NFC training camp battles: Josh Rosen to start Week 1?


I've already rolled through the top position battles in the AFC. The NFC's list is below.

1) Arizona Cardinals quarterback: Sam Bradford vs. Josh Rosen vs. Sam Bradford's knee

With no truly open quarterback competition in the NFC, this choice is a bit of a cheat. Bradford should be the Week 1 starter if healthy, but that's a huge if for a player who missed nearly all of last season with a mysterious knee injury that the Vikings never quite figured out. Rosen could be the league's most pro-ready rookie quarterback and it might only take one small slip in Bradford's health (or play) for the Cardinals to fast-forward to the future.

2) Washington Redskins running back: Derrius Guice vs. Rob Kelley vs. Samaje Perine

Jay Gruden, now the longest-tenured coach in the Dan Snyder era (!), picks up a new big back every season. After cranking through Alfred Morris, Matt Jones, Kelley and Perine, the Redskins snagged Guice in the second round of this year's draft. The LSU product has the aggression and talent to end the search, pairing up with passing-down back Chris Thompson to form an intriguing duo. First, though, Guice will have to beat out a pair of holdovers who struggled to overcome Washington's injured offensive line last year.

3) Dallas Cowboys middle linebacker: Jaylon Smith vs. Leighton Vander Esch

Smith's recovery from his devastating college knee injury was a fantastic story last year, one that he hopes takes the next step with improved explosiveness on the field in 2018. But he could wind up moving outside to be a part-time player if the Cowboys' first-round pick, Vander Esch, fulfills some of those Brian Urlacher comparisons being thrown his way.

4) Green Bay Packers running back: Jamaal Williams vs. Aaron Jones vs. Ty Montgomery

If these running backs were Major League Baseball pitching prospects, Williams would be the innings eater. Jones has filthy stuff, but needs to develop more pitches after he returns from a two-game suspension. Montgomery throws gas, but should probably be converted to a reliever.

5) New Orleans Saints wide receiver: Cameron Meredith vs. Ted Ginn Jr. vs. Brandon Coleman vs. Tre'Quan Smith

Saints coach Sean Payton usually finds a way of carving out roles for receivers that defy traditional "No. 2" or "No. 3" designations. (For example, Coleman played more snaps last year than Ginn, who produced like the Saints' second wideout as a pure deep threat.) Meredith makes the most money of any receiver on the roster, including Michael Thomas, so he'll be given every chance to prove he's recovered from the ACL injury that sidelined him in Chicago last year. Don't discount Smith's chances to make an impact as a vertical playmaker.

6) Seattle Seahawks running back: Chris Carson vs. Rashaad Penny

Conventional wisdom would suggest that the Seahawks start Penny from the jump after taking him in the first round. Pete Carroll is nothing if not unconventional, and the early word is that this is 2017 seventh-round pick Chris Carson's job to lose. Recent history at the position in Seattle suggests he probably will do just that.

7) Green Bay Packers cornerback: Tramon Williams vs. Kevin King vs. Jaire Alexander vs. Josh Jackson

I'm fascinated to see what new coordinator Mike Pettine does with this group. King, Alexander and Jackson are all premium picks from the last two drafts with the athleticism to turn a long-running team weakness into a strength.

8) Detroit Lions running back: LeGarrette Blount vs. Kerryon Johnson vs. Theo Riddick vs. Ameer Abdullah

Most analysts believe Abdullah will be the odd man out. That's probably how the Lions envision the position shaking out, too, but Blount's career has been too uneven and Johnson is too unproven to assume anything. This is a group that screams committee, and Abdullah might still be the most talented runner.

9) Seattle Seahawks defense free-for-all

The linebacker positions are set, with Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright forming the backbone of the Seahawks' defense. Nearly everything else is up for grabs in Pete Carroll's final opportunity to reinvent himself. Reclamation projects like Dion Jordan and Marcus Smith could start at defensive end. Tedric Thompson has lined up as the starting free safety with Earl Thomas staying away from camp. More than half of the starting defense will likely turn over from last season, with youngsters like cornerback Shaquill Griffin and nose tackle Jarran Reed needing to step up in class.

10) Dallas Cowboys wide receiver: Allen Hurns vs. Terrance Williams vs. Cole Beasley vs. Michael Gallup vs. Tavon Austin

Beasley should get plenty of time in the slot despite disappearing for much of the 2017 season. That leaves Hurns, Williams, Austin and Gallup, a third-round rookie, to fight for the rest of the snaps. At training camp on Thursday, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan sounded high on Austin's versatility and Gallup's ability to make plays in the red zone. Austin took a surprising amount of first-team snaps on the outside Thursday, so the Cowboys appear to be yet another staff convinced they can turn his career around. This is a group that looks incomplete, still waiting for an in-camp trade or a pickup from another team's roster cuts.

11) Green Bay Packers backup quarterback: DeShone Kizer vs. Brett Hundley

If Mike McCarthy is truly a quarterback guru, he should be able to improve a player with Kizer's significant skill set. The Packers head coach already showed he doesn't know what to do with Hundley.

12) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver: Christian Kirk vs. Brice Butler vs. Chad Williams vs. J.J. Nelson

This is a wide-open competition for a starting job opposite Larry Fitzgerald, which would be a pretty cool thing to tell your grandkids about. Kirk is a logical fit in the slot, with last year's third-round pick (Williams) attracting some notice in the offseason.

13) Minnesota Vikings wide receiver: Kendall Wright vs. Laquon Treadwell

I'm captain of the "Kendall Wright is a nifty, underrated player" team, a misanthropic group with too much time on its hands. He could make noise as the No. 3 option behind Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Treadwell might have already been released if Minnesota hadn't used a first-round pick on him.

14) Carolina Panthers wide receiver: D.J. Moore vs. Torrey Smith vs. Jarius Wright vs. Curtis Samuel

There aren't many rookies with more pressure to perform immediately than Moore. Smith brings leadership, but this is a group with very little certainty fighting for snaps behind a No. 1 receiver in Devin Funchess with plenty to prove.

15) Arizona Cardinals cornerback: Jamar Taylor vs. Brandon Williams vs. Lou Young vs. Jonathan Moxey

I wrote this a year ago: "Arizona's annual exercise in futility to find someone to start opposite Patrick Peterson has almost turned into a running bit, opposing teams eager to expose the new guy with target after target." Only Williams has returned from the 2017 battle.

16) Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback: Vernon Hargreaves III vs. Ryan Smith vs. M.J. Stewart vs. Carlton Davis

Stewart and Davis provide the upside of rookies, but this position group looks like Brent Grimes and a bunch of players who will give up a lot of yards to NFC South quarterbacks this season.

17) Green Bay Packers wide receiver: Geronimo Allison vs. J'Mon Moore vs. Marquez Valdes-Scantling vs. Equanimeous St. Brown

This is a draftnik's special, with every Mayockolyte having a favorite of the three late-round rookies who will battle with Allison for the No. 3 wideout role.

18) San Francisco 49ers edge rusher: Cassius Marsh vs. Jeremiah Attaochu

If you are looking for a crack in the 49ers hype train, look at the team's relative lack of edge-rushing options.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.