Game 1 of the preseason is complete, and it's time go out and narrow down a position battle and make a prediction. Nate Collins and Brian Price will make the 53-man roster as the fourth and fifth defensive tackles on this team.
Collins has had one of the best training camps of any player on the roster. He’s come in, quickly worked his way up the depth chart, and now sits squarely as the primary backup at the 3-technique and is a solid nose tackle backup option.
Collins followed up his solid practices with a strong effort in the preseason game against the Broncos. He had numerous pressures and a sack in pass defense, and was strong at the point of attack in the run game.
Collins was able to fight off a double team and force the action back inside to help from the linebackers. He also stretched out some outside run plays that forced the cutback inside to more helps.
He has established himself as a future starter on this roster and strengthened a position that was once a concern. Collins now faces the task of earning his way onto the active game-day roster.
Brian Price did not start out strong, but has improved as of late as a nose tackle/DT option. Price had a solid preseason effort while showcasing his strength and flashing just enough of a burst-strength combo to be disruptive in the gaps.
There is also the development of Matt Toeaina’s struggles; it’s almost as if Toeaina has taken his spot on the roster for granted. He hasn't had a strong camp and struggled in the first preseason game at the point of attack and in the run game.
In order to be a strong nose tackle you have to hold your ground in the run game. Toeaina has struggled and now finds himself in danger of falling further down the depth chart.
Of these two, someone will be trying to step up and win an active game-day spot on the roster. Collins has more versatility, and is proving to be a better player at this point.
What once seemed like a sure thing for Price to be one of the top four DTs, now is squarely in jeopardy because of Collins’ ability.
Although Collins is suspended for one game, he’ll likely bounce back and be ready to play in Week 2.
He’s been the best story of training camp, coming in as a UDFA from the Jaguars and pushing for playing time.
The guess here is Collins becomes one of the top three tackles on this roster with Price, and that Matt Toeaina winds up as the fifth DT. Toeaina will go from a possible starter all the way to the inactive list behind two younger players.
The real battle now is between Toeaina and Price—both of whom are nose tackle players who don't offer the versatility of Collins.