This offseason has produced several interesting trends that will carry over into the season. Most of these trends relate to situations revolving round specific players. This includes players pushing for playing time, contract negotiations and rookies emerging as playmakers.
These trends are aimed more at season-long situations rather than short-term developments.
Steven Jackson has carried the football 2,395 times over his nine-year NFL career. At age 29, Jackson has a lot of wear and tear on his body. This is why the Atlanta Falcons plan on limiting his carries throughout the preseason.
Look for this trend to continue into the regular season. Atlanta isn’t just looking to have another good regular season, as it has its sights set on making a run at the Super Bowl. It would make sense for the Falcons to be smart in regard to how many carries they give Jackson.
Atlanta can use Jacquizz Rodgers to help keep Jackson fresh for the playoff run.
The Cincinnati Bengals’ offense survived last season with the steady BenJarvus Green-Ellis as the primary running back. However, the team drafted North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard to add more quickness and big-play potential.
Bernard has already impressed his coaches with Hue Jackson already seeing a player who could be an every-down back. The key to Bernard maximizing his playing time will be how he adjusts as a pass-protector.
Rookie running backs typically need time to learn how to properly protect the quarterback. Bernard is a fearless player and someone who’ll work to perfect every part of his game. It won’t be long before he takes over as the team’s go-to running back.
Chip Kelly is going to have his hands full with the quarterback position in his first season as an NFL coach. Michael Vick is back in the mix after the Philadelphia Eagles re-worked his contract. He’ll be competing with Nick Foles for the starting job this preseason.
Because of his experience and $7 million price tag, Vick is considered the early favorite to win the starting job. Many are also pointing to the fact that Vick’s athleticism matches up with the type of quarterbacks Kelly featured at Oregon.
However, Vick’s injury and consistency issues leave the door open for Foles. There are plenty of reports in the Philadelphia area that point to Foles as the best candidate for the job. Whoever wins the starting spot will need early success, or he will face a ton of scrutiny from the media.
The New England Patriots are facing an interesting training camp situation as they look for players Tom Brady can target. This offseason was unkind to the New England pass-catchers. Rob Gronkowski has had a series of surgeries, Aaron Hernandez is facing murder chargers and Wes Welker decided to sign with the Denver Broncos.
Expect to see reports like this one from ESPN Boston that suggests undrafted free-agent Kenbrell Thompkins could push for playing time. The Patriots need to be willing to give plenty of players opportunities to emerge as legitimate options.
It’s likely we even see them bringing in other veteran free agents throughout the course of the season. This year will be one of the toughest tests of Tom Brady’s career.
Geno Atkins has emerged as one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. His quickness off the ball and tenacity help him generate a ton of pressure on the quarterback. Last year, he led all defensive tackles with 12.5 sacks.
Because he slipped into the fourth round of the 2010 draft, Atkins’ salary doesn’t match up with his level of play. He and the Cincinnati Bengals have discussed terms of an extension, but have yet to come to an agreement.
Cincinnati has been known to play hardball in contract negotiations. It can’t allow a situation to develop with Atkins that resembles the ones that occurred with Carson Palmer and Corey Dillon.
It’d be in the Bengals' best interest to solve this contract situation as soon as possible. This is a team looking to make a Super Bowl run and can’t afford to have a distraction like this surrounding the team.
Josh Freeman’s career has been a constant series of ups and downs. He has shown flashes of being a potential long-term starter at the quarterback position. However, Freeman has also had performances that suggest he’s better suited for a backup role.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will likely use this season to determine whether or not Freeman has a future with the team. Tampa Bay can’t expect to take a step forward until Freeman starts to show some type of consistency.
Teams rely on the quarterback position to stabilized and run the offense. Freeman’s tendency to implode and turn the ball will keep the Buccaneers from challenging for a playoff spot. This is why each week’s performance will be evaluated and scrutinized.
Tampa Bay’s decision to draft Mike Glennon in the third round gives the Buccaneers another option should Freeman falter. It also puts even more pressure on Freeman to raise his level of play.