25. Kicker battles!
We're coming out of the gates swinging. Rookie Caleb Sturgis and former Pro Bowl selection Dan Carpenter already are battling in Miami, where the two kickers are taking turns day-by-day. (Pity the Sturgis fan who shows up on a Carpenter day.) ... In Cleveland, Brandon Bogotay battles Shayne Graham in the battle to decide which player the fans resent for not being Phil Dawson. ... Rian Lindell will try to keep his job in Buffalo over Dustin Hopkins.
The Ravens are stretching Jacoby Jones by asking him to be a No. 2 receiver, an experiment that is off to a rough start. The No. 3 spot lacks a great option, with David Reed, rookie Aaron Mallette, Tommy Streeter and Deonte Thompson in the mix. We like Mallette as a sleeper. We also like the chances that the Ravens find a veteran at some point.
Journeyman Alan Ball and rookie third-round draft pick Dwayne Gratz are the starters in theory. But Mike Harris, Marcus Trufant and a gang of other players who are tested as NFL starters also are in the mix. New coach Gus Bradley did great work with the Seattle Seahawks' secondary, and now he will have to work his magic here.
Hilton is one of our favorite breakout choices. DHB offers speed but has questionable instincts and hands as a wide receiver. Both players will be on the field plenty because the Colts love flooding the field with wideouts.
The Colts made Avery look like a new man last season, but they weren't that interested in keeping him. Baldwin is an annual offseason all-star who is due to make a bigger impact.
Brown, the team's hand-picked successor to Ray Lewis, should start on Day 1. McClain needs to show he's healthy enough to grab the other spot.
Fantasy leaguers assume that Jake Ballard is the favorite to start, but he is coming off a very serious injury. Daniel Fells is the better bet to start, while Michael Hoomanawanui and undrafted rookie Zach Sudfeld also could earn snaps. The Patriots could go from the two tight end offense to the zero tight end offense. Then again ...
Releasing Donald Jones didn't exactly clear things up. After Danny Amendola, the team has rookies Josh Boyce, Aaron Dobson and impressive undrafted free agent Kenbrell Thompkins vying for snaps. Veteran Michael Jenkins lined up as a starter in the offseason. We like Julian Edelman's chances of emerging.
Jordan is the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, and Odrick was a first-round draft pick in 2010, but Vernon actually might be the favorite here. Jordan will be brought along slowly, and Odrick also will play inside.
Smith signed a huge contract as a free agent, but he lined up in the offseason as a nickel back behind Robinson. It's a good problem for the Chiefs to have.
Let's assume that Donald Brown is just fighting for scraps here. Ballard proved he's a complete, workmanlike back as a rookie. Bradshaw offers a higher ceiling if he can stay healthy. This looks like a committee, either way.
The Jaguars' brass publicly has supported Gabbert all offseason, but actions speak louder. Gabbert and Henne have split practice reps equally; Henne has a real shot to win this thing.
The rumor mill hasn't been kind to Smith, but we'd exercise caution in naming Sanchez the winner. The last two years of game film matters a lot more than practice reports.
We assume Ball will get the call, but he has to prove he can handle the role. As Moreno knows well, not every highly drafted running back lives up to expectations.
I'm fascinated to see coach Doug Marrone's offense in the NFL, and I'm intrigued to see how quickly Manuel can adapt to the pro level. This is a legitimate 50-50 competition, which is rare at quarterback. Yes, the 2013 Buffalo Bills are interesting!