8 Must-Watch NFL Training Camp Battles
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Dozens of NFL starting jobs are up for grabs, and many of them won't be won until training camp.
Many of these training camp battles are at quarterback, where backups or high draft picks will get a chance to beat out mediocre starters.
The following training camp battles are particularly intriguing, as the fight for these starting jobs is too close to call. They won't be settled until these teams work out under the hot August sun.
Arizona Cardinals: Quarterback
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Kevin Kolb vs. John Skelton
Kevin Kolb (pictured left) is the incumbent, but he was 3-6 as the Cardinals' starting quarterback in 2011.
John Skelton, on the other hand, was 5-2 as the starter.
Kolb's nine starts in 2011 were the most in his career for a single season. Even though Kolb never started more than five games in his four years with the Eagles, the Cardinals traded cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round draft pick to acquire the young quarterback.
That kind of investment would seem to put Kolb on the inside track, but Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt told Jim Rome via ProFootballTalk that the competition is open.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Quarterback
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Blaine Gabbert vs. Chad Henne
Those who enjoy slapping the "bust" tag on first-round draft picks will want to watch this training camp battle.
Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey says Gabbert (pictured) has a firm grip on the starting quarterback job, according to Don Banks of SI.com. However, Banks also says that many in the organization believe Henne will be the starter by the time the calendar flips to September.
The Jaguars signed Henne as a free agent after Gabbert, chosen 10th overall in the 2011 NFL draft, threw for 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions for the 5-11 Jaguars.
Henne started for the Dolphins in 2009, 2010 and the first four games of 2011 before season-ending shoulder surgery. He was only 13-18 as the Dolphins starting quarterback, but has a career passer rating of 79.0, according to NFL.com, compared to Gabbert's 65.4 in 2011.
Gabbert could have been hindered by the lockout and should improve with a full offseason of workouts under his belt.
Miami Dolphins: Quarterback
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Matt Moore vs. David Garrard vs. Ryan Tannehill
Jacksonville and Miami are connected by about 300 miles of freeway and entwined by their quarterback competitions.
Former Jaguar David Garrard is trying to win the starting job in Miami, while former Dolphin Chad Henne is trying to win the starting job in Jacksonville.
On Thursday, new Dolphins coach Joe Philbin basically declared the quarterback competition a three-man race among Matt Moore, Ryan Tannehill and Garrard on ESPN's NFL 32 via ProFootballTalk.
Just to be nice, Philbin also mentioned Pat Devlin, an undrafted free agent signed last season.
Moore is the incumbent and deserves a chance to keep the job. He had an 87.1 passer rating in 2011, according to NFL.com, and went 6-6 as the starter with 16 touchdown passes and nine interceptions. Moore took over after the Dolphins started 0-4 after Henne was lost for the season.
Garrard's back injury last season opened the door for Blaine Gabbert to start as a rookie. After leading the Jaguars to a playoff victory in 2007, Garrard has leveled off. He's also 34 years old and coming off a season of inactivity.
Tannehill (pictured) has been the No. 3 starter in OTAs, according to NFL.com. However, he knows offensive coordinator Mike Sherman's offense after playing for him at Texas A&M, and as the No. 8 pick in the 2012 NFL draft, he will get a long, hard look in training camp.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Left Tackle
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Marcus Gilbert vs. Mike Adams
Before the 2012 NFL draft, second-year man Marcus Gilbert was anointed as the Steelers' starting left tackle in 2012.
But Mike Adams, projected by many to go in the first round of the draft, fell to the Steelers in the second round, and now there will be a training camp battle for the job of protecting Ben Roethlisberger's blind side.
Roethlisberger has been sacked 168 times with Max Starks as the Steelers' primary left tackle since 2008. Starks is now a free agent. If his phone rings, it won't be the Steelers calling.
Gilbert was decent as the Steelers' starting right tackle, but he inherited the left tackle job, more so than winning it.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller ranked Gilbert a so-so No. 13 among right tackles in his NFL 1,000 series.
Adams (pictured) can't participate in OTAs because school is still in session, but according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, many expect Adams to be the Steelers' starting left tackle when it is all said and done.
Adams might be more naturally built for the position. At 6'7" he's an inch taller than Gilbert. He also has 34-inch arms and 10.875-inch hands, compared to Gilbert's 33.5-inch arms and 9.75-inch hands, according to NFL.com.
Gilbert, however, has the edge in experience, with a year in the NFL's trenches.
Seattle Seahawks: Quarterback
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Matt Flynn vs. Tarvaris Jackson vs. Russell Wilson
This training camp battle features one of the NFL's top backups, one of the NFL's worst starters and an intriguing multi-sport athlete who is the sentimental favorite.
Seahawks general manager John Schneider said on ProFootballTalk that the Seahawks' quarterback competition is open.
Tarvaris Jackson threw for 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2011, although in the team's last five games, he threw for five touchdowns and one interception. The Seahawks went 3-2 in those games.
Flynn bettered Jackson's late-season push in one game, throwing for 480 yards and six touchdowns, both franchise records, in the Packers' 45-41 win over the Detroit Lions in the 2011 regular-season finale. Flynn did this against a Lions team that was trying to clinch the No. 5 seed in the playoffs.
Flynn won't have to be better than Aaron Rodgers in Seattle. He will just have to be better than Jackson and Wilson.
Even though no rookie third-round draft pick has been the opening day starting quarterback since the Bills' Joe Ferguson in 1973 (according to ProFootballTalk), Seahawks coach Pete Carroll says Wilson will also compete for the starting job.
The 5'11" Wilson (pictured) played football and baseball at North Carolina State before transferring to Wisconsin. He also played in the Colorado Rockies' minor-league system.
Wilson's father died of diabetes the day after he was drafted by the Rockies, according to the Denver Post, so a lot of people will be rooting for him even though he's the underdog of this training camp battle.
Seattle Seahawks: Middle Linebacker
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Bobby Wagner vs. Barrett Ruud vs. Matt McCoy
The departure of David Hawthorne leaves a void at middle linebacker in Seattle.
The Seahawks chose the speedy Bobby Wagner (pictured) in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft, and they hope he can step in right away and start at middle linebacker, according to the Seattle Times.
If he can't, Seattle has Matt McCoy and free-agent acquisition Barrett Ruud to fall back on.
McCoy and Ruud both are entering their eighth year in the NFL. McCoy is a journeyman on his fourth NFL team, and Ruud is coming off an injury-plagued year in Tennessee.
The 6'0", 241-pound Wagner had 147 total tackles with four sacks and two interceptions in his senior year at Utah State.
Here's what Carroll said on Wagner in the Seattle Times:
Bobby's going to get a heck of a chance. We want to see him. We'd love to get that speed on the field if we could. It's rare to find a linebacker that runs that fast ... But he's got to do it. He's got a long way to go before he can take that over.
The outcome of this training camp battle likely will depend on how quickly Wagner gets his footing.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Running Back
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LeGarrette Blount vs. Doug Martin
Teams still use running backs once in a while, even though just three were taken in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft.
Doug Martin of Boise State was one of those running backs. The 5'9", 223 pounder was chosen 31st overall by the Buccaneers.
LeGarrette Blount was Tampa Bay's primary option at running back last season, and he says he doesn't feel threatened by Martin's selection, according to the Tampa Times via ProFootballTalk.
Blount ran for 781 yards, averaging 4.2 yards per carry, for the Bucs in 2011.
Martin (pictured) ran for 1,299 yards at a 4.9-yard-per-carry clip at Boise State in 2011. He also scored 16 touchdowns. Not bad for a guy who, according to CBSSports.com, knew so little about football when he entered high school that he thought the Dolphins were from Chicago.
This might not end up being a training camp battle if the Bucs elect to go with a running back tandem like several other NFL teams.
However, no one should feel secure in his position on a team that went 4-12 and ended 2011 with 10 straight losses.
Tennessee Titans: Quarterback
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Matt Hasselbeck vs. Jake Locker
This training camp battle is a must-see because Jake Locker, born in Bellingham, Wash., listed the Seahawks as his favorite football team growing up.
That implies that Locker, 23, rooted for Matt Hasselbeck-led Seahawks teams as a teenager.
Now he's trying to beat out Hasselbeck for a starting job, and Titans general manager Ruston Webster says Locker will have every chance to unseat Hasselbeck as the starter, according to The Tennessean via ProFootballTalk.
The Titans chose Locker eighth overall in the 2011 NFL draft to do just that.
Locker (pictured) was the second quarterback chosen in the draft, but unlike draftmates Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert, he didn't play much in his rookie season.
Hasselbeck, 36, started all 16 games for the 9-7 Titans in 2011. He threw for 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions with an 82.4 passer rating, according to NFL.com.
Locker appeared in five games and threw for four touchdowns with no interceptions.
As a top-10 pick, Locker will need to beat out the wily veteran sooner rather than later. If not, the "bust" label is waiting.