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5 key questions ahead of NFL training camps

Matt Fitzgerald

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We’re very near the time when NFL training camps will officially open, and while all 32 teams can have varying degrees of irrational optimism, there are plenty of intriguing questions that’ll be answered leading up to the 2021 season.

Looking ahead to NFL training camps this summer, find out the questions we’re most interested in discovering the answers to. You may not be surprised to know much of it centers around quarterbacks, because let’s face it, there’s plenty of intrigue at that position.

What is Aaron Rodgers’ status with the Green Bay Packers?

Well, we all know what’s going on. Aaron Rodgers wants out of Green Bay, because the Packers failed to inform him of their plans to trade up and draft Jordan Love in 2020, and have just done a woeful job surrounding him with star talent throughout his tenure.

All kinds of rumors are flying around. It’d be in everyone’s best interest if the Pack just moved on and traded Rodgers. Alas, they’re apparently too stubborn to do that, and would rather continue worsening their relationship with him, make cryptic public statements and hold him against his wishes.

In the midst of all this, Love is tasked with following a living legend. No, scratch that: two living legends.

What are the chances Green Bay’s quarterback luck spans another decade after being spoiled with Brett Favre and Rodgers for all these years? Love has an exciting skill set and upside, yet it seems the odds wouldn’t favor him.

Will Aaron Rodgers end his career in Green Bay?

Which rookie quarterbacks will earn starting jobs?

5 key questions ahead of NFL training camps
Jun 9, 2021; Lake Forest, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) passes the ball during organized team activities at Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson went first and second in the draft respectively. The Jacksonville Jaguars are going to start Lawrence Week 1, and Wilson is taking every single rep with the New York Jets’ starters.

Even though the San Francisco 49ers traded two future first-round picks to move up and take Trey Lance No. 3 overall, the North Dakota State product will likely sit behind Jimmy Garoppolo to begin the 2021 campaign. That leaves two potentially legitimate QB competitions in training camp.

Andy Dalton will do his best to hold off the electrifying Chicago Bears rookie Justin Fields for the No. 1 gig in the Windy City. Fields brings obvious dual-threat ability Dalton simply doesn’t have, but it’s a critical year for head coach Matt Nagy, so it’ll be fascinating to see how the Bears approach this if Fields wows everyone in camp.

It’s quite the opposite in terms of skill set and experience level in the New England Patriots’ fascinating QB derby. First-year QB Mac Jones is a pure pocket passer with outstanding accuracy, while veteran and former MVP Cam Newton is at his most dangerous making plays with his legs.

All indications are that Newton and Dalton will get the nod for their teams because of their superior experience. You never know what a strong training camp can do for Fields and Jones, though.

Can Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers repeat?

5 key questions ahead of NFL training camps
Feb 7, 2021; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after beating the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest storyline of last offseason was Tom Brady signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and leaving the Patriots after two decades. All TB12 did was guide the Bucs to a Super Bowl LV win over the then-reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs, 31-9.

Brady is entering his age-44 season, but seems to continue tackling Father Time to the turf year in and year out. Based on how well he takes care of himself, there’s little reason to think Tom Terrific will see his production drastically drop.

One reason to be confident in Tampa Bay’s chances of going back-to-back is the fact that general manager Jason Licht pulled off some wizardry to retain every offensive and defensive starter from the Bucs’ championship team.

What’s scary is for the rest of the league is, Brady and his new teammates barely had any time to jell last season. They have continuity on their side, and their key coordinators all intact.

How will the Houston Texans handle the Deshaun Watson scandal?

5 key questions ahead of NFL training camps
Jan 3, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) warms up before a game against the Tennessee Titans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

This was about to be last on the list, but so as not to end things on a down note, the mass amount of civil suits piled up against Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has cast an ominous light on the franchise and the star signal-caller.

The legal process still needs to play out for the situation surrounding Watson. If he’s found of any wrongdoing, it’ll likely result in a lengthy suspension, and will not only put his career in jeopardy, but also leave the Texans on the hook for tons of money that’ll constrict their salary cap space.

Houston’s leadership has been largely avoiding any talk about Watson, who requested a trade before his off-field scandal made headlines. It’ll be impossible to avoid that conversation once training camp rolls around.

With arguably the NFL’s worst roster, an organizational culture that already looked bad from the outside even before Watson’s trade demand, a new head coach in David Culley, the Texans are seriously lost right now.

Much of the conversation around Watson won’t even have anything to do with football. That’ll only hinder Houston’s efforts to turn the page and move into a new era.

Is Matthew Stafford about to be an MVP in LA?

5 key questions ahead of NFL training camps
Jun 8, 2021; Thousand Oaks, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) runs through drills during minicamp held at the team practice facility at Cal State Lutheran. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

On the brighter side of things, even though the Los Angeles Rams lost some starters to free agency this offseason, most notably safety John Johnson III and nickel cornerback Troy Hill, they gained a huge upgrade at the most important position.

By trading multiple first-round picks and failed QB Jared Goff, the Rams got themselves Matthew Stafford.

Finally rescued after a dozen years with the perpetually embattled Detroit Lions, Stafford is with a genius of an offensive head coach in Sean McVay. Their bromance is already palpable in the early going.

Stafford only managed a starting record of 74-90-1 during his tenure in Detroit, had only two seasons of 10 wins or more, and never won a playoff game. McVay already has three seasons with double-digit wins, three playoff victories and a Super Bowl appearance in four years on the job.

We thought McVay’s system was great with a clearly-limited field general in Goff running the show. Imagine what someone with Stafford’s football IQ, arm talent and downfield throwing ability can do. Maybe that’s why he’s tied with Tom Brady for sixth as of the last update on our NFL MVP odds.

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