NFL position battles to watch in training camp: Who will win the quarterback jobs for the Patriots, Saints and Broncos?

Whether you are a fantasy football hawk, a super fan of your favorite NFL team or prepping to place bets this season, figuring out who will come out on top of key position battles is an important part of the preseason.

The New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots and Denver Broncos are among the teams with quarterback battles. The San Francisco 49ers and Washington Football Team are fleshing out their wide receiver corps. Much of the NFL is settling their offensive lines. And the Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals have competitions at linebacker.

NFL Nation reporters break down the biggest competitions in training camp for all 32 teams.

Jump to:
NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF


Buffalo Bills


Offensive guard and defensive end are honorable mentions here, but the battle between Levi Wallace and Dane Jackson was specifically mentioned by defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier at the beginning of training camp. Wallace is the Bills' incumbent starter of the past three seasons and has staved off any attempt to take his job during that span -- and he has done so again with Jackson during the past two weeks. But Jackson is a playmaker and could make a case for himself during the preseason. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques

Miami Dolphins


This wasn't the position battle Dolphins fans circled in March after the team signed Matt Skura in free agency. But Michael Deiter is also getting a steady run as the Dolphins try to find the five best linemen to start. Miami will let this battle play out over the next few weeks. -- Jeremy Fowler

New England Patriots


Bill Belichick has said Cam Newton is the starting quarterback, but he has also made it clear that it's a clean slate for everyone and that every player still has to solidify their place on the depth chart. So nothing is a given. And it sure seems like Mac Jones has been coming on strong, with the preseason opener against Washington on Thursday being another key checkpoint. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets

Right tackle

It's incumbent George Fant versus recently signed Morgan Moses, who has the edge because of his experience and consistent performances over the years. Fant got off to a slow start because he missed the first eight practices (COVID-19 list), but his return Saturday probably means a rotation for the remainder of the competition. Look for a quick resolution; the starting five needs as many reps as possible. Barring an upset, it will be Moses, who can provide stability on the line. -- Rich Cimini


Baltimore Ravens

Left guard

This is the biggest question mark in the Ravens' rebuilt offensive line. With Bradley Bozeman moving to center, Ben Cleveland, Ben Powers and Tyre Phillips are competing to replace him at left guard. Cleveland, a burly rookie third-round pick, has become the favorite to win the job because he has impressed even more since the full-padded practices have begun. "He's stepped in here, and he's embraced everything we've asked him to do," Ravens offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris said, "and he's doing one heck of a job." -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

Right guard

The Bengals are still searching for the starting right guard who must keep Joe Burrow upright. The competition features veteran Xavier Su'a-Filo and rookie Jackson Carman, the team's second-round draft pick who played left tackle at Clemson. Carman started training camp buried on the depth chart. Su'a-Filo has enough savvy to take advantage of his opportunities if the rookie isn't ready. -- Ben Baby

Cleveland Browns


The only real position competition in camp might be at linebacker, where incumbents Mack Wilson, Sione Takitaki, Jacob Phillips and Malcolm Smith are attempting to fend off Anthony Walker and rookie Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (who missed the beginning of camp after being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list) for playing time and even roster spots. Despite a minor knee injury, Walker appears to have a starting job all but locked up inside -- leaving a fierce series of battles to determine the rest of the Browns' linebacking corps. -- Jake Trotter

Pittsburgh Steelers

Backup quarterback

Neither of the guys battling for this spot will see significant playing time in the regular season unless something goes horribly awry, but the competition between Dwayne Haskins and Mason Rudolph could signal the direction of the quarterback position whenever Ben Roethlisberger hangs it up. Rudolph is the only quarterback under contract for 2022, but Haskins has a real shot to rehab his reputation in Pittsburgh and get his career, one that began as a first-round pick, back on track. The winner of the No. 2 spot could very well wind up being the successor to Roethlisberger if this is indeed his last season. -- Brooke Pryor


Houston Texans

Running back

The Texans have a crowded running back room after restructuring David Johnson's contract and adding veteran backs Phillip Lindsay, Mark Ingram II and Rex Burkhead. Johnson, last year's starter, is expected to fill a different role, similar to Duke Johnson's in 2020, with Lindsay as the starter. Coach David Culley has praised Ingram's leadership on the field ... so could Houston keep all four running backs? -- Sarah Barshop

Indianapolis Colts


No, Carson Wentz is not at risk of losing his starting job, and he is trending toward being ready for the opener. The question is who will start Week 1 if Wentz isn't back from his foot injury? The two primary candidates are Jacob Eason and Sam Ehlinger. The Colts are giving Eason, who is in his second year, every opportunity to win the job if Wentz isn't ready, but Ehlinger -- who on Tuesday got first-team reps for the first time -- is right in the mix. The rookie Ehlinger doesn't have nearly the same arm strength as Eason, but what he has done much better is make quicker decisions with the ball, which has impressed many in the organization. -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars

Offensive tackle

Second-round pick Walker Little has been very impressive in camp, so much so that right tackle Jawaan Taylor and left tackle Cam Robinson better be on notice. Coach Urban Meyer said both players needed to be better in 2021 than they were last season (per ESPN Stats & Information, Taylor gave up 18 sacks and Robinson nine). Even though the Jaguars picked up the fifth-year option on Robinson and will pay him $13.75 million in 2021, he's not a lock to start if Little, who played left tackle at Stanford and has begun cross-training at right tackle this past week, continues to impress. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans

Right tackle

What was once a three-man race has expanded to include veteran tackle David Quessenberry. Free-agent addition Kendall Lamm appears to have the inside track toward the starting spot for the season opener, while Ty Sambrailo hasn't done much due to injury. Ideally it would be rookie Dillon Radunz taking hold of the position, but he has been asked to play multiple spots along the line and has struggled a bit in the process. -- Turron Davenport


Denver Broncos


Coach Vic Fangio said he has yet to see any "separation'' between Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater throughout the first week of training camp. The coming week is important for them, as the Broncos will have joint practices with the Minnesota Vikings for two days before facing the Vikings in the preseason opener. Lock and Bridgewater have gotten an equal number of snaps with the offensive starters, and while each has had days when they looked like the answer, neither has strung those days together. For a team that had the most turnovers last season and had the worst turnover margin (by six), those turnovers might be one of the biggest factors during the competition until Fangio names a starter. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs

Offensive line

The Chiefs have eight legitimate roster candidates who weren't with the team last year, making for some interesting battles for starting jobs and roster spots. They will likely emerge from training camp with a rookie starting at center (Creed Humphrey), right guard (Trey Smith) and possibly even right tackle (Lucas Niang). Whatever the Chiefs do, they have to get these decisions right. They have too much invested for their line not to be a strength. -- Adam Teicher

Las Vegas Raiders

Nickel corner

New DC Gus Bradley's base defense is essentially a nickel scheme, and while Nevin Lawson has been getting the majority of first-team reps as the fifth DB, he will serve a two-game suspension to start the season. However, fifth-round draft pick Nate Hobbs has been impressive throughout the offseason program, as well as the first two weeks of camp, setting up an interesting showdown. Do the Raiders continue to run Lawson out there, even if he will be ineligible to start the season, or does the rookie Hobbs get more time? And that's not mentioning second-year corner Amik Robertson, who also has flashed at times in the slot. -- Paul Gutierrez

Los Angeles Chargers


Michael Badgley missed 12 total kicks in 2020 --- nine field goals and three extra points. The Chargers brought in Alex Kessman from the University of Pittsburgh and Tristan Vizcaino, who was with the 49ers last season. Coach Brandon Staley believes in working on the kicking game in real time, and the competition figures to be intense as Badgley fights to save his job. -- Shelley Smith


Dallas Cowboys


The group looks to be as deep as it has been in years, and how defensive coordinator Dan Quinn divvies up the work will be interesting. Jaylon Smith played 97.8% of the snaps last season. If it's that high again, it would be surprising. Not because of Smith, necessarily, but because of the packages and different looks Quinn wants to give. This year's first-round pick, Micah Parsons, has had a strong camp and made plays from multiple spots. Leighton Vander Esch, their No. 1 pick in 2018, has looked as good as he did when he made the Pro Bowl. Keanu Neal has made a smooth transition from safety to linebacker and has Quinn's trust. Those are four players to mix in for two spots most of the time, considering how much they will use a sub package. Parsons and Smith can rush from the outside, which will allow Quinn to be versatile. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants

Right tackle

Second-year tackle Matt Peart is getting every opportunity to be the starting right tackle. But veteran Nate Solder lurks. Solder has looked good after not playing last season as an opt-out. It would be foolish to discount him as the possible starter Week 1 versus Denver. Solder has seemed to sneak in more first-team reps of late. -- Jordan Raanan

Philadelphia Eagles

Running back

Left tackle was the competition to watch entering camp, but Jordan Mailata appears to have taken a sizable lead over Andre Dillard. The attention turns to running back, where there's sorting out to do behind Miles Sanders. Rookie Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott are fighting for snaps, while Jordan Howard, Kerryon Johnson and blazer Jason Huntley jockey for spots on the 53-man roster. Preseason games have meaning for this position group. -- Tim McManus

Washington Football Team

Wide receiver

Washington has far better receiving depth than a year ago. A lot of the fringe guys this season would have been locks in 2020. If it keeps six, the first five would be Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Adam Humphries, Dyami Brown and Cam Sims. That means players such as Antonio Gandy-Golden, Kelvin Harmon, Steven Sims Jr., DeAndre Carter and rookie Dax Milne are fighting for the last one, or maybe two, spots. Carter could make it just as a dual returner. Gandy-Golden has an edge because he was a fourth-round pick in 2020 and he has flashed. But Harmon and Sims both have had solid moments this camp -- and Milne is a guy they want to develop. More than likely they'll lose someone they wish they could have kept but just didn't have the room. -- John Keim


Chicago Bears

Left tackle

The Bears' original plan was to start rookie second-round pick Teven Jenkins at left tackle in Week 1. However, Jenkins has been sidelined with a back injury since the beginning of training camp, raising questions about whether he'll be ready when the regular season begins. Next up was veteran Elijah Wilkinson, who handled left tackle at practice before he went on the reserve/COVID-19 list. With Jenkins and Wilkinson both unavailable, the Bears turned to rookie fifth-round choice Larry Borom to fill in on the left side. -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions

Inside linebacker/safety

Fans should track the positional competition between inside linebacker first, then safety. First-year Lions coach Dan Campbell says these are the most important battles. Why? "I'm not just talking about starting. I'm talking about who's the next guy in," Campbell said. "We could have three starters, if you know what I mean. They're rotating through. We can have four. So much is going to play into how special teams goes too, especially in that position." The Lions finished 2020 with the worst defense in the league. They will need key guys in those roles, such as Will Harris, Dean Marlowe and Tracy Walker at safety, and also inside linebackers Jamie Collins Sr., Alex Anzalone, Jahlani Tavai and Jalen Reeves-Maybin, to try to make an impact during camp. -- Eric Woodyard

Green Bay Packers

Offensive line

What's more important than keeping Aaron Rodgers upright? Left tackle David Bakhtiari isn't likely to be cleared from his January ACL repair in time for the opener, so it looks like Pro Bowl left guard Elgton Jenkins will move out to tackle. There are three competing for the two guard spots: returning starter Lucas Patrick plus second-year pros Jon Runyan Jr. and Ben Braden. Runyan played 160 snaps last season as a rookie, while Braden played only four (all kneel-downs) but it has been a close competition. The most common combination has been Runyan at left guard and Patrick at right guard, but Braden remains in the mix. Throw in a new starting center, second-round pick Josh Myers to replace the departed Corey Linsley (who signed with the Chargers in free agency), and it's imperative that the Packers get their front five right. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings

Right guard

Last season, 20 of the 39 sacks Kirk Cousins took came through the interior of the offensive line, which prompted the Vikings to improve their personnel around center Garrett Bradbury. Moving Ezra Cleveland to left guard created a competition at right guard, where Oli Udoh and Dakota Dozier spent the first two weeks of camp splitting reps with the first-team offensive line. While Udoh might have the edge right now, given how well his length fits at the position, don't rule out rookie Wyatt Davis. With a couple of strong performances in preseason games, the third-rounder could emerge as a candidate to start at right guard. -- Courtney Cronin


Atlanta Falcons

Right tackle

This is easy because it has been a legitimate question throughout camp. It might not have a real conclusion until Kaleb McGary returns from the PUP list, but third-round pick Jalen Mayfield looked like he was in good position to have a shot at the job. At least until Friday, when Mayfield was moved out of the first five for the first time all camp. On Saturday, Willie Beavers replaced him for every first-team snap. After practice, coach Arthur Smith said Beavers had earned it through his practice play, and he wanted to create competition -- but if this continues through the week, it'll create a real competition at right tackle for at least a little while. -- Michael Rothstein

Carolina Panthers

Left tackle

This has been a revolving door since Jordan Gross retired after the 2013 season. Free-agent signee Cameron Erving is first up, with Greg Little and Trent Scott also taking turns with the first team. Right tackle Taylor Moton has gotten some reps there as well, so don't rule him completely out, though right side is his strength. Preseason games will decide this, and it appears to be Erving's to lose. But keeping Sam Darnold upright is essential to success. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints


This one is pretty obvious in New Orleans, where the Saints have a job opening for the first time in 16 years, following Drew Brees' retirement. (So far it's still too close to call between Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill, who have both performed mostly well taking turns with the first string in practice.) But the QBs aren't alone. The Saints also have major voids at CB and WR, among other spots, with at least 10 new starters expected in Week 1. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Wide receiver

Yes, you read that correctly. The position group that boasts Pro Bowlers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown, and is arguably the top group of wideouts in the league, is the most important position group battle in Bucs camp. Hear me out. The question isn't who wins a starting job. It's where coach Bruce Arians and GM Jason Licht make the cut. Those three and Scotty Miller will no doubt make the team. But behind them is Jaydon Mickens, rookie Jaelon Darden, Tyler Johnson, Travis Jonsen and Cyril Grayson (Justin Watson is expected to miss another three months due to a knee injury). How many can they afford to keep? Mickens has had an exceptional camp, Darden continues to get a ton of first-team reps, and they're excited about Jonsen, which might mean Johnson, who started three games last season, is the odd man out. Arians already called Johnson out for coming to camp out of shape, so he's having to work his way out of the doghouse. -- Jenna Laine


Arizona Cardinals

Inside linebacker

It might not seem like this is the most important position battle at training camp because first-round pick Zaven Collins and last year's first-round pick Isaiah Simmons were anointed the starters this offseason, but fellow linebacker Jordan Hicks is pushing the two of them every day to prove he's still worthy of a starting job -- the starting job that he held the last two seasons. It might not change the minds of Arizona's decision-makers, but Hicks will push the two youngsters as hard as he can for that job. -- Josh Weinfuss

Los Angeles Rams

Outside linebacker

The Rams opened training camp with most of their starting roles accounted for, but questions remain at outside linebacker opposite Leonard Floyd. Justin Hollins, a 2019 fifth-round pick, whom the Rams claimed off waivers last season, and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, a 2018 fifth-round pick, are competing for a job. Hollins appears to be the frontrunner to win the role. However, it seems most likely that both will contribute in a rotation. "Justin Hollins is a guy that used all the things that he did really well last year, and he has really continued to build and grow and excited about him," Rams coach Sean McVay said. "And Ogbo is a guy that has a lot of ability as well." In 16 games last season, Hollins had three sacks, a forced fumble and a pass deflection. In 20 games over the past two seasons, Okoronkwo has 2.5 sacks and a pass deflection. -- Lindsey Thiry

San Francisco 49ers

Wide receiver

With Kendrick Bourne off to New England, the Niners aren't exactly loaded at receiver behind starters Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. The contenders for roster spots bring a mix of experience (Mohamed Sanu, Richie James Jr., Travis Benjamin) and potential (Jalen Hurd, Jauan Jennings, Trent Sherfield). Another year removed from ankle surgery, Sanu looks like an early favorite for a role. Although the Niners don't use three-receiver sets often, compared to most of the league (29th in 2020), it's important to establish an option for the slot and also to define a pecking order of capable options in case of injury to Samuel or Aiyuk. -- Nick Wagoner

Seattle Seahawks


Pete Carroll said over the offseason that Kyle Fuller would get a legitimate shot to win the job even though Seattle re-signed Ethan Pocic, who started there last season. Pocic's experience and his $3 million contract made him the clear favorite heading into camp, but he missed the first few days with a hamstring injury that he recently aggravated. So the gap between those two doesn't seem as wide as it did a few weeks ago. -- Brady Henderson