Training camp is finally almost here. They allow tackling there and everything. Around the League will count down the top 30 position battles to watch throughout the preseason.
I love training camp. For news junkies, you learn more in two days of camp than you did during the two months of organized team activities and minicamp combined. The rest of the offseason is about learning. Camp is about competing.
This is the first in our series counting down the top 30 position battles. That number may sound high, but my original list had roughly 47. Sadly, the San Diego Chargers' kicker battle (Nate Kaeding vs. Nick Novak) didn't make the cut. The Philadelphia Eagles' battle of cousins for one starting linebacker spot (Jamar Chaney vs. Brian Rolle) got left out. Even the New England Patriots' compelling competition between Dont'a Hightower and veteran Rob Ninkovich got left out because, well, Bill Belichick isn't about "starters." Every play, every week is a different formation.
I tried to choose battles with something important at stake. With that out of the way, let's get this thing started:
• This wouldn't have made the list before Marshawn Lynch's arrest. Suddenly the identity of Seattle's backup running back is crucial.
• Don't assume that Lynch will be suspended just yet. It's possible NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell won't view Lynch as a repeat offender after more than three years of staying out of trouble. It's also possible Lynch's suspension could come during the middle of the regular season rather than the start.
• Coach Pete Carroll's problem is that he won't know Lynch's status. That's why "TBA" is listed as a candidate here. The Seahawks are very thin at the position after Turbin, a fourth-round pick, and Washington, who is more of a returner. (Washington has 80 carries in two seasons with the Seahawks.) Don't be surprised if Seattle takes a look at Cedric Benson, Ryan Grant or any other veteran back on the market.
• Turbin, a Utah State product, will be the favorite to start Week 1 if Lynch is suspended. He's a downhill power runner in the mold of a young Marion Barber, with some ability to play on passing downs. It's a lot to ask a rookie to handle starting duties with a crucial early slate (@ Arizona Cardinals, vs. Dallas Cowboys, vs. Green Bay Packers), but running back is the most fungible position in the league. The Seahawks should be fine.