Predicting the winners of 5 intriguing training-camp battles
Mark Brown / Getty Images Sport / Getty

On the eve of the 2018 season's first full-team practices, a number of players vying for starting positions are looking to impress their coaches, while many others are preparing to fight for their football futures.

Here are the top five training-camp battles to monitor in the coming weeks:

Bills QBs

Contenders: AJ McCarron, Nathan Peterman, Josh Allen

The Bills are in the midst of a rebuild despite making the playoffs last season for the first time this century. Sean McDermott's team enters a new era with three seemingly uninspiring options at quarterback - two of which have little or no NFL starting experience.

McCarron was signed as a free agent in March after spending three seasons as the Cincinnati Bengals' backup, but the value of his contract guarantees him nothing. The former fifth-round pick has just 11 appearances and three starts to his name. Even if he wins the quarterback camp battle, he'll just be keeping the seat warm.

Peterman, Buffalo's second option, started two games in 2017 to mostly disastrous results, including a five-interception game against the Chargers. Still, after being thrown into the fire as a rookie, he's reportedly a serious contender to start Week 1.

Then there's Allen. The Bills traded up to No. 7 overall in April's draft to select the strong-armed passer, and expectations for the future face of the franchise will be sky-high. Allen, however, is seen as a raw prospect and may have to spend part (or most) of his rookie campaign on the bench. He does possess the most upside, though, so Buffalo may throw him in the deep end early on to lead a team that isn't expected to contend.

Projected starter: McCarron

Cowboys WRs

Contenders: Allen Hurns, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Michael Gallup, Deonte Thompson

Dez Bryant's release was one of the NFL's top stories this spring. The Cowboys must now replace their most productive receiver in quite some time, and their options don't exactly instill fear into opposing defenses.

Dallas brought in Hurns as a free agent, but the former Jacksonville Jaguar has battled injuries and inconsistency since his breakout 2015 season. He's still the team's most talented receiver, though, and he'll be heavily favored to start.

The Cowboys drafted Gallup in the third round. The rookie wideout's physicality will impress his coaches, but he's also an impressive route-runner with strong hands. He's a dark horse to emerge as the club's top pass-catcher in 2018.

Beasley will likely retain his role as Dallas' primary slot receiver, as Ryan Switzer was traded to the Oakland Raiders in April. Williams will also have a role as a deep threat, but he hasn't made much of an impact over the last two years.

The Cowboys also have Noah Brown and rookie Cedrick Wilson as young receiving options, but neither is expected to have a large role. Dallas signed Thompson in March, too, but he could be a victim of the numbers game in camp.

Projected starters: Hurns and Gallup out wide, Beasley in the slot

Packers CBs

Contenders: Tramon Williams, Kevin King, Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson, Quinten Rollins

Green Bay's pass defense has struggled in recent years, but the team now possesses a plethora of young talent at cornerback. It's a good problem to have, but it will lead to an intense camp battle.

Williams was surprisingly stellar with the Cardinals in 2017, intercepting two passes and providing excellent coverage. He returns to the team he spent eight seasons with, and a starting spot could be his to lose. King, a second-round pick last year, struggled as a rookie and landed on injured reserve in December, but the former Washington Huskie possesses the size, speed, and athleticism teams covet at the position. A second offseason will benefit him.

Rollins may be the odd man out. He's flashed talent during his three-year career, but has mostly battled injuries and inconsistency. His best chance at a job may be in the slot.

The Packers spent their top two 2018 draft picks on cornerbacks. The first was Alexander, who lacks size but makes up for it with athleticism, quick feet, and shifty speed. Then there's Jackson, who was a steal at No. 45 after being projected as a first-rounder. His ball skills are elite for a first-year defensive back, but he may need more seasoning than Alexander.

Projected starters: Williams and Alexander

Jets QBs

Contenders: Josh McCown, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold

Jets training camp will feature the most interesting quarterback battle in the NFL. The favorite to start Week 1 is McCown, who's entering his 16th campaign. The 39-year-old had his best statistical season in 2017, setting career highs in passing yards, touchdowns, and completion percentage. McCown led New York with accurate short passes and effective deep passes in John Morton's first season as offensive coordinator.

The veteran's main competitor may be the first-round rookie Darnold. The former USC pivot already possesses starting-level talent, and the Jets didn't draft him No. 3 overall to have him sit on the bench. Most quarterbacks selected in the top 10 start early on, but Darnold has the perfect mentor in McCown in case that doesn't happen.

Bridgewater is the real wild card in this camp battle. After suffering a horrific knee injury in 2016, the former Minnesota Viking played in just one contest in 2017 after opening the season on the PUP list. Before the injury, Bridgewater was an efficient, if unspectacular, passer. All reports indicate the former first-round pick has looked solid this spring. Time will tell if it translates to preseason games.

Projected starter: Darnold

Lions RBs

Contenders: LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick, Kerryon Johnson, Ameer Abdullah

No Lions running back has rushed for 100 yards in a game since Thanksgiving 2013. That's a span of 68 games. It's not surprising, then, that general manager Bob Quinn prioritized the team's rushing attack this offseason.

Detroit signed Blount to a one-year deal to kick things off. The bruising back may not have replicated his 18-touchdown 2016 season with the New England Patriots, but he was an excellent role player in the Eagles' backfield rotation.

The Lions drafted Johnson in the second round this April, and believe he can be a three-down back. Even if he doesn't win the starting role Week 1, he'll play an important part in his team's 2018 rotation.

Though not a starter, Riddick will retain his role as Detroit's pass-catching back. The veteran played in 45 percent of his team's snaps last season, and 41 percent the year before. Expect his duties to be more of the same.

Abdullah will have a shot at earning a role in the Lions' crowded backfield, but he could be on the roster bubble after an inconsistent first three years in the league.

Projected starter: LeGarrette Blount

(Photos courtesy: Action Images)

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Predicting the winners of 5 intriguing training-camp battles
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