NFC: Show me the money!

Mike Harmon
Yahoo! SportsJuly 26, 2005

Also see: AFC Camp Questions

Last week, I posed a list of questions facing each team in the AFC as teams head into training camps. These queries touched on personnel issues, position battles and coaching quandaries. This week, I'm turning my attention to the NFC, where holdouts are running rampant!

A number of readers questioned where my answers were for those issues raised last week. We're going to let the activity on the field and my forthcoming training camp tours answer some of those directly. As training camps reach their conclusion and we reach the flurry of draft activity ahead of the season opener, I'll revisit both conferences to see which of these questions have been resolved.

We'll start this week's examination with the perennial NFC title game participant, the Philadelphia Eagles.

Philadelphia Eagles:

  • Should he appear at camp and participate in team activities, will the offseason of posturing and jawing from Terrell Owens create problems for Donovan McNabb and the Eagles? His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, seems to think the strained relationship between the Eagles stars will impact the team. In an interview with WFAN in New York, Rosenhaus commented on the relationship. "I don't think it's great, and I think that's going to be a problem. I think there's obviously quite a bit of concern there inside the organization over the relationship of those two key players."
  • With strong play down the stretch and into the playoffs in '04, is Greg Lewis ready to assume the No. 2 role if Owens is traded, released or reverses his stance and sits out?
  • The Eagles successfully managed Brian Westbrook's touches last year en route to their Super Bowl appearance. Will he see more action in the slot this season? Is Correll Buckhalter ready to roll after missing the entire 2004 season? How will Andy Reid work him back into the system? And what about rookie Ryan Moats?

New York Giants:

  • Eli Manning ran the gauntlet in a tough schedule last season. Is he ready to emerge as a team leader when the Giants convene in Albany this weekend?
  • Will Plaxico Burress live up to the title of No. 1 receiver in New York after performance and injury concerns with the Steelers?
  • How much will Brandon Jacobs factor into short-yardage and goal-line situations? Should Tiki Barber owners be concerned?
  • Is Jeremy Shockey fully healed from the stress fracture that limited his effectiveness in '04, and will the offensive line be strong enough to let him roam through defensive backfields?

Dallas Cowboys:

  • Drew Bledsoe and Bill Parcells have been reunited in Dallas. After a rough start to the 2004 season in Buffalo, Bledsoe was effective after Willis McGahee took over in the backfield. With a similar back in Julius Jones and a couple of sure-handed receivers in tow, can Bledsoe reclaim fantasy stardom?
  • According to recent reports, Julius Jones is eyeing a 1,700-yard, 20-TD season. Will the offensive line play be strong enough for him to make good on his prediction?
  • The defensive backfield was torched with regularity a season ago. The Cowboys are shifting into a new defensive scheme and will come to camp with a load of new starters. Will the rookies adapt quickly as camp unfolds?
  • And what about Keyshawn Johnson? He caught his most touchdown passes since 2000 a year ago with Vinny Testaverde. Will he bond with another veteran QB?

Washington Redskins:

  • Patrick Ramsey has been named the starter after Mark Brunell's struggles in 2004. Joe Gibbs has said publicly that he believes Ramsey will be the guy, but the 1st-round selection of Jason Campbell isn't much of a vote of confidence. How will the reps get split at camp?
  • Jon Jansen is back to anchor the offensive line. Clinton Portis had the yards a year ago; does he get the touchdowns to boot?
  • How will the new spread offense impact the play-calling of the team that ranked 30th in total offense a season ago?
  • Who will step up from the receiving corps? Will Santana Moss return to his 2003 form, and how will David Patten fit outside of the New England system?
  • Will all of the pieces of the defense be ready to go? Injuries, malcontents and legal issues are swirling about. And, oh yeah, Sean Taylor, who fits into all three categories, is possibly a holdout at camp. He is another Drew Rosenhaus client.

Green Bay Packers:

  • How big a distraction will the inevitable holdout of Javon Walker (Rosenhaus No. 3) be to the Packers squad? Here's Rosenhaus on HBO's "Real Sports": "He's making about half a million dollars, and he's one of the premier players in the league. I can't let this player go out on the field and jeopardize his career for that kind of money. I just can't fathom it."
  • How will the shuffled offensive line impact the running game and Ahman Green's quest to return to his 2003 form? Early draft results demonstrate that fantasy owners have little faith in this switch.
  • A much less publicized holdout concern for the Packers is TE Bubba Franks. He's yet to sign the one-year tender as the Packers' transition player. With the possibility of Favre's favorite red-zone target out of the picture, who stands in for him? Frank's agent, Gene Mato, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Put it this way. I wouldn't draft those players (David Martin and Ben Steele) on my fantasy team."
  • Let's get back to that line question for a moment. How will the changes on the offensive line impact Brett Favre's game? And, though he's tossed for 27 or more touchdowns in four consecutive seasons, how much does Favre have left in the tank?

Minnesota Vikings:

  • How will Daunte Culpepper respond to the loss of his top target? Will he be fixated on new No. 1 receiver Nate Burleson or will he spread the ball around, a la Peyton Manning and the Colts?
  • Saddled with the "injury-prone" tag and in the final year of his contract, can Michael Bennett separate himself from the pack and provide fantasy owners with a full season of star power? Or will Mewelde Moore and Ciatrick Fason pilfer opportunities?
  • The Vikings rebuilt their defense this offseason. Some would argue that it's a new project. How long will it take the unit to gel?
  • Will we get another Arena League success story with the Vikings' signing of 2005 Player of the Year, Siaha Burley? He was a Culpepper favorite at Central Florida back in the day. Will he work his way into the rotation?

Detroit Lions:

  • It's now or never for Joey Harrington. Does he come out on fire in training camp to show his desire to lead this team? Or does he fold with Jeff Garcia looking over his shoulder?
  • After playing just five games over two NFL seasons, will Charles Rogers finally stay on the field?
  • Mike Williams found himself on the outside looking in on both the NCAA and NFL seasons in 2004. Will the layoff impact his timing, or has it strengthened his resolve?
  • How does Marcus Pollard fit into the system?
  • The defense has been bolstered with the return of Boss Bailey and the additions of Kenoy Kennedy and Dre Bly. Can Dick Jauron get a scheme in place to shorten their time on the field and offer some short-field opportunities to Harrington and company?

Chicago Bears:

Atlanta Falcons:

  • The Falcons want Michael Vick to stay in the pocket longer and make more plays with his arm. Outside of TE Alge Crumpler, who will offer Vick a viable receiving option?
  • Though the Falcons return four of five starters on the offensive line, how will the system be tweaked to keep Vick upright (sacked once in every eight dropbacks in 2004)?
  • Fantasy owners are taunted yearly with the thunder and lightning combo of Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett. Does the split continue as in the past, or will Dunn be split out more as a receiver?

New Orleans Saints:

  • Will Jim Haslet follow through with his offseason comments about riding the legs of Deuce McAllister on offense? McAllister was hobbled by a sprained ankle, and the Saints ranked 27th in rushing offense last year.
  • Aaron Brooks regressed mightily after a big 2003 season. Will the concentration on the running game allow him to reach those heights and efficiency again (24 touchdowns against eight interceptions in '03).
  • Following off of the Brooks comment, will Boo Williams find himself back in the favor of fantasy owners?
  • Donte Stallworth stayed healthy and proved to be a capable No. 2 receiver to Joe Horn. Will second-year wideout Devery Henderson offer a speedy deep threat?
  • The defense played well in the final four wins to save Haslet's job. Will this young squad continue their improvement under Rick Venturi?

Carolina Panthers:

  • Steve Smith, a Jake Delhomme favorite in 2003, is back after missing virtually the entire '04 season. How much will this combo miss the presence of the big target in Muhsin Muhammad?
  • The running back position was devastated by injuries in '04, leaving fifth-string back Nick Goings to shoulder the load. Can the Panthers rely on Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster? How much will rookie Eric Shelton figure into the mix early on?
  • Rod Gardner is expected to be released by the Redskins shortly. Will the Panthers step up to add him to the receiving corps?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

  • Brian Griese comes into the season as the starter over Chris Simms, having tossed 20 touchdowns in his 11 starts last year. How will he react to the starter tag?
  • Will the re-tooled offensive line provide protection for Griese, or more importantly, the opportunity for the first 1,000-yard rusher in Tampa since Warrick Dunn in 2000? Will Carnell Williams be ready to dominate immediately; and where does Michael Pittman fit into this equation?
  • How will Michael Clayton respond to the coverage associated with being a No. 1 receiver? And will Joey Galloway be healthy enough to provide a solid No. 2 option?
  • The defense is aging and will rely on the health of Anthony McFarland to clog the middle. Can they still carry this team if Griese struggles?

Seattle Seahawks:

St. Louis Rams:

Arizona Cardinals:

San Francisco 49ers:

  • Will the newly-signed Alex Smith win the battle with Tim Rattay for the Week 1 start against St. Louis?
  • Kevan Barlow was a huge disappointment in '04 after signing a big deal. Will rookie Frank Gore push him for playing time out of the gate?
  • Who, other than TE Eric Johnson, will emerge as a receiving threat for whoever wins the QB battle? Will Arnaz Battle and Brandon Lloyd step up? What about second-year receiver Rashaun Woods or long-time NFL vet Johnnie Morton?
  • Will the defense see immediate dividends with the additions of coaches Mike Nolan and Billy Davis?