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NFL Training Camp Storylines: Trubisky and Foles QB Competition
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Each offseason, NFL teams undergo a self-assessment. They identify the areas in which they are strong and weak, and for the most part, they plan their free-agent and draft strategies accordingly. 

Filling needs, shoring up weaknesses, and accentuating strengths are all on the agenda, for everyone. But the coaches and players tabbed to fill those needs, shore up those weaknesses, and/or accentuate those strengths carry varying degrees of intrigue. 

That’s why we’re here. Over the next several weeks, we are going to identify the most intriguing newcomer on every team in the NFL. For some teams it might be a coach. For others it might be a rookie or a free-agent signing or something else entirely. 

We began last this week with the NFC East and the AFC East. We’ll continue this week with the NFC North (today) and AFC North (Thursday). 

Chicago Bears

Obviously, it’s Jay Cutler. Obviously, it’s Mitchell Trubisky. Obviously, it’s Nick Foles. There. That’s better. 

Foles is being reunited with his former offensive coordinator, Matt Nagy, as well as his former quarterbacks coach, John DeFilippo. He had DeFilippo last year in Jacksonville, but his season pretty much ended before it started with that collarbone injury in Week 1. He has not really been able to stay healthy for a full season when asked to be a starter, but his baseline level of play is just higher than that of Trubisky, which gives the Bears a better chance to get back to the postseason than if they keep rolling the younger player out there. As a side bonus, going with Foles prevents Trubisky from playing just well enough to save Ryan Pace’s job and earn another contract, without showing enough promise to actually be worth either of those things. 

Detroit Lions

For the Lions, we’re going with a pair of highly-drafted rookies: Jeffrey Okudah and D’Andre Swift

Okudah was the consensus top cornerback in the draft, and he’ll be counted on to replace the departed Darius Slay, who would definitely like you to know that he is having far more fun in Philadelphia than he did in Detroit. Okudah is a preposterous athlete, ranking in the 99th percentile among NFL cornerbacks in SPARQ. He has excellent size and length, giving him the build of a shutdown perimeter corner. Detroit needs all the help it can get on the back end, so he’s got his work cut out for him. 

Swift, meanwhile, figures to share the backfield with Kerryon Johnson. Johnson has not been able to take over the full lead role in his two years as a pro, and it seems like Matt Patricia and Darrell Bevell prefer a committee anyway. Swift is the more dynamic pass-catcher of the two players, and we have seen Matthew Stafford utilize the skill set of guys like Theo Riddick in the past. If Swift can provide Riddick-esque pass-catching with more consistent run-game contributions, he should make for a nice addition to the offense. 

Green Bay Packers

For a long time, Aaron Rodgers has been protected by arguably the best pair of tackles in the league. David Bakhtiari has manned the left side of the line while Bryan Bulaga manned the right. It’s been that way for the past six years. This season, for the first time since 2013, Rodgers will have a new tackle on the right side of the line. Bulaga signed with the Chargers in free agency, and Green Bay replaced him with former Ravens and Lions tackle Rick Wagner.

Wagner was an excellent starter during his time in Baltimore, and an above-average starter for his first two years with the Lions. His played tailed off badly last year, though, and the Lions cut him with two years left on the five-year deal he signed back in 2017. The Packers are pretty clearly shifting toward an offense that leans more heavily on the run and Rodgers is still one of the league’s most mobile quarterbacks, but how Wagner holds up on the right side of that line is definitely something to watch. 

Minnesota Vikings

Let’s talk about another pair of highly-drafted rookies: Justin Jefferson and Michael Gladney.

Jefferson was one of my favorite players in this year’s draft. Like Okudah, he has his work cut out for him in replacing a traded former star (Stefon Diggs). He’s not an explosive athlete, but Jefferson is a really versatile route-runner. He does his best work in the slot, where he can set defenders up and shake them out of their boots in all that open space. Adam Thielen is at his best in the slot as well, though, so it’ll be interesting to see how the Vikings deploy them. 

Gladney, meanwhile, was just one part of the Vikings’ secondary overhaul. The team cut Xavier Rhodes and let both Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander walk, then did Rick Spielman’s favorite thing to do in the draft: pick a bunch of corners. Gladney leads a group that also includes Cameron Dantzler, Harrison Hand, and Kris Boyd, as well as several street free agents. He should get the first shot to start opposite 2018 first-rounder Mike Hughes, and the Vikings need him to shine from Day 1. 

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