Top 10 NFL Training Camp Position Battles
NFL Training Camp: 10 Position Battles to Keep an Eye on
OTA offseason workouts are well under way for most NFL teams. This is a good time to take a look at what position battles will take place in Training Camp. While NFL training camps do not start until July, it is always interesting to speculate who will be starting for certain teams.
Teams are just now starting to see exactly what they have with their rookies. There will be a handful of players who will come out of nowhere and land starting gigs with NFL teams. Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks is a perfect example of this. Wilson was somewhat of an afterthought when he was selected by the Seahawks in the third round of the 2012 draft. He immediately impressed coaches during his rookie minicamp and OTAs. Head Coach Pete Carroll decided to open up a quarterback competition between Wilson and Matt Flynn. Wilson took the job and never looked back. The Seahawks are one of the favorites to reach the Super Bowl this season and Wilson is a huge reason why. There is a situation that seems very similar to Wilson's last year, but we will get to that later.
It is always fun to follow the position battles that go on every year in training camp. From the most important position of quarterback down to the kickers and punters, there are always tons of starting positions up for grabs. In this slideshow, I am going to count down the top 10 position battles to watch for in training camp. All of the battles that I picked have at least one rookie player involved. Obviously, this is not a coincidence. Teams will draft a player if they feel there is a need at the position. That being said, more often than not the rookie will have to prove himself to be better than the guy that held his position before. Here are the top 10 NFL Training Camp position battles.
10. Oakland Raiders- Quarterback
Candidates: Matt Flynn, Tyler Wilson and Terrell Pryor
Last season, Flynn was signed by the Seahawks and expected to be their starting QB. As we know, that did not work out for him as Russell Wilson took the job and ran. Could another rookie QB with the last name of Wilson do the same? Many people think there is a chance. The Oakland Raiders traded for Flynn this offseason and many thought that he would be their start. They also drafted Tyler Wilson in the fourth round of the draft and made people wonder if they were committed to Flynn. Personally, I do not think Wilson is ready for the NFL and this is Flynn's job to lose. It is hard to say this early, but I would be moderately surprised if Flynn is not the starter come Week 1.
9. New Orleans Saints- Nose Tackle
Candidates: Akiem Hicks and John Jenkins
With the New Orleans Saints making the move to a 3-4 defense, they need to decide who is going to be their nose tackle. It is a very important position in a 3-4 defense as they are relied upon to swallow up many blockers. Hicks was drafted by the Saints in 2012 in the 3rd round. Jenkins was drafted this season in the third round. In a perfect world, Jenkins would be ready to contribute and take over the nose tackle spot from day one, with Hicks moving to one of the defensive end spots. If Jenkins does not appear to be ready in training camp and the pre-season, Hicks will be relied upon to take over the nose tackle role. One of these behemoths will surely be clogging up the middle for New Orleans this season.
8. New England Patriots- Wide Receiver
Candidates: Aaron Dobson, Michael Jenkins and Josh Boyce
With the departures of Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd this offseason, there is no doubt that the New England Patriots will be breaking in a handful of new Wide Receivers. Newly acquired Danny Amendola is the most established of the bunch and will probably get the most balls thrown his way. Julian Edelman also returns as a familiar face for Tom Brady. Those guys primarily do their work on the inside of the field. The Patriots need a receiver to step up and play on the outside. I am sure Jenkins and Boyce will get some playing time, but the guy that I think will emerge is Dobson. New England drafted him in the second round of this year's draft. He has good size, speed and hands. If he learns the complicated Patriots' offense fast enough, I think Dobson could be a breakout player this season.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers- Running Back
Candidates: Le'Veon Bell and Jonathan Dwyer
Dwyer filled in admirably for the Pittsburgh Steelers last season when expected starter Rashard Mendenhall was out for most of the season. While Dwyer was solid, he was not anything special and the Steelers made it obvious he was replaceable when they made Bell the second running back taken in the draft. I see Bell as the favorite here. He was a workhorse back in college and that is the kind of back that coach Mike Tomlin loves. He will surely have to prove himself in training camp though, as Dwyer will be there as a reliable option.
6. Cincinnati Bengals- Running Back
Candidates: BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovanni Bernard
Green-Ellis was far from spectacular last season. he rushed for 1,094 yards and six touchdowns. Which is decent but you would expect better out of a guy that got as much work as him. The Cincinnati Bengals made Bernard the first running back taken in the 2013 draft. Bernard is known as more of a "scat-back" and many question whether he will ever be an every-down running back. While he is a little on the small side, I think Bernard has the skills to be an every down back. I think the Bengals will use both guys early in the season, but I think Bernard runs away with the job eventually.
5. Denver Broncos- Running Back
Candidates: Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman, Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee
Most people are ready to assume that Ball will take over the starting running back job for the Denver Broncos. While I do believe there is a chance he does so, I by no means think this is a formality. I think the Broncos will release McGahee eventually but Ball will then have to fight off Moreno, who was great down the stretch last season. I think Moreno breaks camp as the starter will Hillman getting a lot of play on passing downs. That being said, I bet Ball probably gets a shot a some point.
4. Green Bay Packers- Running Back
Candidates: Eddie Lacy, Jonathan Franklin and DeJuan Harris
This one is very interesting. The Green Bay Packers drafted two running backs this year in Lacy and Franklin. I think they see them as a good combination to come for many years. I see Franklin getting some work on third downs and maybe a bit more if he excels in pass protection. Harris was solid down the stretch for Green Bay and I think he will make it a tough decision for the Packers. In the end, Lacy will probably be the starter with Franklin getting some work and Harris being the one left out.
3. Buffalo Bills- Quarterback
Candidates: E.J. Manuel and Kevin Kolb
This one is simple. If Manuel is ready, the Buffalo Bills will hand him the keys and let him take over. If not, Kolb will be the stop-gap for a short period of time. It will be interesting to see Manuel perform in camp, as he tries to become the starter from day one.
2. New York Jets- Quarterback
Candidates: Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith
The New York Jets' situation is similar to the one in Buffalo. If Smith is ready, I do not think the Jets will hesitate to let him play. If not, Jets fans will have to endure some more games with Sanchez under center.
1. Philadelpia Eagles- Quarterback
Candidates: Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley and Dennis Dixon
Chip Kelly inherited a mess at the quarterback position. Vick is probably the favorite right now but I would certainly not count out Foles. If Barkley impresses in training camp, I would not be surprised to see Kelly simply make him his guy and let him learn on the fly. They may not be competitive this year with Barkley but he could give them the best shot to win in the future. This one is nearly impossible to predict, but if you made me pick, I think I would say Vick will be the starter in Week 1.