2012 NFL Training Camp Battles: 17 Upsets to Watch Out For
There are some potential upsets brewing at various NFL complexes, as players are getting the chance to change the impressions that coaching staffs had from just watching tape on them in college. Now that they are seeing them live, some players are showing much better to the point that they are going to be considered for a promotion to a position the team didn't originally think they were ready for.
We will take a look at 17 of these potential upsets around the NFL and lay out the scenario in question and what the local thought process is regarding the battle going forward.
In most cases there will either be a rookie or a second-year player that is looking to move up on the depth chart, while there is a veteran trying to protect their place on the depth chart. It is that struggle of competition that makes teams better but also makes for intense battles to view at every NFL facility.
New England Patriots Wide Receiver
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Position: New England Patriots last two wide receivers
Players in Question: Matt Slater, Chad Ochocinco, Jabar Gaffney, Julian Edelman (pictured) and Deion Branch.
Potential Upset Scenario: That the wide receiver/special teams dual role types like Matt Slater and Julian Edelman could bump pure wide receivers like Chad Ochocinco, Jabar Gaffney and Deion Branch off the roster.
New England has a glutton of wide receivers. The question is how many wide receivers will the Patriots keep and how many will be the type that wears a number of different hats for the team, which head coach Bill Belichick is known for?
Also, which Patriots pure wide receivers will be cut and will Belichick be able to spin them off for a draft pick when it is time to make the final cuts? For teams that are thought to be thin at wide receiver, they will be watching the Patriots situation closely.
Cincinnati Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict
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Position: Cincinnati Bengals linebacker
Players in Question: Undrafted rookie free agent Vontaze Burfict (pictured).
Potential Upset Scenario: Can undrafted rookie free agent Vontaze Burfict survive the Bengals final roster cuts?
According to this story from Geoff Hobson, the editor of Bengals.com, Burfict is "going to be one of the bigger preseason stories in the NFL"
The way that Hobson tells it, the Bengals coaches are starting fresh with Burfict by working off of what they see from him live and in person, rather than the poor showing he had on tape throughout the 2011 season.
It is too early to tell what role Burfict would have on the team, but the fact that he is making such a solid impression already is quite a surprise, since the rest of the NFL was so ready and willing to write him off as undraftable.
Buffalo Bills No. 2 Wide Receiver
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Position: Buffalo Bills No. 2 wide receiver
Players in Question: Marcus Easley, Donald Jones, Derek Hagan, David Clowney and rookie T.J. Graham.
Potential Upset Scenario: The Bills prefer to find a reliable wide receiver opposite of Stevie Johnson that has enough speed to stretch defenses. The candidates right now on the roster are Easley, Clowney and the rookie Graham.
If none of those three prove that they can hold down a starting job, then the Bills would turn to slower options in Donald Jones, Derek Hagan or possibly Brad Smith to serve as the other starting wide receiver.
The Bills thought that Easley was the answer, but he hasn't been on the active roster yet for a single game in two years in the NFL due to injuries and a heart condition. So, the Bills invested a third-round draft pick in Graham to see if he can step up. Clowney is more of a long-shot candidate for the job.
Dallas Cowboys No. 3 Wide Receiver
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Position: Dallas Cowboys No. 3 wide receiver
Players in Question: Kevin Ogeltree, Dwayne Harris and rookie Danny Coale (pictured).
Potential Upset Scenario: The Cowboys lost Laurent Robinson to free agency, so somebody needs to step up to claim the Cowboys No. 3 receiver position. The veteran in the group is Kevin Ogeltree, but he has two challengers for the job in second-year man Dwayne Harris and rookie Danny Coale.
Calvin Watkins, writer for ESPN Dallas.com, says that the job is wide open for somebody to step up and claim it. While Ogeltree has the most experience, there is no guarantee that he wins the job.
Whoever wins the battle, it would take on added significance if Miles Austin gets injured again in 2012.
Denver Broncos No. 2 Running Back
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Position: Denver Broncos No. 2 running back
Players in Question: Knowshon Moreno, Mario Fannin and rookie Ronnie Hillman (pictured).
Potential Upset Scenario: The Broncos have Willis McGahee as their starting running back, but then after him there is a question mark. Who will be the primary backup to McGahee?
Both Fannin and Moreno are attempting to come back from torn ACLs, so there is no telling when they will be back close to 100 percent. That leaves the rookie Hillman to prove that he is up to the challenge, according to this story by Lindsay Jones of the Denver Post.
Moreno is still trying to complete rehab work on his knee, so his timeline is still up in the air.
Baltimore Ravens No. 3 Wide Receiver
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Position: Baltimore Ravens No. 3 wide receiver
Players in Question: Jacoby Jones, Tandon Doss and rookie Tommy Streeter (pictured).
Potential Upset Scenario: The Ravens released Lee Evans after his unproductive 2011 season, so the Ravens need someone to give them more production from that position. They are fine with the first two receivers in Anquan Bolden and Torrey Smith.
Second-year man Doss didn't catch a pass in 2011, so Jones looks to be the favorite coming in. But the Ravens have a speedster in Streeter, so if he impresses in training camp, he could get into the mix.
The current belief is that Jones is better than some of the recent No. 3 receivers that the Ravens have employed, like T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Lee Evans, according to this story from Baltimore Ravens.com writer Ryan Mink.
Cincinnati Bengals No. 2 Wide Reciever
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Position: Cincinnati Bengals No. 2 wide receiver
Players in Question: Armon Binns (pictured), Brandon Tate, Jordan Shipley and rookies Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones.
Potential Upset Scenario: Shipley is the experienced veteran and then there is a bunch of inexperienced receivers with loads of potential, so the Bengals are going to enter into training camp to see who emerges from this pack as the No. 2 wideout to line up opposite of A.J. Green.
As per this article by Geoff Hobson, the editor of Bengals.com, Binns is making noise in OTAs that he will be a force to be reckoned with for the job, so Hobson gives Binns the early nod to start as the No. 2 wide receiver.
But there is obviously plenty of time for Sanu to catch Binns and pass him at camp.
Seattle Seahawks Starting Quarterback
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Position: Seattle Seahawks Starting Quarterback
Players in Question: Tarvaris Jackson, Matt Flynn and rookie Russell Wilson (pictured).
Potential Upset Scenario: The Seahawks have admittedly created a mess on their hands by opening up the starting quarterback job to Jackson, Flynn and the rookie Wilson. May the best man win.
Players, coaches and fans love to see good competition and that will be the case in Seattle. How long will it take for all of this to be sorted out is anybody's guess. Pete Carroll doesn't know the answer to that question either.
According to Percy Allen, a writer for The Seattle Times, the battle could continue until the Seahawks are involved in their preseason games, as to when Carroll may be ready to declare who the starter is.
That doesn't allow for a tremendous number of reps for the starter to work in with his receivers and backs, as is afforded the rest of the NFL starters around the league.
Baltimore Ravens Outside Linebackers
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Position: Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker
Players in Question: Paul Kruger, Sergio Kindle and rookie Courtney Upshaw (pictured).
Potential Upset Scenario: The Ravens have enough depth that they can plug in some athletes to compensate for the loss of Terrell Suggs to his Achilles tendon injury, but the question is who will be starting for the Ravens.
There are three players for two spots, and as per this story from Aaron Wilson of the Carroll County Times, Sergio Kindle is the "wild card player" in this mix.
Kindle has yet to be a factor in his first two years in Baltimore, but he was a second-round draft pick, so the team still thinks highly of him. He should be ready to contend for more snaps in 2012, if he can cope with the crowd noise at NFL games. You may recall that Kindle suffered a fractured skull when he fell down two flights of stairs and suffered permanent hearing loss.
San Francisco 49ers Starting Right Guard
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Position: San Francisco 49ers starting right guard
Players in Question: Alex Boone, Daniel Kilgore, Mike Person and rookie Joe Looney (pictured).
Potential Upset Scenario: The 49ers are giving the first shot at the job to Boone, but if he falters, the 49ers will be ready to plug in any of the other possible guards we cited, including the rookie Looney.
Eric Branch, writer for San Francisco Chronicle feels that Boone is starting to enjoy the potential move to guard from tackle. Boone wasn't enamored with the move initially, but is liking it more and more.
If he can't handle it, the 49ers have fourth-round draft pick Joe Looney waiting in the wings to have a shot.
Miami Dolphins Starting Quarterback
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Position: Miami Dolphins starting quarterback
Players in Question: Matt Moore, David Garrard and rookie Ryan Tannehill (pictured).
Potential Upset Scenario: The Dolphins decided that Tannehill was worth the No. 8 overall draft pick in the 2012 NFL draft, due to the upside he has to offer. Would that upside be better served to sit on the sidelines for the first eight to 10 games and observe from there?
Of the three current quarterbacks in contention for the job, nobody knows Mike Sherman's offense better than Tannehill. If he can prove to head coach Joe Philbin that he can execute the offense better than either Moore or Garrard, then that is entirely a different story.
We probably won't know for sure what the Dolphins are going to do about naming a starter until the preseason games roll around. But this is a situation that bears watching.
Carolina Panthers Starting Linebackers
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Position Carolina Panthers linebackers
Players in Question: Luke Kuechly and Jon Beason.
One of the main storylines for the Carolina Panthers heading into 2012 is the decision on how first-round pick Luke Kuechly will be worked into the rotation at LB. As the incumbent, veteran Jon Beason may have the edge at MLB, but he's also coming off a season-ending Achilles tendon injury.
As a result, the Panthers are taking it slow with Beason. Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer reports that the Miami product has not taken part in any of the full team drills during OTAs this week.
"I think they're just protecting me from myself," Beason lamented. "Practice is practice. [Editor's note: We're contractually obligated to link to this video after a quote like that]. But to me you come out and compete. You try to win every down and you play the game a certain way. I think that had a lot to do with it, too."
ESPN NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas thinks this is the right call, both for Beason and for fellow injured LB Thomas Davis.
Dallas Cowboys Inside Linebacker
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Position: Dallas Cowboys inside linebacker.
Players in Question: Dan Conner and second-year player Bruce Carter (pictured).
Potential Upset Scenario: The Dallas Cowboys decided to add Connor in the 2012 offseason because they really aren't sure what they have in Carter. Carter was drafted in the second-round of the 2011 NFL draft, with the No. 40 overall pick, so the Cowboys would like to see what Carter is capable of doing.
In a story from Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com, Carter is taking snaps with the first-team defense. He is lined up adjacent to Sean Lee and Connor is watching and waiting for his turn, because he still hasn't been medically cleared to practice yet. Connor had offseason shoulder surgery, which will delay his start until training camp.
We don't know yet if Carter can hold the veteran Connor off, but it should prove to be an interesting battle to watch.
Tennessee Titans Starting Quarterback
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Position: Tennessee Titans starting quarterback
Players in Question: Matt Hasselbeck and second-year player Jake Locker (pictured).
Potential Upset Scenario: The Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns and Seattle Seahawks are the five teams that seem to be open to the concept of having their starting quarterback job opened up to competition and allow the starter to come forward during training camp to claim the job.
For the Titans, they must have been overall satisfied with the job that the veteran Hasselbeck performed last year, but they didn't draft Locker in the first round to simply hold a clipboard.
How is the competition starting to shape up? In a tweet from Jim Wyatt of the Nashville Tennessean, he writes that "offensive coordinator Chris Palmer will not be as much interested in the stats of the quarterbacks, but rather who gives the team the best chance to win".
Houston Texans No. 3 Wide Receiver
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Position: Houston Texans No. 3 wide receiver
Players in Question: Lester Jean and rookies DeVier Posey (pictured) and Keshawn Martin.
Potential Upset Scenario: The Texans are looking for somebody to step up and replace Jacoby Jones as the No. 3 wide receiver.
In an article by Lance Zierlein of the Houston Chronicle, the Texans were impressed with what they saw from Jean in the 2011 training camp, but since that was a year ago, he really doesn't have much momentum coming into this year.
Sounds like the job is completely up for grabs, so this is one position that Texans fans can start to pay more attention to, to see who emerges with the position.
Cincinnati Bengals Secondary
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Position: Cincinnati Bengals starting cornerbacks and free safety
Players in Question: Leon Hall, Nate Clements, Adam Jones, Terence Newman, Jason Allen and rookie Dre Kirkpatrick (pictured).
Potential Upset Scenario: The Bengals have the unique distinction of having six first-round draft picks in camp to contend for the starting cornerback jobs. With that being the case, 2012 first-round draft pick Dre Kirkpatrick won't be handed a starting job, he will have to earn it.
The other upset scenario is at the free safety position. Reggie Nelson is set at strong safety, but the free safety job is up for grabs. It could go to Taylor Mays, but he doesn't have a proven track record. The other option is to move Jason Allen, who has played some safety before in his career.
No matter how the jobs finally shake out in training camp the Bengals promise to have a talented secondary that hopefully will gel sooner than later.
Buffalo Bills Left Tackle
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Position: Buffalo Bills Left Tackle
Players in Question: Chris Hairston and rookie Cordy Glenn (pictured).
Potential Upset Scenario: The Bills thought enough of Chris Hairston that they made a rather unspectacular bid to starter Demetress Bell. So unspectacular that he chose not to even respond to the original offer, before ultimately signing with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Bills invested the No. 41 overall pick in Georgia rookie Glenn to let him battle it out in training camp with Hairston, the second-year tackle out of Clemson. If Glenn's feet aren't quick enough at left tackle, it is not out of the question that he could bump starting right tackle Erik Pears. It is hard to imagine Glenn not starting at one of the tackle slots.