Four particular battles at training camps this summer could have a bigger than expected impact on the landscape of the NFL.
The Pittsburgh Steelers will begin a process of regeneration that could either improve or derail their fearsome defense.
In Seattle, a brewing quarterback competition could change the way teams view the athletic requirements at the position.
Meanwhile, in Chicago, the emergence of a rookie wide receiver could potentially alter the balance of power in the NFC North.
These four camp battles could change the landscape of the NFL:
Pittsburgh Steelers: Sean Spence vs. Larry Foote
The Steelers' first attempt at getting younger in the front seven surrounds the inside linebacker spot next to Lawrence Timmons. With James Farrior gone, the competition is between veteran Larry Foote and third-round rookie Sean Spence.
Foote has plenty of experience with Dick LeBeau's zone blitz schemes and the Steelers would hardly miss a beat if he claimed the job. However, Spence offers more athleticism and potential for big plays.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Alameda Ta'amu vs. Steve McLendon vs. Casey Hampton
This three-way competition is for the most important position on the Steelers defense and will be the most significant camp battle for the six-time Super Bowl champions.
Youngsters Alameda Ta'amu and Steve McLendon will attempt to fill the void at nose tackle created by last season's ACL injury suffered by superb veteran Casey Hampton. McLendon has impressed coaches, according to NFL.com.
However, at 6'3" and 348 pounds, fourth-round pick Ta'amu offers superior size for the position.
That being said, despite their desire to get younger, the Steelers need Hampton. If either McLendon or Ta'amu win the job, their presence—along with Spence—will either reinvigorate or begin a tricky transition for the league's best defense.
Seattle Seahawks: Tarvaris Jackson vs. Matt Flynn vs. Russell Wilson
The most intriguing quarterback battle in NFL training camps this summer will involve the Seattle Seahawks. It will include big-money free-agent Matt Flynn, incumbent Tarvaris Jackson and pint-sized rookie Russell Wilson.
When Flynn landed a big contract to move to the NFC West, it was simply assumed he will be the starter once the season begins. However, the Seahawks sprung a surprise when they added Wilson in the draft's third round.
NFL.com reported that Wilson made a positive first impression on head coach Pete Carroll during the team's rookie minicamp and remains in the thick of the quarterback competition.
If the 5'11", 204-pounder can beat out Flynn and Jackson, it would show that quarterbacks don't all have to be in the 6'5", 240-pound mould to succeed in the modern game.
Chicago Bears: Alshon Jeffery vs. Devin Hester
The Chicago Bears need rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery to start alongside trade acquisition Brandon Marshall. However, Jeffery's task won't be easy, as he faces strong competition from speedster Devin Hester.
While Hester is great in the open field, Jeffery possesses physical skills the special teams ace does not. His knack for using his frame to outmuscle defensive backs and leaping ability to go up and get the ball could make Jeffery prolific in an NFC North blighted by weak secondary play.
Pairing Jeffery and Marshall together gives the Bears two 6'4", 230-pound weapons that can help quarterback Jay Cutler finally succeed in the Windy City. That kind of passing game could elevate the defensively solid Bears past the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers and back to the division summit.
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