11 Position Battles to Watch as Training Camps Open
Training camp is all about putting the finishing touches on getting ready for the upcoming season. But it’s also about those final position battles as teams figure out who they’re going to move forward with in certain roles and who might be fighting for table scraps of playing time.
Here’s a look at some of the training camp battles that should interest fantasy football owners as the 2015 camps get ready to open.
New England running back: First and foremost, there’s been nothing more frustrating than being the owner of a New England running back in recent years. Bill Belichick changes running backs more often than he does hoodies. Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen are both gone. That leaves LeGarrette Blount, Jonas Gray, Brandon Bolden, James White and Travaris Cadet all vying for touches. Blount is the most proven guy but also must serve a one-game suspension to open the season. Gray had a 201-yard game in Week 11 against Indianapolis but was later inactive for the Super Bowl. Cadet had 38 receptions last season, but did little running the ball. There’s a lot to sort out here.
Baltimore No. 2 receiving option: OK, we know Steve L Smith can still get it done, as he caught 79 passes for 1,065 yards and six touchdowns last season at 34. But now he’s a year older and No. 2 receiver Torrey Smith took his speed and 11 TD receptions last season to San Francisco. Tight end Owen Daniels also bolted for Denver. The team drafted receiver Breshad Perriman in the first round and tight end Maxx Williams in the second. But counting on a pair of rookies to be the No. 2 receiving option is a difficult proposition. There’s also hope that Dennis Pitta can come back from his second hip dislocation, but that might be a stretch as well. Can Crockett Gilmore emerge at tight end? How about Marlon Brown or Kamar Aiken at wide receiver? Aiken ran with the 1s in the offseason, but come on.
Houston quarterback: When your position battle comes down to Ryan Mallett vs. Bryan Hoyer, you might need to reassess what you’re doing at the position. But those are the choices in Houston. Mallett came over last year after holding the clipboard in New England for a couple of years and was largely unimpressive in a couple of games. Hoyer had his moments in Cleveland last season but was eventually exposed as not being the answer, throwing four touchdowns and 11 interceptions in the second half of the season. Neither is a great option, but with Arian Foster at running back and DeAndre Hopkins and Cecil Shorts at receiver, there are some weapons.
Atlanta running back: Everyone knew Steven Jackson wasn’t a long-term answer to Atlanta’s running back situation. But he ended up not even being a short-term solution. Now, it will come down to Devonta Freeman or rookie Tevin Coleman – or some mix of those two – carrying the load in Atlanta. Will one emerge as the bell cow?
Tampa Bay running back: Options, options, options. Doug Martin is two bad years removed from a 1,400-yard season and has had injury issues. Bobby Rainey had his moments last season but is also fumble-prone. Charles Sims finished the season with a 69-yard rushing effort and a score against New Orleans. Former Miami Hurricanes star Mike James also will be in the mix. Martin likely will get the best shot to win the starting job, but can he stay healthy?
Dallas running back: The Cowboys said goodbye to NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray and now must choose a starter from oft-injured Darren McFadden, who busted out in Oakland, or troubled Joseph Randle. McFadden is said to be at the top of the depth chart now, but given his inability to stay healthy, this could Joseph’s job to win – or steal.
Minnesota No. 2 receiver: The Vikings aren’t paying Mike Wallace a big chunk of change to sit him on the bench behind Charles Johnson or Cordarelle Patterson. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner called Johnson “far and away our best receiver,” so he might have the inside track. But Patterson’s a former No. 1 draft pick with ridiculous athletic ability. He’s heading into his third season, so it could be make-or-break time.
Seattle No. 2 receiver: I guess we can call Doug Baldwin a No. 1 receiver – though he’s clearly a No. 3 in fantasy football. And with Jimmy Graham now on the roster, that might be a stretch as well. But who will emerge on the other side? Paul Richardson coming off an ACL tear? Jermaine Kearse? Rookie Tyler Lockett? The list of nameless, faceless receivers on the Seattle roster is nearly endless.
Buffalo quarterback: When the answer is Matt Cassel, E.J. Manuel or Tyrod Taylor, you’re probably asking the wrong questions. But that will be Buffalo’s choice at quarterback. None are stellar choices. But it’s probably Manuel’s job to lose, which could happen.
Miami’s starting receivers: The Dolphins jettisoned Mike Wallace after two high-paid up-and-down years and went about acquiring a roster of intrigue. Jarvis Landry is probably locked in as one starter after catching 84 passes – but for only 758 yards – as a rookie. Kenny Stills, who comes over from New Orleans, has plenty of speed but hasn’t been consistent, while Greg Jennings was Minnesota’s leading receiver. Rookie DeVante Parker was taken 14th overall in the draft but had foot surgery in June.
Cleveland running back: Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West both had good moments for the Browns in 2014. But inexplicably, after having a good week, they would seemingly get themselves into the doghouse and not play much in the next game. Now, the Browns have added rookie Duke Johnson to the mix. This is a team that ran the ball pretty well last season, so if somebody emerges from that group as the clear-cut No. 1, you might have a nice sleeper.
Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Washington (Pa.) Observer-Reporter.