Every off-season teams shuffle their rosters in an attempt to improve over their previous season, bringing players in through trades, free-agency, and the draft. For teams like the Denver Broncos, that means bringing in an undisputed starter like Peyton Manning. Other teams are not always so lucky, and as they go into the preseason with several options for a given position, we get to witness great position battles as players try and win themselves a starting NFL job.
Below are the five position battles that could determine whether a team excels or flops in the 2012 season.
-note- the Jets QB situation is not a battle for the starting spot, the job belongs to Mark Sanchez.
Matt Flynn vs. Tarvaris Jackson – QB – Seattle Seahawks
Jackson has the arm talent and experience advantage over Flynn, But Flynn and his $10 million signing bonus will probably give him the edge early. In my opinion, this looks just like the Seahawks' situation with Charlie Whitehurst; an overpaid career backup with a few good mop up appearances, vs. a project QB that will never pan out. The Seahawks may have found their future starter in rookie Russell Wilson, but with star runner Marshawn Lynch going through legal troubles, throwing a rookie in with no running game is a recipe for disaster.
Advantage – Flynn
Matt Hasselbeck vs. Jake Locker – QB – Tennessee Titans
The biggest question in this battle is if the Titans' future is now. Hasselbeck is a proven veteran and started 2011 off really well, but faded late in the season. Locker is considered to be the future of the franchise, but has some accuracy issues. If running back Chris Johnson looks good in the preseason, I give the edge to Locker because where he thrives is on play-action and on bootleg plays. If Tennessee is forced to throw the ball a lot, Hasselbeck is the better option right now. I believe that Johnson will have a better year than he did in 2011, making the transition easier for Locker.
Advantage – Locker
Doug Martin vs. LeGarrette Blount – RB – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay's new coach Greg Schiano made it known from day one after he was brought in that he didn't like how fumble prone Blount was last year. That assessment lead to Tampa trading into the late first round to select Martin, who was probably the best all around back in the draft outside of Trent Richardson. Blount has been an unstoppable force when he wants to be, but he'll need to have a fumble free preseason to supplant Martin, but this is definitely Martin's job to lose.
Advantage – Martin
Michael Crabtree vs. Mario Manningham vs. Randy Moss – WR – San Francisco 49ers
Combined with rookie A.J. Jenkins, the 49ers will have the ability to spread the field with four quality wide receivers, but the question is which one will be considered the #1 receiver. Crabtree came highly touted when drafted out of Texas Tech four years ago but has been hampered by injuries and inconsistency. Moss has been out of the league for a year and it will be interesting to see how much he still has left, though 70 percent of Randy Moss is still the best out of this group. Manningham is a solid receiver, but is not an elite player yet. The good thing for the 49ers is no matter who the #1 WR is, with superstar TE Vernon Davis, San Francisco really just needs a couple good #2's.
Advantage – Manningham/Moss
Kevin Kolb vs. John Skelton – QB – Arizona Cardinals
Kolb has a contract that no owner would want sitting on their bench. Skelton looks like a career backup for almost every other team in the NFL, but was able to lead the Cardinals to a 6-2 record to close out 2011. When he's healthy, Kolb has the right tools to lead this team, but with an offensive line as shaky as the one in Arizona, Kolb could go down early opening the door for Skelton. Chances are we'll see the same thing as last year, Kolb will start the season but Skelton will finish it.
Advantage – Kolb
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