Early August update on NFL position battles

8/2/13 in NFL   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

I put out a list of notable NFL position battles early in July, but a lot has changed since then. With OTAs, minicamp, and several days of training camp now in the books, many players have elevated themselves in the minds of their coaches, while others have only buried themselves further in the doghouse. Here are updates for the 13 position battles I went over last month:

Eagles Quarterback: Michael Vick vs. Nick Foles vs. Matt Barkley: Although Eagles beat writers constantly talked up Foles leading up to training camp, it was Vick who began padded practices as the first-team signal caller. Vick has reportedly looked great so far, and it appears that the job is his to lose. What makes this competition even easier for Vick is that Foles "hasn't looked the same" ever since the team began practicing in pads. This competition is far from over and preseason performances will be crucial, but Vick is currently in the driver's seat.

As for Barkley, you can go ahead and scratch his name off the ballot. He has practiced exclusively with the third- and fourth-team offenses so far in camp, and is not being considered for the starting gig.

Jul 28, 2013; Pittsford, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel (3) runs with the ball during training camp at St. John Fisher College. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY SportsBills Quarterback: E.J. Manuel vs. Kevin Kolb: Just a month ago, this competition looked like it was very much Kolb's to lose. The veteran appeared likely to lock up the starting gig with the Bills pledging to bring their rookie quarterback along slowly. Head coach Doug Marrone, however, has made things much more uncertain by splitting reps 50-50 in training camp. Manuel has looked "a tad" better on his throws thus far in camp, and recently drew praise from Peter King of Sports Illustrated. Where Manuel recently looked like a long shot to win the gig, it appears that simply outperforming Kolb in the preseason could win him the Week 1 start. That being said, I'd still consider Kolb the favorite at this point, but Manuel is right on his tail.

Raiders Quarterback: Matt Flynn vs. Tyler Wilson vs. Terrelle Pryor: I added Pryor to the mix here because he has outperformed Wilson to this point in camp and is now listed as the No. 2 quarterback. This "competition" is not so much who has the most good plays as it is who has the least bad plays. No quarterback has been notably impressive so far in camp, though there are a few minor positives to pull at this point. Flynn has reportedly been solid, while Pryor has "made progress" as a passer. Wilson, however, has simply struggled to this point, though that is to be expected from a rookie drafted in the fourth round.

For Pryor or Wilson to win this job, it appears that Flynn will have to absolutely tank during preseason action. While I don't expect Flynn to light up the scoreboard preseason games, I don't see him playing so poorly that he'll lose the starting job.

Packers Running Back: Eddie Lacy vs. Jonathan Franklin vs. Alex Green vs. James Starks: I added Green and Starks to this competition in wake of the recent reports that they have outperformed Lacy and Franklin thus far in camp. There is a pretty good chance, however, that the Packers are using that as a tactic to motivate the two rookies to earn a role for themselves. All four backs have gotten reps with the first-team offense.

Lacy and Franklin weren't drafted in April to sit on the bench, and they both have an advantage from a talent standpoint. Franklin, however, has struggled in pass protection in camp, which could severely limit his playing time if he doesn't improve. It still looks like Lacy will be the lead back, though he is unlikely to be a bellcow as a rookie. The real competition appears to be between Franklin, Green, and Starks as the complementary back. For what it's worth, Starks has been "outstanding" in camp, according to running backs coach Alex Van Pelt.

Rams Running Back: Daryl Richardson vs. Isaiah Pead: This competition could have major fantasy implications, as head coach Jeff Fisher has adamantly stated that he wants to stay committed to the run. Richardson started camp as the top back, but Pead is a better big-play threat and could jump Richardson with a couple of big preseason runs. With Pead having made pass protection his primary focus this offseason (it was a big part of what kept him on the sidelines in 2012), he could carve out quite the role for himself. Not much has materialized since my last position battles article, and I still believe that this competition will run into the regular season with the Rams using a hot-hand approach in the backfield.
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