32 Things Fanbases Should Hope to Learn During NFL Training Camps
No NFL team enters training camp without questions to be answered.
Each franchise has at least one major storyline that fan bases can hope to find some sense of closure to before the regular season gets underway.
Position battles will be decided, holdouts will end, and players will attempt to bounce back from horrific 2011 campaigns.
Who will win the QB battles in Seattle, Arizona, Tennessee, Miami and Jacksonville?
How long will the holdouts of Ray Rice, Dwayne Bowe and Drew Brees last?
Most (and maybe even all) of these questions will find their answers during training camp.
Let's look at a burning question that each fanbase should find an answer to by the end of summer.
Arizona Cardinals: Kevin Kolb or John Skelton?
The battle of mediocre quarterbacks should be decided at some point during the Arizona Cardinals training camp.
Kevin Kolb was not brought onto this roster to ride the pine, but John Skelton proved to be on equal footing with him last season.
Both men will have their chance to claim the starting job during camp and as they each take reps with the first team a starter must be named.
Kolb has had a full season to adjust to the Cardinals offense and grasp the playbook.
He was far from exceptional last season, but any signs of life should warrant the No. 1 spot in 2012.
Atlanta Falcons: Who Will Start at Middle Linebacker?
Someone has to replace Curtis Lofton at middle linebacker.
The question is will it be Lofa Tatupu or Akeem Dent?
Tatupu has shown flashes of brilliance in this league during his career with the Seattle Seahawks, but he is coming off surgery on both knees and is already 29.
Dent is young and has something to prove in only his second year out of the University of Georgia.
With new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan bringing a new defensive scheme along with him the playing field is perfectly balanced for these two players.
Let the classic training camp battle commence.
Baltimore Ravens: What Is Going on with Ray Rice?
Tell me if you have heard this story before:
Running back wants new long term contract.
Management is reluctant to place big time money into a ball carrier.
Running back then threatens to hold out.
Like countless players before him Ray Rice has suggested he may sit out if the Ravens do not give him the long-term deal he wants.
This is the kind of situation that could make or break Baltimore's season.
Losing Rice to a holdout would devastate the Ravens offense and set the team back for an entire year.
With an aging defense Baltimore needs to have all their pieces on the field right now and it will be interesting to see how these negotiations unfold.
Buffalo Bills: Is Shawne Merriman Finally Ready to Perform?
There was a time seemingly forever ago when Shawne Merriman was one of the most intimidating players in all of football.
He was racking up double digit sacks for the San Diego Chargers and wreaking havoc on opposing offenses.
Fast forward a couple years, a steroid violation, and an Achilles surgery later and you have a shell of the former All-Pro.
Merriman is looking to resurrect his career with the Buffalo Bills.
He has coach Chan Gailey excited about his offseason development and appears fully healthy for the first time in years.
If that proves true he could be a huge factor in the Bills defensive plans for 2012.
Carolina Panthers: How Will Luke Kuechly Fit into the Linebacking Corps
The Carolina Panthers defense is forever going to play second fiddle to Cam Newton and the offense.
There is simply too much excitement on that side of the ball. But the defense may actually have the most engaging storyline heading into training camp.
Last season linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis both suffered serious injuries. With their return in 2012 and the addition of Luke Kuechly, the Panthers look to have a formidable set of linebackers.
How will the athletic Kuechly fit into the Panthers defensive scheme?
That will be a fun question to answer as Kuechly gets all the important training camp reps and learns the Panthers defensive system.
Chicago Bears: Have the Bears Recovered from Last Seasons Injury Woes?
Let's run through some of the Chicago Bears injury issues from last season:
- Jay Cutler was lost for the season after a Bennett fracture
- Matt Forte was lost for the season after suffering an MCL sprain
- Gabe Carimi was lost for the season after suffering a knee sprain
- Johnny Knox was lost for the season after suffering a back injury
- Brian Urlacher was lost in the final game of the season after he sprained his MCL and partially sprained his PCL
These injures were all crippling and perhaps the worst part for the Bears is they were really hitting their stride towards the midpoint of the season before the Cutler injury.
Now they enter 2012 looking to regain their health and the playoff worthy form they showcased before the rash of injuries set them back.
Cincinnati Bengals: Who Will Emerge as the No. 2 Receiver
A.J. Green is the clear No. 1 receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals.
After that the depth chart gets a little murky.
Brandon Tate, Armon Binns, Ryan Whalen and rookie Mohamed Sanu are all vying for the No. 2 spot and will all have an opportunity to battle it out in training camp.
Tate, the former New England Patriot, has to be the leader in the clubhouse.
He showed flashes of his ability on special teams and has tremendous potential.
Binns is a former practice squad player with the skill to make a run at the position.
Sanu was a star at Rutgers and was drafted by the Bengals in the third round. He has shown inexperience but has too much talent to ignore.
The biggest longshot has to be Whalen.
He is a second year player from Stanford and has limited NFL games on his resume thus far.
Cleveland Browns: Will Brandon Weeden Emerge as a Viable Starting Quarterback
The whole situation surrounding the Cleveland Browns and their quarterbacks is just odd.
The Browns felt the need to take Brandon Weeden in the first round of this year's draft even though they already had a young up-and-comer under center in Colt McCoy.
Now the rumors state that Cleveland is actively looking to ship McCoy out by any means necessary and award Weeden the starting role before even looking at him in preseason action.
Weeden may be old enough to be a seasoned veteran, but he is still a rookie.
Can he prove the doubters wrong and emerge as a quality starting NFL quarterback right out of the gate?
The Browns are banking on just that.
Dallas Cowboys: Can the Revamped Secondary Work?
The Dallas Cowboys saw a glaring weakness in their secondary from last season and have wisely addressed the issue head on.
Terence Newman is out.
In his place comes huge free agent signing Brandon Carr and top-tier draft pick Morris Claiborne.
All in all the secondary has been completely revamped to try and fix the 244 passing yards they allowed per game last season.
With seven different rookies competing for spots on the depth chart the Cowboys secondary should be intriguing to say the least.
Denver Broncos: Can Peyton Manning Be Elite Again?
One of the biggest stories of the offseason will continue to be of the biggest stories of training camp.
After all, how often does a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback come off of neck surgery and switch teams?
John Elway and the Denver Broncos are all in on Peyton Manning and are depending on him to deliver the team it's first Super Bowl of the new millennium.
All eyes will be fixated on Manning's return to contact and how his 36 year old frame will be able to hold up after a year away from the game.
Few storylines will captivate a league-wide audience quite like the one out of Mile High.
Detroit Lions: Is Riley Reiff Already Better Than Jeff Backus?
Riley Reiff wasn't even supposed to be anywhere near the board when the Detroit Lions finally sent in the No. 23 pick in the draft.
As it stands the Lions had one of the biggest steals of the first round and added a player ready to start immediately.
But there lies the problem--where does he start at?
The easy answer has him replacing the perennially average Gosder Cherilus at right tackle, but Reiff was born to play the left side.
Is it possible that he outperforms Jeff Backus to such an extent in training camp that coach Jim Schwartz has no choice but to start him on quarterback Matthew Stafford's blind side?
Only time will tell.
Green Bay Packers: Will the Secondary Improve in 2012?
For a team that finished 15-1 last season the Green Bay Packers sure did struggle on defense, especially in the secondary.
The Packers ranked dead last in pass defense a year ago and will need to drastically improve on that rank in 2012 to make another run at the Lombardi Trophy.
Adding Casey Hayward in the draft adds some much needed youth to the secondary unit, but many question marks remain.
Is it possible that Charles Woodson moves to safety?
Can Hayward start right away?
Training camp will undoubtedly answer these questions.
Houston Texans: Can the Texans Survive Without Mario Williams and Demeco Ryans?
Two staples of the Houston Texans defense--Mario Williams and Demeco Ryans-- are no longer with the franchise.
How exactly will the Texans defense fare without two of it's biggest stars?
Houston actually has a fairly stocked cupboard on defense, and that is not including first round pick Whitney Mercilus.
Players like Brian Cushing, Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed are more than talented enough to shoulder the defensive load without Williams and Ryans.
The real question will be what kind of contributions to expect from the aforementioned Mercilus, as well as Brady James and Daryl Sharpton.
If these players bring forth any kind of production then the Texans may end up with one of the best front seven units in all of the NFL.
Indianapolis Colts: What Is Going on at Running Back?
The Indianapolis Colts have never had a great running game, but then they also never needed to.
Well now things have changed. Peyton Manning's aerial assault has left town and the Colts pathetic excuse for a backfield was exposed last season.
Andrew Luck could use some support from the ground game as he develops in 2012 and that is why it is so important that Indy asserts it's running game in training camp.
Joseph Addai is gone.
That means the battle for the No. 1 spot will come down to Donald Brown, Vick Ballard, Mewelde Moore and Delone Carter.
While no elite player stands out from the pack, this is definitely a battle to watch as camp gets underway.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Will Chad Henne Take over for Blaine Gabbert?
Blaine Gabbert was just awful in his rookie campaign.
Listing his passing statistics is a scary proposal and he often looked scared to even stand in the pocket for any period of time.
But there was no one in the depth chart to even provide a remote challenge to him as the starting quarterback.
Enter Chad Henne.
Henne may have been only serviceable during his time as the Miami Dolphins starter, but at the very least he provides a legitimate alternative to Gabbert.
These two will battle for supremacy in training camp and few would be shocked to see Henne unseat Gabbert for at least this season.
Kansas City Chiefs: How Long Will a Dwayne Bowe Holdout Last?
Dwayne Bowe (like Ray Rice) wants a long term contract.
In the meantime he has been given the franchise tag by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Will he hold out into training camp?
Bowe has been somewhat elusive on the subject, but one thing is clear:
The Chiefs need him in the passing game.
Bowe is one of the most underrated pass catching targets in the league and is a key cog in Kansas City's offensive engine.
A long term holdout seems unlikely, but any training camp time missed would be a detriment to the team.
Miami Dolphins: Can Chad Ochocinco Have an Impact?
Does Chad Ochocinco have anything left in the tank?
Was he only brought in by the Miami Dolphins to add some drama to their season on HBO's Hard Knocks?
The likelihood is that the Dolphins believe there is still some solid football left in Ochocinco's 34-year old frame.
The reality is that his play has been dropping off for three years and Ochocinco appears to have lost a step.
He may not be an elite vertical threat, but No.85 is and always has been fearless when going over the middle of the field and catching passes.
The Dolphins are hoping for at least some production out of him to boost their 23rd ranked passing attack from a season ago.
Minnesota Vikings: Will Adrian Peterson Be Ready for Week 1?
Most players would not even play in 2012 after suffering the knee injuries that Adrian Peterson suffered against the Washington Redskins last season.
But then most players are not Adrian Peterson.
Still, the biggest question heading into the Minnesota Vikings' training camp has to be whether Peterson is truly ready to resume full contact NFL action, or if this recovery is all some kind off mirage.
Quarterback Christian Ponder could certainly use the support of the game's top running back if he proves legitimately healthy, but rushing back from an injury is always dicey.
Rushing back from a torn MCL and ACL is downright scary.
New England Patriots: Who Will Emerge as the Top Running Back?
Benjarvis Green-Ellis may not have been overly exceptional but he was solid and consistent.
Those were attributes perfectly suited to a running back in the New England Patriots' system.
Now Green-Ellis is off the roster and New England must figure out who will assume his role as the top running back on the depth chart.
There are plenty of options in the names of Steven Ridley, Danny Woodhead, Joseph Addai and Shane Vereen.
Combined, these players form a formidable stable of rushers for the Patriots to work with.
Still, someone will have to pull themselves away from the pack and become the top guy.
New Orleans Saints: Too Many Questions That Need Answers
To try and name just one storyline that will dominate the New Orleans Saints training camp would be an utter fallacy.
No team has more questions and issues heading into 2012.
Head coach Sean Payton is suspended for the entire season.
Quarterback Drew Brees is mixed up in a lengthy holdout process.
And the defense has to be completely reworked after star linebacker Jonathan Vilma was suspended for the season in "Bountygate."
New Orleans will have a lot to work through in 2012 and it all starts in training camp.
New York Giants: Will the Linebackers Improve?
Winning a Super Bowl usually means that there are few, if any, corrections that need to be made heading into the next season.
After all, clearly a formula for success has already been found.
However, the New York Giants are not a perfect football team and they will not have an easy road to repeating as Super Bowl Champions.
Nor will they have an easy time winning the NFC East.
One question they should be able to answer during training camp is that surrounding their linebackers.
The Giants have multiple moving pieces at the position and should be able to settle it all out by the time training camp concludes.
Players like Chase Blackburn, Keith Rivers and Greg Jones will all be fighting for the limited starting roles available.
New York Jets: Where Does Tim Tebow Fit In?
It's not that the New York Jets can't avoid distractions, rather it is that they don't want to.
Quarterback Tim Tebow and the media circus that surrounds him have been added to a team with too much media scrutiny surrounding it to begin with.
All that aside, Tebow must now carve out his place in the offensive gameplan.
Mark Sanchez is the clear starter at quarterback, but the Jets will try to develop formations that cater to Tebow's unique abilities at the position.
Seeing what the Jets come up with and how the fans react to Tebow should provide plenty of engaging content throughout training camp and the rest of the season.
Oakland Raiders: Who Will Fill in for Rolando McClain?
As Rolando McClain sits suspended and in jail the Oakland Raiders must figure out what to do at the middle linebacker position in his absence.
During OTA's, Travis Goethel, Aaron Curry and Nathan Stupar all took cracks at manning the middle of the Raiders defense.
Which, if any, of these players are the temporary answer for Oakland?
Will McClain even be welcomed back with open arms when his suspension ends?
The Raiders are struggling for depth at linebacker as it is and the loss of McClain is a serious blow.
Still, this provides an opportunity for an underachiever like Curry to finally prove his worth in the NFL.
Philadelphia Eagles: Can the Eagles Tune out Distractions?
This season there is no talk of a "dream team."
The Philadelphia Eagles clearly crumbled under the weight of high expectations last season.
Can they rebound in 2012 and save the job of Reid?
The offense remains fully loaded with players like Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson all returning.
And the defense should have more fluidity after the departure of Asante Samuel.
The Eagles will just have to find a way to shut out all the noise that seemingly derailed them one short season ago.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Is Mike Wallace Ready to Contribute?
Mike Wallace (like Dwayne Bowe and Ray Rice) is holding out this offseason.
The Pittsburgh Steelers star wideout wants a long-term contract, and yet negotiations seem to show that such a deal is unlikely to happen.
Another case of a scorned player playing under the franchise tag with an attitude and a chip on his shoulder.
The big question has to be: how much effort will Wallace give if he is unhappy about the lack of a long term deal?
Will he still contribute at the high level the Steelers organization is accustomed to?
Pittsburgh has other talented receivers on the depth chart, but a disinterested Wallace could still hurt the offense.
San Diego Chargers: Is Anotnio Gates Back in Pro-Bowl Form?
Chargers fans better hope that leads to production during the actual season.
Gates limped out of the gates in 2011 to the tune of only 74 receiving yards and no touchdowns during the team's first five games.
He stepped his production up as the season wore on and he recovered from a foot injury, but San Diego cannot afford a slow start out of him in 2012.
Gates is the premier pass catching option on the offense and the departure of wideout Vincent Jackson has made Gates all the more crucial to the Chargers' gameplan.
It is important that he be fully healthy and in peak physical condition as training camp gets underway.
San Francisco 49ers: How Will Carries Be Given out in the Backfield?
Frank Gore is the unquestioned leader of the San Francisco 49ers backfield.
But there sure is quite the logjam building up behind him.
Brandon Jacobs, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James will all be vying for touches in training camp and proving themselves worthy of playing time come the regular season.
For the 49ers it's a wonderful problem to have.
They have multiple talented backs that can all be counted on to deliver.
But how exactly is this going to play out?
Is Jacobs the thunder to Hunter and James the lightning?
And does that make Gore like Zeus?
Mythology aside, San Francisco is in a good predicament heading into training camp.
Seattle Seahawks: Who Will Be Named the Starting Quarterback?
Quarterback battles happen all the time at NFL training camps.
But 3-way QB battles?
Not so much.
However, that is exactly the situation playing out right now in the Pacific Northwest (and in Miami actually.)
The Seattle Seahawks and coach Pete Carroll are trying to decide between incumbent Tarvaris Jackson, big money free agent signing Matt Flynn and rookie Russell Wilson.
The competition is reportedly tight, and Wilson in particular has looked impressive.
With Carroll being unsurprisingly tight lipped, this may be a battle with no announced winner until training camp reaches its conclusion.
St. Louis Rams: Is Sam Bradford Going to Take the Next Step in His Development?
Sam Bradford took a shift in reverse in 2011 after a quality showing in his rookie season of 2010.
The lack of time to learn a new playbook is an often used excuse for Bradford's rocky play last season, but that excuse will not be available this year.
Bradford has had an entire offseason to learn the playbook of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and dissect the offense.
After a near 7 percent drop in his completion percentage last season Bradford has a lot to prove in 2012 and it starts in training camp.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Will Doug Martin Usurp Legarrette Blount?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did not draft Doug Martin to sit behind LeGarrette Blount on the depth chart.
Yet through OTA's and minicamp, Blount has reportedly been getting most of the first team reps.
If Blount has improved his pass protection and receiving skills enough to warrant continued reps with the first team then this can only be good for the Bucs.
Competition between these two men will be great for the backfield as they could provide a dynamic "one-two punch" for the offense.
Logic would have to say that Martin is the likely starter Week 1, but this is a battle to definitely keep an eye on.
Tennessee Titans: Will Jake Locker or Matt Hasselbeck Win the QB Battle?
What may end up being the most intriguing QB battle in training camp comes from the Tennessee Titans.
Matt Hasselbeck has years of starting quarterback experience and 33,150 career passing yards compared to the youthfulness and upside of Jake Locker.
Both players bring interesting assets to the table and both are viable options for the Titans heading into 2012.
No player appears to have the edge at this point, but head coach Mike Munchak has said an answer will come during training camp.
Can Hasselbeck stave off the draft pick darling for another year or will Locker begin his reign this season?
The answer comes sooner rather than later.
Washington Redskins: Who Will Be the Opening Day Starter at Running Back?
Tim Hightower is the projected starting running back for the Washington Redskins.
However, like most everyone in the Redskins backfield he is dealing with injury issues.
The question then becomes: who will overcome the injury woes and assume the mantle atop the depth chart?
Hightower will be competing with the likes of Roy Helu and Evan Royster for the No. 1 spot.
Both of those players showed spurts of greatness last season and both are legitimate threats to overtake Hightower.
This is going to be a tight race throughout training camp and may end up being a battle of attrition more than anything else.
Healthiest player to cross the finish line wins.
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