DeShaun Foster vs. DeAngelo Williams, RB
Sure, Foster's the leader, but there's a history here that has the Panthers concerned -- or at least should have them concerned. He's been hurt three of his four years, finishing last season as he did the year before -- on the sidelines. They like the guy, but you can't blame them if they don't completely trust him. The Panthers are a team that lives by the run, which is why they made Williams their first-round choice. You can't have enough backs in Charlotte, so look for Williams to work his way into the lineup if Foster falters.
Edge: Foster because of his experience
Opening day starter: Foster
Tampa Bay Bucs
Ryan Nece vs. Jamie Winborn, OLB
|NFL camp battles|
|July 24||AFC East|
|July 24||AFC North|
|July 24||AFC South|
|July 24||AFC West|
|July 26||NFC East|
|July 26||NFC North|
|July 26||NFC South|
|July 26||NFC West|
Nece is the strong-side incumbent; Winborn is the challenger. Nece is familiar with the system and had a solid season last year as a starter. But that's not the point. He didn't make enough big plays. So the Bucs went after Winborn, the former 49er, and his speed fits in perfectly with this system. That the Bucs targeted him tells you something. It tells you they think he can win the job and hold it until Derrick Brooks retires -- when the club plans to move him to the weak-side.
Edge: Winborn because of his speed
Opening day starter: Nece has the inside track because he's a returning starter.
Jimmy Williams vs. Jason Webster, RCB
Williams is 6-feet-2, 216; Webster is 5-9, 187. Two completely different packages. Webster is a returning starter, but his size will hurt him here. The Falcons drafted Williams to combat the tall receivers in their division, and they believe that -- with time -- he can become a premier player. Let's see. For the time being, he's looking at nickel work.
Edge: Williams because of his athletic ability and because the Falcons invested a second-round draft pick in him.
Opening day starter: Webster because of his experience. But look for Williams to step in somewhere during the season. He won't start the season in the lineup, but he'll end it there.
New Orleans Saints
Deuce McAllister vs. Reggie Bush, RB
The Saints chose Bush not because they needed him but because he was the best player in the draft. So that was easy. Signing him, however, may be more difficult, which is one reason the Houston Texans backed off. That said, you have to trust me: He'll be in uniform this season. The question is: How much does he push McAllister? Don't expect it to happen immediately, but look for the Saints to choose his spots early, then work him into the lineup as the season progresses. One other thing: Don't rule out these two playing at once. It could happen.
Opening day starter: McAllister, but try keeping Bush out of the lineup. You don't draft someone with the second pick to nurture him.