2013 NFL Preseason: 10 Players Who Must Shine In Week 2

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2013 NFL Preseason: 10 Players Who Must Shine In Week 2

2013 NFL Preseason: 10 Players Who Must Shine In Week 2
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Week 2 of the NFL preseason is upon us. While most of the preseason is spent watching backups look better than they really are, Week 2 is one of the weeks where starters see some real action.

And that means this is the first week that players battling for their jobs really need to step it up. If someone has a bad Week 1, they can come back this week and regain what they lost, but if they don't impress this week, they could find themselves buried on the depth chart for the rest of the season.

Week 2 is also the time when players separate themselves from their competition, especially for quarterbacks. Teams that have open quarterback competitions want to pick their starter before the third week of preseason, because that's the week they want to use as a dress rehearsal for the games that count.

This is the week that starting jobs are won or lost on the field. And not just for quarterbacks either. There are rookie running backs struggling to find their way and defensive players who need to hold off hard-charging rookies looking to take their jobs.

The preseason can be equal parts exciting and excruciating for NFL fans. We've been so starved for football all offseason that anything involving football on the actual field gets us excited, but knowing we're so close to the real thing can be excruciating.

So, one way to get through these practice games while we wait for the regular season to start is to focus on the players who need to step it up this week.

These are 10 players who need to have big games in the second week of preseason action.

Ben Sullivan is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bensullivan52, "Like" him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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10. Michael Vick

Michael Vick
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Vick came into training camp ready for a battle to regain his starting job for the Philadelphia Eagles. With new head coach Chip Kelly and his innovative offense now in town, Vick needs to prove he's the man going forward for the Eagles.

He did a lot last week against the New England Patriots to do just that. Vick was 4-of-5 in the passing game, including a 47-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson against the New England first team secondary.

Vick has the edge over Nick Foles right now because of his experience, but he still needs to continue proving he's the man for Kelly this year.

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9. Montee Ball

Montee Ball
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

When the Denver Broncos took Montee Ball in the second round of this year's draft, then almost immediately released veteran back Willis McGahee, all signs pointed to Ball starting the season as the No. 1 back.

But as training camp opened, the team announced that second-year man Ronnie Hillman was the starter. It seemed like posturing at the time and just a way of keeping the talented rookie motivated, but after Ball's performance in the preseason opener for Denver, maybe it's for real.

Ball rushed for just nine yards on five carries against the San Francisco 49ers, while Hillman racked up the same nine yards on just three carries. Neither back looked great, but if Ball doesn’t have a big preseason Week 2, he may be out of the running for the top spot in Denver before he knows it.

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8. Jabaal Sheard

Jabaal Sheard
Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

Recently converted pass-rushing outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard finds himself adjusting to a new position and battling for his starting job all at the same time.

When the Cleveland Browns took Barkevious Mingo out of LSU with the sixth overall pick this year, they were expecting him to push for playing time right away.

And he's done just that. Mingo, who is also transitioning to a pass-rushing outside linebacker in the Browns' 3-4 system, has been impressive in camp and will be hard to keep off the field when the games count.

This position for the Browns might end up being a time share for most of the season, but if Sheard wants to keep Mingo on the sidelines for long, he needs a big showing this week when the Browns face off against the Detroit Lions.

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7. Brandon Weeden

Brandon Weeden
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a good performance in the Browns' first preseason game, quarterback Brandon Weeden still has not been named the starter in Cleveland yet.

The strong-armed quarterback struggled at times last year as a rookie and is in a battle for his job against journeyman signal caller Jason Campbell.

Weeden may not be a franchise quarterback, but a big game against the Lions should solidify him against the constantly underwhelming Campbell.

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6. Blaine Gabbert

Blaine Gabbert
Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

The Blaine Gabbert era for the Jacksonville Jaguars may finally be coming to an end. The former first-round pick hasn't played well in his two years in the league, and will likely lose his starting job to veteran Chad Henne this summer.

If Gabbert wants any chance to start Week 1 for the Jaguars, he needs to play so well this week that they can't justify trotting out the perfectly-average Henne all year.

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5. Mark Sanchez

Mark Sanchez
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

No New York Jets fan out there wants to see Mark Sanchez start this year for their team, and I can't blame them.

Sanchez has regressed the last two years since taking his team to the AFC Championship game his first two seasons. Well, more accurately, it could be said that he just didn't hold his team back those first two years.

The Jets and their fans want to see rookie Geno Smith separate himself from Sanchez this summer, but that seems unlikely after an abysmal performance in the team's first preseason game against the Lions.

With Smith struggling on the field and battling injuries off it, Sanchez can save his job with a big game this week.

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4. Johnathan Franklin

Johnathan Franklin
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Many were surprised when the Green Bay Packers took running back Johnathan Franklin in the fourth round of this year's draft, just two rounds after they took Eddie Lacy out of the University of Alabama.

Franklin was a sleeper this spring to earn the starting job, but Lacy has looked good in camp despite battling hamstring injuries, and James Starks has rejuvenated his career now that the team brought in the new competition for carries.

The Packers have been lacking a running game since Starks broke out during their 2010 Super Bowl run. Lacy is likely to share carries with Starks when the regular season starts, relegating Franklin to a role as third-down back at best unless he can impress this week and put his name back in the conversation.

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3. Ryan Mallett

Ryan Mallett
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

With Tom Brady possibly sitting out when the Patriots face off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the start would go to current second-string quarterback Ryan Mallett.

Despite all the talent at his disposal, Mallett has been underwhelming in the preseason action we've seen from him the last couple of years.

This could be his opportunity to separate himself from Tim Tebow, who just might be the best option at backup quarterback for the Patriots.

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2. Nick Foles

Nick Foles
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles' quarterback slot has been one of the most interesting position battles heading into training camp. So far, neither second-year man Nick Foles or veteran Michael Vick have separated themselves from the other.

Both played well in their first preseason game against the Patriots. Foles was accurate, completing five of six passes, but did not throw a touchdown like Vick did.

All signs point to Vick getting the nod if neither player steps up and takes the job. Foles will need a big performance this week if he wants to stay in the hunt for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart.

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1. Geno Smith

Geno Smith
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie Geno Smith was considered by many to be in the lead for the starting quarterback job for the Jets just a short time ago. But that was before he came out in his first preseason game and played so poorly that he might already have lost any chance at being the Week 1 starter.

Smith, despite being hampered by an ankle injury he suffered in that first preseason action, needs to come out in his second game and prolong the decision to keep him in the running for the starting job.


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