Brent Celek vs. Zach Ertz (Philadelphia Eagles)
Thanks to a number of converted basketball players like Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, and Jimmy Graham – among others – tight end has evolved into a marquee position in the modern NFL. In Chip Kelly’s high-powered offense, there’s room for a lot of weapons, but which of his tight ends will get more of the spotlight?
Incumbent starter Brent Celek is the superior run-blocker, which is no small part of why the Eagles had the No. 1 rushing offense in the NFL last season. Though he lacks the top end burst that some of the league’s top tight ends possess, he’s a reliable target that isn’t afraid to throw his body around.
Second-year player Zach Ertz was still figuring things out in his rookie season for Philadelphia, but he brings a level of flexibility that Celek doesn’t. Having played all over the place at Stanford – even in spells out wide – Ertz has a level of comfort in different positions within an offense. Given Kelly’s propensity for the imaginative, it stands to reason that he’d want to find ways to give Ertz more time. Could that come at the expense of Celek?
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Johnny Manziel vs. Brian Hoyer (Cleveland Browns)
Johnny Manziel has dominated the NFL’s offseason headlines without playing a snap, and football’s bad boy is a sure bet to be in discussions for years to come. The myth of Manziel persists whether he’s on the gridiron or not, something you’re sure to be reminded of anytime you tune into your favorite sports channels.
But he’s not nicknamed Johnny Football without reason. The Cleveland Browns selected him No. 22 overall because they believe in his talent, and he has a Heisman Trophy and gaudy college stats to prove it exists. Unfortunately, those won’t win him anything in the pros, and he’s in for a fight with Brian Hoyer for the starting job.
Hoyer was undefeated in three appearances for the Browns last season before injuries knocked him to the sideline, and Browns management clearly believes in him. New GM Ray Farmer claimed Hoyer was better than Manziel “by a substantial margin” when he spoke to Cleveland media in May, seemingly slamming the door shut on Hoyer’s younger competitor. Plot twist – coach Mike Pettine walked back those comments weeks later, claiming that Hoyer’s lead position was not “insurmountable.”
Manziel is one of the most dynamic college football players in recent memory and a magnet for the spotlight; it’s hard to imagine that he’ll go down without a fight. Whether he starts the season with a pigskin or a clipboard in his hand, you can be sure that Manziel’s fight for a starting job will be a spectacle to behold.
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Memories of Richard Sherman’s boastful shouts following the NFC Championship still persist in the minds of many NFL fans, but YouTube clips can only hold fans over for so long. The month of August is upon us, and it’s about time for the NFL to get back to business.
Training camps are about to open up shop across the league, and with the typically insane player movement of an NFL offseason just about wrapped up, the focus turns to the battles within each organization. Fresh blood from the draft and free agency is an onus for change that threatens all but the elite. Throw in new coaches and coordinators, management changes and the aging process and you have an exciting amount of uncertainty heading into tune-up season.
There are a few fights for supremacy that deserve mentioning more than others. Keep an eye on these battles as training camps roll on.
Follow Kyle on Twitter at @NeubeckNBA