The contenders: Matt Johnson, Will Allen, and JJ Wilcox appear to be the prime candidates with a darkhorse of Jakari Hamilton. Allen is the wily old vet, he has seen a thing or two and won’t fall for the old banana in the tailpipe trick. Johnson is the mystery man from last year, he is a guy who made the roster after being available for two or three practices. I don’t know what he did in those practices but it must have been really impressive. Wilcox is the guy who has played safety for one year, but seems to have a nose for the ball, according to early reports. Hamilton is the free agent from SC state. I wonder if he might have a little Michael Downs in him.
The pick: I will go with Johnson to start the season. They think they have something magical in this guy, I hope they are right. Wilcox will get some time somewhere before the year is out also.
2. GuardThe contenders: Livings, Bernie Mac, Killer K, Leary, and the C competition loser. We saw what Livings had to offer last year, the definition of mediocre, at his age he is not going to get better. Bernie Mac may get better if he can stay healthy. He can bench press a house, but appears to have the same dancing skills as me (i.e.- his feet are both of the southpaw variety). Medical issues may have limited him more last year early he seemed to get a little better late. I am not sure what we have in the Killer, but we will see. Leary is also a mystery, but perhaps the most intriguing one on the interior line. Early reports are good, but really how much can you tell about o-line without pads. I think if Freddy loses the Center battle he ends up here at guard, I don’t think the same is true of Costa.
The picks: Bernie Mac and Leary, just a hunch.
The contenders: Frederick vs Costa. Freddy is the first rounder, Costa the free agent. Beard quality is not even close, Freddy by a mile. On the field it may be closer, but I still think Freddy gets it.
The pick: Freddy, 1st rounders play.
4. 3rd WR
The contenders: Williams vs Harris. This one is a good one. We have a couple of guys who brings some different traits to the table. Williams has height and good speed, Harris has quickness and is entering the magical third year. I think they want Williams to get it as he offers more long term.
The pick: They both will play a lot. My guess is Williams gets his shots but Harris ends up being more dependable this year.
5. Right Tackle
The contenders: Free and Parnell. I think the weight of the big contract was too much for Free. The reduction in contract and accompanying expectations may be just the ticket to get him going again. He showed he could play prior to getting the big bucks, hopefully he still can. Parnell is intriguing, he has some great athletic ability, but not a lot of experience.
The pick: I think Free gets first shot here, but if he falters, they will be quick to make a change.
6. 2nd TE
The contenders: Hanna and Escobar. Hanna has more experience and much better speed. Escobar has outstanding hands and great size. I think there is something really special in both of these guys, just different in each. I think they find ways to use both.
The pick: They both play, but Hanna gets more time. I think Hanna gets some time in the backfield as the default fullback as they won’t keep a real one.
7. SAM LB
The contenders: Durant, Albright, Sims, and Holloman. Durant is the FA signee, he has some athleticism and is happy to have escaped Detroit. Albright is the man of many trades, likely master of none. Sims is the street FA from last year, he played well under the circumstances. Holloman is the former college safety who got too big and became a LB.
The pick: Durant has the experience and skills to take this spot and make it his.
Well those are the ones I will be watching closely as training camp kicks off. Most of these positions have some skill to choose from and I feel like the team is not just settling for the least likely to suck out loud. I am sure there are other battles to watch, nickle CB comes to mind, with OTA standout Webb vs Scandrick. Comments are always appreciated.