Each year, there are a handful of training camp battles that can help shape teams entering the season. This year, there will be even more battles across the NFL due to the lack of practice time during the offseason. And with no preseason games, jobs will need to be won during practices and in the film room. Today, we are taking a look at the five most crucial NFL training camp battles entering the 2020 season.
Five biggest NFL training camp battles in 2020
Bears QB: Nick Foles vs. Mitchell Trubisky
Most teams hoping to contend for a Super Bowl don’t have open quarterback competitions during training camp. But for the Chicago Bears, this is suddenly becoming far too common.
Chicago’s roster is ready to compete in the NFC. They have one of the league’s best defenses, led by All-Pro edge rusher Khalil Mack. They have a dominant pass-rush with newly-signed EDGE rusher Robert Quinn joining this offseason. In the secondary, they have playmakers galore and an up-and-coming star in Roquan Smith at linebacker.
On offense, the team is loaded with talented skill players, including Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, and Tarik Cohen. But everything in Chicago boils down to the quarterback position.
The incumbent is Mitchell Trubisky, who is entering his fourth year in the NFL. After an up-and-down 2019 season, all eyes are on the former No. 2 pick to bounce back. Gunning for his job is former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, whom the Bears acquired this offseason. While he hasn’t been able to find much success outside of Philadelphia, Foles is the type of leader and quarterback who might be able to provide the Bears’ offense with the jolt of energy that it desperately lacks.
Of all the training camp battles across the NFL, this is the most important one. If the Bears can get quality quarterback play from either Trubisky or Foles, they will instantly be a contender again in the NFC.
Colts RB: Marlon Mack vs. Jonathan Taylor
Running behind one of the league’s best offensive lines has it’s perks. However, that means there will constantly be expectations for the lead back to produce. That is what Marlon Mack is facing after the Colts drafted former Wisconsin star Jonathan Taylor with the No. 41 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Fantasy Football | Colts Fantasy Running Back Battle: Taylor vs. Mack vs. Hines
Mack has been the Colts’ lead back over the last two seasons, totaling 2,184 yards and 18 touchdowns in his previous 26 games. While he has been productive, his style of play is anything but flashy. He is a between-the-tackles runner who gets what is blocked and occasionally a bit more. Mack just doesn’t have the top-end speed or explosion to keep defenses honest. However, Taylor does, and that’s what makes this camp battle so interesting.
After three straight seasons of 2,000 total yards at Wisconsin, Taylor declared for the NFL Draft. He dominated the NFL Combine, running a 4.39 40-yard dash at 226 pounds. Now, he will compete with Mack for snaps as a rookie, as he could potentially be the big-play threat that the Colts’ offense has been missing in the run game.
What could eventually decide this battle is which player is more trustworthy to the coaching staff. While Taylor is more explosive, he is somewhat inexperienced as a receiver and has a history of fumbles. Mack doesn’t have the long speed but has just three career fumbles on 587 touches. If you are a fantasy football player, you’ll want to pay attention to this battle, as the winner could easily lead the league in rushing during the 2020 season.
Ravens RB: Mark Ingram vs. J.K. Dobbins
Another running back battle that is worth watching is in Baltimore. While the Ravens are unlikely to commit to just one running back, the opportunities are so fruitful that even 10 to 12 carries can be enough to be relevant in fantasy football circles.
The likely starter is Mark Ingram, who totaled 1,265 yards and 15 touchdowns on just 228 touches last season. Despite turning 31 during the 2020 season, Ingram is a perfect fit in Baltimore’s offense with his no-nonsense running style. He gets what is blocked and can move piles forward between the tackles. His best trait is how well he runs in short-yardage as he’s arguably the league’s best goal-line back (44 touchdowns in the last four seasons).
Fantasy Football | Ravens Fantasy Running Back Battle: J.K. Dobbins vs. Mark Ingram
Competing for snaps will be second-round pick J.K. Dobbins, who was too good of a player for the Ravens to pass up in this year’s draft. Built like Ingram, the biggest difference between the two is speed. At Ohio State, Dobbins routinely ran away from defenses as he totaled 2,200 yards and 23 touchdowns for the Buckeyes last season.
The Ravens are likely to split up touches in the backfield, but if Dobbins can impress in camp, there is a chance he could earn the lion’s share of the workload at some point during the season. Whoever ends up leading this team in carries should be a lock to gain 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns in 2020.
Chargers QB: Tyrod Taylor vs. Justin Herbert
Another quarterback battle that is worth watching is in Los Angeles with the Chargers. With the team selecting quarterback Justin Herbert with the No. 6 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, it’s only a matter of time before they turn the reigns over to the former Oregon Duck. However, there is a chance that he doesn’t see the field much as a rookie with Tyrod Taylor likely opening the season as the starter.
The Chargers are in an interesting spot as a franchise as their roster appears to be ready to compete, much like the Chicago Bears. Los Angeles is loaded on defense with arguably the best EDGE rusher duo in the NFL in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. They have a bonafide superstar safety in Derwin James and one of the league’s best cornerback depth charts in the entire NFL.
On offense, the Chargers have a ton of explosive weapons, including Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler, and Hunter Henry. But what the team needs is a quarterback who can manage the game and make enough big plays when needed.
Head coach Anthony Lynn had a lot of success with Taylor in Buffalo, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he rode the veteran given just how talented their roster is heading into the season. But make no mistake about it, Herbert’s time is coming in Los Angeles. If he can prove that he is ready for the bright lights, expect the Chargers to quickly go to their hopeful franchise quarterback to provide a spark to the offense.
Packers No. 2 WR: Marquez Valdes-Scantling vs. Allen Lazard
The most interesting battle at wide receiver will happen in Green Bay, as the Packers once again search for someone to compliment Davante Adams. The two players that will be given a chance to earn that spot are Marques Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard.
Valdes-Scantling will likely get the first crack at the No. 2 job after averaging 17.4 yards per reception last season. Of all the receivers on the roster, he has the most speed after running a 4.37 40-yard dash at the 2018 NFL Combine. He’s produced in a limited role over the last two seasons, catching 64 passes for 1,033 yards and four touchdowns. Given his height, weight, and speed, Valdes-Scantling easily presents the most upside for the Packers opposite Adams.
But the other player that can’t be ignored is former Iowa State star Allen Lazard. Lazard fell out of the 2018 NFL Draft and then signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency. He spent most of his rookie season on the team’s practice squad before eventually being released. Lazard worked his way onto the Packers’ practice squad last season and was eventually elevated to the 53-man roster in early September.
In the second half of the 2019 season, Lazard quickly became one of Aaron Rodgers’ favorite receivers. In the team’s final 11 games, Lazard caught 35 passes for 477 yards and three touchdowns in the pseudo No. 2 role. While he doesn’t possess the speed or explosiveness of Valdes-Scantling, he does a much better job of using his size to his advantage.
Whichever receiver loses this job will still likely have a big role as the team’s No. 3 receiver. However, the winner of this competition could see 80 or more targets from one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. This camp battle is worth monitoring over the next month.