Contracts are the equivalent of toilet paper in the NFL- one second you’re under contract, the next you’re cut, on the open market searching for work. Seats of veterans who thought their jobs were safe prior to the draft have gotten a little warmer. Unlike the aging, old, unsexy veteran player, the idea of a young stud rookie is sexy- the rookie brings hope to an organization- a promise of what could happen. Below are five position battles between rookies and veterans that are sure to commence upon the start of training camp.
This battle is almost too obvious to include on this list. The moment the Eagles traded up in order to select Wentz with the second overall pick, Bradford immediately voiced his displeasure- demanding a trade and expressing his “dissatisfaction with the Eagles’ organization”. Despite demanding a trade, Bradford has remained on the roster and is the “current starter” according to Eagles’ coach Doug Pederson.
But, nonetheless, just because Bradford is the presumable starter, does not mean a position battle does not exist. The Eagles traded a “king’s ransom” to trade up to draft Wentz, so we know they are fond of his potential. Wentz is their guy, and in a league in which being the “coach’s guy” is just as important as a player’s specific level of talent, I think it is safe to assume that the Eagles’ quarterback position is wide open.
Despite Bradford being the “favorite” in the eyes of the coaching staff, I think Wentz will ultimately be the week one starter for the Eagles. Not only did the Eagles’ mortgage their future to draft him, but they also sent a statement to Bradford- one that displays their lack of confidence. In today’s NFL, despite what coaching staff’s say, rookie quarterbacks very seldom sit behind a less talented veteran. Wentz will have every opportunity to be the week one starter.
Despite trading for the NFL’s leading rusher from two seasons ago, the Titans drafted the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner in the second round of last month’s draft. This pick was peculiar to say the least. Not only did they acquire Murray in the offseason, but they also drafted a running back in 2014 and 2015. The Titans’ backfield is crowded- and that’s not necessarily a bad thing in today’s NFL, but we saw what happened last season when Murray didn’t receive the number of touches that he expected.
Murray and Henry are clearly the two most talented backs on the roster, which makes the Titans’ decision on who to start at running back a little bit easier- and even so, Murray and Henry will most likely split time as the lead back. Whoever wins the starting job will likely see a bit more of the touches (I’d say a 60-40 split in favor of the starter), but nonetheless, who is going to be that guy?
Disappointing would be an understatement when describing Murray’s 2015 campaign- he finished with fewer yards and touches then in 2014, and was among the leaders in runs resulting in negative yardage. Henry’s 2015 campaign, all be it at the college level was historic- he set the single rushing yard record for the SEC conference, led Alabama to a national title, and became the first running back since 2010 to win the Heisman Trophy. So, who has the edge? Despite what the Titans’ coaching staff is saying, I give the edge to Henry and I fully expect him to be the starting running back at the start of the regular season.
The Redskins’ selection of Doctson wasn’t a shocking selection; in fact, it was arguably the most underrated pick of the first round. The Redskins’ receiving core isn’t getting any younger. Despite, being the third receiver off of the draft board, the consensus saw Doctson as the clear-cut best receiver in the draft. His game will transition smoothly into the NFL, which makes him an early contender for offensive rookie of the year. The only thing that worries me is his playing time. As I mentioned earlier the Redskins receiving core is loaded with veterans, but those veterans are by no means “washed up”.
Pierre Garcon, the team’s slot receiver for the last four seasons, will be 30 by the start of the season- and although, he has played well, he has shown a slight decline in production over the last two seasons. His contract is up at the end of this season, and with the addition of Fuller it is almost a guarantee that Garcon will be looking for work in 2017, but if Doctson’s game transitions as well as I think it will, Garcon could be the odd man out in Washington’s receiving core. Unlike Garcon, Doctson is in the organization’s future plans, so it would not be out of the ordinary if the Redskins’ were to cut Garcon in order to give Doctson the majority of reps out of the slot.
The Broncos find themselves in a unique situation- one in which they are the defending Super Bowl champions, but are without a definitive number one quarterback. Sure, they brought in Mark Sanchez, a quarterback who has been pedestrian to say the least, but can a team that is in “win-now” mode truly rely on Mark Sanchez? Similarly could that same team rely on the likes of a quarterback in Paxton Lynch, who despite being a first round pick is far from ready to be a starting NFL quarterback? That is what makes this battle as perplexing as it is. Regardless of who starts for the Broncos, the legitimacy of their Super Bowl chance remains largely unknown.
Yesterday, it was reported that Mark Sanchez underwent surgery on his left thumb, which only increases the odds of Lynch starting earlier rather than later. Despite being seen as a quarterback who needs a year to adapt to the NFL game, starting Lynch makes more sense than Sanchez. If you’re the Broncos, you are not winning a championship with either Sanchez or Lynch as the quarterback- making Lynch the starter sooner rather than later is reasonable given the situation this team is in. Let Lynch learn through action rather than through observation of an inept quarterback. I believe Gary Kubiak will make the smart decision- Paxton Lynch will be the week one starter for the Denver Broncos.
Hooper was a third round pick, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be the starting tight end for theFalcons come week one. The Falcons were among the worst teams in pass protection. Despite having above average hands, Tamme is inept at pass protection. Tamme is essentially a big, slow receiver. Unlike Hooper, who is involved in the passing game in two ways (Catching and Blocking), Tamme is one-dimensional. Given the Falcons offensive philosophy- one in which they prefer to throw the ball, Hooper will likely find himself on the field for a majority of the snaps. He’s younger, more athletic, and offers more to the Falcons offense than Tamme does. Hooper will be the starting tight end for the Falcons.
Sean Mason (@ItsSeanMason)
Spark Sports NFL Analyst