Teams across the league have begun to report for training camp, and the 2020 NFL season is just around the corner (hopefully). It has been an unprecedented offseason, and that’s going to spill over into training camp and the preseason. With no preseason games this year, and less access to training camps than usual, how can fans get a bead on who has the upper hand in some of the most important position battles? Perhaps now more than ever, RAS — or Relative Athletic Score — can be used as a great indicator in this area.
Earlier this week, our very own Marcus Mosher broke down the five biggest training camp battles heading into this season. Coaches and their staff aren’t going to have a preseason in 2020 to fully evaluate their players in live game situations. These battles are going to be won or lost on the practice field this season.
I’ve taken a look at three of the most intriguing of those training camp position battles heading into the 2020 NFL season. Taking a look at the athletic testing of those players can help us figure out which players have the upper hand in these position battles. Naturally, more factors are going to be at play than just athleticism, but it’s a great place to start.
Deciding 3 key 2020 NFL training camp position battles with RAS
Nick Foles vs. Mitchell Trubisky
The first of our training camp position battles for the 2020 NFL season should surprise no one. The Chicago Bears are a team that’s been in quarterback purgatory arguably longer than any other team in the league. They thought those days would be over when they selected Mitchell Trubisky with the second overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, ahead of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. They thought wrong.
What does the RAS say about how this competition lines up athletically?
In the RAS comparison between the two quarterbacks, Trubisky is the clear winner. He has the nod on Foles almost across the board, with Foles coming out on top only in the “Size” category. Foles measured 3 inches taller and 21 pounds heavier than Trubisky at the time of testing. Foles also squeaked out a slight edge in the “Explosion” grade. But when it comes to speed and agility, Trubisky takes it. Naturally, he also takes the overall comparison, with an 8.51 final RAS grade to Foles’ 4.35.
Winner: Trubisky is the likely winner of this battle initially. His athletic advantage could help out immensely, given how unprecedented this offseason has been. This is a battle to watch all year, though. Foles was brought in for a reason, and it wasn’t just to mentor Trubisky. Trubisky is likely to have a short leash this season; it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Foles sees playing time at some point in the year.
Mark Ingram vs. J.K. Dobbins
Spearheaded by Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram, the Baltimore Ravens had one of the most deadly 1-2 punches in the league last season. Baltimore led the league in rushing yards per game last season, with nearly 50 yards per game more than the next closest team. It’s clear where the team’s bread and butter is.
Mark Ingram is heading into his 10th season and has reached the dreaded age of 30. Injury history is also a mounting concern for the former Alabama running back. It makes sense the Ravens would bring in a younger back to share the load and possibly push to take over for Ingram. They did just that in the 2020 NFL Draft with the selection of J.K. Dobbins.
Dobbins comes to the Ravens fresh of a truly outstanding college football season, and career. Dobbins led the vaunted Ohio State Buckeyes rushing attack in 2019 to the tune of over 2,000 yards and more than 20 touchdowns. Over his three seasons with the Buckeyes, Dobbins amassed nearly 4,500 yards and 38 touchdowns.
So who takes home the win in our second of three training camp position battles heading into the 2020 NFL season?
Unlike the running back battle in Indianapolis, the winner here is likely to get the vast majority of the carries. The Ravens offense was a dominant rushing attack last season, and it’s likely to rely heavily upon that facet again in 2020.
Winner: While Dobbins did not participate in the NFL Combine, and therefore does not have a RAS score, I think it’s a safe assumption his testing would have come out better than Ingram’s lowly 2.57 score. If judging solely on RAS, the nod goes to Dobbins. That said, Ingram had a 1,000 yard, 10 touchdown performance last season, and is a 3-time Pro Bowler despite his poor RAS showing. He isn’t going to go down without a fight.
Tyrod Taylor vs. Justin Herbert
Philip Rivers has packed his bags and gone to Indianapolis. It’s the dawn of a new era for the Chargers and their fans. But with two new quarterbacks entering the picture in Los Angeles, who is going to be first to usher in those new beginnings? That’s the question currently facing Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn as he prepares for a training camp battle between Tyrod Taylor and rookie Justin Herbert.
Taylor is the seasoned veteran. He’s been a journeyman QB, with his most impactful seasons coming during his three-year stint with the Buffalo Bills. Those years included two seasons with over 3,000 yards passing, and a Pro Bowl selection. Herbert is the shiny new toy, coming to the Chargers after a stellar career for the Oregon Ducks. Who has the upper hand in this position battle?
Taylor is one of the best athletes we’ve ever seen at the quarterback position according to the RAS grades. At his NFL Combine performance in 2011, the eventual sixth-round pick put up some eye-popping numbers. Taylor posted a 9.95 or higher RAS grade in the broad jump, 40-yard dash, and both his 10 and 20-yard splits. He wasn’t far behind in his other scores, either, with his “lowest” score being a 9.48 in the shuttle on his way to an overall 9.72 score.
What may be surprising to some is that Herbert isn’t far behind Taylor in the athleticism department, at least as far as the RAS is concerned. Herbert had his own spectacular showing at the NFL Combine, putting up an overall RAS of 9.7 in his own right. Herbert notched an “Elite” explosion grade and “Great” speed score, while measuring at just over 6-foot-6 and 236 pounds. Herbert may be a little behind Taylor on sheer numbers, but when adjusting for size, the two are neck-and-neck.
Winner: Head coach Anthony Lynn has already tipped his hand, going on record saying Taylor “will likely be the Day 1 starter”. If this were a normal offseason and training camp cycle, Herbert would almost certainly be the winner here. The Chargers took him sixth overall for a reason, and it wasn’t to groom him for the future.
Chris Spooner is an NFL Draft and Analytics contributor to PFN. You can follow him on Twitter @CSpoonerPFN.