9 NFL Training Camp Battles That Everyone Will Be Watching
2011's rookies were deprived of one, but this year, there'll be a full training camp for the NFL teams. That means enough time to implement the scheme changes that they wanted, training rookies and even coaching up some of last year's guys.
For a few teams, it doesn't really mean a ton, but nearly every team is going to have at least one major position battle going on. A few teams may even be deciding on whom to start at quarterback based on training camps.
Here are nine training camp battles everyone will be following this season.
Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson vs. Matt Flynn
When the Seahawks used their third-round selection on Russell Wilson, I thought it was a stupid decision. After all, they had just went out and signed Matt Flynn, presumably to be the starter, so why waste an early pick on a backup?
However, it turns out that Seattle has said Wilson will actually be competing with Flynn for the starting job. This makes everything different.
If Flynn doesn't pan out (and if you look at what happened with Kevin Kolb and Matt Cassel, it's likely he won't), then Seattle may have gotten a legitimate starter in the third round.
If Wilson were three inches taller, he would've been a first-round prospect with everything he did at NC State and Wisconsin, so he may be a steal. He also may just be too short to play the position.
With both Flynn and Wilson on the team, chances are good one of them will pan out in the long term. However, it'll be the training camps that decide which one will get the first shot.
Dallas Cowboys: Brandon Carr vs. Morris Claiborne
Another battle between a free agent and a rookie.
Both Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne will probably start right away, but who is the guy they put on the Larry Fitzgeralds and Calvin Johnsons of the league? That's something that training camp will have to sort out.
On the one hand, the Cowboys made a big trade up to the sixth overall pick to grab Claiborne, who was the top corner in the class on pretty much every big board. On the other, they just signed Carr to a $50 million contract.
In a division with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz on one team and Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson on another, both corners will be busy, but they'll certainly push each other.
Houston Texans: Whitney Mercilus vs. Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin
The Texans seemed to be all right on the pass-rushing front. Connor Barwin had 11.5 sacks in 2011, and Brooks Reed had six, and that's with both of them losing playing time to Super Mario Williams early in the season.
Still, they took the guy who many considered to be the best pass-rusher in the class, Whitney Mercilus. Mercilus led the FBS in sacks and tackles for loss with 16 and 22, respectively.
However, as I said before, Barwin and Reed are proven players, while Mercilus was criticized by some scouts for lacking technique, even at the college level.
He's going to get a good chunk of playing time for sure, but Mercilus could be anywhere from No. 1 to No. 3 on the new Texans depth chart. We'll have to see how he does in training camps before we'll have an idea.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: LeGarrette Blount vs. Doug Martin
Last season was not LeGarrette Blount's best; he rushed for 781 yards and a measly five touchdowns. However, just a year before that, he had more than 1,000 yards in just seven starts, so it could just be one down year.
Realistically, the two will share the backfield, but newly drafted running back Doug Martin is coming in to take the starting job.
Tampa Bay thought highly enough of Martin to trade back into the first round to get him before the Giants could, so he'll have that on his side, but keep in mind that Blount can be a monster when he really wants to be. Maybe Martin will give him the kick in the pants he needs.
If Blount does rebound, then Tampa Bay ought to have a pretty stout running game.
Arizona Cardinals: Kevin Kolb vs. John Skelton
Kevin Kolb should be the presumed starter in Arizona. He's privy to a $65 million contract, but the Cardinals were 3-5 under him as a starter and 5-2 under John Skelton, his backup.
Of course, with their financial obligation to Kolb, the Cardinals will want to give him the benefit of a doubt, but if Skelton outperforms him in training camp, you can be sure they won't hesitate to give him the starting job.
Hopefully for Cardinals fans, the situation will be sorted out before the season starts. Nothing will rip a team apart like a quarterback controversy. If Kolb keeps the starting job and struggles again, or vice versa, the Cardinals will be in for a long season.
New York Jets: Stephen Hill vs. Santonio Holmes
I was sure Santonio Holmes was as good as gone by the end of last season, but he's still in New York for the time being. However, his role as the No. 1 receiver on the team is definitely in jeopardy.
The Jets managed to land Stephen Hill in Round 2. Hill had a fantastic combine, and even though he's a little raw, I (and many other draftniks) had him as the fourth-best receiver in his class, behind Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd and Kendall Wright.
Hill is tall, as fast as they come and extremely athletic. He was underutilized in college, which will happen when you play wide receiver for a team that runs the triple option, so he's a bit of a risk, but he has unlimited potential.
After Holmes' very public problems at the end of the 2011 season, he's in a disadvantaged position. Hill can at least say he doesn't already have a problem with other players and coaches on the team, so Hill may be the guy to take in your fantasy drafts instead.
St. Louis Rams: Brian Quick vs. Chris Givens
The more I look at it, the more I love what the St. Louis Rams did in the draft. They traded down twice and ended up with five potential starters (Michael Brockers, Brian Quick, Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson, Chris Givens).
Two of those players, Quick and Givens, happen to play the same position. Quick was drafted earlier, but he's a raw receiver, while Givens may be ready to step in and play at a pro level right away.
Quick received a lot of late hype. At Appalachian State, he caught 71 balls for 1,096 yards and 11 touchdowns. He's as athletic as you could ask for and plays with good speed. Also, the Rams selected him over Stephen Hill, Alshon Jeffery and Rueben Randle, so they like him a lot.
Givens had a dominant combine performance. He ran a 4.41-second 40, had a 33" vertical jump and was just short of 10' on the broad jump. He is shorter than Quick, but his speed and better route running could give him an advantage.
Either of the two could end up becoming Sam Bradford's go-to target in 2012, and it'll be the training camps that will give one a head start.
Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill vs. Matt Moore, Reggie Bush vs. Lamar Miller
The Dolphins should have two major training camp battles going on in the next few weeks, and both of them should be intriguing.
First of all, there's the quarterback battle. Matt Moore did a great job last season, leading the Dolphins to a winning record as a starter and completing over 60 percent of his passes for 16 touchdowns.
On the other hand, the Dolphins used the eighth overall selection in the draft on Ryan Tannehill, and now it looks like he may end up starting as soon as Week 1. If he looks better than Moore in training camps, you can bet that he'll be the one on the field.
Not as headline grabbing, but just as intriguing, will be the battle between Reggie Bush and Lamar Miller, and while Bush vs. Miller sounds like a crappy beer competition, it could be huge for Miami.
Bush is coming off a great 2011 season and has publicly said his goal is to lead the league in rushing in 2012. However, to do that, of course, he's gonna have to beat out the University of Miami's own Miller.
Miller was seen as an early second-round pick on some boards, so he's no slouch. You can bet he'll come in wanting the starting job. You can also bet that the Miami fanbase would love to see Miller as the starter anyway, so Bush is going to have his work cut out for him.
Tennessee Titans: Jake Locker vs. Matt Hasselbeck
I've said before that I think that Hasselbeck will be the starter in 2012 for the Titans, but you never know what could happen in training camp.
Locker looked great when he was on the field for the Titans. In his last preseason game against New Orleans, Locker completed 15 of 17 passes. Against Atlanta, he looked just as impressive, throwing for 140 yards and three total touchdowns. He's still got work to do, especially on his accuracy, but he showed an unlimited ceiling so far. Tennessee fans are already calling for him to take the starting job.
That said, unseating Hasselbeck will be no easy task. He threw for 3,571 yards in 2011, more than he's thrown for since 2007. And he did that without Kenny Britt.
Seeing what happens between these two in training camp will be very intriguing.