Soon enough, training camp will be kicking off for NFL teams. This will ignite fiery competitions between players who must earn the right to start or retain a roster spot.
Running back competitions in particular will be compelling. This summer will pit some aging veterans against younger, fresher legs. Who will come out ahead when new Denver Broncos running back Jamaal Charles attempts to salvage his NFL career in Denver with C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker nipping at his heels?
Several quarterbacks will also be under tremendous pressure to prove their value. As usual, there are several teams conducting competitions to sift out which quarterback is best suited under center.
With a month to mentally and physically prepare to perform their best, the following 10 NFL players have the most to prove during training camp.
1. Eddie Lacy, running back, Seattle Seahawks
Practice makes perfect pic.twitter.com/Y93un4r0MP
— Eddie Lacy (@Lil_Eazy_Ana_42) June 18, 2017
The Seahawks went all in and signed Lacy to a one-year, prove it deal. So far, the robust running back has earned two cash-packed weight loss incentives and is on course for large role with his new team.
The Seahwks are not just going to hand over the starting job to Lacy. Third-year running back Thomas Rawls is very much in the picture. He was recently spotted at his OTAs sprinting around at lightening speed and finishing first in several drills. If he keeps up at this pace, Rawls will be a tough competitor to beat out during training camp.
Additionally, there is second-season running back C.J. Prosise to outperform as well. Prosise did not receive a lot of snaps in his rookie year due to injuries. But when he was on the field, he demonstrated exceptional skill.
Lacy will need to show that he is capable of duplicating the performances he managed during his first two seasons with the Green Bay Packers. The upcoming weeks will give Lacy the opportunity to dazzle his new head coach and carve out his role.
2. Brock Osweiler, quarterback, Cleveland Browns
Thanks to the Browns, Osweiler still has a quarterback job in the NFL – at least for now. After one horrific season with the Houston Texans, Osweiler landed in Cleveland after an interesting trade with the Browns went down. Keep in mind, Osweiler ranked 27th among all quarterbacks last season.
Currently, he is competing for the starting job against second-year quarterback Cody Kessler and rookie DeShone Kizer. The starting job is pretty much Kessler’s to lose at this time. Though, Kizer is gaining speed as of late.
— Sportsnaut (@Sportsnaut) June 20, 2017
Osweiler outperforming both of his younger counterparts in training camp is a must if he wants any shot at the starting gig in September.
Thankfully for his sake, he is also receiving some glowing reviews from the Browns’ brass. If he somehow manages to shine brighter than Kessler and Kizer, he could be the quarterback under center starting in Week 1.
If not, Osweiler will make for one of the NFL’s most expensive pieces of bench candy while he mans the clipboard.
3. Laquon Treadwell, wide receiver, Minnesota Vikings
Treadwill failed to live up to the hype of being drafted 23rd overall by the Vikings in 2016. He will have training camp to show his team that he ranks a close third behind starters Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen.
In his rookie year, Treadwell played in nine games, starting in just one. Along the way, he caught only one of three balls thrown at him for 15 yards. That was a horrendous stat line to own coming off of a grand 82 catches for 1,153 receptions and 11 touchdowns at Ole Miss in 2015.
For now, Treadwell will have to prove more valuable than newly signed Michael Floyd, who the Vikings clearly brought in for reinforcement purposes.
Treadwell has failed to match the performances of other teams’ first-round receiver picks who exploded on the scene. If he continues to struggle in 2017, the bust label will be waiting for him.
4. Tom Savage, quarterback, Houston Texans
Just when Savage thought he had the field to himself once the Texans rid themselves of Osweiler, along came rookie Deshaun Watson.
Savage will open up training camp as the Texans starter. But he will need to perform at a higher level than Watson, who the team traded up for to select at No. 12. That marked a clear red flag that the Texans aren’t completely sold on Savage moving forward.
Unfortunately, Savage will hit training camp with very little experience under center since being signed by the Texans in 2014. To date, he has completed only 56 passes for a total of 588 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception during regular season games. But rather than being miffed about having to compete with a rookie, Savage is embracing the challenge.
All looks peaceful right now, but Savage will be under tremendous pressure soon enough to rightfully earn his spot under center this fall.
5. Jamaal Charles, running back, Denver Broncos
— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) June 14, 2017
For the first time ever in his 10 years in the NFL, Charles is playing in a new city that might not even be his to call home once September rolls around.
The Broncos are holding several competitions, including one for starting running back in 2017. Charles, who is 30 and was not healthy enough to participate in minicamp team activities, will compete with incumbent C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker this summer.
In fact, Charles has only about a 50/50 chance to make the Broncos final roster based on a recent report. The Broncos’ deal with Charles included zero money guaranteed, so they are not out a penny if they decide to cut him this summer.
Talk about pressure. Hopefully, the four-time Pro Bowl running back can regain full health in the weeks leading up to camp. If not, his illustrious career might just over.
6. Martavis Bryant, wide receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers
Bryant must get his NFL career back on track before he becomes a free agent in 2018. This starts with a productive training camp, but that seems likely after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger recently spoke about him in glowing terms.
“He looks like a stud, as usual, so we’re excited for him to be on the field this year and help us out.”
Big Ben was also a bit cautious with his words, however.
“Well, I think it’s just proving to us he can be out there all season. We need him all year, so I think that’ll be big for us.”
Being present is something that has been difficult for Bryant to accomplish. He was out on suspension for the entire 2016 season. Prior to that, Bryant played in only 21 games with the Steelers between 2014-15. Though, his production was stellar, leading to 1,314 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The nice thing about Bryant is that he has averaged 17.3 yards per catch and is regularly capable of huge plays. He’ll need to step up in training camp to stand out against rookie second-round pick, JuJu Smith-Shuster, who the Steelers just snared in the draft.
7. Carlos Hyde, running back, San Francisco 49ers
Hyde is another young fellow who really needs to shine brightly in training camp. For starters he’ll need to stay healthy. This is something Hyde has struggled with season to season.
During his three previous years, Hyde has played in just 34 games. He has yet to rush for at least 1,000 yards or score double-digit touchdowns in one campaign. The closest he got was accomplishing 988 yards and six touchdowns in 2016.
He will now face competition this summer from rookie running back Joe Williams. Williams was hand-chosen by head coach Kyle Shanahan in the fourth round of this year’s draft. Meaning, the 49ers technically put Hyde on notice by targeting a running back they obviously see something special in.
Hyde is also entering his final contract year with the 49ers. How well he performs this summer will play a major factor in his future with the team.
8. Breshad Perriman, wide receiver, Baltimore Ravens
Perriman has been a royal disappointment ever since the Ravens selected him 26th overall in 2015. He missed his entire rookie year due to injury.
Then he took a backseat to veterans Steve Smith Sr. and Mike Wallace in 2016. Perriman played in all 16 games but caught an underwhelming 50 percent of his 66 targets for 499 yards and three touchdowns.
This summer, Perriman will face even stiffer competition now that the Ravens brought wide receiver Jeremy Maclin aboard. If he doesn’t make a name for himself in camp, Perriman is bound to get lost in the shuffle once again and outplayed by the Ravens’ veteran pass catchers.
9. Christian Hackenberg, quarterback, New York Jets
Hackenberg really needs to get with the program during training camp. All he is doing to make a name for himself so far in practices is throwing errant passes at sideline reporters.
“Other times, the wideout/running back/tight end was wide open, and Hackenberg sailed it over his head or bounced it to him. That can’t happen. In the three media-open OTAs, Hackenberg hit reporters with passes twice.“
That’s a lot of yuck. Right now, Hackenberg remains buried behind Josh McCown and Bryce Petty. He has yet to register any official stats having sat benched his entire rookie season. And this was obviously for good cause.
At this time, it is looking more like the Jets landed a complete bust when they took a second-round gamble on Hackenberg in 2016.
10. Jeremy Hill, running back, Cincinnati Bengals
Hill has put up some impressive numbers so far in his three seasons with the Bengals. To date, the the former LSU product has tallied a grand total of 3,225 yards and 30 touchdowns.
Unfortunately, Hill’s yards per carry dramatically decreased from 5.1 in his rookie year to a mere 3.8 in 2016. This is why the Bengals saw fit to add rookie running back Joe Mixon into the mix.
Hill’s stats pale in comparison to what Mixon was able to accomplish in his final season at Oklahoma (6.8 yards per carry).
For now, Hill is listed as the top running back on the Bengals roster, with Mixon behind Giovani Bernard. But Hill’s training camp performances will likely dictate whether he or Mixon earns the lead rushing role.
Specifically speaking, Hill must work on his speed with a hungry Mixon now breathing down his neck.