Four Key NFL Training Camp Storylines
by Trevor Whenham - 8/6/2009
NFL training camps are now underway for all 30 teams, and the agony and boredom of preseason games are just around the corner. It's far too early to get a real sense of what teams really look like and what is going on on the field actually means. In fact, drawing too many conclusions from what we see in the first couple weeks of training camp can be very dangerous - players who shine in August are very rarely relevant in December.
Instead of focusing on individual players and out-of-context first hand reports from training camps what we can do now to evaluate storylines that are going to make a big impact on how the season turns out. Once those storylines are in place we can then start to apply what we see and hear to them and change the storylines as we need to. This will give you a framework for making your betting decisions - especially early in the season. Here are a look at four key storylines I see emerging as training camps get under way:
The end of the Jim Johnson Era - Johnson, who died of cancer last week, was one of the great defensive coordinators in NFL history. In ten years with the Eagles, Johnson consistently put defenses on the field that opposing quarterbacks feared. He had an incredible knack for creating pressure on a quarterback without sacrificing presence elsewhere on the field. He had more than his share of Pro Bowlers, but he didn't rely on top level talent to do what he did - he was about a system more than star power. Johnson has been replaced internally, with Sean McDermott taking over. He has climbed the ladder from the very bottom in the Eagles' organization, so that should make the transition somewhat smoother. He's half the age of Johnson, though, and he clearly won't command the same immediate respect that Johnson did. Philadelphia has been able to accomplish a lot over the last decade, and much of it has been because the defense hasn't made mistakes and has taken a lot of pressure off the offense. Until we know if that is going to continue, and if McDermott has an approach that is half as effective as Johnson's was, we can't really get a good sense of what Philadelphia has to offer in their eternally tough division.
The post-Favre era in Minnesota - Brett Favre never wore purple, but he certainly impacted the team immensely. His summer-long flirtation was a huge distraction, and it has repercussions that we won't fully understand for a while. The Vikings spent a long time dancing with an uncooperative partner, and one that didn't provide a long term solution at that, so the obvious conclusion is that they aren't very excited with the talent they have at quarterback. Even if that's not true this dalliance has almost certainly undermined the confidence of the players they have in the position. Add to that the fact that many of the prominent offensive players on the team, including all-world running back Adrian Peterson, were vocally and publicly in support of acquiring Favre, and you could have an offense that lacks cohesiveness. As a unit they were far from adequate in a total sense last year, and they haven't done as much as some might have hoped to change that in the off-season, so this team cannot afford to perform at less than their best.
JaMarcus Russell in Oakland - No. 1 overall draft picks always get a lot of opportunity to prove their worth - especially at quarterback. On that front, though, Russell has a lot to prove. The Raiders are a team without focus or direction, and they desperately need some. A franchise quarterback needs to be at the center of that, but Russell has yet to show the focus, intelligence, consistency, or effectiveness that would lead us to believe that that is what he is. He needs to emerge, and quickly, if this team is going to go anywhere. It won't help that he doesn't have a lot of talent around him, or that the talented and effective Jeff Garcia is breathing down his neck. Russell has all of the natural ability in the world, but now we need to know if he can do anything more than look pretty on paper.
New days in Denver - It's strange to see the Broncos being led by someone other than their quarterback of the future. Jay Cutler is now in Chicago, and Kyle Orton, his replacement, raises all sorts of questions and concerns. Stranger still is the fact that, for the first time since 1994, Mike Shanahan is not roaming the sidelines as the man in charge. Like only a few veteran coaches in the league, Shanahan became the identity of his team. He wasn't always successful, but his presence added instant credibility to the team. Now they have a brash new prodigy in his place, and the early days have been more than a little rocky. When a coach is in one place for so long we always have at least a sense of what to expect from year to year. Now nothing in Denver can be taken for granted.
Most Recent NFL Handicapping
- 2021 Super Bowl Predictions
- College and NFL Football Biggest Line Moves for Sept. 26-27
- 2020 Carolina Panthers Predictions and Season Win Total Picks
- 2020 Detroit Lions Predictions and Season Win Total Picks
- 2020 Chicago Bears Predictions and Season Win Total Picks
- 2020 Arizona Cardinals Predictions and Season Win Total Picks
- 2020 Atlanta Falcons Predictions and Season Win Total Picks
- 2020 Los Angeles Rams Predictions and Season Win Total Picks
- 2020 Seattle Seahawks Predictions and Season Win Total Picks
- 2020 Denver Broncos Predictions and Season Win Total Picks