By Nick Shook
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Who’s the starter?
That’s the prevailing question everyone wants answered in training camp, and in itself is a key function of these preseason practices. Central to the determination of who is indeed No. 1 is the depth chart.
The first depth charts entered the view of public eye on Monday. Now, before we take these as football scripture, teams are required to put these out. A grain of salt is recommended on the side.
We saw the first clever publication by coaches on Monday with Gary Kubiak’s decision at quarterback in Denver. More on that later.
Tuesday brought another eye-opener, this time from the Browns‘ facility in Berea, Ohio.
A day after naming Robert Griffin III the starting quarterback, the Browns are relying on another former quarterback at one of their starting receiver positions. Terrelle Pryor is listed as a starting receiver opposite rookie Corey Coleman.
Pryor’s hype has risen and fallen and risen again within the last 365-plus days (which included being released for running back Robert Turbin in Week 1 of 2015), but after an impressive performance in the team’s intrasquad scrimmage Saturday at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, we’re nearing peak Pryor as an NFL wideout. How he’ll perform in pads, in live action, remains to be seen, first on Thursday against the Packers. One also cannot forget the role Josh Gordon‘s (quad injury, conditioning issues) absence plays in this, too.
Elsewhere in depth chart news…
» Jacksonville is home to a franchise hoping to take a big step in 2016, and the camp battles reflect the desire to improve thus far, most notably at left tackle. Former second-overall pick Luke Joeckel is listed as a co-starter with new arrival Kelvin Beachum at left tackle. Running backs T.J. Yeldon and new addition Chris Ivory are also listed as co-starters, as are veteran addition Prince Amukamara and rookie Jalen Ramsey at cornerback No. 2, opposite Davon House.
Rookie linebacker Myles Jack is listed as second string, where he’s been for the entirety of camp thus far. Veteran Sen’Derrick Marks, facing the possibility of playing multiple positions on a suddenly deep front four, is listed behind free agent acquisition Malik Jackson at defensive tackle, and at third-string defensive end.
» Among the most anticipated decisions is the quarterback situation Denver, and head coach Gary Kubiak went with the coy play of naming both Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian co-starters. We know this isn’t possible, and unless Kubiak is on the verge of an offensive innovation even greater than the Wildcat, we’ll get our answer — just not until Thursday, when the Broncos play the Bears.
» Rookie Giants receiver Sterling Shepard is listed as a starter opposite Odell Beckham Jr., and ahead of Victor Cruz, among others. Coming off two major injuries, Cruz is reportedly struggling to return to star form, so Shepard taking the starting spot isn’t too surprising.
First-round pick Eli Apple is listed as the team’s third corner, behind veteran Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and new acquisition Janoris Jenkins. The more notable listing in New York’s secondary is rookie Darian Thompson, listed as the starter at free safety.
» Charles Johnson is out to save his job, and so far, he’s doing a pretty good job. The veteran receiver was listed as a starter on the Vikings‘ depth chart, ahead of first-round pick Laquon Treadwell.
» The tackle positions are solidified in Detroit thus far, with Riley Reiff officially making the move on paper to right tackle, and first-round pick Taylor Decker taking over at left tackle. Decker was a bulldozer and reliable blind-side protector at Ohio State, and seems to be handling the transition to the pro game well.
» Jeremy Hill is the Bengals‘ starter at running back, ahead of Giovani Bernard, according to Cincinnati’s first depth chart. More notable, though, is the battle to take the place of the departed Mohamed Sanu at wide receiver No. 2. Currently, Brandon LaFell is ahead of Brandon Tate in that competition.
» He was drafted in the fifth round but he’s apparently turning enough heads to be listed ahead of Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter and Dorial Green-Beckham. His name is Tajae Sharpe, a product of Massachusetts, and he’s listed first at the second wide receiver position in Tennessee.