Jan 3, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Martavis Bryant (1) makes a touchdown catch as Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Armani Reeves (26) defends during the second half in the 2014 Orange Bowl college football game at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Training Camp Battles to Watch: AFC

The NFL draft is complete and rosters have begun to form.  What are some developing training camp battles for fans to watch for.

Oakland Raiders:  D.J. Hayden vs. Keith McGill

There are a lot of things to sort out for the Oakland Raiders secondary and it starts with the cornerbacks.  Both veterans Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown should see the field but questions linger about 2013 1st round pick D.J. Hayden.  He’s about to get some literally big competition in the 6’3″ Keith McGill who has intriguing athletic traits and the size to matchup with any receiver.

Denver Broncos:  Bradley Roby vs. Chris Harris

As of the moment Chris Harris is penciled in as the starting cornerback opposite new free agent addition Aqib Talib.  He was one of the best on the team last year, but unfortunately tore his ACL in the playoffs.  That makes his status uncertain what with 1st round pick Bradley Roby coming in with high expectations to play right away.  He is healthy and has all the tool to play outside, meaning it might take Harris until late preseason to win the job if he can.

Tennessee Titans:  Zach Mettenberger vs. Jake Locker

The Battle of the Red Flagged quarterbacks.  Ken Whisenhunt knows the Tennessee Titans have a pair of interesting conundrums on their hands.  Jake Locker, the 2011 1st round pick showed flashes of progress last season before two tough injuries knocked him out for the year.  Zach Mettenberger comes in with a powerful arm, big body and pro offense experience but also knee and back concerns.  It won’t just be about which of them plays better.  It will be about which of them can stay healthy.

Jacksonville Jaguars:  Marqise Lee vs. Allen Robinson

Justin Blackmon is on his way out so the receiver competition is wide open.  Cecil Shorts seems like a favorite for one starting spot while Ace Sanders handles the slot.  That leaves another outside spot and ironically it may be two rookies battling it out to start.  Marqise Lee should have first crack but he will find stiff competition in Allen Robinson who was taken in the same round during the NFL draft.  This will be decided very much by which quarterback ends up starting, Blake Bortles or Chad Henne.

Houston Texans:  Tom Savage vs. Ryan Fitzpatrick

As yet there is no trade talk regarding Ryan Mallett for the Houston Texans, so the quarterback job is a two-man race between veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and promising rookie Tom Savage.  Fitzpatrick has plenty of experience and won some games in Buffalo and Tennessee.  Savage is a raw but physically gifted passer out of Pitt who stands 6’5″, can move and boasts a powerful arm.  Their battle for the starting job could really determine the fate of a talented team in 2014.

Pittsburgh Steelers:  Markus Wheaton vs. Martavis Bryant

Following the loss of Emmanuel Sanders to NFL free agency, everybody seemed to pencil in second-year man Markus Wheaton as the future starter opposite Antonio Brown for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  While probably true, fans should keep a very close watch on rookie 4th round pick Martavis Bryant.  At 6’4″ he has the size a quarterback loves to have on the field and his 4.42/40 time showed his speed potential at the combine.

Cleveland Browns:  Brian Hoyer vs. Johnny Manziel

There is no question no NFL training camp battle will receive more attention from the media than the one the Cleveland Browns have brewing at quarterback.  Can veteran Brian Hoyer, who played very well last season before tearing his ACL, hold off the movement of Johnny Manziel?  There is no question Manziel will have people pushing for him to start right away but after another incident involving top receiver Josh Gordon, it might be more prudent to wait and let Hoyer handle thing until the offense is properly armed for their young first round pick.

Cincinnati Bengals:  BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. Jeremy Hill

Giovani Bernard is the unquestioned specialty running back for the Cincinnati Bengals.  What the team needs to figure out is who will tote the heavy carries, the ones designed to wear down defenses.  That job initially belonged to BenJarvus Green-Ellis but the addition of Jeremy Hill, who has the size and strength but also the receiving ability, might create a crowded backfield.

New England Patriots:  Stevan Ridley vs. James White

The same could be happening to the New England Patriots.  Shane Vereen is safe for the time being but after a forgettable 2013 in which he suffered chronic fumbling problems, veteran runner Stevan Ridley could be playing for his job.  James White had to split carries his entire career at Wisconsin but he was still very productive and is an asset in pass protection.  A key stat?  He fumbled just twice in 754 touches.

Tags: Cincinnati Bengals Cleveland Browns Denver Broncos Houston Texans Jacksonville Jaguars New England Patriots NFL Oakland Raiders Pittsburgh Steelers Tennessee Titans

  • Bobby Postma

    Marquise Lee and Allen Robinson huh…….. That’s gonna be a tough one actually. I like ace sanders at the slot and I like Cecil shorts on the outside, but Robinson and Lee are too good to pass up. This is gonna sound very crazy and alot of people will tear into me about this but I’m just throwing it out there. What if both marquise Lee and Allen Robinson started on the outside and keep ace in the slot while have Cecil come off the bench? I know it’s crazy but we have 4 extremely talented receivers on our squad and unfortunately someone has to come off the bench. Just a far fetched idea

    • Erik Lambert

      It’s not too crazy. Athletically, Lee is better than Shorts and Robinson is taller than him. Sanders of course is an ideal slot guy so if those two rookies perform I wouldn’t say it’s crazy that Shorts gets driven to the bench. However, he always seems to make plays so that will be tough.

      • Bobby Postma

        Very true. You right about that. In 2013 especially. Either way I’m excited about this season. Gonna be a completely different team. No way we will not improve. We improved 2 games from the previous year, I see us winning anywhere from 7-9 this year. We will be the”chiefs” of 2013. I’m calling it now. Better on the D and O line, secondary are now veterans, New qb, WRs, and backfield. I don’t see how you can not have expectations

        • Erik Lambert

          Sorry Bobby but I think the Bucs will be the Chiefs of last year. You guys, to me, are the 1990 Cowboys. You’ve assembled a very young cast of players high on talent but not experience. It will take awhile to reach that winning formula but as they continue to meld, it will get better, and better and better. You’ll start out slow but by midseason should have things figured out and start to win.