The 2017 season is creeping closer ever so slowly. Let’s be honest, there’s nothing like football, and without it life seems incomplete. No worries though, training camp and its position battles are on the horizon occur. Here are five players that may steal a starting position:
DE Matt Longacre
Longacre did well during preseason last year, and the switch to a 3-4 defense may actually work in his favor. Robert Quinn is moving to LB and William Hayes was traded away, which means Ethan Westbrooks is the current starter. Westbrooks has his moments where he flashes starter potential, but lacks consistency. If Longacre can prove that he’s developed during the offseason, he could potentially challenge Westbrooks for the starting role. Keep an eye out on this under-the-radar position battle.
LB Josh Forrest/Bryce Hager
Why list two players? It depends on which Forrest comes back. Forrest played phenomenally before sustaining a major injury during last season. If he comes back as dominant as he was before the injury, he can challenge for a starting role. If it takes him some time to shake off the rust, Bryce Hager is an intriguing option too. Unfortunately, the only spot that may be available is Mark Barron’s. Let’s face it, Connor Barwin, Alec Ogletree and Quinn are keeping their spots unless an injury occurs. Barron is an experiment still, but defensive coordinator Wade Phillips seems confident in Barron’s adjustment to this position. Admittedly, I’m a bit skeptical, but I trust the judgment of a legendary coach over my own.
C Jake Eldrenkamp
Center should be an intense position battle to watch for. The Rams are guaranteed a new starter from last year, and the early favorite is veteran John Sullivan. But Eldrenkamp was practically a steal as an undrafted free agent, and he has impressed during camps. He still has much to prove as a rookie, but Sullivan isn’t a spring chicken. The former Minnesota Viking isn’t the same dominant center he used to be if we’re going based off of last year’s performance. That said, he does have some gas left in the tank, and what it all boils down to is if Eldrenkamp is ready to take that major leap into the NFL.
WR Josh Reynolds
No, I didn’t mean Cooper Kupp. Undoubtedly Kupp is talented, but there might be more of an upside with Reynolds, and that’s his size. Standing at 6’3”, Reynolds could be a valuable go-to target for quarterback Jared Goff. If they develop a chemistry early on, head coach Sean McVay may have no choice but to start Reynolds. The reality is there is a ton of uncertainty on the Rams’ receiving corps, but if Reynolds can adapt to McVay’s offense quickly, it will be Reynolds that was the steal of the 2017 NFL Draft, and not so much Kupp. Keep in mind, no matter how well Reynolds develops, Kupp will likely be a great asset for the Rams.
QB Sean Mannion
Without a doubt Sean Mannion did not get a fair crack at the starting spot last season with the lackluster Jeff Fisher offense. Actually, that might have been a blessing in disguise for Mannion since Goff was constantly running for his life. This might be Mannion’s time to shine, and if he shows up to play like he did during last year’s preseason opportunity, he might give McVay a good problem to have. For the better of the team for the 2017 season, the Rams may have to ignore the overwhelming investment in Goff. Whether it’s Goff or Mannion, the best player should start. The Rams’ offense is still very much up in the air, but battles like this will make preseason actually interesting.