Ewing: NFC Position Battles

Last Updated: 10/14/2014 10:06 AM ET

With NFL mini-camps in full swing around the league, John Ewing checks in on a few key position battles including NFL rookies. First up, the NFC. (2012 projections for rookies are based on this analysis which projects rookie seasons for all NFL prospects as if they were starters on average NFL teams.)

Washington Redskins – Starting QBs

Incumbent: Rex Grossman, 2011 stats – 3,151 yards, 16 TDs, and 20 INTs

Grossman had a very frustrating 2011 campaign. He began the season throwing for 2 TDs and 0 INTs in a win against the New York Giants but then proceeded to throw at least one interception in each of the remaining twelve games that he played. Redskins QB coach Matt LaFleur said, “Rex is a pro. He’s got a great attitude. He did make a lot of plays for us last year. He had too many turnovers, and he knows that. But at the same time, he did do a lot of good things for us, and he’d better also be ready.” Let me summarize that quote for you: Griffin is going to start. After the Redskins went 5-11 the hard way (started 3-1 on the season), a change at QB might be just what the Redskins need.

Challenger: Robert Griffin III, 2012 projections – 3,951 yards, 25 TDs, and 18 INTs

The Redskins took Griffin with the second overall pick in this years draft and, after the less than stellar performance by Rex Grossman, there is little doubt that Griffin will be the starting QB for the Redskins when they begin the 2012 season against the New Orleans Saints. LaFleur said of Griffin’s skill set, “First of all, he is a passer first, a runner second…He’s got a big arm and he’s got the vision to see down the field. The one real bonus that he has that not a lot of quarterbacks have, is he’s got that 4.3 speed.” That 4.3 speed has led PredictionMachine.com to project Griffin to accumulate 86 rushes for 370 yards in his rookie season.

Backup to the backup: Kirk Cousins, 2012 projections – 3,462 yards, 21 TDs, and 21 INTs

Kirk Cousins was drafted in the Fourth Round in a curious move befitting of the Redskins. The pick came exactly 100 selections after the Redskins drafted Griffin. This move comes 18 years after Washington selected Heath Shuler with the third overall pick and Gus Frerotte 194 picks later. If history repeats itself, Cousins could replace Griffin as the starter just as Frerotte supplanted Schuler. Cousins' projections were contingent upon him starting, but, with limited playing time, we expect his numbers to be greatly diminished.

Seattle Seahawks – Starting QBs

“It’s going to take us until we start playing (preseason) games to where we’ll see something happen. At this point they’re doing everything they can do with the opportunities and they look good, so I can’t tell you that there’s anything that has happened other than we’ll stay with the same format going into camp,” said Pete Carroll following the conclusion of mini-camp last Thursday. That same format appears to be equal reps with the starting offense

Incumbent: Tarvaris Jackson, 2011 stats – 3,091 yards, 14 TDs, and 13 INTs

There was no quarterback competition last year as Carroll named Jackson the started over Charlie Whitehurst at the beginning of training camp. It will be interesting to see how Jackson responds with two qualified challengers capable of taking his job. The Seahawks finished last year with the 22nd ranked passing offense and Jackson’s 2011 statistics reflect that mediocre ranking.

Challenger: Matt Flynn, 2011 stats – 518 yards, 6 TDs, and 2 INTs

Flynn saw limited playing time for the Green Bay Packers as a backup to Mr. Discount Double Check, Aaron Rodgers. In the last two season,s Flynn has started three games. However, his performance in the those games that landed him a three year deal worth $26 million with $10 million guaranteed. Specifically everyone will remember his January 1 game against the Detroit Lions last year when he lead the Packers to a 45-41 victory on the strength of his 480 yard passing and 6 TD game. Flynn is an unproven quarterback and it looks like he will have to prove to Pete Carroll that he can lead the Seahawks.

Challenger: Russell Wilson, 2012 projections – 3,048 yards, 21 TDs, and 16 INTs

Wilson led the University of Wisconsin to the 2012 Rose Bowl and a Big Ten Title. Wilson threw for 3,175 yards, 33 TDs, and 4 INTs. He also rushed for 338 yards and 6 more TDs. Wilson is a capable QB, yet finds himself mired in a sticky QB competition. At least he is being given the chance to win the starting job.

San Francisco 49ers – Starting WRs and RBs

WR Incumbent: Michael Crabtree, 2011 stats - 72 receptions, 874 yards, and 4 TDs

Crabtree was a two time unanimous All-American for Texas Tech and was selected tenth overall by the 49ers in the 2009 Draft. While Crabtree as shown steady improvements in his three NFL seasons, he has failed to live up to the hype and produce like he did in college.

Challenger: Randy Moss, 2010 stats - 28 receptions, 393 yards, and 5 TDs

Moss spent the 2011 season in retirement after a very disappointing 2010 season. With Randy, it has always been about motivation. Most fans will remember the three seasons in New England where a motivated Moss averaged 83 receptions for 1,255 yards and 15 TDs. The question is: which Moss will the 49ers get in the 2012 season? All reports out of minicamp are that Moss is back and hungrier than ever to quite his critics.

Challenger: Mario Manningham, 2011 stats - 39 receptions, 523 yards, and 4 TDs

Manningham was last seen making a magnificent catch in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLVI to setup the winning score for the Giants against the Patriots. After winning the Super Bow,l Manningham wanted to be paid like a number one wide receiver. Instead the Giants let him walk and the 49ers signed him to a cap friendly $7.37 million, $2.45 million guaranteed, contract.

Challenger: AJ Jenkins, 2012 projections – 49 receptions, 540 yards, and 4 TDs

AJ Jenkins, wide receiver from Illinois, was PredictionMachine.com’s 20th ranked wideout coming into the draft. The 49ers selected him with the 30th overall pick after Jenkins performed well in the NFL combine posting a sub 4.4 forty-yard dash. Reports out of minicamp have been negative. Not only has Jenkins not signed with the team, but he reported to camp out of shape. 

RB Incumbent: Frank Gore, 2011 stats – 282 rushes, 1,211 yards, and 8 TDs

Frank Gore has been one of the most consistent running backs in all of the NFL over the last six seasons. He has rushed for over a thousand yards in five out of the last six seasons. He has also been a capable receiver out of the backfield recording over 40 receptions and 400 yards in five out of the last six seasons. All of this might change as the 49ers are set to operate a running back by committee in 2012.

Challenger: Brandon Jacobs, 2011 stats – 152 rushes, 571 yards, and 7 TDs

Jacobs is a veteran running back that is used to splitting playing time. In his time with the Giants Jacobs saw a fairly even split with Ahmad Bradshaw. Jacobs is known as a bruising runner who may vulture TDs from Gore on short yardage and goal-line plays.

Challenger: LaMichael James, 2012 projections – 213 rushes, 911 yards, and 9 TDs

The 5’9’’ running back out of Oregon may provide the change of speed that will compliment the pounding rushing styles of Gore/Jacobs. Expect to see James utilized in third down situations as well as getting touches in packages that provide him space to be creative and to exploit his great speed.