The most intriguing battle in the NFC South is in New Orleans, where coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees are running neck-and-neck on the New York Times best-seller list.
Payton's Home Team has the edge, with the book checking in at eighth in last week's list, but stay tuned. Brees has a history of making second-half comebacks, and his book, Coming Back Stronger, reportedly will debut at No. 3.
That's great, only we're here to talk about position battles among the division's non-authors -- and there are plenty out there. These are the ones that fascinate us:
|Matt Bryant looks to have the clear edge heading into training camp. (Getty Images)|
Opening day starter: Bryant.
The Panthers make it clear that Moore is their starter ... at least for now ... but they also made it clear how happy they were to have stolen Clausen with their first pick of the draft. Clausen has what it takes to win this job, but Moore has something Clausen does not: experience. He's been in the Panthers' system three years and has proven he can win, going 4-1 in relief of Jake Delhomme last season and 6-2 in eight starts. Considering how inconsistent the Panthers have been lately, that's an accomplishment -- and it's one Carolina can't overlook. Nevertheless, the Panthers have hedged their bets, signing Moore to a one-year deal. They know what they have in him, and they like it. They don't know what they have in Clausen, but they're optimistic. Maybe he waits a year. Maybe he waits eight games. Sooner or later, you figure he gets a crack at the job. But he must prove he's better than the incumbent and that's always difficult for a rookie. There is nothing especially flashy about Moore, but he knows how to win. However, GM Marty Hurney and coach John Fox never drafted a quarterback higher than the fourth round ... until Clausen came along. He reminds them of a young Jake Delhomme, and that's good for everyone. Fox and Hurney were loyal to Delhomme, and Delhomme was good for the Panthers. Clausen is extraordinarily talented, but this isn't about talent; it's about who gives the Panthers the best chance to win ... and, for the moment, that man is Moore.
Opening day starter: Moore. Why change what the Panthers had at the end of last season when they won four of their last five?
Training camps: Report dates, sites, schedules
NFL Facts & Rumors: The latest blog updates
When the Saints lost Scott Fujita to Cleveland the popular opinion was that they'd draft an outside linebacker to replace him. Wrong. Instead, they added Ingram, signing him to a one-year deal after Jacksonville pulled his RFA offer off the table. His experience made him the favorite to take over the job, but he sat out OTAs and mini-camp to take care of a knee injury that bothered him in the past. Enter Dunbar. The third-year pro stepped in with the first team during spring practices and, for the moment, is the frontrunner for the job. Dunbar has experience at the position, stepping in at both outside linebacker spots when Fujita and Scott Shanle were hurt in the past, and, just as important, has the support of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Jonathan Casillas, Stanley Arnoux, Marvin Mitchell and Troy Evans are others who could figure into the equation, but more than likely this is a two-horse race.
Edge: Dunbar because of his experience with the Saints.
Opening day starter: Dunbar.
Coach Raheem Morris has said this race is too close to call, but logic says it's Jones' job to lose. Piscitelli didn't do much in his first crack at starting, provoking the Bucs to make Jones one of their few offseason acquisitions. Put the two together, and you have Jones in the front row. Jones' strength is that he's physical and an aggressive and sure tackler, areas where Piscitelli comes up short. Jones also has a nose for the football, with 16 interceptions and 35 pass deflections the past four seasons, but if he were bulletproof in coverage the Eagles wouldn't have let him walk. They're the second team in two years that made that decision, which should give Piscitelli hope that the race is still on. To make this one a photo finish, he must make better and faster decisions in pass coverage and provide more help for cornerbacks who were beaten for big plays in 2009. Tampa Bay coaches have said they plan to use a three-safety rotation -- with starter Tanard Jackson the third man in -- so both these guys will see plenty of action. To get on the field before Jones, Piscitelli must be more of a consistent performer.
Opening day starter: Jones. The Bucs signed him for a reason, and it wasn't to serve as Piscitelli's caddy.