San Diego Chargers running back Curtis Brinkley (center) is brought on the 1 yard line down by Green Bay Packers safety Sean Richardson.
Before we get started, I think we can remove the Left Guard battle. The team has made it blatantly obvious that they believe in Tyronne Green enough that nobody else is going to get a chance to unseat him. That's not a position battle at all. I'm also going to remove the OLB position battle because it belongs to Larry English if he's healthy, and it might not even exist if he's not.
I'll add one or two new position battles in place of those two.
I don't know why I keep putting this one first, but I do. Taylor is doing a good job in camp, but so is Bigby. The funny thing is that Bigby's injury history will probably hurt Taylor in this competition, because the team can look at the situation and figure "Taylor will get on the field eventually once Atari gets dinged up." Or maybe they're not that pessimistic, who knows.
The team is forcing Bigby to lose this job rather than let Taylor win it and, so far, Atari doesn't appear to want to give it up.
Change: None, although it's a damn shame that Jason Witten is injured because he would've been a great coverage test for these guys.
What to Look For: The Cowboys throw a lot, but their offensive line has issues. Expect to see both of these guys blitzing a bit and also playing some man-coverage.
Antonio Garay vs. Cam Thomas vs. Aubrayo Franklin
I wish the team would make up their mind with this situation. They seem to want to keep all three guys, but there haven't been not enough snaps for all three. The solution that was floated out through back channels was that the team could move Garay to DE and give him snaps there, but there hasn't been any sign of them testing that out.
Plus, the team would have to be okay with choosing Garay over Jacques Cesaire for the backup DE position. It would actually be cheaper for the team to part ways with Cesaire than it would be with Garay, but then you have to factor in that Garay doesn't have a ton of experience at DE and hasn't been playing there at all thus far in camp.
Change: Garay was injured the other day at practice and is in a walking boot. He'll be fine, but that clears up lots of snaps for Franklin in the meantime. If the team likes what they see, maybe they finally make a decision on the situation instead of sitting around waiting for it to figure itself out.
What to Look For: I don't think Garay is going to suit up against the Cowboys, so we should get an extended look at Franklin (who should be up to speed on the playbook by now).
Back-Up Tight End
Green finally makes this battle, as he's grown by leaps and bounds over the last few days. If he can prove himself to be a viable receiving threat, which it looks like he can, there will be very little reason for the team to keep both McMichael and Rosario. If he can't, then all three of these guys probably make the squad and the veterans are fighting for the most snaps.
Change: Ladarius Green came alive.
What to Look For: Green needs one of those really impressive preseason games where he dominates 2nd and/or 3rd stringers. McMichael could use a catch or two himself, since Rosario has appeared to be the better receiver thusfar.
Here's the only reason that I haven't removed this from the list of position battles yet: Novak is 0-1 on FGs and Kaeding is 0-0. He's the most accurate kicker in the history of the NFL, but if Kaeding starts missing FGs this could turn into a terrifying battle rather quickly.
What to Look For: I'm always nervous about Kaeding's injury being a leg injury. Who knows if he has the same accuracy he once did?
Mike Harris vs. Mario Henderson vs. Anthony Davis
Added Anthony Davis because I like everything I've seen from him so far. When he plants himself, he is impossible to move. I also don't love anything I've seen from Henderson so far, but it's early.
The situation with Jared Gaither is starting to maybe bleed over into the season. He's going to miss the Cowboys game and there's plenty of doubt as to whether or not he's actually getting any better. There's that mysterious situation where he went to see a specialist but neither him nor the team will talk about the results. It's not good and, if he misses the next two games, I can't see him being ready to start at LT in Week 1 against the Raiders.
Mike Harris is helped by Gaither's injury. He's been getting all of the first-team reps and everyone really likes what he's doing with them. He's cemented his spot as the backup Tackle if Gaither is the starting LT, and the starting LT if Gaither doesn't recover.
Change: The lack of change from Gaither's situation makes this situation even more interesting/important. I'm not saying the team is going to cut Gaither (it would cost them $9 mil in cap space to do so), but I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the team keeps all three of these guys and throws Jared on the PUP list for the first 6 weeks of the season.
What to Look For: At this point I'm more intrigued by the Anthony Davis vs. Mario Henderson battle than anything else, but we should of course watch Harris to make sure he can handle the first-stringers he'll be going up against.
(Temporary) Back-up Running Back
Yeah, it kinda screws the roster count, but Ryan Mathews needs to stay on the active roster and the team will need someone to fill the backup's shoes while the backup (Ronnie Brown) is filling Ryan's. Once Ryan gets healthy, the team can cut this guy and bump Ronnie Brown back down.
The choice here really relies on what you're looking for. Battle is a run-first back that isn't going to help you at all on 3rd downs. You could keep him and help give Brown a breather on earlier downs, then utilize him as the excellent 3rd down RB that he is. Brinkley is a smaller version of Brown, best at blocking and catching. If you're asking Brown to just do Mathews' job on 1st & 2nd downs, Brinkley could fill Brown's role as the 3rd down gy.
Change: Uh, Ryan Mathews broke his collarbone. Where have you been?
What to Look For: Fumbles. There were a lot of them in game one and preseason games are littered with them, but that doesn't mean that they won't still piss off the coaches the same way they do in the regular season. Battle could also use something more than 3 yards and a cloud of dust.