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FFL: Preseason | NFL: Week 1

Bears declare open competition between Trubisky, Foles

Fri Apr 3 4:38pm ET
By ANDREW SELIGMAN
AP Sports Writer

In this Dec. 1, 2019, file photo, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles (7) scrambles out of the pocket during the first half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in Jacksonville, Fla. A person familiar with the trade says the Jacksonville Jaguars have agreed to send quarterback Nick Foles to the Chicago Bears for a compensatory fourth-round draft pick. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because trades don't become official until the league year begins later Wednesday, March 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, File)


These are 2019 file photos showing, clockwise from top left, then-Jacksonville Jaguars' Nick Foles, then-Dallas Cowboys Robert Quinn, Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy and Bears general manager Ryan Pace. General manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy address an active offseason for the Chicago Bears, who are trying to bounce back after missing the playoffs in a season that began with Super Bowl hopes. Two of the most notable additions are pass rusher Robert Quinn and quarterback Nick Foles. (AP Photo/File)


The Chicago Bears declared the quarterback competition between Mitchell Trubisky and newcomer Nick Foles an open one on Friday.

General manager Ryan Pace made that clear during a conference call, saying both players are "embracing" the battle that will play out whenever offseason workouts begin.

Coach Matt Nagy stressed that Trubisky will be the first quarterback on the field whenever practices begin, But he planned to give Trubisky and Foles equal time with the starters. He also said both will play in the preseason as part of the evaluation.

"It's going to be equal and we as coaches need to make sure we do the right thing in regard to equal reps, and make sure they're playing with similar or the same players on offense and going against the same players on defense," Nagy said. "There will be some juggling that we'll have to do. It might be a little different at times on how we do it and how we get to it. But I can promise you this: It's going to be completely fair, it's going to be extremely competitive in a good way. It's going to be a healthy competitiveness."

Pace largely staked his reputation to Trubisky when he traded up a spot with San Francisco to draft him with the No. 2 overall pick in 2017. And the results have been mixed.

Trubisky was selected to replace Jared Goff in the Pro Bowl after his second season. But instead of taking another big step forward last year, he struggled as the Bears stumbled to an 8-8 record and missed the playoffs after winning the NFC North at 12-4 in 2018.

Pace said after the season the Bears remained committed to Trubisky as their starter, though they weren't ruling out bringing in a veteran to push him. They did just that when they acquired Foles from Jacksonville last month.

On Friday, the Bears indicated he's more than an insurance policy if Trubisky struggles or gets injured.

"Mitch is a competitor," Pace said. "I think when you're built that way, competition brings out the best in you. Matt and I had that discussion with him, and you could feel that in him right away - kind of that, 'OK, hey, let's go, what's best for the team and this is gonna bring out the best in all of us.' I think the key word is just that he embraced the competition."

Pace wouldn't answer if the Bears will pick up Trubisky's fifth-year option for the 2021 season. The deadline is in May, though it would be a surprise if they exercised it considering he is now in a fight for the starting job.

Foles said he called Trubisky because he thought it was important to introduce himself. He wanted to "get started on the right foot."

"Trust me, I get the situation," Foles said. "Mitch has been there for a couple years, Mitch has been the quarterback, and I'm respectful to that situation."

Foles took 2018 Super Bowl MVP honors with Philadelphia. He led Eagles past Chicago in the wild-card game at Soldier Field the next year. He's familiar with the Bears' system and worked with Nagy under Andy Reid when they were with the Eagles and Kansas City.

Foles also has something to prove, coming off an injury-riddled season in Jacksonville in which he lost his starting job to rookie Gardner Minshew. To make the trade to Chicago happen, he said he had to agree to a "crazy restructure" of the four-year, $88 million contract he signed just over a year ago.

"The quarterback competition becomes such a big thing in the NFL. Which it is," Foles said. "The quarterback is an important position. But ultimately we have to do what's best for the Chicago Bears."

Player Notes
Emmanuel Sanders Jun 1 11:40pm ET

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders posted a plus-7.2 percent catch-rate difference last year with the Broncos and 49ers and broke 850 receiving yards while fighting through press coverage on almost 30 percent of all routes run. He was also targeted in a tight window 20.6 percent of the time while covering an average of 23.5 yards per route run. In total, the veteran ran 481 routes and covered 11,303.5 yards while catching passes from Joe Flacco and Jimmy Garoppolo. The 33-year-old is getting up there in age, but he remains incredible efficient and has a great opportunity in New Orleans with Drew Brees now throwing him passes. Even though he doesn't score often, Sanders is an undervalued pass-catcher that could put up WR3 numbers in his new home.

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Miles Sanders Jun 1 11:40pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders has his sights set on being named the MVP in 2020 while also maintaining confidence that he can serve as an effective three-down back for the team. Despite splitting time with Jordan Howard and Boston Scott last season, the sophomore back still finished with a respectable 818 yards and three rushing touchdowns off of 179 attempts. He also added 50 receptions for 509 yards and three additional trips to the end zone. With Howard no longer in the mix, the 2019 second-round pick has a chance to thrive as both a runner and a pass-catcher, making him a desirable selection in all formats, especially in PPR leagues.

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A.J. Brown Jun 1 11:40pm ET

Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown had an excellent rookie season and beat defenders with his combination of size and strength. Quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill and Marcus Mariota had a combined passer rating of 127.6 when targeting Brown in 2019. Brown faced pressure at the line of scrimmage 38.3 percent of the time but still had 52 catches for over 1,000 yards receiving. Cornerbacks blanketed the young wideout on 33.3 percent of all of his targets, and he was open on just 25 percent of his targets. Brown finished strong to help fantasy owners get to the promised land, but don't overvalue him as a WR1 because of his strong first season. The soon-to-be 23-year-old should be a force in this league for years to come, but he had just 84 targets and remains in a run-first offense.

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George Kittle Jun 1 11:30pm ET

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle had just 5.7 air yards per target in 2019, as the 49ers looked to get him the ball early and often to utilize his yards-after-the-catch skills. He racked up 641 (60.9 percent) of his 1,053 receiving yards after the catch. Kittle's average yards-per-catch mark of 12.4 was better than Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas. He had a catch rate of 79.4 percent and an expected catch rate of 71.8 percent. It's no secret that Kittle and Travis Kelce are the top two fantasy tight ends in the league, with both of them likely to come off fantasy boards in the middle of the second round.

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Kenny Golladay Jun 1 11:20pm ET

Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay is projected to place third in the league in receiving yards in 2020, according to Pro Football Focus, finishing behind only Julio Jones and Michael Thomas. Golladay finished as the third-best wideout in standard formats in 2019 by compiling 1,190 yards and 11 touchdowns off of 65 receptions. He was also one of the league's most opposing deep threats, averaging 13.6 YBC/R and doing so despite the prolonged absence of Matthew Stafford, who missed eight games with a back injury. With the longtime signal-caller seemingly back at full-strength, the third-place projection may be more accurate than not in 2020, with the potential for a top-two finish for the 26-year-old also a realistic possibility.

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Hunter Henry Jun 1 11:20pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry caught 72.4 percent of the passes intended for him last year in his first season after tearing his ACL in 2018. He had a positive catch-rate difference of over eight percent and caught 60 percent of his targets in the end zone for three of his five total touchdowns. For a tight end, his 10.2 air yards per target would've been good for even the top receivers. Henry did this with a tight-window percentage of just 13.2 percent, so he definitely knows how to find the soft spots in an opposing defense. The 25-year-old has an issue with staying healthy, though, and he'll be dealing with a QB change in 2020. But if he can stay on the field, Henry should easily be a top-10 fantasy tight end.

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Dak Prescott Jun 1 11:10pm ET

While opposing defenses often pressed Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper at the line of scrimmage last year, he had an average of 2.6 yards of separation by the time the ball arrived. He also had a tight-window percentage of 25.2, but for the most part, Cooper was able to successful beat press coverage. Quarterback Dak Prescott had a 114.4 passer rating when targeting his top receiver, and Cooper had a 23.8 percent average of targets per routes run in Dallas' offense. Cooper had a catch rate of 66.4 percent and an expected catch rate of 57.8 percent. It will be interesting to see how the addition of rookie CeeDee Lamb will affect Cooper's efficiency and target share in 2020. The 25-year-old should be considered a low-end WR1 target in fantasy drafts.

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Marvin Jones Jun 1 10:40pm ET

Detroit Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. only had 779 receiving yards last season, but NFL.com's Nick Shook lists him as the fourth-best wide receiver from a year ago. Despite only having quarterback Matthew Stafford for half the season because of an injury, Jones had a catch rate of 68.1 percent and an expected catch rate of 57.7 percent. Detroit's backups gave Jones few chances to make plays, but the receiver still performed better than expected. He also missed three games due to injury. Jones also had the second-highest tight-window percentage (29.7) among Shook's top-10 pass-catchers but still managed a positive catch-rate difference. A full season with a healthy Stafford will make a huge difference, and Jones is going undervalued as a low-end WR3.

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Calvin Ridley Jun 1 10:40pm ET

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley had a catch-rate difference of plus-8.7 percent last year and did it while seeing double teams 5.4 percent of the time. Ridley also had a nice cushion on his routes, with an average of 6.6 yards at the time of the snap. Because of his 4.43-second speed, opponents rarely pressed him at the line of scrimmage, and instead preferred to cover him with multiple defensive backs. Atlanta's QBs had a 113.5 passer rating when targeting Ridley in 2019. An injury also limited the 25-year-old last season, so he could easily put up high-end WR2/low-end WR1 numbers over a full season in 2020, even with Julio Jones commanding the lion's share of the looks.

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Stefon Diggs Jun 1 10:30pm ET

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs caught just 63 passes in his final season with the Vikings, but he had a yards-per-reception rate of 17.9 on his way to 1,130 total yards. Diggs' catch rate of 67 percent wasn't as high as the top performers on NFL.com's Nick Shook's list, but Diggs had a plus-10.7 percent catch-rate difference by winning press challenges at the line of scrimmage. He was pressed on 42 percent of his routes run and had just 2.5 yards of separation on average. Most of Diggs' success in the Vikings aerial attack came in single coverage, and that could continue in his new home with Cole Beasley and John Brown helping to take some attention away from him. Diggs has home run potential when he catches the ball, but targets might be hard to come by from a QB that has been erratic in his young career. Consider Diggs more of a low-end WR2 in his first season in Buffalo.

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Tyler Lockett Jun 1 10:20pm ET

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett is ranked second by NFL.com's Nick Shook among the best pass-catchers of 2019. Lockett had a catch rate of 74.5 percent and an expected catch rate of 61.9 percent. His catch-rate difference was nearly equal to Michael Thomas, who was ranked No. 1 on the list. Lockett had more of an average cushion than Thomas, which aided in him having over four more air yards on average. Opponents rarely pressed Lockett at the line of scrimmage, however, because they were more fearful that he might beat them deep. Lockett owned the highest wide-open rate of the top 10 2019 pass-catchers at 22.7 percent. The 27-year-old can disappear at times and was hurt a bit by D.K. Metcalf's emergence in the second half, but he should remain a strong WR2 in 2020 with one of the best QBs in the game in Russell Wilson still throwing him passes.

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Kenyan Drake Jun 1 10:10pm ET

Arizona Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake is poised to have a big season in 2020 but is hesitant to put a limit on his potential. "I feel like my ceiling is as high as I'll take it. I can't do anything but put the work in right now and then also take that into whenever the season starts," he said while speaking to reporters in a video conference. The 26-year-old was dealt from the Miami Dolphins in October of last season. Throughout his first eight games with the organization, he compiled nearly 700 rushing yards, while also racking up eight touchdowns. He is slated to be picked somewhere in the second round in fantasy drafts for the 2020 campaign but could exceed his ADP potential, especially with the progression of second-year signal-caller Kyler Murray and the acquisition of DeAndre Hopkins.

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Josh Jacobs Jun 1 10:00pm ET

Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs has been pegged by NFL.com, contributing columnist Adam Schein to win the league's rushing title. While it is a realistic expectation, he will have some tough competition with the likes of Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb, Ezekiel Elliott, and Christian McCaffrey--among others. The 22-year-old appeared in 13 games in 2019 and battled a shoulder ailment for a good portion of the season. He finished with 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns on 242 attempts and was one of the most elusive runners after contact. Regardless of whether he finishes as the top rusher, he is projected to be one of the league's top fantasy producers at his position, especially with the team beefing things up on the receiving end by drafting Henry Ruggs III in the 2020 NFL Draft.

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Chris Godwin Jun 1 9:00pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin will outperform both Michael Thomas and Julio Jones in 2020, at least according to NFL Network's Michael Robinson. Godwin finished third in the league in receiving yards in 2019, compiling 1,333 yards, while also ending as the second-best fantasy receiver in all formats. However, with the gunslinging Jameis Winston now gone in favor of former Patriot Tom Brady and the addition of Rob Gronkowski, it is not unrealistic for the 24-year-old to take a step back this upcoming season.

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Tyreek Hill Jun 1 8:30pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill has been focusing on his conditioning this offseason, with the 26-year-old incorporating yoga into his workouts twice a week. Hill missed four games last season due to a shoulder injury, so whether or not his new routine will pay off won't be known until the season concludes. The former fifth-round pick took a step back in 2019, finishing the year with 860 yards and seven touchdowns off of 58 receptions. While Hill is projected to be one of the first receivers off the board in fantasy drafts for the 2020 campaign, the former Tiger will have to fight for looks from Patrick Mahomes on a Chiefs' squad that's loaded on the offensive end.

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Dylan Cantrell Jun 1 8:00pm ET

The Arizona Cardinals signed former Chargers wide receiver Dylan Cantrell to an undisclosed deal on Monday. Cantrell played for Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech, and it sounds as though he might move to tight end with his new team. Cantrell was 6-foot-3, 226 pounds coming out of college and will be a developmental player for the Cardinals. Turning 26 this month, Cantrell has never played in a regular season game at the NFL level and will have a big mountain to climb in Arizona in order to change that, but he brings size and athleticism to a roster that already has a ton of playmakers in the passing game.

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Henry Ruggs III Jun 1 7:30pm ET

Las Vegas Raiders first-round rookie wide receiver Henry Ruggs III (thigh) was involved in an off-the-field accident while helping a friend move, but sources say "he's OK." Ruggs was cut and received a puncture, but the wound isn't serious and it sounds as though he'll be completely fine for whenever teams are allowed to meet for the first time for on-field activities. AL.com is reporting that Ruggs is on crutches after the incident because he hasn't spoken to doctors yet amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Raiders are aware of the incident but aren't commenting. Ruggs was taken 12th overall in April's draft after catching 98 passes for 1,716 yards and 24 touchdowns in his career at Alabama. He'll have opportunity in his rookie season and should immediately be fantasy relevant in single-year formats as a big-play WR3/4.

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Derrick Henry Jun 1 4:40pm ET

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry recently received some noteworthy praise from former Giants great, Tiki Barber. The legendary runner was quoted saying, "If I were picking a running back, aside from Christian McCaffrey, I would take Derrick Henry," when asked who he would prefer if he were an NFL general manager. The former second-round pick finished with 16 rushing touchdowns, tied for first with Aaron Jones, and also won the rushing title. While he isn't a reliable week-to-week pass-catching option, his 968 yards YAC makes him a bruising force for fantasy owners. Expect him to go somewhere in the first round in fantasy drafts for the 2020 campaign in all formats.

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Joe Mixon Jun 1 4:20pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon is expected to be one of the most impactful players in 2020, at least according to USA Today's Chris Roling. Roling anticipates big things from the 23-year-old, and points to the team's enhanced offensive line, an upgraded passing attack, and familiarity with second-year head coach Zac Taylor's offensive schemes as the reasons for an expected breakout. Mixon saw a regression in production in 2019, finishing with 1,137 yards, five rushing touchdowns, and 35 receptions. He managed to play a full 16 games for the first time in his career last season and is anticipated to be a first-round fantasy selection in all formats for the upcoming campaign.

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Marlon Mack Jun 1 4:10pm ET

Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich discussed whether running back Marlon Mack should have a lead on retaining the starting running back spot over rookie Jonathan Taylor in 2020. "Theres definitely inherent respect for the starter returning. And thats the way I see this.I see it as a 1-1 (punch)," Reich said. Mack and Taylor will form a one-one punch, but the Colts also foresee a big role for pass-catching back Nyheim Hines, so this could be a complicated backfield for fantasy owners to navigate. Reich mentioned Hines as a "role-playing starter." Even though Mack might be the nominal "starter" in Week 1, everyone expects Taylor to eventually take the lead in this backfield, making Mack more of an RB3/flex in the long run in 2020.

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