Training camp battles: The final countdown
This article is getting shorter, which is just another indication of how close we are to the regular season. All of these battles should be officially decided by this time next week, but plenty remain outstanding. And some are just downright frustrating. At the end of each graph, you will see who I thought was each competition's leader in previous articles followed by whom I consider to be the current leader – or winner.
Denver Broncos Starting RB: Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman and Knowshon Moreno
Consider the life cycle of this competition: Ball is drafted in April and shoots up draft boards soon afterward as he becomes the heavy favorite for the starting job. Ronnie Hillman begins drawing some buzz as he receives first-team snaps in practice consistently, but many assume Ball will be the leader when all is said and done. Now training camp is almost over, and neither back as separated himself during the preseason. Hillman is still atop the depth chart but fumbling away every chance he gets, Ball is sorely lacking as a receiver and blocker, and some writers are even calling for Knowshon Moreno to start.
Head coach John Fox said Tuesday that he doesn't know whom his opening-day starter will be. He's probably telling the truth, and that's a troubling matter for fantasy owners. This could be an unpredictable, three-man committee for the first few weeks of the season. It's a tough decision to invest a fourth or fifth-round pick in that. Hillman's name is still listed first, so he remains the "leader" here.
Week 1 Leader: Hillman, barely
Week 2 Leader: Hillman, barely
Week 3 Leader: Hillman, barely
Week 4 Leader: Hillman, barely
Giants Starting RB: David Wilson and Andre Brown
It was a pretty simple play in the first minute of Saturday's game against the Jets: Wilson makes one cut, darts around left end and runs away from everybody for an 84-yard touchdown. That's it. Ring the bell, game over, shut it down. Wilson is the Giants' starting running back. Head coach Tom Coughlin may not say as much before next Sunday, and Andre Brown will still have a significant role in this offense, but that big-play ability is what makes Wilson so special and deserving of the job.
Week 1 Leader: Wilson
Week 2 Leader: Wilson
Week 3 Leader: Wilson, definitely
Week 4 Leader: Wilson, definitely
Packers Starting RB: Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin, James Starks, Alex Green and DuJuan Harris
Lacy ran eight times for minus-five yards on Friday against the Seahawks. That could be cause for demotion for some rookies, but Lacy has pretty much cemented himself as the Packers' lead runner. Plus, all of his carries came with Aaron Rodgers out of the game, and the Seattle's run defense is strong.
The biggest story in the backfield this week was the season-ending diagnosis given to Harris. He was in the lead to be Green Bay's third-down back, but he needs surgery on a patellar tendon and was placed on injured reserve Tuesday. That gives the struggling Franklin another opportunity to play every week. He has rushed for 24 yards on 13 carries in three preseason games.
Week 1 Leader: Lacy
Week 2 Leader: Lacy
Week 3 Leader: Lacy, definitely
Week 4 Leader: Lacy, definitely
Steelers Starting RB: Le'Veon Bell, Isaac Redman, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Jonathan Dwyer and Felix Jones
Bell's foot injury is not a Lisfranc sprain, so the hope is he will return at some point in October. Until then, a mixture of these other players will try to hold down the fort. It's a cringe-worthy group with Bell out, but if you want to take a chance on anyone here, it's probably Redman. It was reported Tuesday that he will be Pittsburgh's Week 1 starter. But there's no doubt that this will be a committee.
Week 1 Leader: Bell, definitely
Week 2 Leader: Bell, definitely
Week 3 Leader: Redman, barely
Colts Second WR: T.Y. Hilton and Darrius Heyward-Bey
It was the same script, different day for the Colts in preseason game No. 3. Heyward-Bey started again, and Hilton caught a touchdown again. Hilton should be playing and certainly drafted ahead of DHB, but the Colts appear content with their current rotation. Hey, if that means Hilton scores 16 touchdowns, I think everybody will be OK with him being listed as Indy's third wideout.
Week 1 Leader: Hilton
Week 2 Leader: Hilton
Week 3 Leader: Heyward-Bey
Week 4 Leader: Heyward-Bey, definitely