NFL training camps may or may not be delayed as the league negotiates with players about COVID-19 protocols for the 2020 season. But one way or another, if and when a season does take place, there will assuredly be some form of camp in the run-up to real games. And that means we'll get at least an abbreviated look at some important position battles ahead of the 2020 campaign.
The pandemic's influence on the offseason arguably makes this year's training camp competitions even more intense. After all, a handful of teams have yet to even kick off in-person battles for their starting quarterback jobs -- which, you know, could prove to be pretty important come the regular season. And that leads us right into our look at the top five most intriguing camp battles of 2020, all but one of which center on the most important position in the game: QB.
Who's going to win each of these competitions? Only time will tell, but all of them figure to have a monumental impact on their respective teams:
5. Titans: Jon Robinson vs. Jadeveon Clowney
Didn't see this one coming, did you? Look, Clowney may have run into a stagnant market, but we can't pretend him eventually signing somewhere won't be big news. This is still a freakishly built three-time Pro Bowler who can step in and rush the passer on Day 1. The Titans, meanwhile, have flirted with Clowney so much there are probably some Tennessee fans who already think he's on the team. Will the star defensive end lower his price? Will Robinson finally pay up? Clowney's likely to find his home in the next few weeks, and a journey back to the AFC South would at least make the rest of the division pause.
If you'd like to listen to a breakdown of all the NFL's biggest training camp battles, you're in luck. Cody Benjamin joins host Will Brinson on the Pick Six Podcast to size up the top five; listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness.
4. Chargers QB: Tyrod Taylor vs. Justin Herbert
Coach Anthony Lynn's history with Taylor, who he's talked up as a Philip Rivers successor for months, would suggest this isn't actually much of a competition, especially now that Herbert's rookie offseason has been wiped away by the pandemic. But Lynn didn't waste time after L.A.'s high pick on Herbert, declaring the Oregon product a candidate to start this year. It's going to be hard for the new guy to convince Lynn in a few weeks (?) of on-field work that he deserves an Opening Day start over the seasoned vet, but the physical tools are already there, and in a loaded Chargers offense, who's to say an upside play couldn't come sooner than expected?
3. Dolphins QB: Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Tua Tagovailoa
Brian Flores was criticized but ultimately justified for riding with the ageless Fitzpatrick over Josh Rosen in 2019, and all signs point to the bearded wonder prevailing as QB1 to open, if not finish, 2020. Firstly, Fitzpatrick himself proved more than adequate on an otherwise dismal team. Secondly, Tagovailoa would almost certainly benefit from a redshirt season as he returns from a serious hip injury. But let's be clear: Tua is not Josh Rosen; he's a far more exciting prospect, and he was handpicked as the next homegrown face of the Dolphins. Rehab questions or not, he's going to light up some practices, and the temptation to put him in will be real.
2. Patriots QB: Cam Newton vs. Jarrett Stidham
This one's fascinating for two reasons: No. 1 is the mere presence of Cam in a Patriots uniform. The glitz of Newton's arrival has lessened by now, but it's still going to be a sight to behold with his big No. 1 actually, in real life, operating Bill Belichick's team. The other reason is that Belichick may very well be crazy/smart/unconventional enough to make this a legitimate competition. Were all those Patriots hyping Stidham as Tom Brady's successor just fibbing? Regardless, when has a big-name veteran ever been guaranteed a big role in New England, despite Bill's propensity to gamble on them? This'll be a show, however it unfolds.
1. Bears QB: Mitchell Trubisky vs. Nick Foles
The long, slow offseason has rendered this battle "old news," as if we've all already seen these two vets square off for the job. But it's easily the most intriguing because it's the realest QB competition around the league. General manager Ryan Pace would not have surrendered a draft pick for Foles and then guaranteed $21 million over three years to the former Super Bowl MVP if he was lying about the Bears holding an "open competition" ahead of Week 1. Then again, Trubisky is his former prized first-rounder and two years removed from a Pro Bowl. The odds are Foles will start at some point in 2020, but how soon? And for what reason?
- Ravens RB: Mark Ingram vs. J.K. Dobbins
- 49ers RB: Raheem Mostert vs. Tevin Coleman vs. Jerick McKinnon
- Texans WR: Brandin Cooks vs. Will Fuller vs. Randall Cobb vs. Kenny Stills
- Panthers: The entire roster
- Raiders WR: Henry Ruggs vs. Hunter Renfrow vs. Nelson Agholor vs. Zay Jones vs. Bryan Edwards
- Rams RB: Malcolm Brown vs. Cam Akers vs. Darrell Henderson
- Bengals WR: Tee Higgins vs. Tyler Boyd vs. Auden Tate vs. John Ross
- Broncos RB: Phillip Lindsay vs. Melvin Gordon
- Lions RB: Kerryon Johnson vs. D'Andre Swift
- Eagles WR: Jalen Reagor vs. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside vs. Marquise Goodwin