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Survivor: Training Camp

More by Ed Fulda
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There won't be any bugs to eat - unless someone decides to haze the rookies - but the simple math (91 bodies, 53 roster spots) dictates that there are a lot of players who will be voted off the island during the course of training camp. Most of the 38 players who don't make it, of course, will be free agent rookies but several veterans will be joining them. That said, here is a look at the veterans who, in my opinion, are most in danger of finding themselves without a job this year.

WR Marc Boerigter came out of nowhere as a rookie in 2002 to snag 20 catches for 420 yards and 8 touchdowns. Last year, his numbers were a pedestrian 11-158-0 and he dropped an inordinate number of balls. The drop off in production may have been nothing more than a bad case of the "sophomore slump" but it could also be that Boerigter isn't nearly as good as his rookie production indicated he could be. With the addition of draft choices Samie Parker and Jeris McIntyre, and the early performance of free agent rookie Richard Smith, Boerigter has to have an impressive camp in order to show the coaches that he's worthy of a roster spot.

Billy Baber and Kendall Gammon are caught in a numbers game at Tight End. Tony Gonzalez and Jason Dunn are locks for roster spots. Kendall Gammon is the team's long snapper, but he seems locked into a battle with rookie Jared Allen so it would not be a surprise if he doesn't make the team. That leaves Baber and rookie Kris Wilson battling over the third (and probable final) spot. Wilson, the team's second pick in the second round of this year's draft, has been impressive thus far and the team is not likely to cut him. That leaves Baber on the outside looking in.

Baber's situation is virtually the same problem that G Donald Willis faces for a spot on the offensive line. Willis had an advantage the past five seasons due to his versatility, but the addition of ex-Giant Chris Bober has changed that. Coupled with OT Kevin Sampson's early showing in camp, Willis faces a steep uphill battle to remain on the roster.

Age and inconsistency are the reasons why incumbent kickers Morten Anderson and Jason Baker may be replaced. Anderson is 44 years old and no longer has the range to kick long field goals and can't reach the end zone with any consistency on his kickoffs. If Lawrence Tynes demonstrates that he has cured his inconsistency problems, a change will be made. Baker battled inconsistency problems all season last year, so the punter spot is definitely up for grabs if Rodney Williams can impress the coaching staff.

On the defensive line, Montique Sharpe, Eric Downing, and Eddie Freeman are all feeling the heat. Sharpe and Downing are going to end up on the waiver wire due to the additions of Lionel Dalton and Junior Siavii. Downing may have a chance to stick with the team, but only if Dalton starts playing down to the level he did in brief stops in Denver and Washington. Neither Sharpe nor Downing has shown he has enough strength to plug up the middle of the line and that, ultimately, is what will cost them their jobs. Freeman, on the other hand, has the size, strength, and speed that the team needs. Unfortunately, he regressed noticeably last season. After playing in 15 games and recording 4 sacks as a rookie, Freemen only played in 5 games (zero sacks) last year. Unless he turns on the afterburners in camp, Freeman will be looking for a new job.

The last veteran on the hot seat is CB William Bartee. Like Freeman, Bartee has the size, speed, and athletic ability that the team desperately needs. Unfortunately, he has been a classic case of "looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane." With Julian Battle pushing hard for a starting job, Dexter McCleon could slide into the nickel back role he is best suited for and that would drop Bartee into the dime package or onto the waiver wire if Willie Ford, Benny Sapp, or Sean Weston shows anything during camp.

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