With NFL training camps opening up this week, here are 10 questions on my mind. From the New Orleans Saints to the multiple QB competitions, let’s check them out.
1. Can the Saints survive without their head coach?
Yes, quarterback Drew Brees is now under contract and there is no question he is in control of the locker room. I understand that. However, this is a unique situation in New Orleans without head coach Sean Payton for the entire 2012 season. Multiple leaders now have to emerge from the Saints' roster to help with interim coach Joe Vitt's transition, and it will be a challenge to keep the daily focus entirely on football during camp. Pro ball players are usually at their best in adverse situations and that is exactly what this Saints team is faced. I’m very interested to see how New Orleans reacts.
2. Will the Redskins cater their offense to RG3?
If you look at a Mike Shanahan game plan, it is loaded with movement passes (boot, swap boot, sprint, dash, etc.). That fits when you hand the ball to rookie QB Robert Griffin III. However, what's next? With RG3, we are talking about a unique player at the QB position. What about some spread looks, the read option in crucial game situations and creative play-calling that caters to his skills? The 'Skins have an opportunity to expand their game plan because of the talent they now have at QB.
3. Did the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots fill their needs on defense?
Go back to the NFL draft where Green Bay and New England each selected young defensive talent. Edge rushers, secondary help, etc. Smart moves when we look at these clubs and their issues from the 2011 season. But can you count on rookies to make an immediate impact? That’s my question with the Packers and Patriots. They both scooped up multiple rookies who are expected to play a big defensive role. Now we get to find out if they are game ready by the end of camp.
4. Do the Dallas Cowboys have the cornerbacks to win the NFC East?
I’m a big fan of what coordinator Rob Ryan wants to do defensively and now he has two CBs that allow him to be even more aggressive in his play-calling. The Cowboys spent big via free agency and the draft to pick up veteran Brandon Carr and rookie Morris Claiborne. Think blitz-man here, zero-coverage and seven- (or even eight-) man pressure schemes. When you have two CBs you can trust out on an island, it opens up the possibilities within the playbook to go after the QB. Claiborne has to develop quickly in camp, but I like the look of this Cowboys defense right now.
5. Can Peyton Manning take the Denver Broncos to another level?
I’m anxious to see the Broncos' offense throughout the preseason from a scheme perspective and to find out where Manning is in his recovery from neck rehab. Do the Broncos lean on the passing tree that Manning produced with in Indy and does the former Colts QB still resemble the elite player we know? It's too easy to look at this Denver club as the early AFC Wet favorite because of the addition of Manning. I want to watch the Broncos go to work first.
[Jason Cole: Mario Williams, Peyton Manning not only stars on rebound]
6. Is Mark Sanchez the unquestioned No.1 in New York?
Sanchez is the story here because of all the talk about Tim Tebow. The veteran QB doesn’t have to worry about losing his job or coming off the field for specific packages designed to utilize Tebow’s skills if he takes care of his own business. Run the offense, protect the ball, make smart decisions down the field, etc. This is Sanchez’s job if he produces.
7. What does the Chicago Bears game plan look like under Mike Tice?
Chicago’s new offensive coordinator will be calling plays for the first time in his coaching career and the Bears have some new talent at wide receiver with Brandon Marshall and rookie Alshon Jeffery – two size/speed players for QB Jay Cutler. But with the same questions along the offensive line, how will Tice cover up those issues? I would expect Chicago to lead with the run game, stretch the middle of the field using play-action (think inside verticals) and utilize the tight end. And it's on Tice to put his QB in a position to win based on his game plan and call sheet.
[Michael Silver: Ndamukong Suh, Lions ready to put tough offseason in past]
8. What should we expect from the Philadelphia Eagles defensively?
The Eagles had plenty of problems defensively last season from scheme, to discipline and technique under coordinator Juan Castillo. But watching this club play out the schedule, it did improve at the end of the season. Move to this offseason, the addition of linebacker DeMeco Ryans (an immediate upgrade at the position) and more edge speed via the draft. If the Eagles can play more consistently on defense, this is one of the top teams in the entire league (and my early NFC East favorite).
9. Will Randy Moss play a significant role for the San Francisco 49ers?
There's a lot of hype surrounding Moss this offseason and I’m wondering if he is anything more than just a situational player for Jim Harbaugh’s offense. If he can run the 9 (fade) route vs. Cover 2, beat press-coverage, put some stress on top of the defense and flip the field, then the Niners have something to work with here. But after a year away from the game, I have my questions as to how productive he can be in 2012.
10. Which QB competition carries the most weight?
I’m going to say the Seattle Seahawks' and Tennessee Titans'. With Pete Carroll’s club, is it possible that new free agent Matt Flynn would lose out to a rookie in Russell Wilson and a veteran holdover in Tarvaris Jackson? And down in Nashville, when will Jake Locker take over the huddle from Matt Hasselbeck? The key — for both clubs — is to find a No.1 guy and give the rest of the roster a QB they can believe in. And you can't let the decision linger late into August. That’s crucial.
Five more questions to think about …
• What will we see from Sam Bradford in St.Louis?
• Can the Detroit Lions develop the run game?
• Are the Houston Texans even better defensively in Wade Phillips’ second season?
• How does Todd Haley structure the Pittsburgh Steelers' offense?
• When will Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson be back on the field?
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This story originally appeared on Nationalfootballpost.com
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