Headlines We Don't Want to See Describing Each NFL Team's Training Camp
With NFL training camp being the last step in the offseason before the televised preseason games, it is the time to iron out any on or off-the-field issues. All squads want to head into the 2012 season with a feeling that they're a team completely free of any Achilles' heels, so to speak.
That being said, let's look at the worst possible headlines that could emerge for each NFL team during training camp.
Dallas Cowboys: Offensive Line Fails to Improve
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Everyone in Dallas is talking Super Bowl and there's a legitimate argument to be made that the Cowboys could live up to those expectations in 2012. That is, if their offensive line doesn't come back to bite them.
America's Team threw around the most money they ever have during the free agency period, landing big names like Brandon Carr and Brodney Pool, but did only minimal upgrades along the offensive line.
Left guard Nate Livings was a solid pickup and Mackenzy Bernadeau could do OK on the opposite side, but center is still left in the hands of Phil Costa.
If Costa fails to improve, the players behind him on the depth chart aren't exactly Pro Bowl contenders either. Despite seeing a 2011 season in which center was the most glaring weakness on offense, the Cowboys failed to upgrade the position during their spending spree.
Teams have gone on to win the Super Bowl without great offensive lines to protect their quarterback. But the Cowboys need their front line to step up a great deal to ensure they add their name to that list.
Washington Redskins: Tim Hightower Wins Starting Running Back Gig
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Mike Shanahan is the only NFL head coach who would decide to start somebody other than Roy Helu at running back after the season he had.
ESPN's Dan Graziano believes that Shanny will start Hightower, assuming that No. 25 is fully healed from the injury that sidelined him most of 2011. Now, I haven't won a Super Bowl, but to me it's a no-brainer that the 'Skins would be better off with Helu in the backfield.
In five NFL seasons with the Arizona Cardinals and Redskins, respectively, Hightower has never had as many as three 100-yard rushing games in a season. In just his second season, Helu did that in Weeks 11-13 last season..
Not a great deal went right for Washington last year, but Helu was one bright spot on the team that should be lining up behind new quarterback Robert Griffin III in Week 1 this season.
New York Giants: Martellus Bennett Doesn't Get in Shape, Learn Playbook
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Whether it's been Jeremy Shockey or Jake Ballard, Giants quarterback Eli Manning loves having a go-to tight end in the passing game. Martellus Bennett looked like that kind of player in his rookie season, but has proven nothing since.
Well, he did prove one thing already this offseason. He knows how to put on the pounds. Bennett showed up to Giants minicamp at near 300 pounds, 30 pounds heavier than his usual playing weight.
To be fair, the former Cowboy did tell ESPN New York's Kieran Darcy this about his weight gain:
Just put on a lot of muscle this summer. Been working out since January. Faster, stronger, jump higher, run longer, great condition—every conditioning test we had, I aced.
Bennett needs to focus not only on getting the pounds down, but getting the new playbook down. Manning, like any quarterback, likes to have good chemistry with his receivers, and the new teammates can't build that if Bennett doesn't know how to run the routes or isn't in shape enough to get the timing down.
Philadelphia Eagles: Mike Kafka Underwhelms
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
The Philadelphia Eagles certainly have more pressing concerns than how their backup quarterback looks in camp, but not many.
Starter Michael Vick has only played all 16 games in an NFL season once in his career and has never done so during his time in Philadelphia.
While you never want to predict injuries for star players, Vick's style of play has made it unlikely that he can go a full season without getting injured.
The Eagles need to be prepared that No. 7 could miss a few games. And with Vince Young gone, the team will need to hope Kafka can hold down the fort.
Kafka has done little to get fans excited, other than his OK performance against the Atlanta Falcons last year when he threw for almost 100 yards on seven completions.
Philly needs to see its No. 2 quarterback show promise during training camp in order to feel confident about his ability to play if Vick goes down.
Miami Dolphins: Team Shows Dysfunction Due to 'Hard Knocks'
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images
Just when it looked as if "Hard Knocks" would not appear on HBO this season, the Miami Dolphins decided to let the cameras into their training camp. The issue for the team is what those cameras will capture.
The Dolphins don't have a history of fighting or verbal sparring matches between teammates. What I'm referring to is if the HBO cameras capture the team having trouble transitioning from the old guard to the new.
Miami has seen a great deal of turnover since Week 17 of the 2011 NFL season, with Tony Sparano fired as head coach, Joe Philbin brought in as his replacement and the trade that sent Brandon Marshall to Chicago for two third-round picks.
Now the team needs Chad Ochocinco to return to his former self and other wide receivers to step up. All while Philbin decides whether it's time to start the Ryan Tannehill era at quarterback or keep Matt Moore as the starter in 2012.
There is still plenty of work to be done before the Dolphins are back to contending in the AFC East. But having the added distraction of a television show could make it difficult for the team to transition from Sparano to Philbin.
Buffalo Bills: Chemistry Doesn't Build Between New Additions and Old Guard
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
The Buffalo Bills stormed out of the gates in 2011, winning five of their first seven games. Things didn't go well from there. So the Bills have been on a mission this offseason to regain that swagger they showed at the beginning of last season.
Obviously, signing the best defensive free agent on the market in Mario Williams was the team's biggest move, but the team also added great talents like cornerback Stephon Gilmore in the draft.
Buffalo put together one of the better drafts in all the AFC by grabbing Gilmore, Cordy Glenn and Nigel Bradham in the early rounds. All this came after signing Williams, backup quarterback Vince Young and defensive end Mark Anderson in free agency.
Safety George Wilson talked with Jay Skurski of Sporting News about the new look of the team heading into 2012:
There’s a lot of hype around our team right now. All we want to do is live up to our own expectations of ourselves and really start to build that team chemistry.
The Bills have a lot to be excited about on defense, while the offense showed promise during the early weeks of last year. This is a team that could be dangerous if the new additions and returning players can get on the same page.
New York Jets: Tim Tebow Outperforms Mark Sanchez
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Sanchez has shown flashes of brilliance and the Jets want him to be "their guy." But if Tebow looks like the better quarterback in camp, the team is going to have a storm of fans calling for No. 15 to start.
An NFL.com poll showed that fans believe Tebow to be one of the top-three scorers for his new team this season. A total of 38 percent of those voters said he'd be the leading scorer.
"Tebowmania" hasn't died down despite the former Bronco being designated for special teams and Wildcat formations. The last thing those fans need is evidence to prove he should start over Sanchez.
I'm no Tebow hater, but the Jets have an offensive system in place that has had success with Sanchez under center. They can't do what Denver did and scrap the whole playbook for Tebow.
The team did this to itself when it acquired its new No. 2 quarterback, but it needs to hope its former first-round pick can silence the Tebow lovers heading into 2012.
New England Patriots: Wes Welker Contract Talks Stall
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Despite that infamous drop, Welker owns the most reliable pair of hands on the team's receiving corps and is the most talented player at his position.
New England has a history of stinginess when you look at how they handled Adam Vinatieri and Asante Samuel in recent years, but Welker has done everything possible to earn a new contract.
It's not like the $9.5 million he's set to make on the franchise tag this year is anything to sneeze at, but it seems obvious that Welker would like to spend the rest of his NFL days in Foxborough, which he's most certainly earned when looking at his production.
The former Miami Dolphin has posted 1,100 yards or more four out of his five seasons with the Patriots, and more than 800 in 2010 after starting the year on the physically-unable-to-perform list.
July 16 is the last day for the team to rework Welker's franchise tag into a new contract. Regardless of which way those negotiations go, the team can't afford to go into 2012 with Welker's contract talks stalled.
Communication is key in these situations. Putting a hold on everything when the regular season rolls around isn't going to make the four-time Pro Bowler overly happy.
Baltimore Ravens: Ed Reed Retires or Holds out
Rob Carr/Getty Images
For what feels like forever now, Ed Reed and Ray Lewis have been the leaders of not just the Baltimore Ravens defense, but the entire team. While both are in the twilight hours of their career, the Ravens need Reed in their locker room and on the gridiron.
As most Baltimore fans reading this are aware, the veteran safety recently skipped all of the team's mandatory minicamp earlier this month and is unhappy with his contract situation. All of this after his retirement talks were in the air after the 2011 season.
Though the media markets are certainly different, the New York Jets had their training camp clouded by Darelle Revis' hold-out threats a few seasons back, and that's the last thing Baltimore needs with a player who has been a fantastic locker-room leader his whole career.
The Ravens need to either level with Reed and get a new deal done or accept that there will be a cloud hanging over their heads throughout August.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Rookie Offensive Linemen Fail to Make Impact
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
The Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line was easily one of their weakest positions during the 2011 season. But the team made sure to address that during the 2012 NFL draft. The worst-case scenario for the team is if neither Mike Adams nor David DeCastro show immediate success in camp.
Pittsburgh has two-time Pro Bowler Maurkice Pouncey at center leading the pack up front, but he'll need help from the rookies in order to keep quarterback Ben Roethlisberger upright.
Big Ben has been sacked more than any other quarterback the past five seasons, which has certainly prevented the Steelers from winning key games over that time span.
Not that Pittsburgh hasn't seen a great deal of success in recent years, but the team could accomplish so much more if Roethlisberger had more time in the pocket.
DeCastro was easily one of the safest picks in this year's draft coming out of Stanford where he blocked for No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck. Adams could have easily been a late first-round or early second-round selection this year if he hadn't failed the drug test during the NFL Combine.
The Steelers have upgraded their offensive line significantly since last year, but they can't afford to have their new recruits take too much time developing if they want to make a deep playoff run.
Cincinnati Bengals: Coaches Don't Stick to Running Back by Committee
Whitney Curtis/Getty Images
Initial reports from both BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Bernard Scott indicate that the Cincinnati Bengals are going to go the running-back-by-committee route in 2012.
Scott recently said that's what he believes will happen, to which Green-Ellis responded to Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer: "Everyone is at the bottom and working themselves up the depth chart. We have a very good group right now.''
This is the best option for the team, plain and simple. Scott did well when he spelled former Bengal Cedric Benson, averaging almost five yards-per-carry in 2009 and 2010.
Green-Ellis is used to carrying the load by himself, but his former team in New England had marginal success when he and Kevin Faulk split carries.
The Bengals have two running backs who could become a nice one-two punch, similar to what the Cowboys once had with Marion Barber and Felix Jones a few seasons ago. There's a lot to like about the Cincinnati backfield in 2012 if the coaches decide to embrace a two-headed attack.
Cleveland Browns: Brandon Weeden Struggles
Jason Miller/Getty Images
In a move I find a bit foolish, the Cleveland Browns drafted 28-year-old Brandon Weeden with their second first-round draft pick. The last thing the team or fanbase wants to see is Weeden get out-dueled by Colt McCoy.
McCoy has been the subject of trade talks lately as the Browns have put all their eggs in the basket of the former Oklahoma State quarterback. So any struggling from Weeden would be a huge blow to team morale.
Obviously, Trent Richardson is the more talented and high profile of the two first-round selections. But Weeden plays the most analyzed position in all of pro sports. While training camp is by no means the regular season, struggling during scrimmages won't instill confidence about your ability to beat the Ravens, Steelers or Bengals.
Chicago Bears: Matt Forte Decides to Hold out
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
I understand where the Bears are coming from on this one, but enough is enough. Everyone witnessed the likes of Shaun Alexander, Edgerrin James and even Chris Johnson lose a spark when handed the big contract. But the organization needs to trust that Forte isn't just a flash in the pan.
The guy has never rushed for fewer than 900 yards in a season and looked on pace to eclipse his career-best 1,200-yard mark if not for his injury in the latter weeks of the 2011 season. The former Tulane running back caught up with Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times to discuss the current situation, explaining:
Everyone looks at it and says, 'Oh, it's only about money.' It's not only about money. It's about you going out there and putting your heart and soul on the field, being respected for what you do, and then being rewarded for it.
Chicago has been all about defense for much of the team's illustrious history. But if Forte is lined up with Marshall and Cutler, the NFC North better watch out for that Bears offense.
Minnesota Vikings: Percy Harvin Gets Traded
Adam Bettcher/Getty Images
The Minnesota Vikings have had their struggles since Brett Favre retired, and those struggles would only get worse if the team traded No. 1 receiver Percy Harvin.
Back when Favre was with the team, Sidney Rice and Harvin were a solid one-two punch. Favre was able to have success because he had such talented receivers as targets.
If the Vikings want quarterback Christian Ponder to succeed, they need to keep his best weapon in Minnesota. Good news for the team is that while Harvin allegedly asked to be traded a short while back, he has returned to team activities.
Harvin, Ponder and, of course Adrian Peterson could make for a great offensive attack a few years down the road. For the fans' sake, let's hope upper management spends the time mending the fence between itself and its wide receiver instead of making a trade.
Detroit Lions: Any Player Outbursts in Camp
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
The Detroit Lions have quickly gone from media darling at the start of last season to battling the Cincinnati Bengals for the NFL's most undisciplined team award.
Running back Mikel Leshoure, defensive tackle Nick Fairley, offensive lineman Johnny Culbreath and cornerback Aaron Berry have all been arrested in recent months on marijuana and DUI charges.
This coming after a season in which star player Ndamukong Suh and head coach Jim Schwartz had multiple outbursts on the field.
The team needs to rebuild its image. Schwartz needs to get his young players in line. As talented as the Lions are, discipline is an intangible that every team needs to succeed.
Green Bay Packers: Team Fails to Find Solution to Running Game Woes
Nick Laham/Getty Images
The Green Bay Packers were the favorite to reach the Super Bowl last year. But the team saw its flaws picked apart by the New York Giants, as Big Blue would down the favorite.
That postseason bout was one of the few times in which the Packers ran the ball effectively. Clearly, having James Starks rush for fewer than 600 yards during the regular season is less than ideal.
While Starks was absent due to injury from three regular-season contests, no Packer fan would argue that the team's 27th-ranked running game needs to be improved.
These days the NFL is a pass-happy league, but that doesn't mean Green Bay can air it out all day, every day and hope to win the Super Bowl in 2012. Ask Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid how that idea has worked out for his team.
The key is a certain degree of balance on offense. While the Packers don't have the most intimidating backfield ever assembled, they need one of their rushers to deliver an 800- to 1,000-yard season this year.
Arizona Cardinals: John Skelton Outperforms Kevin Kolb
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
No offense to the surprising win-loss record for John Skelton, but the Arizona Cardinals do not want to see him beat out Kevin Kolb at quarterback.
That being said, I don't think the Cardinals would have an issue starting Skelton over Kolb if he came out the more impressive quarterback when training camp ended, but it's not the ideal scenario.
Kolb was brought to Arizona in exchange for Dominque Rogers-Cromartie and a second-round draft pick, which is a pretty high price considering the small number of starts Kolb had in Philadelphia.
When a team pays that kind of price for a player, it's hard for them to move past the player for other talent. Heck, it took Cowboys owner Jerry Jones two years too long to cut wide receiver Roy Williams in large part due to the price Jones paid the Lions for him.
With another year in the Cardinals system, Kolb has everything he needs to improve on his mediocre and injury-struck first season in Arizona.
Seattle Seahawks: Matt Flynn Fails to Capture Starting Quarterback Job
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The Seattle Seahawks made the best quarterback acquisition not involving Peyton Manning this offseason, but recent reports out of the Emerald City say that Matt Flynn has yet to win the job.
According to Nick Eaton of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, head coach Pete Carroll has said there won't be a decision made until at least a few preseason games have been played.
While training camp has yet to begin, Flynn needs to not only learn the Seahawks' offense but become a leader in the locker room. The team didn't sign him to back up Tavaris Jackson. But Carroll won't hesitate to start No. 7 if he outperforms Flynn.
Then there's the Russell Wilson factor. But it's far more likely Flynn or Jackson start for Seattle in Week 1. Bottom line is that the Seahawks paid a pretty penny to bring the former Packers' backup to the Pacific Northwest. He needs to earn that paycheck by winning the starting job.
St. Louis Rams: Lawsuits Turns into Headline Grabber
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
The St. Louis Rams faced an uphill battle in 2011 due to injuries. But their newest challenge comes from off-the-field issues.
Two lawsuits have been filed against the team by former employees who claim the organization discriminated based on age and engaged in sexual harassment.
According to former employee Lory Fabian, the team has been firing "middle-aged women" in favor of "young inexpensive grinders who can handle the long hours of NFL employment," as reported by Robert Patrick of the St. Louis Today.
The Rams struggled in their second season with former No. 1 draft pick Sam Bradford at quarterback and saw little to love out of their defense. So the last thing this team needs is more issues.
Having a pending lawsuit is never easy to forget, but the team will need to hope the issue doesn't gain too much national attention so they can focus on winning the NFC West.
San Francisco 49ers: Randy Moss Doesn't Make the Team
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
It's not like the San Francisco 49ers broke the bank to sign Randy Moss, and I believe he still has something left in the tank. If Moss fails to make the roster, the team is left with Michael Crabtree and rookie A.J. Jenkins to carry the load at wide receiver.
Jenkins is a solid prospect and was a first-round selection for a reason. But Moss is arguably the most talented wide receiver on their roster, even at his age.
If the former New England Patriot standout can play even half as well as he did in Foxborough, the 49ers have one less piece of the puzzle to fill in their quest to win the Super Bowl.
As a deep threat, Moss could aid the development of Alex Smith as a passer and open up opportunities for tight end Vernon Davis and Crabtree.
It was a savvy move by the team to wait until the price for Moss was at an all-time low. He could pay off big-time for San Francisco in 2012, if he can make the roster, that is.
Indianapolis Colts: Bruce Arians Can't Build Effective Offense
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Bruce Arians joins the Indianapolis Colts as offensive coordinator after four seasons in Pittsburgh. He'll need all his notes to rework that side of the ball for Indy.
While the Colts have had offensive coordinators in the past, once Peyton Manning really grew into his role, he was the one calling the shots the majority of the time.
That system of calling a play, then letting the quarterback audible based on what he sees on the field obviously can't work with Andrew Luck in his first season in the NFL.
Arians was a great hire for the Colts because while Ben Roethlisberger is talented, the Steelers' offense wasn't built around him throwing the football 50 times a game when he was still developing.
That being said, there are always growing pains when a new coach or coordinator comes to a team, and the Colts have a new head coach and offensive coordinator trying to implement new ideas at the same time.
The team of head coach Chuck Pagano and Arians handling the offense could work out well, but it could also take some significant time for the players to execute their ideas.
Tennessee Titans: Chris Johnson Doesn't Regain His Mojo
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Tennessee Titans fans don't need to be reminded about how badly Chris Johnson failed to contribute last season, but CJ2K needs to regain his once dominant form for this team to go places.
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck performed well in his first year with the team and should do so again, but he's at his best with a dominant running back to take the focus off him.
Some of the former Seattle Seahawk's best years were when Shaun Alexander was lighting up the gridiron in the Pacific Northwest, and that's what he needs out of Johnson in 2012.
It should be noted that CJ2K did run for more than 1,000 yards last year, but a significant number of those yards were earned against lower-level teams. In fact, 574 of his 1,047 yards came against the Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Buffalo Bills.
Those performances also happened to be the only games in which Johnson ran for more than 100 yards. The team paid Johnson to eat up yards on the way to the end zone, not beat up on mediocre teams and disappear when it matters most.
The AFC South will likely be a two-horse race between the Titans and Texans. If Johnson is able to return to form, Tennessee could easily win the division.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew Holds out
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
The NFL isn't like the NBA where one player can decide a team's record. But Maurice Jones-Drew is the exception to that statement.
The reason the Jaguars have not been the NFL equivalent of the Charlotte Bobcats the past few seasons is Jones-Drew's ability to keep the team in the game and find a way into the end zone.
Like I said with Forte, I understand an organization being a bit hesitant to dump a truckload of money on a running back's lawn, especially now that the league is so pass-happy.
That being said, Jones-Drew is the reason fans come to the stadium. He's the face of the franchise and one of the top three rushers in the league today.
Jacksonville is under new ownership. The best way for the team to continue to rebuild and sell tickets is to have No. 32 on the roster.
Houston Texans: Matt Schaub Has Injury Setback
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
The Texans' head athletic trainer has told Nick Scurfield of HoustonTexans.com that quarterback Matt Schaub will be ready for training camp. The team can't afford for their starter to suffer an injury setback.
Like with any injury, it takes time to recover from Lisfranc surgery. Schaub won't know how game-ready he is until the second or third preseason game in August.
Backup T.J. Yates did all you could ask of a rookie as his replacement last season, but the team needs their offensive leader for all 16 games if it wishes to compete with the Tennessee Titans in the the AFC South.
The Texans have looked on the verge of a deep playoff run the past few seasons. But if they wish to finally make good on that potential, they'll need No. 8 to help make it happen.
If Schaub were to have an injury setback or suffer an unrelated injury in camp, the team would have a hard time beating out the Titans for the division lead.
New Orleans Saints: Anything Involving "Bountygate"
Sean Gardner/Getty Images
The view of the New Orleans Saints organization has taken a 360-degree turn from their Super Bowl-winning season. The last thing this squad needs is more talk about the reason for that—"Bountygate."
The Saints head into 2012 with their head coach Sean Payton and defensive leader Jonathan Vilma suspended for the season. If that wasn't a big enough blow, quarterback Drew Brees is still looking for the contract that he deserves.
It's been a torturous offseason for New Orleans, albeit one it brought on itself. Both the coaches and players need to stand as a united front, keep their head down and talk about the scandal as little as possible.
Atlanta Falcons: Michael Turner Doesn't Lose Weight
Al Bello/Getty Images
Few NFL free-agent moves have paid off as well as running back Michael Turner has paid off for the Atlanta Falcons.
He's rushed for more than 1,300 yards in three of his four seasons with Atlanta, but the team can't afford their star runner to add on the pounds.
A local sports-talk radio station claimed that Turner has shown up to recent mini-camps overweight. To his credit, the former San Diego Charger told D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the rumors of his new-found pounds are false.
Turner is easily one of the top players at his position in the NFL. But Turner can't succeed if he loses a step in quickness or cutting ability because he's carrying more weight than usual.
Carolina Panthers: No Wide Receivers Step Up for No. 2 Job
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
The Carolina Panthers are quickly building a potent offense, but there needs to be a wide receiver not named Steve Smith to fear in that lineup.
Brandon LaFell is the obvious choice, but there are veterans like Plaxico Burress still on the market. Burress would love to play for Carolina, according to Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. However, the feeling is not mutual between player and team.
The offense puzzle is almost complete in Carolina, all the team needs is to find a No. 2 receiver who can take a little of the attention off Smith.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Josh Freeman, Mike Williams Don't Show Improvement
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Like their NFC South rival Panthers, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers also boast a talented group on offense. The issue has been the star quarterback and wide receiver playing to their ability.
Josh Freeman and Mike Williams looked like the next dynamic duo at quarterback and wide receiver in 2010 when they nearly led the Bucs to a playoff berth. But the two followed that season with a forgettable 2011.
Freeman threw for more than 300 yards just twice last year, while Williams finished 2011 without a single 100-yard receiving game.
If these two can get back on track, Tampa Bay won't find itself as one of the first 10 teams in next year's draft.
Kansas City Chiefs: Peyton Hillis Doesn't Earn Split Carries
Larry French/Getty Images
2011 was without question a disaster for Peyton Hillis in Cleveland, but pairing him with Jamaal Charles in Kansas City could be deadly.
Charles can bruise it up with the best of them and could certainly handle being a workhouse back, but the best part about having Hillis is Charles doesn't have to be that. The former Brown provides the raw "truck-the-opponent-over" type power while Charles can be used as more of a finesse-style runner.
This will be great for both backs. Fewer carries will mean fewer chances to become injured all while confusing the opposing defensive coordinator. Hillis needs to show the Chiefs he still has the talent that led to his breakout 2010 season. If that happens, these two backs could work wonderfully together.
Oakland Raiders: Defense Doesn't Play Like 2010 Unit
Harry How/Getty Images
The Oakland Raiders have had a defense that can shut down offenses. But last year's defense was not one of them.
In 2010, the Raiders finished with the 11th-best defense in the NFL, only to follow that with a 29th-best showing n 2011.
Oakland has talented players such as Richard Seymour, Michael Huff and Kamerion Wimbley in place. But the unit needs to work together more than anything else.
The Raiders almost won the AFC West without a reliable defense in 2011. An improved defense could be the factor that brings Oakland the crown in 2012.
Denver Broncos: Peyton Manning Doesn't Get Comfortable
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
2012 will mark the first season Pro Bowl quarterback Peyton Manning has played for any team other than the Indianapolis Colts. Denver better hope his transition is a smooth one.
Considering his serious neck issues and the challenge of learning a new offense, Manning could easily get off to a rocky start.
The Broncos need to simplify and even change parts of the playbook to accommodate their new quarterback the same way they did with Tim Tebow in 2011.
Manning needs to feel comfortable with his receivers and know every inch of the offensive playbook. Denver needs to do everything possible to make sure that happens.
San Diego Chargers: Los Angeles Rumors Distract Team
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
The NBA and MLB have moved historic franchises like the Seattle SuperSonics and Montreal Expos in the past 10 years, but the NFL best not do the same to the San Diego Chargers.
San Diego needs to have an impressive training camp and get out to an undefeated September, then finally make noise in the playoffs to hush those rumors of a move. The question is, are those rumors already too distracting to the coaches and players.
The Chargers have been in San Diego since 1959 when they began as a franchise in the old American Football League. It would be an absolute crime to see them moved to L.A., where no franchise has been successful.