At many positions, teams already know who is going to be the starter and who will be the backup. Every team has a few positions where there are still question marks, with multiple players battling for playing time. As teams progress through their offseason programs, these battles will be settled and a starter will be named.
DeMarco Murray ran for 1,845 yards for Dallas in the regular season last year and with him now in Philadelphia, the Cowboys need someone to step up at running back.
Joseph Randle was Murray’s backup in 2014 and carried the ball 51 times for 343 yards (6.7 yards per carry) and scored three touchdowns. The year before he rushed 54 times for 164 yards and two touchdowns.
In free agency, Dallas signed Darren McFadden to a cheap two-year contract. Constantly injured, the former fourth overall pick has failed to play a full 16-game season in his seven seasons. When on the field, he has a career average of 4.1 yards per carry, but has been held to 3.3, 3.3 and 3.4 yards per carry the last three seasons.
It seems unlikely that another running back would win the job––especially as the Cowboys didn’t draft one––but this is an open competition and Lance Dunbar and Ryan Williams are waiting in the wings.
The offensive line in Dallas is so talented that no matter who the ball carrier is, they are going to have some sort of success. Dallas relied on the ground game a lot more in 2014 and were a better offense because of it.
Entering the draft, the cupboards were bare at both safety positions for the Giants. Strong safety was addressed with second-round pick Landon Collins, but free safety is still a question mark.
There are three players vying for the starting free safety job: Nat Berhe, Cooper Taylor and Mykkele Thompson.
At the moment, Berhe is the favorite for the job, but that doesn’t mean much given his lack of experience. The 2014 fifth-round pick played 32 defensive snaps last season and recorded four tackles. He made his biggest impact on special teams, recording 10 tackles.
After seeing time in 10 games as a rookie, Taylor missed all of 2014 with an injury. Like Berhe, Taylor was a selected in the fifth round and saw limited time as a rookie (five defensive snaps with zero tackles) and mainly contributed on special teams (four tackles).
Thompson seems the least likely the win the starting position, as he was a fifth-round pick this year and Berhe and Taylor saw very limited time as rookies of a similar draft position.
New York will have very inexperienced safeties in the upcoming season, as Collins is a rookie and the free safety candidates have played a combined 37 defensive snaps in the NFL.
A point of emphasis in Philadelphia this offseason was the secondary, where there will be new starters at strong safety and both outside cornerback positions.
Byron Maxwell signed a six-year contract to start at one cornerback spot and Brandon Boykin returns as the nickel cornerback, but the other spot is up for grabs between veteran Nolan Carroll and rookie Eric Rowe.
Carroll joined the Eagles for the 2014 season, but only started one game (week 17) and played a total of 388 snaps. His lone start was his second-best game of the season, according to Pro Football Focus. He finished the season with 32 tackles and four passes defensed.
In the second round of the draft, Philadelphia selected Eric Rowe out of the University of Utah. At Utah, Rowe spent three years at safety before transitioning to cornerback as a senior. With the Eagles, head coach Chip Kelly has said Rowe will play cornerback.
After seeing the secondary torched multiple times in 2014, Kelly decided to overhaul the group. The final move will be made by deciding who the other starting cornerback will be.
Offensive line play has long been a problem in D.C. and the team has taken the necessary steps to address this issue. This year, there appears to be only one battle on the line.
For the past four seasons, Chris Chester was the starting right guard, but he was released after the draft (and signed with Atlanta), leading the way for Spencer Long and Arie Kouandjio.
Long is the favorite for the job, but he only saw 18 snaps as a rookie last year and 12 of those came at left tackle. The 2014 third-round pick has been with the team for a year now, so he holds the advantage over Kouandjio at the moment.
A fourth-round selection this year, Kouandjio could give Long a run for his money. A two-year starter at the University of Alabama, he played plenty of quality defensive linemen in college.
Robert Griffin III enters the season at quarterback for the Redskins. For him to succeed, he will need time to throw the ball and the offensive line will need to open up holes in the run game, allowing the offense to continue to be based off the ground game.