|Arizona invests in Levi Brown to protect QB Matt Leinart. (US Presswire)|
Ross has been a disappointment the past two years, but Russ Grimm knows a lot about the guy from his days in Pittsburgh. So maybe he squeezes something out of him before Brown takes over.
There's a reason the Cards used the fifth pick on Brown, and it's twofold: 1) They must protect Matt Leinart, and 2) they don't trust Ross to do it. Look for Brown to win this job at some point this season.
Edge: Ross for the immediate future; Brown in the long run.
Opening-day starter: Ross, but don't get comfortable, Oliver.
This was supposed to be Fakhir Brown's position, but he's gone the first four games because of a suspension. That makes it open season among three guys, with Walls and Rumph veterans of other systems. They're the recognizable names here, but Bartell is the man to beat. He not only has a year's experience in the system, he did something with it -- producing three interceptions in 2006. My guess is that defensive coordinator Jim Haslett will rely on him.
Edge: Bartell because he knows the system.
Opening-day starter: Bartell.
|NFL camp battles|
|July 16||AFC East|
|July 17||AFC North|
|July 19||AFC South|
|July 21||AFC West|
|July 20||NFC East|
|July 23||NFC North|
|July 24||NFC South|
|July 25||NFC West|
Harris is a former first-round draft pick; Staley is a first-round draft pick this year. Teams don't spend first-rounders on tackles unless they're unhappy with someone at the position, or unless someone is getting old. And Harris is not old. He was a bust on the left side and supposed to be better suited to playing on the right. He was, particularly as a run blocker, but he wasn't good enough to keep the 49ers from drafting the athletic Staley. This looks like Ross vs. Brown all over again, and it could be a photo finish.
Edge: Harris because of his experience.
Opening-day starter: It's a toss up, but give me Staley because the guy's relentless.
With Darrell Jackson gone, Deion Branch takes over at his position. That opens a job for the No. 2 receiver, with Hackett and Burleson the competitors. You'd think Burleson might have the edge after what the Seahawks spent to acquire the guy, but he doesn't. Nope, the advantage belongs to Hackett, who had 45 catches last season and scored four times. Burleson was a bust and has a long way to go to get into this race. Nevertheless, the spot is open and will be decided by who does what during training camp.
Edge: Hackett because he was more successful a year ago.
Opening-day starter: Hackett.