TDs for Tony
The Chiefs planto make their ace tight end more of a threat near the goal line
THE RED ZONEshould see more of the Chiefs' Tony Gonzalez this fall. The NFL's premier tightend for years, Gonzalez tied his career low with two touchdown receptions lastseason, when he was used more as a blocker near the goal line while runningback Larry Johnson emerged as an unstoppable red-zone force. This season, withthe team breaking in two new starting tackles, Kansas City still will askGonzalez to do his share of blocking, but quarterback Trent Green also plans tocall Gonzalez's number more frequently near the goal line. "They kind offorgot about me down there [last year]," Gonzalez says. "All I know isthat both Trent and [new offensive coordinator] Mike Solari have told me theyaren't going to let that happen again."
For the second straight preseason Giants running back Brandon Jacobs has beenan August All-Star. The difference is that this year the 6'4", 264-poundbruiser, who rushed for 58 yards and two touchdowns in New York's first twopreseason games, is poised to be more than a short-yardage back. Starter TikiBarber, 31, has publicly campaigned for fewer carries this year, and Jacobs'sblocking and receiving skills have developed enough to earn him somenon-goal-line snaps. "He's great with the ball in his hands," Barbersays of Jacobs (right), who'll be valuable in TD-oriented leagues.
The Cowboys' defense could prove to be a sleeper pick. Coach Bill Parcells hasfinally acquired the players necessary to run his 3--4 scheme, replacingsmallish defenders with bigger, younger playmakers such as Chris Canty, BradieJames, Marcus Spears and DeMarcus Ware. Teamed with elite cornerbacks TerenceNewman and Anthony Henry, who's completely healthy following a groin injury,this group will help Dallas play the pressure-oriented style it desires. Throwin linebacker Greg Ellis and Pro Bowl safety Roy Williams, and Dallas shouldimprove on its 26 turnovers and 37 sacks from last season.
The competition for the job of backing up brittle Eagles featured back BrianWestbrook has turned into a dogfight. Reno Mahe has the inside track, eventhough he fumbled on one of his four touches last week against the Ravens. Hisprimary competition may be Correll Buckhalter, who missed the last two seasonswith knee injuries but had a nifty 48-yard catch-and-run against Baltimore.Even free agent Marty Johnson has been impressive. Coaches, however, are downon Ryan Moats and Bruce Perry. The former, a third-round pick in 2005, missedmuch of camp with a knee injury. He fumbled on his first carry against theRavens, rushed for just seven yards on seven attempts and continued to descendon the depth chart.
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WITH TIGHT END
Jerramy Stevens having reinjured his left knee, 10-year vet Itula Mili takesover as the Seahawks' starter. Mili isn't much of a receiving threat, meaningreceivers Nate Burleson, Darrell Jackson and especially BOBBY ENGRAM could beseeing more balls.
FORMER FIRST-rounders Charles Rogers and MikeWilliams, listed as third-string receivers on the Lions' depth chart, may be indanger of losing their roster spots. Potential beneficiaries: unknowns MikeFurrey and Glenn Martinez.
IF THE FALCONS can't find a cheap veteran placekickeron waivers, they're comfortable using Michael Koenen, who punted and kicked offlast year as a rookie.
LARRY SMITH/ICON SMI (GONZALEZ)
A GRABBER Expect Gonzalez to easily surpass last season's career low of two TD catches.
DAVID DUROCHIK/SPORTPICS (ENGRAM)
RICH KANE/US PRESSWIRE (JACOBS)