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 will players 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 the preseason. Check out which ones we believe you should be paying attention to throughout August!
The 2018 offseason has come with loads of change in Arizona. The coaching staff was overhauled after the departure of Bruce Arians. Fresh players have been brought in to compete, and after the retirement of Carson Palmer, quarterback was no exception. Arizona’s training camp will be headlined by accurate but injury-prone quarterback Sam Bradford attempting to fend off newcomer and the 2018 10th overall pick, Josh Rosen.
Sam Bradford has flashed the skill set needed to be a franchise quarterback throughout his career that ultimately made him the number 1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, but years of injuries have derailed his once-promising career, as he attempts to earn favor with his fourth NFL franchise. Barring another knee or shoulder injury, Bradford will enter camp slotted in as the number 1 quarterback atop the depth chart. Bradford will need an outstanding camp to enter week one as the Cardinal’s starter, but Patrick Peterson has already given praise to Bradford saying, “[when] healthy… he’s a top 10 quarterback.” With the backing of the players, Bradford seems to be in a good spot. However, that is far from a certain outcome with a first-round rookie breathing down his neck.
Josh Rosen has been propped up as the most “NFL ready quarterback” to come from the 2018 draft class, falling to the 10th overall pick after questions arose regarding his love for the game. I’d like to get one thing straight, Rosen is not the most pro-ready quarterback in his class, but he does have the best path to start week 1 of the regular season. The Cardinals just hired Steve Wilk’s, and young coaches tend to develop bonds with their rookies. If the competition is close, which many expect it to be, Rosen could steal the top seat and lead this Cardinals team out of the gate. Rosen is believed to be the future of the franchise and should receive an opportunity to play at some point this season. Keep an eye on this position battle, as it could have lasting implications on the league.
Prediction: Josh Rosen
Written by: Jason Feiner
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams have star power at a number of positions on both sides of the ball. The tight end position is not one of them. Los Angeles ran with three tight ends on the roster all of last season, and I don’t see why they won’t do the same thing this season, but only two are even worth looking at as the third will undoubtedly be there as injury insurance. The two guys that should see most of the snaps are Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett.
Higbee led the position at snap count last season by a sizeable margin 730 to 297. Part of why is that Higbee was head and shoulders a better blocker than Everett. That is pretty par for the course though as rookie tight ends tend to struggle with blocking when they get to the league.
The truth is that tight ends are becoming more valuable weapons in the league and Everett is BY FAR the best pass catcher of the two, Higbee finished the season with 25 catches for 295 yards and a touchdown, Everett finished with 16 receptions for 244 yards and 2 touchdowns, again with 433 fewer snaps. I see Everett taking on a much larger role with the offense and could even see him eclipsing Higbee in total snap count this season. I think the only way that Higbee finishes with that same kind of gap between he and Everett is an injury to the offensive line forcing the Rams hand into leaving the better blocking Higbee in on more plays.
Prediction: Gerald Everett
Written by: Robert Robinson
San Francisco 49ers
As training camp is now officially underway, the 49ers have position battles going on across the depth chart. The team has stable of running backs that will be competing for touches throughout the preseason; including sophomore’s Joe Williams, Matt Breida, and Jeremy McNichols, but with Jerick McKinnon being handsomely compensated to the tune of 4 years 36 million dollars, it’s his job to lose. Another roster debate that’ll need to be answered during the preseason is who’ll line up opposite of Richard Sherman in the secondary. Both Ahkello Witherspoon and K’Waun Williams showed signs of a starting caliber skillset in 2017, and Tarvarus McFadden is an undrafted free agent who could surprise some people this season.
Possibly the most important battle on the roster is at the right guard position. The team’s offensive line is nearly set, but former 1st rounders Joshua Garnett and Jonathan Cooper are currently competing for the final spot on the O-line. Garnett missed all of 2017 with a knee injury after playing in sixteen games and starting eleven as a rookie. The 49ers will need to see a massive improvement from their 1st round investment. He graded out as PFF’s 70th best guard out of 72 qualified players in 2016. He was equally bad in both pass and run blocking and is now rumored to be on the trading block after only two seasons in San Francisco.
Jonathan Cooper, on the other hand, has bounced around the league since 2013. Drafted by the Arizona Cardinals 7th overall, the North Carolina product was highly regarded coming out of college. Sadly an injury during his third preseason game sent him on a downward spiral of one injury-plagued season after another. He was traded to the Patriots before being cut and picked up by the Cleveland Browns in 2016. Last year he finally landed on a roster and earned himself a starting role with the Dallas Cowboys, playing in 13 games, but still sprained his medial collateral ligament in week 17. He’s quite injury prone, so it’s highly unlikely they trade away Garnett without giving him a chance to win the starting job. Neither player particularly fits Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme, so whoever’s able to adjust their game better will win the battle. Cooper’s talent and experience should get the job done, but any form of injury will allow Garnett the opportunity to become the Niner’s right guard.
Prediction: Jonathan Cooper
Written by: Jack Bourgeois
The Seattle Seahawks surprised everyone when they selected Rashaad Penny in the 1st round of this year’s NFL Draft. 1st round picks are expected to have an immediate impact on a team so one would assume there wouldn’t be a competition to determine who will be the Seahawks lead back. But, the second-year back, Chris Carson, has been impressing Pete Carroll enough so far in training camp that he has earned his way to be in consideration as the starting back. Which shouldn’t be a surprise because he won the job last season and prior to his season-ending injury, it looked like the Seahawks found themselves a steal and a potential long-term answer.
Because of their running issues since moving on from Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks decided to take a swing on Penny due to the uncertainty of Carson. Would he be the same player he was before his injury? Penny was considered by most draft analysts as a Day 2 player which is why the pick raised a lot of questions when it was announced. He certainly has the talent to be the lead back, but he will need to improve his pass blocking if he wants to be on the field more during his rookie season.
Since Carson has better pass blocking abilities it’s going to help him get the majority of reps as the starter. Penny will still see plenty of opportunities because Seattle won’t let him sit on the sideline after investing that much draft stock into him. But. it is possible we could see the Seahawks take the New Orleans Saints route like they did last year with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. That is something that could develop as the season goes along, but if I had to guess who will be the Week 1 starter, I like the chances of Carson winning the job for the second year in a row.
Prediction: Chris Carson
Written by: Cody Manning