12 NFL Starters That Should Lose Their Spots During Training Camp
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There are quite a few players who somehow have starting jobs going into NFL training camps—despite not deserving it—and they should be beaten out by younger, much more talented players.
The NFL will have new starters pop up all over the league this year, whether they're recent draft picks or young promising free agents. The ones who lose their jobs are the kind of players that haven't been effective in the NFL for years.
Atlanta Falcons OT Sam Baker
Sam Baker is the guy on the left getting embarrassed.
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Sam Baker is one of the worst left tackles in the NFL. He heads into camp this year as a starter, but there is question as to whether he even really has his heart in the game.
He was recently quoted as saying (h/t Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution): "All I can do is look forward and keep working. I have a family, and I have everything else outside of here [at Flowery Branch], so I focus on that when I’m not playing."
The lack of focus combined with talented competition (Lamar Holmes, Will Svitek) will yield a new starting left tackle for the Falcons in 2012. Holmes is a 6'6", 330-pound tackle that was selected in the third round of the draft and will be competing for the starting spot.
Svitek also played well when Baker was injured in the 2011 season. The Falcons will be just one of many teams to make a huge change to their starting lineup in 2012.
Buffalo Bills CB Terrence McGee
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Terrence McGee was injured for most of the 2011 season and only played in six games all year for the Bills. When he was on the field, he allowed a below-average 101.7 passer rating against, so he doesn't need to be starting for the Bills in 2012.
2011 second-round pick Aaron Williams is the man who should take the starting left corner spot. Combining him with Stephon Gilmore will only be beneficial for the long-term development of the Bills defense.
Chicago Bears DT Matt Toeaina
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Matt Toeaina is a completely below-average player, and at 29, the Bears are looking at someone who is entering the final years of his career this year. Toeaina should lose his spot to Stephen Paea.
Paea was a 2011 second-round pick and is a quick-penetrating player who will create pressure and disrupt the run game. The Oregon State product should beat Toeaina at the one-technique, as he is just a better fit for the Cover 2 defense in Chicago.
Detroit Lions WR Nate Burleson
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Nate Burleson is one of the few starters on the Lions roster that should not have a job as more than a backup in 2012. He had a very good year in 2011 in terms of volume stats by gaining 757 yards in 73 catches, but most of his catches were short range.
Second-round picks in Ryan Broyles and Titus Young will end up starting, either opposite Calvin Johnson or as the slot man. Broyles has a best fit as a possession No. 2 receiver, while Young is the typical burner as a slot man.
Indianapolis Colts OT Winston Justice
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As it stands right now, Justice is the starting right tackle across from Anthony Castonzo, but he doesn't even deserve to be starting in the NFL. Last year's second-round pick is Ben Ijalana, and he should compete with Justice in camp for the starting right tackle spot.
Ijalana is from Villanova and was one of the best all-around blockers in the 2011 draft. Ijalana can beat Justice in a true competition as he is a much smarter player and someone who will use his quickness and punch to end up as a starter in the NFL.
Kansas City Chiefs OG Ryan Lilja
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When Jeff Allen was selected, the writing on the wall turned neon for Ryan Lilja. If he doesn't win the job in camp, he could very well get cut.
That being said, Allen is a bit raw as a guard prospect, despite having ideal size for the position.
Allen can come in and be a good pulling guard for the Chiefs offense, and his main advantage over Lilja is that he still has the quickness to pull out. Lilja is older and nearing the end of his career; he could legitimately lose to Allen this offseason.
Minnesota Vikings CB Chris Carr
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Chris Carr is competing for the starting job at one of the corner spots with Josh Robinson. He was part of a solid Baltimore Ravens secondary as a dime back but needs to earn his spot as a starter with the Vikings. He likely won't end as such, but he is entering camp as the starter.
The Vikings took Robinson in the third round of the draft this year. While the third round isn't normally one from which the players get thrown to the fire, Robinson is the type of guy who will. He's a fast, aggressive corner who fits the Vikings' defensive scheme extremely well.
New Orleans Saints LB Scott Shanle
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Scott Shanle has been the starting strong-side linebacker for the New Orleans Saints for the past six years. It's about time the Saints brought in someone to compete with him, and they did so with Chris Chamberlain. Chamberlain played for the Rams last year and was one of the players Steve Spagnuolo loves.
Chamberlain was a seventh-round pick from Tulsa and has fit in well with Spagnuolo's scheme for the past two years. Shanle is more of a blitzing, attacking player and should end up on the bench without the favoritism the old defensive staff showed him.
Oakland Raiders CB Shawntae Spencer
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Shawntae Spencer is one of the few guys on this list that isn't a complete bum and should compete for playing time. Spencer is definitely going to provide quality depth, but he shouldn't earn the starting spot over 2011 third-round pick DeMarcus Van Dyke.
Van Dyke is a complete speedster, but he has the instincts to pick up the new scheme Dennis Allen will be bringing with him. The Raiders will have a very good nickel package that should feature Van Dyke, Chimdi Chekwa and Spencer.
Pittsburgh Steelers CB Keenan Lewis
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Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen are competing for the starting role in the defense. Both players have size and strength to line up and press players across from them. They are also both smart enough to play the zones. However, Allen is much stronger in run support.
When it comes to Dick LeBeau's defense, run support is essential when it comes to picking the starting cornerback. Allen plays better in zones and against the run than Lewis does, and because of that, he should win the job.
Seattle Seahawks OG Paul McQuistan
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Paul McQuistan is a solid pass-blocker, but his ability in the run game is lacking. The Seahawks need to make sure Marshawn Lynch and Leon Washington can get going in the running game, and Deuce Lutui is a better option for that.
Now that Lutui is taking care of his health (h/t Mark Sessier of NFL.com), expect him to compete and play much stronger on the offensive line. He won't weigh near 400 pounds like he has in the past for some teams, and he could very well earn the starting spot based on reaching his potential alone.
His potential was what got him drafted in the second round in the first place.
Washington Redskins RB Tim Hightower
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Tim Hightower is one of the more solid running backs in the NFL. However, he is coming off a bad knee injury that sidelined him for the 2011 season.
On the other hand, 2011 fourth-round pick Roy Helu was impressive in his limited carries in 2012. Helu had just 151 carries for 640 yards in 2011; he should be able to at least duplicate that this season. Helu can be a 1,000-yard rusher should he earn the ability to carry the ball 225 to 250 times.
And after the knee injury to Hightower in 2011, Helu should win that starting job and get 1,000 yards.
Scott Carasik is an NFL draft and Atlanta Falcons featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the Falcons analyst at Drafttek, runs the NFL draft website ScarDraft.com and is the host of Kvetching Draftniks Radio.