Predicting Winners of the 25 Most Intriguing NFL Training Camp Battles
In the NFL, training camp is most important for settling position battles. Whether a competition is at quarterback or kicker, training camp can make all the difference.
Every NFL team has plenty of roster battles. It could be for a roster spot or a starting job, but, regardless, stiff competition is underway. Some of these battles stand out above the rest, though.
Of the many spots up for grabs, 25 stand out as especially interesting. Here, we're not just looking at who is in the battles, but who will win.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: LeGarrette Blount vs. Doug Martin
The Buccaneers traded up in the first round to draft Doug Martin, who is seemingly LeGarrette Blount's replacement. Blount had a terrific rookie season but struggled in 2011.
Unlike Blount, Martin is a complete player, capable of running, blocking and catching. That is what will win him the starting job.
Winner: Doug Martin
Tennessee Titans: Matt Hasselbeck vs. Jake Locker
Matt Hasselbeck wasn't awful in 2011, but he wasn't much of a spark for the Tennessee offense either. Jake Locker, on the other hand, could ignite the Titans' speedy offense.
Locker isn't as experienced as Hasselbeck, but he is much more talented and can better take advantage of Tennessee's many weapons. Locker's physical abilities will win him the job over the aging veteran.
Winner: Jake Locker
Seattle Seahawks: Matt Flynn vs. Tarvaris Jackson vs. Russell Wilson
The Seahawks are entering 2012 with two new and one returning quarterback. All three seem to be involved in a competition for the starting job.
Matt Flynn seems likely to win. The former Packer was given a big contract in the offseason, and he dominated in his limited time playing for Green Bay.
Winner: Matt Flynn
New York Jets: Bart Scott vs. Demario Davis
The Jets seem to be tired of Bart Scott's mouth and mediocrity. New York drafted Demario Davis in the third round to replace Scott, but is he ready to fill in?
Davis is talented, but Rex Ryan's defense takes some time to master, and Davis will need a while. Scott's familiarity with Ryan gives him the edge.
Winner: Bart Scott
Houston Texans: Kevin Walter vs. DeVier Posey
For years, Kevin Walter was a solid No. 2 receiver, but his play fell off in 2012. Houston drafted DeVier Posey to hopefully start opposite Andre Johnson, and Walter's job could be in trouble.
At this point, Walter simply doesn't offer enough physically to continue starting. Posey is still raw, but he at least has some vertical speed and burst.
Winner: DeVier Posey
Kansas City Chiefs: Ryan Lilja vs. Jeff Allen
With Jon Asamoah locked in at right guard, Ryan Lilja could be on the chopping block. After an excellent 2010 campaign, Lilja struggled in 2011.
Jeff Allen is new to the guard position, but he may be ready before the season starts. However, Romeo Crennel prefers to give rookies some time on the bench, so Lilja's job may be safe for now.
Winner: Ryan Lilja
Cincinnati Bengals: Dre Kirkpatrick vs. Nate Clements
Between Leon Hall, Jason Allen, Terence Newman, Adam Jones, Nate Clements and Dre Kirkpatrick, the Bengals have quite a few cornerbacks. The question is whether or not Kirkpatrick immediately replaces one of them at the top of the depth chart.
Clements is well past his prime and doesn't have safety versatility like the others do. Kirkpatrick would probably be better as a rookie while offering more upside.
Winner: Dre Kirkpatrick
Tennessee Titans: Kendall Wright vs. Nate Washington
Nate Washington actually had an excellent 2011 season, catching 74 passes for 1,023 yards. The Titans still drafted Kendall Wright, though, and the team has a decision to make.
As a rookie, Wright may be better off working out of the slot. Washington will probably retain the No. 2 spot while Wright is slowly eased into a bigger role.
Winner: Nate Washington
Detroit Lions: Riley Reiff vs. Gosder Cherilus
The Lions clearly weren't comfortable with their offensive line, and they shouldn't have been. Jeff Backus' spot at left tackle seems safe, but Gosder Cherilus could be in trouble.
Riley Reiff is still a rookie, of course, but Detroit didn't draft him purely because he was the best player available. If Reiff isn't playing on the left side, he'll play on the right side.
Winner: Riley Reiff
Arizona Cardinals: Kevin Kolb vs. John Skelton
Kevin Kolb didn't play quite how Arizona hoped he would in 2011. In fact, John Skelton played just as well, if not better, during Kolb's injury-induced absences.
However, the Cardinals seem hitched to Kolb. They gave up a second-round pick for him a year ago and don't want the trade to go down as a failure.
Winner: Kevin Kolb
Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill vs. Matt Moore
The No. 8 overall pick, Ryan Tannehill won't be on the bench for long. Sure, Tannehill is raw and Matt Moore played pretty well last year, but that doesn't mean Tannehill won't start.
The Texas A&M product knows Mike Sherman and Joe Philbin's offense better than Moore does, and he is more talented as well. Tannehill gives Miami a better chance to win, so he will start.
Winner: Ryan Tannehill
Detroit Lions: Jahvid Best vs. Mikel Leshoure
Jahvid Best has shown he can make dynamic plays, but he has also shown that he is concussion-prone. Detroit can enter the year with the oft-injured Best starting, or it can go with the bigger Mikel Leshoure.
Leshoure himself missed 2011 with a torn Achilles, but that doesn't seem likely to come back in the future. However, Best will get a chance to show he can handle an NFL workload, and if he can't, the Lions will then make their switch.
Winner: Jahvid Best
New England Patriots: Dont'a Hightower vs. Brandon Spikes
No one really knows how New England plans to use Brandon Spikes and Dont'a Hightower, but the two seem to fill the same role. Both players are bigger, slower linebackers with limited coverage ability.
If this is the case, Hightower seems likely to win the job. The Patriots would have drafted Hightower to replace Spikes, so it only makes sense that the Alabama product would win the starting job.
Winner: Dont'a Hightower
Chicago Bears: Shea McClellin vs. Israel Idonije
Despite re-signing Israel Idonije, the Bears decided to add Shea McClellin in the first round. An explosive pass-rusher from Boise State, McClellin has upside, but he may not be ready to start.
At this point, McClellin's struggles against the run make him a situational player. Idonije is much more complete and will continue to start until McClellin develops.
Winner: Israel Idonije
Baltimore Ravens: Jah Reid vs. Kelechi Osemele
After losing Ben Grubbs to the Saints, Baltimore had to add another guard option. Jah Reid was drafted as a tackle, but he may kick inside to replace Grubbs.
Or there is Kelechi Osemele, who also played tackle in college. Osemele's ability to play at the second level makes him a better guard fit, and Reid could be starting at tackle anytime.
Winner: Kelechi Osemele
Green Bay Packers: Derek Sherrod vs. Marshall Newhouse
The No. 32 pick in 2011, Derek Sherrod failed to bust into the starting lineup as a rookie. Even when Chad Clifton was hurt, Marshall Newhouse played instead of Sherrod.
Newhouse is only 23 years old, and he offers a better size and athleticism combination. Sherrod couldn't beat out Newhouse last year, and he doesn't seem likely to this time around.
Winner: Marshall Newhouse
Denver Broncos: Ronnie Hillman vs. Knowshon Moreno
It seems that Willis McGahee has essentially established himself as the starter, so the question here is who will back up McGahee. Knowshon Moreno certainly didn't look like the guy in 2011.
However, Ronnie Hillman may not yet be ready to serve as a complete runner. The deciding factor, though, is how bad Moreno has been at everything.
Winner: Ronnie Hillman
Baltimore Ravens: Sergio Kindle vs. Courtney Upshaw
Terrell Suggs is out, and Baltimore needs to find his replacement. Since he was drafted by the Ravens in the second round, Sergio Kindle has struggled to find the field. He seems to be healthy now, though, and may be able to finally contribute.
On the other hand, Kindle was healthy in 2011 and couldn't even play as a situational pass-rusher. Courtney Upshaw is much better than Kindle against the run and might even be a better pass-rusher.
Winner: Courtney Upshaw
Arizona Cardinals: Andre Roberts vs. Michael Floyd
No, Andre Roberts isn't a special talent, and he may be holding back Arizona's offense. However, Michael Floyd may not be quite ready to start opposite Larry Fitzgerald.
Floyd isn't overly explosive and could struggle with press coverage. He'll start pretty soon, but he may act as the team's No. 3 wideout to start.
Winner: Andre Roberts
Cleveland Browns: Colt McCoy vs. Brandon Weeden
Cleveland must be pretty confident Brandon Weeden is ready to play if it took him, at 28 years old, in the first round. Colt McCoy doesn't seem to have much of a shot at the starting job.
Weeden is much more talented than McCoy, and McCoy isn't any more intelligent. Weeden will have to adjust to a new offense and the NFL, but he should be the better player.
Winner: Brandon Weeden
Atlanta Falcons: Peter Konz vs. Mike Johnson
A college center, Peter Konz will be a guard to start his career before replacing Todd McClure at center. Konz doesn't have a starting job locked up, however.
Justin Blalock probably has one of the guard spots under wraps, so Mike Johnson and Konz will be left to compete for the other opening. Konz is more talented and flexible than Johnson, so he will probably get the nod.
Winner: Peter Konz
San Francisco 49ers: LaMichael James vs. Kendall Hunter vs. Anthony Dixon
Brandon Jacobs could be added in too.
The 49ers have an absurd number of running backs behind Frank Gore. Anthony Dixon, Kendall Hunter and Jacobs have already contributed to Kylee's party, but San Francisco drafted LaMichael James for a reason.
Dixon is more of a complete runner to Hunter's scatbackiness and Jacobs' power. However, there aren't too many players like James in the NFL, and he should get plenty of touches spelling Gore.
Winner: LaMichael James
Dallas Cowboys: Mike Jenkins vs. Orlando Scandrick
The Cowboys drafted Morris Claiborne at No. 6 overall, and he will start at cornerback opposite Brandon Carr. That leaves Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick competing for the nickelback job.
Scandrick has more experience out of the slot and hasn't been as inconsistent as Jenkins. The former first-round pick's roster spot could be in trouble.
Winner: Orlando Scandrick
Cincinnati Bengals: Devon Still vs. Domata Peko
Domata Peko isn't a bad player, but he isn't a dynamic one either. Devon Still has the potential to make an impact, and as a second-round pick, he's expected to do so soon.
Still's athleticism and ability to move around make him the favorite for the job. While Peko is one-dimensional, Still can be used in many ways.
Winner: Devon Still
Buffalo Bills: Chris Hairston vs. Cordy Glenn
Both Chris Hairston and Cordy Glenn are massive left tackles. Buffalo drafted Glenn as a left tackle, but he could start out on the right side.
Though Glenn may be better suited at another spot, this is even more true for Hairston. The Clemson product is more of a guard than a left tackle, and the Bills shouldn't want him protecting Ryan Fitzpatrick's blind side.
Winner: Cordy Glenn