1. Broncos running back: Terrell Davis and Olandis Gary versus
In the Denver camp every comment about Davis is prefaced with,
"If he stays healthy...." Based on his recent track record--five
knee surgeries in three seasons--no one can be sure that he will.
That's why Portis, the cat-quick second-round draft pick out of
Miami, is already attracting a lot of attention. And don't forget
Gary, who rushed for 1,159 yards as a rookie three years ago and
is in the best shape of his life. Coach Mike Shanahan would lose
some power running if he goes with Portis, but Shanahan has never
had a durable speed back.
Forecast: When all is said and done, Portis will lead the team in
carries this season.
2. Bucs quarterback: Brad Johnson versus Rob Johnson
Coach Jon Gruden likes the steadiness, headiness and accuracy of
Brad, and he keeps calling him the starter. But Gruden gets
excited about Rob, saying, "Is he a talent? He's explosive as
hell!" The longer Johnson and Johnson fight it out, the more
Gruden will fall in love with Rob's athleticism and arm strength.
Forecast: It may take until midseason, but Rob Johnson will be
3. Cowboys cornerback: Bryant Westbrook versus Pat Dennis and
Dallas bypassed its biggest need, cornerback, high in the draft,
counting on Westbrook to continue his rebound from a torn
Achilles that he suffered while playing for the Lions in November
2000. While looking good at times, he has lacked consistency.
Dennis is running ahead of Hawthorne, but neither is setting the
world on fire.
Forecast: Westbrook wins the job, but he'll get beaten often.
4. Chiefs tight end: Tony Gonzalez versus president Carl Peterson
The best tight end in the game is a holdout because the Chiefs
rejected his request for $4.5 million per year and the right to
pursue an NBA career in the off-season. Peterson says he won't
pay Gonzalez for more than one year, at $3.05 million, until he
gives up his hoops dream. "His NBA chances are as a 10th or 11th
player, for minimum salary, and he'd be an injury risk each
season," says Peterson. "For the money we may invest in him, he
owes us dedication to football."
Forecast: Gonzalez holds out until mid-September, then signs a
5. Redskins quarterback: Danny Wuerffel versus Shane Matthews,
Sage Rosenfels and Patrick Ramsey
Forget that new coach Steve Spurrier started Rosenfels in the
preseason opener; the second-year man is too inconsistent. As of
Monday, Ramsey, the team's first-round pick out of Tulane, was
still a holdout. That leaves the two former Gators: Wuerffel, who
was the better college player, and Matthews, who has been the
Forecast: Wuerffel's showing he has enough arm to throw the
mid-to-deep ball. Plus, Spurrier loves the guy.
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID WALBERG TIME WILL TELL Rob Johnson has too much talent to stay on the Bucs' bench.
COLOR PHOTO: BRAD C. BOWER/AP SKINS GAME Matthews (left) or Wuerffel will get the nod from Spurrier.