Questions That Still Must Be Answered in NFL Training Camps
NFL offseason training activities give the NFL world the first glimpse into the coming regular season. Rookies mix with stalwart veterans and free-agent signees, and new coaches get their bearings and install their systems.
Depth charts, position battles and possible alignment changes get their first exposure to the outside world. Sometimes there are surprises, and sometimes there aren't.
Either way, the outside world only gets a peek. The general public sees nothing, and even the local beat writers and media only get limited viewing windows. From those tidbits, information-hungry fans and media alike extrapolate as much as they can about where teams and players will be at headed into training camp.
Of course, this leaves a lot of huge questions unanswered, or only partially answered. We still don't know a lot of very important things about some of these teams, even after the first wave of OTAs.
Which are the biggest questions that won't be answered until training camp?
Can Lamarr Woodley Return to Form?
Not long ago, LaMarr Woodley looked to be the latest in a long line of dominant Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers. Woodley compiled 25 sacks, 92 solo tackles, 30 assists and a Pro Bowl nod in his first two years as a starter in 2008 and 2009.
In the following two years, Woodley's production has steeply declined. Last season, he managed just four sacks, 27 tackles and 11 assists. Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Woodley's practice habits have been lacking lately, and Steelers officials want him to prepare more diligently to avoid injury.
With bookend outside linebacker James Harrison gone to Cincinnati, and rookie Jarvis Jones set to take his place, the Steelers need Woodley to step back up and set the tone for this season and beyond.
Can Reggie Bush Lead the Detroit Lions Back to the Playoffs?
Former New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins running back Reggie Bush has thrown himself into his new identity as a member of the Detroit Lions.
For a player notoriously pampered at USC, and whose professional career has been spent in two of the nation's hottest nightlife cities, he sure seems excited about the lunch-pail approach expected in Detroit.
"I came here to work," Bush told Chris McCosky of the Detroit News. "I didn't come here to vacation. I came here to win championships, to win football games, and that's what I look forward to doing."
That attitude is to be commended, but can a running back with six years of service and only one 1,000-plus-yard season to his credit elevate a 4-12 team to contender status?
How Quickly Will Geno Smith Take over for the New York Jets?
Despite a bluster filibuster that started the day Tim Tebow held his first press conference in New York, and continues to this day, the Jets quarterback picture is clear.
The situation is "unacceptable," as head coach Rex Ryan described Sanchez's OTA performance to the New York Daily News. The sooner second-round pick Geno Smith is named the starter—and Sanchez allowed to seek his fortune—the better, for everyone.
Can the Arizona Cardinals' Revamped Passing Game Click?
New Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians knew when he took over he had to rebuild the offensive line and entire quarterback depth chart. He did both, most notably trading for starting quarterback Carson Palmer and drafting talented, athletic guard Jonathan Cooper.
The one thing Arians presumably had to work with was a talented receiving corps, led by stud Larry Fitzgerald. According to Bob Baum of the Associated Press (via Yahoo! Sports), though, the receivers aren't picking up the offense fast enough.
''I don't like mistakes. I really don't like mental mistakes,'' Arians said, while singling out the receivers. ''Especially if you made the same mistake last week. That should be corrected and in the books by now, and our receivers are not getting that done.''
The Cardinals' hopes for 2013 rest on the passing game getting in sync during training camp.
Will Jimmy Haslam Remain Owner of the Cleveland Browns?
While this is happening above the football people's pay grade, to borrow a phrase, a shadow is hanging over the entire Cleveland Browns franchise.
For those who haven't heard, new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is currently under federal investigation for his role in a scandal involving his "other" business, Pilot Flying J, a chain of commercial fuel stations.
At the recent owners' meetings, according to USA Today's Jarrett Bell, Haslam gave a presentation appraising fellow owners of his role in the scandal and offered a personal apology for any damage he's done to the NFL brand.
Still, if Haslam is eventually found guilty of federal crimes, it's hard not to see an eventual shakeup in the Browns' future—one that could have big repercussions for the just-hired front office and coaching staffs.
Who Will Call Plays for the Dallas Cowboys This Season?
After Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones all but yanked the headphones off head coach Jason Garrett at the end of last season, it's been an open question as to who's calling the offensive shots in 2013.
As ESPNDallas.com's Calvin Watkins explained, the presumed choice is offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Bill Callahan—though neither Callahan nor Garrett will confirm anything at this point.
For a cap-strapped team with massive investments in quarterback Tony Romo and the weapons around him, deciding who's going to run the offense is something that must be settled sooner rather than later...and it's arguably already "later."
What Will the Philadelphia Eagles QB Rotation Look Like?
The Philadelphia Eagles' offense could be the subject of two or three of the NFL's most burning questions this season. With former Oregon head coach and zone-read impresario Chip Kelly taking over, fans can only speculate how much of his explosive, unconventional offense Kelly will actually implement in the NFL.
A more fundamental question might be, "Who's playing quarterback?"
Second-year man Nick Foles looked promising as a rookie but is not a stellar runner and would be a poor fit for the Oregon offense.
Fourth-round pick Matt Barkley, by some evaluators' estimation, was the second-best prospect in the 2013 draft.
Per Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Foles took 21 first-team snaps to Vick's 15 in the seven-on-seven and team drills. This bolsters the notion that the two might split time, or that Foles might enter the season as the nominal No. 1.
When Will Keenan Allen Get It?
When ESPN.com's Adam Schefter reported that receiver Keenan Allen's combine drug test was red-flagged due to excessive water in the sample, tongues started wagging.
Jeff Faraudo of the Mercury News relayed a steadfast denial of the ESPN report from Allen's agent, J.T. Johnson, but the damage was done. Naysayers started coming out of the woodwork.
According to Faraudo, an anonymous NFL scout complained that Allen "didn't interview great" and was "big-timing" teams at the combine. Allen's private workouts weren't great, either, as a nagging injury kept him from going full speed.
Then, Allen posted a Vine of himself wearing an Oakland Raiders hat. Lobshots.com archived a still of the since-deleted video and some of the reactions.
As Kevin Acee of U-T San Diego said, it's a "non-story," but Allen needs to recognize the question marks piling up around his attitude and keep his name out of the papers—and out of Twitter's trending topics—until he's producing on the field.
What Will the San Francisco 49ers Do to Replace Michael Crabtree?
The San Francisco 49ers' roster is practically overrun with talent, but wide receiver was one of the few spots where some depth could have been added. After the departure of Randy Moss and Ted Ginn Jr., it seemed as though rookie receiver Quinton Patton had a chance to make some noise as a top-three target.
Comcast SportsNet Bay Area's Matt Maiocco then reported Patton was "nowhere close" to being ready during rookie camp, well behind where he'll need to be to challenge the veterans.
Then, the worst happened: No. 1 receiver Michael Crabtree tore his Achilles tendon. As Bleacher Report's Dave Siebert explained, there's a possibility that aggressive treatment and rehab could allow Crabtree to return at some point during this coming season.
Until then, though, the pressure will be on Patton, free-agent signee Anquan Boldin and 2012 first-round pick A.J. Jenkins to step up and keep the 49ers' championship hopes alive.
When Will Robert Griffin III Be Ready to Play?
It must have done every Washington Redskins fan—indeed, every football fan—good to see Robert Griffin III participating in Redskins OTAs.
According to Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk, Griffin said he'd been cleared for everything except "explosive sprinting and cutting," both of which are huge aspects of the two-dimensional game that makes Griffin so dangerous.
The question isn't necessarily whether Griffin will be able to strap on the pads by the first week of the season. Rather, it's whether he'll be able to get in the offseason and preseason work needed to take the next step in his development. As Smith notes, Griffin has been sidelined because the Redskins played fast and loose with his health; they'll be wise to take it slowly this time around.