NFL Training Camp: 10 Players Who Will Demand Headlines with Monster Showings
NFL training camps set the tone for an entire season. Foundations for success are laid, and stories begin to develop.
If a star player is holding out, it can lead to a disastrous season.
However, other players will come in with a focus that demands attention, creating a buzz for the upcoming year.
Every team has hope when it breaks camp. These players will be the ones providing the most inspiration for media hype.
Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
He has already been regarded as one of the most noteworthy free agents of all time—albeit with a caveat.
Could Peyton Manning still get it done? Had the multiple neck surgeries combined with his age robbed him of his legendary arm?
Reports indicate that the former Super Bowl MVP still has everything in his toolbox.
Judging by his facial expressions during games, Manning is an intense competitor who has a reputation as an obsessive workaholic. He will need little time to get up to speed during training camp.
The NFL quarterbacking pecking order will be reestablished when the Denver Broncos take the field for Week 1.
Brandon Marshall, WR, Chicago Bears
Nobody in the league is as excited about his situation as Brandon Marshall.
He finally escaped the football purgatory located in South Florida for a Midwest Mecca.
The Miami Dolphins are starting over. The Chicago Bears are legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
Additionally, he is reunited with Jay Cutler. After catching passes from Chad Henne and Matt Moore, the thought of a legitimate NFL starter will inspire him.
Finally, he won't be the only receiving threat on a suddenly explosive Bears offense.
Rookie Alshon Jeffery will be motivated by his draft position and draw defensive attention away from Marshall.
Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns
There is finally hope for the Cleveland Browns. They locked up linebacker D'Qwell Jackson and drafted a possibly passable quarterback in Brandon Weeden.
But the boldest move should pay the largest dividends. The Browns pulled the trigger on a draft-day trade and grabbed Trent Richardson.
The kid is a built like a bowling ball at 5'9" and 228 pounds. He'll be able to bounce off would-be tacklers and has the agility to make players miss.
Alfonzo Dennard, CB, New England Patriots
Bill Belichick has a reputation for handling personalities and getting players to buy into the team's scheme.
His latest project is Alfonzo Dennard. The one-time first rounder slipped to the New England Patriots in the seventh round.
Dennard's issues haven't been talent but maturity that has manifested itself as unchecked aggression.
He began his descent down the draft board by getting kicked out a bowl game for fighting. Dennard followed up that performance by allegedly sparring with a cop just five days before the draft.
The free fall should provide the motivation and the coaching staff the necessary guidance. The youngster has a lot to prove.
Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
After setting the scene with two lesser-known rookies, it's time to mention Andrew Luck.
He has been touted as the most NFL-ready quarterback since his Indianapolis Colts predecessor. Luck will fully vindicate his supporters and win over any possible critics.
The polished product begins his career with veteran playmaker Reggie Wayne. In addition, the Colts drafted a pair of ready-to-contribute tight ends in Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen.
The team may not be ready to compete in 2012, but Luck will look brilliant in training camp.
Randy Moss, WR, San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers' acquisition of Randy Moss was a low-risk, high-reward move.
If he still has anything left in the tank, the Niners added a missing and necessary dimension to their offense. If not, they can cut him and move on.
By all accounts, this signing has been more boom than bust.
Jim Harbaugh has compared him to a coach due to his intelligence and diligence. Other players have noted that he still has his speed.
Instincts and hands are the last attributes to abandon a receiver, so Moss should excel this year.
San Francisco has struck gold.
Mikel Leshoure, RB, Detroit Lions
With his recent arrests, fans can be forgiven for forgetting that Mikel Leshoure is a talented running back.
However, he was drafted by the Detroit Lions to bring the thunder to Jahvid Best's lightning.
Leshoure won't lack for motivation. Besides putting the arrests behind him, he will be eager to prove that his Achilles injury was a fluke.
When football is your entire life and you are forced to sit out for a year, the hunger inside you only swells to epic proportions.
Leshoure cannot control what happens in the courts or the commissioner's office. Thus, his focus will be solely on the field because it's the only place where he can assert his will.
Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, New York Giants
The New York Giants know how to stock up on pass rushers.
Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck have been prolific, but both must be aware that the kid's time has come.
Jason Pierre-Paul broke out during a terrific sophomore season with 16.5 sacks. The scariest part is that he was only scratching the surface of his talent.
His football skills are still developing. Pierre-Paul has only been playing football since his junior year of high school.
The rest of the league surely did not want to hear that.
Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs
The AFC West will be a much more competitive division this year.
The Denver Broncos may have added an all-time great at quarterback, but the Kansas City Chiefs are recovering loads of talent from the Injured Reserve.
Eric Berry delivered on his immense promise his rookie year. Unfortunately, the momentum was curbed by an ACL tear early in the 2011 season.
Science has advanced to a point where these injuries don't mean a tenth of what they did in prior decades. Thus, there is little concern that he can't recapture his explosiveness.
Young players can actually benefit from sitting out due to injuries. They get to see things they wouldn't see otherwise by observing the game.
If Berry's talent is matched by his drive, the Chiefs will be in the fight for the playoffs until the end.
Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Roddy White is more than ready to start sharing the load with Julio Jones. White has gone on record as saying that Jones will be much more of a focal point this year for the offense.
That's a good thing for the Atlanta Falcons.
The immense value given up for Jones should start to pay off in 2012. He has too much talent to be held down by defenses or offensive schemes.
With White around, Jones has been shown the template for achieving superstardom. This is the year that he makes the leap, and it will begin in training camp.