Most NFL teams are halfway through their preseason schedule, with the Giants and Bills notching an extra at the Hall of Fame Game. The time is fast approaching when teams will begin making cuts from 90 to 53 players, and we're already at the point where rookies are gauged by how much, or little, progress they're making. FOX Sports South looked at all the action from the weekend, and determined whose stock has risen, or fallen.
Without a doubt, Bortles is only two preseason games into his professional career, and still has aspects of the game to grasp. But after 160 yards passing on an 11-for-17 night against Chicago, he's got little left to prove that he can start in the NFL. He's going to get first-team reps this week in practice and the Jaguars' third preseason game, but Jacksonville still plans on Chad Henne being the starter when the regular season begins. Bortles keeps showing he'll be ready when his time comes.
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY SporDennis Wierzbicki
Stock DOWN: Michael Vick, New York Jets - Quarterback
It's no huge secret that the job of starting quarterback for the Jets is Geno Smith's. But there's room for someone to push him, maybe even compete and take the job, if Smith keeps putting up games with a passer rating below 66. That someone could be Michael Vick, but not the way he's playing. His touchdown pass to Clyde Gates was mostly work done by Gates, and Vick's yardage was tallied late in the game versus guys fighting for work, not fighting to start.
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY SportsAndrew Weber
Stock UP: Michael Sam, St. Louis Rams - Defensive End
With the incredible talent and depth along the defensive line for the Rams, Sam isn't a lock to make the final roster in St. Louis. But, against Green Bay over the weekend, he did show a glimpse of what made him the Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC last season. On a fourth-quarter, third-and-19 play, Sam dipped his shoulder, slid around the right tackle, and registered his first career NFL sack. He's still trying to climb the depth chart, but took a step forward on Saturday.
Scott Rovak-USA TODAY SportsScott Rovak
Stock DOWN: Marcus Smith, Philadelphia Eagles - Outside Linebacker
Smith played 73 snaps in Friday's loss to the Patriots (second only to Curtis Marsh), and showed he's going to need many more games with similar reps before he's ready for the regular season. Smith missed three tackles, and hasn't been the first-round talent the Eagles were hoping for thus far. Grabbing Smith with the No. 26 pick out of Louisville might have seemed like a reach for Philadelphia, but now that he's in the NFL, he has to quickly learn to play like a top draft pick.
USA TODAY SportsChuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Stock UP: Ryan Shazier, Pittsburgh Steelers - Outside Linebacker
Talk about a debut; Shazier impressed as he hit the ground running (and tackling) in his first game with the Steelers. He led the team in tackles on defense with nine, and added two more takedowns on special teams. Not finished, Shazier picked off an EJ Manuel pass in the first quarter, and haunted the Buffalo offense by seemingly being everywhere on the field. He showed athleticism and intuition far beyond what a rookie should possess.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY SportCharles LeClaire
Stock DOWN: Dwight Lowery, Atlanta Falcons - Free Safety
Not a lot went right for the Falcons in Houston on Saturday, and Lowery might have opened the door for more competition at the free safety position. The front-runner to start, Lowery looked miserable in tackling situations against the Texans, missing two tackles. To make matters worse, Kemal Ishmael picked off a pass, and both he and rookie Dez Southward had more tackles than Lowery. While Lowery didn't lose his job, the position battle became more fierce after a rough night on Saturday.
What happens when you're a first-round draft pick and success just isn't coming fast enough? Even if you're a starter, like Mack is going to be, you stay in the game with the reserves until you've accomplished something. With 2:26 left in the third quarter, Mack fought free from a Cornelius Lucas block and collapsed the pocket around Lions quarterback Kellen Moore for his first sack as a professional linebacker.
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY SportsCary Edmondson
Stock DOWN: Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings - Quarterback
Since Ponder was taken in the first round (12th overall) of the 2011 draft, the Vikings have signed veteran passer Matt Cassel (2013), and drafted Teddy Bridgewater in the first round of the 2014 draft. After starting 16 games in 2012 and nine the year later, it's starting to look like Ponder is an afterthought. Ponder saw 24 snaps in Minnesota's first preseason game, but was passed over for any playing time whatsoever on Saturday. His roster spot is surely in jeopardy.
Hunter entered the 2013 season as a highly-touted rookie that was ready to produce. With only 18 catches in 14 games, Hunter's emergence was put off until his second season. After Friday's four-catch, 111-yard outbreak with two touchdown catches, Hunter seems ready to make his mark right now. He used his 6-foot-4 frame to haul in one score, and fearless play across the middle to light up the scoreboard again. Hunter looks like he'll be hard to stop in 2014.
Stock DOWN: Mario Manningham, New York Giants - Wide Receiver
Manningham helped the Giants win Super Bowl XLVI with a magical 38-yard catch between two defenders while tip-toeing the sideline. A little more than three years later, it might be magic if Manningham makes the final roster. Through three preseason games, there are six receivers on the camp roster with more offensive snaps than Manningham. On Saturday he played 25 snaps, but was only targeted once, with no receptions. His glory days look like they might be in the past.