As the NFL preseason schedule hits full throttle this week, heated position battles for all 32 teams will be decided in games and training camp as kickoff for the 2022 season draws near.
Some of the competitions will have huge implications for fantasy football fans — especially the undecided QB battles.
The Carolina Panthers have an open quarterback competition between Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold. The Pittsburgh Steelers expect Mitch Trubisky to open the season as QB1, but he could be pushed by Mason Rudolph and first-round selection Kenny Pickett.
The New England Patriots, New York Jets, Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals have interesting cornerback competitions brewing, and the Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs are trying to determine the pecking order at running back.
NFL Nation reporters break down the biggest competitions in training camp for all 32 teams.
After wide receiver Cole Beasley was released this offseason, Isaiah McKenzie has emerged as the leading candidate to take his spot at slot receiver. Free agent addition Jamison Crowder missed a significant portion of camp with a lower-extremity issue, which leaves him behind in the battle. He will have to impress for the rest of camp and the preseason to keep up with McKenzie. — Alaina Getzenberg
It’s difficult to call this a battle, because carries will be split in the Dolphins’ crowded backfield no matter what. The “battle” is for the lion’s share of reps between Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert and Sony Michel — with Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed and ZaQuandre White all fighting for a roster spot. Right now, it appears to be in that order, but the preseason games will offer a clearer view of the pecking order. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
With J.C. Jackson now a Charger, there is a notable hole opposite Jalen Mills. Veteran Terrance Mitchell has consistently been the top option in training camp, with Malcolm Butler working behind him. Rookie Jack Jones (fourth round, Arizona State) has the highest upside, but has yet to emerge. — Mike Reiss
Technically, it’s still a battle because Bryce Hall, the incumbent, and rookie Sauce Gardner have been rotating days with the starting unit. It would be an upset if Gardner, drafted fourth overall, isn’t starting opposite D.J. Reed in Week 1. Gardner is having a relatively quiet camp, which isn’t a bad thing for a corner. Once he proves he’s physical enough to hold up against the run, the job will be his. — Rich Cimini
Ben Powers, who is more consistent than Tyre Phillips, has taken the early lead in this battle. Phillips, who is quicker and has more upside, needs to outplay Powers in the preseason to unseat him. Ben Cleveland, a third-round pick from a year ago, is now considered a long shot after missing the first week of camp because he failed the conditioning test. — Jamison Hensley
The Bengals are looking to solidify a revamped offensive line that will feature four new starters. The coaching staff has yet to name second-year player Jackson Carman the winner in a battle that includes rookie Cordell Volson. However, Carman has dominated the first-team reps and appears to have the inside track. — Ben Baby
The Browns’ entire defensive tackle rotation is mostly comprised of unproven players, creating an intense battle. Veterans Taven Bryan and Sheldon Day will be fighting young players Jordan Elliott, Tommy Togiai and rookie Perrion Winfrey for time. Depending on how the battle shakes out, the Browns could add another veteran during camp to help solidify the position. — Jake Trotter
Daniel Dopp and Mike Clay discuss how they view the Steelers QBs’ struggles in camp.
Mitch Trubisky is listed as the starter on the first depth chart released by the Steelers. He has taken almost all of the first-team reps through the first two weeks of training camp and has shown improvement in recent days. Even so, Mason Rudolph has looked sharp, suggesting the distance between the two isn’t that great. After a rough start, first-round pick Kenny Pickett is playing better, too, though he still appears to be third behind the veterans. — Brooke Pryor
The running back room is improved compared to last season’s group that ranked last in rushing yards per game (83.6). Former Colt Marlon Mack has flashed glimpses of his old self (he rushed for 1,091 yards in 2019 before injuring his right Achilles in 2020, which wiped out the majority of his 2021 season). Fourth-rounder Dameon Pierce has been the most dynamic back in camp as his quickness through the holes has produced more explosive plays. Rex Burkhead has been the most consistent overall, showing the ability to run, catch and block. — D.J. Bien-Aime
The Colts moved on from veteran Eric Fisher, leaving Matt Pryor and Bernhard Raimann to battle for this spot. Neither is an ideal candidate — Pryor has never been a full-time left tackle and Raimann is a rookie — but Pryor is getting the first-team reps and has held up fine while Raimann is off to a bit of a slow start. Pryor isn’t nearly as agile as the physically gifted Raimann, but at 6-foot-7 and 332 pounds, he certainly possesses power. — Stephen Holder
Incumbent Jawaan Taylor, who is in the final year of his rookie contract, is trying to hold off Walker Little, a second-year player. Little, a second-round pick in 2021, was a left tackle in college and was moved to right tackle only this spring. Taylor has allowed 40 sacks in 49 games and the Jaguars hope new OL coach Phil Rauscher can get more out of him. However, Taylor has been battling a hamstring injury suffered early in camp, so Little has gotten all of the first-team reps. Taylor is expected back soon. — Mike DiRocco
The Titans have used three high draft picks in the past three years to address right tackle. They thought it was secured when they used a first-round pick on Isaiah Wilson, but he isn’t on an NFL roster after two seasons. Now 2021 second-round pick Dillon Radunz and 2022 third-round pick Nicholas Petit-Frere are battling for the job. Coach Mike Vrabel wants to evaluate both players against equal competition, so they have taken turns working with the starters. — Turron Davenport
Both guard spots on a revamped offensive line remain open as training camp heads into its third week. Dalton Risner has taken most of the snaps with the starters at left guard and, at least at the moment, appears to have edged his way to the top of the depth chart. Quinn Meinerz and Netane Muti have split the majority of the snaps at right guard. Graham Glasgow, who took a pay cut in the offseason after battling injuries and COVID-19 last season, is the most experienced player in the group and has the ability to play guard or center. However, he has spent much of his time with the second-team offense. — Jeff Legwold
Clyde Edwards-Helaire is RB1, but he missed significant time with injuries in each of the past two seasons, so identifying the top reserves is high on the Chiefs’ to-do list. Ronald Jones has been the No. 2 back for much of camp, but the Chiefs are also giving long looks to Jerick McKinnon, Derrick Gore and rookie Isiah Pacheco. Don’t be surprised if the Chiefs keep four running backs as this is the deepest group they’ve had in years. — Adam Teicher
Brandon Parker, who had been running with the first-team offense at right tackle throughout camp, started at left tackle in place of the resting Kolton Miller in the Hall of Fame Game on Thursday night. And Alex Leatherwood, last year’s first-round pick who was moved inside to right guard after just four games, got the start at right tackle. Leatherwood did not embarrass himself, but Parker struggled, giving up a pair of sacks. Asked if Parker playing a different position might have been part of the problem, coach Josh McDaniels bristled, saying that can’t be part of the problem. But with more than $25 million in cap space, might Las Vegas be in the market for a more established vet at right tackle? Stay tuned. — Paul Gutierrez
It’s an open competition at right tackle, where Trey Pipkins and Storm Norton are alternating reps with the starters. “I’m really pleased with both of them right now,” offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said after nine practices, including three in pads. “We’ll see how it falls out.” The Chargers spent a first-round pick the past two years on offensive linemen — Pro Bowl left tackle Rashawn Slater (2021) and rookie right guard Zion Johnson (2022) — leaving right tackle as the only position that remains a question going into the season as Corey Linsley returns at center and Matt Feiler at left guard. Norton started 15 games at right tackle last season and Pipkins started one. — Lindsey Thiry
Rookie Tyler Smith and Connor McGovern have split reps with the first team since the opening practice, but the feeling is Smith, the first-round pick, will eventually take over full time. The Cowboys called him a “left-sided player” when they took him at No. 24 overall with an eye on him being the left tackle of the future. In camp, he has only played left guard. His strength is noticeable and he has so far been penalty-free, which was an issue at Tulsa. McGovern has also done well and is also strong, but he is fighting a first-rounder and the first-rounder generally wins when all things are equal. — Todd Archer
There isn’t much of a competition right now, because Ricky Seals-Jones has been sidelined by an undisclosed injury most of camp. That puts Daniel Bellinger in position to start and be the Giants’ primary tight end. The rookie fourth-round pick hasn’t exactly lit it up this summer, but at the moment he’s not facing much competition. It’s something to watch as training camp winds down. Do the Giants add a veteran to this mix? — Jordan Raanan
A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith rest securely at the top of the depth chart. From there, it gets interesting. Much of the intrigue revolves around Jalen Reagor, the former first-round pick (2020) who is “battling for a spot” on the team, according to coach Nick Sirianni. With Smith dealing with a groin strain, Reagor has gotten some work with the first team and has had a few nice moments in camp. With Brown, Smith, Quez Watkins and Zach Pascal expected to make the team, Reagor is fighting for positioning along with Greg Ward and rookie Britain Covey. — Tim McManus
Washington used Landon Collins in its three-safety package last season, but he is unsigned and the Commanders need to fill that role alongside starters Kamren Curl and Bobby McCain. Second-year safety Darrick Forrest has played well in camp after missing most of last summer with a hamstring injury. He has been physical and quick to the ball. Rookie Percy Butler and veteran Jeremy Reaves also are getting looks. Washington could also opt for a traditional nickelback, with corner Benjamin St-Juste playing in the slot. He, too, has looked good this summer. — John Keim
Assuming Lucas Patrick can return for Week 1 after suffering a hand injury that requires surgery, the Bears likely have their center (Patrick), left guard (Cody Whitehair) and right guard (Michael Schofield) spots figured out. The tackle spots also look closer to being settled. Rookie fifth-rounder Braxton Jones has taken nearly all the reps at left tackle during the second week of camp. Riley Reiff and Larry Borom have split reps at right tackle the past week, though Reiff’s veteran experience could win out (and he could still see reps at left tackle, according to coordinator Luke Getsy). It feels like Teven Jenkins has a long way to go to get first-team reps after missing seven consecutive practices with an undisclosed injury, despite coaches saying they expect him to compete for a starting spot at left or right tackle. — Courtney Cronin
During training camp, defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn declared an open competition between Jeff Okudah and Will Harris for one outside cornerback spot. It’s an interesting battle because Okudah, the third overall pick in 2020, is coming off a season-ending Achilles injury and has just 10 total games played entering his third season while Harris is transitioning from safety. They are both highly motivated to prove themselves. “Before we started practice, I called both of those guys at the same time and just told them here’s the deal, ‘Are you guys going to compete?’ They look forward to it and they were open to seeing what the competition is going to be about,” Glenn said. May the best man win. — Eric Woodyard
While much of the attention has been on the receiver depth chart now that Davante Adams is gone, the O-line situation might be more critical. And it’s less of a battle and more about who might be available. If the Packers are without their two best linemen — David Bakhtiari (knee) and Elgton Jenkins (knee) — then it’s still undecided who replaces them. The Packers have tried various combinations of Jake Hanson, Royce Newman, third-round pick Sean Rhyan and fourth-rounder Zach Tom at the two right-side positions. While Yosh Nijman has played mostly at Bakhtiari’s left tackle spot, he could move to right tackle if Bakhtiari is ready for the opener and Jenkins is not. — Rob Demovsky
Lewis Cine was the No. 32 overall pick of the draft, a place that can produce immediate starters, and there has been an opening ever since veteran Xavier Woods departed via free agency. But through the first two weeks of camp, the Vikings have not pushed Cine ahead of second-player Camryn Bynum. While Cine has performed well, and his hitting ability has been on display since full pads came on, Bynum has taken most of the first-team reps alongside Harrison Smith. — Kevin Seifert
This is probably the one true 50-50 roster battle left among starters in Falcons training camp. Drew Dalman and Matt Hennessy have been splitting reps with the first team by the day and coach Arthur Smith is open to taking the competition as long as he needs to. Dalman was a fourth-round pick last year and Hennessy was the starter at center throughout 2021. — Michael Rothstein
Most teams know who their starting quarterbacks are entering camp. Not the Panthers. They have an “open” competition between Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold, the Nos. 1 and 3 picks, respectively, from the 2018 draft. Neither has created separation thus far, and coach Matt Rhule doesn’t expect to make a decision until sometime after the Aug. 19 preseason game against New England. Mayfield is the fan favorite judging by cheers in practice, but the outcome will be determined by production in preseason games. Mayfield’s edge is he has had some success, leading Cleveland to an 11-5 record and a playoff win in 2020. Darnold has yet to lead a team to the playoffs. — David Newton
Coach Dennis Allen said veteran James Hurst is the current starter at left tackle following the departure of Terron Armstead in free agency, but the Saints aren’t likely to keep first-round pick Trevor Penning on the sidelines very long. Penning and Hurst are rotating in the left tackle spot, but it’s likely Penning will be given every opportunity to be the Week 1 starter. — Katherine Terrell
Interior offensive line
With starting center Ryan Jensen out for a significant period of time (possibly the entire season) and Alex Cappa and Ali Marpet gone, the Bucs’ interior offensive line gets a total overhaul in 2022. Shaq Mason will grab the right guard position, but center and left guard have not been filled. Rookie Luke Goedeke, Aaron Stinnie and Nick Leverett are challenging for the left guard spot, while Leverett and Robert Hainsey, a third-round pick in 2021, are competing to replace Jensen. — Jenna Laine
This much is known about Arizona’s corners: Byron Murphy Jr. is the preferred slot corner. He can play outside when needed, but coach Kliff Kingsbury likes him inside. That leaves the two outside corner positions essentially up for grabs. Kingsbury wants Marco Wilson to be an every-down starter, but said the jury is still out, despite him getting significant reps last season. That leaves a battle for the other spot between rookie Christian Matthew, Antonio Hamilton, Josh Jackson and Breon Borders with Jace Whittaker making a push. The competition could be settled if Arizona brings in a veteran, but for now, camp will decide who the two outside corners are when Arizona plays formations with three or more cornerbacks. — Josh Weinfuss
The Rams used their first 2022 draft pick (No. 104 overall) on Logan Bruss, but coach Sean McVay said the team is “really going to open it up and try to see what it looks like to find who’s going to be that fifth player” on the offensive line. Early in training camp, he said Coleman Shelton was getting reps at right guard and center because he thinks the fourth-year player can “start at any of the three interior spots and perform at a high level.” McVay said he has been “encouraged” by Bruss’ progress, but that the Rams have “a long way to go until we have to make those types of decisions.” — Sarah Barshop
The 49ers have competition all over the interior of the offensive line, but this is the position coach Kyle Shanahan values most. After Alex Mack retired in the offseason, it left a competition between Jake Brendel, who has three NFL starts to his name, and Daniel Brunskill, who played right guard last season and started eight games at center in 2020. The battle between Brendel and Brunskill is just getting underway, and whoever wins the job will have an important task with Trey Lance in his first year as the starting quarterback. — Nick Wagoner
While ninth overall pick Charles Cross is a lock to start at left tackle barring injury, it’s a three-man race to be his bookend. Jake Curhan has been getting most of the first-team reps so far in camp after starting the final five games there last season, but Abraham Lucas‘ status as a third-round pick suggests he’ll get serious consideration, as will Stone Forsythe. If Lucas wins the job this summer and Cross stays healthy, Seattle would be only the third team since 1970 to start a pair of rookie tackles in Week 1, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. — Brady Henderson