COMPETITION AT INSIDE LINEBACKER
Alexander Johnson and Josh Watson took most of the base-package first-team repetitions since Todd Davis’ injury, typically alternating days with the No. 1 defense. Joe Jones saw most of the sub-package work in place of Davis, and stood out with his ability to make plays on the ball in coverage.
“Our linebackers fit into our scheme. We’ll coach the next guy up,” Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell said. “There are some young guys that are showing some promise. There are some veteran guys [showing some promise]. So, it is really helping us.”
Connor McGovern, Garett Bolles and Dalton Risner are expected to start at center, left tackle and left guard, respectively. But with Ron Leary and Ja’Wuan James missing some practice time because of their injury recoveries, Jake Brendel, Don Barclay and Elijah Wilkinson have seen plenty of first-team work.
Wilkinson could be poised to be a primary backup at both tackle spots. The duel between Brendel and Barclay could be one to watch, as they jockey to provide interior depth. Both possess starting experience. Both have filled in for Leary in the last two weeks.
“I think at every position [on the line] there’s competition. It never ends. It’s what you do today and what you do today,” Scangarello said. “We have such a long way to go. … There’s a lot of things that can happen. There’s injuries. There’s an opportunity when guys take days off, and there’s good quality depth at a number of positions. There’s always a battle going in.”
If you’ve been reading the daily camp reports, watching the highlights or listening to our podcasts, you’ve noticed undrafted rookies who are drawing attention — Watson, Trinity Benson, Austin Fort, Devontae Jackson, Kelvin McKnight and Malik Reed, just to name a few.
But every year, the preseason games alter the outlook. Some standouts fade into the background. Others who haven’t jumped off the page at camp explode under the lights.