Artwork by Robert Robinson, @badasskidsent
Written by The Blitz Team
The NFL regular season is almost here! Over the next month teams will be going through practices and preseason games to help determine who will be on their roster during opening week. Not only players will be battling for roster spots, but they will also be fighting for their position on the depth chart so they can see the field as much as possible. For this edition of the All32 series, The Blitz Team takes a look at the biggest position battles that will be going on during preseason. Check out which ones we believe you should be paying attention to throughout August!
The Baltimore Ravens do not have a bunch of skill position battles. I think the most intriguing position battle comes in the trenches. I will be digging through their right tackle position to try to figure out who will win the job.
The Ravens went out of their way to extend James Hurst this offseason. I think he was a semi-safe signing for Baltimore because he can play every position on the offensive line. With that being said, Hurst is not particularly great at any one of those positions. Hurst has a nice combination of both size and speed, but again, he is not elite at either of those characteristics. Will the Ravens really play Hurst at RT with so many question marks at the guard position? Currently, it looks like he will be playing right guard until former All-Pro guard Marshall Yanda is back from his shoulder injury. Once Yanda is back, Hurst will have to kick outside to guard if he wants playing time.
Waiting to battle him for that spot is rookie right tackle Orlando Brown out of Oklahoma. Brown was viewed as a potential first round pick until he had one of the worst NFL Combine performances of all-time. He ran very slow, benched very little, and he seemed to have an attitude with coaches during workouts. This caused Brown to fall all the way to the third round, but his talent is unmistakable. At Oklahoma, he showed fluid hips and strong hands. He is natural in his pass block footwork, and he is a massive human being. If Brown can prove his worth at RT with Hurst filling in for Yanda at RG, the rookie just may be able to carve out a starting role at RT to start the season. I think this may be one of the most intriguing position battles in the NFL, but it just so happens to be at an unsexy position on an unsexy team.
Prediction: James Hurst
The Bengals offense was a trainwreck last year. After failing to put together any type of rhythm, or score an offensive touchdown, the Bengals fired their Ken Zampese after Week 2 promoting Bill Lazor to Offensive Coordinator. The Bengals never really got their offense rolling.
One of the key reasons for that was the inability for a running back to take control. Jeremy Hill, Giovanni Bernard, and then rookie Joe Mixon all had a small piece of the pie. None of them were ever able to really seize and type of success. Hill is no longer on the roster, but the Bengals did bring in talented running back Mark Walton.
Flash forward a year and the question still remains who is going to take control of this position. Without question, the most well rounded of the three is Joe Mixon. Look for him to look like a different player this year. He is someone who showed on the field that he can contribute in all facets of the offense.
Prediction: Joe Mixon
Wide Receiver (WR3)
The Browns are one of the most intriguing teams in the NFL this season. They have made some huge changes to the roster, and with those changes come competition for positions. The most notable position battle in the Browns’ camp this year is probably at the number three wide receiver position. Former first round pick Corey Coleman and this year’s fourth round pick Antonio Callaway will be competing for time on the field as the WR3.
Corey Coleman was the 15th overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft. That has pretty much been the high point of his career. Coleman has shown flashes of his first round talent over the past 2 seasons, but his inability to stay on the field due to injury has killed his value. He has only played in 19 of a possible 32 games. The question is whether or not he can gain some confidence while playing with Tyrod Taylor. Coleman has been the center of trade conversations for about a year, given the fact that he was drafted by the previous regime.
The Browns traded up in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL draft to select the uber talented Antonio Callaway out of Florida. He did not play last season due to suspension, but the wide receiver showed flashes of brilliance in his two seasons in Gainesville. Over those two seasons, Callaway had 89 receptions for 1,399 yards and 7 touchdowns. He averaged 15.7 yards a reception. He is a big play guy, and the Browns could use some more of that in their offense. I would not be surprised to see Callaway take the WR3 position for Coleman during camp.
Prediction: Corey Coleman (But I pray for Callaway.)
Obviously, the Steelers have their starter in future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger. However, his backup and future replacement is up for grabs. They have two backup quarterbacks from last year’s roster in Landry Jones and Josh Dobbs. Jones has been the backup the past few seasons and has had to fill in as a starter due to injuries to Roethlisberger. He has shown promise in the starting role as he is 3–2 in his career. Dobbs hasn’t seen any playing time but there were high hopes for him as he was the Steelers fourth round pick in 2017.
They also added a new piece to the competition in rookie Mason Rudolph, He was drafted in the fourth round of this year’s draft after an outstanding career at Oklahoma State. Many experts believe that he will be the quarterback of the future in Pittsburgh.
Prediction: I believe that Mason Rudolph will eventually be the backup in Pittsburgh as he will most likely be their face of the future. If I were the Steelers, I’d keep Dobbs as I really like his potential as well and see if there is any trade value for Jones for teams that are desperate for a backup quarterback.