Plenty of receivers in the news

August, 11, 2009
Wide receivers are dropping like flies, and the preseason games haven't even gotten into full swing yet. Two of ESPN's top 20 wideouts for standard scoring are likely to miss their respective teams' entire slate of tuneups after injuries sent them to the sidelines: Carolina's Steve Smith (projected No. 4 with 199 fantasy points) and Tampa Bay's Antonio Bryant (projected No. 16, 153 points).

The Charlotte Observer reports that X-rays on Smith's right shoulder were negative and that there was no structural damage after he got "tangled up" with cornerback Chris Gamble during a passing drill and landed hard on the shoulder. Still, Smith is in a lot of pain and might be headed for an MRI to make sure there's nothing more serious going on there. The Panthers have said they are definitely shelving Smith for the first two games of the preseason, but it seems unlikely that he will play at all in these essentially meaningless contests.

However, those games will not be meaningless to Dwayne Jarrett, who will get a chance to prove his ability to start while Smith is out. He's not nearly as quick as Smith, but if he outperforms veteran Muhsin Muhammad with the first-team offense, he could well find himself in the starting lineup come Week 1, Smith or no Smith. Jarrett is pretty much secure as the No. 3 wide receiver on the Panthers, with only Ryne Robinson and Kenny Moore even remotely under consideration for a job with the team, but if Jarrett is able to impress over the next few weeks, expect his stock to rise.

Anthonio BryantKim Klement/US PresswireDon't knock down Antonio Bryant in your WR rankings just yet.
Meanwhile, Bucs coach Raheem Morris told the Tampa Tribune that the team has shut down Antonio Bryant and will be sending him for arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus. "Let's get him ready for Dallas. Let's sit him down for three weeks," Morris told the paper, indicating optimism that Bryant will be good to go in time for the season opener against the Cowboys. Still, Bryant's strength is his ability to go deep, so if he's not at 100 percent come Week 1, his performance is sure to suffer. However, the Bucs will likely take their chances, as their other options at the position are shaky, at best: Brian Clark, Maurice Stovall and Sammie Stroughter.

Morris' optimism at a quick and complete recovery for Bryant is based on past experience: The coach pointed out that Ronde Barber had the same procedure a few years ago just before a Bucs bye week and didn't miss a single game.

• Most teams have released their first "official depth charts," but don't put much stock in them. Some coaches are clearly using the lists as a motivational tool for players who they feel need a little kick in the rear: For example, Brandon Marshall is listed as a second-stringer on the Broncos' depth chart, behind Jabar Gaffney, Eddie Royal and Brandon Stokley. Marshall's talent certainly is still at a Pro Bowl level when he's healthy. To me, it seems new coach Josh McDaniels is frustrated with Marshall's contract complaints and trade demands, and perhaps might not feel the hamstring injury the receiver suffered on Aug. 2 is really severe enough to have kept Marshall out of practice ever since. Message delivered … now let's see how it is received.

Dwayne Bowe has been replaced in the starting lineup. New coach Todd Haley has the receiver working out with the second-stringers in practice. Haley told the Kansas City Star, "We're going to do everything we can to find players that do it our way. Each day that may change but we'll find guys that do it our way and do it the way we feel gives us the best chance to win, period." While it seems highly unlikely that Terrance Copper will be in the huddle for the opening snap instead of Bowe come Week 1 against the Ravens, clearly Bowe is in his new boss's doghouse. He has a month to dig his way out, and likely will, in my mind.

• Not all the depth chart rankings are irrelevant, though. The rankings of several receivers might come without any ulterior motive and might indeed signify the true feelings of the coaches. Receivers we fit into this category include Cleveland's Mohamed Massaquoi, who has been excelling opposite Braylon Edwards in the Browns' offense. Massaquoi clearly has a leg up on fellow rookie Brian Robiskie. Miami's Davone Bess is getting many more reps than Greg Camarillo, who is completely recovered from his torn ACL. Bess is well on his way to being the team's top option at flanker. In Seattle, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Nate Burleson look to have the top two receiving spots locked up. That means Deion Branch will be relegated to situational play at best and be of little value to fantasy owners.

• The Jets look to have decided on Jerricho Cotchery's complement in their starting lineup. Chansi Stuckey has impressed Rex Ryan to the point where Ryan has already declared him the clear favorite for the No. 2 job. "Stuckey is the guy who really stood out," Ryan told the New York Post after Monday's team workout. "He made some great catches, got open a lot and has been having a great camp." Looks like it's time to remove David Clowney and Brad Smith from draft lists in all but the deepest of deep leagues.

AJ Mass | email

ESPN Staff Writer


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