In the NFL, around 80 men are on each team's roster at the start of training camp. But only 53 will make the team, another eight will be relegated to the practice squad and anywhere from one to four players will inevitably be placed on injured reserve or the PUP (physically unable to perform) list. That means 15 to 20 players will be cut at the end of camp.
The camp battles for starting spots are more intriguing than figuring out who will make the team. As always, there are camp battles on every team because coaches love competition at every position. Here are the top 10 camp battles to keep a close eye on in the next few weeks and 10 other battles to keep in mind.
1. Cleveland Browns: Quarterback
At the moment, Brady Quinn appears to have a leg up on Derek Anderson to win the starting job. However, new coach Eric Mangini did not draft Quinn, and could allow this competition to go back and forth throughout training camp. Anderson has more experience and a stronger arm. Quinn is the people's choice. The Browns can't afford to make a mistake in this selection, or the franchise may be set back another five years.
2. New England Patriots: Outside linebacker
The Patriots appeared to be in the market for a veteran outside linebacker all offseason, but no one turned up in a trade, free agency or draft. Now it appears up to Shawn Crable, Pierre Woods and Tully Banta-Cain to fight it out for the right to line up opposite Adalius Thomas in a very critical position that needs to generate 10 sacks.
3. Minnesota Vikings: Wide receiver
With 53 receptions last season, Bobby Wade was the Vikings' leading receiver. Entering training camp, Wade faces a very tough battle with an emerging Sidney Rice and more importantly, first-round pick Percy Harvin. Harvin will be schemed into this offense and it should take practice reps away from Wade. Wade is a veteran who will not go away easily, and it should provide for excellent camp competition. Also keep an eye on Jaymar Johnson, a little known first-year receiver from Jackson State.
4. Atlanta Falcons: Safety
Last year, Lawyer Milloy ran the secondary from his customary safety spot. However, Milloy is no longer on the roster. Now second-year player Thomas DeCoud will battle rookie William Moore for a starting job. In a division with the Saints' potent passing attack and the Panthers' strong running game, this is a critical battle if the Falcons hope to have back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history.
5. Green Bay Packers: Right tackle
Mark Tauscher, the long-time starting right tackle of the Packers, was lost to injury. The Packers will let Allen Barbre, Breno Giacomini and fourth-round pick T.J. Lang fight it out for the starting spot. Michael Oher was still on the draft board when they chose defensive tackle B.J. Raji in the first round, which means they feel one of these tackles will be able to protect Aaron Rodgers and open up holes for the running game.
6. New Orleans Saints: Cornerback
The Saints will score points, but can they slow opponents down with their defense? Because New Orleans scores fast and furious, teams have to play catch up and that means more pass attempts. The pass rush is suspect, so it is critical that the corners can play. Jabari Greer was brought in to compete with Randall Gay and Tracy Porter for the starting corner jobs. One will be the nickel and the other two will start. Regardless, teams will be throwing at the two starters often. The preseason should tell fans quite a bit about how the Saints corners will respond.
7. Tennessee Titans: Defensive tackle
The Titans passed on re-signing Albert Haynesworth, who got a $100 million deal from the Redskins. Instead, the Titans opted to sign Jovan Haye away from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Haye will compete for a starting defensive tackle job with Jason Jones, who really flashed some talent last year in a limited role. Haynesworth had the ability to make everyone around him better, and Tennessee rarely had to blitz to apply pressure to opposing quarterbacks. It remains to be seen if either one of these tackles can do what Haynesworth did at tackle. If Tennessee wants to win the division and once again have the best regular-season record in the NFL, Haye or Jones has to deliver.
8. San Diego Chargers: Safety
The Chargers' safeties didn't play particularly well last year, as the Chargers ranked a dismal 31st in the NFL against the pass. I have heard from multiple sources that sixth-round pick, Kevin Ellison, is prepared to give Eric Weddle and Clinton Hart a run for the starting job at safety.
9. Baltimore Ravens: Running back
Willis McGahee is a solid veteran running back, who could start for a lot of teams. This year, McGahee faces a serious challenge from second-year man Ray Rice. Rice was a draft pick of the John Harbaugh staff, while McGahee was left over from the previous staff. Both will surely play, but the role of starter is up for grabs. McGahee may not like being in Baltimore if he loses this battle.
10. San Francisco 49ers: Quarterback
Entering this season with a 7-3 record as a starter, Shaun Hill is the frontrunner in the 49ers' QB race. Alex Smith, the former No. 1 overall draft pick, restructured his contract and is ready to compete for the starting spot. Smith will get his shot this summer, and there are some who feel he is finally emotionally ready to win the job. The first thing coach Mike Singeltary did when he took over last year was replace J.T. O'Sullivan with Hill, but Singletary likes the competition. He will give Smith a fair chance to play his way back into the lineup.
Honorable mention: Other key battles
Keep an eye on the following battles as well: 1. Rashard Mendenhall vs. Willie Parker in Pittsburgh; 2. Matt Roth vs. Jason Taylor in Miami; 3. Fred Taylor vs. Laurence Maroney in New England; 4. Mark Sanchez vs. Kellen Clemens in New York; 5. Xavier Adibi vs. Cato June in Houston; 6. Matthew Stafford vs. Daunte Culpepper in Detroit; 7. Patrick Crayton vs. Austin Miles in Dallas; 8. JaMarcus Russell vs. Jeff Garcia in Oakland; 9. Brian Robiskie vs. Mohamed Massaquoi in Cleveland; 10. Eugene Monroe vs. Tony Pashos or Tra Thomas in Jacksonville.