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NFC WR Position Battles

POSITION BATTLES – WIDE RECEIVER (NFC)

R= ROOKIE

Chicago

Bears:

The battle is between Rashied Davis, Earl Bennett and Juaquin Iglesias (R) for the team’s No. 2 WR job.

Outlook:

Chicago is looking to add some size opposite Devin Hester. That would knock

Davis out of the running. He is two inches shorter than Hester and would be a better fit for the slot. Bennett played in 10 games last season but did not catch a pass. While that might not sound good, he was only actually called onto the field 16 times. Bennett and newly acquired QB Jay Cutler played together in college and may be able to ignite some of the success they had together at Vanderbilt. Iglesias was drafted in the third round this year. He was productive in college, running good routes and displaying solid hands. Bennett has the advantage of being with the team last season and word from training camp is that he has been one of Cutler’s top targets, catching everything thrown at him. Look for Bennett to win the job and be the opening day starter.

Dallas

Cowboys:

The battle is between Miles Austin and Sam Hurd for the team’s No. 3 WR job.

Outlook:

Austin and Hurd both have good size, but they have had a tendency to break down in the past. They are both having excellent camps. Hurd has been catching everything thrown at him.

Austin has shown improved route running, patience and finding soft spots in the defense. He is the only deep threat at the position; the coaching staff is high on him and Tony Romo loves having him out there. The expectations are for

Austin to open the regular season in the starting lineup, but Hurd is right on his heels and could have been the No. 2 last year until preseason injuries and re-injury cost him the season. It will likely take the preseason to settle the position. If

Austin does not solidify the spot during the preseason look for Hurd to start.

Minnesota

Vikings:

The battle is between Bobby Wade, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin (R) for the team’s No. 2 WR job.

Outlook:

Wade was the team’s most consistent receiver last year and led the team in receptions. Wade started 14 games last year but that had more to do with Rice’s lingering knee injury and he is seen as more of a slot receiver. While Rice had a disappointing season last year, he still has ability. He had a very slender frame when he was drafted, but this year he reportedly showed up to camp with a thicker build. Harvin was drafted for his versatility. He can line up outside, in the slot, in the backfield and return kicks. Word from camp is that he will have a niche role carved out for him along those lines. He does come with some risk and will need to keep his off-field issues under control. Rice is an outside receiver, and if he can stay healthy, he will start at the No. 2 spot. However, Harvin and his unique skill set may actually see as many reps if not more.

New Orleans

Saints:

The battle is between Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem and Lance Moore for the team’s No. 2 WR job.

Outlook:

Henderson has the best speed of any receiver on the team. While he has a high number of dropped passes during his career, he started to hold onto the ball last year. Word out of training camp is that the drops have returned and that is not good. Meachem, a 2007 first-round pick, did not catch a pass in his rookie season. He did start to come on a little last season and has reportedly been showing some signs of living up to that first-round status in training camp.

Moore is coming off of shoulder surgery. He stepped up last year when the team suffered injuries at the position and put together a breakout season. He is small and quick, just not explosive and is better suited in the slot.

Henderson is expected to be the starter, but if he keeps dropping passes

Moore could end up taking some of his reps in two-WR sets since he earned the trust of the coaches last season. If Meachem can build on his progress, he could overtake

Henderson. At this point it looks like it will take the preseason to settle the position. Look for Meachem to overtake

Henderson during the season if not by opening day.

New York

Giants:

The battle is between Domenik Hixon, Steve Smith, Mario Manningham, Sinorice Moss, David Tyree, Hakeem Nicks (R) and Ramses Barden (R) for the team’s No. 1 and 2 WR jobs.

Outlook:

Hixon has the speed to get deep but doesn’t always make the catch. He started seven games last season and has experience in the system. Smith was the team’s leading receiver last year. He is becoming a solid possession guy and can play in the slot or outside. He just is not a deep threat or a high-scoring redzone option. Manningham was barely on the field last year. Word out of camp is that he’s been lining up in the slot in three-WR sets. Moss is likely on the bubble, as he seems to only exist on the injury report every year. Tyree is coming back from injury and may need more time. Nicks has size, strength and skills. He has been lining up at one of the starting spots in camp, but has had a little setback by missing a few practices with a minor injury. Barden is just huge at 6’ 6” and 227 pounds. He might need to work on beating the jam at the line and polish his route running. Word out of camp is that he has been lining up in three-WR sets and has been catching everything thrown at him; he could be a dark horse. Smith will have a lock on one of the spots. Hixon will start the season at the other spot, but Nicks will press him for serious playing time and overtake him sooner rather than later.

Philadelphia

Eagles:

The battle is between Kevin Curtis, DeSean Jackson, Reggie Brown, Jason Avant, Hank Baskett and Jeremy Maclin (R) for the team’s No. 1 and 2 WR jobs.

Outlook:

Jackson has the most pure speed of the bunch and had a solid rookie performance last year. He has reportedly looked dominant in camp and is certain to start. Curtis is fast and serviceable but will turn 31 this year. Avant has steadily improved and could be on the cusp of becoming a solid slot receiver. Baskett is the biggest receiver on the team and is more of a redzone option. Brown, at this point, is likely on the bubble. Maclin has speed and big-play ability but will need to polish his route running. Curtis is expected to start at one of the spots, but because of his age the more explosive Maclin will likely rotate in at his position, taking away some reps and if he gets more aggressive off the line he could overtake him by season’s end.

St. Louis

Rams:

The battle is between Keenan Burton, Laurent Robinson, Tim Carter, Derek Stanley and Brooks Foster (R) for the team’s No. 2 WR job.

Outlook:

Burton has shown an ability to make the tough catch, but he has had knee problems in both college and as a rookie last season. Robinson comes over from

Atlanta. He has good size, hands and speed, but was slowed by injuries and needs to show he can be more physical. He has reportedly had a chip on his shoulder in camp, wanting to prove his worth and show he belongs. Carter comes over from

Cleveland after spending his first five seasons with the Giants. He is average at best and has never cracked a starting lineup.

Stanley is coming off major knee surgery and lacks consistency. Foster is quick, agile, has decent route-running ability and good hands. He is seen as more of a slot receiver though. With Avery going down this preseason and not likely being ready until the start of the season, they have been lining up Robinson at one spot and Burton and Carter rotating at the other spot. Robinson will win out the No. 2 spot.

San Francisco

49ers:

The battle is between Isaac Bruce, Josh Morgan, Arnaz Battle, Jason Hill, Brandon Jones and Michael Crabtree (R) for the team’s No. 1 and 2 WR jobs.

Outlook:

Bruce contemplated retirement before deciding to return for his 16th season. He has lined up at the flanker spot his entire career. He led the team in receiving last year. He doesn’t run like he used to, but he can still run the routes and give you a good game here and there. He has reportedly rededicated himself as the top receiver in camp. Morgan has ability and can play all three positions, but the team prefers him at split end where he can run deep routes. He is reportedly having a very strong camp.

Battle has suffered through various injuries over the years and is seen as depth at the position. Hill was expected to improve on last year’s performance, and word out of camp is that the team is still waiting, as he has not done anything in camp to impress. Jones was reportedly having a great camp competing for the No. 3 spot but then he hurt his shoulder and now he’s expected to be out until at least October. Crabtree’s holdout appears to be serious and could last deep into the preseason if not into the season. He will have a ton of ground to make up as he hasn’t even seen the playbook yet. Look for Bruce and Morgan to start the season as the Nos. 1 and 2.

Seattle

Seahawks:

The battle is between Deion Branch and Nate Burleson for the No. 2 WR job.

Outlook:

Branch and Burleson are both coming off reconstructive knee surgery. Branch suffered his injury in January 2008 and Burleson suffered his injury eight months later. Burleson seems to be overcoming the psychological hurdle of surgery quicker than Branch. Word is that he has had a very solid camp. Branch has had some swelling in his knee which has led to him missing some practices. When he has been on the field, word out of camp is that he has looked smooth and has caught everything thrown at him. The belief is that Burleson is better suited as a backup or No. 3 at this point. Branch gives the team upside and more speed on the outside. Look for Branch to be the opening day starter.

Washington

Redskins:

The battle is between Antwaan Randle El, Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly for the team’s No. 2 WR job.

Outlook:

Randle El has never justified the money the team has put into signing him. He is better suited for the slot, and that is where the team would like to line him up. Thomas and Kelly were both drafted last year and had disappointing seasons to say the least. Kelly is the bigger of the two, making him more of a redzone option. Thomas has more speed and upside. They both suffered nagging injuries and had a hard time with the playbook last year. Kelly had major offseason knee surgery and could miss time this season while trying to overcome the injury. He has reportedly been limited in practice. Thomas has greatly improved from where he was last year and has had a good camp, but his hamstrings have caused him to miss a few practices. If he can put the injuries behind him and stay on the field, it will be Thomas who wins the starting spot.

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