Every Team’s Biggest Question for 2013 NFL Training Camp
Every Team's Biggest Question for 2013 NFL Training Camp
I can't believe it's already nearly August. There are, literally, chills down my spine.
The dog days of July are yielding to the start of NFL training camps across the league, and by the end of next week each will be in full swing. What's been speculation will get a little more tangible evidence. Fantasy football debates will hinge on daily happenings. Veterans taking a little extra rest will be overblown.
Rewind a year to review the dialogue on rookie quarterbacks Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill and Robert Griffin III. Tannehill's Dolphins sat near the bottom of many experts' preseason power rankings and Wilson seemed destined to back-up monster acquisition Matt Flynn. As Pete Carroll is wont to do, the Seattle Seahawks coach threw expectations and prior plans to the wind and chose the guy who outperformed everyone in camp and preseason, naming Wilson the starter for Week 1 of the regular season.
Like many training camp battles, Wilson's momentum began in minicamp earlier in the offseason. The rookie made it through a bit of primary, setting the stage for solving Seattle's quarterback question in August.
"He's showed us enough," Carroll told reporters last May after watching Wilson's minicamp performance. "He's in the competition. And that is going to tax us, as you know. It was already going to be taxing with two. But he's shown us enough that we need to see where he fits in with these guys."
Quarterbacks and rookies are far from the only major questions facing teams in training camp here in 2013, so check out the most burning ones from each team.
New York Giants
Can Big Blue field a half-decent secondary?
Typically half their defensive backs are bulldozed by injuries during camp, and they can't afford it with a unit that lost Kenny Phillips and has rapidly declined.
Will the 4-3 transition go smoothly?
Monte Kiffin is a legend, but bending a defensive formation that fit 3-4 perfectly is a bold call.
How's RG3's knee holding up?
That's the million-upon-million dollar question, as the franchise cornerstone makes his way back from knee surgery. It will be interesting to see how Washington changes its offense in response.
Who's running the NFL debut of Chip Kelly's offense?
Michael Vick struggled mightily last year, Nick Foles showed a few things and Kelly drafted Matt Barkley, but there's a case to be made for each at quarterback.
Green Bay Packers
Will one of the Packer rookies emerged as RB1?
Green Bay took Eddie Lacy in round two and Johnathan Franklin in round four, and the two will battle for first-team reps throughout camp with lesser veteran incumbents.
Can Ziggy Ansah provide immediate returns off the edge?
The rookie fifth-rounder is considered a raw talent, but if he can put it together in camp then Ansah would pair amazingly with stalwarts Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.
Can Minny's offense get vertical?
No team throw deep with less frequency than the Vikes last season, and Christian Ponder must show dramatic improvement to get that trust.
Will Marc Trestman revolutionize the Bears offense?
Trestman has proved himself in many leagues at many levels, and now returns from the CFL to push a talented Bears offense up a notch. Could be the best thing to ever happen to Jay Cutler.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Will Tampa's new-look secondary take them from worst pass defense to elite?
It should be interesting to see how the sudden assembly of Mark Barron, Dashon Goldson, Darrelle Revis and Johnthan Banks will gel in camp.
New Orleans Saints
Can New Orleans' safety position grow respectable?
As long as Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper continue to take the bulk of snaps, it's hard to imagine that happening. Hopefully first-rounder Kenny Vaccaro doesn't leave the field.
How much of John Abraham's void can Osi Umenyiora fill?
Abraham offered more in run defense than Umenyiora ever has, so how Atlanta uses Umenyiora on early downs is key.
Can Carolina's secondary play well above their heads?
If Haruki Nakamura, Charles Godfrey, Josh Norman, Josh Thomas, Captain Munnerlyn and the gang (I know, right?) don't pleasantly surprise in camp, you could see some free-agent additions at defensive back.
Will Seattle bother running anything besides nickel base?
Because with Antoine Winfield playing slot they shouldn't, often.
San Francisco 49ers
Who will be Colin Kaepernick's favorite target at receiver with Michael Crabtree out?
Tight end Vernon Davis could see an uptick in catches, but receiver underwhelms if Anquan Boldin can't recreate his playoff form over the course of a season.
Will Carson Palmer help Larry Fitzgerald produce circa-2009 numbers?
Fitz was buried by his QB platoon over the past couple years, but Palmer provides the first competent gun-slinger in Arizona since Kurt Warner.
St. Louis Rams
Can Sam Bradford elevate his game through Tavon Austin?
There were periods here and there when Bradford caught rhythm with Danny Amendola, and St. Louis needs Bradford to establish this kind of connection with their top pick.
New England Patriots
Where will Tom Brady's production come from?
Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd, Danny Woodhead and Wes Welker represented roughly 80 percent of his passing yards in 2012, and if Rob Gronkowski can't stay healthy that number gets even closer to 100.
Will the free agent haul on defense pay immediate dividends?
The Dolphins started anew at linebacker and cornerback, with Koa Misi the incumbent at just one of those five starting spots.
Will CJ Spiller finally be heavily utilized?
His total touches haven't been too shabby, but Chan Gailey seemed to go away from Spiller at the worst times. It's speculated that Doug Marrone could turn Spiller into a real workhorse.
New York Jets
Will Geno Smith finally silence the Mark Sanchez drama?
Sanchez has been quite the media fascination for several valid reasons, but if Smith can quickly wrest QB1 away early in camp then we can finally stop talking about a mediocre quarterback.
Who will fill James Harrison's shoes?
And giant shoes they are: either Jason Worilds will finally be up to the test or first-rounder Jarvis Jones seizes them.
Who will take up the leadership reins from Ray Lewis and Ed Reed on defense?
Terrell Suggs has always seemed like the leader-in-waiting and he'll be joined by other longtime Raven greats like Haloti Ngata. This is still the Ravens defense, just with a few changes.
Will the 3-4 transition rapidly boost this defense?
Some experts are wondering if this lower-tier defense will suddenly jump to Top 10 under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton and edge-rushing additions Barkevious Mingo and Paul Kruger.
How exciting will the Bengals offense look with all its shiny new toys?
Andy Dalton might possess a relative lack of arm strength but could really excel in a creative, quick-hitting offense that just drafted tight end Tyler Eifert and receiving-savvy back Gio Bernard to go along with a variety of weapons.
Can DeAndre Hopkins impress enough to draw attention from Andre Johnson?
Johnson will get his regardless, but this offense could really benefit from another major threat at receiver from the rookie first-rounder.
Will Gus Bradley revive a miserable Jags defense?
Seattle's former defensive coordinator brings the "Leo" to Jax, and will rely on a slew of rookie defensive players led by second-round safety Johnathan Cyprien to help a miserable unit rebound.
Can Jake Locker approve his accuracy?
Watch their late-season game in Indy, and it's embarrassing. Pro Football Focus rated him as the worst quarterback under pressure last season. Glass half-full: He was considered a project out of college and maybe year three clicks.
How will Andrew Luck adjust under new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton?
Probably much more smoothly than with Bruce Arians, as Hamilton's west-coast, tight-end incorporating style seems to better mirror Luck's college experience. And keep him upright.
San Diego Chargers
Can the Chargers protect Philip Rivers?
DJ Fluker seems more of a road-grader than pass-blocker, and outside of him the unit lacks meaningful additions in pass pro.
Will Matt Flynn finally get a shot?
The world may actually get a chance to debate Flynn's on-field regular season performance, outside of those two games filling in for Aaron Rodgers.
How much of the slot snaps will Wes Welker take up?
Demaryius Thomas played really well in that role last year, so it will be interesting to see how much Thomas factors in here with Welker now aboard.
Kansas City Chiefs
Will Andy Reid's offense click in KC?
Reid loves to chuck it around but this offense seems better suited for a more run-oriented approach. One thing is for sure: It will be better than last year.