Five players to watch: AJ McCarron might have something to prove

Preseason football is nearly finished, which means your fantasy leagues are nearly ready! It also means that coaches are tasked with making final decisions in terms of roster cuts and the depth chart. It’s not a job anyone envies.

Most starters won’t play this week, but there are still position battles going on and players fighting to make 53-man rosters. As we get set for the final week of the preseason, let’s take a look at five players who are worth watching this week:

Cincinnati Bengals QB AJ McCarron

It’s been an odd summer for McCarron after an offseason of trade speculation. While the Bengals never dealt him, you have to wonder if it affected the quarterback’s psyche. In last week’s preseason loss to Washington, McCarron was highly erratic and looked confused. Normally an accurate passer, he missed Cody Core on two routine throws. Then, he threw a pick-six in the red zone. While McCarron is in no danger of getting cut, the 2014 fifth-rounder could be in danger of losing his backup gig. 

Fellow reserve Jeff Driskel – on the heels of leading Cincinnati to a comeback win in the first preseason game – once again showed promise. A far better athlete than his counterpart, Driskel scampered for 29 yards on four attempts in the Washington game. The bottom line for McCarron as he gets set for Cincy’s tilt on Thursday in Indianapolis is that he must play better. He must be more accurate and simply put, more commanding. Otherwise, he may lose the backup role to Driskel. 

AJ McCarron has not had a great preseason for the Bengals. (AP)
AJ McCarron has not had a great preseason for the Bengals. (AP)

Jacksonville Jaguars WR Dede Westbrook 

If it weren’t for a highly questionable series of off-field issues, Westbrook likely would have been a first-round draft choice. Instead, the Biletnikoff Award winner slipped all the way into the fourth round, where Jacksonville decided to take a flier. So far, so good. 

Westbrook has stayed out of trouble and looked every bit the explosive ace that he did at Oklahoma, leading the team with 7 catches for 173 yards and a touchdown in preseason action. The Jags have a true No. 1 wideout in Allen Robinson and reliable options behind him in Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee. However, if Westbrook plays well against Atlanta (he needs to show he’s healthy after dealing with what has been reported as a sports hernia injury), he could cement himself as a big-time contributor right away. Blake Bortles, to be sure, needs all he help he can get.

Cleveland Browns QB Brock Osweiler

Cleveland foolishly ate Osweiler’s contract in a trade with Houston, only to name rookie DeShone Kizer its starter. Kizer is clearly the better player. What isn’t yet clear though is whether or not Osweiler has even done enough in Hue Jackson’s eyes to lock up the backup role. Remember, Osweiler has gone just 12 for 27 for 63 yards with an interception in preseason. Another dud Friday against the Bears and Jackson may be forced to go with Cody Kessler as his No. 2.

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Phillip Dorsett WR Indianapolis Colts 

Dorsett’s 51 catches during his first two seasons have done little to silence the critics. A former first-round pick, the speedster had struggled with drops and injuries. After a stellar performance last week against the Steelers (three catches for 60 yards), perhaps he has re-asserted himself into the good graces of head coach Chuck Pagano.

“He has done a nice job,” Pagano said, per “It was a good night for Phil. I’m glad to see him come through. We are going to need him to be there and come through.”

Like division foe Jacksonville, Indy is set with its top two receivers in three-time Pro Bowler T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief. Dorsett is an explosive playmaker who provides another punch to an offense that will need to score plenty of points to win games this season. If he plays well against the Bengals, he should be in line to become the No. 3 wideout for Andrew Luck, or whomever is under center for the Colts.

Seahawks Offensive Line 

Seattle’s Achilles heel took a gruesome blow when starting left tackle George Fant suffered a torn ACL against Minnesota. While Russell Wilson won’t play Thursday against Oakland, we should still get a good glimpse at how Rees Odhiambo – Fant’s replacement – holds up, along with the rest of the group. We know Pete Carroll wants to establish a balanced offense. In order to achieve that, he needs an adequate line. Odhiambo and free-agent pick up Luke Joeckel have even more pressure on them now as both pass and run blockers.

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