8 NFL Players That Are About to Lose Starting Jobs to Rookies

Andrew Garda@andrew_gardaFeatured ColumnistJune 3, 2014

8 NFL Players That Are About to Lose Starting Jobs to Rookies

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    We're just getting started with new players hitting the field and veterans returning to it, but there are already some jobs in jeopardy.

    Of course, every veteran knows someone is always gunning for his job. That's why the best of them always come in with a chip on their shoulders. For their part, the rookies also know they will have to fight for their job.

    Nothing is given freely.

    The following are eight veterans who look like they're about to lose their starting jobs. Of course, the rookies have to perform and the veterans have to slip a bit.

    Ultimately, though, these look like the eight most likely to fall victim to a youngster stealing his job.

Buffalo Bills: Chris Hairston Loses His Job to Cyrus Kouandjio

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    Chris Hairston missed a chunk of 2012 due to an ankle injury and all of 2013 as well, per Matt Warren at SBNation.com, and now that he is back and apparently 100 percent, it looks like he’ll be surpassed by rookie tackle Cyrus Kouandjio.

    While Hairston seemed to be a solid tackle over the 15 games he's started, per NFL.com, his durability is a real issue. On top of that, Kouandjio is a more solid and complete tackle and an immediate upgrade on the right side.

    The one big knock on Kouandjio is, ironically, a similar durability concern.

    Kouandjio’s surgically repaired knee became a concern when he reportedly failed medical checks at the combine, per CBSSports.com’s Jeff Reynolds. The concern lingered and ESPN’s Todd McShay reported (per AL.com’s Andrew Gribble) that four out of 10 teams either “failed him or significantly dropped their grade.”

    But if his knee holds up, Kouandjio will take Hairston’s job this year and won’t let go.

Baltimore Ravens: Arthur Brown Loses His Job to C.J. Mosley

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    Eventually, second-year starting inside linebacker Arthur Brown will pair with rookie C.J. Mosley, but that’s going to come when Daryl Smith leaves. When that happens is anyone’s guess (Smith just signed a four-year deal in March, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter).

    For the moment then, Brown will take a backseat to Mosley as the Ravens expect him to start immediately, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. That’s bad news for Brown, although starting doesn’t mean Mosley will get all or even most of the snaps.

    That said, instead of taking over the job himself, Brown will at least have to split the job, if not lose most of the snaps.

Cleveland Browns: Brian Hoyer Loses His Job to Johnny Manziel

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    Yes, yes, the Cleveland Manziels—I mean Browns—are saying that Manziel will have to earn his spot and that the quarterback competition will be a fair one, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.

    However, whether it’s Week 1 or Week 8, Manziel will be taking Hoyer’s job.

    Now, maybe Hoyer ends up being a Hall of Fame quarterback, but he’s got fairly limited upside, whereas Manziel—raw and unproven though he is—has tremendous potential. Sure, the company line is that the team will not let jersey sales dictate the depth chart, per TheScore.com’s Joe Wolfond—and it shouldn’t—but there are plenty of other factors which will give them an excuse to do it.

    Hoyer played well in a very small sample size, but with a new offensive coordinator who prefers mobile quarterbacks and has already compared Manziel to his old quarterback Robert Griffin III, per Jim Corbett, USA Today—well, that just puts the writing on the wall.

    Eventually Manziel will take this job because he’s simply a better quarterback.

    At which point he can turn to Hoyer and paraphrase Captain Malcolm Reynolds from the television show Firefly: "No, son. You killed your own career. I just carried the bullet a while."

New York Jets: Jeff Cumberland Loses His Job to Jace Amaro

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    When the New York Jets signed tight end Jeff Cumberland to a three-year deal worth $3.7 million with $1 million guaranteed, it wasn’t necessarily because they expected him to be the next Tony Gonzalez. Cumberland is a decent tight end, but while he can catch and block, his ceiling is fairly limited.

    Jace Amaro, on the other hand, is a great receiver who can line up all along the passing offense, go vertical or run block at the second level when Chris Johnson or Chris Ivory break past the line of scrimmage.

    Amaro is a much more versatile weapon, and while the Jets will find plenty of uses for Cumberland, they’ll be off the bench.

Detroit Lions: Brandon Pettigrew Loses His Job to Eric Ebron

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    It was a bit of a surprise when the Detroit Lions selected tight end Eric Ebron with their first pick in the 2014 NFL draft, especially since they had just signed Brandon Pettigrew to a four-year, $16 million contract, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, and lead him to think he’d get more targets, per Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com.

    Ebron coming in changes the game though, and Pettigrew now becomes a bit of an odd fit. He’s never excelled as a pass-catcher, and there are much better options for blocking purposes.

    The best possibility is that the Lions use Ebron more as a wide receiver and line him up as such, rather than as an in-line tight end. However, even then Ebron is likely to take over as starting tight end.

    Pettigrew is going to have to settle for whatever scraps come off Ebron’s table.

Minnesota Vikings: Matt Cassel Loses His Job to Teddy Bridgewater

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    As with Johnny Manziel, the line is that Teddy Bridgewater will not be forced into the lineup, per Rotoworld.com, but the reality is that if it’s even close, the rookie will get the nod.

    According to Fox Sports’ Ross Jones, Bridgewater stayed in Minnesota between his selection by the Vikings and his rookie minicamp, then got first-team reps in OTAs, per NFL.com’s Mike Coppinger.

    He is very quickly learning the offense, and according to Jones, impressed head coach Mike Zimmer, who said, “One of the things I noticed about him, even when we were out there with the rookies after the Phase II, they would call a play and they were just running one route and he would recall the whole play to himself.”

    Matt Cassel has the experience, but we know what his ceiling is—and it isn’t equivalent to the height of the Sistine Chapel.

    Bridgewater is already impressing the coaches and well on his way to taking the job over.

Green Bay Packers: Micah Hyde Loses His Job to Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

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    Last year, the Packers depended upon M.D. Jennings to help Morgan Burnett both stop the run and assist the corners. Of course, as bad as Jennings was, the word “help” might be a bit strong.

    At one point, Micah Hyde was assumed to take a larger role in the defense, according to ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky, who later wrote that Hyde could hold off rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

    However, while Hyde is an OK safety, Clinton-Dix has better range and instincts as well as an ability to cover.

    Clinton-Dix will allow Burnett to move forward and cover the box, because unlike the rest of the roster of safeties, he is the complete package. His range allows him to support the corners on either side but still cover the middle of the field so the team never has to watch a tight end like Vernon Davis get covered by a linebacker.

New York Jets: Dawan Landry Loses His Job to Calvin Pryor

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    Yeah, the Jets get on the list twice, but when you have very specific holes, that’s what happens.

    As far back as early April, I thought that a safety at No. 18 was a likely choice, though I also thought Ha Ha Clinton-Dix would be the guy selected.

    You can’t complain about Calvin Pryor though, a hard-hitting enforcer who, according to ESPN New York’s Rich Cimini, the Jets believe is "smart enough to quarterback the secondary as a rookie.”

    Dawan Landry had been signed, ostensibly, to replace his brother LaRon Landry, who left for the Indianapolis Colts last offseason. Dawan is coming off a mediocre year with the Jacksonville Jaguars and is mostly someone who can stop the run.

    Pryor can do that, playing downhill and protecting the box. He’s not much of a cover guy, but neither is Landry.

    The Jets have nothing to gain from playing Landry, whose contract wouldn’t be hard to get rid of. As long as Pryor does well in camp, the job is his.