Anticipation is rising around the nation as football fans gear up for another season and NFL teams prepare for training camp. There is plenty of intrigue to go around, including heated training camp battles and coaches on the hot seat before the season even begins.
These are the 10 most fascinating question marks around the league that have us on the edge of our seats heading into NFL training camp.
Will ‘Hard Knocks’ make or break the Raiders?
The Oakland Raiders will be on televisions across America as the featured team on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” later this summer. There is an abundance of juicy storylines to follow as this storied franchise attempts to pull out of a funk that’s lasted nearly two decades under the guidance of Jon Gruden. Will the bright lights and constant buzz that comes with this burden cause the Raiders to implode even more than we saw last year, or will the players somehow come together and forge a galvanized team that can overcome?
Can Cam Newton stay healthy?
Cam Newton is coming off shoulder surgery on his throwing arm for the second consecutive year. Last season, he was clearly laboring before finally getting shut down and put on injured reserve. Yet even with that, Newton led a Carolina offense that showed plenty of promise.
The Panthers have a championship-caliber defense and plenty of offensive weapons. If the offensive line plays well and keeps Newton clean, and if he can stay healthy throughout the 2019 season, this is a team that can contend for a Super Bowl. If he gets banged up again this season, then all bets are off.
Will Daniel Jones supplant Eli Manning?
After the New York Giants selected Daniel Jones with the sixth overall pick, general manager Dave Gettleman hinted that Eli Manning could start for the next two or three seasons. Well, that perception seemed to shift during offseason workouts as Manning looked washed up while Jones impressed everyone. Offensive coordinator Mike Shula has said Jones would be ready to start in Week 1 if needed. It’s going to be fascinating to see if the rookie keeps the positive momentum going and forces the Giants to consider benching their longtime starter.
Will Lamar Jackson continue to struggle?
The Baltimore Ravens have done everything in their power to help Lamar Jackson become a star. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman has experience with mobile passers and has dialed up a completely new offensive scheme. The team is loaded with speed on the perimeter and a trio of dynamic running backs. Tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews are terrific safety blankets.
It’s all going to come down to whether Jackson can pick up the offense and make good decisions under pressure. The early returns this offseason weren’t great. He needs to take big steps this summer to keep Baltimore in it as a legitimate playoff contender.
Can Matt Patricia connect with his players?
Even before training camp started last summer, there were rumblings that Matt Patricia was rubbing his veteran players the wrong way. Things didn’t improve much throughout the season, though the team did have a come-together moment after upsetting the New England Patriots. Still, the overall feeling around the league was that Patricia was having a hard time getting his players to buy into his version of the Patriots Way.
Detroit, playing in the ultra-competitive NFC North, has to see some big improvements in 2019 to avoid another losing season. That starts with players buying into Patricia’s vision.
Will Aaron Rodgers clash with Matt LaFleur?
It’s too early to be ringing the alarm bells. But rookie head coach Matt LaFleur has already made comments about Aaron Rodgers that caused many in the NFL community to raise their eyebrows: “Aaron and I have had some good talks, and we’re going to have to talk a lot more — and one thing we have to work through is the audible thing,” he said, per Mike Silver of NFL.com.
Rodgers had a rocky relationship with Mike McCarthy late in his tenure as head coach. Now the veteran quarterback is being paired with a green head coach who will be asking him to wade into some new waters and get out of his comfort zone. Will we see any sparks fly between them this summer?
Will Josh Rosen make the case to start over Ryan Fitzpatrick?
The Miami Dolphins surprised many when they traded a second-round pick to Arizona for the rights of second-year quarterback Josh Rosen. Having given up that pick, many figured the Fins would give Rosen every chance to earn the starting job, and that might still happen. However, heading into training camp it’s clear that veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick has a big edge over last year’s first-round pick. So, unless Rosen can quickly pick up what has been described as a complicated offense and outplays Fitzpatrick during camp, it seems he’ll be riding the pine once the 2019 season begins.
Will Vic Fangio’s old-school approach backfire?
The Denver Broncos hired longtime NFL defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to become their next head coach. It’s the first head-coaching gig the 60-year-old has ever landed at this level, and there is no doubt he deserved the shot. However, the Broncos expect this summer’s training camp to be a throwback, old-school grind. Whether that goes over well with the players or not remains to be seen. It’s also worth pointing out that training camp and preseason injuries are viewed much differently than they used to be thanks to the money involved these days. We’ll be watching this closely as the Broncos get started.
Is Freddie Kitchens in over his head?
The Cleveland Browns are seen as a team that could be on the precipice of a Super Bowl run. The talent general manager John Dorsey has assembled is absolutely championship-caliber on paper, and Baker Mayfield’s record-breaking rookie season has everyone excited about what’s to come.
There are plenty of reasons to tap the brakes on all this. However, the biggest wild card of them all is rookie head coach Freddie Kitchens. He’s said all the right things this offseason and seems to have both the respect of the players and the demeanor to stay on course when things go sideways. Yet he’s an untested commodity who has a lot of proving to do.
Will Melvin Gordon really hold out all camp?
Melvin Gordon has threatened to hold out into the 2019 season if the Los Angeles Chargers don’t up their offer to him on a long-term extension. He also said he would demand a trade if the team doesn’t give him what he wants. It’s understandable that Gordon wants a big-money deal, but given the landscape around the league right now his timing couldn’t be worse.
He’s made the threat, though, and now it’s going to be interesting to see how far he really takes it. Will he really sit out of camp, and into the season? Will he be willing to absorb the daily fines that come with that, along with the $329,706 per game fine for missing preseason games? Time will tell.