Commentary

Training Camp Notebook: Preseason games yield answers

Updated: August 31, 2007, 3:45 PM ET
By Christopher Harris | ESPN.com

It's a tale of two oversized quarterbacks. On the one hand, you've got Oakland's Daunte Culpepper. On the other, there's the Giants' Jared Lorenzen.

Culpepper played Thursday night in Oakland's final preseason game, and looked passable, going 11-for-19 for 108 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Of course, he also started the game at his own 1-yard-line, a possession which wound up in a safety for Seattle, and he threw the pick on his final pass of the game. But in-between, he was efficient, didn't fumble or stumble, and basically made new Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin breathe easy. Kiffin won't name a starter for now, because he wants Detroit to have to prepare for both Culpepper and Josh McCown, but Daunte's the guy.

Across the country, Lorenzen, the Hefty Lefty, looked awful against the Patriots. He got sacked seven times, and went 10-for-16 for 53 yards. The New York Post has speculated that Lorenzen's ragged play all preseason might have cost him his job as Eli Manning's backup, and seeing the H.L. continually make mistakes in his reads and check down to plays that had little chance of working on Thursday night certainly didn't make the idea of Anthony Wright as the Giants' No. 2 seem preposterous. We'll know more Saturday afternoon, when the Turk comes calling in the Meadowlands.

Other News and Notes:

LenDale White just might have nailed down the Titans' starting running back gig with a 15-carry, 58-yard effort Thursday night. He started the game, and also caught a flare pass he took for 19 yards. Jeff Fisher likely won't name a starter, and regardless Chris Brown is going to get some carries, but White appears to be the favorite for higher production, at least to begin the year.

Marques Colston made an appearance for the Saints Thursday night, catching two passes for 17 yards and showing no ill effects from the knee injury that had kept him out of the preseason to this point. That's good news for a lead receiver about to go against the Colts' potentially shaky secondary in the regular-season opener.

• You probably already got this news, but just in case: Kevin Jones will start the year on the Physically Unable to Perform list, meaning he'll have six weeks (and five games) to rest his surgically repaired foot before attempting his comeback. Tatum Bell, who sat out Thursday night's game with a shin problem, will be the Lions' starting rusher for those first five games, but then will lose value dramatically as Jones returns.

Thomas Jones didn't play in the Jets' 13-11 win over Philly Thursday night, but the team maintains Jones will be sufficiently healed from his calf injury to play in the team's opener against New England. Of course, there've also been rumors that Jones' problem is more Achilles than calf, and if that's the case, it's hard to know exactly what to believe. We'll just have to wait for a week from Sunday to find out for sure.

LaBrandon Toefield carried it 19 times for 84 yards and a 12-yard third-quarter score against Washington on Thursday night, making Jacksonville's final running-back decision more than a little interesting. It was assumed Toefield would be cut in favor of Alvin Pearman, who can return kicks, but Toefield outshone Pearman (nine carries, 21 yards) by a wide margin in the final preseason game. Perhaps the Jags will now keep both? Perhaps Pearman will be the guy to go? Stay tuned.

Jerramy Stevens somehow caught seven passes for 100 yards for the Bucs in their 31-24 win over Houston Thursday night. Normally, Stevens couldn't catch a cold. This happens at exactly the wrong time for those who believed Alex Smith would be fantasy-relevant this year. It'd be hard for Tampa to justify cutting Stevens now, and he's only going to take catches (or drops) away from Smith all year.

A.J. Feeley broke a bone in his non-throwing hand on Thursday night, but continued to play, and claimed the break didn't hurt his throwing. For now, the Eagles aren't saying whether this affects who their backup quarterback will be, though they've been immensely impressed by rookie Kevin Kolb, and wouldn't be averse to the notion of Kolb as Donovan McNabb's top understudy.

Noah Herron hurt his knee in Green Bay's final preseason game, but told reporters in the locker room it wasn't serious. He did have to leave the game, though. Herron is expected to be the Packers' third-string rusher, behind Brandon Jackson and Vernand Morency.

• The Times-Picayune reports that first-round WR Robert Meachem still isn't healed from his supposedly minor June knee surgery, and that he's no higher than sixth on the Saints' receiving depth chart. That's ugly for anyone who picked Meachem in re-draft leagues.

• Is Marcel Shipp the goal-line back in Arizona? The UMass product probably won't be returning kicks -- rookie Steve Breaston is the favorite there, with J.J. Arrington helping -- but The Arizona Republic keeps reporting that the Cardinals plan on using Shipp more to spell Edgerrin James in the running game, especially in an opponents' red zone. That's bad news for those predicting a major Edgerrin revival.

Todd Steussie, expected to be the Rams' primary backup at both guard and tackle, broke his foot on Thursday night and should miss the entire season. St. Louis's offensive line was hurt by injury last season, and now they've got precious little depth. It's something for Steven Jackson owners to keep an eye on.

• Also keep an eye on rookie running back Dwayne Wright in Buffalo. Dick Jauron went out of his way to praise the rook after his 11-carry, 52-yard performance Thursday night, and it's looking like he's the third-stringer in Buffalo. Wright could make an interesting player if someone ahead of him (i.e., Marshawn Lynch or Anthony Thomas) gets hurt.

• Here's a shock: DeAngelo Williams looked better than DeShaun Foster Thursday night. Williams carried four times for 17 yards against the Steelers, while Foster carried it three times for six yards. Foster is still the nominal starter in Carolina, and both guys will greatly sap one another's fantasy value, but Williams definitely deserved to go higher in fantasy drafts. He'll catch passes, and he's by far the more explosive player.

• Rookie tight end Greg Olsen left Thursday night's game with a wrenched knee after he landed awkwardly. The Bears aren't saying whether they know the extent of the injury, and Olsen is due for an MRI on Friday. He already wasn't a fantasy starter yet, and this doesn't help.

Randy Moss's final preseason line as a New England Patriot? Zero catches on zero downs played. Moss hasn't practiced in weeks and never got on the field during a preseason game. Should we be worried? Well, Randy Ratio will suit up for the opener, but be wary. One false move, and the Kelley Washington era gets closer.

Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.

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