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Philadelphia Eagles position battles to watch in training camp

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One of the many highlights of NFL training camp are the position battles that take place. Roster spots have the potential to be won and lost in the summer. Today we take a look at the upcoming position battles to keep an eye on.

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Safety, Nate Allen vs. Earl Wolff

Malcolm Jenkins is locked in at one starting safety spot but Nate Allen and Earl Wolff will be fighting for the other job. Allen played relatively well in 2013 so it wouldn't be surprising to see him hold onto his job. Then again, the Eagles weren't really anxious to bring him back. The most ideal situation would be for second year safety Wolff to take the job. He will have to earn it, though. If Wolff can't clearly beat out Allen he will likely remain on the bench as a third safety.

No. 2 cornerback, Bradley Fletcher vs. Nolan Carroll

As I mention in my cornerback position preview, I think Cary Williams is fairly safe when it comes to a starting job. Some may prefer Bradley Fletcher's consistent play over the up-and-down Williams but the Eagles seem to prefer the latter. In any case, 2014 free agent signing Nolan Carroll is seriously expected to push for a starting job. He has starting experience with the Miami Dolphins and he fits the ideal Eagles cornerback mold: long and physical. Fletcher, as a returning starter, seems to have the edge for now. The loser of this battle will still make the team and could play in a rotational role and/or serve as a key backup.

Slot receiver, Jordan Matthews vs. Brad Smith

I'm not sure this is so much a real competition as it is the team trying to push the rookie Matthews. Veteran WR Brad Smith took a number of the first team repetitions at the slot in spring practices but I think Matthews will win this job.

Kicker, Alex Henery vs. Carey Spear (Murderleg)

This one isn't even really much of a competition except in name only. Undrafted rookie free agent Spear doesn't look like he can even keep it close with Henery at this point. The veteran already has this job won.


Backup QB, Mark Sanchez vs. Matt Barkley

The most important backup battle on the roster. Sanchez struggled during spring practices but he clearly has the edge over second year quarterback Barkley. What's concerning here is it feels like the winner of this job might come down to who is less worse. For the team's sake, someone needs to step up and take this job by command.

Backup center, Julian Vandervelde vs. David Molk

Vandervelde has more experience with the team but I've never thought he's looked like a "natural" center. By that I mean his snapping skills have seemed questionable in the past because he's more of a converted guard playing center. Meanwhile, Molk is definitely an actual center, but he spent the entire 2013 season without being on a practice squad or NFL roster. I still think Molk has the chance to beat out Vandy here.

Backup ILB, Jason Phillips vs. Jake Knott vs. Emmanuel Acho vs. Casey Matthews

Najee Goode seems to be the favorite for a backup inside linebacker job but beyond that it's not exactly clear how things will play out. The Eagles signed Phillips in free agency last season and he took the majority of the repetitions with the No. 2 unit this spring. Jake Knott is suspended for the first four games of the season so the Eagles will likely keep him because he doesn't take up a roster spot until his suspension is over.  Everyone thought Acho had Matthews beat out last season but the Eagles kept Matthews for his special teams play and position versatility (OLB and ILB). I have the Eagles keeping Phillips and Knott.

Backup nose tackle, Damion Square vs. Beau Allen

Square struggled last season but he has the advantage of returning in his second year. Allen, meanwhile, has a massive body but he's hardly guaranteed a roster spot as a seventh round pick.

6th wide receiver, Jeff Maehl vs. Arrelious Benn

I have the Eagles keeping five locks at receiver: Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff, Brad Smith. If they decide to keep a sixth, I think it comes down to either Maehl or Benn unless one of the other depth players really steps up over the summer. Maehl has the advantage right now because Chip Kelly knows he's a proven special teams contributor that can stay healthy. Benn looked good in the spring but he still has a lot to prove considering he hasn't even recorded a regular season catch since September 2012.

6th cornerback, Curtis Marsh vs. Davon Morgan vs. Roc Carmichael

There's no guarantee the Eagles keep six cornerbacks behind the five of Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Nolan Carroll, Brandon Boykin, and Jaylen Watkins. But if they do, it could come down to one of Davon Morgan, Curtis Marsh, or Roc Carmichael. I'll give the edge to Carmichael for now.

4th running back, Matthew Tucker vs. Henry Josey vs. David Fluellen

The Eagles may not even keep four running backs but there's a chance they could. Tucker has the advantage of spending last year on both the practice squad and the regular season roster (mostly gameday inactive). Josey is his best competition. Fluellen seems to be behind both of those names at this point.

Other things to watch: Will the Eagles keep a fourth tight end in Trey Burton? Can Travis Long and/or Joe Kruger crack the roster? Could Ifeanyi Momah enter the sixth wide receiver battle? How will the backup offensive and defensive line positions play out?