NFL position battles to keep an eye on over the summer

7/9/13 in NFL   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

In the NFL, many rosters change drastically each and every season. Teams bring in new players through either the draft or free agency in an effort to upgrade certain aspects of their squad. However, there are only so many starting jobs available, and as a result, we often see multiple players vying for a one role on the team. Whether it be the incumbent competing with a highly touted young rookie, or two free agents squaring off for a starting gig, big decisions regarding a team's depth chart will be made based on players' performances over the summer. Here are some of the most interesting position battles in the NFL this offseason:
Jun 4, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) passes the ball during minicamp at the NovaCare Complex. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Eagles Quarterback: Michael Vick vs. Nick Foles vs. Matt Barkley: After a second straight disappointing season, there were a number of rumors that Vick would be a cap casualty of the Eagles shortly after the Super Bowl. However, a contract restructure will bring Vick back to Philadelphia on a one-year deal for a cheaper price.

Foles made six starts last season and finished with a slightly higher quarterback rating than Vick, who made ten starts for the Eagles in 2012. Several Eagles beat writers expect Foles to win the starting job, and if new head coach Chip Kelly likes Foles enough, some suggest Vick could be released during the preseason.

Though Kelly is also said to be high on Barkley, the rookie is unlikely to factor into the equation unless the Eagles find themselves out of playoff contention later in the season.

Despite the talk of Foles being the favorite, I still like Vick to be the starter come Week 1. Kelly is clearly making an effort to hide his plans at quarterback, but Vick looks like a great fit in Kelly's uptempo offensive scheme. In addition, Vick has already been guaranteed $3.5 million, so releasing him outright doesn't seem very realistic.

Bills Quarterback: E.J. Manuel vs. Kevin Kolb: Here we have an interesting competition with the top drafted quarterback taking on a veteran free agent pickup. No one has any sort of familiarity advantage, as both players are new to Buffalo, and neither has any experience playing for new head coach Doug Marrone.

Manuel has the advantage from a talent standpoint. He is extremely athletic with ideal size, and can zip the ball downfield and into tight windows. However, he is considered a very raw prospect, and as a rookie, he has obviously never played against NFL competition.

Kolb is entering his seventh NFL season, and is actually coming off a pretty solid 2012 in which he went 3-2 with the Cardinals and posted an 86.1 quarterback rating. He was playing behind a porous offensive line that rarely gave him enough time to make his reads, so he could find more success with more help up front in Buffalo.

The Bills have insisted that they won't rush their prized quarterback into a starting role before he is ready, but the last top drafted quarterback to not start Week 1 was JaMarcus Russell in 2007. No team ever wants their quarterback to be "the first player since JaMarcus Russell to..." do anything, but it still appears that Kolb has the upper hand in this competition due to Manuel's unpolished game. That being said, I'd be surprised if Manuel didn't make a start by the end of the season.

Raiders Quarterback: Matt Flynn vs. Tyler Wilson: Like the previous quarterback competition, here we have a new veteran battling an impressive rookie. Flynn was an intriguing free agent just a year ago, but was beat out by a different Wilson - Russell Wilson - after signing with Seattle. Flynn lacks a strong arm and athleticism, but is accurate and has solid game managing ability.

Wilson, on the other hand, has a lively arm and has plenty of experience escaping pressure thanks to playing behind a putrid offensive line during his college days at Arkansas. Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times said during OTAs that Wilson was "doing something impressive that makes you think he's not an ordinary rookie." Several writers felt that Wilson clearly outperformed Flynn during OTAs and minicamp.

Despite his impressive pad-less practices, Wilson will have to show the Raiders' coaching staff that he is unquestionably the superior signal caller when suited up in pads facing a full-speed, hard hitting defense. Preseason will be huge for Wilson in this competition. However, Flynn would likely have to completely tank during his preseason action to lose his grip on the starting job, and for that reason, he'll probably end up being under center come Week 1.
Jun 11, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA;   Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy works out during organized team activities at Clarke Hinkle Field in Green Bay. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Packers Running Back: Eddie Lacy vs. Jonathan Franklin: Here we have a situation in which a team has a serious need at a position, and brings in two rookies to compete for the starting job. Reports suggest that Lacy and Franklin are the only running backs on the Packers whose roster spots are secure, so it seems very unlikely that anyone else becomes the starter.

Lacy, having been drafted 64 picks higher than Franklin, is obviously considered the more talented back. However, you never know how things will shake out during the preseason. The Rams drafted Daryl Richardson 202 picks after Isaiah Pead in last year's draft, but Richardson still ended up being the primary backup to Steven Jackson.

That being said, it would likely take a lot for Franklin to dethrone Lacy as the Week 1 starter. The Packers have been pleased with Lacy's showings at camp, so he'd likely have to play horribly in preseason while Franklin lights up opposing defenses.
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