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10 things we learned from rookie minicamps

When is a quarterback battle not really a competition?

Six NFL squads conducted rookie minicamps over the weekend (49ers, Chargers, Chiefs, Redskins, Saints, Titans) with the most interesting battle pitting Tennessee Titans rookie Marcus Mariota versus second-year quarterback Zach Mettenberger.

The battle, however, seemed over the moment the Titans handed in a draft card with Mariota's name.

From the initital draft weekend press conference, the Titans' front office has indicated the plan is for the rookie to win the gig.

Nothing this week deviates from that notion.

Ken Whisenhunt said the plan was for Mariota to get the majority of reps with the first-team leading up to the season. Then the coach gushed about the rookie's ability after just the first day of rookie camp, praising the quarterback's intelligence in handling the huddle and working from under center.

Mettenberger told ESPN this week he plans to "fight to the death" to win the starting gig.

Barring injury or a preseason implosion, the deck is stacked against the incumbent. Many jobs in Tennessee are riding on Mariota leading the Titans out of the AFC South cellar in 2015.

Some other notes from this week's minicamps:

  1. Speaking of Mariota, the quarterback's reps and the Titans are set to begin negotiations on a contract Monday, per Pro Football Talk. The No. 2 overall pick is the only player in the top-seven not yet under contract.
  1. Over at Chargers' camp, first-round pick Melvin Gordon showed why the team was so amped to move up in the draft and select the workhorse back, per U-T San Diego's Michael Gehlken. The running back displayed speed and deftness in making defenders miss.

Chargers second-round linebacker Denzel Perrymanworked out at inside linebacker. He could be in a battle to bump Donald Butler from the starting rotation.

  1. Saints coach Sean Payton unleashed a cascade of praise about first-round offensive lineman Andrus Peat. According to Payton, the rookie could have the chance to steal the starting right tackle gig. Wherever he plays along the line, the Saints will start the five best blockers in front of Drew Brees.
  1. Redskins first-round pick Brandon Scherff is penciled in by most as Washington's Day 1 starting right tackle. Coach Jay Gruden praised Sherff, but he admitted that like any rookie, Scherff will have his struggles.

"He's going to have to take some lumps, but the good thing about Brandon is he's a very focused individual," said Gruden, per CSN Washington. "He studies very hard, he takes coaching extremely well and he's got the best coach to coach him up. But I think you see the progress from yesterday morning to yesterday afternoon to today, it's a significant change for him already. And I think he's going to continue to get better."

  1. Gruden wouldn't rule out bruising rookie runner Matt Jones from cutting into Alfred Morris' carries.

"The thing about Matt is you think of him as a big power-type back, but really Matt has done some things out in space that have been very, very impressive -- making moves on the second level, getting to the second level," said Gruden.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs second-round pick Mitch Morse is in line to win the starting center position. The rookie relayed that minicamp is his first lengthy work at the pivot position since 2012.
  1. 49ers coach Jim Tomsula heaped praise on running back Jarryd Hayne, who is attempting to make the roster after a star-studded career as an Australian rugby player. Hayne could be in line for the Niners' starting punt return duties -- if he makes the squad.
  1. The Broncos hope that first-round pick Shane Ray can start working out at least part time starting Monday. The pass-rusher is dealing with a "variation of turf toe." Ray said at the draft his foot won't be an issue this season.
  1. Many veterans choose to participate in voluntary offseason workouts and to help educate rookies. Not all do, however. Ndamukong Suh made a brief appearance at the Dolphins' first workouts in April, but has since been absent from Miami. This isn't new for Suh, who prefers to work out on his own during the offseason. Second-year defensive tackle A.J. Francis isn't upset that Suh is not around, telling the Palm Beach Post it's Suh's right to skip voluntary workouts.

Just as it's every veteran's right to skip voluntary workouts, for whatever reason.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast welcomes Lindsay Rhodes to discuss the Patriots' response in the "Deflategate" saga and the latest names revealed on the "The Top 100 Players of 2015" countdown. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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