NFL position battles to keep an eye on over the summer

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

November 18, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams running back Daryl Richardson (26) carries the ball against the New York Jets during the second half at the Edward Jones Dome. The Jets defeated the Rams 27-13. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY SportsRams Running Back: Daryl Richardson vs. Isaiah Pead: As I just said, seventh-round pick Richardson shocked the NFL community last season when he beat out second-round pick Pead. Now that Jackson has left St. Louis to play for the Atlanta Falcons, the Rams will hold a new competition to find a starting running back. A committee approach in the backfield, however, is a possibility as well.

Although Pead will be suspended for one game as a result of a marijuana related arrest, head coach Jeff Fisher has said that the ban will not affect the competition. Pead's absence, however, will give Richardson a chance to secure a big role Week 1 against a Cardinals defense that gave up 4.3 yards per carry last season.

There have been mixed reports about which runner will end up as the Rams' lead back when Pead is eligible to play in Week 2. Considering Richardson's success as the backup last year and Pead's well-documented talent, I think this battle will continue into the regular season. The Rams will likely use a committee approach for Week 2, and continue to feed the hot hand. If one player pulls away from the other, he'll get the bulk of the carries. If they play evenly, the committee approach will continue.

Patriots No. 2 Wide Receiver: Aaron Dobson vs. Julian Edelman vs. Michael Jenkins vs. Donald Jones: A series of very strange events (including injuries, mood disorders, and felony charges) have depleted the Patriots' receiving options. The team signed Danny Amendola to replace Wes Welker, so he is likely to lead the Patriots in targets this season, but the No. 2 receiver is a big question mark.

Dobson probably has the most raw talent, drawing comparisons to Miles Austin and Larry Fitzgerald. However, the rookie comes from a small school (Marshall) and may not be acclimated to facing NFL-caliber coverage by the time Week 1 rolls around. He also has reportedly had some trouble learning the Patriots' complicated offense.

ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss expects Edelman (foot) to win the No. 2 job if healthy at the start of the season. Edelman's roster spot, however, is said to be in jeopardy, so him earning a starting job is far from a sure thing.

Though Michael Jenkins often ran with the first-team offense at OTAs and minicamp, he is said to be competing for a roster spot with Donald Jones, so it seems like either of those two would be a long shot to start Week 1.

A lot of this competition hinges on how quickly Dobson can learn the Patriots' offense. If he proves that he has a solid understanding of the playbook and can have some success against NFL defensive backs, I expect him to win the starting gig. Otherwise, I expect the No. 2 job to go to Edelman, if healthy. If Dobson struggles, and Edelman remains hurt, the gig will likely go to whoever is more impressive during the preseason - Jenkins or Jones.

Titans Wide Receivers: Kenny Britt vs. Kendall Wright vs. Justin Hunter vs. Nate Washington: The Titans all of a sudden have a wealth of talent at wide receiver, but there may not be enough pass attempts to make each of these four players a consistent contributor - the team was in the bottom half of the league as far as passing attempts last season.

Britt is said to be fully healthy, and as long as he has truly healed from an ACL tear and keeps his head on straight, he should be locked in as quarterback Jake Locker's top target.

Wright caught "everything thrown his way" during camp, according to the Nashville Tennessean. He dropped 15 pounds this offseason, and it reportedly shows in his quickness and agility.

Head coach Mike Munchak said that Washington has had his best camp as a Titan this year. A thousand-yard receiver just two seasons ago, Washington has enough talent to make plays on a consistent basis.

I was never a huge fan of Hunter when he was playing college ball at Tennessee. Now as a 22-year-old rookie, he's a talented, but raw pass catcher at best. He has the tools to make an impact down the road, but his suspect route running and stone hands will make him the odd man out in 2013.
May 10, 2013; Orchard Park, NY, USA;  Buffalo Bills wide receiver Robert Woods (10) runs a drill during rookie minicamp at Ralph Wilson Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Bills Wide Receivers: Robert Woods vs. T.J. Graham vs. Da'Rick Rogers vs. Marquise Goodwin: Stevie Johnson has the No. 1 receiver role locked down, but - like the Titans - the Bills suddenly find themselves crowded with talent behind their top target.

I was a big fan of Woods (the 41st pick in April's draft) when he was at USC, and I expect him to win the No. 2 job fairly easily. Reports since the draft have suggested that Woods is "penciled in" as a starter, and that the Bills feel he can play "multiple spots" on offense. However, there is still a lot of question as to the No. 3 receiver.

Graham was the most impressive receiver at Bills OTAs, according to BuffaloBills.com, making him an underdog to beat out Woods for the No. 2 gig. However, Graham was one-dimensional as a rookie in 2012, rarely making an impact outside of running straight-line patterns. Some say that Graham is a perfect fit in new head coach Doug Marrone's offense, but he'll have to expand his game to earn a significant role.

Rogers dropped out of the draft due to off-field concerns, but many consider him an early-round talent. If he can stay out of trouble and focus on football, he should have a shot at making a significant impact as a rookie. Though he stood out early at OTAs by catching two long touchdown passes, he was also reprimanded for taunting a cornerback after a scoring play a few weeks later. I actually believe he has the talent to beat out Woods for the No. 2 job, but I think the coaching staff will really make him earn it due to his questionable character. As of now, he should just focus on channeling his talent and earning the No. 3 role, which is a possibility.

I don't expect Goodwin to be in play for heavy targets, but you can't ignore his sensational athletic ability. A former college track star, Goodwin is an extremely raw, extremely talented prospect. His game needs a lot of development, but he could challenge Graham for some of the straight-line deep looks in 2013.
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