one of the youngest groups of pass catchers in the league.
  1. The Ravens' high-profile rookies won't have the roles that were expected coming into training camp. Safety Matt Elam and linebacker Arthur Brown should be coming off the bench.

NFL roster cut tracker


Teams have until 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday to reduce their rosters to a maximum of 75 players. Who's been cut? **More ...**

  1. The Cardinals had the worst weekend of any team. They lost four starters to injury, including No. 7 overall pick Jonathan Cooper to a broken leg. It's uncertain if Rashard Mendenhall will be ready for Week 1. The same is true for their starting tight end. Running back Ryan Williams hasn't been healthy enough to make the roster.
  1. More than 600 NFL players will lose their jobs between now and Sunday. There are always a few surprises. We'll have it all covered on Around The League.
  1. The regular season is now days away, not weeks. We've made it.

The latest "Around the League Podcast" recaps all the preseason games and previews the NFC North.

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