NFL Nation reporters pick the top training camp position battle for every team.


Buffalo Bills

Middle linebacker

First-year coach Sean McDermott had one of the NFL’s best defensive players in Luke Kuechly during his tenure as the Panthers’ defensive coordinator. There is not a player with nearly the range and instincts as Kuechly on the Bills’ roster. Incumbent starter Preston Brown, a third-round pick in 2014, has taken all of the first-team reps so far in training camp, but 2016 second-round pick Reggie Ragland — who missed all of last season with a torn ACL — is considered part of the competition. Ragland has run with the second team to this point. — Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins

Nickel corner

The Dolphins don’t have many true position battles in camp, but one to keep an eye on is the nickel position, which is essentially another starter on defense. Incumbent Bobby McCain was up and down last season in the nickel, and the team signed seven-year veteran Alterraun Verner to compete with McCain. Verner has the edge in experience but must learn a new defense quickly to win the job in training camp. This race should be close throughout the preseason. — James Walker

New England Patriots

Inside linebacker

The signing of veteran David Harris in June could have a significant trickle-down effect on the rest of the group, as it seems like the coaching staff has big plans for Harris. One indication of this is how Harris was wearing the green dot on his helmet as the primary communicator and leader of the huddle as drills began during the first full-pads practice of camp. So with Harris a top candidate to play alongside Dont’a Hightower, what does that mean for other linebackers such as Shea McClellinKyle Van NoyElandon Roberts and Jonathan Freeny? — Mike Reiss

New York Jets


Journeyman Josh McCown is ahead of Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty, based on his exclusive work with the first-team offense, but this isn’t a done deal. Chances are, coach Todd Bowles will takes three preseason games before naming his starter. It’ll probably come down to McCown and Hackenberg; there already are signs that Petty is falling out of the race. — Rich Cimini


Baltimore Ravens

Tight end

This is the most wide-open battle for a starting job. The competition is between Benjamin Watson, who is coming off an Achilles injury; Nick Boyle, who has a total of 24 catches in two NFL seasons; Maxx Williams, who hasn’t played since last October because of knee surgery; Larry Donnell, who was signed Sunday; and Ryan Malleck, who is on his third team in two years. This is what happens when three tight ends are already lost for the season — Dennis Pitta (hip) and Darren Waller (suspension) and Crockett Gillmore (knee). — Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

Running back

Just how will the Bengals use their running backs now that they have three solid options among Giovani BernardJeremy Hill and Joe Mixon? If the Bengals’ history is any indication, Hill will likely exit camp as the starting back. But the talented rookie Mixon could push him every step of the way. — Katherine Terrell

Cleveland Browns


Why should 2017 be different from all the Browns’ other seasons since 1999? The Browns won’t be a complete team until they identify and nurture their long-term quarterback. Camp opened with uncertainty about whether Cody KesslerBrock Osweiler or DeShone Kizer would start. The position probably won’t clear until mid-August, when the Browns will have to start giving starter reps to one of the three. — Pat McManamon

Pittsburgh Steelers

Wide receiver

The Steelers can’t count on Martavis Bryant until he’s reinstated by the NFL, and with Sammie Coates and JuJu Smith-Schuster nursing injuries early in camp, Justin Hunter has impressed with his athletic catches over the first four days of camp. When all options are on the field at once, however, plays must be made to earn significant snaps. — Jeremy Fowler


Houston Texans


Tom Savage is the starter for now, but general manager Rick Smith has said that first-round pick Deshaun Watson is competing for the job as well. It seems more likely that Savage will open the season as the starter, as coach Bill O’Brien has said he has earned it so far, but a big camp from Watson could change all that. The Texans have been impressed with what Watson has done so far and believe he is ahead of schedule from where they expected him to be a week into training camp. — Sarah Barshop

Indianapolis Colts

Middle linebacker

Five players, including two holdovers from last season, are competing for two spots at a position the Colts lacked consistency at in 2016. Newcomers Jon BosticSean Spence and Anthony Walker Jr. are competing with returners Edwin Jackson and Antonio Morrison for the starting job. Bostic and Spence may end up coming out on top, but Walker — the team’s fifth-round pick out of Northwestern — could end up surprising a lot of people by camp’s end. — Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars

Left guard

Now that left tackle Branden Albert has retired, the only spot open on the offensive line is at left guard. Tyler Shatley and Patrick Omameh are the front-runners, but if they struggle it wouldn’t be a surprise to see right guard A.J. Cann get reps there. With rookie Cam Robinson at left tackle, the Jaguars need some stability next to him. — Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans


This was arguably the Titans’ biggest weakness in 2016, so naturally, it received the most turnover this offseason starting with prized free-agent signing Logan Ryan, who has one starting spot locked up. The competition heats up on the other side with incumbents LeShaun Sims and Brice McCain competing with the Titans’ talented, long-term solution, first-round pick Adoree’ Jackson, for the other snaps. Coach Mike Mularkey is seeking consistency from Jackson while giving Sims most of the early camp starting reps because of his experience and 2016 success. — Cameron Wolfe


Denver Broncos

Running back and wide receiver

Denver has a crowded mix of established veterans and younger players trying to carve out a niche at both spots. At running back, Devontae Booker‘s injury — he had two screws put in his left wrist to help heal a fracture in recent days and is expected to miss six weeks — will give other backs such as rookie De’Angelo Henderson and recent arrival Stevan Ridley a chance to show what they can do in the preseason. At wide receiver, the Broncos have two draft picks from the Class of ’17 — Carlos Henderson and Isaiah McKenzie — who project to be the team’s kickoff and punt returners if things go well in the preseason, so that leaves Cody Latimer and Jordan Taylor fighting for spots there. — Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs

Left guard

Parker Ehinger, who began last season as the starter, is on the physically unable to perform list after tearing his ACL last year. That leaves Ehinger’s replacement, Zach Fulton, to battle Bryan Witzmann for the starting spot. Fulton has more experience, but the fact Witzmann is getting plenty of work means the Chiefs are hoping for an upgrade. Ehinger’s absence isn’t likely to be a lengthy one, and he could claim his starting job back at some point during the season. — Adam Teicher

Los Angeles Chargers

Free safety

The Chargers waited until the fourth round to get a safety in this year’s draft, selecting Miami product Rayshawn Jenkins. They also drafted versatile performer Desmond King in the fifth round. However, incumbent Dwight Lowery will receive competition for his starting free safety position from free-agent addition Tre Boston. Lowery and Boston are splitting reps with the first-unit defense so far in camp. Lowery, who is familiar with new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s scheme from his time with the Jaguars, led the Chargers in defensive snaps with 961 last season. However, Boston adds a little more speed and playmaking ability to the back end defensively. — Eric D. Williams

Oakland Raiders

Middle linebacker

The guy who began last season as the starter, Ben Heeney, is on the non-football injury list. The guy who took over for him, Perry Riley Jr., was not re-signed. And the guy who was there throughout the offseason workouts and the first two days of camp, practice squad survivor Tyrell Adams, was replaced by fifth-round draft pick Marquel Lee on Monday, the third day of camp. Buckle up. Because whichever player emerges with the job will not have a lot of experience as the quarterback of the defense. “My job at this point is to bring them to me and I’ll coach them,” said Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. “I’ve coached Clay Matthews as a walk-on at USC. Bobby Wagner was a second-round pick. K.J. Wright was a fourth-round pick. It doesn’t matter the uncertainty. It doesn’t matter the age or what round they’ve been picked. Just give me someone who loves ball, who’s hungry, who has the right stuff. I will coach the heck out of them.” — Paul Gutierrez


Dallas Cowboys

Left guard

Injury could play a big factor in who starts on the star-studded line between Tyron Smith and Travis FrederickChaz Green suffered a muscle strain in his shoulder and will be out at least through the Hall of Fame Game, which will give Jonathan Cooper the upper hand. They had been alternating days working with the first team early on in camp with one player doing better one day and the other doing better the next. Cooper has more experience, but Green played well in limited action at tackle a year ago. The Cowboys don’t have a timetable on when they will pick a starter but acknowledge the earlier the better. Green’s injury history is something he has not been able to shake. — Todd Archer

New York Giants

Backup quarterback

It’s between Geno Smith and Josh Johnson for the backup job, with rookie Davis Webb playing the role of long shot. Smith is an intriguing name and a player who is receiving a fresh start. But his main competition, Johnson, has full grasp of the offense and is likely the front-runner for the job. Smith has to prove he can pick up the playbook quickly and play at a high level despite coming off a serious knee injury. — Jordan Raanan

Philadelphia Eagles


Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz badly needs a player or two to step up and solidify the Eagles’ most vulnerable position group. Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson are currently the first-team corners, with Ron Brooks manning the slot. Rookie Rasul Douglas and second-year player C.J. Smith will try to make a push for a starting gig this summer. The team is also monitoring the market and will look to bring in help from the outside. — Tim McManus

Washington Redskins

Nose tackle

While inside linebacker remains a battle, Will Compton and Mason Fostertypically work with the starters. At nose tackle, there’s no one working all the time with the starters. Joey MbuPhil Taylor and A.J. Francis all have rotated there — one might win the job; all might get cut. Stacy McGee, among others, can play end or nose tackle. This spot remains the most uncertain on the roster. — John Keim


Chicago Bears


The Bears signed free-agent corner Marcus Cooper in the offseason, guaranteeing him $6 million for 2017. But Cooper has been day to day with a lingering hamstring injury, opening the door slightly for former first-round draft pick Kyle Fuller. Fuller, who missed all of last season following a routine knee scope, is thought to be on the roster bubble. Cooper’s injury, however, could leave Fuller as the best remaining cornerback of the group to play opposite Prince Amukamara. — Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions

Left tackle

Yes, I’ve mentioned this battle a lot in this space over the past week, but Taylor Decker‘s shoulder injury altered what needed to be decided in camp. It’s a wide open race with Greg RobinsonCornelius Lucas and Cyrus Kouandjio being the main contenders. Other than left tackle, the competition at slot corner will be fascinating to watch. It’s essentially a starter position in the Lions’ defense and there are three legitimate candidates: incumbent Quandre Diggs, free-agent signee D.J. Hayden and rookie Jamal Agnew. It’s possible whoever finishes third in this competition ends up off the roster entirely. Diggs has the inside edge now, but it’ll be a battle to watch throughout camp. — Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers


It’s possible the Packers could have two new starters — Davon House and Kevin King. But don’t count out Quinten Rollins just yet. The 2015 second-round pick has taken plenty of reps with the starting defense. Coach Mike McCarthy said not to read too much into the rotations early in camp, but it’s hard to dismiss all the snaps that trio has gotten with the ones so far ahead of Damarious Randalland LaDarius Gunter. — Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings

Running back

The Vikings entered camp expecting a three-way race among newcomers Latavius Murray, veteran Jerick McKinnon and rookie Dalvin Cook. But Murray’s extended recovery from offseason surgery, and an early injury to McKinnon, has given Cook a strong early lead. Cook has done his part by demonstrating strong knowledge of the playbook and competent blocking ability, two factors that sometimes keep rookie backs off the field. — Kevin Seifert

Source: ESPN
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