Eight key NFL training camp battles: Russell Wilson vs. Justin Fields and more

2X7WNHH Pittsburgh Steelers quarterbacks Justin Fields (2) and Russell Wilson (3) participate in the team's NFL OTA's football practice in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

• Russell Wilson and Justin Fields will square off this offseason: Wilson has looked a long way off the player who earned a 90.5 PFF overall grade in 2020, whereas Fields couldn’t get his feet under him in Chicago as a former first-rounder.

• How will the Broncos handle their QB situation? Jarrett Stidham may hold off Bo Nix to open the season, but the rookie likely has the inside track to a starting job sooner rather than later.

• Get a head start on fantasy football: Use PFF's fantasy football mock draft simulator to create real live mock draft simulations to get ready for your live draft!

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

NFL training camps are on the horizon, and there are still plenty of question marks around the league about who will start at various positions.

Here, we take a look at eight key battles that will take place this summer, including five important decisions to be made at the quarterback position.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Quarterback

Russell Wilson vs. Justin Fields

The most high-profile quarterback battle of training camp will take place in the Steel City. The Steelers made two low-risk offseason additions in Russell Wilson and Justin Fields, each of whom could lead the offense in 2024.

Wilson will turn 36 during the season and has looked a long way off the player who earned a 90.5 PFF overall grade in 2020.

Fields, the 11th-overall pick in 2021, couldn’t get his feet under him in Chicago, with the team opting to reset by selecting Caleb Williams first overall in the 2024 NFL Draft. Still, Fields has improved in each of his NFL seasons and is coming off a career-high 74.6 PFF overall grade in 2023.

Ideally, Fields will stick as the Steelers' quarterback of the present and future, but either of these options would be an upgrade over last season.

Denver Broncos: Quarterback

Bo Nix vs. Jarrett Stidham

Bo Nix’s time will come eventually, but why not on Day 1? His ability to avoid negative plays, having recorded just five turnover-worthy plays in his final season in college, should help him manage games in the NFL as he develops.

Stidham has been in the NFL since 2019 and started the Broncos' final two games of the 2023 season. He failed to impress, finishing the season with just a 55.5 PFF overall grade. Even if he can hold Nix off to start the season, it’s unlikely to be long before the Broncos' first-round draft pick is on the field.

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Houston Texans: Cornerback

Jeff Okudah vs. CJ Henderson vs. Kamari Lassiter

The Texans have built one of the best rosters in the NFL heading into quarterback C.J. Stroud’s second season, but one of the biggest question marks is who will start opposite Derek Stingley Jr. at cornerback.

Okudah has yet to live up to his billing as the third-overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, with his below-average career-high PFF coverage grade (54.4) coming in 2022. It’s a similar story for Henderson, who was the ninth-overall pick in that same draft. His 48.9 career-high PFF grade is even lower than Okudah’s.

Their previous struggles will open the door for Lassiter to start right away. The second-round rookie had his best season in college in 2023, earning an 87.2 PFF coverage grade for Georgia.

New Orleans Saints: Left Guard

Nick Saldiveri vs. Shane Lemieux

The Saints have multiple questions along the offensive line, most glaringly at left guard. Saldiveri, a fourth-round draft pick last April, is one option, coming off a rookie season where he played just 18 regular-season snaps. He did earn an 85.1 PFF pass-blocking grade at right tackle in his final season at Old Dominion.

Lemieux has been in the league since 2020 but hasn’t played more than 100 snaps in a season since his rookie year. His lone start in 2023 resulted in just a 31.6 PFF grade, and he allowed five quarterback pressures from 40 pass-blocking snaps.

Kansas City Chiefs: Left Tackle

Wanya Morris vs. Kingsley Suamataia

A pair of second-day picks from the past two drafts will battle it out to protect Patrick Mahomes’ blind side in Kansas City this season.

Morris earned a 70.0-plus PFF pass-blocking grade in two of his four starts in 2023 and finished his rookie season with 24 pressures allowed from 235 pass-blocking snaps.

Suamataia earned PFF pass-blocking grades above 80.0 in both seasons at BYU to end his college career, but with just 201 pass-blocking snaps on true pass sets to his name, he might be more of a project in his rookie campaign.

Las Vegas Raiders: Quarterback

Aidan O’Connell vs. Gardner Minshew

O’Connell was the surprise starting quarterback from the 2023 draft class, getting the nod behind center 10 times across the season. He had some nice moments, too, earning a PFF passing grade above 70.0 in four of those starts.

Minshew is the veteran, having earned a PFF passing grade above 60.0 in all three seasons where he has played 350 or more dropbacks. He is a safe bet to give the Raiders solid quarterback play. However, the right decision for the long-term is for Las Vegas to find out what it has in O’Connell. It will give the team greater clarity about what to do at the position come the end of the season.

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Minnesota Vikings: Quarterback

J.J. McCarthy vs. Sam Darnold

Kirk Cousins’ time in Minnesota has come to an end after six seasons, and the Vikings selected their quarterback of the future in Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy at No. 10 overall in the 2024 NFL Draft.

McCarthy will almost certainly be Minnesota's starting quarterback by the season's end, with the 21-year-old earning a 90.6 PFF grade on his way to leading Michigan to a national championship in his final college season.

The Vikings might opt for more experience to open the year, and Darnold was signed as that bridge option in the offseason. While he has failed to live up to the hype that made him the No. 3 overall pick in 2018, he has earned PFF passing grades above 65.0 in each of the past two seasons and is a solid option to command Minnesota's offense while McCarthy waits his turn.

New England Patriots: Quarterback

Drake Maye vs. Jacoby Brissett

Drake Maye will eventually be the starter in New England. The only question is how long Brissett can hold him off.

Maye earned PFF grades above 90.0 in each of his final two seasons at North Carolina and produced an 8.1% big-time throw rate over his college career, compared to just a 2.1% turnover-worthy play rate.

Brissett played just 25 dropbacks in Washington in 2023 but produced to the same level that we saw from him with the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins the two previous seasons, earning a PFF passing grade above 70.0 for the third straight year.


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