10 hottest upcoming NFL training camp battles

By Rachel Wold

NFL training camps are just around the corner, which means some hot positional battles will be taking place over the upcoming weeks.

While teams evaluate their depth charts, veterans, rookies and free agent additions will have the opportunity to compete for top-dog status in some key roles.

Here are 10 upcoming training camp competitions fans will be keeping a close eye on as the NFL preseason approaches.

Robert Griffin III vs. Josh McCown, Cleveland Browns

The Browns took a flyer on RGIII during free agency with the hope he’d emerge as the team’s starting quarterback.

Head coach Hue Jackson heaped on the praises of Griffin initially but has since pumped the brakes as a result of Griffin’s hot/cold preseason practices (details here).

Griffin is considered the front runner for the starting position, but will have to prove himself during training camp.

Robert GriffinGriffin says he is “coachable” and is reportedly “willing to slide and throw the ball away,” per Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. This is key to Griffin’s long-term health and durability.

Meanwhile, veteran Josh McCown will battle against RGIII in training camp. McCown is obviously more familiar with this territory, but he is 37 years old, extremely injury-prone and sports an overall career 18-39 win/loss record.

Per Cabot, it appears the Browns will keep fans in suspense until at least after the second preseason game before deciding on their starting quarterback.

Garry Gilliam vs. Bradley Sowell, Seattle Seahawks

As the situation stands right now, Gilliam appears to be the favorite to start as left tackle this year. Though, he will face competition during training camp from Bradley Sowell, whom the Seahawks signed during free agency.

Sowell started as left tackle 12 times over the course of his four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. Meanwhile, Gilliam started his first 16-game season last year, but he struggled at playing right tackle at times. Suiting up to help protect Russell Wilson’s blindside could prove challenging.

Gilliam is healing from a minor knee surgery to remove a cyst but is expected to be ready to roll before training camp begins. Having more experience at the position, Sowell could prove make things challenging while Gilliam fights to keep his job.

Colin Kaepernick vs. Blaine Gabbert, San Francisco 49ers

Who knew that a Super Bowl contending quarterback from 2013 would now be fighting for the starting job he lost to his backup last year?

This is the case for Kaepernick after the 49ers had enough of his ineptitude in 2015. Gabbert replaced Kaepernick and finished out the remainder season in the team’s good graces.

Both quarterbacks will compete for the star role this fall. Gabbert, a locker room favorite, is healthy and appears to have a leg up on Kaepernick due to having the most recent experience.

Meanwhile, Kap has since resumed physical activities after taking several months to recover from various surgeries. He also began wearing contacts and a visor to improve his accuracy and protect his eyes from the sun.

We shall see as training camp plays out if Kap’s efforts pay off enough to out-perform Gabbert or if he retains his second-string status come September.

Justin Forsett vs. Javorius Allen vs. Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore Ravens

Returning from a broken arm, 30-year-old Forsett is favored to be the starter once training camp kicks off.

Although, Javorius “Buck” Allen and rookie Kenneth Dixon could turn up the heat as they battle for the No. 2 slot behind Forsett. In fact, either one of these running backs could potentially eclipse Forsett once the regular season begins.

Forsett’s production dropped off quite a bit before his injury when his yards per carry plummeted to 4.2 from 5.4 in 2014 (tops in the NFL that year). He also managed only two rushing scores and 641 yards in 10 games.

This is when Allen arrived to pick up the slack. Although, with the Ravens constantly battling from behind, Allen didn’t exactly overwhelm as a rusher. More key as a receiver, Allen racked up 45 receptions for 353 yards and two touchdowns.

Perhaps the most intriguing of the three will be watching Dixon perform during the preseason. A fourth-round steal, Dixon averaged 1,363 all-purpose yards and 21.75 touchdowns per season at Louisiana Tech.

The fastest of the three backs, Dixon could take the Ravens’ run game to that much-needed next level if he manages to win over his coaches.

Mark Sanchez vs. Trevor Siemian, Denver Broncos

Mark Sanchez

While it would seem logical that the quarterback with the most NFL experience would be a shoo-in to start in September, this is not the situation in Denver.

According to the Broncos’ brass, Sanchez has only “a slight edge” over Siemian, who has practically zilch professional experience. Meanwhile, rookie first-round pick Paxton Lynch does not appear to be a threat to either of Sanchez or Siemian at this point.

Unless Sanchez royally blows his opportunity during training camp, he is assumed to be the starter come Week 1. But because the role will not be automatically handed to him, Sanchez will need to outshine Siemian in the upcoming weeks.

If Sanchez earns the nod to start, it would not be at all shocking to see Siemian and/or eventually Lynch in the lineup should Sanchez choke during the season.

This is clearly a nightmare for those who play fantasy football and want to target any Broncos quarterback as a backup — a prospect we recommend not pursuing at this time.

Davante Adams vs. Jeff Janis vs. Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers

Since being selected in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Adams hasn’t exactly earned his keep as the No. 3 receiver on the team.

This was clearly apparent when Adams failed to step up last year while the Packers played without Jordy Nelson all season. To date, he has tallied only 88 catches resulting in 929 yards and four touchdowns.

At this time, Adams will reportedly get the “first crack” at holding on to his No. 3 receiver position during training camp per Bill Huber of scout.com. Though, anxiously awaiting their chance for higher-string positions on the roster will be Janis and Montgomery. Given how underwhelming Adams has been so far, it might not take much to see either of these guys push ahead in the competition.

Currently, the Packers have 11 wide receivers on their roster, meaning Adams and the whole slew of depth behind him need to bring their “A” game to training camp.

Case Keenum vs. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

NFL veterans, Case Keenum, Jared Goff

Whoever wins this battle royale will hopefully improve the Rams’ lowly passing attack from 2015.

As it stands, Keenum will reportedly open training camp as the team’s preferred starter, though both quarterbacks will receive reps with the first team.

Keenum doesn’t exactly sport a glowing track record, considering he has tallied only five wins compared to 10 losses as a starter. If he gets out ahead during the preseason, he will be the guy under center in Week 1.

The ultimate goal for the Rams would be to have Goff prepared to take over should Keenum struggle. After all, the Rams didn’t give up a king’s ransom (details here) to select the California standout at No. 1 overall in this year’s draft.

The Rams have a tough schedule awaiting in 2016, which is bound to challenge either young quarterback to his maximum this fall.

Josh Doctson vs. Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins

Washington made a strong move to select Doctson in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Currently the rookie sits behind Garcon in depth but could oust the 35-year-old receiver from his starting role.

Daniel Shiray, USA Today: Garcon gets a No. 1, but how much will it cost Washington long term?

Garcon had a decent year in 2015 when he tallied 72 receptions for 777 yards and six touchdowns. Although, a recent report suggests that Washington plans to utilize Doctson in the red zone.

Doctson arrives to Washington after tallying the second most yards (1,326) in the Big 12 in 2015 at Texas Christian. It would seem the clear plan in Washington would be to eventually replace Garcon with Doctson, which could start with a good old-fashioned training camp competition this summer.

Austin Howard vs. Menelik Watson, Oakland Raiders

Currently, Howard is penciled in as the starting right tackle for the Raiders, with Menelik listed as his backup.

Howard returned to the field more quickly than the Raiders were anticipating after sustaining a late-season knee injury. But back in March, head coach Jack Del Rio suggested that Howard would face competition during training camp.

Howard started in all 16 games for the Raiders in 2014 and in 13 games last year. But Watson is entering his contract year and was highly thought of by many in the draft community when he came into the league in 2013.  Should Watson be more impressive, Howard’s status as starter likely stands to change.

Nelson Agholor vs. Josh Huff vs. Rueben Randle, Philadelphia Eagles

Nelson Agholor

Heading into training camp, Jordan Matthews is obviously the most talented receiver on the Eagles’ roster. Then, it becomes a bit murky between Agholor, Huff and Randle.

Agholor was disappointing as a rookie in 2015 when when he managed to catch only 52.3 percent of his 44 targets for 283 yards and one touchdown. The college talent he displayed didn’t translate onto the professional field last year, and drops were an issue as well.

Huff, who was a third-round pick from 2014, has been equally unimpressive with a total of only 312 yards and three touchdowns on the books.

To bolster the passing game, the Eagles signed Randle during free agency. Already turning heads, head coach Doug Pederson talked up Randle after observing him during the offseason.

“Randle has really made an impact this spring,” Pederson said, per Jeff McLane of philly.com. “He’s a guy that’s a big, tall, sort of a smooth receiver that understands what we’re asking him to do.”

Never managing standout status with the New York Giants, Randle will now have the opportunity to compete with his new teammates to hopefully improve Philly’s passing attack.