Who will be Tom Brady’s replacement in New England? What about Todd Gurley’s replacement in L.A.?
As 2020 NFL training camps move from strength and conditioning work to padded practice over the next week, the competition for starting jobs will heat up across the league.
There will be a maximum of 14 padded practices per team and, with no preseason games due to the coronavirus pandemic, they will go a long way in determining who’s on the field in Week 1.
Who will start at quarterback in Miami, New England, Chicago and Washington? Who will fill holes along the offensive line for AFC powers Kansas City and Baltimore?
NFL Nation reporters break down the biggest competitions in training camp for all 32 teams.
Although right guard is also worth monitoring, it’s not immediately clear whether incumbent starter Levi Wallace or one-time All-Pro Josh Norman will earn the starting cornerback spot opposite Tre’Davious White. Wallace has been solid, starting 23 games over the past two seasons; however, Buffalo added Norman this offseason, and he is a far more proven player than third-year pro Wallace. Regardless of who starts, the Bills figure to be deeper at corner than they were in 2019. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
The focus is Tua, Tua, Tua — all day every day as we jump into camp practices. Ryan Fitzpatrick is the beloved incumbent veteran who wants to be the starter but also acknowledges he’s just the placeholder for whenever Tagovailoa is ready. So when will Tagovailoa be ready? Fitzpatrick is the favorite to start Week 1 thanks to his experience and comfort in offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s scheme, but Tagovailoa is fully cleared for practice and at some point his talent will take over. Then Josh Rosen as the third wheel in this room is another intriguing factor. This is not just the most important Dolphins position battle — it’s one of the NFL’s most important battles. — Cameron Wolfe
No need to overcomplicate it. Who steps into the void created by Tom Brady‘s free-agent departure is one of the biggest stories in sports, not just football. Cam Newton is the odds-on favorite based on his resume, with 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham the up-and-comer. How the Patriots split the reps between them, and who takes first- and second-team snaps, will be as closely watched as anything over the past 21 years of Bill Belichick’s tenure as coach. — Mike Reiss
Two positions are set, with Jamison Crowder (slot) and Breshad Perriman (outside), but what about the third? The organization hopes rookie Denzel Mims can take it, but it won’t be easy after no offseason and a truncated training camp. The fallback option is Vyncint Smith (22 career catches), although a veteran import remains a possibility. This is an important position because coach Adam Gase used 11 personnel (3WR/1 TE/1 RB) on 64% of the offensive snaps in 2019, above the NFL average, per NFL NextGen Stats. — Rich Cimini
The biggest hole on the Ravens is the one left by Marshal Yanda, an eight-time Pro Bowl blocker who retired this offseason. D.J. Fluker is the favorite to fill that void heading into training camp because of his seven years of NFL starting experience and his familiarity with Baltimore offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris. But Pro Football Focus hasn’t ranked Fluker higher than 45th among guards the past four seasons. Fluker is competing against Patrick Mekari, who is also in the mix at center, Ben Powers and rookies Tyre Phillips and Ben Bredeson. “The opportunity is there, and somebody has to grab the brass ring, so to speak, and go for it,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said about replacing Yanda. — Jamison Hensley
We know Joe Burrow probably will be the starting quarterback in Week 1. But the battle for right tackle is flying under the radar. Bobby Hart, last year’s starter, is facing a serious push from Fred Johnson, who was signed off waivers in the middle of last season. In 2019, Cincinnati was 31st out of 32 teams in pass block win rate, an ESPN metric powered by NFL Next Gen Stats. — Ben Baby
The new Browns regime revamped the safety position this offseason, signing Andrew Sendejo and Karl Joseph to one-year deals in free agency. But second-round pick Grant Delpit, who defensive coordinator Joe Woods has said “possesses it all,” will be given every opportunity to beat out one of the veterans in camp. — Jake Trotter
With Matt Feiler getting first dibs on moving to left guard to replace Ramon Foster, Feiler’s vacated starting job will be up for grabs. The battle probably will come down to Zach Banner and Chukwuma Okorafor. Okorafor was in the mix last year, but Banner wound up with more playing time and jumped Okorafor in the depth chart. The Steelers also signed veteran Stefen Wisniewski in free agency, and he could be in the mix for a starting job, but because of the abbreviated offseason and training camp, look for the edge to go to players who’ve been in the system. — Brooke Pryor
Coach Bill O’Brien was impressed by what Darren Fells did in his first season in Houston (set franchise record for receiving touchdowns at the position), especially in the red zone. But behind him, Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas and Kahale Warring will be competing for touches and perhaps a roster spot. Texans tight ends coach Will Lawing said it’s clear Thomas has “worked very hard this offseason,” but will that be enough to take snaps away from Warring, a 2019 third-round pick who spent last season on injured reserve? — Sarah Barshop
It can’t help Marlon Mack‘s confidence that the Colts didn’t give him a contract extension during the offseason and drafted former Wisconsin star Jonathan Taylor in the second round. Coach Frank Reich described the position’s depth chart as No. 1 and No. 1A, between Mack and Taylor. Mack is familiar with the system and is coming off his first 1,000-yard season. Taylor will be given every opportunity to push Mack for snaps after he rushed for at least 2,000 yards in each of his final two seasons at Wisconsin. The key for Taylor, however, will be protecting the ball after he had 18 fumbles while with the Badgers. — Mike Wells
The Jaguars moved third-year player Will Richardson to left tackle in the offseason to compete with Cam Robinson, the team’s second-round pick in 2017. Robinson was solid as a rookie but suffered a torn ACL early in the 2018 season. He played in 14 games last season and gradually improved as the year went on. Still, he didn’t exceed his performance as a rookie and the team moving Richardson sends the message that Robinson needs to improve. Richardson competed with A.J. Cann to be the starter at right guard in camp last season and started the first two games at left tackle in place of Robinson before Robinson was cleared to return. What the team saw in those two games was enough to earn Richardson a shot. — Mike DiRocco
Speedy WRs in the slot caused problems for Tennessee’s secondary. Last year’s primary nickel corner, Logan Ryan, was not brought back because the Titans wanted to get younger and faster at the position. The team stressed playing nickel during its pre-draft conversations with second-round pick Kristian Fulton. The Titans also signed veteran Johnathan Joseph to give themselves another option if Adoree’ Jackson moves inside. Fulton and Jackson will be in the mix. But the Titans will have options such as Malcolm Butler and safety Amani Hooker to match up against bigger receivers who play the slot. Matchups probably will dictate who plays inside the most, but right now the position is up for grabs. — Turron Davenport
While running back won’t be a “battle” in the classic starter-backup scenario, most everyone wants to see how the Broncos intend to use Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay. Just weeks after saying they’d consider a new contract for Lindsay, who has gone from undrafted rookie in 2018 to back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons, they signed Gordon to a two-year, $16 million contract and started their you-need-two-good-backs campaign. When you consider the Broncos haven’t had two backs each reach at least 160 carries in the same season since 2005, it will take some creativity to give both guys the work they’d like. There is vast potential for them in the offense, including putting them both in the formation at the same time. But touches will be a constant refrain all season when it comes to Lindsay and Gordon. — Jeff Legwold
The Chiefs lost both starters from Super Bowl LIV, so they’re looking for two replacements, and there are several candidates to sort through. Free-agent addition Kelechi Osemele probably will claim the left side. On the other side, the Chiefs could go with Andrew Wylie, who started 11 games last season; free-agent addition Mike Remmers; or Nick Allegretti, a seventh-round pick in 2019. — Adam Teicher
It’s a renovated and, thus, crowded room, one that added Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards in the draft and Nelson Agholor in free agency to upgrade the position for quarterback Derek Carr. They join returning players Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, Zay Jones, Keelan Doss, Marcell Ateman, Rico Gafford and De’Mornay Pierson-El. And if the Raiders keep only five receivers, Jones, who has the third-highest cap number among receivers on the team at more than $1.38 million but no dead money, could be squeezed out. — Paul Gutierrez
The Chargers did not address the position in free agency or the draft and instead pointed to the talent already on the roster. “We have some people in-house that we like,” Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said over the offseason. Fourth-year pro Sam Tevi, who started 14 games at right tackle last season, and Trey Pipkins, who started three games at left tackle as a rookie last season, are expected to lead the competition. — Lindsey Thiry
The retirement of Travis Frederick leaves a hole on the offensive line, but the Cowboys believe they have the pieces to continue to be one of the NFL’s better groups. Veteran Joe Looney started every game in 2018 during Frederick’s absence because of an autoimmune disease. His experience gives him an edge over Connor McGovern, last year’s third-round pick, who did not play because of a torn pectoral. Connor Williams has started his first two seasons at left guard but could get a chance at center. Fourth-round pick Tyler Biadasz has big-time college experience at the spot. The loser of the center battle also will contend for the left guard spot. — Todd Archer
The Giants are throwing a bunch of players in a pot to see what comes out. Nick Gates and Shane Lemieux have basically never played the position. They will get their chances. Spencer Pulley is likely the favorite to start because at least he has some game experience. But it’s also not completely out of the question that the Giants will decide they need to pluck a veteran off the street (Justin Britt or Jon Halapio?) to fill the void. Anything seems possible at center this summer. — Jordan Raanan
There is some sorting out to do at safety, cornerback and linebacker, but the most intrigue lies at receiver. Can first-round pick Jalen Reagor land a starting gig, and will it be in the slot at the expense of Greg Ward? Will Alshon Jeffery be healthy enough to contribute early, and is J.J. Arcega-Whiteside ready to step into his role if he isn’t? Will one of the rookie wideouts make up for the loss of Marquise Goodwin, who has opted out of the 2020 season? So much needs to be figured out within Carson Wentz‘s new ensemble. — Tim McManus
So much of this depends on Dwayne Haskins and his development. If he shows his offseason work — not just getting in shape but learning the playbook — has translated to the field, then there shouldn’t be much of a competition. He’s the team’s future. But if Haskins struggles, then he leaves the door ajar for Kyle Allen to at least start the season because of his knowledge of Scott Turner’s offense. And if Alex Smith is activated and shows he can play at a similar level to the past, then he’ll enter the race. Although other positions will probably have tighter battles, this one is the most important because if Haskins doesn’t emerge, that probably means the team will need to find a long-term solution after the season. — John Keim
The open competition between Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles is the Bears’ central training camp storyline. Chicago traded for Foles because Trubisky struggled the majority of last season. But Trubisky has an advantage in that he knows Chicago’s personnel much better than Foles, who only recently began throwing to Bears wide receivers and tight ends. Coach Matt Nagy says the team will settle on a starting quarterback in advance of Week 1. Stay tuned. — Jeff Dickerson
It’s the one truly wide-open competition on the entire Lions team (other than punter) after Graham Glasgow departed in free agency. Detroit took two guards in the middle rounds of this year’s draft — Ohio State’s Jonah Jackson and Kentucky’s Logan Stenberg — and one of them could end up being the starting right guard. It’s even possible they could both end up starting if one can overtake incumbent left guard Joe Dahl. Detroit brought in and retained a slew of veterans — Kenny Wiggins, Oday Aboushi, Joshua Garnett and Caleb Benenoch — to compete as well. On a roster where a lot of the potential starters seem somewhat obvious, this is a spot where anyone can win. — Michael Rothstein
The Packers let one of the best right-side pass protectors, Bryan Bulaga, leave in free agency; he signed with the Chargers for $10 million a year. Last year, Bulaga ranked 11th among all NFL tackles in ESPN’s pass block win rate metric. The Packers signed journeyman Rick Wagner for about half the price ($5.5 million a year), but they’re also paying right guard Billy Turner like a tackle ($7 million per year). They have more options on the inside with backups Lane Taylor and Lucas Patrick along with draft picks Jon Runyan and Jake Hanson, so they could move Turner if Wagner can’t cut it. — Rob Demovsky
The Vikings are starting over with a new set of corners. We know we can pencil in Mike Hughes for one of those jobs, but where? Outside? Nickel? The 2018 first-rounder might be the key cog in figuring out who goes where once his role is determined. There’s Jeff Gladney, another first-round pick, who should be capable of handling an outside spot after mastering multiple roles in TCU’s complex defense. And then there’s Holton Hill, Cameron Dantzler and Kris Boyd, all of whom could vie for significant roles in the secondary. Luckily for Minnesota, it has more than enough depth to work with, which could counteract the lack of experience at the position. — Courtney Cronin
Sure, Todd Gurley II is expected to be the primary guy as the most decorated of the backs. But remember, Gurley was released by the Rams, and there were concerns about the health of his left knee. That means the guys behind Gurley — Brian Hill, Ito Smith and Qadree Ollison — have to be prepared if thrust into a starting role while also fighting for backup reps. The Falcons are sure to be wise and not overload Gurley regardless. Hill and Ollison both run with physicality, while Smith is a change-of-pace, smaller, quicker guy who has shown flashes when not injured. — Vaughn McClure
If Eli Apple holds down one side, the test will be whether Donte Jackson can hold off fourth-round draft pick Troy Pride Jr. at the other corner spot. Jackson started all 16 games as a rookie but saw that drop to 10 last season with inconsistent play and nagging injuries. He believes he has gained the trust of the new coaching staff and can be one of the best corners in the NFL, but he’ll get a challenge from Pride. It should be the most competitive battle in camp outside of the one at strong safety between Juston Burris and second-round pick Jeremy Chinn. — David Newton
If we were choosing the most fascinating battle, it would be backup QB — where Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston are each making a long-term case to become Drew Brees’ successor. But for this year only, the biggest question is which linebacker will line up next to Demario Davis in both base and nickel packages now that A.J. Klein is in Buffalo and with Kiko Alonso still recovering from a torn ACL. Alex Anzalone, newly signed veteran Nigel Bradham and rookie Zack Baun are the leading contenders. — Mike Triplett
The Bucs don’t have clear-cut starters there, although Jordan Whitehead will probably lock up one of those roles. He played 81.33% of defensive snaps last year — third most on the team — and has gone from an undersized thumper to a complete player. Justin Evans starts camp on the PUP after missing all of last year with foot and Achilles injuries. Rookie Antoine Winfield Jr. certainly has a big opportunity. He has ball skills this secondary has lacked. D’Cota Dixon, an undrafted free agent last year who missed all of 2019 with a shoulder injury, flashed in camp last year. And Andrew Adams has put together some streaky good performances in his young career: He had three picks in a single game against the Panthers in 2018. — Jenna Laine
With Marcus Gilbert opting out of this season because of his high-risk status, the starting right tackle job is up for grabs. Granted, Gilbert missed all of last season with an ACL injury, but coach Kliff Kingsbury said before Gilbert opted out that if the tackle reported for camp in good shape, he’d be the starter. Now we’ll never know. That means last year’s starter, Justin Murray, will have to battle rookie Josh Jones and veteran Kelvin Beachum. — Josh Weinfuss
Todd Gurley is gone, so the battle begins to replace the 2017 NFL Offensive Player of the Year. Malcolm Brown is the veteran of the group, but he mostly served as Gurley’s backup the past five seasons. Darrell Henderson flashed as a rookie last season but played only 8% of the offensive snaps, so he still must prove he is a starting-caliber back. The Rams used their first pick in the NFL draft this past April to select Cam Akers in the second round, so expect to see Akers get an early opportunity to demonstrate his ability. — Lindsey Thiry
With so many starters returning, the Niners don’t have many question marks, but one spot that looks most up for grabs is right guard after Mike Person retired in the offseason. The Niners brought in veteran Tom Compton to push for that job, but he will have competition from Daniel Brunskill, rookie Colton McKivitz and even sleepers such as practice squadder Ross Reynolds. Compton has the most experience, but Brunskill proved he belonged while playing all over the line last season and might offer the most upside. It might not make headlines, but solidifying this spot is important given how much trouble the likes of Aaron Donald, Grady Jarrett and Chris Jones gave the Niners’ interior last season. — Nick Wagoner
The Seahawks have a few options for the two starting spots on either side of All-Pro Bobby Wagner. K.J. Wright has been a mainstay on the weak side, but that’s where the Seahawks believe first-round pick Jordyn Brooks is best suited. That could push Wright over to the strong side, provided he’s ready for the start of the season coming off shoulder surgery and provided that the team’s longest-tenured player accepts a move away from his usual position. The Seahawks have two more starting-caliber linebackers in Bruce Irvin (who could play on the strong side on early downs) and Cody Barton. Their depth at the position means Shaquem Griffin will be fighting for a roster spot. — Brady Henderson