Each NFL Team's Biggest Question Entering Training Camp
Every NFL team has questions as they enter training camp—some more than others. These areas of concern come in many forms such as the development of a young quarterback, the return of a player from injury or the failure to properly address an offseason need.
Basically, a question mark is something that could keep a team from reaching their potential. For some teams, that means missing the playoffs or failing to reach the Super Bowl or even taking a step forward in the rebuilding process.
The upcoming slides breakdown the question marks facing each NFL team.
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: Health at Running Back
The Dallas Cowboys' have the talent on both sides of the ball to make a legitimate run at the Super Bowl. However, they'll need both DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones to remain healthy if they want to reach that goal. Both running backs missed time last season with injuries. Murray stated: "I’ve been officially cleared by our doctors and I’ve been doing everything the past month or two without any limitations. I feel great".
However, both running backs have shown over the course of their career that they have had trouble remaining healthy. Murray's college career had it's share of injuries that forced him out of the lineup. When scouting Murray out of college, I noticed that he ran very upright. This exposed his body to big hits, which equates to a lot of wear and tear on the body.
Having a successful running game has a lot to do with the durability of the running backs. Dallas' offense and Tony Romo needs a steady rushing attack to reach their full potential. However, there needs to be real concern surrounding the long-term health of both players.
New York Giants
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: Left Tackle Position
The New York Giants have more than one area of concern along the offensive line, but the left tackle spot is a real issue. William Beatty is the projected starter, with David Diehl and James Brewer also in the mix. Beatty's ability to play at a high level is in question, as he hasn't been able to remain healthy or show upside when on the field.
A recent back issue has forced Beatty to miss several practices during OTAs. At this point, it would be safe to assume he'll have a hard time winning the starting job. This means that the Giants will be forced to start Diehl at left tackle and Brewer on the right side. Diehl is solid, but isn't capable of consistently handling the elite pass rushers in the NFL.
Inconsistent play at left tackle causes all types of problems. First, it forces the offense to keep tight ends and running backs in to help with protection. This limits the creativity and versatility of the offensive attack. It also has the potential to open Eli Manning to a lot more pressure, and possibly injury.
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: Running Back Depth
Obviously, the health of Michael Vick is the biggest area of concern for the Philadelphia Eagles. However, the lack of depth at running back is also a problem. LeSean McCoy showed last season that he's one of the most talented running backs in the league, but in doing so, he tallied a lot of touches.
Injuries happen in the NFL, and the risk is especially high at the running back position because of the amount of touches and hits taken. Teams with solid depth are the ones that tend to have strong seasons. Philadelphia doesn't have a proven backup behind McCoy.
If McCoy is forced out of the lineup, rookies Bryce Brown and Chris Polk figure to get the majority of the carries. It would have been Dion Lewis, but his recent arrest fills his season with uncertainty. It's possible Philadelphia looks to free agency for a veteran running back, but at this point, Brown and Polk are battling for the backup role.
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: Safety Position
The Washington Redskins decided to go bargain shopping when filling out the safety position. They brought in Brandon Meriweather and Tanard Jackson to take over as the starters. Despite their natural ability, both players come with a lot of baggage and concern. It's possible that neither is in the starting lineup at the end of the season.
Meriweather has had his problems with personal-foul penalties, and playing below-average football. He was let go by the New England Patriots, signed by the Chicago Bears and then benched by the Bears later in the season. At this point, it's safe to say that Meriweather causes more problems than he solves. Maybe, the Redskins should've used their fourth-round pick on a safety rather than adding a backup quarterback in Kirk Cousins.
Jackson has a ton of talent and has performed when on the field. However, off-the-field issues have forced him in and out of the lineup. Basically, he just can't be relied upon to make strong decisions. Mike Shanahan should absolutely be worried about the longevity of his starting safety tandem.
Peter Aiken/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: The No. 2 Wide Receiver Spot
One of the biggest training camp battles for the Buffalo Bills will be for the right to win the No. 2 wide receiver role. Donald Jones, Marcus Easley, Derek Hagan, David Nelson and T.J. Graham all have a shot at winning the job. Buffalo's attempt to sign Robert Meachem and Mario Manningham this offseason shows they have some concerns about the position.
At this point, it appears that Jones has the inside track to win the job, but this is definitely an open competition. Of those in the competition, Nelson had the most production last year, compiling 61 receptions for 658 yards and five touchdowns. It's also important not to rule out rookie T.J. Graham, who has a lot of speed and game-breaking ability.
Somebody needs to step up and produce, otherwise defenses will be able to commit extra defenders to shutting down Stevie Johnson. The success of the Bills' passing offense depends on one of these players becoming a consistent threat. Actually, the effectiveness of the entire offense depends on this because the running game will face more defenders in the box without a strong passing attack.
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: The Passing Game
Those Miami Dolphins' fans who thought that Ryan Tannehill would come in and make an instant impact will be disappointed, as it appears he'll open training camp behind both Matt Moore and David Garrard. However, most won't be too shocked by this development because Tannehill is still a work in progress. It's actually better that he has time to sit and learn.
Still, this news doesn't bode well for the Dolphins' passing attack. Moore and Garrard are no better than average quarterbacks that bring little excitement to the field. Their lack of big-play ability will be hampered by the limited talent at wide receiver.
Miami is relying on Chad Ochocino, Davone Bess, Brian Hartline and Legedu Naanee to be the team's top pass catchers. Unproven players like Clyde Gates, Rishard Matthews, Jeff Fuller and B.J. Cunningham are also in the mix.
Ochocinco will produce more in Miami than he did in New England, but he's not the playmaker he used to be. Bess and Hartline are solid complementary pieces and shouldn't be asked to be a team's top option. Even with Joe Philbin's top-notch offensive mind, the Dolphins will struggle to field a successful passing game.
New England Patriots
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: Pass Rush
Last season, the New England Patriots only managed a total of 40 sacks. Mark Anderson and Andre Carter registered 20 of the 40 sacks, and now both are no longer with the team. This means the Patriots are looking for someone to help generate a pass rush. Rookies Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower and veteran Rob Ninkovich are the most likely candidates.
New England traded up in the draft to land Jones, so it figures that he'll face the most pressure of the group. Bill Belichick plans on using him at both defensive end and outside linebacker. Jones is athletic and has an extremely high motor. However, his highest sack total at Syracuse was 10 in 2009. The Big East isn't exactly the most talented conference, which diminishes his accomplishments a little.
I rated Jones as one of the top pass rushers in the draft, but that doesn't mean he'll be instantly dominant. He needs some time to develop, which could cause some issues for the Patriots this season.
Struggling to put pressure on the quarterback won't be a good thing for an already shaky secondary. New England allowed over 290 passing yards per game last season. That number will increase unless they find a way to get after the quarterback.
New York Jets
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: The Running Game
The New York Jets brought in Tony Sparano as offensive coordinator to bolster their rushing attack. Actually, it was more to find someone that had the same offensive philosophies as Rex Ryan and his "ground and pound" approach. Sparano's addition might mean the coaches see eye to eye, but it doesn't guarantee success.
The fact is that the Jets lack the horses at running back to establish a strong rushing attack. Shonn Greene has shown flashes over the years, but he only topped the 100-yard mark twice last season. That type of production isn't enough to move the chains. A run-oriented offense can't survive if they don't consistently approach the 100-yard mark.
Behind Greene is Joe McKnight, Bilal Powell and Terrence Gannaway. Combined they have a total of 344 career rushing yards. Tim Tebow figures to be a major part of the rushing attack, but most of his carries will come out of the wildcat formation.
New York just doesn't have the personnel to run the type of offense they desire. Expect things to get contentious again this season, with a lot of the blame falling on the shoulders of Mark Sanchez.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: Quarterback Play
The Arizona Cardinals season hinges on Kevin Kolb or John Skelton becoming a consistent performer. Arizona has enough talent on the roster to compete for a playoff spot, but the quarterback play has held them back. This training camp battle promises to drag on, with Ken Whisenhunt saying:
It usually works out -- and I'm not just talking about the quarterback position -- that somebody distinguishes themselves in that period. You got to let this competition play out honestly. It's got to be a fair competition. I'm excited to see how it goes.
Neither quarterback has been able to use their playing time in order to seize the starting job. One of the biggest issues both quarterbacks face is their low completion percentage, with both failing to complete more than 58 percent of their passes.
The weapons are in place for a quarterback to succeed. Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams give the Cardinals plenty of playmakers. This year is the last opportunity for both of these players to take hold of the long-term job.
Failure to do so will likely result in the Cardinals targeting a quarterback in the 2013 draft.
San Francisco 49ers
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: Alex Smith's Ceiling
The San Francisco 49ers' roster has the talent to make a Super Bowl appearance this season. However, those hopes rely on the arm of Alex Smith. Last season, Smith showed that he's capable of winning football games, but questions remain surrounding his ceiling.
Smith needs to become more than just a game manager this season. His 7.07 yards per attempt won't allow this 49ers' offense take a step forward. That average ranked him in the lower half of NFL quarterbacks.
San Francisco's offseason additions of Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and A.J. Jenkins means that Smith will be expected to take more down-the-field chances. Opening up the offense is important if this team hopes to obtain balance.
The further you get in the playoffs, the tougher the competition becomes, and this is when Alex Smith will need to increase his productivity.
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: Offensive Playmakers
Most of the focus will be on the Seattle Seahawks' quarterback competition, but question marks at wide receiver are of equal concern. Matt Flynn, Tarvaris Jackson and Russell Wilson will need playmakers in order to succeed.
At this point, a lot is riding on the health of Sidney Rice, as he's the Seahawks biggest threat. Mike Williams, Doug Baldwin, Ben Obomanu and Golden Tate are the other options at wide receiver. This group is decent, but nobody other than Rice strikes fear into a defense.
The uncertainty at quarterback means others on the offense will have to step up and produce. Marshawn Lynch can expect to see a lot of work, but someone needs to step up in the passing game. Without a passing threat, opposing defenses can stack the box to focus on stopping the run.
Baldwin's impressive rookie season gives the Seahawks some hope, but they still need Rice to remain healthy this season. One legitimate weapon in the passing game won't be enough for the Seahawks to contend this season.
St. Louis Rams
Jay Drowns/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: Help for Sam Bradford
The St. Louis Rams made some nice offseason moves, but they failed to bring in a lot of help for Sam Bradford. Second-round pick Brian Quick was the most significant addition and he'll be leaned on a lot this season. Even Stephen Jackson is ensuring Quick knows that he must play an important part in the offense, saying:
But over the next six weeks, he's going to have to work real hard to be prepared for a long season, because we're going to lean on him, lean heavily on him. He's a high draft pick and we're going to need someone on the outside to make plays and I'm challenging him right now because we're going to need him to prepare himself over the next six weeks to be a standout on this team.
Outside of Quick, the Rams are hoping players like Steve Smith, Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson and Danario Alexander can contribute. However, Smith is the only new addition to a group who only caught a total of 67 passes.
Failing to add impact pass catchers will keep the Rams near the bottom of the NFL in most major passing categories. Their only hope is if Smith returns to pre-injury from and Quick develops in a hurry.
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: Peyton Manning's Health
All of the reports out of Denver are that Peyton Manning is on his way to a full recovery. However, the magnitude of his injury leaves some question marks as to whether he'll ever be 100 percent. NFL.com's Mike Lombardi feels that Manning could have a slow start to the season, stating:
Anyone expecting Manning to be on fire in September does not understand how hard it is to adjust (and re-adjust) to being back on the football field. The Manning project in Denver will take time -- time for him to adjust to his new teammates, time for him to adjust to the speed of the game and time for him to adjust to getting hit again.
The Broncos play in a competitive division where the Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers and even Oakland Raiders have a shot to win the division. If Manning struggles out of the gate, it could make it difficult for the Broncos to earn a playoff berth.
Combined with the injury concern is the fact that this the first major change of Manning's career. While in Indianapolis, he had mostly the same coaches and weapons. For example, the loss of Tony Dungy was filled by long-time assistant Jim Caldwell. The Colts worked very hard to keep things familiar, and just the way Manning likes it.
Kansas City Chiefs
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: Matt Cassel's Long-term Potential
Matt Cassel's career has been very interesting to say the least. However, the most important phase of his career is coming this season. The Kansas City Chiefs have the talent on both sides of the ball to make a strong playoff run. They need Cassel to raise his level of play in order to reach their goal.
During his time in Kansas City, Cassel has been plagued with up-and-down performances. He must find some consistency and take advantage of the weapons at his disposal.
Kansas City's offense has a solid offensive line, two talented running backs and explosive wide receivers. One can argue that the wide receiver group of Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston and Jon Baldwin is one of the better groups in the league.
If Cassel fails to take the next step in his development, the Chiefs are likely to move in another direction.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: Darren McFadden's Durability
The Oakland Raiders looked like a playoff team last year until the injury bug hit. With both Jason Campbell and Darren McFadden healthy, the Raiders' offense was a very productive unit. The same holds true for this season, as McFadden's health will determine the success of this team. At this point, nobody in Oakland can feel good about the durability of McFadden.
I love watching McFadden run the football. He's extremely explosive and seems capable of scoring every time he touches the ball. Unfortunately, injuries have kept him from touching the football as many times as the Raiders would like.
There's a lot of pressure on Dennis Allen and Greg Knapp to find a way to keep McFadden on the field. Otherwise, the Raiders are looking at another missed postseason appearance.
San Diego Chargers
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: Ryan Mathews Durability and Production
According to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, Ryan Mathews will be a major part of the San Diego Chargers' offense this season. Expect him to be the workhorse back and help complement the passing game. However, Mathews hasn't shown anything that suggests he's ready to handle that type of responsibility.
ESPN's Matt Williamson questions Mathews mental makeup and his ability to handle the role, stating:
what we don’t know and what I have huge questions about is his mind-set/toughness to be a true lead back. Few have that mental capacity to truly want the ball down after down and have the entire team lean on them when it matters most, like Emmitt Smith. And can Mathews play with pain? I have my doubts for sure. His talents suggest that he can be that guy and be one of the very best. What he has shown to this point from a toughness/mental standpoint. I have serious doubts.
During his career, Mathews has been in and out of the lineup with varying injuries. I'm not sure what makes Norv Turner feel that Mathews is ready to handle an increased workload. With Ronnie Brown as the primary backup, Turner might want to protect Mathews in order to keep him on the field.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: Offensive Line
The Chicago Bears offensive line has been a disaster the past few years. This unit has allowed 132 total sacks over the past three seasons. Jay Cutler and the entire offense haven't been able to find any kind of consistency because of this poor production. Unfortunately, Chicago's decision makers failed to make any improvements this offseason.
They are instead counting on young players like J'Marcus Webb, Gabe Carimi and Lance Louis to continue to develop. Lovie Smith is also hoping that changing offensive coordinators and eliminating seven-step drops will help. However, it's going to take more than a change in scheme to fix the problems.
Carimi is talented enough to develop into an excellent right tackle, and Louis showed signs of promise last season. However, Webb has struggled with focus which hurt his ability to protect the quarterback.
Because of some additions at wide receiver, the Bears offense has a chance to put up some big numbers. However, they'll fail to improve unless the offensive line finds a way to stabilize.
Dave Reginek/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: The Secondary
The Detroit Lions offense is capable of scoring a lot of points, but the defense also surrenders a lot of points. Most of the problems on defense come in the secondary, especially the cornerback position. Last season, they allowed 240 passing yards a game. That number is a little misleading because this unit had a lot of help from a solid pass rush.
Detroit plans on heading into the season with Aaron Berry, Chris Houston and Dwight Bentley as their top cornerbacks. Bentley is a rookie out of Louisiana-Lafayette, who could struggle with the higher caliber of athletes in the NFL.
There's also the recent DUI arrest of Berry which could impact his focus this season. Overall, this group is average at best and will struggle to stop the opponent's passing attack. Expect to see the Lions in a lot of high scoring contests.
The Lions' potent offense doesn't exactly help the Lions defense. Their ability to score quickly limits the defense's rest and forces the opposing offense to be aggressive. Obviously, the Lions aren't going to ask their offense to stop scoring. However, an improved rushing attack could help.
Green Bay Packers
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: The Running Game
The Green Bay Packers' offense centers around Aaron Rodgers and the passing game, but they're going to need balance to make another Super Bowl run. At this point, James Stark is the leader in the clubhouse to earn the bulk of the carries at running back. However, he really hasn't shown enough consistency to be considered a top-notch running back.
Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements is "hopeful" that Starks can improve. However, that word "hopeful" doesn't really speak of confidence. Starks has had his share of injury problems that bring to question his ability to carry the load. Having only Alex Green and Brandon Saine behind Starks doesn't give the Packers at lot of reliable depth.
Expect to see Rodgers' passing totals to increase this season because there's little chance he gets much help from the running game.
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: Wide Receiving Corps
The Minnesota Vikings are in the beginning stages of a rebuilding phase that will take a few seasons to complete. Christian Ponder is at the center of that process, as Minnesota views him as a potential franchise quarterback. One issue in the way of his development is the lack of talent at the wide receiver position.
Minnesota has Percy Harvin, Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson to attack the defense. However, even these players come with some question marks. Harvin is plagued by migraine issues and recently requested a trade; although it seems like that has been settled. Either way, Harvin has proven to be a wildcard and not someone I would feel completely comfortable building around.
The two tight ends haven't shown a whole lot of consistency. Both Rudolph and Carlson have a lot of potential, but it's hard to project what type of production the Vikings will get this season.
Outside of Harvin, Minnesota is relying on Jerome Simpson, Greg Childs, Devin Aromashodu Mike Jenkins and Jarius Wright. Receiving major production from this group would be a surprise.
Al Bello/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: Running Back Depth
Despite his current holdout, the Baltimore Ravens fully expect Ray Rice to be in pads for the start of the season. Rice's presence and success is the thing that keeps the Ravens' offense running smoothly. He's been a workhorse over the years—totaling 852 carries in the last three seasons. This high amount of touches could mean the Ravens' will be forced to use another running back at some point this season.
However, the depth behind Rice is thin and could cause issues. The competition for the No. 2 job is between Bernard Pierce, Anthony Allen and Damien Berry. Thus far this offseason none of the candidates have really stood out.
Baltimore will be keeping their fingers crossed that Rice doesn't suffer any type of injury, because if he does, it could be disastrous.
Area Of Concern: Explosiveness of the Running Game
Cincinnati Bengals' offensive coordinator Jay Gruden plans on using a running-back-by-committee approach this season. This means that BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Bernard Scott can expect to see the majority of touches. However, this tandem doesn't exactly strike fear into defenses. Cincinnati needs some production from its running game if they hope to make another playoff appearance.
Green-Ellis is a very steady runner who knows how to take care of the football, but he isn't explosive or a home-run threat. Scott has game-breaking speed, but his 3.4 yards per carry last season was a major disappointment.
Look for Andy Dalton and the passing attack to struggle a little this season if the running game is unable to excel. Without a productive rushing attack, opposing defenses can put extra defensive backs on the field and drop more men into coverage.
Jason Miller/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: Long-Term Quarterback Solution
The Cleveland Browns selected Brandon Weeden in the first round of the draft to come in and be their starting quarterback. However, I have questions about his readiness and overall potential. While at Oklahoma State, Weeden ran a spread attack that was far from the Browns' West Coast offense. He is going to need time to become comfortable with this game plan.
Personally, the decision to move on from McCoy came a year too early. McCoy has yet to lead an offense with enough playmakers to succeed. It's tough for any young quarterback to look good when he's surrounded by average talent.
Handing the job over to Weeden doesn't mean he'll be the answer to their problems. At age 28, he's already considered to be in the prime of his career. However, his development doesn't match his advanced age as a rookie.
Don't be surprised if the Browns are picking in the top five of the 2013 draft and considering adding a quarterback. They'll quickly find out whether or not Weeden has the ability to develop into a winning quarterback.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: Running Back Position
The late-season injury to Rashard Mendenhall limits the Pittsburgh Steelers' options at the running back position. As it stands, Isaac Redman appears to be the opening day starter and the one who will get the bulk of the carries. Jonathan Dwyer, John Clay and Chris Rainey will all have an opportunity to earn playing time.
Pittsburgh's efforts to improve the offensive line this offseason are even more important considering the lack of talent at the running back position. As a whole, the running backs expected to receive carries had a total of 643 rushing yards last season. Redman had the most of the group with 479 yards.
Throughout last season, Redman showed that he has talent and could produce. However, his career high in carries is 110 and asking him to approach the 200 carry mark would be a lot.
Mendenhall could return sometime after Week Six, but don't expect him to provide much this season.
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: Pass Rush
The Atlanta Falcons defense is going to struggle getting pressure on the quarterback this season. At age 34, John Abraham is starting to slow down, and it's a lot for the Falcons to expect him to top the double-digit sack mark. Other than Abraham, Atlanta doesn't have anyone on the roster that strikes fear into an opponent.
Kroy Biermann, Ray Edwards, Jonathan Massaquoi and Lawrence Sidburry will be called upon to raise their level of play. However, none of these players have shown the ability to consistently create pressure on the quarterback. Edwards has talent, but most of his career success came opposite Jared Allen in Minnesota. He doesn't appear capable of fighting through double teams or even consistently winning one-on-one battles.
It appears that the Falcons are hoping that the rookie Massaquoi can make an immediate impact. Counting on Massaquoi is a mistake. He showed flashes in college, but never truly dominated the competition he faced at Troy.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: Cam Newton's Development
Cam Newton's quick and successful rookie season really surprised a lot of people. Even his biggest supporters couldn't have predicted such eye popping numbers, especially through the air. However, if the the Carolina Panthers hope to improve from last season then they need Newton to continue to develop.
The one thing about the NFL is the more film that's available, the more opposing coaches can prepare. Expect to see specific game plans designed to limit Newton's effectiveness. In order to remain successful, Newton must continue to work hard and become a well-rounded quarterback.
We've seen plenty of young quarterbacks suffer from a major letdown after a successful season. This has to do, in part, because of opposing defensive coordinators' design strategies, but it sometimes has to do with the individual becoming over confident.
Newton has the talent and ability to be one of the game's greatest quarterbacks. He could win multiple Super Bowl titles and rewrite the record books. However, it's going to take work and discipline. This year we'll all get to see if Newton has what it takes.
New Orleans Saints
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: Stability of the Franchise
The bounty scandal rocked the structure of the New Orleans Saints' franchise. This season will be difficult, with several key coaches and players beginning the season on suspension. The biggest problem is the loss of head coach Sean Payton for an entire season. Football teams need stability and direction, which is what the head coach provides.
New Orleans' plans to replace Payton only exacerbates the situation, as having Aaron Kromer as the head coach in the first half of the season and Joe Vitt in the second half is confusing. Players will need to get used to two different type of styles. Both coaches will convey the same message, but their approaches will look very different.
Another issue is the current holdout of Drew Brees. He is the team leader and someone that could've helped the Saints fight through this tough time. However, his absence has left a void in leadership that will likely carry on through training camp.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: Can the New Pieces of the Puzzle Gel
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were very busy this offseason adding Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks, Eric Wright, Amobi Okoye, Dallas Clark, Mark Barron, Doug Martin and Lavonte David. All of these new pieces must be worked into the rotation by new head coach Greg Schiano. His ability to mesh the old and new parts will determine how successful the Buccaneers are this season.
Schiano's first order of business is to find a way to improve an offense that ranked No. 21 in total offense. That starts by ensuring Jackson and Josh Freeman are on the same page. Tampa Bay's offensive line along with Doug Martin and LeGarrette Blount will ensure the Buccaneers have a successful running game. However, it's Freeman and the passing game that is needed to lead this team to the playoffs.
The defense should be easier to gel, as this is Schiano's area of expertise. Wright, Barron and David will all open the season as starters. They shouldn't have many problems learning the system and making an immediate impact.
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: Weapons Alongside Andre Johnson
Andre Johnson is one of the games top overall wide receivers. However, he's not capable of being a team's lone playmaker in the passing game. The Houston Texans need someone from the group of Kevin Walter, DeVier Posey, Jean Lestar and Jeff Maehl to step up. Without another passing threat, Johnson can expect to see a heavy dose of double teams.
This also poses a problem for Arian Foster and the running game. A lack of weapons in the passing game means opposing defenses can drop extra defenders in the box. Foster found a way to deal with this last last season, but a full year of eight men in the box will take its toll.
Durability is already a concern for Foster, so adding more defenders for him to run through won't help.
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: Adjustment to the 3-4 Defense
The Indianapolis Colts' decision to make Chuck Pagano their new head coach meant that there would be major changes on the defensive side of the ball. Pagano's background features a 3-4 defensive attack, which will be the new alignment in Indianapolis. This change is going to be tough on some of the players, especially Dwight Freeney.
Indianapolis made some offseason moves to accommodate their strategy adjustment by adding Corey Redding, Brandon McKinney and Josh Chapman. However, the catalyst to the defense's success depends on how Freeney and Robert Mathis adjust to the outside linebacker position.
Both Freeney and Mathis have never played anything other than defensive end, so asking them to rush from a two-point stance could get tricky. Indianapolis needs to generate pressure on the quarterback in order to protect their suspect secondary.
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: Blaine Gabbert's Development
The Jacksonville Jaguars focused on adding pieces to help Blaine Gabbert's development this offseason. Bringing in Justin Blackmon and Laurent Robinson give him some playmakers at the wide receiver position. Hiring Mike Mularkey adds a coach that knows how to work with young quarterbacks and develop a game plan to help them succeed. Still, Gabbert didn't show enough last season to make people believe that he's a franchise quarterback.
My biggest concern with Gabbert's game is his ability to handle pressure. This was an issue that plagued him in college and followed him to Jacksonville. It's not something that's easily corrected, and typically is improved with experience.
I've been vocal in my opinion that the Jaguars have a team capable of surprising people this season. This team has a strong defense, Maurice Jones-Drew and an upgraded receiving corps. However, the success of the team depends on Gabbert's ability to improve.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Area Of Concern: Is Jake Locker Ready to Take Over as the Starter?
Jake Locker has all the physical tools needed to excel at the quarterback position. He has good size, a powerful arm and good quickness. However, questions about his decision making skills and accuracy raise questions about his overall potential. Those questions might be answered soon, as the Tennessee Titans are allowing him to compete with Matthew Hasselbeck this season.
Locker threw a total of 66 passes last season, completing only 51.5 percent of those throws. In that limited action, he showed his big play ability and why some feel he'll never reach his potential. Playing quarterback in the NFL is about more than just physical abilities.
Tennessee's season will look a lot different if Locker impresses during training camp and wins the starting job. If he looks that good, the Titans have a real shot of making a playoff appearance.