2020 NFL Starting Quarterback Battles
Some teams will have to decide which QB they want to be their starter this season
With the 2020 NFL season rapidly approaching, an annually interesting plot line is following the battles for starting positions — especially quarterbacks. Many teams are already set with who they will have under center this year, while others have a wide-open competition. Here are the teams expected to have the biggest battles to see who will be their lead signal caller.
New England Patriots- Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham: This is the quarterback showdown that the majority of football fans are looking forward to. After veteran star Tom Brady departed New England this offseason for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it was assumed for quite some time that Stidham, the Patriots’ former fourth-round draft choice, would assume the starting role. Although he is still just 24 and thrown a total of four NFL passes, he has been in the system for two years and impressed the organization and others with what he has shown in his development. He has a strong and accurate arm but has flown under the radar, both somewhat in his college production at Auburn and now in the NFL where he was acting as an apprentice behind a legend. His career to date has some similarities to Brady’s career. New England would obviously be over the moon if the youngster could become even half as good as his predecessor.
Although there was a steady call for Newton to sign with New England following his release this offseason by the Carolina Panthers, it took months to come to fruition. Ultimately, the two sides agreed on a one-year contract with incentives that make the deal decidedly team friendly. The quarterback won the NFL MVP as recently as 2015, when he also directed his team to the Super Bowl but he has fallen on harder times recently due to injuries that cost him all but two games of the 2019 season. He is still just 31 and at his best can make plays with his legs and also show off a cannon of an arm. There are few players in the league as athletic as him. He threw for at least 3,127 yards and 18 touchdowns and rushed for at least 359 yards in each of his first eight seasons before last year’s health woes. It’s likely he will have an ax to grind and there is little doubt that at least on reputation, he’s the most talented QB in New England.
Prediction: Head coach Bill Belichick puts his system above everything else. Don’t be surprised if Stidham, who has spent the past two years mastering the playbook from the sideline, still has a leg up. The Patriots may want to be overwhelmed to hand the reins over to Newton, who was obtained for a relative song. Finally, don’t forget that veteran Brian Hoyer, who is well-versed in New England ways from previous stints with the team, is a dark horse candidate to be the starter.
Chicago Bears- Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles: The Bears believed they had drafted their quarterback of the future when they made Trubisky the second overall selection in the 2017 draft. Unfortunately, his first three seasons have been maddeningly inconsistent. He has sandwiched inconsistent results around a promising 2018 season that saw him throw for 3,223 yards and 24 touchdowns. This past season saw declining results that included the bad sign that he did not throw the ball down the field enough, averaging a meager 6.1 yards gained per pass attempt. He is no longer seen as a sure bet, but it’s also important to remember that he is only about to turn 26, so he may well have another gear or two that he hasn’t yet reached.
In what was likely a major jolt to Trubisky, Chicago acquired the 31-year-old Foles in a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason. He has three years and a guaranteed $21 million left on his contract, so regardless if his younger teammate breaks out, he still figures to be in town for a while.
Foles is a solid nomad, who is about to play for his sixth team in nine seasons. He has battled injuries and lacks star qualities but is still a very solid quarterback, capable of starting or being a premium backup. He threw 27 touchdowns against just two interceptions as a part-time starter in 2013 and won the Super Bowl LII MVP in 2018 with the Philadelphia Eagles after finishing the season for an injured Carson Wentz. He may not be a regular Pro Bowler, but he should keep any team competitive.
Prediction: The best guess is that both quarterbacks play a portion of the season. The Bears are going to want to see what they have, and with neither player being a sure thing to produce big results, it’s likely they will each get a turn at various points to see who is the best fit to lead an offense that needs to catch up and support the team’s excellent defense.
Los Angeles Chargers- Tyrod Taylor and Justin Herbert: Although this is technically a competition, it is also just a matter of time. The Chargers selected Herbert with the sixth overall pick is this year’s NFL draft as the long-term replacement of franchise stalwart Philip Rivers, who departed this offseason through free agency. The big-bodied product of Oregon has all the physical tools you would want from a franchise quarterback but is a bit raw. If he is a quick learner, it is possible he could take the starting job as a rookie. He has by far the most talent of any QB on the roster, which if deployed effectively could enhance the production of some of the team has on offense.
Taylor is the insurance policy and also has the likely inside track on the starting gig. The 31-year-old is a career backup outside of three seasons he spent starting for the Buffalo Bills. He doesn’t turn the ball over much (a 54 touchdown to 20 interception ratio in his career), but is not a big playmaker. He also has a penchant for holding on to the ball too long, which has resulted in elevated sack numbers in the past. Essentially, he’s a no-frills player. He is more than capable but lacks any significant upside.
Prediction: It seems highly likely that the Chargers will protect their recent investment and not play Herbert until he is ready to fend for himself. Since he lacks the polish often associated with highly-touted quarterback prospects, he may need additional time to acclimate himself to the pro game. For those reasons, Taylor is a good bet to be the starter. However, if he can’t keep the team competitive, the rookie could do his learning on the job because Los Angeles will have a hard time resisting the urge to play with their new toy.