With training camp and the beginning of OTA’s, teams are getting ready to start their search for their starting lineups. With many teams having multiple players with the capability to start, they must find the one that best fits the responsibility. The battle of teammates going one-on-one against each other can be considered one of the most anticipated events of the off-season. The outcome usually changes the outcome of the team’s season. Here are five match-ups to look out for this off-season.
1. Philadelphia Eagles Running Back: LeGarrette Blount vs. Darren Sproles
With the free agent signing of the 2016 Leader in rushing touchdowns LeGarret Blount, the Eagles have added a work horse to the back field. This creates a running back duo made of players who are known for their ability to catch out of backfield and create plays. Ryan Matthews, who took most of the carries for the Eagles last year, has already been told he will be released when he gets healthy. Also, speedster Darren Sproles who just turned 34,is well out of his prime. This only leaves the fans wondering if they go with the guy who knows the playbook or the poor mans Marshawn Lynch. The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was one of the most sacked quarterbacks in the league, being sacked thirty-three times. Should the eagles go with the guy who protected Tom Brady from hungry pass rushers or an escape valve.
Advantage: Darren Sproles
2. Minnesota Vikings Running Back: Latavius Murray vs. Dalvin Cook
With the release of Adrian Peterson, the Vikings signed former Oakland Raider Latavius Murray to take his place. All in a matter of weeks, the full picture has changed. The Vikings selected Dalvin Cook with 41st pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Dalvin Cook was a big name player coming out of FSU, and like AP, is more of a zone runner and has trouble holding onto the ball. in 2016, he had 13 fumbles, and also trouble with the law which could result in a possible suspension. Latavius Murray, a 230-pound, 6’3″ running back, was held back from hitting 1,000 yards rushing due to injury he sustained in the year. Unlike Cook, Murray is able to sit back and block for who may ever be at the quarterback position. This situation could be like one the NFL has seen this past season with the Titans running backs, Where DeMarco Murray was signed in free agency and drafted Derrick Henry. These two eventually split the carry amount through the duration of the season.
Advantage: Latavius Murray
3. Pittsburgh Steelers #1 Wide Receiver : Antonio Brown vs. Martavis Bryant
Antonio Brown is one of the most dangerous wide receivers in the NFL. Drafted in round 6 of the 2010 NFL Draft, Brown has accumulated more than 1,000 receiving yards in 5 of his last 7 seasons in the league. However, there is a new hybrid of receiver in the league now that every team is dying to get their hands on, and that’s a big reciever who can run. Insert Martavis Bryant, The 6’4″ wide receiver who clocked a 40-yard dash time of 4.42 seconds in the NFL combine 2 years ago. Suspensions is what is preventing him of reaching his full potential in the NFL. Bryant has yet to play a full season in his career. Once he matures, Bryant will become a #1 reciever and make the Steelers tandem unstoppable.
Advantage: Antonio Brown
4. Kansas City Chiefs Quarterback: Alex Smith vs. Pat Mahomes II
Alex Smith and Pat Mahomes are too alike. Both are able to leave the pocket and run if able to and both quarterbacks play a west coast offense that is implied in Andy Reid’s offense. Alex Smith is becoming older and father time is attacking the throwing power he once had. Smith is not at the same speed he once had when compared Mahomes. Mahomes launched an 80 yard pass at the Texas A&M pro day, rising his stock in the NFL draft. The problem with Mahomes is that he isn’t as accurate, nor does he have the same experience. Both players were drafted early in their respected draft classes, but if something isn’t broken, then why fix it. If the Chiefs continue to win games with Smith at QB, then they should keep it that way.
Advantage: Alex Smith
5. New England Patriots #1 Cornerback: Malcolm Butler vs. Stephon Gilmore
Not only did the New England Patriots become Super Bowl 51 Champions, they also had one of the best free agencey of all time. This was the signing of shut down corner Stephon Gilmore. Rumors had covered the NFL that the New England Patriots will trade the Super Bowl 49 hero to New Orleans for Wide Reciever Brandin Cooks. After the departure of Logan Ryan, the spot for number one corner is now up for grabs. Malcolm Butler became a name of his own after intercepting Russel Wilson’s pass in Super Bowl 49 at the 1 yard line. Since then, he has become the heart and soul of the New England Patriots’ defense. Butler lead the team in interceptions with 4 last season. Gilmore was signed after being let go by the Buffalo Bills after a stellar 2016-2017 season that was driven by 5 interceptions and 48 tackles. Both corners rack up close in stats, but New England is more likely to use the bigger guy to stop the bigger reciever.
Advantage: Stephon Gilmore