Dallas Cowboys 1st-round pick Morris Claiborne could be the key to their performance against Eli Manning and the Giants on Wednesday night.
Eli Manning will look Claiborne's direction early and often
Last season, the Giants picked on Terrence Newman, completing 12 of 19 passes thrown his direction for 240 yards in their two meetings. This year, Newman is gone, replaced by Claiborne and veteran Brandon Carr.
Given the choice, Manning will likely target the rookie Claiborne, and will hope to have the same success he found when picking on Newman last season. If Claiborne can come up some big plays, the Cowboys may be able to pull off the upset. But if Claiborne can’t improve upon Newman’s performance in 2011, it will likely be another long night for the Dallas defense.
Robert Griffin III – The Washington Redskins selected RG3 to be their franchise quarterback and he will fill that role from Day 1. Realistically, we should expect some growing pains and he’ll probably cost the team a few games in the early going. But it’s all part of the process, and he should have plenty of highlight-reel plays as well.
Morris may be a surprise impact rookie
Kirk Cousins – We probably won’t see Cousins on the field this year, but he was impressive during the preseason. He’ll be groomed as trade bait and may wind up starting elsewhere in two or three years.
Alfred Morris – The 6th-round pick is one of three running backs on the roster. Considering the way Mike Shanahan treats his backfield, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if Morris gets a start or two this year.
Kennan Robinson – Robinson may be the only impact rookie on the defensive side of the ball. He’ll back up Perry Riley and London Fletcher at inside linebacker.
Others: offensive lineman Josh LeRibeus, cornerback Richard Crawford
Nick Foles – The Philadelphia Eagles may have found their eventual replacement for Mike Vick. Foles won the backup job over Mike Kafka and Trent Edwards.
The Eagles have high expectations for Cox
Fletcher Cox – The 1st-round pick isn’t expected to start, but he will play a significant role as part of the defensive line rotation. They’ll likely ease him into a more prominent role as the season progresses.
Mychal Kendricks – The 2nd-round pick is expected to start at strong-side linebacker and could be a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate.
Brandon Boykin – Boykin may see playing time as the nickel corner, but will make his biggest impact on special teams. He is expected to begin the year as the team’s primary kick returner.
Vinny Curry – Curry was slowed by a high ankle sprain this offseason which may have limited his ability to make an early impact. He’ll be part of the defensive line rotation, but could compete for a starting job by the end of the year.
Damaris Johnson – The undrafted free agent likely won’t see many balls thrown his way, but is expected to be return punts.
Others: running back Chris Polk, running back Bryce Brown, offensive tackle Dennis Kelly
Seattle Seahawks rookie Robert Turbin may be forced into a starting role for his NFL debut as Marshawn Lynch is reportedly questionable for their opener against the Cardinals.
Turbin may start on Sunday
The Seahawks also have Leon Washington and Kregg Lumpkin on the roster, but Tubrin would be the best fit in terms of replacing Lynch. He’s a physical runner with a similar build to Lynch and should be able to step in fairly seamlessly - at least for one game.
This could prove to be a critical division showdown, so it will be disappointing if Lynch is out, but it could also be a great opportunity to give Turbin some valuable playing time early in the season.
David Wilson – The New York Giants 1st-round pick will begin the season as Ahmad Bradshaw’s backup but should see significant playing time. Under Tom Coughlin, the Giants have consistently used a two and even three man rotation at running back, leaving plenty of carries for Wilson in the backup role.
Rueben Randle – The 2nd-round pick likely won’t see much action early due to the crowded depth chart. He’ll likely start the year as the 5th or 6th option at receiver.
Adrien Robinson – The 4th-round pick starts the year as the third tight end behind and Martellus Bennett and Bear Pascoe.
Markus Kuhn – Kuhn was one of four defensive tackles to make the 53-man roster, which means he should see a fair amount of playing time as part of their rotation. He’s a bit of a developmental prospect though, so they may pick and chose the right spots to play him.
Jayron Hosley – Hosley competed for the nickel corner job during the preseason but appears to have lost out. He’ll start the season primarily playing on special teams and could return a few punts.
Morris Claiborne – The Cowboys 1st-round pick will be the only rookie starter in Dallas. He’s missed time this offseason so his development may be slowed, but the Cowboys will rely on him and Brandon Carr to anchor the secondary.
Cole Beasley – The only rookie to crack the Cowboys 53-man roster on offense was an undrafted rookie from SMU. Beasley beat out fellow rookie 5th-round pick Danny Coale for the job. He’s one of six receivers on the active roster the Cowboys don’t have a clear-cut No. 3 and No. 4 option, so he could see some action early as they sort out their depth chart at the position.
Tyrone Crawford – Crawford will provide depth on the Cowboys defensive line, rotating in at defensive end with Kenyon Coleman and Jason Hatcher.
Other notables: linebacker Kyle Wilber, safety Matt Johnson
Le’Veon Bell – RB – Michigan State Spartans
Bell carried the Spartans to victory over Boise State and in doing so gave his draft stock a nice boost. At times Bell has looked like nothing more than a short-yardage back, but he proved he can carry the workload. He still needs to show he can remain effective over the course of the season, but he looks like a 2nd or 3rd-round pick right now. He reminds me of LeGarrette Blount or Peyton Hillis.
Dee Milliner – CB – Alabama Crimson Tide
Milliner started six game for the Tide last year, but this was his first chance to step up as the leader of the secondary. Michigan doesn’t exactly have the most potent passing attack, but Milliner shut down everything thrown his way. He finished with one interceptions and four pass break ups. There’s still a long way to go before the cornerbacks sort themselves out this year, but Milliner is definitely in the mix to come off the board in the 1st round.
Eddie Lacy – RB – Alabama Crimson Tide
It’s not that Lacy looked bad against Michigan, it’s just that he didn’t get many chances. It looks like Lacy will be part of a running back-by-committee approach which will limit his ability to impress scouts this season.
David Amerson – CB – N.C. State Wolfpack
Amerson entered the season as the top cornerback on many draft boards but he was exposed against Tennessee. He was torched for two long touchdowns and was exposed for his lack of speed. After watching this game, I started to wonder if Amerson might be better suited to play free safety at the next level.
Brandon Jenkins – DE- Florida State Seminoles
Jenkins suffered a season-ending foot injury on Saturday. Jenkins can apply for a medical redshirt and would likely receive it, but I would be surprised if he didn’t enter the draft. Jenkins would have been a Day 2 pick had he entered the 2012 Draft and he’ll still have a chance to get back to that level if he’s healthy enough to work out this offseason.
Arizona Cardinals rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley will get the start in their final preseason game in place of Kevin Kolb and John Skelton.
Ken Whisenhunt made it clear that Lindley was not part of the quarterback competition, but this is still a great opportunity for Lindley who could potentially see some action late in the season for the Cardinals. It’s become clear than Kolb and Skelton are likely not the long-term answers in Arizona, so it would not be a surprise to see Lindley get some action if this season slips away from the Cards.
The key to Lindley’s development will be his accuracy. He has the size and arm strength to play at this level, but accuracy has always been an area of concern.
Cleveland Browns head coach Pat Shurmur has announced that rookie Brandon Weeden will sit on Thursday, giving the nod for the final preseason game to Colt McCoy.
The Browns announced weeks ago that Weeden was the starter, and typically starting quarterbacks sit out the final preseason game. But Weeden isn’t your typical starter. He’s struggled the past two preseason games and many fans were hoping to see Weeden get a few more reps under his belt before the season opener.
The San Francisco 49ers cut the roster down to 75 and have already parted ways with 6th-round pick Jason Slowey, an offensive lineman out of Western Oregon.
There’s nothing unusual about a draft pick not making the team, especially a 6th or 7th round pick. But to not even make it to the final preseason game is somewhat surprising, and definitely reflects poorly on the front office.
The rest of the 49ers draft class remains with the team, although 5th-round pick Darius Fleming remains on the PUP list and is unlikely to be activated by the start of the season.