10 burning questions in the nfl


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Jan 22, 2006
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10 burning questions in the nfl
Questions at quarterback, playoff possibilities, comeback kids and: Can T.O. behave?
By Mike Klis
Denver Post Staff Writer

As the sun bakes and air smothers, grown men, many of them beefy, strap on helmets and shoulder pads before heading out for a long, double-workout day of sweat.

It may not be an ideal time for pigskins to fly, but maybe that's the point of NFL training camps. By Tuesday, when the Vikings become the last to open camp, all 32 teams will have started the process of separating the meek from the strong, the best from the rest.

There are jobs to keep, playbooks to master, defenses to mold, playoff spots to reach.

"I think this year is the most unpredictable year we've ever had," said NFL analyst Joe Theismann of ESPN, a former quarterback. "Not necessarily because of the new coaches, because it's a players' league. And what you have is question marks at the quarterback position."

The top 10 issues greeting the start of NFL training camps:


Which of the 10 new coaches will have a Nick Saban-like first-year impact?

Merely by implementing the Broncos' zone-blocking running scheme, Gary Kubiak should dramatically improve the 2-14 Texans.

Herm Edwards' defensive mentality will be exactly what the Chiefs need or a poor fit for a team accustomed to playing 31-27 games.

"To me, it's Rod Marinelli," ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth, a former Broncos guard, said of the Lions' first-year coach. "That's been the most undisciplined, lazy, anything you don't want in a football team, that's what the Detroit Lions have been in recent years. And Marinelli is going to bring discipline."



Can the Colts rebound from their late-season collapse?

After starting 13-0 last season, the Colts were doomed by clinching the AFC's No. 1 seed too early, the tragic death of coach Tony Dungy's son and, finally, the seemingly destined Steelers.

"We've taken the attitude that we won't use excuses," Dungy said in March. "But maybe we did lose a little of that competitive edge at the end of the season. Even though we played all our regulars, players aren't dumb. You can't trick them into believing there's a lot at stake when they know what the situation is."

Despite their disappointing finish, the Colts are 6-to-1 favorites to win the Super Bowl this season. Why? Peyton Manning is the biggest reason. He might go down as one of the best quarterbacks ever if he can figure out how to beat the 3-4 defenses used by the Steelers and Patriots.



Will Larry Johnson run for 2,000 yards?

Once Priest Holmes was out with severe head and neck trauma last season, Johnson took off as the Chiefs' star running back. He rushed for 1,351 yards and scored 17 touchdowns in his final nine games. Project those numbers over a 16-game season and Johnson would have gained more than 2,400 yards.

Working against Johnson this season may be his new coaching staff. When coach Dick Vermeil retired, offensive coordinator Al Saunders left for a $2 million-a-year job with the Redskins.



Which 2005 nonplayoff teams will rise?

The last time the Dolphins had this much national support, President Nixon was futilely diagramming a post pattern for Paul Warfield. The difference is, South Florida has more faith in Nick Saban now than it did in Nixon then.

And rightly so. Warfield was covered, and the Dolphins were dominated by the Cowboys in Super Bowl VI. Thirty-five years later, the

Dolphins are the consensus "sleeper" pick in the AFC to reach Super Bowl XLI after they won their final six games last season and acquired former Pro Bowl quarterback Daunte Culpepper during the offseason.

The Cowboys with Terrell Owens, the Chiefs with Herm Edwards, the Chargers with a considerably softer schedule - their first three games are against Oakland, Tennessee and Baltimore - and the Falcons with hopes of a career year from Michael Vick also carry realistic playoff aspirations.



Can Dallas do T.O.?

The Cowboys have good reasons to believe Terrell Owens will behave. For starters, by drawing $10 million this season, he no longer is unhappy about his contract. Also, Bill Parcells figures to be the one coach who can command Owens' respect.

Perhaps the biggest test of Owens' behavior will be the week of Oct. 8, the Cowboys' fourth game. That's when they play at Philadelphia.



Who are the comeback candidates?

It's not a stretch to say the 2006 AFC playoff pool is dependent on how well Broncos wide receiver Javon Walker and quarterbacks Carson Palmer, Daunte Culpepper and the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger recover from injuries.

Walker, Palmer and Culpepper are coming off torn ACLs. Roethlisberger may deal with weight-loss and preparation issues because of the injuries he received during his well-publicized motorcycle accident.

In the NFC, the Saints' plans of avoiding another dreadful season depend on Drew Brees' recovery from a shoulder injury suffered when he was playing against the Broncos in the Chargers' final game of the 2005 season.



Who will be the best first: Matt Leinart, Vince Young or Jay Cutler?

Although there are NFL scouts, coaches and analysts outside Denver who believe Cutler is the best of the Big Three, it shouldn't take long for Leinart to replace brittle Kurt Warner as the Cardinals' starting quarterback.

The Titans' Young may need the most development, but he is competing against the weakest first-stringer in Billy Volek.

Don't be shocked if by the season's halfway point, Leinart and Young are starting while Cutler is promoted to second string behind Jake Plummer.



How does Bill Belichick's world turn?

Perhaps, fate is striking back at coach Belichick, who had led the New England Patriots to three of the past five Super Bowl titles. First, Belichick had his quest for a fourth world championship intercepted by the Broncos' Champ Bailey in the end zone during the second round of the AFC playoffs in January. Then his personal life was rocked last week when documents from a New Jersey divorce case accused Belichick of being the "other man" in the marriage breakup.

Could this be the start of a gradual fall for Belichick and the Patriots? Or will first-round draft choice Laurence Maroney resurrect a moribund running game and return the Pats to prominence?

"I think as long as Tom Brady is their quarterback, I see them as a perennial contender," ESPN's Joe Theismann said. "I think Tom Brady is the best quarterback in football."



Which 2005 playoff teams will fall?

Consider that of the 12 playoff teams in 2004, seven did not return to the postseason in 2005 - a whopping 58.3 percent turnover.

This season, the Bengals likely will drop if quarterback Carson Palmer doesn't adequately recover from the knee injury he suffered in their playoff loss to the Steelers.

A rigorous schedule figures to make it impossible for the Jaguars to approach their surprising 12-4 record of 2005.

The Jaguars' first four games this season: Dallas, Pittsburgh, at Indianapolis and at Washington.



Can the Steelers repeat?

First, there was talk of how charmed the Steelers were throughout the postseason last season. Then Ben Roethlisberger, not wearing a helmet, flipped airborne when his motorcycle crashed during the offseason. Yet he suffered no injury that would be considered serious in football.

Bill Cowher must be living right.

Even scarier than the Steelers' apparent good fortune is that their two best players, Roethlisberger and safety Troy Polamalu, are only 24 and 25, respectively. Yes, the Steelers will miss the chain-moving Jerome Bettis. But in Roethlisberger and Polamalu, the Steelers have the kind of youthful core capable of overcoming yearly personnel losses.
To me, I am interested how Daunte Culpepper does with the Dolphins. Can he recover from that nasty injury and be productive like two years ago? Can he also take them to the Super Bowl? I wish Daunte the best of luck. I have no hard feelings for him.
Miami could be very scary if Daunte can rebound. And I think he will.
Well now that Willie Roaf retired, the question is can the chiefs win a game? :mad:
Oh, you'll win some games, but you'll need Holmes to keep that rushing attack fresh. Johnson will be running like a scalded cat.
Rupert said:
Oh, you'll win some games, but you'll need Holmes to keep that rushing attack fresh. Johnson will be running like a scalded cat.
But Holmes may not even be back, and if I was him, I'd say to Hell with it without Roaf!! :(
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