Preseason position battles: Is Jonathan Bostic ready to take over for Brian Urlacher?

Grant Halverson

Some of the NFL's biggest preseason battles are shaping up, with the Chicago Bears facing a tough decision at middle linebacker.

It's easy to get caught up in the big quarterback battles around the league and ignore some important contests at non-marquee positions. These four teams all have important contests still being fought, and in each case they have yet to be resolved.

Chicago Bears: Middle linebacker

The Chicago Bears elected to part ways with Brian Urlacher due to his contract situation, hoping that veteran D.J. Williams could fill the void. Williams has been injured throughout training camp, opening the door for rookie Jonathan Bostic.

Normally this would be a reason for concern, but Bostic had a strong outing against the Carolina Panthers in the Bears' first preseason game. He finished with two tackles (one for a loss), as well as a vital interception of Cam Newton that he took for a touchdown.

If Williams hadn't been injured, this battle probably wouldn't be happening, but his inability to practice paired with the rookie's strong play opens the door for the Bears to try to make the quick transition from their past to their future without using an intermediary.

Buffalo Bills: Left guard

Interior offensive line might not be the most intriguing of battles, but in Buffalo, it's vital. The team is moving forward with E.J. Manuel at quarterback, and in addition to his protection, the Bills need to lean on their run game in 2013.

The Bills lost Andy Levitre via free agency to the Tennessee Titans, and now look to Colin Brown and Doug Legursky to take over at left guard. The two have been splitting reps equally in training camp, and the contest was so close that both were listed as co-starters for the Bills' first preseason game.

Right now it looks like Brown will get the nod for the regular season, but this battle is so close that it will come down to the final preseason game.

Seattle Seahawks: Defensive tackle

Seattle has an embarrassment of riches on defense, and that is rearing its head early in training camp. Knee issues forced Alabama's Jesse Williams to the fifth round, and now he's getting a chance to compete for the starting under tackle job -- which flies in the face of the widely held belief that he'd be a nose tackle in the NFL.

Williams is working against Tony McDaniel, who currently has the edge in camp. He spent 2012 with the Miami Dolphins, where he was a rotational tackle who wasn't asked to make a lot of plays. As a result, there is an opportunity open for the rookie.

It's difficult to predict the final makeup of the Seahawks' defensive line as there are so many moving parts. The defense has been built to allow each player to take snaps at multiple positions, and this could mean that the regular season lineup is very different from its current depth chart.

Baltimore Ravens: Center

The ever-reliable Matt Birk solidified the interior of Baltimore's line for four years, and his retirement created a vacuum. There are solid options available to the Ravens, with both Gino Gradkowski and A.Q. Shipley staking claim to part of the battle.

Familiarity makes it tempting to hand the job to Gradkowski, given that he spent his rookie season behind Birk, but the Ravens made the commitment to trade for Shipley, who's seen as less dominant physically, but possessing excellent mental skills. Oftentimes it's the mental aspect to playing the center position that's overlooked, and allows players like Birk to continue well into their late 30s.

Shipley started five games for the Indianapolis Colts in 2012 while Gradkowski is the familiar face. The Ravens named Gradkowski their starting center for the first preseason game, but this battle is still up in the air.

More from SB Nation:

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NFL Debrief: Lessons from preseason's first week

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