The traditional training camp battles for starting positions and roster spots aren't nearly what they used to be. The modern era of free-agency and salary cap prudence necessitates that franchises have a pretty good feel for which players are going to be on their team and in the starting lineup. One coach I spoke with recently estimated that more than 90 percent of the positions on the final 53-man roster and more than 95 percent of the starting roles are pretty much determined before the pads even start to pop in training camp.
But training camp performances are still necessary to determine some starting spots, as well as the third cornerback and wide receiver roles, which are so critical anymore that they're generally considered starting positions. Here are 10 position battles worth monitoring this summer, led by some skill-position competitions that could likely determine the fate of three franchises.
The battle between
There are reports out of San Francisco that the 49ers' brass hopes Smith wins the job. In case you were wondering, yes, that is exactly how the NFL works. Just because a team has players competing for a job doesn't mean it doesn't still have a preference. But I think Smith has his work cut out for him, even though he clearly is the more physically gifted player. All Hill has done for
The real competition for the Jets isn't between those throwing the passes, but rather who will be receiving them. It still wouldn't surprise me to see the Jets bring in a solid veteran, like
Two of the young guys competing for playing time,
Talk about big shoes to fill, literally and figuratively.
This job was supposed to belong to first-round pick
Although the Steelers' offensive line was criticized throughout the 2008 season, this is really the only spot up for grabs. Incumbent
Aside from Smith, the Giants have a bunch of young guys competing for playing time, which makes their situation eerily similar to the Jets. The biggest difference is that the Giants invested heavily in the wide-receiver position in this year's draft. The hope is that first-round pick
The starters are set with
That's right -- not one but both offensive tackle positions are up for grabs in Jacksonville. Rookies
Long-time right tackle