People were ready to anoint James Starks the No. 3 running back the minute they watched highlights of the former University at Buffalo star on You Tube. And why not? He looked big and fast, and more importantly, his competition was a veteran who couldn’t beat out DeShawn Wynn last summer and an undrafted rookie from Stillman College. Well, a funny thing happened on the way to final cuts – Starks suffered a hamstring injury and Kregg Lumpkin and Quinn Porter stayed healthy and got better every day. Now it appears as if the pre-training camp favorite is going to be spending the entire summer on the PUP list while the underdogs are duking it out for a spot on the 53-man roster.
So it looks like Lumpkin vs. Porter for the chance to sit and watch Grant run and Jackson block. OK, so it’s not exactly Ali vs. Frazier for the heavyweight title, but it should be a pretty interesting battle nonetheless. The tale of the tape shows a distinct advantage for Lumpkin in size and experience; Porter gets the edge in speed and special teams. The determining factor – as it was last summer when Wynn beat out Lumpkin and Terrell Sutton – could be which player the coaches trust most to protect the quarterback on third and long.
Lumpkin isn’t great in blitz pickup, but he’s certainly been more consistent than Porter – at least early on. That gives him the edge going into the first preseason game against Cleveland. But Porter’s electrifying 80-yard run in practice the other day is just the type of play that tends to stay etched in the mind of a coach and a general manager for a long time. Still, the guess here is that Lumpkin will earn a spot on the final 53 for the second time in three years and Porter will begin the season on the practice squad.