The Biggest Training Camp Goals for NFL's New Starting Quarterbacks

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 18, 2020

The Biggest Training Camp Goals for NFL's New Starting Quarterbacks

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Quarterback is unquestionably the most important position in the NFL, and there are never enough elite signal-callers to go around. Teams that don't have a high-end starter are constantly looking to acquire one either via trade, in free agency or through the draft.

    Multiple teams took a spin on the quarterback roulette wheel this offseason, and at least six are going to have new starters in 2020.

    With training camps underway and the regular season less than a month away, these quarterbacks have some major goals to accomplish in the coming weeks. New teammates, new coaches and new schemes all present challenges that they must overcome before Week 1.

    Here, we'll examine the biggest training camp goals for each projected new starter. Before we get into the six projected new starters, though, let's dig into some other intriguing quarterback situations.

Who Isn't Here

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    Before we get into the potential quarterback competitions around the league, let's examine a few second-year signal-callers who are going to be Week 1 starters for the first time in their careers.

    Gardner Minshew II, Dwayne Haskins and Drew Lock are all in their first training camps as starters for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Washington Football Team and Denver Broncos, respectively. That does create some challenges and new situations for them.

    "I actually haven't had a camp like this, going into it, since I guess my senior of high school; it's awesome," Minshew said, per John Oehser of the team's official website.

    However, these quarterbacks were starting for their respective teams near the end of last season and have experience with their respective franchises. Therefore, we aren't considering them new starters here.

Potential Camp Battles

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    Miami Dolphins

    The Miami Dolphins are expected to go with journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for the second consecutive season. However, he's only a placeholder for rookie Tua Tagovailoa—who is coming off a dislocated hip with a posterior wall fracture—and there's a chance that the first-year signal-caller could win the starting job.

    Miami is going to be cautious, though.

    "We're taking this one day at a time with Tua, as we are with every player, and hoping that he improves on a daily basis," head coach Brian Flores said, per ESPN's Cameron Wolfe.

    With Tagovailoa's future so critical and no preseason with which to build offensive chemistry, starting Fitzpatrick early in the season seems like the right call here. Anything could happen, though, so this one's worth following.


    Chicago Bears

    The Chicago Bears have a battle on their hands between incumbent starter and 2017 first-round pick Mitchell Trubisky and trade acquisition Nick Foles. While a largely virtual offseason has likely hindered Foles' bid for the job, his experience in the NFL and high football IQ will give him a fighting chance.

    "You can definitely tell Nick has been playing this game for a long time," wideout Anthony Miller said, per Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune. "He knows this offense very well."

    It would make sense for Chicago to give Trubisky one last chance to prove himself, so Foles might not get a legitimate starting opportunity unless (until?) Trubisky struggles in the regular season.


    New England Patriots

    We'll dive into this situation later on, as 2015 league MVP Cam Newton will battle second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham for the New England Patriots' starting job. 

    Stidham will have a realistic shot at earning the gig because of his long-term potential—he's only 24 years old and under contract for three more years. However, Newton has 124 starts and three Pro Bowls on his resume, which should give him the inside track on the job for now. 

    To win it, Newton will have to show he can be better than he has been over the last few years, as we'll explore later on.


    Los Angeles Chargers

    As is the case in Miami, the Los Angeles Chargers have a potential competition brewing between a rookie and a journeyman. In their case, it's No. 6 overall pick Justin Herbert and 10th-year pro Tyrod Taylor.

    Taylor has 46 NFL starts under his belt and was a Pro Bowler in 2015, so he's likely to hold the job until Herbert is ready. However, Herbert might show enough in camp that L.A. cannot justify sitting him.

    No matter who wins the job, he won't be the guy who's started every game for the Chargers since 2006.

Philip Rivers, Indianapolis Colts

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    Every quarterback featured here needs to develop comfort and chemistry with his new receiving corps. However, it's the single biggest goal for new Indianapolis Colts starter Philip Rivers for a few reasons.

    While some quarterbacks are adjusting to new schemes, learning Frank Reich's offense shouldn't be a challenge for Rivers. Reich was Rivers' offensive coordinator with the Chargers for two seasons and his quarterbacks coach for a third. The two appear to be picking up right where they last left off in 2015.

    "It's literally like riding a bike," Reich said, per Andrew Walker of the team's official website. "We're laughing and joking about how it's just like we've not been together the whole time. A very quick re-acclimation to that."

    It's also important because after wideout T.Y. Hilton and tight end Jack Doyle, the Colts receiving corps is largely a work in progress.

    Indianapolis lacked a reliable No. 2 receiver after Hilton last season. Parris Campbell was limited to only seven games and 18 receptions because of injuries, and Michael Pittman Jr. is an unproven second-round rookie. Zach Pascal and Artavis Scott have some experience but are complementary pieces at best.

    The Colts have to reinvent their passing attack to some degree, and the responsibility of making it all work will fall on Rivers as much as it does Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni.

Tyrod Taylor, Los Angeles Chargers: Prove to Be More Than a Game Manager

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    To hold off rookie Justin Herbert, Tyrod Taylor will have to show that he can actively deliver wins and not just be a game manager. He primarily filled the latter role when he helped take the Buffalo Bills to the postseason in 2017, but he also failed to push Buffalo past the Jacksonville Jaguars in the playoffs.

    Can Taylor be more than a game manager? Absolutely. He has a unique skill set as a dual-threat quarterback and plenty of arm talent.

    "I think he's a starting NFL quarterback, period," former Bills coach Rex Ryan said, per Jeff Miller of the Los Angeles Times.

    However, the Chargers are high on their rookie quarterback.

    "When they're walking off the bus and you need to pick a quarterback, you pick this guy," head coach Anthony Lynn said on NFL Network's Good Morning Football. "... He's got a bright future."

    It will be up to Taylor to convince Los Angeles that the future can wait—something he isn't likely to do with a sluggish start to the season, as he had with the Cleveland Browns in 2018.

    Cleveland was 0-1-1 when Taylor suffered a concussion and gave way to then-rookie Baker Mayfield. The Oklahoma product led a comeback in the second half, and Taylor is just now getting another opportunity to be an NFL starter.

    To hang onto it, he'll have to show he's more than a middle-of-the-pack placeholder.

Cam Newton, New England Patriots: Prove He's Back to 100 Percent

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    While Jarrett Stidham is in his second year with New England and likely knows the offense better, newcomer Cam Newton has impressed with his hard work and dedication to learning Josh McDaniels' scheme.

    "Cam's a hardworking kid. He really is," head coach Bill Belichick said, per ESPN's Mike Reiss.

    To win the job and keep it, Newton will have to prove he's healthy—and not just healthy enough to start, but also healthy enough to provide a decided advantage over Stidham.

    Newton is coming off two injury-plagued seasons—a shoulder injury in 2018 and a foot injury last year—and he may never be the same quarterback he was in 2015 when he was named league MVP. He needs to show he can be the quarterback he was in 2017, when he produced more than 4,000 combined passing and rushing yards and helped the Carolina Panthers reach the playoffs.

    The Patriots view Newton as a different type of quarterback than Stidham. As Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal recently noted, New England has been using a scheme that includes designed runs with Newton in camp and a more traditional offense with Stidham.

    Newton will have to make it worthwhile for the Patriots to implement a different offensive scheme. If he doesn't, the Patriots will probably roll with Stidham, utilize much of the same elements they used with Tom Brady and see if they can groom Stidham into a high-level starter.

Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina Panthers: Help Install Joe Brady's Offense

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Carolina Panthers fans should be excited about the prospect of new coordinator Joe Brady handling the offense. As the passing-game coordinator for the LSU Tigers last season, he helped deliver a perfect season, a national championship and arguably the greatest quarterbacking season in college football history.

    Joe Burrow threw for 5,671 yards, 60 touchdowns and just six interceptions last season. The year before Brady arrived, he passed for only 2,894 yards with 16 touchdown and five picks. 

    With weapons like Christian McCaffrey, Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore on the roster, the Panthers could have a surprisingly explosive offense in 2020. However, that will require getting new quarterback Teddy Bridgewater up to speed on Brady's system with a largely virtual offseason and no preseason.

    Brady was an assistant with the New Orleans Saints in 2018, which was Bridgewater's first year with the franchise. While Bridgewater may not know the system quite as well as Rivers knows Reich's offense in Indianapolis, he should be well-versed in the concepts and terminology.

    In fact, he's been helping other players learn the playbook by using Madden.

    "Matt Rhule says Teddy Bridgewater has built the Panthers playbook in Madden," Panthers beat reporter Antwan V. Staley tweeted. "Rhule also said Bridgwater has shown Will Grier and P.J. Walker how to use it in order to learn the playbook

    If Bridgewater can help get the full playbook installed before Week 1, it could allow the Panthers to get off to a hot start. Carolina's first six opponents all missed the playoffs in 2019.

Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals: Stay Patient, Confident Throughout the Process

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    Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is the one rookie almost guaranteed to start in Week 1. The Bengals don't have a great alternative, as they cut longtime starter Andy Dalton shortly after April's draft.

    Burrow could be in for a rude awakening, though. He's going from working with Joe Brady and one of the most talented college rosters in recent memory to second-year coach Zac Taylor and a team that went 2-14 last season.

    The cupboard isn't bare in Cincinnati—Burrow will have talented pass-catchers like Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and A.J. Green to work with—but this is not one of the better rosters in the NFL.

    However, Burrow does not seem like the type who will shrink away from the challenge.

    "He has a certain confidence in himself and you can tell he has the confidence in us to do what we need to do," tight end C.J. Uzomah said, per Geoff Hobson of the team's official website.

    Burrow has to maintain that confidence—and his patience—throughout camp. There will be growing pains for the entire offense, which ranked 30th in scoring last season, not just Burrow. The last thing he can afford is to get discouraged with himself or his teammates.

    Learning the playbook, adjusting to the speed and nuances of the NFL and building chemistry will also be important for the first-year signal-caller. However, this franchise hasn't won a playoff game since 1990, and Burrow needs his team to believe that he can be the guy to finally turn things around.

Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Meld Offensive Philosophies with Bruce Arians

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    While Burrow and the Bengals might not carry high expectations into the 2020 season, new Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is shouldering lofty ones. He's widely expected to make them a Super Bowl contender, but they must get off to a fast start to have a good shot at the crown.

    There isn't room for a slow start because the Bucs' first two games are against divisional opponents. Those are followed by a Week 3 game in Denver and then a Week 6 matchup with the Green Bay Packers.

    The problem is that Brady is learning a new offense with a new head coach for the first time in 20 years, although he's excited to embrace the challenge.

    "It's my 30th year of playing football, including high school, and it's the first time I've ever had an offensive head coach," Brady said, per NBC Sports' Peter King. "That provides something a little different for the quarterback."

    With a limited offseason and no preseason, the best course of action is to take a little of what Brady knows best and meld it with the offense head coach Bruce Arians has already established in Tampa. This should give the Buccaneers at least something resembling a full playbook by Week 1, while minimizing the potential for a play-calling power struggle.

    The good news is that the two seem to be off to a strong start.

    "Brady, Arians said, has adopted most of the Bucs' verbiage after knowing one offensive language for 20 years," King wrote.

    Brady and the Bucs will have their offense challenged immediately. They open with the New Orleans Saints, who have won the AFC South in each of the past three seasons.