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Believe It or Not: Preseason

A look at coach speak and media darlings in the preseason and whether you should buy the hype.

Believe It or Not was one of my favorite pieces to write in 2012, and it's back this year with four preseason installments. You're going to hear all kinds of coach speak over the next couple of weeks that may or may not end up being true. You're going to read things from beat writers and fans alike about things they've seen at camp that may or may not be relevant. The purpose of this article is to try to help you sift through the hype. Let's get started.

The Eagles quarterback battle will remain wide open until HC Chip Kelly can see all of his quarterbacks in game action. Chip Kelly has been adamant that he can't choose a quarterback until he sees the quarterbacks in a real preseason game. This has led to reports ranging from the impending release of Michael Vick to those suggesting Matt Barkley is a viable candidate for a starting job. Kelly's even gone as far as to suggest he'll mold his offense around whoever wins the starting job.

Verdict: Don't believe it. Do I think Kelly would change his offense if Foles or Barkley proved to be considerably better than Vick? Absolutely. Do I think he wants to do that? Not a chance, especially after the injury to Jeremy Maclin. Vick is getting the most overall reps and the most first team reps while Matt Barkley has yet to register a first team rep. What's more, it appears Vick is starting to outplay Foles while Barkley has looked poor to say the least. Do I think Nick Foles will get first team reps in a preseason game before Chip Kelly announces his decision? Probably. But in reality, Kelly knows which QB fits his system best, and as long as Vick doesn't implode the job is his.

Not only is Tyler Wilson failing to beat out Matt Flynn, he may even start the season as the team's third string quarterback. Wilson is a very talented rookie that was the talk of the summer after he landed in Oakland. The idea of Flynn getting beat out by a rookie with the last name Wilson for a second year in a row just seemed like too good of a story to pass up. Unfortunately for Wilson it sounds as if Flynn has been solid in camp and Terrell Pryor looks improved as a passer.

Verdict: Believe it. I've thought all along that Wilson would have to beat out Flynn to be anything more than a 3rd stringer. HC Dennis Allen would really like to find a couple of packages for Pryor, and he can't do that if Pryor is the emergency quarterback. Flynn got a bad rap after getting beat out by a rookie in Seattle last year, but it's almost like we forgot just how special Russell Wilson was in 2012. Tyler Wilson is not ready to be that player. Flynn should open the season as the starter and keep the job as long as he isn't terrible.

Eddie Lacy is in terrible shape and losing the battle for lead back to Johnathan Franklin. I'm sure everyone has seen it by now, but in case you haven't here it is. One picture shouldn't change our impression of anyone, but this image has to be a little bit disturbing for Lacy backers. While Lacy has allegedly been packing on pounds, Johnathan Franklin looks great and impressed at the Packers first practice in pads.

Verdict: Don't believe it. Not yet at least. The picture of Lacy made for great internet fodder, but there are at least 100 other photos of him this summer that are much more flattering. Is he a big back? Yes, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. He is all but a lock as the Packers short yardage back and still the favorite to carry the early down load. I have serious doubts that either of these backs emerge as a true lead back in 2013, and Franklin needs to improve in pass protection if he wants to have a large role on the team.

Michael Crabtree's injury has Vernon Davis playing all over the field and he's in for a big season. Davis was a disappointment in 2012, especially once Colin Kaepernick took over. This preseason the 49ers have had Davis working at receiver to help fill the void left by Crabtree. Expectations are extremely high for Davis who figures to be the #1 option for Kapernick.

Verdict: Believe it. I had serious questions about the 49ers decision to bring in Anquan Boldin for one reason. Kaepernick is not a huge fan of trying to fit the ball into small windows, and Boldin struggles to create big windows at this stage of his career. Davis is a match up problem all over the field. The 49ers have very few good options outside of Davis and Boldin, which means that Kaepernick may just lock onto Davis like he did Crabtree in 2012.

The loss of Percy Harvin and the question marks surrounding Sidney Rice make Golden Tate a prime breakout candidate in 2013. Tate looked to be a major downgrade when the team brought Harvin in, but now that Harvin has been lost until at least November, many think Tate may turn into a fantasy sleeper. This time, Tate himself is the source of the hype as he claimed the team would be just fine without Harvin.

Verdict: Don't believe it. Tate was essentially the team's best receiver for a majority of 2012 and finished as the WR30 in fantasy football. This team is going to run the ball, and when Russell Wilson does pass he's going to spread it around. I see no reason to expect much more from Tate than we saw last year. The one guy who may benefit is Doug Baldwin. Baldwin had an excellent rookie campaign, and could see extended time, especially if Chris Harper is slow to develop.

Contact Heath at cummings@footballguys.com or on Twitter @heathcummingssr.


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