NFL training camps are finally here as teams began reporting to facilities this week. That means that football games are right around the corner from being back. But, before we get to those games, teams have to figure out who will be playing in them.
Several hotly contested position battles will ensue in the coming weeks. There will be young players attempting to make a name for themselves and veterans looking to hold onto starting jobs they have had for years.
Which are some of the battles to keep an eye on? Here are five must-watch NFL training camp battles for 2021.
5. Nate Solder vs. Matt Peart, New York Giants
The New York Giants offensive line remains a question mark heading into 2021. The team spent a lot of capital to improve the weapons for Daniel Jones to throw to, but the question remains if he will be standing upright long enough to get the ball to them. Who will be the starting right tackle heading into the season?
Matt Peart was selected in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft and the Giants are high on him. Nate Solder was handed a massive contract in 2018 but has failed to live up to the deal. After a difficult 2019 season, he opted out of the 2020 season. What will he have to offer the team as a now 33-year old who took a year off?
Protecting Jones will be imperative for the Giants’ offense to reach the levels they are capable of getting to. Peart is the favorite, but the high-paid veteran will get a shot at a starting job with Andrew Thomas locked in as left tackle.
4. Jameis Winston vs. Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints
This offseason was the end of an era for the New Orleans Saints. Long-time starting quarterback Drew Brees retired, meaning another person will start the season under center in New Orleans since 2005.
Now, Sean Payton will turn to either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill at quarterback. Last season it was Hill who was tabbed as the starter when Brees went down with an injury. Will that be the case again for the 2021 season?
Winston has a big arm and led the NFL in passing yards just two years ago. If he can cut down on the turnovers, the Saints’ offense might become even more explosive with Brees’ arm strength deteriorating in recent seasons.
3. Kevin King vs. Eric Stokes, Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers secondary has one star in Jaire Alexander. Unfortunately, they have been unable to find a player to hold down the field opposite of him, as teams usually go away from him and pick on his cornerback partner.
Kevin King was the target of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the 2021 NFC Championship Game and was torched for two backbreaking touchdowns. The Packers used their first-round pick on Eric Stokes out of Georgia to help shore up the secondary.
Cornerback is a notoriously difficult position for rookies, but Green Bay needs someone to step up opposite of Alexander. Competing against each other should elevate both of their games and improve the team’s secondary.
2. Andy Dalton vs. Justin Fields, Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears made a big move during the 2021 NFL Draft, trading up to the No. 11 pick with the New York Giants to select Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. The Bears now have their new franchise quarterback, but when will we see him on the field?
Matt Nagy has insisted that Andy Dalton, whom the team signed this offseason, will be the starter come Week 1. For someone possibly coaching for his job, it is surprising that he would not go with the dynamic rookie from Day 1, but it shouldn’t be too long before Fields is under center as the team’s starting quarterback.
With Fields in the fold, Nick Foles’ time in Chicago is likely coming to an end as well.
1. Teddy Bridgewater vs. Drew Lock, Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos were actively seeking a quarterback upgrade this offseason. They were in on Deshaun Watson and were a popular prediction for Aaron Rodgers. The team was in a prime position to land one of the top prospects in this year’s class as well.
The Broncos landed Teddy Bridgewater in a trade with the Carolina Panthers, setting up the closest quarterback battle in training camp this summer. The veteran Bridgewater is a steady performer and Denver knows what they will get from him. Drew Lock is the high-risk, high-reward option. He has immense talent but has yet to put it together.
To compete in the competitive AFC West, the Broncos are going to have to score points. Whichever quarterback they think will help them do that will get the call as the starter in Week 1.