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2016 Jaguars training camp: 6 position battles to watch

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With the depth the Jaguars have built, this year's training camp could (and should) be the most competitive yet.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier, we broke down the matchups on offense vs. defense that would be the most fun to watch if you were going to Jacksonville Jaguars training camp. Allen Hurns going against Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Cann against Malik Jackson, and Julius Thomas against Myles Jack will be entertaining for sure.

But what about the position battles going on where guys will be competing for playing time or even a roster spot?

With the depth the Jaguars have built, this year's training camp could (and should) be the most competitive yet.

T.J. Yeldon vs. Chris Ivory

Don't be surprised if Ivory is the starter going into Week 1. Yeldon did well as a rookie behind a subpar left side of the line last year, but Ivory is still the proven talent who is stronger and more adept in the red zone. In training camp, look for the different situations the coaches put Yeldon and Ivory in. Is it a red zone situation? Is it a spread offense? Right now, Ivory is on track to get slightly more snaps in games overall and significantly more in the red zone.

Luke Joeckel vs. Kelvin Beachum vs. Mackenzy Bernadeau

Cole Hartley did a great job with his animated short analyzing what the left side of the offensive line could look like in the fall. If I had to guess, I'm going with Beachum at left tackle and Bernadeau at left guard simply because I think Beachum is the stronger, more skilled tackle and Joeckel doesn't have the strength or bully mentality to play guard. But if you're going to camp, watch specifically for Joeckel's play when they try him at guard. With a vastly improved interior defensive line for the Jaguars, he could be in for a rough time.

Marqise Lee vs. Rashad Greene

Really this should be Marqise Lee vs. himself. At camp, watch the reps when they put Lee in the slot position. With Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns as the outside receivers, that's the position the coaches want him at. Watch and see how well he can stretch the defense and how much space he gives the other receivers to make the catch and turn upfield. And watch for when Rashad Greene is put in the same situation. If Lee can stay healthy, he's a gift in the slot. But he missed a lot of time in the offseason leading up to the 2014 and 2015 seasons, so while he only missed nine games in two years, he was playing catch up for the first half of both seasons.

Lee will get looks outside and Hurns moved inside on specific matchups where they can use his speed to stretch the defense, so look for when Hurns or Robinson are moved inside and Lee outside. Don't forget: Robinson (and the Jaguars) improved in the red zone late last year when the Jaguars moved Robinson to the slot.

Michael Bennett vs. Sheldon Day

Bennett was drafted to be an interior rusher along the defensive line and he struggled with that in his rookie season last year, due to being outmatched and underutilized. But that still didn't excuse him from general manager Dave Caldwell spending a fourth round pick on Sheldon Day. With a wealth of 3-tech players on the roster, if Bennett has a bad camp he could be on the outside looking in as Day steals the show.

Johnathan Cyprien vs. James Sample

This is my least exciting position battle because it's a veteran on his last lifeline up against an unproven mid-round pick who played just three games in his rookie season. The strong safety position is the most likely of the secondary to still be bad in 2016 and this will be a battle of how the Jaguars want to handle this year. Cyprien likely retains his starting job and Sample will likely make the team, but if either has a really bad camp those things could change.

Ryan Davis vs. Yannick Ngakoue vs. Chris Smith

The Jaguars worked Greg Hardy out this week which tells us that the Jaguars are thinking one of two things:

1. "We can always get better at a premium position like pass rusher and just want to see what's out there."

2. "We don't have a lot of faith with our current stock of pass rushers."

It's likely the latter and the pass rusher opposite Dante Fowler in obvious pass situations is going to be a critical piece of Todd Wash's first season as defensive coordinator. Davis has been working at linebacker in OTAs, but he's the most efficient pass rusher for the Jaguars over the past two years when you look at sacks and pressures per snap.

What about Ngakoue, a third round pick seemingly out of nowhere? Can he step up and be the designated pass rusher the Jaguars drafted him to be? Can Chris Smith be anything other than just a guy?