Every NFL Team's Most Important Training Camp Battle in 2024 (2024)

Every NFL Team's Most Important Training Camp Battle in 2024

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    Every NFL Team's Most Important Training Camp Battle in 2024 (1)

    Bo Nix (left) and Zach Wilson (right)Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    OTAs are well underway. Mandatory minicamps are getting started around the league, and NFL coaching staffs are getting their first real look at their 2024 roster.

    The buzz from the draft has faded and each team is getting to work on the daunting task of filling out a depth chart and eventually cutting down the roster. Much of the buzz that comes out of these workouts turns out to be noise, but the one thing that is always interesting is updates concerning position battles.

    Every team has at least one position or position group that is unsettled going into training camp.

    As these summer workouts continue toward camp, we'll start to get a better idea of what each coaching staff is working with. Below, we'll take a look at each team and identify the most important position battle they have going on. Positional value, depth and level of uncertainty were all factors in determining which position battle is the most important going into camp.

Arizona Cardinals: Edge-Rusher

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    BJ OjulariCooper Neill/Getty Images

    The Arizona Cardinals won't take the next step as a team if they don't have a better pass rush in 2024. Last season, they ranked 31st in pressure percentage and 28th in pass-rush win rate, per ESPN.

    A lack of production from their outside pass-rushers was a major issue. Dennis Gardeck led the team in sacks with six, and he was only on the field for 46 percent of the defensive snaps.

    Zaven Collins is one presumed starter. He started all 17 games last season and is in his second campaign since moving from off-ball linebacker to full-time edge-rusher. The Cardinals did not pick up the former first-round pick's fifth-year option, so he's in a make-or-break season.

    The other name to watch is second-year player BJ Ojulari. The Cardinals used a second-round pick on him in the 2023 draft, and he didn't crack the starting lineup as a rookie. Instead, he was on the field for 36.9 percent of the defensive snaps.

    He showed some potential as a disruptive force, collecting four sacks, five tackles for loss and six quarterback hits.

    His ability to command a larger role in OTAs and camp is important.

    Darius Robinson is going to be an interesting addition to the defensive line. At 6'5", 286 pounds, he figures to play more on the inside but was an outside player at Missouri. If he can crack the rotation as a run-situation player, the Cards will have an interesting mix of young players on the edge.

Atlanta Falcons: Cornerback

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    Clark Phillips IIIRich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    We know A.J. Terrell is going to be a starter on the outside, but the spot opposite him is a crucial position battle for the Atlanta Falcons going into the summer.

    Jeff Okudah started nine games last year, but he's now in Houston. Clark Phillips III started five games as a rookie and should be the favorite to win the job. However, veteran Mike Hughes will also be a consideration.

    Antonio Hamilton and Kevin King are also candidates if Phillips doesn't rise to the occasion. Hamilton started nine games for the Cardinals last season and was the only major addition in free agency, while King is attempting to make a comeback and hasn't played since 2021.

    The winner of the battle could have an impact on the slot cornerback role. Hughes has experience playing there and could challenge Dee Alford for the inside spot.

    Phillips held his own as a fourth-round pick in his debut season. He only surrendered 18 completions on 36 targets with five passes defended.

    The battle is vital for the defense because if the Falcons don't find someone to fill the role of No. 2 corner, then it is going to be easy for teams to simply avoid Terrell in the passing game.

Baltimore Ravens: Right Tackle

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    Daniel FaaleleScott Taetsch/Getty Images

    Morgan Moses doesn't always get a lot of credit for his role in the Baltimore Ravens' success on offense last season. The veteran tackle gave the Ravens a reliable starter at right tackle, playing 14 games, giving up five sacks and finishing in the top 10 of Pro Football Focus' grades for all tackles.

    The Ravens are losing three starters on the offensive line, but the right tackle opening is the most important one. It's also the one without a clear answer.

    The Ravens selected Roger Rosengarten in the second round, but he's going to have to prove he has enough play strength to get on the field. It was a concern that Brandon Thorn highlighted in his scouting report on the tackle for B/R:

    "Overall, Rosengarten is a twitchy, aggressive and crafty player who needs to improve his functional strength before getting on an NFL field. But he has enough tools to work his way into a swing tackle role with starting potential down the road," he wrote ahead of the draft.

    If Rosengarten doesn't prove ready to start, the role would likely fall to Daniel Faalele or Josh Jones.

    Faalele is a bit of a yin to Rosengarten's yang. While Rosengarten is a pass-protection specialist with questionable strength in the run game, Faalele is a titan at 6'8", 380 pounds who can move bodies in the ground game but might struggle as an edge pass-protector.

    Jones has looked better as a guard but is still a name to watch if neither Rosengarten nor Faalele prove ready.

Buffalo Bills: Center

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    Connor McGovernAndy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Buffalo Bills' battle at receiver is going to be another important one. They have to figure out who will play what roles in a post-Stefon Diggs world. Ultimately, they have a decent number of options and help from the tight end duo of Dalton Kincaid and Dawson Knox if they need time to figure things out.

    Replacing Mitch Morse could prove to be just as important. The center is often charged with being the primary communicator on the offensive line, and Morse has been starting for the Bills for five years.

    The Bills essentially have two options to start at the pivot. They can move Connor McGovern over from left guard to center. It's been the public plan since the spring. However, drafting Sedrick Van Pran in the fifth round opened up a new possibility.

    If Van Pran can prove he's a worthy starter in OTAs, training camp and the preseason, it could allow the Bills to keep McGovern at left guard. That would allow David Edwards to be the interior swing option, while La'el Collins would be the swing tackle.

    Van Pran has already played a lot of football, starting 43 games at center for the Georgia Bulldogs.

    Given the new-look receiver room, protection for Josh Allen is going to be as important as ever for the Bills. If Van Pran can challenge to be the starting center, it would be a huge boost for the offense.

Carolina Panthers: Wide Receiver

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    Xavier LegetteJacob Kupferman/Getty Images

    The Carolina Panthers failed Bryce Young with his receiver options last season. It's not a given that they haven't done the same in 2024.

    Carolina made some moves. Trading for Diontae Johnson gives the Panthers a veteran to pair with Adam Thielen. Those two should be considered starters, but the third spot along with the hierarchy for targets behind them is up for grabs.

    There's a lot of young talent that could take advantage of the opportunity. Jonathan Mingo will get another shot after an up-and-down rookie season in which he caught just over half of his targets for 418 yards.

    The Panthers traded up into the first round to draft Xavier Legette. The rookie missed some time at the team's most recent OTAs with some tightness but should be in the mix as long as he's healthy.

    Terrace Marshall Jr. has been the subject of trade speculation after three seasons with disappointing production; however, new head coach Dave Canales has spoken highly of his ability in OTAs.

    The bottom line is that at least one of Mingo, Legette and Marshall are going to need to become the team's No. 2 or 3 option if Young is going to break out in 2024.

Chicago Bears: Center

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    Rams center Coleman SheltonMike Lawrence/Getty Images

    The Chicago Bears have the consensus top quarterback prospect from the draft. They have a dynamic receiver group and a collection of good running backs. They even have promising answers at just about every offensive line spot.

    The only remaining question is at the heart of the offensive line. Chicago will need to determine who will be snapping the ball to Caleb Williams in Week 1. Given the importance of communication and how much the center can help the quarterback in terms of protection, it's an important role.

    The Bears traded for Ryan Bates early in the offseason and signed Coleman Shelton. The latter started every game at the pivot for the Rams, while Bates was Mitch Morse's backup in Buffalo.

    Bates and Shelton have reportedly split the reps with the first team in early OTA action.

    Bates started 15 games for the Bills in 2022, giving up three sacks and registering 18 total blown blocks by Sports Info Solutions' metrics. Shelton started the entire 2023 campaign for the Rams with 27 blown blocks.

    Finding the right player who has the right chemistry with Williams could be an underrated piece of the Bears' success this season.

Cincinnati Bengals: Safety

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    Nick Scott and Jordan BattleAndy Lyons/Getty Images

    The Cincinnati Bengals' 2023 season wasn't just a letdown because of Joe Burrow's injury. The secondary also took a huge step back.

    Cincinnati's plan to replace Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates III with veteran free-agent Nick Scott and Dax Hill did not go as planned. The Bengals were 25th in EPA allowed per pass, and they gave up a league-high 8.1 yards per pass attempt.

    Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo is a former defensive backs coach and needs his safeties to thrive for the scheme to be successful. They went in a new direction this offseason that involved moving Hill to cornerback, bringing back Bell and signing Geno Stone from the Baltimore Ravens.

    Bringing Bell back should work in theory. He's familiar with the terminology and has had success in the scheme before, but his 2022 season was a bit of an aberration. He gave up a 113.6 passer rating the previous year for the Bengals.

    Jordan Battle got his feet wet as a rookie last season. He started seven games as a third-round pick. He had 71 tackles (four for loss), two sacks, an interception and five passes defended.

    Ideally, the Bengals will find the best way to utilize all three of them and be much better this season.

Cleveland Browns: Wide Receiver

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    The success of the 2024 Cleveland Browns will depend almost entirely on Deshaun Watson remaining healthy and delivering at least above-average quarterback play. We saw how dangerous this defense can be under Jim Schwartz. Watson and the offense have to catch up.

    That's why it's going to be crucial for the team to figure out its receiver roles throughout the summer and into training camp.

    Amari Cooper is the obvious No. 1. He led the team in targets and yards last season and returns for his age-30 season. Jerry Jeudy figures to be the No. 2. The Browns traded for him this offseason, and he has topped 750 yards in three of his four seasons.

    After that, things get interesting. Elijah Moore will have the inside track on the slot job. He was the team's second wide receiver with 59 receptions and 640 yards last season. However, Jeudy can play in the slot if it makes sense, and the Browns have some younger receivers who could leapfrog him with a good camp.

    Cedric Tillman played meaningful snaps down the stretch last season, making three starts as a third-round rookie. David Bell has remained quiet since the team drafted him in 2022, but he did catch three touchdowns last season.

    They also drafted Jamari Thrash in the fifth round, giving them another slot YAC weapon. He brings a similar skill set to Moore's.

Dallas Cowboys: Left Tackle

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    Tyler GuytonJames Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    There's no question about who the Dallas Cowboys want the starting left tackle to be for the foreseeable future. They drafted Tyler Guyton in the first round and switched him to the blind side after he served as the right tackle for the Oklahoma Sooners last season.

    It's a good long-term plan. Guyton was the 32nd overall player on our board and the fifth-ranked tackle in a loaded class.

    However, B/R's Brandon Thorn noted in his scouting report that Guyton would need to come along slowly.

    "He can eventually bloom into a high-end starter in the NFL, but he will need to be brought along slowly in a conservative scheme and veteran O-line room before bridging that gap."

    The Cowboys have the Cleveland Browns on the docket for Week 1. Putting Guyton out there against Myles Garrett and Za'Darius Smith might not be the best idea at a position where confidence is critical.

    Dallas does have options if Guyton isn't ready early in the season. Tyler Smith has proved capable of being on the outside. He has All-Pro potential at guard, but he could temporarily be at tackle until Guyton is ready.

    Alternatively, Chuma Edoga started six games there for Tyron Smith. He gave up three sacks and had 10 blown blocks on 229 pass-blocking snaps, per Sports Info Solutions.

Denver Broncos: Quarterback

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    Bo NixMatthew Stockman/Getty Images

    The Denver Broncos have a lot riding on Bo Nix. After paying an unprecedented amount of money in dead cap to rid themselves of Russell Wilson, they used one of their two picks in the top 100 to take the former Oregon quarterback.

    His first NFL task is beating out Jarrett Stidham and Zach Wilson for the starting job.

    One benefit of drafting Nix is that he's already played a lot of football. He's only about six months younger than Zach Wilson and has six years as a starter at Auburn and Oregon under his belt.

    Sean Payton has been positive in his comments to the media about the rookie. He recently noted that all three quarterbacks are "doing well," but noted that Nix is "throwing the ball extremely well."

    That should be music to the ears of Broncos fans. Nix was the sixth quarterback taken in the first round, so he's going to have to fight the perception that he's not as good as the top five.

    Stidham has just four starts in his four-year career. Wilson has thrown 23 touchdowns and 25 interceptions while going 12-21 as a starter. Nix proving that he's at least more trustworthy than that duo would be a good start to his Denver tenure.

Detroit Lions: Cornerback

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    The Detroit Lions spent a lot of resources refreshing the cornerback room. Now it's time to see how things are going to shake out on the depth chart.

    The group was an Achilles' heel for the club last season. The Lions had one of the best offenses in football but were too often let down by a secondary that gave up a passer rating of 91.5 and ranked 25th in EPA allowed per dropback.

    They likely found at least one Day 1 starter by trading for Carlton Davis. The former Buccaneer has been a starter for the last six years under Todd Bowles.

    The other outside corner role is where things will get interesting. The Lions drafted Terrion Arnold, but he'll have to prove himself over a few veterans in training camp. Dan Campbell has shown that he's not just going to start rookies because they were drafted highly. Jack Campbell, last year's first-rounder, didn't become a full-time starter until Week 6 in 2023.

    Amik Roberston could challenge Arnold. He started 12 games for the Raiders last season, racking up 50 tackles, two interceptions and six pass deflections while giving up a passer rating of 87.4.

    Emmanuel Moseley could be a factor, depending on whether he's back in time for camp from the torn ACL he suffered last season. Regardless, the Lions have some options to fix one of their biggest weaknesses.

Green Bay Packers: Offensive Line

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    Packers offensive lineman Jordan MorganStacy Revere/Getty Images

    It's hard to narrow down the competition on Green Bay's offensive line to just one spot. Few teams are as willing to shuffle their offensive line the way the Packers have to get their five best players on the field.

    It likely starts at left tackle, where rookie Jordan Morgan will get a crack at winning the job. That's currently occupied by 2022 seventh-round pick Rasheed Walker.

    Walker started 15 games there last season with mixed results. He earned a respectable 66.4 grade from PFF last season but also committed nine penalties and allowed six sacks.

    Morgan played tackle at Arizona, but the coaching staff is confident in his ability to move around the line.

    "I think he can play all four spots," Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said, per Rob Demovsky of ESPN. "We're fortunate enough that we've got a lot of guys in our group right now that can do that, and so I think we'll kind of let the best five battle it out and see where that ends up."

    Zach Tom is another key piece to the puzzle. He played well at right tackle last year, but he could be elite on the interior, and Elgton Jenkins is able to play both guard and tackle.

    There are a lot of combinations the Packers could roll with. That's mostly a good problem to have, but it's still an important question to figure out if Jordan Love is going to build on his brilliant second half of 2023.

Houston Texans: Cornerback

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    Jeff OkudahKevin Sabitus/Getty Images

    The Houston Texans should have high hopes for 2024. After C.J. Stroud's phenomenal rookie season, they'll be a trendy pick to win the AFC.

    Reaching those heights would mean topping the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow and Josh Allen. That requires a special secondary.

    The Texans have a foundational piece in Derek Stingley; however, there's some work to do to figure out who is starting across from him.

    Houston signed Jeff Okudah and C.J. Henderson to compete for the spot. When asked about rookie Kamari Lassiter's fit on the outside as a smaller corner, defensive coordinator Matt Burke didn't necessarily agree that he's too small to play on the outside.

    "He's got length. He's not a small corner. He's actually really well-built through his lower body. He's a pretty stout corner," he said, per Jayson Braddock of Sporting News. "So, we'll see where he kind of settles in most comfortably, but I wouldn't call him a length-deficient corner."

    Both Okudah and Henderson were top 10 picks coming out of college. They haven't lived up to that billing, but it's indicative of the talent they showed as prospects.

    If either of them can take advantage of the opportunity to play on a contender or Lassiter shows he's ready to go right away, it would be a huge boon for the Texans defense.

Indianapolis Colts: Cornerback

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    Jaylon JonesDavid J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Texans aren't the only AFC South team that needs to figure out its defensive backfield. The Indianapolis Colts are in the same boat.

    Kenny Moore II is the reliable veteran of the group, but the rest of the cast is made up of young projects. They were a bit of a liability last season. Darrell Baker, Jaylon Jones, JuJu Brents and Dallis Flowers all gave up at least a 94.4 passer rating when targeted last season.

    Injuries and spotty performance led to a revolving door with five different corners starting at least four games.

    The Athletic's James Boyd noted that the Colts "are confident that these young players will step up." The Colts will need to see that progression if they are going to stay out of the cornerback free-agent market.

    Boyd also highlighted Jaylon Jones as a player who has taken an early lead in the position battle. The second-year player made 10 tarts and played in all 17 games last season.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Defensive Line

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    Roy Robertson-Harris and Josh AllenCourtney Culbreath/Getty Images

    The Jacksonville Jaguars defensive line is going to look a lot different than it did in 2023. They lost Foley Fatukasi, Dawuane Smoot, K'Lavon Chaisson and Angelo Blackson in free agency. None of them played over 50 percent of the snaps, but they were each rotational players.

    Depth on the inside figures to be crucial for Jacksonville this year. They signed Arik Armstead, who is now 30 years old and played 65 percent of the snaps for San Francisco last season. Roy Robertson-Harris, who figures to be the other interior starter, will be 31 and played 61 percent of the snaps.

    On the edges, Josh Allen and Travon Walker are much younger but will still need someone who can spell them. They each played right around 80 percent of the snaps last season.

    The Jags drafted a pair of LSU defensive tackles in Maason Smith and Jordan Jefferson to help out on the interior. They'll be competing with DaVon Hamilton and Adam Gotsis for snaps and a role.

    On the outside, Trevis Gipson will be the favorite to be the third edge-rusher, but Yasir Abdullah and Myles Cole should be competing for roles too.

Kansas City: Left Tackle

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    Wanya MorrisNorm Hall/Getty Images

    For the third season in a row, the Kansas City Chiefs will enter the campaign with questions at wide receiver. That's turned out to be just fine the last two years, though.

    Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid and Travis Kelce are going to mitigate the importance of that battle.

    The competition to be the blindside protector, however, is much harder to minimize.

    Last year, the Chiefs signed Donovan Smith to a one-year deal. He was cut from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the veteran was hypothetically a good value. The move didn't work out all that well. He only surrendered three sacks but had 28 blown passing blocks, per Sports Info Solutions.

    The 30-year-old remains unsigned as the calendar slips into the summer months.

    Instead of bringing him back, the Chiefs are letting second-year player Wanya Morris and rookie Kingsley Suamataia compete for the job.

    Morris got four starts when Smith was injured last season, and the results weren't great. He had 21 blown passing blocks and gave up five sacks, per SIS. Still, he was a third-round draft pick getting thrown into the fire as a rookie.

    The Chiefs took Suamataia in the second round, but B/R's Brandon Thorn noted that he's only 21 years old and likely needs some refinement.

    Kansas City is betting a lot that one of the two young tackles will be good enough to help it become back-to-back-to-back champions.

Las Vegas Raiders: Quarterback

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    Gardner Minshew II (left) and Aidan O'Connell (right)Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    The Las Vegas Raiders are one of the few teams that are having a legitimate quarterback competition this summer. The Silver and Black have set themselves up with a choice between Gardner Minshew II and Aidan O'Connell in Antonio Pierce's first year as the official head coach.

    Quarterback is the game's most important position, and making the right decision will determine just how good the Raiders can be this season.

    In one corner you have Minshew. He might have less upside as a quarterback who has been in the league since 2019. He's had some success as a starter. He started 12 games and went 6-6 with 21 touchdowns and six interceptions in 2019.

    He lost that job after going 1-7 the following year but revived his career in Indianapolis last season with a 7-6 run as the starter.

    O'Connell, on the other hand, was pressed into action because of an injury to Jimmy Garoppolo but kept the job based on his performance. The Raiders went 5-5 with him at the helm, and he posted 12 touchdowns to seven interceptions.

    Both are sharing snaps with the first-team offense at OTAs, and quarterback coach Rich Scangarello has given both glowing reviews.

    The Raiders have a good defense and a strong receiving corps led by Davante Adams, so they can't afford to pick the wrong guy.

Los Angeles Chargers: Wide Receiver

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    Quentin JohnstonRic Tapia/Getty Images

    The Los Angeles Chargers hit the reset button on their receiver corps by releasing Mike Williams and Keenan Allen. They didn't target one of the top wide receivers in a loaded draft class, either, so the entire room is in an interesting competition ahead of training camp.

    Daniel Popper of The Athletic noted that Derius Davis, Joshua Palmer, Quentin Johnston and DJ Chark all worked with the first team at OTAs. Rookie Ladd McConkey only participated in individual drills, but he noted in a previous installment that McConkey was the primary slot receiver with the 1s.

    That's five receivers in the mix, and all of them have something to prove. The team's decision to be conservative in its approach at receiver signals a culture shift under Jim Harbaugh, but it's still important to have a playmaking group of receivers.

    The Chargers have good or reasonable answers at nearly every offensive position. Their offensive line could be great with good health. Justin Herbert is still a high-caliber talent at quarterback, and they have a collection of good running backs.

    Figuring out the receiving corps and whether they need to make a move to improve their personnel should be a primary goal of camp.

Los Angeles Rams: Interior Defensive Line

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    Braden FiskeRic Tapia/Getty Images

    There's no replacing Aaron Donald.

    For the first time in 10 years, the Los Angeles Rams will have to attempt to do the impossible. The future Hall of Famer's retirement took an already thin position for the Rams and immediately made it one of their biggest questions.

    Fortunately for the Rams, Kobie Turner emerged as a pleasant surprise on the defensive line. The third-round pick put up nine sacks, eight tackles for loss and 16 quarterback hits in his rookie season.

    The Rams will hope to get another breakout rookie performance from second-round pick Braden Fiske. He's already drawn attention at OTAs with his athleticism.

    The real test will be when padded practices start. The Rams will have to find a combination of players on the inside who are going to be able to hold up at the point of attack in addition to making plays.

    There's not a lot of experience in the room. Bobby Brown III is one of the most experienced players entering his fourth year, but he's just 23 years old.

    The Rams continue to be incredibly young on defense. They'll need Fiske and other young players to win jobs this summer.

Miami Dolphins: Interior Defensive Line

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    Zach SielerMario Hommes/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

    The Miami Dolphins had to make some tough decisions this offseason, but the loss of Christian Wilkins is the most difficult blow to deal with. He was a homegrown talent who had become a cornerstone of the defense.

    That makes the position battles that are about to go down on the interior the most important ones for the Fins.

    We can safely assume that Zach Sieler will be a starter. He's a versatile defensive lineman who ranked 37th among all interior defenders graded by PFF last season. After that, it's a collection of newly acquired players looking to earn a role and returning starters who need to show improvement.

    Teair Tart, Jonathan Harris and Neville Gallimore highlight the external free agents they added in the offseason. Tart is a talented run disruptor when he's on, Harris started five contests for the Denver Broncos last season and Gallimore has been a rotational player for the Dallas Cowboys over the last four seasons.

    It's a group that might have some untapped potential but has a lot to prove.

    Anthony Weaver comes to the Dolphins as the new defensive coordinator after serving as the defensive line coach with the Baltimore Ravens. This is a position battle that will be important to him, and he's qualified to sort through.

Minnesota Vikings: Quarterback

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    J.J. McCarthyAdam Bettcher/Getty Images

    The Minnesota Vikings no longer have the question of Justin Jefferson's contract extension hanging over their head. Now the only question left to answer is who will be throwing him the ball.

    The long-term answer is J.J. McCarthy. At least that's their hope after they drafted him with the 10th pick. But it's important to keep in mind that McCarthy is only 21 years old with 713 collegiate pass attempts.

    He showed off the intangibles in leading Michigan to a national championship while putting some impressive throws on film. However, he's far from a finished product.

    Sam Darnold's ceiling has probably been established. He's started 56 games and has proved to be a serviceable backup or bridge quarterback. He was 8-9 as a starter across two seasons in Carolina before serving as the San Francisco 49ers' backup last year.

    All the ingredients are there to support an average quarterback in Minnesota. Jefferson is arguably the best receiver in the league, Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson are strong secondary targets and the offensive line is solid.

    However, the Vikings can't rush McCarthy and have to get Darnold prepared if he's the starter at the beginning of the season.

New England Patriots: Quarterback

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    Drake MayeMaddie Meyer/Getty Images

    Much like the Vikings, the Patriots will have to figure out when to start their rookie quarterback.

    Unlike the Vikings, they don't have the infrastructure for a rookie to thrive right away. The Vikings have just about everything else figured out on offense and just need the right triggerman to bring it all together.

    The Patriots' lack of proven receiving weapons and a line that could start Chukwuma Okorafor at left tackle are not exactly conducive to an electric offense.

    In other words, the Patriots need to be careful about how they approach the quarterback battle they have going between Jacoby Brissett and third overall pick Drake Maye.

    The former North Carolina quarterback was ranked ahead of Caleb Williams on our big board, but even B/R scout Derrik Klassen acknowledged in his scouting report that Maye has to "cut out some of the 'doing too much' plays."

    Throwing him into the fire against NFL competition with a supporting cast that might make him try to do too much is not a good foundation for his career.

    How the Patriots handle their quarterback competition could have lasting repercussions for this era of New England football.

New Orleans Saints: Offensive Line

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    Nick SaldiveriRic Tapia/Getty Images

    The New Orleans Saints offensive line was a disappointment in 2023. They were in the bottom eight of both run and pass-blocking grades from PFF.

    Ryan Ramczyk was the top performer at right tackle, but he's dealing with a knee injury that leaves his 2024 status in question. Andrus Peat, who kept things afloat at left tackle when it became clear Trevor Penning wasn't getting the job done, left for the Las Vegas Raiders in free agency.

    The result is an offensive line that has some positions that could be up for grabs. Thus far, the Saints have lined up (from left to right) with first-round pick Taliese Fuaga, Nick Saldiveri, Erik McCoy, Cesar Ruiz and Penning.

    Fuaga, McCoy and Ruiz would seem to be the locks up front. McCoy and Ruiz have each started for at least four years, and Fuaga taking starter reps from the jump would indicate the Saints are comfortable with the rookie.

    It's the left guard and right tackle positions that need answers. Saldiveri was a fourth-round pick out of Old Dominion last season and played just 18 snaps. They also have veteran Shane Lemieux and Lucas Patrick who could take the job.

    Penning couldn't hold on to the left tackle job, but the coaching staff has given him a fresh start over on the right side. If Ramczyk is going to be out for significant time, it's important that he takes that job over.

New York Giants: Offensive Line

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    Brandon Sloter/Image Of Sport/Getty Images

    Andrew Thomas will be the New York Giants' left tackle. John Michael Schmitz will be the center. After that, there are a few combinations to consider.

    The good news is that the Giants were active in free agency to find solutions for those other spots. They added five offensive linemen in free agency, with Jermaine Eluemunor and Jon Runyan headlining the class.

    Eluemunor brings guard-tackle versatility, while Runyan has the ability to play either guard spot. It's going to depend on how Evan Neal responds in the position battle at right tackle.

    The 2022 No. 7 pick has been limited to 20 starts over the last two seasons due to injury. When on the field, he has racked up 52 blown blocks, 10 penalties and conceded 16 sacks, per Sports Info Solutions.

    That doesn't paint a pretty picture for his third year.

    If he shows he can take the job, then it's easy to see them rolling with Runyan at left guard, Eluemunor at right guard and Neal at right tackle. But there's also the possibility of swapping them, with Neal playing guard and Eluemunor going out to tackle.

    Either way, it's going to be important for the Giants to figure out their best unit up front. Daniel Jones will need all the protection he can get, and New York has to build a running game without Saquon Barkley.

New York Jets: Safety

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    Tony AdamsPeter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    There might be excitement about an Aaron Rodgers-led offense going into 2024, but the Jets' true strength lies in a defense that can be dominant.

    That's why rounding out the unit by finding their starting safeties is going to be a key storyline in training camp. Head coach Robert Saleh told the media it would be an open competition for the safety jobs with Chuck Clark, Tony Adams and Ashtyn Davis serving as the primary competitors.

    The group is going to miss Jordan Whitehead. He left in free agency after starting every game over the last two seasons, posting six interceptions and 17 passes defended.

    Adams has the advantage of having started last year. He started 15 games with 82 total tackles, three interceptions and five passes defended. Ashtyn Davis got the starting nod in five games last season but arguably made more plays in a smaller sample size with three interceptions and eight passes defended.

    Clark might be the biggest question mark. He was an effective starter in Baltimore for four years before the Jets traded for him last March. Unfortunately, a torn ACL in practice ended his season before it started.

    If he can return to full strength, he should be able to win a spot.

Philadelphia Eagles: Secondary

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    Kelee RingoCooper Neill/Getty Images

    The Philadelphia Eagles' secondary carried a significant amount of the blame for their late-season collapse in 2023. From Week 13 to the Super Bowl, the Eagles ranked 29th in EPA allowed per dropback.

    A variety of factors were involved. Defensive coordinator Sean Desai did not work out, and the pass rush wasn't as effective as it was in 2022, but the defensive backs didn't play well as a group either.

    The Eagles made aggressive moves to address the issue on all fronts. Vic Fangio is taking over as defensive coordinator, and the team signed Bryce Huff in hopes of improving the pass rush. Now the Eagles need to figure out who is going to play where in the secondary.

    James Bradberry was a major liability at corner last season. Head coach Nick Sirianni has told reporters he'll work some as a safety this year. They will also need to decide where versatile rookie Cooper DeJean plays. He's played outside corner and nickel in OTAs, but he could also play a deep safety if needed.

    The biggest battle will take place for the outside cornerback spot across Darius Slay. Quinyon Mitchell was the team's first-round pick, but Kelee Ringo has reportedly been getting first-team reps in OTAs and making some impressive plays.

    After last year's collapse, the Eagles will take as many young defensive backs stepping up as they can get.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Wide Receiver

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    Calvin Austin IIITimothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

    There are a lot of unknowns about the Pittsburgh Steelers offense heading into 2024. There's hope that the unit will be much improved. There's a new quarterback depth chart in place with Justin Fields backing up Russell Wilson, and Arthur Smith has a lot more credibility as an offensive coordinator than Matt Canada did by the end of his tenure.

    But one of the biggest unknowns is how the receiver hierarchy will play out. George Pickens is the No. 1 target. After that, it's up in the air.

    The Steelers took a low-cost, high-volume approach to adding to the position this offseason. After trading Diontae Johnson, they signed Van Jefferson, Scotty Miller and Quez Watkins to cheap contracts.

    That trio will join in-house options Calvin Austin III and Denzel Mims along with third-round draft pick Roman Wilson to establish the depth chart at the position.

    It's an interesting mix of veterans and potentially emergent talent. Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (h/t Ari Meyer of All Steelers) recently highlighted Jefferson, Watkins and Wilson as receivers who have done good things in OTAs.

    If the Steelers don't intend to bring in another veteran, this position battle will be pivotal. If Smith and Wilson are going to be able to resurrect their careers, they have to have reliable options outside of Pickens.

San Francisco 49ers: Cornerback

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    Deommodore LenoirRyan Kang/Getty Images

    The San Francisco 49ers' ability to get over the hump and win a Super Bowl lies in the play of their secondary.

    We know the offense is going to be good. Kyle Shanahan has too many weapons at his disposal for it to fail. The question is whether the defense will be able to stop opposing offenses when it matters most.

    That's hard to do without depth and solid answers at cornerback. Charvarius Ward was an All-Pro talent last season with five interceptions and 23 passes defended. Deommodore Lenoir was also a good starter with three picks and 10 passes defended. He also made 84 tackles playing in the slot.

    The trick is going to be finding the best starting combination and stacking the depth behind them.

    The Niners signed two experienced veterans to compete in Rock Ya-Sin and Isaac Yiadom. They also drafted Renardo Green in the second round.

    Green primarily played on the outside at Florida State, but Shanahan told reporters that he believes he's well-suited to play on the inside if necessary.

    That gives the Niners some flexibility if they believe that Lenoir might be able to play on the outside. However, if Ya-Sin or Yiadom looks good in camp, Green might end up being a utility depth piece.

    The Niners have some good candidates to fill the gaps, they just need to get it sorted out in camp.

Seattle Seahawks: Cornerback

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    Nehemiah PritchettSteph Chambers/Getty Images

    Mike Macdonald heads to Seattle with a reputation for being a great defensive mind. Everywhere he's been, he's helped put together dominant defenses.

    That will be his goal with the Seahawks, but he has to get the personnel right first.

    That's going to start with sorting out the cornerback group in his first year. Devon Witherspoon was one of the best slot corners in the league last season. It would make sense that he's going to stay there.

    The outside spots are where the intrigue is. Riq Woolen should have the inside track on one spot. He took a drastic step back in 2023, but he's one year removed from a rookie year in which he had six picks and held opposing passers to a 48.7 passer rating.

    Tre Brown and Mike Jackson are returning after each made starts last season. The two will compete to show they can learn and execute Macdonald's vision for the defense to secure the other corner spot.

    Nehemiah Pritchett and D.J. James are dark-horse candidates to move up the depth chart. The Seahawks took the Auburn duo in the fifth and sixth rounds respectively. Pritchett is especially interesting for the outside role given his length. At 6'0" with 31⅝" arms, he has the size and speed (4.36 40) to disrupt receivers downfield.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Cornerback

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    Tykee SmithCliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are yet another team that is going to be sorting through some changes in the secondary ahead of the season. The Bucs brought back Jordan Whitehead and extended Antoine Winfield Jr., so their starting safety tandem is locked in, but there are still roles in the cornerback room up for grabs.

    This battle became the most important for the Bucs the day they traded Carlton Davis. The 27-year-old was a relatively reliable starter, but the door is now open for some younger players to take on larger roles.

    Cornerbacks coach Kevin Ross set the tone ahead of OTAs:

    "This might be the most competitive camp we've had as far as corners go—who's starting, who's playing, this, that and the other."

    Jamel Dean is going to be one of the starters on the outside, but one outside spot and the slot role are yet to be determined.

    Zyon McCollum probably has a leg up on the competition. He played 70 percent of the snaps last season and made nine starts but was used as a safety as well as a corner. However, Bryce Hall is worth watching. He was stuck behind Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed with the New York Jets.

    The Bucs will continue to use versatile DBs to their advantage in 2024. Bucs beat reporter Scott Smith noted that Tykee Smith (listed as a safety), Christian Izien (also a safety) and Tavierre Thomas are all in the running to be the starting slot corner.

Tennessee Titans: Right Tackle

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    Nicholas Petit-FrereCourtney Culbreath/Getty Images

    The Tennessee Titans offensive line was one of the worst in the league last season. The team's top priority this season should be finding out if Will Levis can be the franchise quarterback.

    They won't be able to find that out without clean pockets to see what he can do.

    The biggest question mark on that offensive line is right tackle. The position was a pain point for the Titans until Chris Hubbard stabilized it to some extent. This year, the Titans will hope at least one of their young linemen are up to the challenge.

    This will likely be a three-man battle between Nicholas Petit-Frere, Jaelyn Duncan and Leroy Watson. Petit-Frere has the best draft pedigree as a third-rounder in the 2022 draft. A suspension for violating the league's policy on gambling and a shoulder injury limited him to 117 snaps last season.

    Duncan was a sixth-round pick in last year's draft and was probably forced to play before he was ready last season. He made 10 appearances with five starts and allowed nine sacks, per PFF.

    Leroy Watson is a former undrafted free agent who the Titans traded for. He was on the Cleveland Browns roster, where he worked with new Titans offensive line coach Bill Callahan.

    That connection could make him a sneaky contender, but a healthy Petit-Frere working with Callahan is still the most promising option.

Washington Commanders: Secondary

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    Emmanuel ForbesMichael Owens/Getty Images

    Commanders head coach Dan Quinn has said there's no timetable for naming his starting quarterback, but it feels inevitable it will be Jayden Daniels. His athleticism gives him a nice floor as a rookie, and we've seen quarterbacks with his running ability have success right away.

    That turns the focus to Quinn's specialty which is the secondary.

    The Commanders lost Kendall Fuller in free agency and ostensibly replaced him with Michael Davis. He had his struggles with the Chargers, but he's the most experienced player of the group, so he's a presumptive starter.

    The other outside position should be interesting. The Commanders used the No. 16 pick on Emmanuel Forbes in last year's draft, but there's a new front office in charge. He struggled to translate his game to the pros, giving up a passer rating of 103.0 and missing 15.6 percent of his tackle attempts.

    Benjamin St-Juste played better but doesn't have the same ceiling. He had 17 passes defended and limited opposing passers to an 87.3 rating but could only convert one pass into an interception.

    Quinn's Cowboys defenses were helped by corners who could create turnovers. If that's something he continues to favor, then Forbes could be the guy if he adjusts in Year 2. If not, it will likely be St-Juste again.

Every NFL Team's Most Important Training Camp Battle in 2024 (2024)


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