Several NFL teams reported for the start of training camp last week, officially kicking off the 2013 season. As players and coaches try to regroup after a busy summer highlighted by big-time free agent deals (Mike Wallace to the Dolphins) and blockbuster trades (Darrelle Revis to the Bucs), training camp is where they start to put all of the pieces in place.
After a whirlwind of an offseason, here are five storylines to keep an eye on.
The Health of RG3’s Knee
Washington Redskins’ players reported to camp last Thursday, and Robert Griffin III still believes he’ll be 100 percent ready for the start of the regular-season. He was on the field for the camp-opening practice, but won’t participate in full team drills right away. The Redskins plan on shutting him down for the entire preseason, meaning any insight into his health will only come by following their training camp very closely to see what he’s doing and, perhaps more importantly, what he’s not doing.
How will Bill Belichick use Tim Tebow?
Yes, yes, everyone knows that Tim Tebow plays quarterback. But seriously, what’s he going to do this season? It’s universally acknowledged that, as a passer, he’s nowhere near Tom Brady or even Brady’s backup, Ryan Mallet. If Tebow is included on the Pats’ 45-man game-day roster each week, he’ll need to do more than hold a clipboard. And if he’s going to learn anything new – maybe as a move to tight end or as a dynamic fullback – training camp is where he’ll do it. In fact, he’s already been spotted participating in running back and wide receiver drills early into camp.
What will Philly’s Offense Look Like Under Chip Kelly?
Former Oregon coach Chip Kelly brings his lightning-quick offensive scheme to the Eagles, a team loaded with talented speedsters like DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. But what will it look like? Oregon’s offense averaged 20.9 seconds per play last season. That’s all it took for Kelly to get the play in from the sidelines, line everyone up, go through a cadence and then run the full play until the whistle blows. If that’s how it works this season for Philly, they’ll be facing a lot of tired and upset defensive linemen late in games.
Who is this year’s Vontaze Burfict?
Before last year’s training camp, the Cincinnati Bengals took a gamble and signed undrafted linebacker Vontaze Burfict from Arizona State. He had performed poorly at the NFL Combine, drawing questions about his work ethic and overall measurables. The move drew a lot of criticism, until camp opened and he blew everyone away with his playmaking ability. He went on to lead the team in tackles (127) after starting in all but two games.
So who will be this year’s surprise undrafted player? Three names stand out: QB Matt Scott from Arizona, ILB Kevin Reddick from North Carolina, and WR Da’Rick Rogers from Tennessee Tech. Scott was touted as a second- to third-round prospect before falling out of the draft due to concerns about his height (a generous 6 feet 2 inches) and inexperience (one year as a starter), but signed with Jacksonville, a team with little QB talent. Reddick, picked up by the Saints (a team desperate for linebackers) after the draft, finished his senior year with 85 tackles and 6.5 sacks, and should at least find a role on special teams. Rogers is a supremely talented player who transferred from Tennessee to Tennessee Tech, and in one game last season he set school records with 18 catches for 303 yards.
Will there be any rookie starters at QB this year???
Last season was the first time since 1970 that five rookie quarterbacks started their team’s season-opener. Perhaps more eye opening is the fact that they all not only survived the season, but played exceptionally well. Things will be a lot different this season. Only one quarterback was drafted in the first round last May (E.J. Manuel by the Buffalo Bills), and even he isn’t a lock as a starter in week one. It will be interesting to see which, if any, of this year’s rookie signal-callers will impress enough during camp to surprise their coaches and earn some playing time.
What do you think will be the major storylines coming out of this season’s training camps? Let us know in the comments below!
Photos: Al Bello/Getty Images, Getty Images, Rich Schultz/Getty Images, Christian Petersen/Getty Images, Rick Stewart/Getty Images