The NFL announced Saturday that training camps will begin on time this year, meaning we’re literally days away from veterans reporting. There is still a lot of uncertainty regarding the 2020 NFL season. But despite significant hurdles to overcome, football is back … at least for now.
Looking ahead to NFL training camps this summer, here’s what we’re most interested in discovering. You may not be surprised to know much of it centers around quarterbacks, who won’t have nearly as much time to gel with their teammates this year compared to normal.
Which rookie quarterbacks will earn starting jobs?
Realistically, there are only three rookie quarterbacks with a shot to win a starting job this summer.
The Cincinnati Bengals will certainly roll with Joe Burrow after he went No. 1 overall. They let Andy Dalton go this offseason, and there is nobody else on their roster with a reasonable chance of beating out the former LSU star.
The Miami Dolphins could easily open the season with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick under center to allow Tua Tagovailoa more time to get comfortable with the offense and the speed of the NFL game. However, if the former ‘Bama quarterback comes into camp and clearly shows he’s a superior player, he could knock FitzMagic out of the starting lineup.
Over on the West Coast, Justin Herbert has an uphill climb to unseat veteran Tyrod Taylor. The Los Angeles Chargers have indicated they are very comfortable letting Taylor play this year, and reports indicate he’ll remain the starter unless the team is eliminated from playoff contention.
Can Tom Brady and Gronk spark a magical run in Tampa?
Without a doubt, the biggest offseason storyline in 2020 has been Tom Brady leaving New England to sign with Tampa Bay, and bringing Rob Gronkowski with him. A team that already had elite talent on both sides of the ball, these moves, combined with a really sweet draft haul, have the Buccaneers looking like a sexy Super Bowl pick.
But is that a realistic expectation? Is Brady really that good, or was he a product of Bill Belichick? Does Gronk have anything left? Finding the answers to these questions is going to be something everyone keeps a close eye on this summer and fall.
Will Lamar Jackson really become more of a pocket passer?
In his first full season as the starter in Baltimore, former Heisman winner Lamar Jackson set the NFL on fire. His exploits as a runner were featured weekly on highlight shows around the nation, and they led to a record-breaking season on the ground. Jackson also showed deft touch as a passer and led the entire NFL with 36 touchdown passes, despite playing in just 15 games. All this led to just the second unanimous MVP vote in NFL history.
Jackson has hinted this offseason that he won’t be running nearly as much in 2020 as he did last year. The Ravens used second-round pick on Ohio State star J.K. Dobbins to create a nightmarish running back trio with Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards. Then they used a third-round pick to bring in Texas speedster Devin Duvurnay, who combined with Marquise Brown gives Jackson a dynamic duo at receiver.
The big question now becomes: Will Jackson be able to take his passing game to yet another level in 2020? If he does, the Ravens will be Super Bowl contenders to be sure.
Can Baker Mayfield rebound under new guidance?
Last year, the Cleveland Browns were hyped to the moon as a trendy Super Bowl pick. Then, reality set in as head coach Freddie Kitchens was nowhere near up to the task of leading an NFL franchise, and along the way Baker Mayfield took a significant step back in his development with a brutal sophomore slump.
Now the Browns are under new leadership with rookie head coach Kevin Stefanski. He’s stressed fundamentals and has Mayfield working on his footwork to sharpen up every other aspect of his game. The team has outstanding talent on both sides of the ball and has a real chance to become a contender in the AFC. All of that hinges on Mayfield living up to his hype as the first-overall pick in 2018, however. Whether he is up to the challenge will have a huge impact on the team, and the conference as a whole.
What would it take for the NFL to cancel the season?
Now we come to the elephant in the room.
Right now, the NFL is plowing full steam ahead to get the 2020 season underway. However, the NFLPA and league still have plenty to iron out. There are major concerns about specific health and safety protocols that have not been agreed to.
The financial implications of the coming season are a huge sticking point as well.
Then there’s reality that, even if all this is agreed to and the union doesn’t have to file a grievance, everything could get shut down anyway.
However, at this point there is no indication from the NFL about what it would take for that to occur.