Top NFL training camp position battles: One to watch for all 32 teams

The Jets and Bills are having full-blown quarterback competitions that include top-10 picks. The Cowboys are trying to find a replacement for Dez Bryant, while the Seahawks are trying out potential Earl Thomas fill-ins.

NFL Nation reporters pick the most important training camp position battle for every team.


Buffalo Bills


The main source of intrigue around the Bills is when No. 7 overall pick Josh Allen will crack the starting lineup. He is part of a three-way competition in training camp with AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman in which McCarron and Peterman have split first- and second-team reps and Allen has occasionally seen time with the top unit. The preseason will determine whether Allen is ready to make the jump from Wyoming to starting Week 1 as a rookie, or if coach Sean McDermott will lean on a safer bet in McCarron or possibly Peterman. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins

Wide receiver

There is little debate that Jarvis Landry was Ryan Tannehill's favorite target in past seasons, but how does the position shake out with Landry gone to Cleveland? Former first-round pick DeVante Parker struggled early in training camp, according to The Miami Herald, and coach Adam Gase said the team was searching for a role for free-agent addition Albert Wilson. Add in fellow free-agent pickup Danny Amendola, as well as Kenny Stills, and there is little clarity about who will be the top receivers in Miami. -- Mike Rodak

New England Patriots

Left tackle

Who will protect Tom Brady's blindside? Fourth-year veteran Trent Brown -- who is hard to miss at 6-foot-9, 380 pounds -- has been lining up with the first unit through the first stretch of training camp. Rookie first-round pick Isaiah Wynn has been the top backup. From 2001 to '17, the Patriots had rare stability at the position between Matt Light and Nate Solder. Now they're in transition. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets


When will No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold get the starting nod? He will get a chance in the preseason to prove his worthiness. Let's be clear: The Jets don't see this as a redshirt year for Darnold. When he's deemed ready, he will play. Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater also are competing. Bridgewater could steal it. If he doesn't, and if Darnold isn't ready, McCown will be the Week 1 starter. -- Rich Cimini


Baltimore Ravens

Weakside linebacker

Patrick Onwuasor is looking to hold off rookie fourth-round pick Kenny Young and remain the starter for the second straight season. Onwuasor is extremely physical, and the Ravens love how he attacks the ball. But his high-effort play can lead to mistakes. Young has impressed with his athleticism. He's looking to become just the second rookie to start on the Ravens' defense over the past decade (C.J. Mosley in 2014). -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

Right tackle and right guard

The Bengals made it clear they're impressed with their wide receivers group after releasing veteran Brandon LaFell on Thursday, but that won't matter much if quarterback Andy Dalton can't stay upright. The main competition is on the right side of the offensive line, with both tackle and guard open. Someone is going to have to step up there after the Bengals struggled at both tackle positions last season. There's no clear winner here yet, with practice consisting mostly of a rotation at both spots, with Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher likely the front-runners for one of the tackle positions. Alex Redmond, Christian Westerman and Trey Hopkins are the candidates at right guard. -- Katherine Terrell

Cleveland Browns

Left tackle

Does Joel Bitonio keep the job as Joe Thomas' successor at left tackle? Bitonio has been the most logical choice to replace Thomas since the day Thomas retired, but the Browns put the move off until early in training camp, when it was evident they needed to at least try Bitonio outside. Shon Coleman did not come through, so the team moved Bitonio from left guard to the spot he last played in college in 2013. Bitonio has athletic ability, but the 6-4, 305-pound lineman is not built like a typical left tackle. -- Pat McManamon

Pittsburgh Steelers

Inside linebacker

The battle for Ryan Shazier's spot in the middle is taking shape. Tyler Matakevich had the edge in the spring, but free-agent signing Jon Bostic is getting more first-team reps in camp. Bostic has starting experience and is finally healthy. It appears the job is his to lose, but Matakevich is a favorite of Steelers scouts and coaches for his on-field awareness and toughness. He shouldn't be discounted. -- Jeremy Fowler


Houston Texans

Left tackle

It's no secret that a key to the Texans' season is keeping Deshaun Watson healthy, and to do so, the second-year quarterback needs to be protected. Julién Davenport, a fourth-round pick in 2017, will get a strong chance to win the left tackle job, but he will have to beat out free-agent addition Seantrel Henderson and rookie third-round pick Martinas Rankin. -- Sarah Barshop

Indianapolis Colts

Running back

You can already eliminate veteran Robert Turbin from the equation because he is suspended the first four games for using performance-enhancing drugs. That leaves Marlon Mack, Christine Michael and rookies Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines as the primary candidates. Mack, who rushed for 358 yards as a rookie last season, likely has the inside track to start. It should be noted, though, that it wouldn't be surprising if the Colts use a running-back-by-committee approach because the primary back each week could end up being predicated on the opponent and exploiting its weakness. "It will be opponent-specific," coach Frank Reich said. "Certain guys have a little better feel on gap schemes. Other runners, as you know, have a better feel for zone scheme runs, and you just kind of gear guys toward what they're best at." -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars

Strongside linebacker

This is the only open position for the Jaguars, but it might not be much of a competition if what has happened early in camp is any indication. Rookie Leon Jacobs, one of the Jaguars' two seventh-round draft picks, has lined up as the starter since practice began. Coach Doug Marrone said they like Jacobs' coverage ability and length, and the team seems much more comfortable with him at the spot than second-year players Blair Brown and Donald Payne. The Jaguars are in sub packages more than half the time, and the strongside linebacker won't be on the field on third down, but it's still a vital part of the defense. They are likely going to entrust the spot Myles Jack manned last season to a rookie. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans

Inside linebacker

Rookie Rashaan Evans was on track to be the starter until landing on the non-football illness list for dehydration issues. He and free agent Will Compton shared reps during OTAs and minicamp, and Compton has established himself as a defensive leader in Evans' absence. It will be an intense competition once the first-round pick returns to camp. -- Turron Davenport


Denver Broncos

No. 3 cornerback

For the past four years, the third CB spot -- a position that is "basically a starter," according to defensive coordinator Joe Woods -- has been Bradley Roby's job. Since Aqib Talib was traded to the Rams, though, Roby has worked as one of the two corners in the base defense, opposite Chris Harris Jr. The Broncos signed Tramaine Brock -- who played for coach Vance Joseph when Joseph was a position coach with the 49ers -- in free agency, but Brock suffered a hamstring injury early in training camp and has not been on the field. Rookie Isaac Yiadom has shown some potential, and Brendan Langley, a second-year cornerback, has also been given a chance to show what he can do in Brock's absence. It is one of the team's biggest unanswered questions as the preseason games approach. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs

Left guard

Kansas City's only available starting position has been a battle between Cam Erving and Parker Ehinger. Erving is a former first-round draft pick of the Browns and might be just starting to realize his potential. Ehinger was a starter as a rookie in 2016 before a knee injury knocked him from the lineup. The Chiefs will likely continue to provide each player a long look and might not make a final decision until shortly before the regular season begins. -- Adam Teicher

Los Angeles Chargers


The Chargers had five different players attempt field goals last season, including punter Drew Kaser, finishing a league-worst 67 percent on field goal attempts. Inconsistency at kicker is one of the reasons the Chargers barely missed the playoffs. They signed Caleb Sturgis to a two-year, $4.45 million deal in free agency, including $1 million in guaranteed money. But so far, he has missed five field goals during training camp, while former Bucs second-round pick Roberto Aguayo, whom the team signed to a reserve/future deal in January, has been more consistent, with just two misses so far during camp. -- Eric D. Williams

Oakland Raiders

Backup quarterback

Not sexy, right? But chew on this: Jon Gruden might keep only two quarterbacks on the roster, $125 million man Derek Carr and, yes, his backup. And while EJ Manuel has seemingly outplayed Connor Cook through the first week of camp, Cook, who has actually started a playoff game, is getting every opportunity to seize the gig ... even if Manuel has more of a pocket presence and the ability to take off and run for a first down. But what if Gruden cuts both and does something crazy and breaks the Internet by signing Johnny Manziel or Colin Kaepernick? -- Paul Gutierrez


Dallas Cowboys

No. 1 receiver

Since Jerry Jones purchased the team in 1989, he has had a legitimate No. 1 wideout, but this year, the Cowboys will go with a committee approach as they look to replace Dez Bryant. So far in training camp, the Cowboys have rotated Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, Cole Beasley, Deonte Thompson and Michael Gallup with the first team. Terrance Williams will be added to the mix as he recovers from offseason foot surgery. Hurns has the only 1,000-yard season among the group, but Beasley could see his role change from strictly slot receiver to playing all over the field, which would increase his work. Gallup has flashed his ability early, but it might be asking too much for a third-rounder to become the top wideout so quickly. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants

Free safety

The battle is a free-for-all. The Giants have four options. It's a massive mix that includes Darian Thompson, Curtis Riley, Andrew Adams and Michael Thomas. All are getting time with the first-team defense. All except Riley (perhaps the slimmest of favorites) have starting experience. May the best safety win. -- Jordan Raanan

Philadelphia Eagles

Slot corner

Patrick Robinson was one of the best nickel cornerbacks in the league in 2017 and was a vital part of the team's Super Bowl run (see his momentum-turning pick-six against the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game), but he left for the Saints in free agency. Sidney Jones and De'Vante Bausby have been splitting first-team reps this summer. The Eagles have an extra corner on the field about 70 percent of the time, so they've got to get this right. -- Tim McManus

Washington Redskins


Who will start opposite Josh Norman? Orlando Scandrick has spent the spring and summer as the No. 2 corner, but he also plays inside vs. three-receiver sets. Quinton Dunbar has been the third corner this summer and has looked good. If the Redskins are concerned about Scandrick's durability, they could start Dunbar and play Scandrick in nickel packages (which they use around 80 percent of the time). -- John Keim


Chicago Bears

Left guard

The Sam Acho-versus-Aaron Lynch battle at outside linebacker would have been entertaining to track, but with Lynch sidelined with a hamstring issue, there hasn't been much to monitor. The best competition is actually for the starting guard opposite Kyle Long: veteran depth player Eric Kush or 2018 second-round pick James Daniels. Kush, who has familiarity with Matt Nagy's offense from his time with the Chiefs, has the edge for now -- especially with a shoulder injury flaring up for Daniels last week. But don't be surprised if the rookie gains ground and becomes the Week 1 starter. -- Emily Kaplan

Detroit Lions

Defensive back (other than Glover Quin and Darius Slay)

It's perhaps the deepest spot on Detroit's roster, with incumbent starters Nevin Lawson (corner), Quandre Diggs (slot corner/safety) and Tavon Wilson (safety) all returning. But none of those players have sure-fire starting roles, although Diggs is likely to start somewhere between the slot and safety. Lawson will get pushed by second-year pro Teez Tabor and newly signed Deshawn Shead, who has taken most of the first-team reps at corner ahead of Tabor and Lawson. In the slot, the Lions are going to hope Jamal Agnew can develop into a starter, which could push Diggs to safety and keep Lawson outside. Then there's safety, where Wilson, Diggs and Miles Killebrew are all competing. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers

No. 3 receiver

It's Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and then who? Right now, it's Geronimo Allison, who was on the receiving end of Aaron Rodgers' no-look touchdown pass that has been the play of camp so far. Then there are the three draft picks -- J'Mon Moore (fourth round), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (fifth) and Equanimeous St. Brown (sixth) -- all of whom have been wildly inconsistent. The surprise name in the group is Jake Kumerow, a former Division III standout at Wisconsin-Whitewater and Bengals practice squad member who has gotten as much work (if not more) with Rodgers as any of the young receivers. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings

Right side of the offensive line

Mike Remmers is the key cog in all of this, and if he stays at right guard, as coach Mike Zimmer recently hinted, it creates competition at right tackle. Rashod Hill is the front-runner for the job, but how the line performs in camp with the combination of Riley Reiff, Nick Easton, Pat Elflein, Remmers and Hill will determine whether changes will need to be made. Given the rash of injuries that forced Minnesota to shuffle the O-line in each of the past two seasons, getting this starting five right is important and will likely have a direct correlation on the success of the offense. For a fourth straight season, the Vikings will have a different combination of starting offensive linemen to open the season. -- Courtney Cronin


Atlanta Falcons

Right guard

The Falcons seem willing to make it a true competition despite signing veteran Brandon Fusco in free agency. Wes Schweitzer, who started 16 games last season, could get a shot if he shows improvement from last year's shaky performance. Ben Garland might get a look, too, although Garland seems better suited for a backup utility role at guard and center. And with left guard Andy Levitre's injury history, it's wise to have other guys prepared just in case. -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers


It appeared the left guard spot to replace All-Pro Andrew Norwell might have been key a few months ago, but the corner spot opposite James Bradberry looms even bigger for a team looking to solidify the secondary. Rookie second-round pick Donte Jackson appears to have the upper hand over Kevon Seymour, now that Ross Cockrell is out for the season with a broken fibia and tibula. Both have their pluses. Jackson brings an attitude and speed that is much needed. Seymour is stronger at the point of attack. In this case, Jackson's swagger, something this unit hasn't had since Josh Norman played in Carolina, might put him over the top. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints


The Saints have completely revamped this position over the past two years, spending big money on Demario Davis in free agency this offseason after adding veterans A.J. Klein and Manti Te'o and rookie Alex Anzalone last year. But now they need to figure out where everyone fits -- especially since they typically use only two linebackers in nickel packages, which is about 75 percent of the snaps. Davis and Anzalone should have the edge for those two roles because of their pass-coverage abilities. But the Saints have been mixing and matching various lineups throughout camp. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers


The Bucs are looking for the starter opposite veteran Brent Grimes. Vernon Hargreaves struggled in 2017, and the team feels he might be best suited to play at nickelback. He's still in contention to start outside, however, with competition from rookies Carlton Davis, M.J. Stewart and Ryan Smith. Like Hargreaves, Stewart is also lining up inside, and he has made two big plays in camp -- an interception of Jameis Winston, and a forced fumble from Ronald Jones. -- Jenna Laine


Arizona Cardinals


The Cardinals drafted their center of the future in the third round in Mason Cole, but he won't have the job handed to him. Not if A.Q. Shipley has any say in it. The scrappy veteran is headed into the second year of a two-year deal -- the first multiyear contract of his career -- and is the incumbent starter. The starting job is Shipley's to lose, but he'll have Cole on his heels all camp. (Note: Coach Steve Wilks announced on Monday afternoon that Shipley suffered a torn ACL.) -- Josh Weinfuss

Los Angeles Rams

Outside linebacker

Most of the Rams' starting lineup is set, but outside linebacker is a position for which questions remain after Robert Quinn was traded to the Dolphins and Connor Barwin departed as a free agent. Samson Ebukam will start as a second-year pro, but his counterpart has yet to be determined. Matt Longacre proved to be a capable playmaker as a backup last season, collecting 5.5 sacks. But Longacre, who underwent season-ending back surgery last December, must hold off rookies John Franklin-Myers and Justin Lawler, who has been slowed because of a leg issue, and sixth-year pro Ryan Davis, a free agent who was relatively anonymous with the Rams until coach Sean McVay highlighted him as a player "who has really shown up" during camp practices. -- Lindsey Thiry

San Francisco 49ers

Right guard

The Niners have some sorting out to do on the interior of their offensive line. With the other four spots apparently settled, that leaves a battle between free-agent addition Jonathan Cooper and former first-round pick Joshua Garnett, who's returning from injury. Cooper brings experience and athleticism while Garnett has worked hard to reshape his body and become a better fit in Kyle Shanahan's offense. Like Garnett, Cooper is also coming back from a knee ailment. To this point, that battle hasn't fully materialized, as Cooper is still working his way back from the knee issue, and Garnett has missed a practice because of his own injury. Veteran Mike Person has gotten plenty of work at this spot, and his versatility gives him a chance to nail down a roster spot, if not the starting job. Erik Magnuson could also be a factor. -- Nick Wagoner

Seattle Seahawks


Who will start alongside Bradley McDougald if Earl Thomas' holdout lingers? While the competition at running back between Chris Carson and rookie first-round pick Rashaad Penny gets the most attention, both figure to be involved in the offense regardless of which one enters the season first on the depth chart. The most important position battle is at safety, where the Seahawks have to replace at least one long-time starter in Kam Chancellor and possibly another should Thomas' holdout last into the season, a legitimate possibility. Which spot McDougald starts at will depend on who wins the other job. Free safety Tedric Thompson has been an early standout in training camp. He's competing with fellow 2017 draft pick Delano Hill and former Ram Maurice Alexander, whose starting experience and knowledge of the division should only help his case. -- Brady Henderson