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Depth chart tracker: Leonard, Culpepper move up

By Kenn Ruby


Coach Wade Phillips insisted last week that he'd continue to use Julius Jones and Marion Barber equally, but it's clear that Barber is going to get more touches. Jones carried just seven times Sunday, gaining 26 yards, but Barber had 102 yards on 15 carries and also caught a 10-yard touchdown pass. Both players are owned in most fantasy leagues, but it's to the point that Jones owners should be looking elsewhere for a running back.

Kevin Jones made his much anticipated season debut Sunday and scored an early touchdown, but with the Lions falling behind early and airing it out, he only carried the ball three times. Tatum Bell had five carries and five receptions, but his days are numbered. Even though Jones is not all the way back yet, opponents likely will be looking to stop the high-powered Detroit passing attack, giving Jones more freedom to run as the season progresses.

A second quarter knee injury forced Deuce McAllister out of Monday's game, giving Reggie Bush the opportunity to lead the New Orleans offense. Although he scored twice, Bush gained only 15 yards on seven carries and dropped a touchdown pass. McAllister will get plenty of time to rest due to the Saints' bye in Week 4, but if reports of a torn ACL are true, Bush could potentially become a Top-5 back during the season's second half.

DeShaun Foster ran for 122 yards on 20 carries and found the end zone twice. DeAngelo Williams, with 11 carries for 47 yards, wasn't bad coming off the bench, but the disparity in carries is getting a little bigger. With the Panthers likely to play a more conservative game with Jake Delhomme hurt, Foster might not be a bad play against Tampa Bay this week.

Thanks to a partial tear to Steven Jackson's groin, Brian Leonard should get his first career start against Dallas. The St. Louis offensive line is in bad shape, so Leonard isn't a great pickup, but he should see a lot of action against the Cowboys.

Earnest Graham rushed eight times for 75 yards in the fourth quarter Sunday, but Carnell Williams, who had 46 yards and a score, is still the starter. Williams isn't the most durable of backs, so Tampa Bay fans should be happy he has Graham and Michael Pittman (who had 56 yards of his own) backing him up.

Ahman Green strained his knee early in Sunday's Houston-Indianapolis tilt. With Ron Dayne inactive with a chest injury, Samkon Gado and Jameel Cook led the Houston rushing attack, combining for just 27 yards on 11 carries. Gado did find the end zone, and with the fragile Green ahead of him on the depth chart, he may have a few more opportunities. Green's MRI on Monday came back negative, but he might still miss the Atlanta game.

With Brian Westbrook day to day with an abdominal strain, Correll Buckhalter becomes a player to watch this week. Buckhalter had a strong game in relief of Westbrook Sunday, finishing with 43 yards on seven carries, including a touchdown.

Even though Derrick Ward played well for the third week in a row, rushing for 94 yards and catching six passes, Ruben Droughns had two one-yard touchdown runs. Droughns only carried three times, but he takes a lot of value away from Ward by being the designated short-yardage back. All of this could be moot, as Brandon Jacobs could return soon, but the Giants are thrilled to have a much deeper running back corps than they originally thought.

While LenDale White and Chris Brown continued to more or less share the lead rushing role Monday, it was White who got the ball in the red zone, scoring from one yard out and getting the ball three other times inside the five. Brown might end up leading Tennessee in rushing this season, but if White is the goal-line back, he'll be the only one of the pair worth owning.

With the Patriots blowing out opponents and wanting to protect Laurence Maroney's shoulder, Sammy Morris has emerged as the goal-line back in New England. Morris had 46 yards on 12 carries, including a touchdown, on Sunday. Maroney also played well, reaching the century mark on just 19 carries, but the Patriots have had no need to ride him hard this year.

Ronnie Brown got all 23 carries for Miami Sunday, finishing with 112 rushing yards and 99 receiving yards. He scored both on the ground and through the air. Jesse Chatman, who a few weeks ago was stealing carries from Brown, didn't touch the ball once.

For the third consecutive week, Green Bay couldn't mount much of a rushing attack, but at least Brandon Jackson finally got into the end zone. Jackson has just 97 yards on 38 carries so far this season, but he's all the Packers have with Vernand Morency still out and DeShawn Wynn only a third-down back.

Rudi Johnson left the Seattle game early with a hamstring injury, but he didn't look good prior to the injury, finishing with nine yards on 17 carries. Kenny Watson looked much better, gaining 60 yards and scoring a big fourth quarter touchdown. Nevertheless, Johnson is expected to play in Week 4 against the Patriots.


Matt Leinart was ineffective Sunday, completing only nine of 20 passes for 53 yards. Kurt Warner almost brought Arizona back to beat Baltimore, throwing for 258 yards and two touchdowns to Anquan Boldin. It doesn't look like Leinart is going to lose his job just yet, but Warner is expected to play a series or two every week, which could hurt Leinart's confidence, not to mention his job security.

J.P. Losman suffered a sprained MCL Sunday and will miss at least two games. Rookie Trent Edwards will start in his place, but he did not look good against the Patriots in relief of Losman. Edwards had just 97 yards passing and an interception in 20 pass attempts, and it's clear through three games that the deep ball is not in Buffalo's repertoire. Although the Bills are happy to have Edwards as their backup, you don't need him.

Josh McCown started against Cleveland but twisted his good ankle in the first quarter, paving the way for Daunte Culepper's Oakland debut. McCown returned briefly, but Culpepper came into the game for good at the start of the second half. Neither played well, but McCown now has two sore feet and is not moving well. Culpepper likely will start in Week 4 against Miami.

Steve McNair was back in the starting lineup in Week 3, but he couldn't make it through the game. McNair played well, completing 20 o -27 passes for 198 yards and a score, but he was clearly still hobbled by the groin injury he suffered in the opener. Kyle Boller was an able replacement, leading Baltimore on the game-winning drive. It looks like McNair is going to continue to have problems with this injury until he rests for a few weeks.

Although Jay Cutler played the entire game Sunday, he suffered a mild ankle sprain and will have an MRI this week. Patrick Ramsey will start in Week 4 if Cutler can't go.

Kelly Holcomb started Sunday, throwing for 165 yards while Tavaris Jackson sat out with a sore groin. Holcomb wasn't anything special against the Chiefs, but he represents a marginal upgrade over Jackson at this point. Don't be surprised to see Holcomb start for a while.

Jake Delhomme strained his elbow Sunday, and though it's not serious, Carolina might play it safe and sit him against Tampa Bay in Week 4. Former No. 1 pick David Carr will start if Delhomme can't play, but he's unlikely to have much value.

Rex Grossman is looking less and less like a starting quarterback and could be headed to the bench as early as Week 4. Brian Griese has had limited NFL success, but the Bears offense – particularly Grossman – is really struggling and needs a change. With the sieve-like Detroit defense next on the schedule, coach Lovie Smith might give Grossman one last chance to regain his confidence.


While normally an injury to a No. 3 receiver is hardly worth a mention in this column, Calvin Johnson is no ordinary third receiver, and the Lions are no ordinary offense. Johnson left Sunday's game with a back injury, and Shaun McDonald continued to impress with five catches for 76 yards and a touchdown. If Johnson misses the Bears game next week and McDonald gets plugged into a more prominent role in the Detroit offense, he'll be worthy of a spot in your fantasy lineup.

With Andre Johnson out with a knee injury, Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones started against the Colts. They combined for just five catches for 43 yards, and Jones left the game in the third quarter with a separated shoulder. Jones' replacement, Andre Davis, had four catches for 70 yards, but dislocated his finger. Tight end Owen Daniels looks like the only productive healthy receiver on the Titans. With Jones out two or three weeks, Davis could be in the starting lineup next week.

Dwayne Bowe, who caught five passes for 71 yards and a score Sunday, has impressed Kansas City coaches enough that they expect him to remain in the starting lineup even when Eddie Kennison returns from a hamstring injury in the next week or two. Samie Parker will drop to the No. 3 slot.

Greg Jennings played in his first game Sunday, catching four passes for 82 yards, including a 57-yard touchdown. James Jones, who caught six passes for 79 yards, has been a strong fill-in for Jennings, and with Brett Favre playing like he's 10 years younger, there should be enough passes to go around for both.

Hines Ward left Sunday's game with a leg injury. If Ward (who is questionable for week four against Arizona) misses any time, Cedrick Wilson would probably join Santonio Holmes in the Pittsburgh starting lineup. Wilson has only one catch in three games.

Despite the fact that the Saints threw the ball 45 times Monday, No. 2 receiver Devery Henderson only caught one pass. While Terrance Copper and David Patten didn't do much more than Henderson, Lance Moore caught six passes for 54 yards and could work his way into the starting lineup in the near future. We keep waiting for the New Orleans offense to come alive, but until it does, Marques Colston is the only Saints wide receiver worth owning.

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