Hottest NFL Storylines Heading into August
August in the NFL is a time of renewal, a month when all 32 teams have a clean slate, and the expectations for playing in a Super Bowl return.
It is a refreshing time, but it is also a very stressful time. For a good number of teams, there are outside storylines that are clouding the beginning of training camps.
In the following slides, we'll break down some of the biggest NFL storylines as we head into August.
Mike Wallace's Holdout
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Dealings with Mike Wallace have started to get ugly in Pittsburgh, and it appears the two sides are now at an impasse in contract negotiations.
According to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers have cut off negotiations with Wallace—their best offer is on the table—and now Wallace is fully prepared to sit out training camp.
Steelers GM Kevin Colbert said, via Bouchette:
We've chosen to not progress with negotiations at this point. Once we made that decision, now we're in a different mode. We'll have to address any new negotiations if we get to that point.
Colbert also told the Pittsburgh media that Wallace will have to sign his one-year, $2.7 million tender for contract negotiations to resume.
Wallace caught 72 passes for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011.
Maurice Jones-Drew's Holdout
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According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Maurice Jones-Drew will not report on time to Jaguars camp. Unless a new deal gets done—and that's looking very, very unlikely—Jones-Drew is preparing for a long holdout that could spill into the season.
Last week, I wrote about the entirety of Jones-Drew's hold out here. Not much has changed since then.
The Jaguars have added pieces offensively this offseason, such as Justin Blackmon (still unsigned) and Laurent Robinson, but Jones-Drew is one of the few running backs in this league that carries his respective offense.
It's hard to pinpoint which side will budge first. I'd bet on Jones-Drew, simply because he has little leverage. For the Jaguars' sake, however, that had better become reality.
Quarterbacks in Seattle
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The Seahawks report to camp on Friday, which sets the stage for one of the more interesting quarterback battles of the summer.
There are three characters to this dance—the incumbent, the free agent and the rookie—and each will have a chance at winning over head coach Pete Carroll.
Tarvaris Jackson, the incumbent, was signed last summer to a two-year deal to be the starter. He was little more than average in his first year, but he also suffered an injury late that sapped some of his effectiveness.
Matt Flynn, the free agent, was given $10 million in guaranteed money, which seemingly gives him the inside track to be the starter. He has limited experience—just two starts in four years in Green Bay—but he made the most of his opportunities as Aaron Rodgers' backup.
Finally, there's Russell Wilson, the rookie, who was taken in the third round this April. He's short—well under the height most teams want in an NFL starter—but every other quarterbacking attribute is there.
When camp opens Friday, this position battle starts back up. Whoever winds up starting in Week 1 will have earned it in August.
Tim Tebow, Mark Sanchez and the Jets
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You really can't talk about August in the NFL without mentioning what's sure to be the most hectic training camp among the 32 teams.
The media firestorm surrounding Sanchez and Tebow has already grown old for 99 percent of NFL followers, but it's really only just begun. Camp will provide another platform for the two to be dissected at length.
One worthwhile thing we'll see from camp is just how Sanchez deals with the pressure of having the highest-profile backup in NFL history. Much smaller things have crushed quarterbacks in the past.
We'll also (presumably) get to see some of the red-zone package for Tebow, which is sure to stir up the New York media.
Hold on folks, this Jet ride is just beginning.
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Rookies are each season's great unknown, so each camp will be buzzing about its respective first-year players.
Can Robert Griffin III turn the Redskins into a playoff contender in year one? Is the Heisman winner everything he's cracked up to be?
What about Andrew Luck in Indy? Will he struggle as badly as Peyton Manning did in his first year, or is this Colts team ready to rebound right now?
Is Cleveland's Trent Richardson the best back coming out of college since Adrian Peterson?
The running list of questions could go on and on. But one thing is certain: Fans love the potential of rookies in training camp.
Expect the focus at many camps to be directly on the first-year players.
Peyton Manning in Denver
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In the eyes of many, Peyton Manning's beginning in Denver will be the singular storyline to watch in August.
The Indianapolis Colts quarterback for his entire NFL life, Manning is now coming off major neck surgeries and changing teams for the first time in his career.
Manning's entrance started the Broncos down a path of offensive renaissance, with gadget quarterback Tim Tebow shown the door and quarterback-turned-offensive-coordinator Manning now taking over.
That has some in Denver thinking this team could do big things in Manning's first season.
I'm not sure how much we can really learn from Manning early on in camp, but circle that first preseason game. It should tell us something about how Manning's recovery is really going.
Bad Boys Bouncing Back?
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No two teams in the NFL had worse offseasons this summer than the New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions, both of which made the postseason in 2011.
Following Bountygate, the Saints were hit by some of the most severe penalties ever handed down in the league's history. Without its head coach (Sean Payton) or middle linebacker (Jonathan Vilma) for all of 2012, New Orleans may find it difficult to return to the playoffs this season.
The Lions didn't face any ground-breaking scandals, but the police scanner was heavy on three players counted on for the 2012 season. Nick Fairley, Mikel Leshoure and Aaron Berry were all arrested twice each, leaving the Lions with an NFL-high six arrests this offseason.
Fairley is likely to get suspended, Leshoure has already been docked two games, and Berry was flat-out released after his second run-in with the law.
How will both the Saints and Lions bounce back, beginning in camp? The long trail of redemption begins in August for two of the NFC's most talented teams.