Training camp is almost over. In fact, Thursday the 23rd (2 days from now) is the last day of camp, and yet, there seem to be a handful of positional battles that are looking very close and very much undecided.
These players are running out of time to make their impressions and earn a roster spot, because while training camp ends in 2 days, cut day is 9 days away.
So what position battles are coming down to the wire?
RB3 - The battle for RB3 has been fun to watch so far. Russell Hansbrough has looked very impressive each time he touches the ball. He performed well in week 1 of the preseason (averaging 7 YPC on his 3 carries and looking solid as a pass blocker) and looking very much at home while getting touches with the 1s in practice. The team rested him during preseason week 2 and Detrez Newsome took advantage of having the stage at RB and looked very impressive as well. Newsome through 2 preseason games has 81 rushing yards and a touchdown on 23 carries while hauling in 56 receiving yards on 7 catches. Meanwhile, we haven’t even seen 7th round pick Justin Jackson yet as he’s been dealing with an injury. This battle is going to be fun to watch in week 3, especially if the team continues to rest Austin Ekeler, who returned to practice today.
WR - The bottom of the WR depth chart looks very promising this year. Both Geremy Davis and Artavis Scott have looked very good in the preseason and in practice. They seem to answer each other during the games, each bringing in multiple nice catches in both games. Scott seems to have a built in advantage as he is also a capable returner on special teams, while Davis provides a bigger body at the WR position. Through 2 games Scott has 80 yards receiving on 7 catches, while averaging 24.5 yards per kick return and 2.75 yards per punt return. Geremy Davis has 97 yards and a touchdown on 6 catches.
Not to mention, like the RB battle, 6th round pick Dylan Cantrell was looking promising in practice before suffering a bone bruise in his knee. They are not going to make this an easy decision for the coaches come cut day.
Kicker - The kicking competition continues to look pretty even. Roberto Aguayo and Caleb Sturgis are pretty close in practice kicking (Sturgis is 21 of 28 and Aguayo is 23 of 29 per Eric Williams of ESPN) while in games Sturgis is 1 of 2, converting from 45 and missing from 41, and Aguayo is 1 of 1 with a FG from 39 yards. Aguayo has also handled all the extra point kicks, he is 5 for 5 there, and has handled all of the kickoff duties which have looked pretty good as well. Overall it looks like Aguayo is kicking a bit better right now, but the team did give Sturgis a $4.5M contract with $1M guaranteed this offseason (although according to overthecap.com cutting him now only results in $500K in dead money this year).
QB2 - The backup QB battle is still dragging on, but it really shouldn’t be. Through both preseason games and all the reports we have seen from practice, Geno Smith should be QB2. However, the coaches are constantly making it sound like this battle is still all tied up. Even today after practice, Ken Whisenhunt was asked if Geno had done enough to separate himself from Cardale Jones and Wiz insisted that this is still a battle and they have both looked great. Honestly, I think they might just be trying to protect Cardale’s ego because anyone paying attention can see that Geno has been the better QB this preseason and camp.
Other loose ends - There are a couple other positions that have some loose ends that is a bit harder to figure out what the team will do.
The bottom of the LB depth chart is interesting, Nick Dzubnar has been here a while and is very good on special teams, however UDFA D’Juan Hines offers more upside athletically and has looked good on special teams himself. Hines has also out-snapped Dzubnar on defense through 2 games.
The bottom of the CB depth chart will also be interesting to see what is done. Brandon Facyson has played fairly well as a corner, Tony Brown has good special teams potential, but the guy who has stood out most is 2nd year player Jeff Richards who has 8 tackles and a PBU, not to mention great size at the position at 6’2 210. Oh and I guess we have to include Craig Mager but he has been mostly invisible through camp and the preseason so far.