December 15, 2018

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Things to look out for in NFL Training Camps

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As of next week all 32 teams will have started their full team training camps, with some starting this week.  But there will be a few things to keep your eye on, whether from a fans perspective, a fantasy team owner or even from a controversy stand point. Firstly…

Quarterback battles

There are a few teams with depth chart battles going on this summer so it will be interesting to find out who gets the majority share of play runs in training.

New York Jets

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One of the major battles will be happening in New York, with Mark Sanchez doing what he can to keep Geno Smith at bay.  Sanchez comes back into this season with something to prove after the shambles of a performance last season.  Hopefully the introduction of Smith, who comes in with a proven record in college with West Virginia, will either inspire a self rebuild from Sanchez otherwise Geno could be taking the starter position away.

My prediction:  Geno Smith becomes the starter before week 4.

Philadelphia Eagles

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Another battle will unfold in Philadelphia, this time between 3 quarterbacks.  The returning veteran Michael Vick will need to prove that he can still cut it in Chip Kelly’s new offense, but that might prove to be difficult with the likes of Nick Foles and draft pick Matt Barkley nipping at his heels.  We saw flashes of what Foles can do when Vick went out with injury last year.  He’s shown that he has a strong arm on him with a 59-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin within his first few snaps on the field.  The main problem with Foles is that he doesn’t possess the speed that Chip Kelly may be looking for to run his style of offense.  Next onto Barkley, who really impressed a lot of people in college with USC, showing that he has the intelligence needed to be a top-flight signal caller.

My prediction: Chip Kelly really has a tough call here, I see Vick dropping down the depth chart.  It has already been stated that Foles is outshining Vick at the training camp.

Lost leaders

Baltimore Ravens

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A number of players retired at the end of last season, but none so notable as that of Ray Lewis.  For all the good Lewis played out on the field it was his leadership and off field skills that really made him into the player he was.  Now the Ravens will head into the new season as champions, but who will step forward into that leader role?  With the losses of other players such as Ed Reed, Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe it’s really difficult to see who will rise up in the locker room to push the team.  Ideally it should be Joe Flacco, but he hasn’t shown the flair or personality required to stand up in front of a room filled with 53 NFL players and inspire confidence.

During the draft the Ravens signed 4 players who were known for their leadership skills in college, all of whom are defensive players. Matt Elam, Arthur Brown, John Simon and Kapron Lewis-Moore were drafted.

My prediction: Terrell Suggs is the one name on the roster that has the potential to be the leader of the team.  If not, one of the rookies will need to seriously impress to take over the role.

Returning coaches

This season there will be 2 notable returns of head coaches to their teams, both after very different circumstances.

Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis Colts v Pittsburgh Steelers

Firstly, Chuck Pagano.  Returning to the Colts at the end of last season after his battle with cancer, which inspired the team to show their unity and commitment to their boss by all shaving their heads, including a couple of the cheerleaders following suit.  There’s no denying the impact Chucks’s story had on the team, and the NFL.  Now he returns for the start of the season, with a team capable of causing upsets and pushing for a playoff spot.  The roster doesn’t boast as many stars as other teams in the league, but as we’ve seen time and time again it’s better to have teamwork and unity than a team filled with egos.

My prediction: The Colts return strong with Pagano’s influence being the fire behind the teams unity.

New Orleans Saints

Secondly, returning after the Bounty scandal in New Orleans is Sean Payton.  Last season the Saints struggled to make an impact in the NFC, finishing 7-9.  Many attribute this poor performance to the absence of Sean Payton so it will be interesting to see how the returning head coach impacts and shakes up this NFC South team.

My prediction: Sean Payton will hopefully return and restore order at the Saints, with Rob Ryan hired to take care of defensive coordinator duties, the Saints should look to challenge the Falcons for the NFC South title.

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