15 Position Battle Updates From the First Week of Training Camp
Every team in the league is now in training camp as we inch closer to the start of the 2015 NFL season.
Here is a look at some fantasy relevant position battles that have begun to sort themselves out.
Dallas running back: Jerry Jones spoke of Joseph Randle this week as being a lead back. That’s significant as the team looks for a replacement for DeMarco Murray, the 2014 NFL rushing leader. If Randle can force the coaching staff to make him the lead runner with Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar getting the table scraps, Randle could be a nice pick after some of the top backs have been sifted through.
Philadelphia quarterback: Sam Bradford opened training camp taking the first-team reps ahead of Mark Sanchez. Chip Kelly said this is an open competition and Sanchez took the first-team reps in OTAs and minicamp. But Bradford wasn’t doing much at that point. He should be able to hold onto this job – but can he stay healthy?
Arizona running back: Injuries limited Andre Ellington in 2014 as his yards per carry average fell from 5.5 in 2013 to 3.3 last season. Ellington is penciled in as the starter, but third round draft pick David Johnson is waiting in the wings. At 6-1, 224, Johnson is much bigger, yet equally as versatile as the 5-9, 199-pound Ellington.
St. Louis running back: Todd Gurley opened camp doing some individual drills. Gurley is still recovering from an ACL injury suffered in November, so he might not be ready to open the regular season, but the fact that he’s getting closer should give you some pause on Tre Mason. Mason had 765 rushing yards as a rookie and averaged 4.3 yards per carry, but the Rams didn’t draft Gurley in the first round to sit.
Atlanta running back: Rookie Tevin Coleman has gotten some first-team reps at running back for the Falcons, as he battles second-year player Devonta Freeman to top Atlanta’s depth chart. Both backs will likely be used this season, but it will be interesting to see if a true starter emerges.
Carolina running back: With DeAngelo Williams now in Pittsburgh, veteran Jonathan Stewart is in line to be the lead back in Carolina. Those two became the first duo in 2009 to both rush for more than 1,100 yards in the same season. But Stewart is getting up in age. Fullback Mike Tolbert could steal some short-yardage carries and vulture some touchdowns, while Fozzy Whitaker is more of a speed back. Rookie Cameron Artis-Payne also is lurking.
Tampa Bay quarterback: Not that this is a huge surprise, but Jameis Winston has been named the Bucs’ opening day starter over Mike Glennon, who got most of the first-team reps in the off-seaosn. Tampa Bay does have some nice, big receivers for the young QB to get the ball to in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. There are worse situations for a young quarterback.
Buffalo quarterback: Matt Cassel has gotten more reps with the No. 1 unit than either E.J. Manuel or Tyrod Taylor, though, not surprisingly, none of that group has been particularly impressive. Taylor has also outperformed Manuel.
New England running back: LeGarrette Blount opened the Patriots’ training camp on the PUP list after failing the team’s conditioning test. That’s not a good way to start the season or make your case to be the lead back. With a stable of backs behind him – and a one-game suspension to open the season – Blount doesn’t want to leave the door open for Jonas Gray or Travaris Cadet to slide ahead of him.
New York Jets quarterback: Geno Smith didn’t throw an interception in the first four days of training camp, but neither has Ryan Fitzpatrick. So either the Jets’ secondary stinks, or these guys are making some strides. Smith has gotten the bulk of the action with the first team, with Fitzpatrick working with the No. 2 unit.
Oakland wide receivers: It’s been 10 years since a receiver in Oakland has topped 1,000 yards in a season. In fact, the Raiders didn’t have a receiver go over 700 yards last season. But Michael Crabtree has looked good thus far. He’s expected to be the starter opposite first-round pick Amari Cooper. But undrafted rookie Josh Harper also has impressed and has been working with the first unit at times. He played at Fresno State with starting QB Derek Carr, so that helps.
San Diego running back: Rookie Melvin Gordon sat out practice Sunday – never a good thing when you’re in a camp battle – opening the door for Branden Oliver to have a strong day. Gordon has the pedigree as a first-round draft pick, but Oliver certainly had his moments in 2014 and still sits atop the depth chart.
Baltimore wide receiver: Kamar Aiken reportedly continues to look good and run with the first team in Baltimore. Rookie Breshad Perriman has been out with a knee injury, opening the door for Aiken to stick with the top unit. Jeremy Butler also has reportedly looked good.
Cleveland running back: Both rookie Duke Johnson (hamstring) and Terrence West (calf) left the Browns’ first practice in full pads with injuries, leaving Isaiah Crowell to have the job to himself for now. Head coach Mike Pettine wouldn’t comment on how long either running back would be out, but owner Jim Haslam did, saying it could be a while for both. As an aside, coaches love it when the owner does that.
Houston quarterback: Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett are rotating days as the team’s No. 1 QB. Mallett reportedly played things a little closer to the vest, while Hoyer took some chances down the field. This is one QB battle that Bears watching since the Texans have a strong running game and good receivers with which to work.
Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.