AFC winners and losers: Jadeveon Clowney shows out

After two weeks of preseason action, most position battles have been won. (Just don't remind Gary Kubiak.) Coaches want their starters to play heading into a third preseason week that acts as a test run for the real thing.

With that in mind, we have way too many winners and losers this week for all 32 teams. The AFC is below, in alphabetical order.


Winners: John Harbaugh has the depth to go as run-heavy as he wants this year. Running backs Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon finished out the game against the Colts, yet look too dynamic to sit for long behind Justin Forsett and Buck Allen. Dixon's quick feet and movement are both incredible for his size.

Losers:Ryan Mallett might be losing another job. After a shaky offseason, journeyman Josh Johnson is now in the mix to back up starting quarterback Joe Flacco. Meanwhile, Dennis Pitta's broken finger has proven to be a bigger issue this month than his surgically repaired hip. Ben Watson and Crockett Gillmore are ahead of him on the depth chart at tight end, and Pitta is running out of time.


Winners: Rex Ryan's bad-luck summer included losing his top two draft picks to injury, but at least third-round pick Adolphus Washington (defensive line) has flashed in both preseason games. Sixth-rounder Kevon Seymour also has earned snaps in perhaps the deepest cornerback group in football.

Losers: Buffalo's running game just doesn't look as strong after the release of Karlos Williams. Out of work a few weeks ago, Reggie Bush is now headed for a big role as a backup running back and return man.


Winners: Rookie receiver Tyler Boyd has three plays over 20 yards in two games (if you count his 24-yard punt return at Detroit). It would not be a surprise if he wound up having more value to the Bengals this year than veteran Brandon LaFell.

Losers: With a roster that's largely stable, Cincy was the most difficult AFC team on which to find a "loser." The biggest concern for the Bengals has been injuries. In the last week, they have lost their first two picks from last year's draft: right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and swing tackle Jake Fisher.


Winners:Robert Griffin III's performance against Atlanta was a reminder that he throws a pretty deep ball when protected. His accuracy stood out almost as much as his athleticism during his rookie year. On the other side of the ball, cornerback Jamar Taylor was acquired as an afterthought in a draft-day trade. Now he could be starting in Week 1.

Losers: It was telling to see second-year nose tackle Danny Shelton (drafted 12th overall in 2015) playing along with Barkevious Mingo (drafted sixth overall in 2013) against the deep reserves late in last Thursday's game vs. the Falcons. Mingo looks unlikely to make the team. (UPDATE: On Thursday, the Browns announced that they'd traded Mingo to the New England Patriots for a fifth-round pick in 2017.) Cleveland is still waiting for Shelton to make an impact. Another first-round pick, cornerback Justin Gilbert (drafted eighth overall in 2014), remains in the mix for more playing time but has missed a lot of tackles in the preseason.


Winners:Virgil Green has taken hold of the Broncos' starting tight end job with a big camp, punctuated by a great game against San Francisco. He made 49ers safety Antoine Bethea look like he was in slow motion on one play. With a shaky quarterback situation and no one truly stepping up for the No. 3 receiver role, Green could be a popular target this season.

Losers:Trevor Siemian was one or two "Don't blow it!" drives from securing Denver's Week 1 starting quarterback job before his pick-six against San Francisco. The news that he's starting the third week of the preseason means he's still the favorite -- and it's mostly because of erratic play from Mark Sanchez, who appears to know what an opportunity he's let slip away this month. Sanchez had an eight-play stretch that included two fumbles and two near-interceptions. The disconcerting part for coach Gary Kubiak is that neither player responded well after the mistakes. Paxton Lynch has made more big-time throws than either player in front of him, but he still holds the ball too long, like nearly any rookie quarterback. One troubling theme that the three quarterbacks had in common was a lack of pass protection. This offensive line is full of question marks.


Winners:Jadeveon Clowneymade a huge impact in each of his first five snaps back on the field against New Orleans. He beat double teams and overwhelmed opponents with his power. That faded as the game wore on, but Clowney is set up for a monster season if he can stay healthy.

Losers: The OTA buzz surrounding second-year receiver Jaelen Strong has quieted down in camp. He is clearly behind rookies Will Fuller and Braxton Miller in the receiver pecking order.


Winners:Andrew Luckdidn't do anything fancy in his first two preseason drives, but he was notably under control. The quarterback's arm looked all the way back after his injury-ravaged 2015, and he made Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley look bad on one run. It helps that receiver Phillip Dorsett is maturing and showing an ability to run more of the route tree.

Losers: Luck will have to carry this team. Cornerback Vontae Davis' ankle injury is a reminder that this could be the most talent-poor defense in football, especially when Davis is off the field.


Winners: Few teams have enjoyed a better month despite the Jags' 0-2 preseason record. Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks and first-round pick Jalen Ramsey (cornerback) showed explosiveness in Preseason Week 2. If Marks is all the way back to his 2014 form, this defense could flip from sieve to scary in one season. Few teams could have talents like Marks or rookie linebacker Myles Jack as part-time players. On offense, things are going as planned with the T.J. Yeldon-Chris Ivory backfield, with a near-equal split of snaps. Ivory is in full "run like a madman while I can" preseason mode.

Losers: The Jaguars' offensive line remains the team's biggest concern, especially because free-agent pickup Kelvin Beachum still isn't ready to play. Former first-round pick Luke Joeckel continues to hold down the left tackle spot for now.


Winners: The Chiefs' wideout problems of yesteryear are a distant memory. Jeremy Maclin established himself as a worthy No. 1 receiver last season, and second-year man Chris Conley is developing into a legitimate starter. Conley's speed jumps off the page; he beat the Rams' No. 1 cornerback (Trumaine Johnson) over the weekend on the way to 66 yards on three grabs.

Losers: The Chiefs are still looking for the right combination in their secondary. Day 3 selections Eric Murray (fourth-round safety) and D.J. White (sixth-round cornerback) both started against the Rams, yet struggled to prevent big plays.


Winners: Receiver Kenny Stills and quarterback Ryan Tannehill were the highlights on an otherwise rough weekend for Miami. Stills had two scores and a 55-yard grab that came on a Tannehill roll-out. Hopefully, coach Adam Gase uses Tannehill's ability to throw on the move to both sides better than the previous coaching staff in Miami.

Losers: Despite that, perhaps no team had a more trying pair of days than Miami. Center Mike Pouncey has another hip injury, and the Dolphins don't have an experienced center to replace him in the lineup. Tight end Jordan Cameron's end-zone drop comes after "growing pains" throughout camp (Gase's words). Furthermore, Kiko Alonso and the linebackers reminded Dolfans that the secondary isn't the only shaky-looking defensive unit. The Dolphins want rookie Xavien Howard to be their starting cornerback, but he just returned to the field after surgery and will take time to get back into the flow. It's a very thin position, especially when Byron Maxwell is giving up big plays. Finally, we'd love to see more carries from Arian Foster in the preseason. He looked sluggish in limited work against Dallas, but two carries is too small a sample size to worry about. For now.


Winners:LeGarrette Blount is Bill Belichick's new Antowain Smith. The Patriots want to do better at running back, but they can't find anyone to unseat Blount. His excellent performance against Chicago should cement his job as the primary running-down back. Elsewhere, it's been a preseason full of surprising performances by young Patriots, with defensive end Trey Flowers, defensive tackle Anthony Johnson and tight end A.J. Derby all forcing Belichick to play them.

Losers: The injuries to right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and running back Dion Lewis are devastating, because the Patriots have such a drop-off after both at their positions. Right tackle Marcus Cannon struggled badly over the last two seasons. Lewis will be replaced by James White, who has not fit well with New England's legacy of nifty third-down backs.


Winners:Darrelle Revis' return to the field was my biggest takeaway from an otherwise forgettable Jets performance at Washington. The veteran cornerback made a nice open-field tackle and a leaping interception in limited work. Despite all the talent up front, he's the key to the Jets' defense.

Losers: It was a tough weekend for Geno Nation. Geno Smith's uncomfortable performance gives Todd Bowles an out if he wants to dangle his fourth-year quarterback on the trade market. Smith was still the backup at practice Sunday, according to The New York Daily News, receiving more than double the snaps of challenger to the throne Bryce Petty. That would seem to indicate Smith is either still locked in as the backup or is getting a last chance to show progress before possibly being held out as trade bait.


Winners: There were open questions about whether D.J. Hayden would even make this Raiders team, but general manager Reggie McKenzie's initial first-round pick is locked into the team's starting nickel back role. The Raiders now list Khalil Mack at defensive end, and they have played him as a base 4-3 end in the preseason, so we should probably stop calling him an outside linebacker.

Losers: We keep reading that DeAndre Washington has locked up the primary backup running back job to Latavius Murray. It's worth noting that Washington had a rough outing in Green Bay, and he didn't take snaps with the starting unit, while Taiwan Jones and fullbacks Jamize Olawale and Marcel Reece were in the mix before him.


Winners: While young receiver Sammie Coates got most of the offseason buzz, Eli Rogers could be the better fit in this Steelers offense. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley has noted that Pittsburgh hasn't had a true slot receiver quite like Rogers since Haley joined the team. Rogers could wind up getting a lot of snaps inside, while Markus Wheaton and Coates split time on the outside.

Losers: Coates' rough preseason continued Thursday night against Philadelphia. He played a role in two of Landry Jones' four interceptions because of miscommunications. Speaking of the backup quarterback, Jones' meltdown game is a reminder that the Steelers have done a poor job developing options behind starter Ben Roethlisberger. On the defensive side of things, first-round pick Artie Burns' slim chances to start have faded because of injury. Ross Cockrell is going to start again, with second-round pick Sean Davis taking over the nickel cornerback role.


Winners: This cornerback group could be so fun to watch. Brandon Flowers is coming off a rough season, but his pick-six of Carson Palmer made good on all the offseason talk about his improved conditioning. Free-agent pickup Casey Hayward also flashed against the Cardinals with some nice plays down the field. In Flowers, Hayward and Jason Verrett, the Chargers have three feisty cornerbacks who can play outside and in the slot. Flowers might be the team's base nickel back. It is quietly one of the best groups in football. When the Bolts' offense is on the field, keep an eye on second-year man Tyrell Williams, currently San Diego's third receiver. It wouldn't be a total shock if he makes more of an impact this season than pricy free-agent pickup Travis Benjamin.

Losers: Remember when Zach Mettenberger was a buzzy quarterback prospect? (Sorry about that.) Now he's fighting for a roster spot. It's not a good sign he sat out the Chargers' second preseason contest while undrafted rookie Mike Bercovici finished out the game. On the holdout front, Joey Bosa's chances of starting in Week 1 have all but evaporated. His replacement, Darius Philon, has thrived in Bosa's absence. It didn't feel coincidental that Philon's name was the first announced during pregame introductions Friday night.


Winners: Chris Wesseling compared Derrick Henry to Jamaal Charles (only bigger) on a recent Around the NFL Podcast, a tout that looks even more apt after another preseason week. He's so smooth with his cuts, and he finishes his runs. Don't be surprised if he cuts into DeMarco Murray's carries more than expected. That's a good problem for the Titans to have. Fifth-round pick Tajae Sharpe looks like a veteran receiver. It's apparent that Marcus Mariota trusts the rookie based on all the throws his way that required anticipation and timing. Sharpe caught all six of his targets.

Losers: Meanwhile, true veteran receiver Andre Johnson was invisible with the first unit. Justin Hunter made some noise while playing with backups and could push Johnson. Still, Hunter has an uphill battle for a roster spot.

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