Five positional battles to watch in camp

Of course, everyone wants to see how All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham fits into Seattle's offense and there is plenty of intrigue at cornerback with Cary Williams taking over opposite Richard Sherman. But these two players are assured starting roles. Which players are in for the fights of their lives in training camp to earn regular season playing time?

While everyone else is gawking at Graham or wondering about Williams, at SeahawkFootball.com we're taking a deeper look in training camp at the "other" players who will play a critical role in how Seattle performs in 2015.

This a quick look at the five positional battles that I will be keeping close tabs on each day I personally attend training camp practices and, of course, during preseason games. Each position is listed with the contenders and a projected winner.

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Position: Center

Candidates: Lemuel Jeanpierre, Patrick Lewis, Drew Nowak, Will Pericak

Projected winner: Lewis

Breakdown: Given that the Seahawks have to replace a Pro Bowler in Max Unger at the position it isn't difficult to understand why many fans see this position as a major concern. The reality is that the Seahawks were 7-0 a year ago with Jeanpierre and Lewis starting while Unger was out with injury. Lewis was the starting center when the Seahawks obliterated the Arizona Cardinals for a franchise record 596 total yards last season. Lewis isn't quite as functionally strong as Jeanpierre but he's quicker and if he can clean up his technique a bit, he could overtake the veteran. Nowak received a long look with the starting unit in minicamps but hasn't been as impressive, in my opinion, while doing so. He does, however, offer better position versatility than either Jeanpierre or Lewis due to his experience at guard.

Position: Left Guard

Candidates: Alvin Bailey, Mark Glowinski, Keavon Milton, Drew Nowak, Kona Schwenke

Projected winner: Bailey

Breakdown: Bailey (who will be a restricted free agent following the season) looks ready to take over as a starter with James Carpenter leaving for the New York Jets. He's noticeably slimmer and quicker this season than in the past and, frankly, looks like a shoo-in for the starting role opposite right guard J.R. Sweezy, who also is entering the final year of his rookie deal. As such, expect there to be plenty of rotating of interior linemen as Cable and Pat Ruel determine the team's depth chart. Glowinski is the most polished of Seattle's rookies. I've been pleasantly impressed with Milton in the past and, again, like the position versatility Nowak provides.

Position: Nickel cornerback

Candidates: Jeremy Lane, Will Blackmon, Marcus Burley, Tharold Simon, Triston Wade, Tye Smith

Projected winner: Blackmon

Breakdown: As anyone who saw the Super Bowl knows, the Seahawks struggled once Lane went down with the torn ACL and fractured arm that likely will keep him sidelined into the regular season. At 6-3, Simon simply is too long for matching up against the ultra-quick slot receivers so en vogue in today's pass-happy NFL. He does very much fit into Seattle's plans on the outside but, frankly, he (and Smith) is/are listed here more to avoid confusion. John Schneider showed how important improving at nickel was to him by making Blackmon the club's first free agent addition. Athletic, instinctive and familiar to Seattle's scheme, he's the favorite to land the "starting" role. Burley could be fighting for a roster spot. Wade is listed among the team's free safeties but his agility, quickness and relatively slight frame (listed on the official Seahawks online roster at 5-11, 170) could earn him a look inside as a developmental corner, as well.

Position: Backup Running Back

Candidates: Robert Turbin, Christine Michael, Thomas Rawls

Projected winner: Turbin

Breakdown: On a roster as competitive as Seattle's, one of the annual jobs of summer is to identify relatively well-known players who may be a surprise cut. It would take guts for the Seahawks to cut bait with 2013 second round pick Christine Michael but the reality is he needs an impressive camp to warrant keeping him on the roster. There is no question that he has the "juice" as a runner to succeed in the NFL but Michael hasn't yet shown the reliability in pass protection and ball security to warrant taking snaps away from the ultra-reliable Marshawn Lynch. Turbin, on the other hand, has proven to be quite reliable but he's coming off of hip surgery and is also a looming free agent. Rawls has arguably been the most pleasant surprise of Seattle's rookie class and could push for a spot on the roster or even playing time should Michael (and Turbin) leave themselves vulnerable.

Position: Backup Free Safety

Candidates: DeShawn Shead, Steven Terrell, Dion Bailey, Triston Wade

Projected winner: Shead

Breakdown: Shead is currently listed among Seattle's cornerbacks but he's proven versatile in the past and at 6-2, 220 pounds, he certainly has prototypical size for safety. What he (or anyone else for that matter) does not possess is Earl Thomas' blinding speed. Should Thomas' recovery from surgery to repair a torn labrum push deep into camp (or even into the regular season), this position will bear close watching. Thomas' speed and playmaking ability make him the most valuable player on Seattle's top-ranked defense. Terrell is currently listed second on the depth chart at free safety but he's a relative unknown with only four game appearances (and one tackle) over his NFL career. I remain very intrigued by Bailey, who was a star at USC and flashed last year as an undrafted rookie before a high ankle sprain caused him trouble. Wade was a star at the University of Texas-San Antonio, earning First Team All-WAC and Conference USA honors over his career. He's a natural playmaker who plays much more aggressively than his size suggests.

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