NFL training camp battles are coming up soon, assuming the NFL and NFLPA hammer out all the details of working during the COVID-19 pandemic. And this summer, there are some really interesting situations to monitor that will define the season for the respective teams that are about to see them go down.
Here’s a look at the five NFL training camp battles that have caught our eye. How they unfold will have a huge impact on the coming campaign.
Will Marlon Mack or Jonathan Taylor start for the Indianapolis Colts?
The past couple of years, Marlon Mack has been one of the NFL’s best running backs. The former fourth-round pick out of South Florida piled up 2,184 yards and 18 touchdowns from scrimmage between 2018-19. Now he has to contend with one of the most prolific running backs in college football history, Wisconsin product Jonathan Taylor.
Taylor brings a stunning combination of speed (watch this), productivity and versatility — last season’s pass-catching exploits were a huge development. He was selected early in Round 2 in the 2020 NFL Draft, and running backs drafted that early tend to carry an expectation of instant production. Can he beat out the vet this summer?
Who becomes Deshaun Watson’s top target for Houston Texans?
Ever since Deshaun Watson was drafted in 2017 out of Clemson, he’s had the luxury of passing to one of the NFL’s most prolific receivers. Now that DeAndre Hopkins is in Arizona with Kyler Murray, it’s anyone’s guess who will become WR1 for the Texans.
Will Fuller is among the NFL’s most dangerous deep threats, and he has some outstanding chemistry with Watson (watch here). However, he’s been prone to injury and isn’t necessarily a well-rounded receiver. Brandin Cooks, acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams, had racked up four straight 1,000-plus yards before concussions hampered him last season. Veterans Randall Cobb and Kenny Stills have also both been highly productive in the past.
Which of these playmakers will step up to become the go-to weapon for Watson in 2020? It’s anyone’s guess.
Will it be Nick Foles or Mitchell Trubisky for the Chicago Bears?
The writing was on the wall that Chicago wasn’t sold on Mitchell Trubisky when the Bears traded a fourth-round pick for overpriced veteran Nick Foles. Then, the franchise declined to pick up Trubisky’s fifth-year option, which really cemented the notion that he’s on his last legs with the organization.
Foles has experience and has put together some magical stretches during his time with the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s a steady hand that can help the entire offense develop cohesion. The Bears still have some hope that Trubisky can put his physical tools to good use and will give him every opportunity to prove them right after trading up to No. 2 overall in 2017.
Cam Newton or Jarrett Stidham for the New England Patriots?
Honestly, this feels like a trick question. Based on what both players have accomplished so far — Newton is a former NFL MVP, while Stidham was a fourth-round pick last year with little experience — it seems like an easy one to answer.
However, there has been a narrative spun since Tom Brady chose to leave town that Stidham is his heir apparent. That he’s good enough now to not only start, but can lead the team to a playoff berth. Given Bill Belichick doesn’t adhere to convention, perhaps that plays out. Regardless, these two will certainly be in a competition for the starting job. We can’t wait to see how this training camp battle unfolds.
Can Tua Tagovailoa beat out Ryan Fitzpatrick for the Miami Dolphins?
This is the NFL training camp battle I’m looking forward to the most. Having watched Tagovailoa extensively during his tenure at Alabama, there is no doubt in my mind that he has the chops to become one of the league’s most impressive young stars in short order. The accuracy and timeliness with which he delivers the ball is outstanding. While he doesn’t have the biggest arm he’s like Steve Young when it comes to anticipation, and he delivers a beautiful deep ball.
The thing is, Ryan Fitzpatrick is no slouch. When he’s on his game, he’s magical. Furthermore, he knows Miami’s system and has the trust of head coach Brian Flores. It’s going to be fascinating to see these two quarterbacks battle this summer.