May 17, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Tom Savage (3) participates in rookie mini-camp at Methodist Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Most Important NFL Roster Battles of 2014

Every NFL team has decisions to make and roster battles to sort through.  Which among them can be considered the most important?

Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Tom Savage – Houston Texans quarterback

From a pure roster standpoint the Houston Texans look like a playoff caliber team.  Their defense is absolutely loaded, especially in the front seven with Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt.  Arian Foster is back at running back and Andre Johnson should return to team with DeAndre Hopkins at some point at receiver.  The one area still undecided, and the one that can hold the entire team back is quarterback.  At present veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick seems to have the edge as the starter but the Texans are putting a lot of effort into developing rookie Tom Savage, who has prototypical NFL talent but is still very raw.  How this battle goes will determine how far the Texans can go.

Matt Schaub vs. Derek Carr – Oakland Raiders quarterback

The same can be said way out on the west coast where the Oakland Raiders have a quarterback situation of their own to sort through.  Most believe Matt Schaub, a two-time Pro Bowler and 32-years old will bounce back from his ugly 2013 season in Houston to get Oakland over the hump.  However, his job security is anything but safe.  The Raiders made sure of that when they took Derek Carr in the 2nd round of the draft.  His success at Fresno State and overall talent are hard to ignore.  Some may want to see it out on the field sooner than later.  It will come down to who commands offense better.

Rashad Jennings vs. Andre Williams – New York Giants running back

History has shown that the New York Giants function at their best offensively when they have a stable ground game to lean on.  That is why they were so terrible last season.  Hope remains that a retooled offensive line and new crop of running backs can turn things around.  The starting job will be up for grabs.  Veteran free agent Rashad Jennings appears like the early favorite but he might get an unexpected fight from rookie Andre Williams who led all of college football in rushing last year.  It’s fair to say they could end up splitting carries, but whomever gets the majority will hold the Giants’ season on his shoulders.

Chris Conte vs. Brock Vereen – Chicago Bears free safety

The Chicago Bears embarked on a massive rebuilding project for their defense when the NFL off-season began.  In 2013, injuries and age turned their once dominant unit into one of the worst in franchise history.  Through a series of bold free agent and draft moves they have improved, at least on paper.  Their defensive line is loaded up with more size and strength.  The linebackers are younger and faster and the cornerbacks feature better depth.  However, the one position that may determine the ceiling of improvement for the Bears is safety.  It was an area that cost them dearly late last season and now both positions are wide open.  None more so than free safety.  There it is likely to come down to veteran Chris Conte, who was the starter last year and intriguing rookie Brock Vereen.  Both have athleticism and talent.  It will come down to who makes the defense better.

Phillip Gaines vs. Sanders Commings – Kansas City Chiefs cornerback

To the surprise of many, the decision that was considered for a long time finally happened.  Pro Bowl cornerback Brandon Flowers was released by the Kansas City Chiefs.  On some levels it made sense.  Flowers wasn’t the best fit for their 3-4 system, but the fact remains the Chiefs still have to replace him, which proved difficult in the playoffs last season.  Hopes are high that second-year man Sanders Commings can overcome his season-ending injury in 2013 to emerge as a starter opposite Sean Smith.  At the same time, the Chiefs hedged their bets in the NFL draft when they took Phillip Gaines out of Rice.  Both are good fits for the scheme.  It remains a big question whether they can play.

Tags: Chicago Bears Houston Texans Kansas City Chiefs New York Giants NFL Oakland Raiders

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