The Cleveland Browns have already been through training camp for a couple of weeks not, but the team's position battles could really start heating up once you see what certain players can do on gameday when full-blown contact is allowed. Here are the top five position battles to watch out for, ranked in order of prominence.
1. STARTING SAFETY - Usama Young vs. Mike Adams
After deciding not to re-sign safety Abram Elam, the team never pursued a safety in the draft. They also chose not to sign a "big-name" free agent safety, such as Eric Weddle, Quintin Mikell, Michael Huff, or Donte Whitner. They did sign Young, a guy who has been a role player the past several years with the New Orleans Saints. It reminds me of a redux of when Elam came here. By that, I mean it is a situation where a safety with minimal starting experience has basically been brought to Cleveland to start. He is in a competition with veteran Mike Adams, and while Young has received positive reviews in training camp, if he looks lost in pass coverage during the preseason, I don't think Dick Jauron will hesitate to go with Adams instead.
2. PUNTER TO REPLACE HODGES - Richmond McGee vs. Free Agent Market
The injury to Reggie Hodges in camp was a downer, and that put the punter position as one of the most important position battles. There is not another punter on the roster to directly oppose McGee, but let's not kid ourselves: this guy is battling with every backup punter on other teams who might get cut, and any veterans who might be waiting in the wings. It might be easy to punt in practice when the pressure is less, but when teams are trying to block you full force during a regular season game, can you handle the pressure and not shank the ball? Can you pin teams inside the 20 or the 10 when you have good field position? If McGee can't, it'll be easy to find a replacement.
3. NICKELBACK / THIRD CORNERBACK - Buster Skrine vs. Dimitri Patterson
I originally thought that this position battle would be between Skrine and Coye Francies, but Francies has sort of faded from the news after the Browns signed former Eagles cornerback Dimitri Patterson. Patterson should have the edge here since he played with defensive coordinator Dick Jauron last season in various roles, including as a starter. He has looked good in camp so far, but Skrine has been holding his own. His combination of speed and the ability to defend passes in camp makes him an intriguing choice to be the team's cornerback.
4. WIDE RECEIVER (NON-STARTER) - Jordan Norwood vs. Carlton Mitchell
I thought to myself, "how should I classify this position battle?" It looks like both players are contenders to contribute on offense, but that could very well be temporary until Mohamed Massaquoi comes back. With Norwood, it seems like he could be the team's slot receiver. With Mitchell, he seems to have grown and is a guy the front office also likes. I think if he makes the roster though, it would be in a lesser role than Norwood. Would the team really want to play Norwood in the slot over a Greg Little or Joshua Cribbs though? I don't know.
5. STARTING RIGHT TACKLE - Tony Pashos vs. Branndon Braxton
This is the position battle that is definitely a stretch. The coaches have given no indication that the right tackle position is open for competition. On the same note, Braxton has received a lot of praise for his work at both tackle positions in camp so far. He isn't going to start at left tackle, but given Pashos' injury history and the team's willingness to play their youngsters, I would say there is an outside chance that Braxton could replace Pashos as the team's starter.
Who do you think will win each of these position battles?