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FR: Preseason additions

What additions teams made late in the preseason will make the most difference come the regular season? We try to figure that out in this post, which comments on additions made from the second preseason game until the season opener. For thoughts on earlier additions, check out this training-camp additions post and work your way back.

Giants (add OG Shawn Andrews) – Andrews, who made two Pro Bowls and thrived at guard for the Eagles, lost his job there after playing only two games over the past two years. Last season, the problem was a back injury, while a battle with depression cost Andrews the entire 2008 season. The Eagles said he failed a physical when they cut him in March. If he gets in shape and stays healthy, Andrews can still be an above-average guard who can help address injury issues the Giants are facing with Chris Snee and Rich Seubert. And you’d assume that Andrews would be motivated to play the Eagles twice this season. Maybe this is a gamble that doesn’t pay off, but it makes sense for the Giants to take a low-cost shot on a player who thrived before.

Vikings (add WR Javon Walker) – Walker, who last played in the NFL in 2008, comes to Minnestota to help a receiving corps that faces health issues for Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin (along with Jaymar Johnson). Walker was highly productive in Green Bay and Denver, but he was a high-dollar bust in Oakland, and he hasn’t been healthy in years. Plus, he and Brett Favre are far from chums, after Favre threw Walker under the bus during  a holdout when both were Packers. If Walker still has something left, he could be a find for the Vikings, but adding him at this point – especially after he had such public disputes with Favre – seems like a strange (if not a desperate) move.

Texans (add RB Derrick Ward) – Ward, who was cut by Tampa Bay after being a high-dollar free-agent bust in 2009, landed in Houston as a complimentary back to Arian Foster. Ward is a bigger back who brings a little of the thump that Houston was depending on rookie Ben Tate to provide before Tate’s training-camp injury. It’s a nice landing spot for Ward, who turns 30 this season but is just two years removed from a thousand-yard season.

Saints (kept DT Kendrick Clancy; add RB DeShawn Wynn) – Clancy, who played just two games for New Orleans last year after starting 14 for the team the year before, returns as a run-stuffing specialist. He is still good enough to clog the middle for 10-15 plays a game. And after adding Ladell Betts looking for a No. 3 running back, the Saints are also giving ex-Packer Wynn a shot. Wynn had a few moments in Green Bay, but he’s not a dynamic threat. Wynn ended up beating out Betts for a roster spot.

Chargers (claim CB Fred Bennett) – Bennett, a former fourth-round pick, emerged as a prospect in Houston early on, but his performance slipped over the last couple of years. Still, he’s worth a waiver claim for the Chargers, who gave up Antonio Cromartie in the offseason, which limited their CB depth.

Bills (add TE J.P. Foschi) – Foschi came to Buffalo in late August to address a major tight end depth problem, and with Shawn Nelson facing suspension and Derek Schoumann hurt, Foschi could make the opening-day roster. Foschi is a decent tight end who won’t embarrass the Bills, but he’s not going to change the team’s fate.

Lions (add LB Rocky Boiman) – With standout sophomore DeAndre Levy fighting a groin injury, the Lions added Boiman for insurance at middle linebacker. The eight-year vet has proven to be a solid if unspectacular factor in the middle for Pittsburgh, Indy, K.C., and Tennessee.

Seahawks (add WR Brandon Jones) – Jones was recently released by the 49ers, but he drew significant interest and landed in Seattle. He faces an uphill battle for playing time with the Seahawks, given the presence of veterans Deion Branch and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, youngsters Golden Tate and Deon Butler, and the shocking resurgence of former first-round bust Mike Williams. But perhaps the Seahawks want to pick Jones’ brain leading up to their regular-season opener against the 49ers.

Jets (add OLB Ricky Foley) – After Calvin Pace suffered a foot injury that will sideline him into the regular season, the Jets claimed Foley, a former sack-producer in the CFL who couldn’t win a job in Seattle. The Jets’ 3-4 defense should be a better fit for Foley than Pete Carroll’s 4-3, and if nothing else Foley adds depth at a cheap price while Pace is out.

Bears (add QB Todd Collins) – Collins, who started almost a full season for the Bills way back in 1997, has been a solid backup in Kansas City and Washington over the last decade. Now he goes to Chicago, where he has knocked off Matt Gutierrez and should soon surpass rookie Dan LeFevour to become Jay Cutler’s backup. It’s a worthwhile investment for a Bears team that needs good QB play to keep its offense potent.

Redskins (add FB Carey Davis and S Tyrone Carter) – Davis, who spent the last four seasons with the Steelers, landed with the Redskins to help fill-in for injured FB Mike Sellers. Carter is another former Steeler who will hit despite his smaller size.

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Jersey Numbers: Linebackers

This is our next to last post choosing the best players at each position by jersey number. If you have quibbles, leave a comment and we’ll update this post. And please have patience – this is a big job.

We started this project with wide receivers in this post and then with tight ends in this post and quarterbacks in this post and running backs in this post and offensive linemen in this post and kickers/punters in this post and defensive linemen in this post. Now we move to linebackers, who can wear numbers in the 50s and the 90s with a few exceptions. If a number is omitted, it’s because no linebacker who has played this season wears those digits.

46 – Vinny Ciurciu, Lions – Ciurciu is the only linebacker currently wearing 46. He has played in six games this year, seeing most of his action on special teams. Now with his fourth team, Ciurciu also has a good locker-room nickname (see the bottom of the linked post).

47 – Brit Miller, 49ers – Miller is the only linebacker currently wearing 47. The rookie out of Illinois has played in two games this season.

49 – Zack Follett, Lions – Follett is the only linebacker currently wearing 49. The rookie out of Cal has played in nine games this year, mostly on special teams.

50 – Curtis Lofton, Falcons – Lofton, a second-year middle linebacker, has emerged as a tackle machine for the Falcons. His growth allowed the Dirty Birds to let stalwart Keith Brooking leave via free agency, and now it’s Lofton who will lead Atlanta’s defense for years to come. Lofton is tied for second in the NFL with 118 tackles. We give him the nod over OLB Mike Vrabel, who had great years in New England and is now a veteran leader in Kansas City. Other notable 50s: Russell Allen, Jaguars; James Anderson, Panthers; K.C. Asiodu, Rams; Antwan Barnes, Ravens; Eric Barton, Browns; Monty Beisel, Cardinals; Rocky Boiman, Steelers; Diyral Briggs, 49ers; Isaiah Ekejiuba, Raiders; Vernon Gholston, Jets; A.J. Hawk, Packers; Erin Henderson, Vikings; Lance Laury, Seahawks; Matt McCoy, Buccaneers; Marvin Mitchell, Saints; Rob Ninkovich, Patriots; Ernie Sims, Lions; David Thornton, Titans; Erik Walden, Dolphins; Philip Wheeler, Colts; Will Witherspoon, Eagles

51 – Barrett Ruud, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Ruud has emerged as a do-everything middle linebacker for the Buccaneers, and he’s one of the few bright spots on the team’s defense. He’s fifth in the league with 113 tackles and also has six passes defensed. He gets the nod over Jonathan Vilma of New Orleans, who may be better in pass coverage. Also worth mentioning are long-time veterans Keith Brooking of Dallas, James Farrior of Pittsburgh, and Takeo Spikes of the 49ers; youngsters Jerod Mayo of the Patriots and Paul Posluszny of Buffalo; and injured Seahawks MLB Lofa Tatupu. Other notable 51s: Brendon Ayanbadejo, Ravens; Akin Ayodele, Dolphins; Tim Diles, Chargers; Ryan Fowler, Jets; Tony Gilbert, Falcons; Alex Hall, Browns; Clint Ingram, Colts; Ben Leber, Vikings; Corey Mays, Chiefs; Joe Mays, Eagles; Gerald McRath, Titans; Brady Poppinga, Packers; Dan Skuta, Bengals; Chaun Thompson, Texans

52 – Ray Lewis, Ravens – This is a loaded number that features Pro Bowl-caliber linebackers in Carolina MLB Jon Beason, San Francisco MLB Patrick Willis, and Jets ILB David Harris, but Lewis gets the nod for his long, productive career that continues at a very high level. Other notable youngsters include rookie Clay Matthews of Green Bay, Kirk Morrison of Oakland, Daryl Smith of Jacksonville, and injured Browns ILB D’Qwell Jackson. Other notable 52s: Xavier Adibi, Texans; Eric Alexander, Patriots;  Michael Boley, Giants; Cody Brown, Cardinals; Jonathan Casillas, Saints; Channing Crowder, Dolphins; Chris Draft, Bills; Larry English, Chargers; Cody Glenn, Colts; Chad Greenway, Vikings; David Herron, Chiefs; Abdul Hodge, Bengals; D.D. Lewis, Seahawks;  Rocky McIntosh, Redskins; Jamar Williams, Bears; Coy Wire, Falcons

53 – Keith Bulluck, Titans – Bulluck has long been the emotional leader of the Titans’ defense, and he remains a solid sideline-to-sideline player. His three interceptions tie him for the lead among linebackers, and his 10 passes defensed place him second at the position. He’s also among the top 10 in tackles for linebackers. That’s enough to give him the nod over Atlanta’s Mike Peterson, another long-time, solid performer. Other notable 53s: Marcus Buggs, Bills; Derrick Burgess, Patriots; Khary Campbell, Texans; Na’il Diggs, Panthers; Moise Fokou, Eagles; Clark Haggans, Cardinals; James Holt, Chargers; Thomas Howard, Raiders; Larry Izzo, Jets; Rashad Jeanty, Bengals; Bryan Kehl, Giants; Niko Koutouvides, Buccaneers; Paris Lenon, Rams; Jameel McClain, Ravens; Tyrone McKenzie, Patriots; Steve Octavien, Cowboys; Nick Roach, Bears; Matt Roth, Browns; Mark Simoneau, Saints; Bryan Smith, Jaguars; Reggie Torbor, Dolphins; Jeff Ulbrich, 49ers; Demorrio Williams, Chiefs

54 – Andra Davis, Broncos – This number lost its stalwart when Brian Urlacher of Chicago was knocked out for the season. So among a group of solid if unspectacular inside linebackers, we’ll give Davis the nod for his contributions (72 tackles, 3.5 sacks) in reinvigorating the Denver defense. Other contenders were Chargers ILB Stephen Cooper and Titans MLB Stephen Tulloch. Other notable 54s: H.B. Blades, Redskins; Jasper Brinkley, Vikings; Prescott Burgess, Ravens; Bobby Carpenter, Cowboys; Brandon Chillar, Packers; Blake Costanzo, Browns; Kenwin Cummings, Jets; Zac Diles, Texans; Troy Evans, Saints; Andre Frazier, Steelers; Jonathan Goff, Giants; Nic Harris, Bills; Geno Hayes, Buccaneers; Gerald Hayes, Cardinals; Will Herring, Seahawks; Freddie Keiaho, Colts; DeAndre Levy, Lions; Stephen Nicholas, Falcons; Jeremiah Trotter, Eagles; Tracy White, Eagles; Sam Williams, Raiders

55 – Terrell Suggs, Ravens – This is a tough call, because Suggs has just 3.5 sacks this season and has missed three games. But on the whole, he’s the most complete linebacker at this position, because he can be a dynamite pass rusher and also do well against the run and in coverage. I’d rather have Suggs that Miami OLB Joey Porter, who has eight sacks thus far this season, or Chicago’s playmaking WLB Lance Briggs, who stars in the featured position in the old Tampa 2 defense the Bears run. Other solid vets wearing 55 include Detroit’s Larry Foote and Denver’s D.J. Williams, while youngsters Clint Session of Indianapolis and James Laurinaitis of St. Louis deserve mention as well. Other notable 55s: Jon Alston, Raiders; Patrick Bailey, Steelers; Desmond Bishop, Packers; Alvin Bowen, Redskins; Stewart Bradley, Eagles; Ahmad Brooks, 49ers; Danny Clark, Giants; Dan Connor, Panthers; Scott Fujita, Saints; Stephen Hodge, Cowboys; Kawika Mitchell, Bills; Kenny Onatolu, Vikings; Keith Rivers, Bengals; Justin Rogers, Chiefs; Junior Seau, Patriots; Reggie Walker, Cardinals; Jamaal Westerman, Jets

56 – Brian Cushing, Texans – It’s hard to imagine giving a rookie like Cushing the honor at a highly populated number like this one, but Cushing has earned it. He’s sixth among linebackers with 116 tackles and also has 2.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, 12 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles, and a safety. That’s huge impact that earns him the nod over Shawne Merriman of San Diego, who isn’t the same after last season’s knee injury, pass-rushing stud LaMarr Woodley of Pittsburgh, and solid all-around players Nick Barnett of Green Bay and Bradie James of Dallas. Other notable 56s: Colin Allred, Titans; Charlie Anderson, Dolphins; Robert Ayers, Broncos; Quinton Culbertson, Panthers; Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Saints; Justin Durant, Jaguars; Keith Ellison, Bills; Tavares Gooden, Ravens; Tyjuan Hagler, Colts; E.J. Henderson, Vikings; Leroy Hill, Seahawks; Derrick Johnson, Chiefs; Akeem Jordan, Eagles; Kaluka Maiava, Browns; Scott McKillop, 49ers; David Nixon, Raiders; Chike Okeafor, Cardinals; Rod Wilson, Buccaneers

57 – Bart Scott, Jets – New Jets head coach Rex Ryan brought Scott with him from Baltimore as a high-dollar free agent to be the emotional leader and scheme expert in the middle of Gang Green’s defense. Scott has played fine for the Jets, but over the year it’s been fellow ILB David Harris who has emerged as a top-tier player. Still, Scott gets the nod over veteran Dhani Jones of Cincinnati and David Hawthorne, who’s having a terrific season as a fill-in starter at middle linebacker for Seattle. Other notable 57s: Stanley Arnoux, Saints; Kevin Bentley, Texans; Chase Blackburn, Giants; Ricky Brown, Raiders; Victor Butler, Cowboys; Chris Chamberlain, Saints; Jon Corto, Bills; Jordon Dizon, Lions; Keyaron Fox, Steelers; Chris Gocong, Eagles; Mario Haggan, Broncos; Adam Hayward, Buccaneers; Jordan Senn, Panthers; David Veikune, Browns; Matt Wilhelm, 49ers

58 – Karlos Dansby, Cardinals – It’s hard to imagine a better physical specimen at outside linebacker than Dansby, who is a leader on a strong Cardinals defense. He gets the nod over Gary Brackett, an undersized middle linebacker at the heart of the Colts defense. Other notable 58s: Marcus Benard, Browns; Quincy Black, Buccaneers; Thomas Davis, Panthers; Marques Harris, Chargers; Robert Henson, Redskins; Rey Maualuga, Bengals; Slade Norris, Raiders; Antonio Pierce, Giants; Scott Shanle, Saints; Tim Shaw, Bears; David Vobora, Rams; Jason Williams, Cowboys; Pierre Woods, Patriots

59 – London Fletcher, Redskins – Fletcher doesn’t have ideal size, but year after year he is a leader, a reliable tackler, and a playmaker, no matter what team he’s playing for. He’s a great success story as an undrafted player. He gets the nod over Julian Peterson of Detroit and DeMeco Ryans of Houston. Other notable 59s: Spencer Adkins, Falcons; Jovan Belcher, Chiefs; Angelo Crowell, Buccaneers; Aaron Curry, Seahawks; Dannell Ellerbe, Ravens; Heath Farwell, Vikings; Larry Grant, Rams; Gary Guyton, Patriots; Ramon Humber, Colts; Brian Iwuh, Jaguars; Brandon Johnson, Bengals; Landon Johnson, Panthers; Brad Jones, Packers; Cato June, Bears; Stanford Keglar, Titans; Ashlee Palmer, Bills; Brandon Siler, Chargers; Pisa Tinoisamoa, Bears; Gerris Wilkerson, Giants; Brandon Williams, Cowboys; Wesley Woodyard, Broncos

74 – Aaron Kampman, Packers – Kampman, who moved from defensive end to outside ‘backer this season as Green Bay implemented a 3-4 defense, kept his old D-lineman number. Kampman didn’t have a great transition season, with just 3.5 sacks in nine games before suffering a season-ending injury. But he’s still a good player, and he’s the only linebacker wearing 74, so he merits a mention.

90 – No linebackers wearing 90 have played a game this season.

91 – Tamba Hali, Chiefs – Hali is emerging as a solid pass rusher in Kansas City, with 7.5 sacks thus far this season. He gets the nod at this number over Cameron Wake, Miami’s CFL import who has 5.5 sacks in his first NFL season.

92 – Elvis Dumervil, Broncos – In one of the toughest calls of this whole project, we’re going with Dumervil, the NFL leader with 15 sacks, over 2008 Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison of Pittsburgh. Both guys play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, and both add the fright factor to their respective defenses. But while Harrison may be a better player in pass coverage, Dumervil is having a defensive player of the year caliber campaign in Denver, and so for 2009 we have to opt for him. Other notable 92s: Bertrand Berry, Cardinals; Hunter Hillenmeyer, Bears

93 – Anthony Spencer, Cowboys – Spencer has been a disappointment at outside ‘backer since the Cowboys made him a first-round pick three years ago, but as a full-time player he gets the nod over Jason Trusnik, who has moved into the starting lineup in Cleveland after a midseason trade from the Jets.

94 – DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys – Ware is a preeminent pass rusher with nine sacks this year and 62.5 in five seasons so far. Also deserving mention is Lawrence Timmons, an emerging inside ‘backer for the Steelers. Other notable 94s: Arnold Harrison, Browns; Marques Murrell, Jets; Jyles Tucker, Chargers

95 – Shaun Phillips, Chargers – In a close call, the nod here goes to Phillips, a pass-rushing outside ‘backer who has seven sacks for San Diego, over Cleveland OLB Kamerion Wimbley, who has 6.5 sacks. The six fumbles Phillips has forced was the determining factor. We’ll also shout out to Baltimore’s Jarret Johnson, another emerging pass-rusher. Other notable 95s: Tully Banta-Cain, Patriots; Ali Highsmith, Cardinals

96 – David Bowens, Browns – Bowens came with Eric Mangini from the Jets to Cleveland. He has long been an above-average pass-rushing outside ‘backer, and he has five sacks in that role this season. He gets the nod over declining Patriot Adalius Thomas. Other notable 96s: Omar Gaither, Eagles; Andy Studebaker, Chiefs

97 – Calvin Pace, Jets – Pace missed the first four games of the season due to a performance-enhancing drug suspension, but since returning he has continued to provide pass rush off the edge with six sacks. Other notable 97s: Clint Sintim, Giants; Pierre Walters, Chiefs

98 – Brian Orakpo, Redskins – Orakpo, Washington’s first-round pick, has 11 sacks in his rookie season, including four last week against Oakland. That’s the kind of defensive jolt Washington was hoping for when it drafted him. Other notable 98s: Shawn Crable, Patriots; Parys Haralson, 49ers; Darrell McClover, Bears

99 – Jason Taylor, Dolphins – Taylor spent most of his career as a 4-3 defensive end, but he has seamlessly made the transition to a 3-4 outside linebacker over the last few years. After a slow season in his one campaign in Washington, Taylor has six sacks this year for Miami, giving him 126.5 in his 13-year career. Other notable 99s: Kevin Burnett, Chargers; Paul Kruger, Ravens; Manny Lawson, 49ers; Bryan Thomas, Jets; Jeremy Thompson, Packers

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Training Camp Moves – Week 3

This post is a compilation of additions NFL teams made during the third full week of camps. The timetable for this post opens on August 7 and continues through August 14. You can read a summary of the first week of training camp moves here and the second week moves here. Because moves will be coming fast and furious throughout training camp, we’re going to use quick analysis of moves each week during this time instead of creating a massive Football Relativity comparison.

Additions

Eagles (add QB Michael Vick) – Lots of thoughts on Vick and the Eagles in this post.

Lions (add DT Shaun Smith and WR Billy McMullen) – Smith, who was cut by the Browns earlier in the week, was overpaid as a starting defensive lineman in Cleveland. But he is good enough to contribute to a rotation at defensive tackle in Detroit. At the least, he provides competition to the incumbents there. McMullen, who was cut by Seattle earlier in the week, is a big but slow receiver who fits in a West Coast scheme. While he has a little NFL pedigree, he still is unlikely to make the Lions’ final roster.

Browns (add OT Fred Weary) – Weary didn’t play in the league last year, but he has 43 career starts at right guard. He is an insurance policy against the training-camp injury that starting guard Rex Hadnot suffered. If Hadnot can’t go into the regular season, a healthy Weary would be an acceptable stopgap. Weary will have to prove he’s healthy, but he could be a nice August find for Cleveland if he is.

Titans (add LB Rocky Boiman) – Boiman, a seven-year veteran who started his career in Tennessee, returns to the Titans after spending time with the Chiefs and Colts. He’s a marginal starter inside who can make some tackles, but he is dependable. He’ll have to find a spot on special teams to have a legitimate shot of contributing to the Titans his year.

Steelers (add C Alex Stepanovich) – The Steelers signed Stepanovich after OG Darnell Stapleton got hurt in camp. Stepanovich has bounced around this offseason, and he’s probably little more than a backup center and guard at this point, but he’s a veteran who can probably fill a reserve role acceptably on short notice. That’s what Pittsburgh is looking for from him.

Packers (add LB Stryker Sulak) – Sulak was a sixth-round pick of the Raiders, but Oakland released him before training camp, and before he even signed a contract. He was drafted as a defensive end in Oakland, but the Packers want to try him as a 3-4 outside linebacker. For a team changing defenses like Green Bay, the more options you have, the better, and so Sulak is worth a training-camp look.

Buccaneers (add P Dirk Johnson) – With Josh Bidwell hurting, the Bucs needed a camp leg. Johnson’s a veteran who has bounced around recently, and he’s not a long-term solution, but he can fill in until Bidwell heals.

Subtractions

Broncos (cut RB Ryan Torain) – Torain showed potential in his rookie season in Denver, but his consistent injury problems finally tried the Broncos’ patience. Torain has a knee injury, which could keep teams from taking a look, but he could be a guy who resurfaces later in the season when some team has injuries. Torain has talent, but he’s just too dinged up at this point to be counted on as a significant factor.

Bengals (cut RB Kenny Watson) – Watson showed some promise in Cincinnati, especially in 2007, but he has been in the NFL since 2001 and been with the Bengals since 2003. He even knocked former first-round pick Chris Perry out of Cincinnati with his play. But with the emergence of Cedric Benson and the addition of Brian Leonard in the offseason, Watson’s spot was taken away. He still might find another home, because he has shown he can catch the ball out of the backfield, but 31-year-old running backs are always nearing the end.

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