NFL Nation: 2012 training camp battles NFC

Seahawks camp battle update: QBs

August, 13, 2012
Revisiting the Seattle Seahawks training-camp battle we previewed back in early July:

Quarterback: Tarvaris Jackson versus Matt Flynn versus Russell Wilson was the projected camp battle.

My take then: "Flynn, Wilson and Josh Portis are the quarterbacks they would ideally keep for the long term, but Jackson is the only one with meaningful experience. Jackson is the only one they know for sure they could trust to keep the team competitive right now. Flynn and Wilson will earn roster spots. Jackson could win one, too. He could even start, but so could Flynn or Wilson. Wilson made a spectacular first impression during organized team activities and minicamp practices. ... While it's natural to assume Flynn will emerge as the starter based on his salary and Wilson's inexperience, the Seahawks' excitement for Wilson has been palpable at every turn."

The update: Flynn and Wilson are getting the meaningful reps as the team works to determine which one, if either, represents an upgrade over Jackson. Both players helped their cause with their performances against Tennessee in the exhibition opener Saturday night. Flynn was efficient working against the Titans' starting defense. Wilson was dynamic working with -- and against -- backups.

The Seahawks will presumably want to see Wilson work with the starters in a game situation before making their decision. I have a hard time envisioning Seattle going into a season with a rookie third-round choice behind center. But if any coach would embrace such an opportunity, the unconventional Pete Carroll might be the one to do it -- especially since Wilson demonstrates more poise than many veterans.

If the competition remains close, going with Flynn as the starter heading into the season would be the easiest move.

Flynn, as a veteran earning more money, has more to lose entering the season as a backup after spending most of the offseason as the presumed starter. It might be tougher for him to bounce back from what would look like a benching. Wilson, as a rookie, came to Seattle amid lower expectations in the short term. The team could always turn to him if necessary.

That's what conventional wisdom says, at least. With Carroll, it might not apply.

Cardinals camp battle update: QBs

August, 13, 2012
Revisiting the Arizona Cardinals training-camp battle we previewed back in early July:

Quarterback: Kevin Kolb versus John Skelton was the projected camp battle. It's ongoing.

My take then: "The pressure is squarely on Kolb to justify the Cardinals' investment in him. He's had time to get healthy and learn the offense. Kolb should be more confident and relaxed as a result. But he has yet to take charge of the team and command the respect that only comes through performance. He'll have an extended opportunity this summer thanks to an exhibition schedule featuring five games, one more than usual. Kolb now has 16 career starts. Skelton has 11. Neither has been consistent, but the team won more frequently with Skelton last season."

The update: Neither quarterback has staked claim to the job. That is a concern after two exhibition games. But with three exhibition games remaining, there's still time.

The injury Kolb suffered in the exhibition opener against New Orleans set him back in the short term and probably more from a perception standpoint than anything, based on his injury history. The entire offense seemed to struggle against Kansas City more recently.

Both quarterbacks could use help in the backfield. Arizona has played without top running backs Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams to this point. That makes the Cardinals much easier to play against. Pass protection has also been a problem, particularly for Kolb.

Those factors are real, but the Cardinals need one of their quarterbacks to rise above them. It hasn't happened yet.

Rams camp battle update: Left guard

August, 13, 2012
Revisiting the St. Louis Rams training camp battle we previewed back in early July:

Left guard: Rokevious Watkins versus Bryan Mattison was the projected camp battle. It hasn't materialized.

My take then: "Watkins is a rookie fifth-round choice with college experience at both guard and both tackle spots. He's listed at 338 pounds and has weighed considerably more, but the scouting reports question his strength. Mattison started four games for the Rams last season after two seasons in Baltimore as a backup. I've wondered whether Quinn Ojinnaka might project as the starter here, but he's more apt to play tackle. Barry Richardson could be a consideration, as well."

The update: Ojinnaka has gotten the first-team snaps to this point. Watkins reported to camp out of shape. His chances should improve over time.

Richardson has been working with the first team at right tackle, ahead of Jason Smith. Richardson also played left tackle against Indianapolis in the preseason opener. Mattison practiced with the first team at left guard only when the Rams needed Ojinnaka to fill in for Rodger Saffold at left tackle.

Against the Colts, Mattison made a couple good blocks for Isaiah Pead in the second quarter. Ojinnaka appeared more comfortable in pass protection than as a run-blocker. The job appears to be Ojinnaka's to lose, but the team will want more of a mauler in the position long term. Developing Watkins has to be a priority even if Ojinnaka is better suited to start right away.

Kevin Hughes, an undrafted free agent in 2011, played left guard late in the game. He gave up a couple quarterback pressures under difficult circumstances as the Rams were well behind at that point.

This could be a position for the Rams to address in the 2013 draft.