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Camp battles: Is the Lions' starting center job up for grabs?

All signs point to Travis Swanson being the Detroit Lions' starting center, but could Manny Ramirez beat him out in training camp?

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Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The situation at center is very similar to the situation at left guard for the Detroit Lions going into training camp. A young, recent draft pick is the presumed starter at each position, but a veteran acquired via a trade is hoping to break into the starting lineup with a strong performance during training camp. It seems unlikely that the veteran will actually become a starter as long as the recent draft picks stay healthy, but might the door be slightly open at center?

The candidates

The overwhelming favorite to start at center is Travis Swanson, who is entering his second year in the NFL. He was picked by the Lions in the third round last year, and he made five starts during his rookie season. Only one of those starts actually came at center, but that turned out to be his best performance of the year, according to Pro Football Focus. At the very least, he showed enough that the Lions opted to move on from longtime starter Dominic Raiola this offseason, which is why the center job has been viewed as Swanson's to lose.

The player who is hoping to throw a wrench into those plans is Manny Ramirez, who was traded to the Lions from the Denver Broncos during the draft. Ramirez is expected to compete with Laken Tomlinson for the starting left guard job, but with Tomlinson expected to win that, Ramirez is also expected to compete with Swanson for the starting center job. Swanson is also expected to win this camp battle, but Ramirez was the No. 5 center in the entire NFL on PFF back in 2013. Ramirez's track record at center is pretty impressive, so perhaps we shouldn't completely write him off just yet.

Who has the edge right now?

Just like at left guard, where it's Tomlinson's job to lose, the starting center job is Swanson's to lose. The Lions have had a plan in place for a while now to make him their starting center in 2015, and it's tough to imagine Ramirez doing enough in training camp for that plan to be altered. Granted, if Ramirez clearly outperforms Swanson, then you can't have Swanson start, but if they're even in the same neighborhood performance-wise, the expectation is for the Lions to go with the younger player instead of the veteran.

Previously: Backup quarterback, starting running back, No. 4 running back, starting fullback, No. 3 wide receiver, No. 4 offensive tackle, starting left guard

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