Position battles pockmark the entire NFL landscape this off-season. Which ones could prove the most important and entertaining?
Cleveland Browns – QB – Brian Hoyer vs. Johnny Manziel
There probably won’t be a more advertised and examined position battle in 2014 than the quarterback derby the Cleveland Browns roll out. On the one side is veteran Brian Hoyer, who won three games for the team last year and is trusted by the coaches. On the other is fan favorite and college superstar Johnny Manziel. How those two perform in training camp and the preseason may draw playoff type reactions on Twitter, which makes it entertaining if nothing else.
St. Louis Rams – RB – Zac Stacy vs. Tre Mason
Zac Stacy was in the right place at the right time for the St. Louis Rams last season. With their running game struggling and the team 1-3, he was inserted as the starter. He finished the season with 973 yards and seven touchdowns. The Rams managed to finish out their schedule 6-6. Stacy figures to get the nod again, but the presence of Tre Mason, who practically carried Auburn to the national championship game, makes it interesting. His versatility as a receiver is definitely worth noting while Stacy will have an advantage in pass protection. Each has his NFL merit, so it may come down to who executes better.
Pittsburgh Steelers – WR – Markus Wheaton vs. Martavis Bryant
He only caught six passes in 12 games for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2013, but expectations are for second-year man Markus Wheaton to step in and replace departed veteran Emmanuel Sanders. It’s a fair assumption, but by no means will the job be handed to him. Buzz has been building recently around rookie 4th round pick Martavis Bryant who features a 6’4″ frame with good hands and acrobatic catching ability. He’s raw, but the alure of what he brings the offense could be enough to warrant his supplanting Wheaton as Sanders’ replacement.
New York Giants – DE – Damontre Moore vs. Robert Ayers
The departure of Justin Tuck has left a considerable hole at defensive end opposite Jason Pierre-Paul for the New York Giants to fill. Hopes are high that second-year man Damontre Moore is ready to step up in his place like Tuck did for Michael Strahan those years ago. However, Moore is not the only card the Giants have to play. Their signing of veteran Robert Ayers who was very productive for five seasons in Denver gives them a chance to add competition. Considering how important their pass rush is to the defense, this NFL battle is huge.
Oakland Raiders – OLB – Sio Moore vs. Miles Burris
Khalil Mack is the heir apparent for the Oakland Raiders at strong side linebacker, which seemed like a perfect time for them to move Sio Moore to the weak side where he played in college. Moore, after all played very well at strong in 2013 with 50 tackles and 4.5 sacks. What could happen when he heads back to his natural position? Apparently not as much as hoped. Moore has struggled with the transition thus far for the Raiders, allowing former starter Miles Burris a chance to steal the job back after missing most of last season with injury. It’s a rather shocking development, but also eye-opening and worth tracking.