Is the writing on the wall for Tim Tebow?
The Patriots' third-string QB did not see a single snap in a 40-9 loss to Detroit last Thursday, as Tom Brady and backup Ryan Mallett split all the action. A comparable situation unfolded in New England last preseason -- Brian Hoyer was relegated to the bench during the team's third exhibition outing, then released as part of final cuts on Aug. 31.
Tebow managed to sidestep the 75-man roster cut, the limit by which the Patriots and all other NFL teams must pare down to by Tuesday afternoon. Another 22 players must go before the end of the month, however, for teams to be at the regular-season limit of 53 players. Has Bill Belichick made up his mind or are the Patriots still playing the numbers game?
Tebow's fate may rest in how the Patriots handle other positions -- will they keep four or five running backs? Five or six receivers? A fifth safety?
Unless the Patriots have a specific use for Tebow in mind or truly believe in offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels' abilities to elevate Tebow's game, the need for a third QB does not appear all that high. They made it through all of last season with just Brady and Mallett at that position. Plus, should Brady fall to injury, New England may want a more proven emergency QB than Tebow anyway.
Tebow also cannot be stashed on the practice squad, so this is a make-or-break week for him. Either the Patriots give him a shot to stick on the regular-season roster or his NFL career may be in jeopardy.
He has plenty of company this week, with more than 1,100 players losing their jobs, as teams trim their rosters down for Week 1. A lot of those names will be recognizable ones -- including a few already sent packing, like the Jets' Joe McKnight, Washington's Donte' Stallworth and Pittsburgh's Baron Batch.
Here are a few others in danger of losing their roster spots before the week is out:
• Taylor Mays, S, Bengals A second-round pick in the 2010 draft, Mays has failed to make much of his NFL career -- either with San Francisco, which drafted him, or Cincinnati. He could be on his way out of the latter spot. The Bengals used a third-round pick in this year's draft on Georgia's Shawn Williams and a fifth-round pick last year on George Iloka. Mays has done little to convince the Bengals he deserves playing time over either player.
• A.J. Jenkins, WR, Chiefs: Yep, him again. While Jonathan Baldwin jumped right into the mix with the 49ers this week, catching a pair of passes, Jenkins saw very minimal action for the Chiefs. Jenkins, traded for Baldwin last week, is far from a lock to stick on the Kansas City roster. There are at least four WRs (Donnie Avery, Dwayne Bowe, Dexter McCluster and Devon Wylie) seemingly ahead of him, leaving Jenkins little margin for error. His potential may save him through 2013, but he needs to start producing soon.
• Tyler Wilson, QB, Raiders: Good luck figuring out the Raiders' quarterback situation. Not only is it jumbled at the top with Matt Flynn and Terrelle Pryor fighting for the starting gig, but also there's a race to the No. 3 spot, too. Wilson, the team's fourth-round pick in April, has fallen behind undrafted rookie Matt McGloin. And since the Raiders are not going to carry four quarterbacks on the active roster ... well ... someone's going to be out.
• Robert Meachem, WR, Chargers: Even though injuries have sliced through San Diego's receiver ranks, the 28-year-old Meachem may not last into September. One factor working in his favor: a $5 million salary for 2013 that's fully guaranteed. That the Chargers might consider cutting the increasingly ineffective veteran despite that paycheck tells us how poorly he's played.
• Danny Watkins, G/T, Eagles: A first-round pick in the 2011 draft, Watkins played his way out of Andy Reid's lineup last season and has struggled to really claim a role in Chip Kelly's attack this summer. Watkins may get one more shot to prove his worth in the Eagles' preseason finale, but he is definitely treading on thin ice at this point.
• Tony Scheffler, TE, Lions: Jim Schwartz continues to state that Scheffler's job is safe. And yet ... he has ceded preseason playing time to undrafted rookie Joseph Fauria (a player with a similar skill set, by the way) and the Lions could save around $2 million by cutting Scheffler. The veteran has 113 catches over three seasons in Detroit, but both he and starter Brandon Pettigrew have struggled with drops.
• Brian Banks, LB, Falcons: The feel-good story of NFL training camps. Banks, after serving five years in prison on a falsified rape charge, finally made his way to the NFL this preseason and dodged the first round of cuts in Atlanta. Banks's longshot attempt to make the team could come to an end soon.
• Da'Norris Searcy, S, Bills Searcy has received competition for his starting job from an unexpected source in ex-cornerback Aaron Williams. The Bills also spent a 2013 draft pick on Duke Williams. Searcy was penciled in as George Wilson's replacement, next to Jairus Byrd in the Buffalo secondary. He has yet to pull away in the competition, and an injury in the team's third preseason game did not help. Searcy is still on his rookie contract, so the Bills would not save much dough by bouncing him, but don't look for the new coaching staff to do him any favors. • Andre Branch, DE/OLB, Jaguars: Jacksonville beat writer Ryan O'Halloran wrote Friday that Branch's roster spot may be up for grabs. The Jaguars used a second-round pick on him last season, so this would constitute a quick pull of the plug. As with Searcy's situation, though, Branch finds himself trying -- and thus far failing -- to impress a new coaching staff and GM.