Philadelphia Eagles training camp begins today! It's been a long summer, but it's finally arrived. Now that we're done previewing every position on the roster, here are the top position battles to watch.
Cornerback, Nolan Carroll vs. Eric Rowe
The starting job across from Byron Maxwell is up for grabs. Carroll is the early favorite to win the job. The veteran took the bulk of first team reps during spring practices. Carroll also has the benefit of spending a year in the team's system. The 28-year-old veteran has starting experience and both coaches and teammates alike have raved about what a good offseason he's had. Meanwhile, the Eagles are obviously high on Rowe moving forward. The team traded up in the second round to get him. Rowe can earn the starting role if he steps up and seizes the job. Otherwise, Carroll could be the default starter. It should be noted that the "loser" of this battle could still see their fair share of playing time in a rotational role.
Right Guard, Matt Tobin vs. Andrew Gardner vs. John Moffitt
Kevin Graf and/or Dennis Kelly could also be in the mix here, but these three are arguably the biggest favorites. The team has been high on Tobin in the past. He looked great in preseason the past two seasons before struggling when the games really counted last year. Tobin often took first team reps at right guard during the spring, though other players also mixed in. One of those players was Gardner, who took over when Tobin was benched last season. Gardner was pretty much "just a guy" at guard late last season. Moffitt is an interesting part of this competition since he's been out of league for two years. The former third round pick has starting experience and he's been training hard so perhaps he can regain form and revive his career.
Wide Receiver, Riley Cooper vs. Josh Huff vs. Nelson Agholor
It seems like a lock that Jordan Matthews will start in the slot. On the outside, however, jobs can still be won. During spring practices, Cooper and Huff largely worked with the first team on the outside. These players could be the early favorites. Cooper struggled mightily last year but the Eagles still seem to be high on him for whatever reason. Huff could be ready to take a step forward but he'll have to prove himself. Meanwhile, Agholor is going to seriously challenge for some playing time. The first round pick is clearly talented. He had a great spring and he's too good to keep off the field. The Eagles are bound to rotate their wide receivers so the "loser(s)" of this battle should still see the field at some point.
Safety, Walter Thurmond vs. Earl Wolff
This one isn't much of a battle. Things can change, but for now it seems like a pretty safe bet Thurmond will be the starter next to Malcolm Jenkins. Kelly raved about the converted cornerback during the spring. Meanwhile, he did the exact opposite with Wolff.
Tight End, Zach Ertz vs. Brent Celek
Ertz seemed to take more reps with the first team than ever before during minicamp. He had a great spring and he's poised for a breakout season. The Eagles aren't going to totally move on from Celek yet but Ertz could make a case for more playing time.
Inside Linebacker, Kiko Alonso vs. DeMeco Ryans vs. Mychal Kendricks
This isn't really a true battle because the Eagles already know what these players can do. Still, it'll be interesting to see how the rotation here works out. Reports indicate Alonso and Ryans could be the starters while Kendricks rotates in.
Quarterback, Sam Bradford vs. Mark Sanchez
I've already explained why I don't believe this is a real competition. Bradford would have to have the worst training camp ever and Sanchez would have to look great. Bradford looked good during the spring so it would be surprising to see him suddenly fall flat on his face. The real battle here is Bradford versus his health.
Punter, Donnie Jones vs. Kip Smith
Jones has already won this one. Smith doesn't really stand a chance.
Nickel Cornerback, JaCorey Shepherd vs. Jaylen Watkins vs. Randall Evans vs. E.J. Biggers
Shepherd is arguably the favorite here after the Eagles traded Brandon Boykin away. More on that here.
Third String Quarterback, Tim Tebow vs. Matt Barkley
Barkley might look better than Tebow this summer, but that might not matter. The team is still fielding offers for Barkley. It's clear they're ready to move on.
Other things to keep an eye on
2014 first round pick Marcus Smith figures to be the third outside linebacker, but Travis Long could push for playing time there as well. Brandon Bair versus Taylor Hart is the battle of former Oregon Ducks defensive ends for the ages. There are a number of battles going for offensive line depth jobs. There's room for players to step up at backup safety. The Eagles could keep a fourth tight end and/or a fourth running back if a young player steps up this summer.