Rating the Level of Controversy in Each NFL Training Camp

Dan Van Wie@@DanVanWieContributor IIIJuly 26, 2012

Rating the Level of Controversy in Each NFL Training Camp

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    Now that training camps are opening up all around the NFL, there are many questions that the fans of each team want answers to.

    Who are going to be the starters at key positions? Which veterans will be cut? What sleeper rookies are going to steal jobs by making final rosters?

    While some teams appear to be more settled with their directions and purposes, other teams are trying to erase the bad memories of a rough 2011 season and trying to teach new squads how to win again. Some teams have a bunch of controversy brewing already, while other teams have very little to speak of.

    Controversy can come in different forms.

    From questionable team moves to players that have trouble controlling their actions on and off the field; from suspensions, to arrests, to players being upset with their roles or with their contracts, we are going to take a sweeping look at every NFL team and identify some of the major areas of controversial topics each needs to address at training camp.

    We are going to also assign a grade for each team, which we will refer to as the Controversy Scorecard Grade. The grades will go from a low of one up to a high of 10, which would be highly controversial. The teams aren't ranked but are listed in alphabetical order.

    This way you can easily enough find your favorite team, see if you agree with the topics we chose and determine whether or not you think our assigned grade is reasonable.

    Keep in mind that, now that camps are open and active, there are all sorts of developments going on, with statements on team slides Wednesday being made passe by Thursday.

    Things are very fluid right now as we submit this for publication.

Arizona Cardinals

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    Starting quarterback controversy: Who will get the ball in Week 1, when the Cardinals face the Seattle Seahawks? Will it be Kevin Kolb or John Skelton?

    Most observers feel that when the Cardinals agreed to pay Kolb his hefty signing bonus, he would get the job, but nothing has been decided as of yet.

    How to keep first-round draft pick Michael Floyd motivated?

    Getting called out by Larry Fitzgerald is one way to do it. Here is a note from Len Pasquarelli of SportsExchange.com (via Fox Sports):

    Arizona first-round wide receiver Michael Floyd was slow in spring workouts to adjust to the NFL-level work ethic, and might start camp no better than No. 4 among the Cardinals' receivers.

    Another note on Floyd, this time via a tweet from Darren Urban:

    Today at camp, Michael Floyd is here. No more Twitter needling from Fitz today.

    At least the Cardinals don't have to worry about any franchise-tag issues, as they signed their franchise player, defensive end Calais Campbell, to a five-year, $55 million contract.

    The Cardinals weren't entirely free from escaping the law this offseason, as OLB Clark Haggans served time in jail stemming from a DUI arrest in 2011.

    Finally, star running back Beanie Wells doesn't believe that his knee surgery has allowed him fully to recovered, so he won't be ready for the start of training camp. 

     

    Arizona Cardinals' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 6 out of 10

    Not knowing who your starting quarterback is can be a very disconcerting thing.

Atlanta Falcons

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    Atlanta lost middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu for an indefinite time period when Tatupu tore his pectoral muscle while lifting weights last week. The Falcons took a chance on a player that missed all of the 2011 season, and he gets injured before having any contact with pads. Akeem Dent looks to be the starter there now.

    To shore up their secondary, the Falcons shipped off a seventh-round draft pick in 2011 to the Philadelphia Eagles for Asante Samuel.

    It will be interesting to see how Samuel performs for the Falcons, since they signed him to a new three-year that will pay him $14.5 million.

    Is it possible that Atlanta will get burned again by over-paying for a veteran in the secondary?

    Dunta Robinson has been bashed in Atlanta for not living up to his contract. According to this story in The Philadelphia Enquirer:

    Reid thought Samuel was in steep decline and that his style no longer suited the scheme.

    Will Atlanta allow John Abraham to rush the passer in 2012, which is the skill he is best at, or will they do something else with him? You might be surprised to know this little research gem, that was presented by Pat Yasinskas from ESPN.com, courtesy of the Football Outsiders Almanac 2012:
    By the count of our game charters, John Abraham dropped into coverage on a zone blitz more often than any defensive lineman in the league (last season).

    The Falcons weren't able to reach a long-term contract with franchise player Brent Grimes, so he winds up playing in 2012 for a $10.28 million contract.

    Atlanta must like to pay out big money to its secondary.   

     

    Atlanta Falcons' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 4 out of 10

    This is one of the tamer NFL teams from a controversial standpoint heading into the start of training camp.

Baltimore Ravens

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    It is hard to know exactly what Ed Reed is thinking. Does he want to continue to play in the NFL, does he want to retire, or does he want to try his hand in free agency?

    Or does he just like to make noise?

    Reed will turn 34 on Sept. 11. According to this report from Ravens.com, in which ESPN's Chris Mortensen is quoted, the team is prepared to let Reed test free agency:

    "Don’t forget the Ravens once let Ray Lewis test the market with his last contract and their philosophy is, ‘Ray, we’ll prove to you we love you more with our offer. If you want to go out and compare the offers to others,’” Mortensen said.

    "I think they’ll do the same thing with Ed Reed.”

    Baltimore would like to sign Joe Flacco to a new contract, but they weren't able to get anything done in the offseason. That means that Flacco is going to be playing out the final year of his rookie contract, and if he comes up with a serious injury, he will have no assurances of future income, which is pretty risky. 

    Ray Rice got his new deal before the deadline, so at least there is one Raven that is happy. According to this story from Aaron Wilson of the Carroll County (Md.) Times, Rice is scheduled to earn $24 million over the next year, which is the largest amount of money paid to a running back ever in the first year of a new deal.

    Is it conceivable that other Ravens will want to know when their big bonuses are coming?

    Then we have the 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Terrell Suggs, who injured his Achilles' tendon while playing basketball, which will force him to miss most, if not all, of the 2012 season.

    Suggs is still hoping to play this year, but nobody knows yet what condition he will be in by the end of the year. The Ravens placed Suggs on the non-football injury list, which means he is out for at least the first six weeks of the season. 

     

    Baltimore Ravens' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 6 out of 10

    If the Ravens hadn't signed Rice to a new contract, the score would have probably gone up to an eight. 

Buffalo Bills

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    Buffalo is letting its injured stars work their ways back from some bad injuries suffered in the 2011 season.

    The players in question are Kyle Williams, Shawne Merriman, Eric Wood and Fred Jackson. Stevie Johnson and Eric Pears had some surgery in the offseason, and both should be ready for the start of training camp.

    By and large the Bills don't really have that much controversy in regards to upset players or people that are unhappy with their contracts.

    The Bills took care of their own during the offseason, signing Stevie Johnson and Fred Jackson to new deals.Thet promoted Dave Wannstedt to defensive coordinator, switched back to the 4-3 defensive scheme and picked up free agents Mario Williams and Mark Anderson to beef up the pass rush.

    In regards to any other areas of controversy, the biggest questions now involve which veterans will be getting pinks slip when it is time for final cuts. There are simply too many players on the roster on the defensive line, at linebacker and at wide receiver for all of them to make the final cut.

    The Bills will have some anxious moments in trying to figure out who will be getting released. 

    There are some interesting battles in camp, such as who will be the starting cornerbacks, the No. 2 wide receiver, the nickel corner, the starting left tackle and the backup quarterback.

    Starting corners could include Aaron Williams, rookie Stephon Gilmore and veteran Terrence McGee. Nickel-corner candidates are Justin Rogers, Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks. Starting left tackle could either be rookie Cordy Glenn or Chris Hairston. The No. 2 wide receiver candidates include Donald Jones, Derek Hagan, Marcus Easley and rookie T.J. Graham. The backup quarterback battle is between Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen.

    Buffalo wants to put the poor second half of the 2011 season behind itself and start focusing on making a playoff push in 2012. The team is excited about its defensive line and its talented young secondary.

    Now if the Bills can only stay healthy this year, they have a realistic shot to end the longest current playoff drought of any NFL. 

     

    Buffalo Bills' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 2 out of 10

    The only real controversy is over who makes the team out of training camp and which veterans will be released.

    Competition up and down the roster is a good problem to have.

Carolina Panthers

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    Where will the Panthers decide to play their linebackers? The health of injured linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis has to be taken into consideration. What is the best position for them, and where will first-round draft pick Luke Kuechly play?

    The defense has to improve dramatically if the Panthers are going to be a playoff contender this year. In 2011, according to Michael Lombardi of NFL Network, Carolina's defense was worst in the NFL at getting three-and-outs.

    That means more snaps for the defense and less time for Cam Newton to have the ball in his hands.

    Will Newton be able to take another jump in his level of play compared to his rookie year? With a full offseason of workouts and coaching, the Panthers are ready to introduce the rest of their playbook to Newton, who was exposed to only a portion of it last year due to the shorter offseason.

    Defensive tackle Andre Neblett learned that he will be suspended four games for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancers.

    The Panthers have a logjam at running back, with Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert. It will be interesting to see how the Panthers are going to keep all three backs happy this year, especially with a mobile and athletic quarterback like Newton, who has no problem in tucking the ball and taking off with it.

    Stewart is playing out the final year of his contract in 2012. The Panthers are paying out more money to Williams, but it was Stewart that saw the majority of snaps in 2011.

    Jeremy Shockey is making a free-agent visit to the Philadelphia Eagles this week. Shockey was third on the Panthers last year in catches of more than 20 yards, with seven, and touchdown receptions, with four, but Carolina is willing to let him play elsewhere this year. 

     

    Carolina Panthers' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 3.5 out of 10

    The lower grade is reflective of a team that doesn't have that many headaches from unhappy players.

    The defense has to improve for Newton to lead them to more wins.

Chicago Bears

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    The Chicago Bears are gambling that volatile wide receiver Brandon Marshall will stay out of trouble in 2012.

    Can he be content in Chicago?

    Is Matt Forte finally happy? Forte got his new contract signed before the deadline, so he should be set to have a big year. The only issue remaining is to see how much the free-agent signing of Michael Bush cuts into Forte's overall touches. You have to figure that Bush will get most of the touches in the red zone.

    Can the offensive line keep Jay Cutler protected in 2012? From Michael Lombardi's article on NFL Network.com:

    The Bears allowed 49 sacks in 2011. What have they done to improve the offensive line? Chicago averaged just 45 rushes-plus-completions per game, placing them 28th in the NFL. This is the sign of a poor offensive line. Tackle J'Marcus Webb and guard Chris Spencer are both suspect, as is second-year tackle Gabe Carimi.

    How much does Brian Urlacher still have left in the tank? As per this story from ESPN Chicago.com, Urlacher is playing out the final year of his contract with the Bears in 2012:

    Urlacher did not discuss his own contract, which expires after the season. He has told "The Waddle & Silvy Show" in the past that he wants to remain with the Bears, although he expects to enter free agency after the season. For the time being, Urlacher is focused on this season, and he expects it to be a successful one for the Bears.

    "Athletically and mentally, we're one of the best defenses in the NFL," Urlacher said. "You look at position by position, we match up with everybody pretty well. "There's no doubt in (my) mind that we have the talent to (win the Super Bowl). It's just a matter of guys staying healthy and us performing on Sundays."

     

    Chicago Bears' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 5 out of 10

    Signing Forte helps to calm down the controversy in Chicago. Trading for Marshall seems great now, but if the team starts losing or he has a few bad games, he can become an explosive cancer in the locker room.

Cincinnati Bengals

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    The Bengals lack an explosive ground game, and that weakness might come back to haunt them in the 2012 season.

    BenJarvus Green-Ellis isn't exactly an explosive back, and he will be hard pressed to reach the 1,000-plus-yard seasons that Cedric Benson produced for the team.

    Leon Hall is trying to prove that he is healed from his Achilles' tendon surgery, but the Bengals prefer him to go slow and ease his way back into football shape.

    That means that the Bengals are hurting at corner, since first-round draft pick Dre Kirkpatrick suffered a knee injury, as per this tweet from Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports:

     

    It is bad enough that Kirkpatrick never learned how to backpedal at Alabama (That still amazes me, by the way.), but now this puts a big damper on the coaching he needs to have at training camp. The performance and production of his rookie year are now really up in the air. The latest update is that he will probably miss the next six weeks, which eliminates his rookie training camp.

    Tough blow for him.

    Since the Bengals no longer have Jerome Simpson, depth at wide receiver is now an issue. It means that rookie Mohamed Sanu will play a key role, even if it is by default.

    Pacman Jones has always been a controversial figure. This year is no exception.

    In a recent court ruling, Jones was ordered to pay $11 million in damages as a result of a Las Vegas nightclub shooting from 2007. That might be difficult to do, according to this article by Joe Reedy from The Cincinnati Enquirer, which states that Jones is on the roster bubble this year.

    Jones continues to get injured, and this year his competition includes Terence Newman, Jason Allen and Brandon Ghee.

    You haven't read or heard very much controversy about undrafted, volatile rookie ILB Vontaze Burfict so far during the offseason. To this point the Bengals have been able to keep him out of the headlines, but we still have a long training camp to get through.

    A report on Bengals.com by Geoff Hobson states that offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is going to employ running back by committee this year. Green-Ellis will be sharing the workload with Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard.

    No word yet from any of the committee members if they are happy with this plan or not. 

     

    Cincinnati Bengals' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 7 out of 10

    The Bengals' controversy grade stems from the recent Kirkpatrick news that means both the secondary and depth at wide receiver look as though they could be issues for the Bengals in 2012.

Cleveland Browns

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    Will Trent Richardson begin his NFL career more like Jim Brown or more like Mark Ingram? Legendary running back Jim Brown shared this opinion about what he thought of Richardson to ESPN Cleveland (via Pro Football Talk):

    “I think the kid is a good working back, and if you’ve got everything else around him he can play his role,” Brown told ESPN Cleveland. “But when it comes to outstanding, I don’t see anything outstanding about him. It’s not said in a cruel manner. He’s very efficient, and that’s what you want.”

    Now it will be up to Richardson to prove either that Brown is correct or that he is out of touch. At least to Richardson's credit, the rookie took it in stride and didn't overact, which was a sign of respect.

    Will the Browns retain Colt McCoy, trade him away or release him? As of now, that is up in the air. Once McCoy is told that Weeden is the starter, we don't know if he will want to move on to another team or if he will be content to remain in Cleveland.

    Is Brandon Weeden ready to start in the NFL? First things first, Weeden has to be signed to a contract. That should be happening any day.

    What should the Browns do with running back Montario Hardesty? Peyton Hillis is gone, but with the Browns' drafting Trent Richardson, what is Hardesty's role with the team? Should Cleveland keep him, try to trade him or just release him?

    How does Cleveland replace Phil Taylor on the defensive line? He was one of their best run-stoppers, but with his torn pectoral muscle, Taylor can't be counted on for 2012.

    For now it appears that Cleveland will go with third-round rookie John Hughes to replace Taylor on the line.

    The Browns raised some eyebrows by using their second-round draft pick of the 2013 NFL draft to add wide receiver Josh Gordon from Baylor.

    Gordon hasn't played football in over a year, so the Browns might have invested in a player that wasn't worthy of that high of a pick.

    We will see how well he performs this year and if the Browns' gamble will be worth it or not.

    For some strange reason, the Browns prefer to let Phil Dawson play on one-year tenders, which keeps bumping up his salary, as opposed to signing him to a long-term deal. 

     

    Cleveland Browns' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 6.5 out of 10

    The Browns opted to ignore one of the strengths of the 2012 NFL draft class (wide receiver) and instead opted to waste a second-round pick on a guy that hasn't played in almost two years. I just don't get it.

Dallas Cowboys

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    For all the Cowboys front office personnel, coaches, players and fans that spoke about Dez Bryant turning a corner and maturing over this past year, he sure set them straight by allegedly harassing his mother enough that she was forced to call 911.

    No word yet if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will suspend Bryant for any games this year, but a wake-up call is not out of the question.

    Do the Cowboys feel any added pressure by Jerry Jones' comment that the window is closing? That is a reasonable question. Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Jay Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware will all be at least 30 years old or older by the start of the 2012 season.

    Are they past their primes, or do they still have a number of great years left to produce?

    Between the amount of anxiety that Jones has been accumulating (his team has won only one playoff game since 1997), the fanbase is also growing uneasy over the lack of any real results to speak of. Does Tony Romo have another playoff win left in him?

    Right now, that seems like a very fair question to ask.

    ESPN Dallas offered that corner Mike Jenkins could open up the season on the reserve/PUP list. Jenkins will report to camp this week, but he is still not very happy about his contract. The Cowboys never found a suitable offer when they put him up on the trading block. Jenkins still needs to get medically cleared. 

     

    Dallas Cowboys' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 7.0 out of 10

    You can blame the level of controversy on Jerry Jones' believing that he doesn't need a football man to run the team and on Dez Bryant imploding.
    The Mike Jenkins situation could also turn south.

Denver Broncos

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    The biggest controversy to me coming into the 2012 training camp for the Denver Broncos is how Peyton Manning will hold up to the pounding he will take from NFL defensive linemen and linebackers.

    Will his neck surgery hold up, and how will the nerves respond to the big blows he receives?

    The other issue with the decision the Broncos made to sign Manning regards who will serve as his backup quarterback if he happens to get injured.

    Hope it never comes to that for the sake of Manning, the Broncos and the fans.

    Next we turn our attention to Champ Bailey. How much does he have left in his tank? Will Bailey and his teammates in the secondary be able to show any improvement in 2012? 

    Michael Lombardi of NFL Network.com raised some interesting points about the Broncos secondary shortcomings:

    The Broncos had more missed tackles from their safeties than any other defense in the league. Have they improved in this area? Quarterbacks posted a sterling 104.0 passer rating against Denver when they threw the ball down the field past 20 yards. Teams averaged 7.4 yards per passing attempt last year. Long story short, the safety play was brutal. Can former Brown/49er Mike Adams make a difference? Will Rahim Moore and/or Quinton Carter improve in Year 2?

    The Denver Post ran a story that the Broncos offered tackle Ryan Clady a five-year deal for $50 million, with $28 million guaranteed, and he turned them down.

    According to the article, by Mike Klis:

    The $10 million a year average would make Clady one of the league's five highest-paid offensive tackles. He is scheduled to make $3.5 million this year, which ranks only 31st among NFL offensive tackles.

    However, the league source said Clady and his agent, Pat Dye, are seeking a deal that would slightly exceed the contract of Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas, who received an extension last summer that averages $11.5 million a year according to the NFL Players Association.

    Without an extension, Clady would play out his contract and would be eligible for free agency at season's end. The Broncos in turn would have the right to place their franchise tag on Clady next season. The franchise-tag salary for offensive linemen this year is $9.3 million.

    One side will obviously have to give here, but I have to wonder how Clady thinks he is better than Joe Thomas or worth the kind of money that Thomas makes,

     

    Denver Broncos' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 5.5 out of 10

    I think people in general will breathe a sigh of relief after they see that Manning has survived the first two or three games. If he does happen to go down in the first couple games, the Broncos season is probably history.

Detroit Lions

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    From the infamous hand shake, or back slap, if you prefer, between Jim Schwartz and Jim Harbaugh to the foot stomp of Ndamukong Suh, the Detroit Lions of 2011 were a team that was clearly loaded with talent but seemed to be lacking in discipline, direction and self-control.

    2012 seems to be more of the same, as one player after another keeps popping up on police blotters around the country.

    The latest incident—corner Aaron Berry's being arrested and the team's decision to release him—has to be getting close to the last straw.

    This is a crisis in Detroit, and somebody in management is doing a poor job of getting the message across to the players of how they are supposed to be conducting themselves. The Lions are becoming an embarrassment, which is a shame since the organization was down for so long.

    The starting cornerback will now be either Alphonso Smith, Dwight Bentley or Jacob Lacey. Perhaps somebody will pop up on the waiver wire that can offer them some competition.

    The Lions weren't able to reach a contract extension with franchise player Cliff Avril, so now he enters the 2012 season unsure if this is the last year he plays in Detroit.

    Since he is playing for a new contract in 2013, you would like to think that he will be playing all out, trying to drum up interest in free agency next year. The lack of a new deal is the reason that Avril probably stays away from the team during the early portion of training camp this year, just serving as one of the many distractions.

    The Lions have decided that they want to play it safe with second-round draft pick Ryan Broyles, so they are putting him on the non-football injury list to begin training camp.

    The running game for Detroit is still an issue, as we await to see if the Lions can generate a solid ground game or if they will totally have to rely on Matthew Stafford to move the football.

    Between Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure, we really don't know what to expect and won't until the season is about three or four weeks old. 

     

    Detroit Lions' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 9.5 out of 10 

    Thankfully the Detroit Lions don't have a major quarterback controversy on top of everything else.

    This should be an interesting training camp, to say the least. I wonder if Schwartz will try to make an example of some veteran with a quick release to make a statement to the rest of the team. 

Green Bay Packers

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    Do you want a controversial topic for the Green Bay Packers, but are having trouble finding one?

    How about this question: Who will the Packers bring in to run the offense if Aaron Rodgers gets hurt? Graham Harrell or B.J. Coleman?

    That development would leave some to question the Packers front office on what they were thinking about putting the team together, just as they questioned Colts executive Bill Polian in 2011 when Peyton Manning was not able to play.

    Can the Packers create a running game that will command any respect? Right now James Starks is the man, but he has found it difficult to stay healthy for a full season, and the Packers have not shown any interest yet in securing a veteran backup to Starks.

    Will the defense be able to show marked improvement in 2012? The Packers devoted the majority of their focus to improving the defense when they invested every one of their first six draft picks on defensive players.

    Not sure yet how many of those rookies will see significant action on defense this year, but if they do, allowances will have to be made for them to make their share of mistakes and then learn from them.

    One example of the Packers' growing concern about the state of their defense was demonstrated by the team's announcing it had released starting 2011 safety Charlie Peprah.

    Everybody on the defensive side of the ball is now officially on notice.

    Despite his production diminishing, the Packers still were willing to work out a new deal for Donald Driver, so this season may prove to be the swan song for the popular receiver. 

     

    Green Bay Packers' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 3.0 out of 10

    For a team that went 15-1, this team doesn't have very many worries or controversies, but the backup QB scenario is one that I would be concerned with. 

Houston Texans

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    The Texans were hit the hardest of any NFL team in free agency. One by one, star players like Mario Williams, Mike Brisiel and Eric Winston departed. Then the Texans released some veterans like quarterback Matt Leinart and fullback Lawrence Vickers, and now return man Jacoby Jones is gone as well.

    So, do the Texans have enough depth on the roster to compensate for all these hits?

    That is something that we will learn at training camp.

    If the Texans have any injuries to starters in camp at any of the offensive-line positions, they would be very hard to overcome right now.

    Can the new offensive line do what is needed for providing holes for Arian Foster and Ben Tate and protecting Matt Schaub? We won't know the answer to that until the season is a good four or five games old, but we should have a pretty good idea of where they are headed by then.

    Will Foster, Schaub and Andre Johnson be able to stay healthy all year in 2012? The Texans have developed a very strong group of playmakers, which gives them the chance either to run or to pass the ball based on what defenses are giving them.

    How much will the Texans miss Mario Williams? Houston is hoping that Connor Barwin, Brooks Reed and Wiley Mercilus will be able to step up and erase the loss of Williams.

    As for replacing Jacoby Jones in the return game, the Texans will be trying out various players in training camp to see who can take over the duties. 

     

    Houston Texans' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 7.0 out of 10 

    With all of the key players that the Texans lost, the biggest controversy is whether the new offensive line be able to play to the same degree that the old one did.

    If the answer is no, then the Texans may not be as strong a contender as we initially believed they would be in 2012.

Indianapolis Colts

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    Can Colts fans stomach another season with only three, four or five wins? Have they been too spoiled by Peyton Manning to brace themselves for another season or two of mostly losses?

    Will the Colts' decision to convert veteran defensive ends Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney into linebackers be successful, or will it burn them?

    Freeney is 32 years old, and Mathis is 31. It is tough to take a player in his 30s and ask him to play a brand new position. Sure, the novelty of it might make it appealing in the beginning, but if the defense starts getting lit up, the novelty will wear off quickly.

    The Colts opted to focus their early key draft picks on surrounding franchise quarterback Andrew Luck  with some key weapons. Can relying on so many rookies work, or will it backfire? What happens when they hit the rookie wall?

    But what about the weak secondary? Did the Colts do enough to give it a fighting chance in 2012?

    On the surface the answer appears to be no.

    Just last week the Colts traded for another marginal corner by picking up D.J. Johnson from Philadelphia. The Colts failed to draft a corner in the 2012 draft class, so we will see if that strategy backfires on them.

    Another controversial area is at running back. The Colts still aren't sure that they have a true No. 1 running back on the team. Right now that battle is coming down to Donald Brown, Delone Carter or rookie Vick Ballard.

    Training camp should go a long way towards identifying what the pecking order will be for the regular season. 

     

    Indianapolis Colts' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 6.0 out of 10 

    The Colts still have a mess on their hands in the secondary, and running back isn't very strong either. This is one stage of the rebuilding effort, so expect a long year in Indianapolis.

    They should be in line for another high draft pick in 2013.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    When will Maurice Jones-Drew report to camp? What happens if he doesn't report to camp?

    Coach Mike Mularkey conceded to The Florida Times-Union that the Jaguars don't know whether Maurice Jones-Drew will report to training camp on time.

    The Jags may open training camp without their top two skill-position players if Jones-Drew holds out, and No. 5 overall draft pick Justin Blackmon remains unsigned. The Jags are haggling with Blackmon about "protective language" following his DUI arrest.

    At least we know where the team now stands with respect to Jones-Drew. Owner Shad Khan came out with a statement that the Jaguars have no intentions of satisfying Maurice Jones-Drew's contract demands. End of story, according to The Florida Times-Union. The ball is now in Jones-Drew's court.

    Blackmon pled guilty in his DUI case. So, he won't be going to jail, but he has to deal with the terms that the court laid out, which are a one-year deferred sentence, 50 hours of community service and a $500 fine.

    He will also enter the NFL's substance abuse program. No word yet on how close the Jaguars are to signing Blackmon to a contract.

    As if the Jaguars needed more controversy, the team is still trying to determine who their starting quarterback will be. Should it be Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne?

    It would not be a surprise if Gabbert gets the early nod and struggles as he did in 2011. Expect, then, to see the Jags turn to Henne to see what he can do.

    The Jaguars don't seem to be willing to renegotiate with Jones-Drew, so it is likely that the leading rusher will hold out until something is resolved.

    The Jaguars could be in for a very long year.

     

    Jacksonville Jaguars' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 8.5 out of 10

    The Jaguars are a mess right now. They have no idea who there starting QB is, have no idea when there best player will report, if he reports at all, and are wondering if they made a mistake by trading up in the first round to draft Blackmon.

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    How effective will the Chiefs injured stars Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry and Tony Moeaki be in their 2012 return? How many weeks into the season do they need before they can be effective again?

    Has the mood around the Chiefs' headquarters changed for the better, or is it still surrounded by a cloud of secrecy and mystery? I was amazed to read the stuff going, as reported by Kent Babb of The Kansas City Star back in January.

    Talk about controversy. That story was dripping with it.

    Can Matt Cassel step up in 2012, or will the Chiefs eventually need to replace him?

    How well will Dwayne Bowe perform? Will he be preoccupied with his tenuous future in Kansas City? Bowe hasn't signed his original franchise-tender offer, so there is a very real possibility that he could be sitting out a portion of training camp. Nobody knows right now when he will report.

    As per this article from Adam Teicher of The Kansas City Star, the Chiefs are looking at running the ball around 500 times this year, which would signify a full workload for both Jamaal Charles and for Peyton Hillis.

    While that is great for each of the running backs, that means the Chiefs will be relying less on the passing game.

    No wonder Dwayne Bowe didn't sign his offer. He probably wants to be gone from Kansas City. 

     

    Kansas City Chiefs' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 7.0 out of 10 

    The Chiefs still need to find a way to keep Bowe happy. Without Bowe in the lineup, teams will be looking to stuff the box with eight defenders and dare Cassel to throw the ball.

Miami Dolphins

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp:

    Will the Hard Knocks experience on HBO actually help or hurt the team?

    The Dolphins are a young team that is looking to identify a starting quarterback and a No. 1 wide receiver. For all the interested players involved, they can see what is being said about them behind closed doors when the show airs.

    With the start of training camp right around the corner, the Dolphins still have yet to sign three of their 2012 draft picks. The unsigned trio is quarterback Ryan Tannehill, defensive end Olivier Vernon and tight end Michael Egnew. All three players were drafted in Rounds 1-3, so they are important players for the Dolphins' future.

    Yet all three are still waiting for phone calls to go sign their deals. This is just one more example of how the Dolphins front office continues to run into problems and lacks focus.

    Who will emerge as the starting quarterback for Miami? It literally could be either David Garrard or Matt Moore to open the season, with the prospect of turning the ball over to Ryan Tannehill toward the end of the season to get his feet wet.

    Can Reggie Bush duplicate his 2011 season? Will the Dolphins try to change Bush's role to that more of a receiving threat, now that he proved he can rush the ball for over 1,000-plus yards?

    Will any of the Dolphins' current wide receivers be able to emerge as a true No. 1 wide receiver? There are four candidates for the job, Brian Hartline, Davone Bess, Chad Johnson and Legedu Naanee.

    The days of Johnson being a No. 1 wide receiver are far behind him, so there is a distinct possibility that the Dolphins will have to wing it without a true No. 1 guy in 2012. 

     

    Miami Dolphins' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 8.5 out of 10

    Miami has been a controversial team due to the way that their football operations are run.

    The way they tried to hire Jim Harbaugh, the failed attempt to throw money at Peyton Manning and now the Hard Knocks show point to a team that is rather lost.

Minnesota Vikings

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    When will Adrian Peterson have the Vikings' medical blessing to suit up for a regular-season game? Are the Vikings willing to risk playing Peterson before he is all the way back from his knee injury?

    Peterson had reconstructive surgery for his torn ACL and MCL just six days after the injury. According to this story from 1500 ESPN Twin Cities, the plan right now is for Toby Gerhart to start Week 1 and for Peterson to come off of the bench.

    That plan might change by the time the season starts.

    According to the story, Gerhart is ready to start for the long haul:

    I'm looking, going into the season, to have a big role," Gerhart told 1500 ESPN's "Sunday Morning SportsTalk" show.

    "I don't know how big it will be. But I'm looking like I'm going to be the starter from Day 1 and have to be the starter all the way on through until Adrian is back and ready and full-speed. I'm excited about that. I'm ready to embrace that and go out and help this team win and really show people what I can do."

    Jerome Simpson, a wide receiver the Vikings signed in the offseason, will be suspended for three games due to his drug arrest last year. Simpson had marijuana mailed to his home, proving that you don't have to be a rocket scientist to play in the NFL.

    Another player with some controversy surrounding him is wide receiver Percy Harvin.

    Thanks to this article from ESPN Twin Cities, we learn that Harvin wants a new contract after the season ends, but he might be the only party that thinks he is worth a raise. 

     

    Minnesota Vikings Controversy Scorecard Grade: 6.0 out of 10

    The Vikings are going to be smart about Peterson. They still need to add more pieces to this team before they can realistically compete in the NFC North, so why jeopardize Peterson's career by risking further injury?

New England Patriots

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    It will be interesting to see which of the free-agent acquisitions that Bill Belichick made this offseason will come back to pay dividends.

    On the surface it looks as though Belichick went out and signed a bunch of veteran players, hoping that some of them would stick. Clearly the move that appears to have made the most sense was the deal to sign wide receiver Brandon Lloyd.

    As for the rest of them, that is on a wait-and-see basis.

    Who will the Patriots ultimately keep at wide receiver when final cuts come? New England is loaded at wide receiver, and they also have been loading up on tight ends, in light of the signing of Visanthe Shiancoe to go along with Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Daniel Fells and Jake Ballard.

    Speaking of Gronkowski, the Patriots have asked "the Gronk" to tone down his antics. From appearing on national dating shows, to having too much fun on the red carpet, the Patriots want Gronk to start being boring and focus on football.

    Good luck with that.

    But the biggest issue will be regarding whether the Patriots have done enough to upgrade their pass defense and their pass rush.

    Right now I would say those answers are no and maybe, which is less than a ringing endorsement.

    If Andre Carter can prove that he is healthy, that would help out the pass rush.

    Will this be the final season for Wes Welker in New England? The Patriots couldn't find a way to come up with a long-term deal for Welker prior to the deadline, so he has to survive the year and hope that he gets to ink a long-term deal in the 2013 offseason.

    According to this article from The Boston Globe, Joseph Addai is a good example of one of those veteran free agents that probably will wash out in New England.

    It didn't take long to reveal the fate of Joseph Addai: The Patriots released him Wednesday.

    There will be a number of Patriots players that will probably start out the year on active PUP. They are guard Logan Mankins, linebacker Brandon Spikes, tackle Sebastian Vollmer, defensive tackle Myron Pryor and tight ends Daniel Fells and Jake Ballard.

     

    New England Patriots' Controversy Scorecard Grade 6.0 out of 10

    The Patriots will have their hands full with trying to figure out what veterans are worth keeping around and which ones they need to discard.

    Is the Patriots defense going to be good enough in 2012? 

New Orleans Saints

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    The Saints have experienced as controversial an offseason as any ever witnessed in NFL history. The "bounty hunting" suspensions for players and coaches alike are ground breaking in nature and set a precedent for the future.

    New Orleans did its best to try to find a way to cope by recruiting Bill Parcells to come out of retirement and coach the team, but he concluded that it wouldn't work for him, so he passed.

    The Saints are keeping the coaching duties "in-house" and that makes sense.

    Drew Brees' lengthy contract negotiations came down to the wire, but the Saints were able to come to terms. I can't imagine how much greater the controversy would have been if they didn't sign him to a new deal.

    Jonathan Vilma's on-going lawsuit attempts that are targeting Roger Goodell are a distraction and will continue to cause controversy for the team.

    The bounty-related headlines that keep surfacing just continue to stir the pot.

    The Saints need to try to distance themselves from the whole affair, but Vilma demands to have his day in court, which he is obviously entitled to have. Kind of a catch-22. 

    The Saints will need to conduct business without GM Mickey Loomis for the first eight games this year. You know that he has to be running over all kinds of contingency plans with his personnel people so that the team is prepared to react to any injuries that crop up while Loomis is away from it.

    Saints will need to learn how to play without head coach Sean Payton all year and without coach Joe Vitt for six games, as well.

    Maybe the 2011 injury that coach Payton suffered on the sidelines last year was actually a blessing in disguise. The way that the Saints learned how to function as a team on game day without Payton's being available or being there on the sidelines gives the team confidence that they can still play without missing a beat.

    Call it a sample dry run, but that was an important exercise.

    The Saints defense will be depleted with the losses of Vilma, suspended for the year, and Will Smith, suspended for four games.

    At least the Saints were able to be proactive in free agency and sign some defensive personnel, such as Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne, to fortify the linebackers.

    While some situations have turned out better, there is doubt that Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and the Saints' top 2012 draft pick Akiem Hicks will be ready for the start of training camp.

    Ingram is coming off of knee surgery, so he will probably be eased in at camp. Hicks broke his hand in OTA's, according to this story from The (La.) Times-Picayune.

     

    New Orleans Saints' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 9.5 out of 10

    If the Saints had not signed Brees to a long-term contract by the deadline, the score would have gone up to a 10.0.

    The 9.5 is still pretty bad, though.

New York Giants

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    New York was concerned enough about the ability of Ahmad Bradshaw to stay healthy that they invested their first-round draft pick in running back David Wilson.

    Bradshaw has experienced injuries to both feet already, so there is reason to be concerned.

    Wilson looked good in OTAs and will be in a position to give some relief to Bradshaw, now that Brandon Jacobs is playing in San Francisco.

    The Giants are bracing for the pressure of trying to successfully defend their Super Bowl XLVI championship. The team knows that everybody will be psyched up to defeat them, so they know that the road ahead of them could be a long, tough journey.

    What will the Giants do about their tight-end situation? They lost Jake Ballard to a waiver claim by the New England Patriots.

    Apparently the answer is to make them a lot bigger.

    Travis Beckum is coming off of his torn ACL injury and added 20 pounds. The Giants signed free agent Martellus Bennett from the Cowboys and asked him to go from 265 pounds to 291 pounds. He already missed the OTAs with a hamstring injury, and now you are going to ask his hamstrings to support an extra 26 pounds of weight? Sounds like another injury waiting to happen.

    With the injury to Hakeem Nicks in the offseason and the departure of Mario Manningham to San Francisco, the Giants have some depth issues at wide receiver. Nicks had surgery on his foot, but there is hope he will be ready for Week 1.

    If not, the Giants will need rookie Rueben Randle and Domenik Hixon to step up. We already detailed the tight-end issues, so defenses can focus on slowing down Ahmad Bradshaw and Victor Cruz and dare Eli Manning to beat them with whoever is left.

    The Giants will welcome back injured cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Terrell Thomas. Amukamara played in seven games last season while Thomas missed the entire year.

    Curious to see how effective both players are early in the season. 

     

    New York Giants' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 6.5 out of 10

    The Giants have to be concerned about the tight-end situation and how rookies Wilson and Randle will perform this year.

    The Giants will be facing a tough schedule, and the rest of the NFC East has improved.

    Can New York repeat?

New York Jets

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez's battle to serve as the starting quarterback will be an ongoing media frenzy every week of the season, based on how well Sanchez performs each game.

    Since Tebow seems to have been declared the "red-zone quarterback," that leaves Sanchez to navigate the first 80 yards. They might be referred to as 80/20 going forward. Perhaps the media will accept the 80-20 split as a workable solution, but I suspect that with each passing week, Sanchez will resent not finishing what he started.

    The Daily (N.Y.) News writes that the Jets are now considering using Tebow on the kickoff-return team.

    I shudder to think what kind of a fury will result if Tebow winds up with a serious injury as a result of playing on special teams. It seems that the Jets are treating him as though he were their favorite toy, pulling him out and playing with him any time they want to use him.

    You know that there will be guys looking to make names for themselves on special teams who would love to put a major hit on Tebow, which of course is legal if he is on special teams.

    According to a tweet from Pro Football Talk's Darin Gantt, the jury is still out on Jeff Otah, whom the Jets just acquired in a trade from Carolina:


    The Jets secondary has some issues that are still up in the air.

    The Jets decided not to bring back starting safety Jim Leonhard for the 2012 season, as the team opted to sign free agents Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry instead.

    The problem with this strategy is that Landry is going to going on the active-PUP list for training camp due to his Achilles tendon rehab. Bell, 34 years old, was released by Miami, so this position group is suspect at best.

    Jets new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano will have to find a way to keep Santonio Holmes interested and happy. If the Jets truly are going to focus on a ground-and-pound approach, that suggests that Holmes will not be seeing enough targets to keep him from losing it again in 2012.

    Finally, we bring up Darrelle Revis and the possibility that he could hold out. The likelihood is that he will report to camp, but he is of the opinion that he is underpaid, and few people would disagree with him.

     

    New York Jets' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 9.0 out of 10

    The Jets seem to thrive on controversy, and Rex Ryan seems to be on his best behavior.

    With the Tebow-Sanchez scenario, Santonio Holmes being Santonio Holmes and the troubles in the secondary with the safeties, the Jets could be in for a long year.

Oakland Raiders

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    For a team that faced a brutal salary-cap scenario entering the 2012 offseason, the Raiders now face an uphill battle at training camp, trying to find ways to substitute players in for the losses of some very key personnel.

    Jason Campbell, Michael Bush, Kamerion Wimbley and Stanford Routt were key players to lose, and the Raiders were still reeling from losing Nnamdi Asomugha the year before. 

    At least the Raiders have Carson Palmer for a full training camp to work with the talented Raiders receivers. The Raiders passing game and the running skills of Darren McFadden will keep them in games this year, because I suspect that the defense will be letting the team down often in 2012.

    Case in point is corner Shawntae Spencer. He was released by San Francisco, but now he is suddenly good enough to start for Oakland?

    The defense is just not going to be very good this year.

    As for the controversial issues, the Raiders had to be concerned that Darrius Heyward-Bey might draw a suspension for his DUI arrest. It also means that he will have to be on his best behavior going forward.

    We also have the issue of what to do with Rolando McClain, who faces a potential six-month jail sentence.

    The Contra Costa Times did a sit-down interview with GM Reggie McKenzie, in which he talked about players being accountable on and off the field. The topic of Rolando McClain was raised:

    You know, since we’ve been here he’s been great. I’m not going to hold anything over his head about what he’s done in the past. We’re only concerned with what he does from here on out. Coaches preach to the players about being accountable, being disciplined on and off the field, so we’ll take care of the issues as they come.

    Another controversial topic is the lack of depth at running back behind McFadden. Surely the Raiders can't assume that McFadden will be healthy for all 16 games, since his career history says that he can't be counted on to do that.

    Cedric Benson still is out there as a free agent, as is Ryan Grant, so the Raiders can have their pick of which guy would be the best fit.

    Who will the Raiders decide to use as the backup quarterback for Palmer? The decision is coming down to Matt Leinart or Terrelle Pryor.

    Palmer seems to be healthy right now, but if he were to go down, the backup will need to step in and keep the offense humming.

    Oakland avoided some controversy by signing franchise player Tyvon Branch to a four-year, $26.6 million contract. 

     

    Oakland Raiders' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 6.5 out of 10

    I sense that Oakland is going to be turning a corner with the new administration in place. It will take some time, but the Raiders will right the ship, perhaps in a couple of years, due to the mess they inherited.

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    Can the team win for Andy Reid? Despite the number of years that Andy Reid has taken his team to the playoffs, the Eagles still haven't won a Super Bowl ring. Time may be running out on Reid, so the veteran leaders are using this central theme as a rallying point for the 2012 season.

    Will it work?

    Adam Schefter of ESPN.com wrote that Reid will be coaching in Philadelphia for as long as he wants to keep the job. This was following the news that the Eagles let go team president Joe Banner.

    Schefter doesn't think the Eagles will ever fire Reid.

    Will Michael Vick be able to step his game up to another level? Vick says that he is committed to becoming a better quarterback and to making better decisions with the football. Considering that the Eagles turned the ball over 38 times last year (only Tampa Bay turned it over more in the NFC) and had a minus-14 turnover ratio, making better decisions would help out the offense and defense. 

    The Philadelphia Enquirer talked to Eagles WRs coach David Culley about DeSean Jackson and the way he carried himself last year, prior to signing the offseason new contract:

    Culley acknowledged that Jackson was reluctant to run routes over the middle last season because he didn't want to risk injuring himself in the final year of his contract.

    "I saw a couple of times last year where I saw him maybe trying to save himself because [he was thinking], ‘I'm not under contract and I don't want to get hurt,'?" he said. "I don't think there was a fear factor involved. I think it was more, ‘I don't want to get hurt because I don't have a contract.'

    Now that Jackson has his big contract for $47 million, will he revert to the way he played in his first few years, or will he play it safe? The Eagles plan to give punt-return duties to other players, to keep Jackson fresher for offense.

    The Eagles had to wonder what was going with running back Dion Lewis, who allegedly pulled a fire alarm when he was drunk and couldn't find the key to get into his hotel room.

    The charges against Lewis have been dismissed since there was no evidence the fire alarm was ever pulled.

    The Eagles offseason took a big hit when they lost Jason Peters for 2012 due to his Achilles-tendon injury.

    Demetress Bell was signed to plug into Peters' position, but Bell is hardly a sure thing, based on the 18 games he missed in Buffalo over the past three years.

    Bell is trying to hold off King Dunlap to be a starting tackle for the Eagles. According to CSN Philly.com, Dunlap was frustrated that the team went out and signed Bell, as Dunlap thought he should have been made the starter. 

     

    Philadelphia Eagles' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 5.0 out of 10

    Considering all of the hoopla last year at this time over the "Dream Team," things are much calmer in Philadelphia this year.

    The noticeable change could be a sign that this team is more focused and ready to take that next step up. 

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    It seems that there is more controversy this year in Pittsburgh, reflecting back to when Ben Roethlisberger was making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

    We will start with Roethlisberger and the philosophical differences that the quarterback has with the front office over the type of offense the team should run.

    Roethlisberger wants to keep things the way they were, while the front office wants to see a more physical offense, capable of churning out yards on the ground and controlling the pace and tempo of the game.

    Then we have the whole Roethlisberger-versus-offensive-coordinator-Todd Haley issue. We haven't seen the two of them blow up at each other in public yet, but then again, the regular season hasn't started yet, either.

    These two will no doubt be on a collision course at some point during the year, and it will be quite a spectacle when the wheels are starting to fall off the cart.

    How long will Rashard Mendenhall be out?

    Another good question.

    Nobody knows how many weeks in to the 2012 season it will take before Mendenhall is able to assume his starting job, if he ever does get it back. The Steelers were duly impressed with the work of Isaac Redman in the playoff loss to Denver, and, based on that observation, decided not to invest a high-round draft pick on a running back in the 2012 draft.

    How wise was that decision? We will see how well Redman performs week in and week out.

    When camp opened, the Steelers placed Mendenhall on active PUP. That could change to reserve PUP later on, which would mean that Mendenhall could miss the first six weeks.

    Next we come to the controversial topic of how old the Steelers are getting and that they are having trouble controlling the line of scrimmage, due to being older and slower.

    If you look at the current Steelers roster, they only have one offensive lineman, Max Starks, that is 30 years old. Everybody else is in their 20s. On the defensive line, only two players are in the their 30s—Brett Keisel is 33 while Casey Hampton is 34.

    Looks like the reality is much different than the perception.

    Other notable 30-somethings on the roster: Will Allen (30), Ryan Clark (32), Troy Polamalu (31), Roethlisberger (30), Jerricho Cotchery (30), James Harrison (34) and Larry Foote (32).

    Last but certainly not least is the controversy over what is going on with star wide receiver Mike Wallace. Will he sign his tender offer? When will he report to camp? Will he miss any part of the regular season holding out?

    The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes that Wallace is still not signed to a deal, but that it is crucial for Wallace to be in camp to learn the new offense Todd Haley is installing. I doubt that Haley will offer any sympathy for Wallace if he isn't running the right routes or doesn't know the plays.

    After training camp opened, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported what head coach Mike Tomlin had to say about Wallace's being absent from practice:

    "We’ve been in negotiations with him," Tomlin said. "He’s not here today. It’s unfortunate for him. One thing that experience has taught me is that this is bigger than all of us. It’s bigger than Mike, it’s bigger than me, so I mean that when I say it’s unfortunate for him that he’s not here." "What I’m going to do is work with Emmanuel Sanders," said Tomlin. "Because he’s here, and be excited about doing it."

    I would say that pretty much sums up where things stand on the Wallace front. Not only that, but the Steelers have rescinded the multi-year offer that they had previously put on the table for Wallace to sign.

    This is going to get uglier by the day. 

     

    Pittsburgh Steelers' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 8.0 out of 10

    Between the Roethlisberger issues over offensive philosophy, the potential for an explosive relationship between hum and Haley, Wallace being AWOL, and the running-back situation, there is plenty of controversy in Pittsburgh's training camp this year.

San Diego Chargers

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    The pressure is on in San Diego for Norv Turner to take the Chargers deeper into the playoffs than he ever has before. San Diego won two playoff games in 2007 and one playoff game in 2008.

    They haven't won one playoff game since.

    To say that Turner's job as head coach is on the line would be an understatement.

    San Diego has to finish its collective mourning over the passing of Junior Seau. If the Chargers are somehow able to use Seau as a rallying point for the 2012 season, that would be fitting, considering what he meant to the organization.

    Are the Chargers seriously going to keep Ronnie Brown on the roster this year? His average gain per rush in Philadelphia last year plummeted all the way down to 3.2 yards. In his last year with Miami, it was down to 3.7.

    I suspect he could be a camp casualty; the Chargers did sign Jackie Battle, who stepped in for Jamaal Charles last year in Kansas City.

    This tweet from Kevin Acee of U-T San Diego claims that lineman Kris Dielman may want to play again in 2012. Surprisingly, there is no news if he will want to play in San Diego or for a different team.

     


    What will Philip Rivers do to rebound from his 2011 season? Rivers threw 20 interceptions in 2011, which is the most he has ever thrown in one year. There was speculation that he was hurt last year, but he denied that all season long.

    It will be interesting to see how Rivers fares this year, especially without having Vincent Jackson around to throw the ball to. 

     

    San Diego Chargers' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 4.5 out of 10

    There is not much controversy in the Chargers training camp right now. The biggest issue for the Chargers is to execute and win for Norv Turner.

    If they fail to do that, it is possible that a new coach and/or a new GM will come in next year and blow some of the team up.

San Francisco 49ers

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    With the number of new pieces that the San Francisco 49ers added in 2012 to their offense, how on earth are they planning to keep everybody happy?

    Or, maybe, that is actually the plan, to keep everybody angry and upset, thinking that they will get the best of every player that way.

    Let's start with the crowded backfield. How will the 49ers divide the touches in 2012?

    San Francisco has four backs that they want to keep on the active roster—Frank Gore, Brandon Jacobs, Kendall Hunter and rookie LaMichael James.

    It could be a very difficult chore to keep all four interested and content this year.

    You have to figure that at least one or two of them will be growing unhappy as the year continues. 

    Next we move over to the wide receivers, where the list of targets for Alex Smith has been growing; Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, Ted Ginn, Kyle Williams, rookies A.J. Jenkins and Chris Owusu.

    It will be tough to find enough plays to target the receivers to keep them involved in the game plan while trying to run the ball as often as the 49ers like to run it.

    This potentially could cause problems on the practice field and in the locker room. For now, everything will be great, as players are fighting for their jobs.

    But once the regular season starts and players want to see through their stats that they are contributing to the team wins, frustration will start building up, and then egos will take over.

    Randy Moss has been a model citizen for the 49ers during the entire offseason so far. Can he keep that up for the entire year? What happens if Smith can't get him the ball when he is open deep downfield? Will he be erupting on the sidelines?

    We know he made things uncomfortable for the Vikings during his last tour of duty there.

    CSNBayArea.com reports that the contract situation for Dashon Goldson is still not coming together. Matt Maiocco wrote that:

    Simply, the 49ers' idea of Dashon Goldson's long-term worth is different than Goldson's idea.

    A league source told me in early-June that the 49ers were willing to go as high as $7 million annually with $14 million guaranteed to sign Goldson. On June 19, safety Michael Griffin's contract with the Tennessee Titans came in right around those numbers.

    Goldson stated on Twitter that same day the 49ers had yet to formally offer him a contract. Goldson wanted something closer to Eric Weddle's $8 million average with the San Diego Chargers.

    A contract averaging $7 million a year seems fair for both sides. But they were never able to get it done.

    Goldson is a key member of the 49ers defensive unit, which basically has brought back everybody else from 2011.

    No telling when Goldson will be coming in or if he is coming in at all.

     

    San Francisco 49ers' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 6.0 out of 10

    It is a good thing to have competition in training camp, but we are talking about adding some proud veterans here that will not appreciate their roles very much if they get very few touches. The Goldson situation is a serious deal.

Seattle Seahawks

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    Some of the controversy surrounding the Seahawks has ended, while new controversy pops up before the start of training camp.

    Seattle finally got closure with defensive end Chris Clemons on a new three-year deal for $21 million. That is one fewer headache to deal with for the Seahawks.

    Next we move on to the Marshawn Lynch's arrest on suspicion of DUI and potential suspension. Lynch is the centerpiece of the Seahawks offense, so losing him for any amount of time is not very appealing.

    This kind of behavior from Lynch is consistent with the stuff he pulled in Buffalo and why the Bills were only too happy to trade him away while they could still get something of value for him. You would have hoped by now that he would have learned from the prior mistakes, but that is just wishful thinking.

    Hopefully rookie Robert Turbin can step in and carry the load if Lynch is ordered to miss any games.

    Then we have Seattle's three-way battle for the starting quarterback job. This is a Pete Carroll special, creating a heightened sense of competition to bring out the best in everybody.

    Fast forward to the start of Week 1, and what is the outcome?

    The educated guess here is that Matt Flynn is the starter, Tarvaris Jackson is either traded away or released and Russell Wilson is the No. 2 quarterback.

    Every week of training camp that Carroll allows this open competition to continue, the less time the eventual winner will have getting all of the snaps and reps with the first team in practice.

    If Carroll waits until Week 3 or Week 4 of the preseason, that puts the Seattle offense behind the rest of the NFL.

    We should talk about the improving Seahawks defense, where they hope that linebacker Bruce Irvin will live up to the potential that they saw in him when they surprised many draft experts by making him a first-round draft pick.

    There is also an issue with the Seahawks receivers, in trying to determine one guy that can step up, be the go-to receiver and play like a true No. 1 wide receiver.

     

    Seattle Seahawks' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 7.0 out of 10

    While waiting for final word on what Lynch's status is over the DUI deal, naming a starting quarterback and trying to coax one of their wideouts into become a 1,000-plus-yard receiver would be two of the biggest areas of concern in the Seahawks training camp. 

St. Louis Rams

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    The St. Louis Rams were able to sign rookie corner Janoris Jenkins to a contract this week, so now we will get to find out if the gamble will pay off for head coach Jeff Fisher.

    The Rams had so many holes to fill coming into 2012 that they could afford to take a calculated gamble on a player with the upside that Jenkins has.

    When is the right time for an aging star to start giving way to the rookie at his position?

    Let's take the situation of Steven Jackson as an example.

    Jackson was a guest of Pro Football Talk Live. His comments regarding the concept of giving up some of his touches to rookie Isaiah Pead were recorded by NBC Sports:

    Steven Jackson made it clear on PFT Live Tuesday that he would not be thrilled if the Rams attempted to give rookie Isaiah Pead a big 2012 role.

    "Yeah. I actually see him being a backup," said S-Jax, who did not react enthusiastically when asked if he'd "give up some of the load" to Pead. "If it's the way I want it, to continue to live out the legacy of my career, I will continue to be the workhorse. He can relieve me at times during the game, or when we need a change of pace against the defense." Jackson said he anticipates "25 to 30, plus touches a game."
    A report by the Associated Press stated that defensive end Robert Quinn was involved in a one-car accident and was arrested for drunk driving at 5:38 a.m. Guess that is one way to prepare for training camp, which was starting less than one week away.
    A tweet from Howard Balzer stated that the NFL suspended Rams tight end Brody Eldridge four games for violating the league's PED policy:
    We would be remiss if we didn't mention that, since this is a story about controversy around the NFL, the 2012 NFL king of controversy, Gregg Williams, who was supposed to be the Rams defensive coordinator this year, will instead be watching games from home, as he is suspended indefinitely by the NFL and Roger Goodell. 
    St. Louis Rams' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 6.5 out of 10
    Jeff Fisher will help to stabilize the Rams team. They are young and they have some talent, but they still have a number of holes. The Rams should make some progress this year, but Fisher needs to keep the team focused. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    For a team that was justly applauded for making a number of good offseason moves, the Bucs have been involved in their own share of controversy since the team started getting together.

    Malcontent tight end Kellen Winslow was traded to the Seattle Seahawks, as Winslow didn't agree with head coach Greg Schiano's philosophy of the importance of working out with the rest of one's teammates.

    You knew that Winslow's attitude wasn't going to fly with a disciplinarian like Schiano.

    Will the Bucs miss Winslow? Who else is next to follow Winslow out of town?

    Could it be Da'Quan Bowers?

    Tampa Bay put Bowers on the PUP list, meaning that he is out for at least the first six games of the year. His entire 2012 season is in jeopardy due to his tearing his Achilles' tendon back in May. The future for Bowers doesn't look overly promising right now.

    The Bucs avoided further controversy by finally signing their first-round draft pick safety Mark Barron last week. Barron will move into the starting lineup and should be a fixture for years to come.

    So far coach Schiano has yet to name who the team's starting running back will be. Schiano is prepared to let rookie Doug Martin and LeGarrette Blount duke it out in training camp to see who has earned the job, according to this report from PewterPower.com.

    By the way Blount has yet to fall asleep at any team meetings yet this year, which is something he was infamous for in 2011. 

     

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Controversy Scorecard Grade 5.5 out of 10

    The basic theme for the Bucs is that there is a new sheriff in town. If players have trouble getting on board with the way Coach Schiano wants to get things done, they will be whisked out of town overnight.

    We will see how the new discipline changes the results

Tennessee Titans

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    The Titans opened up their camp and promptly placed two players on the active PUP list: wide receiver Kenny Britt and safety Markelle Martin.

    Based on what is going on with each player, look for Martin to return faster than Britt, who might have a suspension to deal with later.

    Britt was arrested for a DUI last week, and he is continuing to turn into a player that the Titans will have trouble depending on. Between injuries and off-the-field issues, is he worth all the headaches? At least the Titans have Kendall Wright that they can plug into Britt's old spot.

    As for the starting quarterback battle between Jake Locker and Matt Hasselbeck, it was Hasselbeck that took the initial snaps with the first team when camp opened.

    But there is still a number of weeks left in which that order could be reversed.

    According to Pro Football Talk, Chris Johnson sounds as though he is really wanting to make 2012 a big production year. Here is a look at his ambitious goals:

    I want to be the first one to (rush for 2,000 yards) twice, that’s certainly a goal of mine to do. I feel like I’m still the best back in the league.

    Word at Titans camp is that Johnson has re-dedicated himself to the game. 

     

    Tennessee Titans' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 5.0 out of 10

    Outside of Britt the Titans don't really have that much controversy going on with the exception of announcing who wins the starting-quarterback battle.

    Once that happens, the team can really focus on the task at hand.

Washington Redskins

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    Controversial Issues Coming into Training Camp

    Can Robert Griffin III run an NFL offense from Week 1 and not be overwhelmed by NFL defenses? Did Baylor actually have a playbook for Griffin to use, or did they run an ad-lib offense? If this is the first time Griffin has to really study a playbook, is he overwhelmed by it, or is it coming along?

    Those are some of the questions that I want to learn more about from training camp.

    A slight roster controversy for the Redskins is who the starting running back will be this year. They will battle it out in training campm but either Tim Hightower or Roy Helu will be declared the starter.

    If you were wondering about Hightower's chances, you might want to check out this report by Pro Football Focus, which talks about Hightower's bad hands.

    Mike Jones of The Washington Post writes that the Redskins offensive line still has some holes in it, so quarterback RG3 will be on notice. Cory Lichtensteiger went on I.R. last year, Jammal Brown has been battling a bad hip, and Trent Williams was suspended four games for failing drug tests.

    The Redskins are just one more NFL team that has watched a player get nailed with a DWI arrest. This time it was safety Brandon Meriweather, who, again according to The Washington Post, pleaded no contest to charges of DWI and refusing a breath test.

    He might be facing a suspension, which is never good for a guy that is one of your starters.

    One controversial area impacting the Redskins in training camp was the decision of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to strip away millions of salary-cap money from the team in 2012 and 2013.
    If the Redskins lose any key players to injuries in training camp, the amount of room they have to sign a replacement will be limited based on what salary cap space they now have left to work with.

     

    Washington Redskins' Controversy Scorecard Grade: 5.5 out of 10

    What can the Redskins do during training camp to upgrade the offensive line? There will be lots of pressure on Griffin to prove that he was worthy of being the No. 1 pick in the draft, which is a claim he made prior to draft day.

    Thanks for checking out our presentation.