IN the coming weeks NFL teams will retake to the field in time for training camps around America. Fans have been waiting for what feels like an eternity to see their favourites line up in pads once again and with a new camp season comes a new batch of position battles. A flurry of offseason moves has left some questions around certain teams’ depth charts and I’m here to talk about the position battles you’ll want to monitor once camps finally do get underway.
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Cleveland Browns QB
Tyrod Taylor vs. Baker Mayfield
THE two-horse race in Cleveland will feature two very different players. One of which is first overall pick Baker Mayfield, who after winning a Heisman Trophy in Oklahoma was drafted before anyone else this year. The second is Tyrod Taylor, the former Bills QB who was in desperate need of a fresh start. While the best thing for the future might be to play Baker, Taylor will probably start the season, before ushering in the Browns future franchise play caller.
Cincinnati Bengals DE
Jordan Willis vs. Carl Lawson vs. Carlos Dunlap vs. Sam Hubbard vs. Michael Johnson
CINCINNATI finds themselves in a spot everyone on this list wants to be. Their position battle is being forced due to so much talent at this slot on their roster. All five players in contention could potentially be starters on any good D-line and fierce competition is sure to be on the cards. Carlos Dunlap demands to hold down one of the spots and his sidekick from a season ago will likely earn the other one. Johnson’s job is by no means safe though with Willis, Lawson and Hubbard all bound to see some snaps this year.
New England Patriots RB
Sony Michel vs. Rex Burkhead vs. James White vs. Jeremy Hill
DOES it even really matter who wins this ‘battle’? Bill Belichick’s magic means that any running back can seamlessly slot into the offense and carry the ball 15 times or play a role that leads to a TD. The loss of Dion Lewis means that they will need someone to at least step up as a notable presence with the experienced trio trying to hold out Michel. The former Bulldog seems built for a role that is open in the Patriots backfield and he should take the reigns from day one.
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Arizona Cardinals QB
Sam Bradford vs. Mike Glennon vs. Josh Rosen
WITH Carson Palmer gone things are looking shaky under center in Arizona. Palmer hadn’t been at his healthy best as he closed his career, which a position Sam Bradford could be finding himself in as well. The established veteran is one of three newcomers vying for the starting role with former Bears vet Mike Glennon and 10th overall pick Josh Rosen the other two. If healthy, this job has Bradford’s name all over it although it’s nice to have other options if things go haywire.
New York Giants C
Brett Jones vs. Jon Halapio
I have highlighted the Giants O-line issues before and it was good to see that they listened to me and invested some offseason capital into the position. Will Hernandez and Nate Solder will help protect their QB, but there is still a question mark over who will snap him the ball. The versatile Jon Halapio will be trying to overthrow last years starter Brett Jones with no one in the lead yet. I’d back in Halapio’s skillset to shine through.
Pittsburgh Steelers LB
Jon Bostic vs. Terrell Edmunds vs. Tyler Matakevich
WITH Ryan Shazier sidelined for at least the 2018 season there is a big hole in the middle of the Steelers defense that needs to be addressed. Luckily they have three players who have the chance to be a solution. There are certain roles and times that Edmunds can be used, but the race is realistically already down to two. With Vince Williams earning the right to start in one of the two slots, they could promote a player from their own ranks and give the role to Tyler Matakevich. Acquiring Jon Bostic was no accident though and after leading the Colts in tackles a season ago, Bostic didn’t come to play reserve snaps. The path is paved for Bostic to claim the job, but he had better watch his back.
New York Jets QB
Josh McCowan vs. Sam Darnold vs. Teddy Bridgewater
DESPITE having five quarterbacks on their roster, there are only three of them that are in starting contention. Josh McCowan was the starter last season and it wouldn’t surprise me if they opted for some experience to start the year, rather than throw Sam Darnold straight into the fire. That being said, no matter if Bridgewater or McCowan start the season, I will be stunned if Darnold isn’t starting by around Week 5. With no clear blueprint for the future, seeing what type of player Darnold can be is objective No. 1.
Dallas Cowboys WR
Michael Gallup vs. Allen Hurns vs. Terrence Williams
A divorce from Dez Bryant was necessary this offseason. However, it has left Dallas with an interesting receiving group heading into training camp. Allen Hurns was a nice get after being cut by the Jags and he should demand one of the starting spots. It will be interesting to see if the seasoned Williams or the novice Gallup claims the second gig and if I was a betting man, I’d back in the younger legs.
Denver Broncos RB
Devontae Booker vs. DeAngelo Henderson vs. Royce Freeman
THE departure of C.J. Anderson in the offseason left a wide open RB1 slot in Denver. Three viable candidates all put their hands up for the role although there seems to be a clear favourite. Despite his rookie status, the fit seems ideal for Royce Freeman and if he can grasp it quickly it seems like his job to lose. However, Booker showed solid flashes last year and could surprise us.
Green Bay Packers CB
Kevin King vs. Tramon Williams vs. Josh Jackson vs. Jaire Alexander vs. Davon House
WHILE Aaron Rodgers’ broken collarbone was the main reason Green Bay missed the playoffs, their woeful pass defense didn’t help. For the second straight year, they opted to spend up early on their secondary in the draft, taking Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson with high picks. That comes a year after they took both Kevin King and Josh Jones with dual second rounders 12 months earlier. Throw in veterans Davon House and Tramon Williams and there is a crowded CB room. Depth at the position isn’t a bad thing by any means and expect these starters to change as they try to tweak their system during the season.
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