The depth charts for many NFL teams are far from settled after an infusion of new talent from free agency and the 2014 NFL Draft. Teams will use training camp, preseason and ongoing offseason training activities (OTAs) to help sort out the starting lineups for the 2014 season.
Here's an early look at some intriguing match-ups:
Raiders: Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Darren McFadden
Three years ago, a battle between Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden would have been the most exciting in the NFL. However, Jones-Drew's production has since tailed off alongside a pile of injuries, and McFadden hasn't been able to stay healthy long enough to match his career-best year in 2010.
McFadden is about two-and-a-half years younger than Jones-Drew, and hasn't experienced the same drop in burst and speed, which means he is likely the favorite to win the job. However, the former Jacksonville Jaguars Pro Bowler is reportedly cutting a lot of weight in hopes that he can return to his explosive ways.
If both players are able to stay healthy during the offseason, it should make for an exciting battle between two talented veterans.
Titans: Michael Oher vs. Taylor Lewan
The Tennessee Titans entered the offseason with just one starting-quality offensive tackle, and now they have three.
Michael Roos has been a starter for the Titans for nine seasons, including one Pro Bowl season, and isn't likely to lose his left tackle spot in 2014. The right tackle spot, however, appears to be up for grabs between Michael Oher and first round draft pick Taylor Lewan. After giving Oher a four-year, $20 million contract in March, it's hard to imagine that the Titans want him on the bench. Then again, it's hard to justify spending a No. 11 overall pick on Lewan only to sit him during his rookie season.
Eagles: Marcus Smith vs. Trent Cole
During a five-year span, Trent Cole accumulated 55 sacks and two trips to the Pro Bowl. In the last two seasons, however, he has managed just 11 total sacks, and does not appear to be a great fit in the Eagles' new defensive scheme, although he adjusted well at the end of the 2013 season.
The Eagles made an attempt to draft that perfect fit when they selected Marcus Smith No. 26 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft. While Smith lacks Cole's polish, he is the team's long-term plan at the position. If he can provide legitimate competition for Cole in the offseason, the team could go with the future sooner rather than later.
Bengals: Giovani Bernard vs. Jeremy Hill
Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson says that there's still room in the Cincinnati offense for BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but Green-Ellis will have his hands full finding time ahead of a pair of talented young runners.
2013 second-round pick Giovani Bernard and 2014 second-round pick Jeremy Hill will likely battle each other for the starting spot in the Bengals' offense. Regardless of the winner, both players will almost certainly receive a significant number of snaps in the regular season. But what kind of snaps?
Bernard primarily played as a change-of-pace back last season, and could reprise that role if Hill proves he is ready to handle early downs better than Green-Ellis did. If not, Bernard could be eyeing those snaps as well, relegating Hill to a spell-back role.
49ers: Marcus Martin vs. Daniel Kilgore
With the departure of Jonathan Goodwin, 2011 fifth-round pick Daniel Kilgore was expected to fill in as the starting center for the 49ers this season. He even received a four-year contract extension in what was seemingly a show of faith that Kilgore would take over the position.
However, San Francisco selected Marcus Martin, arguably the most NFL-ready center in the 2014 NFL Draft, very early in the third round. As a rookie, Martin will likely be the underdog to win the starting role, though Kilgore is technically just as much of an unknown on the field.
The battle between the two players will be a crucial one for a 49ers team that thrives on power running between the tackles.