The Most Overrated, Underrated Battles in NFL Training Camps
Some positional battles in NFL training camps get all of the hype. For whatever reason, the competitions we should be watching often get lost in the shuffle.
Here, we will be outlining five of each. Be sure to sound off in the comments with other overrated and underrated positional battles going on in camps across the league.
Hey, we need to have something to tide us over before the season kicks off on Sept. 5 when the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens take on the Denver Broncos.
Overrated: Mark Sanchez vs. Geno Smith, New York Jets
Is anyone else sick of hearing about quarterbacks Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez?
The main reason that this training camp battle is so overrated is the fact that it doesn't really matter who wins. We all know what Sanchez is capable of, and there is simply no way that Smith is going to be able to turn this team around as a rookie.
As big of an issue as quarterback is for the New York Jets, it's far from being the only problem on this roster. The Jets lack playmakers on offense for either Smith or Sanchez to throw to.
Until the Jets can surround their quarterback with some legitimate weapons, it won't matter who plays quarterback. While this is a terribly overrated battle, at least we don't have to hear about Tim Tebow in New York any longer.
Underrated: Michael Vick vs. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles
The fact that we aren't hearing more about the battle between quarterbacks Nick Foles and Michael Vick is strange.
For starters, one of these quarterbacks will likely be starting in Chip Kelly's high-powered, up-speed offense. While Vick seems like the ideal fit, Foles has actually been more impressive so far this offseason.
According to Jimmy Kempski of The Morning Call, Foles outplayed Vick throughout minicamp and OTAs. Foles also got 18 first-team snaps compared to Vick's 25 during the first practice of training camp, per Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
This is going to be the best quarterback battle of training camp, and it's one that isn't getting nearly enough recognition.
Overrated: EJ Manuel vs. Kevin Kolb, Buffalo Bills
Much like the Geno Smith/Mark Sanchez battle, the battle between rookie EJ Manuel and Kevin Kolb isn't going to make a huge difference in the outcome of the Buffalo Bills season.
Neither Manuel nor Kolb is an elite quarterback at this point in his career. Heck, neither quarterback should be considered anything more than mediocre right now.
More importantly, whoever does win this battle will only assume the role of game manager since the Bills plan to run a good chunk of their offense through running back C.J. Spiller. All Manuel or Kolb will have to be able to do is successfully put the ball in Spiller's hands and throw every so often to keep defenses honest.
If Kolb wins this battle, we will likely be hearing about this overrated training camp battle all over again next year, so let's hope that Manuel wins.
Underrated: Daryl Richardson vs. Zac Stacy vs. Isaiah Pead, St. Louis Rams
One offense that is going to be surprisingly enjoyable to watch is going to be the St. Louis Rams. The Rams have invested quite a bit into their offense this offseason with the signing of tight end Jared Cook and the drafting of wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.
However, one positional battle that is rather underrated is at running back. The Rams have drafted three running backs in the past two seasons to replace the production that Steven Jackson brought to the team.
In Isaiah Pead, Daryl Richardson and Zac Stacy, St. Louis has three young and talented runners on its roster. Each running back has the potential to become an every-down back in this league, but there is only room for one to take that job.
Whoever eventually wins this job could become a fantastic weapon in a rather potent offense. This is a team moving up in the world, and the running back that wins this battle should become a household name by season's end.
Overrated: Ronnie Hillman vs. Montee Ball, Denver Broncos
While the battle between running backs Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball is plenty intriguing, the reason it's overrated is because it doesn't really matter who wins.
The Denver Broncos aren't going to become a run-first offense just because Ball wins or just because Hillman wins. This is a team that has Peyton Manning at quarterback, so it's safe to say the Broncos will continue to pass the ball rather frequently on offense.
All Hillman or Ball will do is provide Manning with a break every now and then so he can catch his breath before shredding up defenses through the air again. If this were a battle for the starting job on a team that didn't have a future Hall of Fame quarterback on the roster, it'd be an entirely different story.
However, that isn't the case, as whoever wins will just be a small, secondary option to Manning and the passing game.
Underrated: Jermaine Gresham vs. Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals
You could argue that this technically isn't a training camp battle because the Cincinnati Bengals will likely have tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert on the field together quite a bit. However, one of these tight ends needs to establish himself as the No. 1 tight end on the depth chart.
What makes this such a great battle is the amount of talent between these two players. Eifert was widely seen as the best tight end prospect in the draft this year. Gresham, on the other hand, has an extremely high ceiling, but he has struggled to reach his full potential.
Both players could ultimately become rather dangerous weapons for the Bengals. Watching them go head-to-head throughout training camp will be exciting.
Overrated: Michael Jenkins vs. Aaron Dobson, New England Patriots
Everyone wants to know who Tom Brady is going to be throwing the ball to this year. There's wide receiver Danny Amendola, but who will be a target for Brady other than him?
That's the great question for training camp as Michael Jenkins and rookie Aaron Dobson try to secure a spot in the starting lineup. My only question is whether it really matters who starts for the New England Patriots.
Whether it's Jenkins, Dobson or Tim Tebow, it doesn't really matter for Brady. He's going to figure out how to get the most out of all his wide receivers because he's simply that good of a quarterback.
So, whether a rookie or veteran starts doesn't really make a difference because he'll likely have an incredible season either way. That's why this battle is greatly overrated.
Underrated: Charles Brown vs. Terron Armstead, New Orleans Saints
For years, the New Orleans Saints have had one of the better offensive lines to protect quarterback Drew Brees. However, in recent seasons, they've lost offensive guard Carl Nicks and offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod.
While the Saints have replaced Nicks with a talented guard in Ben Grubbs, they now need to find a replacement at left tackle. The two candidates are Charles Brown, who was drafted back in 2010, and Terron Armstead, who was drafted this year.
What makes this such an underrated battle is that one of these players will be responsible for protecting the blind side of Brees. That's a rather important job, especially considering how much the Saints throw the football over the course of a game.
This should also be exciting to watch because both Brown and Armstead are players with great potential but still a little raw around the edges. Whoever proves to be the most polished during training camp will likely get the privilege of starting in New Orleans.
Overrated: Jabaal Sheard vs. Barkevious Mingo, Cleveland Browns
I understand that fans of the Cleveland Browns are excited about rookie linebacker Barkevious Mingo. He's got an immense amount of potential and should eventually become a very good player.
The key word here is "eventually." Mingo is still extremely raw, especially with the transition to a 3-4 outside linebacker. While he will likely have some value as a situational pass-rusher, there is simply no way he should be starting his rookie season.
Jabaal Sheard, on the other hand, is an experienced player who can provide the Browns with stability until Mingo can develop. The last thing Cleveland should want is to move Mingo along too quickly and hinder his development.
The Browns should stop all battle talk around these two players right now.
Underrated: Jerron McMillian vs. M.D. Jennings, Green Bay Packers
When looking over the Green Bay Packers roster, it's hard to not imagine this team being one of the better teams in the league this year. There is a great amount of talent on both sides of the ball that should make them a very difficult team to beat.
However, if there is one position that still looks weak, it's the safety position. While Morgan Burnett has shown flashes of brilliance, it's whoever is lining up opposite him that is the big question mark.
Both Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings are oozing with potential, but neither player had a breakout season last year after Charles Woodson was injured. If McMillian and Jennings can't put faith into the coaching staff during training camp, the Packers may be forced to sign a veteran safety to hold them over for another year.
However, that scenario is unlikely as one of these two players should separate himself during training camp. If one of them does show great potential, it'll make the Packers all the more dangerous.
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