NFL training camp for the 2020 season opens on Saturday for the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans and next Tuesday for the remainder of the league. The offseason was like no other, with all in-person training canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. The lack of OTAs and minicamps means camp — which will be held at team facilities — will take on increased importance, complete with social distancing and masks.
NFL Nation reporters have put together camp previews and 53-man roster projections for every team, which are linked below. The roster projections are ESPN+ content.
How will wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins impact the offense?
Hopkins gives the Cardinals the elite playmaker at receiver they haven’t had since Larry Fitzgerald was younger. Since 2013, Hopkins ranks third in the NFL in receiving yards and he is arguably the best pass-catcher in the league. Hopkins’ presence will have an immediate impact on quarterback Kyler Murray, wide receiver Christian Kirk and Fitzgerald. Murray, the reigning rookie of the year, gets another reliable option. As is the case with Fitzgerald, Murray will know if he puts the ball near Hopkins, he’ll catch it. Hopkins will also take away at least one primary defender — likely the other team’s star cornerback — if not two, adding in a safety or linebacker. That’s fewer defenders focusing on Fitzgerald, a future first-ballot Hall of Famer, and Kirk, a reliable receiver if he can stay healthy. Read more from Josh Weinfuss
Will running back Todd Gurley be a major factor in the offense despite concerns about his left knee?
The Falcons certainly hope so after signing the former University of Georgia star to a one-year, $5.5 million contract. Gurley might not be the same player he was in 2017, when he was NFL Offensive Player of the Year, but he has a chip on his shoulder after being released by the Rams. Gurley, 25, played in 15 games last season and believes folks should stop focusing on a surgical procedure that happened six years ago. Whatever the case, the Falcons have to monitor Gurley’s workload to make sure he is as fresh as possible for him to be effective in Dirk Koetter’s offense. Gurley (6-foot-1, 224 pounds) has the size to run with power and enough speed to get by defenders. He might not be the ideal back in the passing game, but Gurley’s track record of 55 career rushing touchdowns in the red zone shows he can be a serious threat. Read more from Vaughn McClure
What’s the next step for Lamar Jackson after a unanimous NFL MVP season?
Becoming a more complete passer. Let’s be clear, this is a much different storyline than last year at this time, when the biggest question facing the Ravens was Jackson’s arm. He responded with a season that few could have imagined. Jackson led the NFL in touchdown passes (36) and Total QBR (81.8) while ranking eighth in completion rate (66.1%). It’s easy to forget that Jackson is still the youngest starting quarterback in the AFC North at 23 years old. His game is going to continue to grow. This year, there needs to be two areas of focus for Jackson: more efficient downfield passing and more involvement of the wide receivers. Read more from Jamison Hensley
How big of an impact will receiver Stefon Diggs have on an offense that ranked in the bottom third in most passing categories?
Diggs might represent the biggest impact of any skill player who joined a new team this offseason — and yes, that includes DeAndre Hopkins in Arizona. The Bills’ passing offense has been below average the past two seasons, although it showed signs of life in 2019. Quarterback Josh Allen showed he could make things happen last season with a proper supporting cast and now gets a bona fide No. 1 target to pair with last year’s 1,000-yard receiver John Brown. Diggs, 26, is a player who can score any time he touches the ball and will command defenses’ attention, both of which are qualities Buffalo desperately needed. Read more from Marcel Louis-Jacques
How has a virtual offseason made an impact on first-year NFL head coach Matt Rhule?
Rhule insists that he and his assistants have become better coaches and teachers because they had to use innovative tools during the pandemic. Rhule has met only 20 players personally on a roster that has been almost completely overhauled since the end of the 2019 season. Gone are key leaders such as Cam Newton, Greg Olsen and Luke Kuechly. So training camp will be about the players and coaches getting to know each other and how far they can be pushed as they implement systems. It will also be about learning how the staff with the least NFL experience will adjust to the pro game. Rhule has only one year of experience in the league, as an offensive line assistant for the Giants in 2012. Read more from David Newton
The COVID-19 pandemic deprived Foles of in-person offseason training, but the 31-year-old veteran appears to have a strong chance to unseat Trubisky. Last year, head coach and playcaller Matt Nagy clearly had trust issues with Trubisky, who finished the 2019 season 28th in total QBR (39.4), tied for 27th in touchdown passes (17), 21st in passing yards (3,138), 32nd in yards gained per pass attempt (6.1) and 28th in traditional quarterback rating (83.0). Enter Foles, who previously played under Nagy in Philadelphia and Kansas City. Unless Trubisky strings together a terrific training camp — something the former second overall pick failed to do last summer — it could be a matter of time until Foles permanently takes over. Read more from Jeff Dickerson
How long will it take for Joe Burrow to become acclimated to the NFL?
Because of the pandemic, it could take a little longer than expected for the rookie quarterback. By all accounts, Burrow has been impressive during Cincinnati’s virtual workouts, has a solid grasp of coach Zac Taylor’s offensive approach and has started to establish a sense of leadership among his teammates. But it’s impossible to replicate the tighter throwing windows and overall speed in the NFL by sitting in front of a computer. The lack of in-person OTAs could have a significant impact on Burrow’s immediate development. If there is an altered training camp and there are no preseason games, that means Burrow’s first real snap could be in the season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers in September. Read more from Ben Baby
How can Cleveland’s new offensive scheme help quarterback Baker Mayfield and the other skill players?
Given how Kevin Stefanski called the Vikings’ offense in 2019, it’s easy to envision what Cleveland’s offense will be this season. And that should help all of Cleveland’s playmakers, starting with Mayfield. A heavy — and effective — dose of running backs Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt and a rushing game out of multiple tight end sets will ease the pressure on Mayfield while also setting him up for big plays downfield in the passing game to Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr. and tight end Austin Hooper. The Browns are going to be a run-first offense, which should help Mayfield be a more efficient quarterback. Read more from Jake Trotter
How does coach Mike McCarthy get the Cowboys to do what Jason Garrett couldn’t, namely advance beyond the divisional round?
It’s simple — do what he did in Green Bay. People want to remember how it ended for McCarthy with the Packers, but he went to the playoffs nine times in 13 years and made it to the conference title game four times. The Cowboys are one of three NFC teams not to have played in a conference title game in this century, along with Washington and Detroit. McCarthy inherits a talented team, even if the Cowboys went 8-8 in 2019. The Cowboys have a stacked offense, even with the departures of tight end Jason Witten and center Travis Frederick. They have a defense that has questions but some solid players. Read more from Todd Archer
Is Drew Lock ready to be the quarterback of the present, let alone the future?
He better be, because the Broncos essentially constructed their entire offseason plan with the idea he’s ready to handle the job — not only on the field, but off it. Lock took over as starter in December and went 4-1. During his lone loss — to the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in a snowstorm — he showed toughness in the pocket as well as when things weren’t going well. Those moments of resilience earned him the starting job heading into the 2020 season. Now he must adjust to what defensive coordinators have waiting for him after having spent the offseason looking for flaws in his game. Read more from Jeff Legwold
If Matthew Stafford remains healthy what is the ceiling for Detroit’s offense?
If Stafford stays healthy, this group should be a top-10 unit in the NFL, if not better. Stafford meshed well early on with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s system, playing at a Pro Bowl level before a broken back sidelined him for the second half of the 2019 season. Stafford has a talented receiver corps with budding star Kenny Golladay and veterans Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola. All played with Stafford for at least one season. Detroit also has a diversified backfield with returners Kerryon Johnson and Bo Scarbrough and the addition of D’Andre Swift in the second round of the draft. If tight end T.J. Hockenson, last year’s first-round pick, is fully recovered from his ankle injury, he is expected to take a big leap in Year 2. Read more from Michael Rothstein
Rob Ninkovich, Damien Woody and Dianna Russini weigh in on what they expect Aaron Rodgers to be now that he has a future replacement behind him.
Brett Favre, after the Packers drafted Rodgers in 2005, memorably said: “My contract doesn’t say I have to get Aaron Rodgers ready to play. Now hopefully he watches me and gets something from that.” The quarterbacks’ relationship was icy — at best — that first season but improved over their final two years together in Green Bay. It bothered Rodgers, at first, so he’d be hypocritical if he treated Love, drafted by the Packers with the 26th overall pick, the same way. Publicly, Rodgers has said Love is “not to blame at all; he’s just coming in excited about his opportunity.” Since then, they’ve worked together only virtually during the distant offseason program amid the coronavirus pandemic and won’t be in the same room until training camp opens. Read more from Rob Demovsky
What will the Texans’ offense look like without DeAndre Hopkins?
Perhaps more balanced. Whether that’s a good thing is up for debate. Regardless of who the Texans signed this offseason, it’s hard to say this offense could be better without Hopkins, a first-team All-Pro for the past three seasons who was traded to the Arizona Cardinals in March. But there is certainly more depth at wide receiver with the addition of Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb, who will primarily play in the slot. Last season, Deshaun Watson led all quarterbacks with 33 completions of 30 or more yards, and according to Pro Football Focus, he was the second-highest graded quarterback on throws 20 or more yards down the field. There were times last season when Watson looked like an MVP quarterback. Can he sustain that success for a whole season? It might depend on whether his supporting cast can replace Hopkins’ prolific production. Read more from Sarah Barshop
Will the Colts get 2019 Philip Rivers or 2018 Rivers, when he was playing at an MVP level?
Rivers’ career résumé screams that he’s an upgrade over Jacoby Brissett, who faltered as a starter in 2019. But it’s not about career stats. It’s more about what have you done lately? And that’s where the questions surround Rivers, whom the Colts signed to a one-year, $25 million contract in March. Rivers struggled so much last season — 23 turnovers — that the Chargers parted ways with him last winter after 16 seasons. The Colts don’t need Rivers to throw for nearly 4,800 yards, as he did in 2015, or for 34 touchdowns, as he did in 2008. They simply need him to run the offense and take shots down the field when the opportunity presents itself. Read more from Mike Wells
What does quarterback Gardner Minshew have to do to become the long-term starter?
Win games. The Jaguars have won 51 games in the past decade and had just one winning season. Minshew went 6-6 as a starter last season — that’s the third-most victories by any Jaguars quarterback in the past 10 years, behind Blake Bortles (24) and David Garrard (eight). Limiting turnovers is a major part of winning games, and so is better production in the red zone. Per ESPN Stats & Information, no team had fewer drives reach the red zone than the Jaguars from 2010 to 2019; they ranked 28th in red zone TD percentage and 31st in red zone scoring percentage. Minshew had 13 turnovers (seven fumbles) but threw 16 TDs and only one interception in the red zone last season, so if he can cut down on the turnovers and play well in the red zone, the Jaguars should have a chance to win more games. Read more from Michael DiRocco
Jeff Saturday and Booger McFarland agree it is more likely that a player other than Patrick Mahomes will win the MVP award in 2020.
How will the defending Super Bowl champions handle success?
There’s no telling until the Chiefs get into training camp, particularly after an offseason like no other. But there’s little doubt that last year’s run to a championship was fueled by the previous season’s bitter loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. Without that kind of motivation this time, will the Chiefs still be as driven? One factor in the Chiefs’ favor: They have a couple of strong locker-room voices in quarterback Patrick Mahomes and safety Tyrann Mathieu. It’s unlikely they would tolerate any back-sliding, so the Chiefs should be OK here. But the situation bears watching. Read more from Adam Teicher
Is this really, truly, finally the make-or-break year for quarterback Derek Carr?
Carr, in a weird way, actually benefited from the shutdown. Consider: for the first time in his seven-year career, Carr will play in the same system for the third straight season. And he’s coming off career highs in passing yards (4,054) and completion percentage (70.4). With more weapons around him in first-round pick Henry Ruggs III, match-up nightmare tight end Darren Waller, bellcow back Josh Jacobs and a stout offensive line, another step forward is expected. Plus, coach Jon Gruden has yet to get his hands on Marcus Mariota, whose skillset more closely resembles what Gruden wants to do on offense. Then there’s the contract situation. Read more from Paul Gutierrez
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn emphasizes competition in every position group, including quarterback. But Lynn says Taylor, whom he coached for two seasons with the Buffalo Bills, is in the driver’s seat. A 10th-year pro, Taylor has spent most of his career as a backup but did start three seasons with the Buffalo Bills, leading them to a playoff appearance in 2017. In 43 starts, Taylor has a 62.6 completion percentage and has thrown 51 touchdowns with 16 interceptions. The No. 6 overall pick in the NFL draft, Herbert faces an uphill challenge to win the starting job after an unprecedented virtual offseason program. Read more from Lindsey Thiry
How will the Rams replace Todd Gurley?
Simply put, despite a dip in his performance last season, the Rams cannot replace Gurley. Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson Jr. and Cam Akers must develop a new running back identity. A sixth-year pro, Brown spent the past five seasons backing up Gurley but emerged last season as a threat in the red zone, rushing for a career-high five touchdowns. However, the Rams’ future run game belongs to Henderson and Akers, whom the Rams acquired with third-round and second-round draft picks, respectively, over the past two years. Read more from Lindsey Thiry
When will quarterback Tua Tagovailoa be ready to start?
Training camp should provide the Dolphins their first look at Tagovailoa in football action since his devastating hip injury last fall while playing for Alabama. Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick is the favorite to start Week 1. The Dolphins won’t rush Tagovailoa into the lineup, but if he progresses quickly and/or the team struggles with Fitzpatrick at the helm, it might be hard to keep him on the sidelines. Over the past 10 years, 21 of the 30 first-round quarterbacks started at least 10 games as rookies. Only one first-rounder — the Tennessee Titans‘ Jake Locker — failed to start a game as a rookie. Read more from Cameron Wolfe
How long will Dalvin Cook‘s holdout last? If he doesn’t show up, how will the Vikings adjust the running game?
Cook’s planned holdout, which was announced by his camp more than six weeks prior to the scheduled start of training camp, is made complicated by new rules within the CBA. The Vikings running back will be fined $50,000 for every day missed during camp and unlike in previous years, those fines don’t just magically disappear if/when a team and player finally work out a new deal. That’s a hefty price for someone making $1.3 million on the final year of his rookie contract. Minnesota has just about all of the leverage in this situation. The Vikings typically reward contract extensions around the start of camp, so we could see a new deal at the end of July. If Cook has a prolonged absence, the Vikings could turn things over to Alexander Mattison, who was drafted in the third round two years ago, and then utilize a combination of Mike Boone and Ameer Abdullah. Read more from Courtney Cronin
Louis Riddick is confident the skepticism about Cam Newton’s comeback season with the Patriots will fuel a strong performance by the determined quarterback.
Will Cam Newton take over as starting quarterback?
This is the question. The Patriots were primed to go to training camp with Stidham and Hoyer, a reflection, in part, of the promise they see in Stidham. But with Newton still unsigned in late June, and willing to accept a modest one-year deal with a minimum base salary of $1.05 million and $550,000 guaranteed, it threw a stick of dynamite into the mix. Newton can earn up to $7.5 million in total through roster bonuses and incentives, but first he has to win the Patriots’ QB1 job. He has acknowledged that potentially replacing Brady is the “elephant in the room” and it is clear his motivation is high. It has been a long time since there has been a real quarterback competition in New England and it’s on in 2020. Read more from Mike Reiss
Can Drew Brees make peace with teammates, then ride off into the sunset with a Super Bowl win?
Brees heads into his 20th NFL season at age 41, hoping to earn one more Super Bowl ring after three straight gut-wrenching playoff losses. Brees became even more of a training camp focus in early June when his comments against “disrespecting the flag” during the national anthem created widespread backlash and criticism from several teammates. Brees has apologized, admitting he “completely missed the mark.” He vowed to be an “ally” for the Black community in the fight for racial equality and social justice. Teammates have publicly embraced Brees’ apology and efforts. But it remains to be seen if any of that divisiveness will linger into camp or into the season when more players might choose to kneel during the anthem. Read more from Mike Triplett
What can we expect from quarterback Daniel Jones in Year 2, learning a new offense without an offseason program?
You can start with a manageable learning curve. Jones, 23, showed last summer he can easily digest an unfamiliar scheme. He picked up coordinator Pat Shurmur’s offense — as a rookie — with relative ease and should be able to do much of the same with new coordinator Jason Garrett’s scheme, even without the benefit of any on-field practices under the guidance of coaches this spring. Jones, however, did manage to get some work in with his receivers this offseason. Some of them joined him at Duke in the winter and at organized workouts in Austin, Texas, while the coronavirus pandemic was keeping players away from team facilities. Jones will take on a much larger leadership role in Year 2 with Eli Manning’s shadow no longer hanging over him. Jones admitted last season was a bit “awkward,” even if he thought it was a great learning experience working alongside the Giants’ legend. This is Jones’ team now. Read more from Jordan Raanan
Will disgruntled safety Jamal Adams play for the Jets in 2020?
Adams requested a trade last month, so you have to believe a training camp holdout is possible. Adams would be doubling down on his trade request, which would take the dispute to a new level of ugly. The hunch is Adams — even if he skips camp — will start the season with the Jets under his current contract, which pays him $825,000 in base pay (he received a pre-guaranteed $2.8 million bonus in March). Adams has little leverage because he’s under team control for at least two years, which means he would gain nothing by sitting out the season. The Jets don’t want to trade him, because he’s their best player. If they decide to shop him, it would be difficult to find a team willing to give them fair-market compensation and reward Adams with the long-term deal he covets. Read more from Rich Cimini
Wentz, 27, is entrenched as the starter, making this an unprecedented situation that will be fascinating to watch. The Eagles believe strongly in over-investing in the quarterback position — a philosophy that helped them win the Super Bowl in 2017 — and are faced with the reality that each of Wentz’s past three seasons were cut short because of injuries. In Hurts, they have a dynamic playmaker who is expected to be sprinkled into the offense in the short term and provide value as an insurance policy/potential trade asset over the longer term. The logic is understandable, but by bucking convention, the Eagles have increased the odds of a quarterback controversy. Read more from Tim McManus
Without Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ offense was stilted and toothless last season. Roethlisberger’s return will force defenses to defend the pass and free up room for running back James Conner to work. And while JuJu Smith-Schuster will benefit from Roethlisberger’s return, the bigger catalyst to a bounce-back season will be the emergence of a solid No. 2 receiving threat. That guy could be Diontae Johnson, Eric Ebron or rookie Chase Claypool. Roethlisberger has a proven chemistry with Smith-Schuster, but his return alone can’t spark a comeback for the fourth-year receiver. Read more from Brooke Pryor
Doug Kezirian and Joe Fortenbaugh disagree on taking the over for Jimmy Garoppolo’s projected 26.5 touchdown passes this year.
How will the 49ers bounce back from their Super Bowl disappointment?
It’s no secret that the 49ers missed a golden opportunity to win Super Bowl LIV, blowing a double-digit fourth-quarter lead to the Kansas City Chiefs. Getting to one Super Bowl is no easy task, but returning after a loss has proved exceedingly difficult. If the Niners can get back to the big game, they’d become just the third NFC team to lose the Super Bowl and return the following season, joining the 1974 Minnesota Vikings and 1971 Dallas Cowboys. One advantage the Niners should have is continuity. In this, the most uncertain of seasons, San Francisco brings back all of its coordinators and 82.6% of its snaps from last year, fourth most in the NFL. Read more from Nick Wagoner
Can the pass-rush be good enough without Jadeveon Clowney?
The Seahawks’ defense struggled across the board in 2019, especially in getting after the quarterback. That was with Clowney, who had only three sacks but produced the league’s fifth-best Pass Rush Win Rate while frequently facing double teams. A lot will have to go right for the Seahawks to mount a championship-caliber pass-rush without him: free-agent pickups Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin matching their career seasons from 2019, Jarran Reed returning to his 2018 form, Rasheem Green and L.J. Collier taking big jumps and rookies Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson outplaying their draft positions. Reduced offseason reps won’t do any favors for the development of young players like Green, Collier, Taylor and Robinson. Read more from Brady Henderson
Will no offseason program hurt Tom Brady?
The Bucs couldn’t install an entirely new offense in an offseason when there was no offseason program due to the coronavirus pandemic. But they will try to incorporate some of the concepts Brady ran successfully in New England. The Bucs’ coaching staff has been studying a lot of film on Brady from his time with the Patriots. We could see more from the quick screen game with three-step drops instead of five- and seven-step drops, as well as more short-to-intermediate passes, which would help an offensive line that struggled with protection last year. It would also save Brady’s arm for some of the deep passes coach Bruce Arians is known for. How much the Bucs can adopt from the Patriots will also depend on their personnel. Brady will have his favorite target in tight end Rob Gronkowski, who can line up all over the field, and Pro Bowler Mike Evans, who is probably the closest thing Brady has had to Randy Moss since playing with Moss. He’ll also have Chris Godwin. Read more from Jenna Laine
Can quarterback Ryan Tannehill repeat his 2019 success?
The Titans are returning 10 of 11 starters on offense, including tight end Jonnu Smith and second-year receiver A.J. Brown. Tannehill developed a special connection with Brown and Smith during his 10-game run as the starting quarterback. The two accounted for 1,098 of Tannehill’s 2,742 passing yards last season. Tannehill worked extensively with Smith in South Florida during the offseason, so their connection should give them an advantage. While it will be difficult to duplicate a 70.3 completion percentage and an average of 9.6 yards per completion, Tannehill can be productive even with a slight drop-off. Most of Tannehill’s damage came by way of the play-action passing game (76.5 completion percentage and an average of 13.6 yards per completion), which should still be effective with Derrick Henry once again posing the rushing threat. Read more from Turron Davenport
Can quarterback Dwayne Haskins take a big step forward in Year 2?
Haskins was drafted into a situation where the coaching staff had to win now and a rookie quarterback didn’t fit into those plans. Haskins didn’t help himself by failing to do all the things coaches asked for when away from the facility. But he finished strong with two solid starts and, more importantly, he improved his habits in the offseason. He always worked, but now it’s more NFL specific. Haskins weighs around 218 pounds — 19 fewer than when he was drafted No. 15 overall in 2019. One challenge for Haskins is he has yet to be on the field with this new offense. It will take the entire offense — not just Haskins — some time to bond. Perhaps a realistic scenario is he and Washington start slow. The key will be Haskins’ second half and that is when you should see his offseason work pay off. Read more from John Keim
Published at Thu, 23 Jul 2020 13:09:26 +0000