NFL training camp

2022 NFL Training Camp: Predicting the Top Positional Battles

Can Baker Mayfield win the Panthers' starting QB job from Sam Darnold?

2022 NFL Training Camp: Predicting the top positional battles originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Training camp season is here and it's time for football's brightest stars to battle it out for a roster spot. 

All 32 teams will be hitting the practice field this week and some of the top positional battles will ensue. While offensive positions will garner more attention, several teams are in need of their best defensive showing.

The quarterback battles remain the biggest headliners of training camp with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks looking to their signal-callers to prove themselves ahead of the 53-man roster-cut deadline on Aug. 30. 

Here are a few positional battles to look out for in this year's NFL training camp:

Quarterback:

Panthers: Baker Mayfield vs. Sam Darnold

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Earlier in the offseason, the Panthers publicly praised Darnold for being a much-improved quarterback that they see being productive in year two, but that was right before trading for Mayfield from the Cleveland Browns. While Darnold looked to be on his way to being the signal-caller of the Matt Rhule-led team, Mayfield may be running away with the position once he has a solid grasp of the playbook.

Seahawks: Geno Smith vs. Drew Lock

Smith has an advantage in this battle after filling in for Russell Wilson last season and producing three solid starts. The 31-year-old has already garnered trust from coach Pete Carroll and has been named the starter for the preseason opener. And while Lock, who was acquired from the Denver Broncos as part of the exchange for Wilson, has an age advantage on his side, this battle may be won by team experience. 

Steelers: Mitchell Trubisky vs. Kenny Pickett

Pickett was the only first-round quarterback pick in this year's NFL draft, and one of the only rookies that was looked at as one who had a chance to start and succeed early on. Coach Mike Tomlin said that the rookie will get his chance to earn the starting gig, even though the Steelers signed Trubisky in free agency. While Trubisky will look to be more productive in Pittsburgh than he was in Chicago, the starting position will rely heavily on what they see in Pickett.

Running Back:

Buffalo Bills: Devin Singletary vs. James Cook

This training camp battle features last year’s primary back in Singletary and a second-round rookie with elite pass-catching upside in Cook. While another RB candidate is 24-year-old Zack Moss, this race is looking like more of a two-person race than three. Singletary ended the 2021 season on a tear, scoring nine touchdowns over the team's last six games, but be on the lookout for Cook to begin chipping away at the RB spot.

Miami Dolphins: Sony Michel vs. Chase Edmonds vs. Raheem Mostert 

Miami’s running game struggled last season, ranking 30th in running back yards. But now they have a few options after bringing in Edmonds, Mostert and Michel via free agency this offseason. While Mostert is familiar with coach Mike McDaniel's system, Edmonds has the most pass-catching value after hauling in 96 receptions for 713 yards over the last two years with the Arizona Cardinals.

Dallas Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott vs. Tony Pollard 

While Elliott has already proven himself as a solid running back for the Cowboys, Pollard is closing in on becoming a bigger part of this offense with his explosiveness and speed. As Elliott enters his seventh season, he looks to suit up as a first string once the season rolls around, but Pollard isn’t very far behind.

Wide Receiver:

Golden Bay Packers: Christian Watson vs. Allen Lazard vs. Sammy Watkins

Davante Adams left huge shoes to fill after making an exit for the Las Vegas Raiders, and now the Packers are on the lookout for a receiver to fill the void. Lazard looks to be the leader of this three-man battle over Watson and Watkins. The 26-year-old receiver presents the strongest case with his ability and familiarity with Aaron Rodgers. 

Chiefs: Marquez Valdes-Scantling vs. Skyy Moore vs. Juju Smith-Schuster vs. Mecole Hardman

The signings of Valdes-Scantling and Smith-Schuster and the drafting of Moore helps in filling the void of Tyreke Hill after his exit to the Dolphins. While Smith-Schuster looks to make an explosive debut beside Patrick Mahomes, Hardman also looks to be another deep threat.

Linebacker:

Philadelphia Eagles: Nakobe Dean vs. T.J Edwards vs. Davion Taylor

Dean, who fell to the third round in this year’s draft, looks like a sure lock to start for the Eagles as a future star linebacker despite medical concerns. While Edwards and Taylor have veteran experience, they haven't been able to make their mark as solid starting linebackers after rotating throughout the season. The battle seems to be Dean’s to lose.

Safety:

Eagles: Marcus Epps vs. K’Von Wallace

The Eagles’ safety starting position could be Epps’ for the taking opposite Anthony Harris. The 25 year old is capable of playing a high level of the defensive snaps for the first time in his career. Wallace is also likely to get an increase in playing time in Jonathan Gannon’s defense as a third-year pro.

Outside Cornerback:

New England Patriots: Malcolm Butler vs. Jalen Mills vs. Terrance Mitchell vs. Jack Jones

The Patriots are looking to have at least one new starting cornerback in 2022 and they have a few top candidates to choose from. Mills, Mitchell and Butler are all in the running for the starting spot based on their experience making them solid veteran options atop the depth chart. But not far behind is rookie Jones who is also making a push to start.

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