We see a lot of talented players in the preseason and sometimes we happen to see a player beginning a breakout. Here are some candidate for some breakout players based on their impressive preseason performances.
Kenjon Barner, Running Back/Kick Returner
Most of the preseason in Philly was spent fawning over Tim Tebow being back but Kenjon Barner was really the player to watch. He didn’t have too many carries but he found a way to be useful in other ways. Against Indianapolis, he had six punt returns for 131 yards, including a 92-yard punt return for a touchdown. Then he had 94 yards on five returns, including a 68-yard touchdown against Baltimore. The following week, he flashed his skills again with 59 yards on two receptions, one of them being a 50 yard catch and scamper. This kid has a lot of explosiveness. Chip Kelly will find a way to work him in occasionally.
Chris Givens, Wide Receiver
St. Louis Rams
The Rams have been searching for a solid receiver for the better part of about two years now. Tavon Austin was supposed to be transcendent, but didn’t really go anywhere. It is definitely a bit of a stretch but Chris Givens had a really nice preseason. He showed off his big play ability that Austin has lacked. He scored two touchdowns, one that went 80 yards, on nine catches. His 204 yards receiving were the fourth best mark of the preseason. He is buried behind guys like Kenny Britt, Brian Quick and Austin right now on the depth chart but if anyone goes down or struggles, don’t be surprised to see Givens get some game action.
Ronnie Hillman, Running Back
Trying to guess who will be the starting running back at the end of the season is very hard. Last year, it seemed like Montee Ball was lined up to be the bell cow back. Now he sits fourth on the depth chart. CJ Anderson appears to be in place as the starter but you never quite know with Denver. Ronnie Hillman had a really good preseason, mostly playing with the twos though. He will definitely be an integral part of the Bronco running game and there is still a chance that he could usurp Anderson for the starting job if the latter begins to falter during the season.
Zach Zenner, Running Back
It might have only been preseason, but Zach Zenner led the NFL in rushing yards through those four games. He had two touchdowns, an impressive 5.2 yards per carry and even got involved in the passing game with some receptions out of the backfield. He finished with 183 yards on the ground and he could be in line for some regular season carries now. Joique Bell has been hampered all preseason by injury and Ameer Abdullah has been hot and cold. If Bell can’t go, expect Zenner to split the load with Abdullah in the backfield.
Jerryd Haynes, Running Back/Kick Returner
San Francisco 49ers
Every once in a while, the NFL sees a former Rugby player enter its ranks. Jerryd Haynes did that and made a statement that he deserved to stay. Haynes finished second in the NFL for preseason rushing yards, rumbling seven yards a carry. He even caught a couple of passes out of the backfield and showed off his kick returning skills, amassing 196 total return yards. Carlos Hyde is expected to be the lead man in San Francisco but if Reggie Bush proves ineffective behind him, Haynes could find his way onto the field for some carries.
Kenny Phillips, Safety
New Orleans Saints
New Orleans shelled out a lot of money a season ago to sign Jarius Byrd. So far, he has played four games and suffered major knee injuries. He is a candidate to start on the PUP list for the regular season which would open a void for Kenny Phillips to fill. He looked like he was becoming a star in New York before injuries side tracked his career. After spending a year out of the league, Phillips returned and had a great preseason. His 27 tackles were tied for most in the league. He started New Orleans’ final three preseason games as well, which makes you think he has earned the starting gig for week one.
Damontre Moore, Defensive End
New York Giants
From a former Giant, to a current Giant. Jason Pierre Paul is going to miss some time and Robert Ayers has a lingering ankle injury. It sounds like Damontre Moore will see some significant playing time. He recorded 3.5 sacks this preseason, tied for third in the league, and forced 2 fumbles. Don’t expect any JPP-like production out of Moore but after a solid 2014 and a good preseason, he is primed to make an impact.