Every NFL Team's Greatest Mystery Heading into Training Camp

Russell S. Baxter@@BaxFootballGuruContributor IJuly 8, 2015

Every NFL Team's Greatest Mystery Heading into Training Camp

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    It’s the dog days of July and we are still some weeks away from camps opening up.

    That means we still have time to sort out some drama when it comes to all 32 NFL teams.

    Call it: Football…We Wrote.

    Here we will take a look at each club’s major uncertainty, aka mystery, as nearly 2,900 players get ready to pack their bags for a few weeks and get ready to put on the pads.

    Of the many questions that each team has to answer at this time of the year, we focused on the No. 1 issue that may be the most pressing and at the same time one without an immediate solution.

    We will also do our best to solve some of these riddles.

    Of course, we would feel a lot better if we had the likes of (Priest) Holmes, (London) Fletcher and (Marc) Colombo at our disposal. In any case, we’re still a very long ways away from Super Bowl 5-0.

    Book it.

Arizona Cardinals: Will WR Larry Fitzgerald Be a Season-Long Starter?

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Who are we to doubt one of the most productive wide receivers in NFL history?

    That's hardly the case here. But Arizona Cardinals veteran Larry Fitzgerald is coming off a season in which he led the team with 63 receptions but scored a career-low two touchdowns. The 11-year veteran also failed to play in all 16 games for the first time since 2007.

    Was that the result of not having quarterback Carson Palmer all season? Or are there signs of slippage from the league's 19th-leading pass catcher (909 receptions) of all time?

    Chances are it's more the result of the progress made by 2014 rookie John Brown, who finished second on the team with 48 catches but averaged 14.5 yards per reception and scored five times. He and Michael Floyd (six) combined for 11 of the team's 21 receiving touchdowns.

    Will we see Brown more than Fitzgerald in the starting lineup in 2015? It would certainly not be a shock.

Atlanta Falcons: Has the Team Found a Standout Pass-Rusher?

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Last year, the Atlanta Falcons pass rush managed a paltry 22 sacks, as many as Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston.

    Over the past two seasons, the Falcons have played 32 games and amassed a mere 54 sacks. That's as many as the Buffalo Bills managed in 2014 alone.

    Yep, this is a team in dire need of someone who can get to the other team's quarterback. And we don't mean after the game.

    Of course, this is also a defense that allowed the most total yards in the NFL this past season, so it could use some assistance in all regards.

    Enter rookie outside linebacker/defensive end Vic Beasley, who thinks he can offer solutions everywhere.

    "I think I'm an every-down player," said the eighth overall pick in this year's draft to NFL Media's Tiffany Blackmon in late June, via Kevin Patra of NFL.com. "I think that's just motivation for me to go out there and prove that I can be an every-down player."

    Here's something to shoot for. Beasley will wear the No. 44 for the Falcons this season. It's safe to say if that's Atlanta's sack total in 2015, new head coach Dan Quinn and new defensive coordinator Richard Smith should be fairly pleased.

Baltimore Ravens: Can RB Justin Forsett Top His 2014 Performance?

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    From bouncing all over the league to running over opponents this past season, Justin Forsett helped revive a Baltimore Ravens ground attack that had finished 30th in the NFL the previous year.

    After John Harbaugh’s club ran for a franchise-low 1,328 yards in 2013, Forsett finished fifth in the league with 1,266 yards rushing this past season (eight touchdowns) and added 44 receptions for 263 yards.

    All told, the Ravens ranked eighth in the NFL in yards gained on the ground.

    Of course, Forsett's previous six years in the league added up to 1,692 yards rushing and eight scores.

    So what can we expect from the journeyman performer who the Ravens re-signed to the tune of three years and $9 million this offseason? Given the state of Baltimore's offensive line, chances are good things lie ahead.

Buffalo Bills: Will the Signing of Richie Incognito Pay Off?

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    Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

    In the span of two seasons, the Buffalo Bills went from totaling the second-most yards rushing in the league in 2013 to ranking 25th in the NFL in the same category.

    For the most part, the primary performers in the backfield remained the same in the form of running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. The problem seemed to be an offensive front that fell well short of even average. Via Pro Football Focus, only three lines in the league performed worse in 2014.

    The Bills will not only have a new head coach in Rex Ryan but a pair of starting guards who weren't with the team a year ago. Rookie John Miller, a third-round pick from the University of Louisville, will man the left side, while Richie Incognito, out of football in 2014, takes over at the other spot.

    Buffalo needs better play up front, and the hope is the controversial veteran could be a vital addition. But after more than a year away from the game (counting his late-season suspension while with the Miami Dolphins in 2013), will he be up to the task?

    Ryan, offensive coordinator Greg Roman and new running back LeSean McCoy certainly hope so.

Carolina Panthers: Has the Club Found a Reliable Left Tackle?

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    Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

    Back in 2009, Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome used the 23rd overall pick in the draft to grab tackle Michael Oher from the University of Mississippi.

    While things started well for the man mountain, it has been a rocky few years for the six-year pro. The Ravens did not re-sign him in 2014, and he wound up joining the Tennessee Titans. Following a less-than-scintillating showing, the club cut him loose.

    Now he's joined his third team in as many years as the Carolina Panthers hope he can do what Byron Bell (ironically, now with the Titans) failed to do in 2014: Keep quarterback Cam Newton out of harm's way.

    Can Oher flip the script and get his career back on track? If not, could the team turn to Jonathan Martin, who is also with his third team in as many years?

Chicago Bears: Can Adam Gase Fix QB Jay Cutler?

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    Matt Marton/Associated Press

    Let's flash back to 2009, when the Denver Broncos added Adam Gase to their coaching staff and during that same offseason dealt quarterback Jay Cutler to the Chicago Bears.

    Over the past two seasons, Gase has had the luxury of having Peyton Manning at his disposal. In 2013, the veteran signal-caller set an NFL record with 55 touchdown passes, and the team totaled a league-record 606 points.

    In 2014, Cutler also hit a notable mark as well. While he threw for 3,812 yards and 28 scores, he led the NFL with 24 turnovers. Nine seasons with the Broncos and Bears have added up to 183 touchdown passes and 161 turnovers (130 interceptions, 31 lost fumbles) in just 119 regular-season contests.

    It's safe to say Chicago's new offensive coordinator has his work cut out for him. And whether he can pull it off is really anyone's guess.

Cincinnati Bengals: Will We See the DE Michael Johnson of Old?

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    Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    Prior to his signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last offseason (a five-year, $43.75 million contract will do that to a person), defensive end Michael Johnson had been one of the Cincinnati Bengals' more dependable players.

    In five seasons in the Queen City, the 6'7", 270-pound performer averaged basically 40 tackles per year. All told, he also contributed 26.5 sacks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries while batting down 25 passes.

    In 14 games with the Bucs, Johnson totaled only 27 tackles, four sacks and a pair of forced fumbles.

    On March 11, exactly one year to the date he signed with Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers let him go.

    Now we're about to find out if that change of scenery proved to be the wrong move and a return to Marvin Lewis' club is the perfect tonic.

Cleveland Browns: Who's the Tight End?

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    The Cleveland Browns will likely start their 23rd different quarterback in 16 seasons this September when Josh McCown takes the field.

    While the team added wideouts Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline to a receiving corps that already included Andrew Hawkins, Taylor Gabriel and Travis Benjamin, there seems to be continuing doubts when it comes to tight end.

    It's reminiscent of the New York Giants offseason from a year ago.

    The Browns added Rob Housler via free agency, drafted Randall Telfer (USC) in the sixth round and signed a pair of undrafted free agents. They join incumbents Gary Barnidge and Jim Dray, who combined for 30 catches and one touchdown in 2014.

    The unwillingness to re-sign Jordan Cameron, who missed his share of time this past season because of concussion and shoulder issues, is looming large these days.

Dallas Cowboys: Will DE Greg Hardy Have Any Impact This Season?

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    Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

    While it seems the entire world (give or take a few billion people who really don't care) is waiting to see the results of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's appeal of his four-game suspension, there's another decision Dallas Cowboys fans are far more interested in.

    This offseason, the defending NFC East champions signed free-agent defensive end Greg Hardy in an attempt to fix a pass rush that managed a mere 28 sacks in 2014. After sitting out the final 15 games this past season because of his off-field issues, the 2013 Pro Bowler was suspended 10 games by the NFL for his actions.

    Bleacher Report's Jason Cole has the latest on Hardy, who awaits an answer after the league heard his appeal on May 28.

    Meanwhile, the Cowboys and the rest of us recently got the news from Conor Orr of NFL.com that linebacker Rolando McClain won't be around for the first four games of the season after violating the league's substance-abuse policy.

    When he finally sees the field, will Hardy make an impression on opposing quarterbacks? He may be relegated to being a situational pass-rusher in 2015.

Denver Broncos: Is the Offensive Line Still a Big Concern?

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    This past season, no team in the league gave up fewer sacks than the 17 allowed by the Denver Broncos.

    Of course, some of that credit has to go to Peyton Manning, who has always excelled at getting rid of the football.

    Last month, Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post gave us the latest on the five men (or more?) who will be responsible for blocking for running back C.J. Anderson and friends while trying to keep their now 39-year-old quarterback out of harm's way.

    Safe to say this is a new-look unit that features its share of inexperience. But that doesn't seem to bother Gary Kubiak.

    "I have gotten more confident through the years, saying: 'Give me the young guy. We will make it work. Come on, let's go,'" said the Broncos new head coach to Renck. "I don't think there's anything etched in stone. It's going to be very competitive. The biggest thing is that at tackle it is really hard because you are trying to settle Ty down."

    That's Ty as in 2015 second-round draft choice Ty Sambrailo. He'll join a revamped starting lineup that includes left guard Ben Garland, center Gino Gradkowski (obtained via trade from the Baltimore Ravens), right guard Louis Vasquez and right tackle Chris Clark.

    At least we think so…

Detroit Lions: Has the Team Filled in the Gaps on the Defensive Front?

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    The city of Detroit has been the home to Motown.

    But we're going to steal from The Sound of Music here to make our point.

    So long, Ndamukong Suh. Farewell, Nick Fairley.

    You get the picture. Both former first-round defenders left via free agency, as did defensive tackles C.J. Mosley (who actually joined Suh with the Miami Dolphins) and Andre Fluellen. Detroit also traded defensive end George Johnson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    So where does that leave the Lions? There's five-time Pro Bowler Haloti Ngata, as well as free-agent pickups Tyrunn Walker and Corey Wootton. General manager Martin Mayhew opted for defensive tackle Gabe Wright (Auburn) in the fourth round, while defensive ends Ziggy Ansah, Jason Jones and Devin Taylor all return.

    What does it mean? Even with heralded defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, the Lions will be hard-pressed to allow the fewest rushing yards in the league for a second straight season, as well as finish second in the NFL in total defense.

Green Bay Packers: Can NT B.J. Raji Solve the Run-Stopping Issues?

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    The Green Bay Packers won a Super Bowl in 2010 thanks mainly to quarterback Aaron Rodgers, as well as an opportunistic defense that saved its best for the postseason.

    Since then, Mike McCarthy’s team has reached the playoffs, only to continuously fall short of the Big Game. One of the main culprits has been a defense that has had problems stopping the run in all forms, especially when it counts most.

    Over the past two seasons, the Packers have ranked 25th and 23rd, respectively, in the league in rushing defense.

    But consider these disturbing numbers: During the club's most recent championship run in 2010, Dom Capers' defenders allowed only 83.8 yards per game on the ground in four postseason outings. In six playoff games over the past four years, the Packers have surrendered an eye-popping 181.8 yards per game rushing.

    Former Pro Bowler B.J. Raji not only returns but will be back at nose tackle this upcoming season. He's being counted on to help in a big way. But will he be up to the task after missing all of 2014 with a torn biceps?

Houston Texans: Is OLB Jadeveon Clowney Healthy Enough to Help?

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Does anyone recall that the Houston Texans owned the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft and looked to add some firepower to their defense?

    Jadeveon Clowney, we hardly saw you.

    So what does Bill O'Brien's team really have in the form of the former Gamecock? Is he ready to rock the NFL, or is he truly a one-hit wonder?

    We do know that the Texans have J.J. Watt, the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year in the last three seasons. They also feature outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, while Brooks Reed opted for the Atlanta Falcons via free agency.

    Here's what we do know. According to Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com, O'Brien will be proceeding with caution when it comes to his young defender. But the head coach expects to see Clowney on the field when the team opens the regular season at home against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1.

Indianapolis Colts: Is OLB Robert Mathis Primed for a Big Comeback?

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Talk about forgettable.

    In his first 11 seasons at both defensive end and outside linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts, Robert Mathis amassed 111 sacks and an amazing 50 forced fumbles. The 2003 fifth-round pick from Alabama A&M made five Pro Bowls.

    Simply put, there was no 2014. Mathis was going to sit out the season's first four games because of a league suspension for violation of the substance-abuse policy. As it turned out, an Achilles injury shelved him for the entire year.

    The Colts could certainly use his help. And when he's ready he'll team with veteran Trent Cole, late of the Philadelphia Eagles. Minus Mathis this past season, Chuck Pagano's team did manage a respectable 41 sacks, but the run defense remained a big-time issue.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Is the Offense Finally on the Upward Path?

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    Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

    You would hope so. Of course, when you score the fewest points in the NFL two years in a row, things have to get better…right?

    The Jacksonville Jaguars have second-year quarterback Blake Bortles, a slew of young wide receivers such as Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson, and running backs Denard Robinson and rookie T.J. Yeldon. They added two-time Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas (Denver Broncos) and right tackle Jermey Parnell (Dallas Cowboys) via free agency. Jacksonville replaced offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch with Greg Olson.

    Now all Gus Bradley's team has to do is improve on 496 points and 47 offensive touchdowns—in its last 32 games.

Kansas City Chiefs: When Will We See OLB Justin Houston?

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    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    No, we are not going to go the cheap-shot route here.

    Instead of focusing on what the Kansas City Chiefs wide receivers couldn't do this past season (we should all be over that by now), we'll take a look at something the organization better do soon.

    The deadline to ink designated franchise players to long-term contracts is July 15. But let it be known that wide receivers Dez Bryant (Dallas Cowboys) and Demaryius Thomas (Denver Broncos), defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (New York Giants) and Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston have all yet to sign their tenders.

    The latter is the concern here. Houston not only comes off a season in which he led the NFL with 22 sacks, but he's totaled an impressive 43 sacks in his last 43 games dating back to 2012 and has been named to the Pro Bowl each year.

    And exactly just when Houston plans on showing up this season remains the biggest mystery.

Miami Dolphins: Is Head Coach Joe Philbin Feeling Any Heat?

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    He's only been on the job for three seasons (going on four). Yet why does it feel like Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin is consistently on the hot seat?

    That's mainly due to the fact that in each of the last two years, his team has appeared to be on the verge of making the playoffs. In 2013, the Dolphins dropped their final two games (and scored a combined seven points) after an 8-6 start. This past season, Miami sat with a 7-5 mark heading into December but finished 1-3 down the stretch and allowed a combined 141 points in those contests.

    Once again, this team went out and upgraded the roster during the offseason. If it doesn't all come together this season, there may be another kind of change coming sooner than later.

Minnesota Vikings: What Can We Expect from RB Adrian Peterson?

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    Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

    So what can we expect from the 2012 NFL MVP, who has played in just 15 games the past two seasons for different reasons?

    Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson arguably remains the league's most feared running back (although it's no fun trying to tackle Seattle's Marshawn Lynch). Three years ago, he totaled 348 carries for 2,097 yards and a dozen scores. Since then, in 15 contests, he's run the ball 300 times for 1,341 yards and 10 touchdowns.

    Will Peterson be well rested or rusty come September 14 against the San Francisco 49ers? No doubt we are all anxious to find out.

New England Patriots: Are the Champs Set at Cornerback?

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Kyle Arrington and Alfonzo Dennard…

    They were all members of the New England Patriots secondary in 2014 and now play with different teams.

    So what does that mean for the defending Super Bowl champions as they aim to win a second straight title? The Patriots defense was a major factor this past season, something we haven't seen from Bill Belichick's team in recent years.

    The Pats finished 13th in the NFL in total yards allowed in 2014, and their defensive unit allowed only 30 offensive touchdowns. Minus those players in the secondary, along with the likes of defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, the champs will have their work cut out for them, at least in the early stages of the season.

New Orleans Saints: Can FS Jairus Byrd Be a Much-Needed Ball Hawk?

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    Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

    Last offseason, the New Orleans Saints broke the bank to bring in three-time Pro Bowl free safety Jairus Byrd.

    The fact that he went down after four games was a big-time blow to a unit that finished next-to-last in the NFL in total yards allowed and 29th in rushing defense.

    One of the Saints' biggest shortcomings this past year was the fact that they managed a mere 17 takeaways. Going back to 2013, Sean Payton’s club has forced just 36 turnovers.

    New Orleans had better hope Byrd still has that beak for the ball. In his five seasons with the Buffalo Bills, he picked off 22 passes and recovered five opponents' fumbles.

    It is safe to say this defense can use all the help it can get.

New York Giants: Can Steve Spagnuolo Fix the Defense?

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    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    New York Giants fans won't soon forget the impact defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo had on the team in 2007 and 2008.

    Of course, the New Orleans Saints and their followers have their own memories of the coach who ran their defense in 2012…into the ground. That year, the franchise set a dubious NFL record by allowing the most total yards in a season in NFL history.

    Now Spagnuolo returns to the Big Blue and has quite the task ahead of him. This past season the Giants ranked 29th in the league in total defense, and only two teams in the NFL allowed more rushing yards.

    To make matters worse, the future of franchised defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul may be in doubt. The latest, via Jordan Raanan of NJ.com, has the former Pro Bowler in hot water after an accident involving fireworks left him with a hand injury. And that could be the least of his problems.

New York Jets: Is QB Geno Smith Ready to Excel?

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    Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

    It's been a rough pair of seasons for the 2013 second-round draft choice from the University of West Virginia.

    However, despite a trade that brought veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to the New York Jets, Geno Smith is the man behind center and should benefit from the arrival of offensive coordinator Chan Gailey and wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

    What hasn't been a mystery to date has been Smith's inability to avoid mistakes. He has thrown 25 touchdown passes and run for seven scores while committing 41 of the Jets' 53 turnovers in 32 games.

    That's the kind of consistency new head coach Todd Bowles isn't looking for this upcoming season.

Oakland Raiders: Is RB Trent Richardson an All-Time Disappointment?

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    Noah Berger/Associated Press

    Dating back to 2012, running back Trent Richardson has gone from being the third overall selection in that draft to his third football team in four years.

    Now he looks to contribute to an Oakland Raiders team that finished dead last in the league in rushing this past season.

    Granted, Richardson is down the depth chart behind Latavius Murray and fellow free-agent pickup Roy Helu. But the real intrigue is finding out if the former University of Alabama standout has enough to remain on an NFL roster in 2015.

    Remember, Richardson began his career with the Cleveland Browns having rushed for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns while catching 51 passes for 367 yards and a score in his rookie season. In his two-year stint with the Indianapolis Colts, he ran for 977 yards, totaled 55 receptions and scored a mere seven touchdowns.

    This will be intriguing to watch.

Philadelphia Eagles: Has Chip Kelly Really Settled on a Starting Quarterback(s)?

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Let's do a little quick math. Trust us, it won't take long.

    The Philadelphia Eagles have four quarterbacks on their roster: Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow and Matt Barkley. (G.J. Kinne actually moved to wide receiver this offseason.) The quartet combined for eight starts this past season, all by Sanchez—in a relief role.

    Right now, the front-runner appears to be Bradford, who missed the final 25 games of his tenure with the St. Louis Rams. In his eight appearances this past season, Sanchez threw for 2,418 yards and 14 scores but also committed 14 turnovers. Tebow hasn't seen action in an NFL game since 2012.

    We put the over/under at Philadelphia starting quarterbacks at three this upcoming season.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Has the Secondary Been Fixed?

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    This past season, the Pittsburgh Steelers ranked 27th in the league in passing yards allowed and surrendered 30 scores through the air.

    This upcoming season they will play without veteran cornerback Ike Taylor and eight-time Pro Bowl strong safety Troy Polamalu. Given their age and/or eroding skills, some would say their retirements couldn't have come at a better time.

    But that doesn't solve the problem, one exasperated by a less-than-potent pass rush as of late.

    The starting corners are veterans Cortez Allen and William Gay—the latter returned all three of his interceptions in 2014 for touchdowns. Third-year pro Shamarko Thomas takes over for Polamalu, while Mike Mitchell returns at free safety. The Steelers added cornerbacks Senquez Golson and Doran Grant and safety Gerod Holliman in the draft.

    With new defensive coordinator Keith Butler at the helm, it could be an interesting year for this defense—one way or another.

St. Louis Rams: Does DT Nick Fairley Actually Add Quality Depth?

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    What's better than a four-man defensive front that features a quartet of first-round draft choices?

    How about adding a fifth first-rounder for depth? That's what the St. Louis Rams now have with the offseason addition of defensive tackle Nick Fairley, the 13th overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions.

    While the talent has always been there, the massive defender has underachieved to date in many people's eyes. St. Louis is counting on him to provide depth to a defensive unit that features the likes of defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn and defensive tackles Michael Brockers and Aaron Donald—the latter was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2014.

    What would be really refreshing to head coach Jeff Fisher is to have the four-year pro available on a regular basis. The 6'5", 291-pounder has yet to play a full season for a various reasons and suited up for only eight games in 2014.

San Diego Chargers: Is It TE Ladarius Green's Time?

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    Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

    Many have been waiting for talented tight end Ladarius Green to have that memorable game that would open everyone's eyes to his talent.

    The three-year pro has totaled 40 catches for 658 yards, an impressive 16.5 yards per grab, to go along with three touchdowns.

    With eight-time Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates out for the first four games of the regular-season due to a suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, per Dan Hanzus of NFL.com, Green will have an opportunity to show what he can truly do. He's made just 15 starts in three seasons.

San Francisco 49ers: Can Head Coach Jim Tomsula Help the Team Rebound?

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    Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

    We are all wondering if new San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula will be up to the task of filling the khakis of Jim Harbaugh.

    That's the biggest question surrounding a club that went a combined 44-19-1 the past four seasons and reached the playoffs three times, including an appearance in Super Bowl XLVII in 2013.

    Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com has his thoughts on the team's new sideline leader, who's been with the club since 2007 and owns a 1-0 record as the Niners' interim head coach for one game in 2010.

    Tomsula was part of the staff pre-Harbaugh, which means he dealt with a team that had not yet found a way to win despite a slow but steady influx of young talent. With the 49ers coming off an 8-8 season and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010, the veteran coach may actually be the right person to get this club back on track.

    Of course, the season-long comparisons have already begun, as Tomsula's personality is not that of the current head coach of the Michigan Wolverines. Then again, Harbaugh's persona is unique, to say the least.

    Not that the Niners' newest sideline leader is concerned.

Seattle Seahawks: Is Defensive Coordinator Kris Richard Ready for This Task?

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    It's only natural when you take over for someone who was as successful as Dan Quinn that questions will arise.

    How do you fill the headset of a defensive coordinator whose team allowed the fewest total yards and fewest points in the league each of the past two seasons?

    Yes, it is head coach Pete Carroll's team, and we can't underestimate his influence on the defense. But fair or unfair, if the Seattle Seahawks defense shows any slippage this upcoming season, new defensive coordinator Kris Richard (formerly the defensive backs/cornerbacks coach) will be under the microscope.

    Then again, that fall-off has to come first. And frankly, there's been no sign of that in recent seasons.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Can RB Doug Martin Regain His Star Form?

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    He may have to if he wants to remain with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    The "he" is obviously running back Doug Martin, the 31st overall pick in 2012 by these same Bucs.

    As a rookie, he lit up opposing defenses by totaling 1,926 yards from scrimmage and scoring one dozen touchdowns.

    Then the injury bug bit the former Boise State star, and he hasn't been the same since. A total of 17 games the last two seasons have added up to 1,080 yards from scrimmage and three scores.

    The Buccaneers have already decided not to pick up the fifth-year option on the three-year pro. However, a performance reminiscent of his rookie season of 2013 may give the organization something to think about before it allows Martin to hit the free-agent market in 2016.

Tennessee Titans: Can OLB Brian Orakpo Stay Healthy All Season?

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    With Hall of Fame cornerback and coaching legend Dick LeBeau in Nashville, it was only natural that the Tennessee Titans would look to upgrade their talent at outside linebacker.

    The big question in adding three-time Pro Bowler Brian Orakpo is not a matter of how but if.

    In his first three seasons with the Washington Redskins, two of which resulted in Pro Bowl invitations, the 2009 first-round pick racked up 28.5 sacks.

    Over the last three seasons, Orakpo missed a combined 23 contests in 2012 and 2014, but in between, he totaled 10 sacks and went back to the Pro Bowl in 2013.

    Such is the life of this Brian. Can he be counted on this upcoming season?

Washington Redskins: Are Jay Gruden and QB Robert Griffin III on the Same Page?

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    Evan Vucci/Associated Press

    Could this be the biggest mystery of our 32 examples?

    Who knows what kind of drama goes on behind the scenes in the nation's capital when it comes to the head coach and the starting quarterback of the Washington Redskins?

    Here's what we do know, courtesy of an April interview between Robert Griffin III and Larry Michael of Redskins Nation.

    "We both want to win," said the three-year signal-caller in regard to head coach Jay Gruden, as recapped by JP Finlay of CSNWashington.com.

    "Jay came in here with the plan to help develop me as a quarterback, and help this team win," added Griffin. "He wants me to go out there and be the quarterback he knows I can be, and I will be. My job is not to characterize or judge him as a coach."

    That's a good start following a season in which he threw four touchdown passes and six interceptions and was sacked 33 times in nine games.

    Now let's see how long this harmony truly lasts.

    All free-agent information and player signings/transactions are courtesy of Spotrac. Depth chart information comes via Ourlads. Unless otherwise noted, all player and team statistics come from Pro Football Reference.


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