Manny and I decided to tackle the conversation of BIGGEST, MOST OVERRATED, and UNDERRATED camp battles in NFL Training Camps around the league. Sure, ESPN gives you a mainstream perspective, but we provide pure insight from a personal standpoint. Take it from us, we know our football.
Manny- New York Jets QB Situation: Mark Sanchez vs. Geno Smith
This is a very much publicized battle for the New York Jets. The Jets brass seems to be fed up with the way the team has been performing on the offensive side of the ball and spent the 39th pick of last year’s draft on Smith. Reports from camp are saying this is Sanchez’s job to lose and he’s lucky with that. Over his career with the Jets, Sanchez has posted 55.5% completion rate with 68 touchdowns and 69 interceptions. Now he’s staring Geno Smith in the face with every rep he takes. Smith is a talented gunslinger with the speed to change a defensive coordinators plan of attack. Sanchez may retain the starter role due to his experience and time with the team, but Smith is too talented an athlete to keep off the field. Look for Smiths play number to steadily increase as the season moves along, and do not be surprised if he’s starting by week 5.
Winner: Mark Sanchez
Phil– St. Louis Rams RB Trio: Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead, and Zac Stacy
The New York Jets Quarterback battle seems to be the highly publicized favorite for biggest camp battle. Though Geno Smith has a stellar skill-set and cannon for an arm, its Sanchez’s job to lose–Rex Ryan has the tattoo to prove it. The St. Louis Running Back battle is one that may last all of camp or all of the season. Jeff Fisher has come out to the media stating that he has no hesitation in regularly using all three halfbacks this season. They all have their own unique running game and abilities. While Daryl Richardson gives us a one-cut, fight for yardage, Isaiah Pead poses a shifty threat to defenders with his horizontal quickness and ability to shake. Stacy, the four-year starter and rookie from Vanderbilt, may have the most to prove. He’s coming into a new system, and as the low man on the totem pole (insert rookie hazing here). Out of the three, I like Richardson the best because of his pure, traditional running abilities at the halfback position, but I expect to see Pead out on the field quite a bit as the Rams try to shake things up with a size and speed tandem duo.
Winner: Shared time with Richardson starting
Manny- Philadelphia Eagles QB Battle: Mike Vick vs. Nick Foles vs. Matt Barkley
I don’t understand why this is a battle. Personally I feel like this is a waste of time to even talk about. But for some reason, the football world is intrigued by this situation. I’ve read, in multiple instances, that the buzz around Philly is all about Nick Foles. Did I miss something here? This is a player who went 1-6 as a starter, and threw 6 touchdowns to 5 interceptions. At least in my eyes, this really wasn’t impressive enough to earn a starting spot. And yes, I remember the 4th quarter game winning drive against Tampa Bay. But I also remember a weak, inaccurate deep ball. With a depleted receiving core and a questionable defense, there is no way in my mind they go with Foles. While Matt Barkley is being mentioned as a dark horse candidate to win the starting gig, I don’t see a 1st year coach putting his reputation behind a fourth-round rookie. Mike Vick seems the most fit for the scheme in Philly. Yes, his accuracy has come into question in the past but the medium range passes he has struggled with should be few and far in-between. Chip Kelly will implement a quick hitting, up-tempo offense tailored to Vicks’ strengths and weapons. This is Vick’s job to lose, and that will only happen if he gets hurt. I said “if”, not “when.”
Winner: Mike Vick
Phil– Philadelphia Eagles QB Battle: Mike Vick vs. Nick Foles vs. Matt Barkley
Manny and I see eye-to-eye on many things, especially when it comes to football. To me, this is a clear-cut choice for the system that Chip Kelly plans on running. With his high-powered, high-speed offense, he’s going to use the guys he can get the most out of. With Vick, Kelly can depend on not only quickness, but also his arm strength, whereas the other two are one-dimensional quarterbacks. Over more recent years, Vick hasn’t been as durable or accurate as he was prior to his dog fighting days, but I’m predicting he’ll be back this season in old Atlanta form. He still has plenty left in the tank, but the number of targets he has is slowly dwindling with Maclin tearing his ACL and Cooper being a racist and all. Look for Mike to make plays in old-Vick form.
Winner: Mike Vick
Manny- Detroit Lions Running Backs: Mikel Leshoure vs. Joique Bell
This one is more of a fantasy based battle and it’s something I haven’t seen anywhere. For an offense that is going to move the ball through the air a lot this season, Mikel Leshoure is being taken late in drafts as a handcuff to Reggie Bush. The problem I see here is Leshoure lacked the explosion needed last season to solidify him as a power back. Also Joique Bell quietly totaled 899 all-purpose yards last season with 52 receptions. Word out of camp is Leshoure has yet to become the same player he was pre-Achilles surgery. Add that to the quick hitting, spread offense the Lions run and it doesn’t look good. Bell is a powerful, shifty runner with soft hands. All attributes Detroit is looking for out of a running back. Fantasy wise, Bell should be on your radar as a handcuff at minimum with the upside of a flex possibility down the line. Sorry Mikel, your death warrant was signed when the Lions drafted you in the second round. They never seem to get that round right.
Winner: Joique Bell
Phil- New England Patriots Wide Receivers: Michael Jenkins, Aaron Dobson, Julian Edelman
All of the buzz around the Patriots over the past few weeks has been negative. Between Gronk getting surgery on his back and forearm, Aaron Hernandez awaiting murder charges, and the continuous Tim Tebow media frenzy, the Pats have had little positive exposure throughout the media. One thing you can be sure of, Tom Brady finds a way to win, no matter what cards he’s dealt. Easily one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history and a sure-fire Hall of Famer, Brady can make something out of nothing. Bringing in veterans Amendola and Jenkins will help ease the transition of young players and the loss of those to prison systems. Amendola is basically a mini-me, younger version of Wes Welker (whom Tom has had amazing success with), and Jenkins is a big-bodied, experienced wide receiver. Not to mention, Julian Edelman, a guy who is a seasoned vet and has been in Belichek’s system for awhile (I still expect him to keep his lesser role at the WR4 or WR5 position). Though the addition of the two is great, my favorite guy coming out of camp is Aaron Dobson. Drafted in the second round out of Marshall by the Patriots this past April, Dobson stands tall and lean at 6’4 205 pounds. Like another guy from Marshall, Aaron reminds me a lot of Randy Moss, a guy Brady is real familiar with. Moss had almost 50 touchdowns and averaged about 1,250 yards receiving in three seasons with New England and his buddy Tommy Salami. Dobson has similar size, speed, and tenacity as Moss and it gives Brady another big target on the outside. Look for huge gains, big breakthroughs, and big points from these two. Calling it now.
Winner: Aaron Dobson
That wraps up our quick take on the 2013 NFL Training Camp Battles. Look for Manny and I to team up and share our insight throughout the NFL season. Cheer up, kiddos. Football’s back.