The headlines are already lining up for the NFC teams with NFL training camp up next. Here are some battles to keep an eye on.
Green Bay Packers: Davante Adams vs. Jarrett Boykin
Jordy Nelson and Randle Cobb are secure in their spots in the starting lineup so the battle to expect coming training camp with the Green Bay Packers comes between Jarrett Boykin and rookie Davante Adams. Boykin came on strong last season and seemed to make James Jones expendable but Adams has considerable upside that might prove enough to push for action right away.
Dallas Cowboys: Ahmad Dixon vs. J.J. Wilcox
The safety position for the Dallas Cowboys was a mess last year. Part of it was due to their atrocious front seven but that doesn’t mean changes won’t be made. A battle that could develop early will be between strong safety J.J. Wilcox, a 2013 third round pick and Ahmad Dixon, their recent 7th round pick. Dixon was highly rated during the early NFL draft process but for whatever reason fell through the crack. He has the athletic upside to make a push for playing time, and Wilcox will have to hold him off.
Chicago Bears: Brock Vereen vs. Chris Conte
Clearly there was a reason the Chicago Bears drafted Minnesota safety Brock Vereen, otherwise they wouldn’t have traded back up for him. Lauded for his athleticism, speed and leadership he is expected to contribute right away. In simpler terms it means taking every opportunity to push or replace current starter Chris Conte who is rehabbing a bum shoulder. The competition is wide open.
Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater vs. Matt Cassel
Quarterbacks always get the attention and after trading up back into the first round to get Teddy Bridgewater, the Minnesota Vikings made it clear they are committed to a change at quarterback. The question is whether he’s ready. Scouts believe he’s the most prepared to start Day 1 of any rookie quarterback but that remains to be seen as he challenges veteran Matt Cassel who played fairly well last season after replacing 2011 1st round pick Christian Ponder.
New York Giants: Rashad Jennings vs. Andre Williams
The running game was a big reason why the New York Giants won two Super Bowls in 2007 and 2011 and it was a big reason why they tanked so badly last year. Re-discovering their ground game is crucial and they’ve made some quality additions that will create an interesting competition in training camp. Rashad Jennings comes as a free agent from Oakland where he had the best season of his career after replacing the often-injured Darren McFadden. His challenger however will not be former 1st round pick David Wilson but 2014 4th round pick Andre Williams who led college football in rushing last season.
Philadelphia Eagles: Jeremy Maclin vs. Jordan Matthews
Jeremy Maclin seems like the obvious choice to replace Desean Jackson for the Philadelphia Eagles but it’s easy to forget he has never played in the Chip Kelly offense and is coming off a knee injury. There is no guarantee he thrives in the new system as he did with Andy Reid. Not to mention won’t be able to get comfortable. Rookie addition Jordan Matthews doesn’t bring the typical hype other receivers will for their teams but he is the all-time SEC receiving leader for a reason.
San Francisco 49ers: Chris Borland vs. Shayne Skov
I didn’t mind the San Francisco 49ers spending a third round pick on Chris Borland in the NFL draft. After the injury to NaVarro Bowman I thought it was a great insurance move. What puzzled me is why the team also made a note to sign Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov who was among the most coveted undrafted free agents. The presence of Borland made linebacker set for them in my mind so really the loser of this camp battle might not even make the team.
Seattle Seahawks: Kevin Norwood vs. Sidney Rice
Sidney Rice was brought back because the Seattle Seahawks felt he deserved another chance, just at a cheaper price. Whether he takes advantage of it will be interesting because he’ll have competition waiting for him this time. Alabama standout Kevin Norwood has more talent than he gets credit for and his reputation is one of depedability and clutch moments, very similar to Rice himself. The veteran must show he can stay healthy otherwise the Seahawks have no reason to keep him.