By Friday, each National Football League team’s training camps will have begun, which means that the regular season is not far behind. So here is a look at each NFL team’s biggest question.
Arizona Cardinals: In April the Cardinals traded for quarterback Carson Palmer. So, its obvious that the team is hoping lightning strikes twice as it did with future Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner.
Atlanta Falcons: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has led his team to the playoffs four times out his first five years. The deepest the team got was last year when the Falcons lost in the NFC Conference Championship game to the San Francisco 49ers. So, the big question is can Ryan lead his team to a Super Bowl Championship or is he destined to be the next great quarterback that will never win a Super Bowl?
Baltimore Ravens: The big question for this team is so big that even Mr. Magoo can see this. That is can the Ravens overcome the loss of two future Hall of Famers in linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed.
Buffalo Bills: Since Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly retired following the 1996 season, the Bills have been searching for his replacement in now their 17th season without him. With the Bills taking quarterback E.J. Manuel in the first round of this past April’s NFL Draft, will the Bills search for a franchise quarterback finally end? If not the search will easily exceed 20 years and that will have Bills fans calling for current owner Ralph Wilson to sell the team or fire the entire front office starting with CEO Russ Brandon.
Carolina Panthers: The Panthers have two big questions. First, can their young defense, that ranked 10th overall last year in yards allowed, take the next step and become one of the top five defenses in the NFL. Secondly, can wide receiver Brandon LaFell step up and become a legitimist number two wide receiver opposite Steve Smith?
Chicago Bears: The Bears big question is can second year wide receiver Ashlon Jeffery become a solid number two wide receiver? The Bears passing attack has only one legitimate target in wide receiver Brandon Marshall. After that it’s running back Matt Forte, so if the Bears are going to go to the Super Bowl any time soon Jeffery is going to have to step it up.
Cincinnati Bengals: In his first two years, quarterback Andy Dalton has proven to be a solid starter in the NFL. The big question is can he become an elite quarterback and lead his team past the Wild Card Round of the NFL Playoffs which the Bengals have gone to two straight years, but losteach time?
Cleveland Browns: This one is simply can quarterback Brandon Weeden become a solid starter for the Browns after looking only average last year.
Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys are changing their base defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3 this year. So, will the change help the defense make more plays and become more effective after a year where they finished 19th in total yards?
Denver Broncos: With the Broncos it’s all about future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. At 37-years-old the big question for the Broncos is will Manning be the same elite level quarterback that he has been or will his age start catching up to him?
Detroit Lions: As for the Lions, it comes down to second year running back Mike LeShoure. Leshoure had a solid rookie season as he rushed for 798 on 215 attempts with nine touchdowns. If LeShoure improves and can become a solid threat at running back, defenses will have to respect the threat of a run more which in turn should free up the passing game.
Green Bay Packers: The Packers running game became a problem last year as starter James Stark was hurt most of the year. With the team drafting running back Eddie Lacey in the second round of this past April’s NFL Draft will he be the answer to the running game and help them dethrone the San Francisco 49ers?
Houston Texans: The Texans made the playoffs the last two years, and both times lost in the Divisional round. So, can quarterback Matt Schaub lead his team to the AFC Championship game?
Indianapolis Colts: The Colts’ fate lies in the hand of second year quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck proved to be an effective starter at the NFL level in his rookie season as he led the Colts to the playoffs. However, if he is going to take the next step to elite status he needs to improve upon his completion percentage which was a mere 54.1 percent. Eliete quarterbacks are typically north of 60.0 percent.
Jacksonville Jaguars: For the Jaguars it all comes down to third year quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert was drafted to be the Jaguars’ franchise quarterback. Most players in their third year take that next step. So, the Jaguars big question is will Gabbert take that step?
Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs traded for quarterback Alex Smith with the hopes he will be just as effective as he was the last two years in San Francisco? The big question is can Smith stay healthy? In eight seasons he has played all 16 games twice in his career.
Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins’ season rests on the shoulders of second year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Even though he had the same exact offensive system as he had in college, Tannehill was still merely average. If the Dolphins are going to make the playoffs, Tannehill has to improve.
Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings earlier this offseason traded away wide receiver Percy Harvin. To fill that void the Vikings traded up in the late first round of this past April’s NFL Draft and selected wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. So, will Patterson fill the void?
New England Patriots: There is no team in the NFL that has more to overcome than the New England Patriots. Wide receiver Wes Welker left via free agency, tight end Rob Gronkowski has injury problems with his forearm and back and the Patriots cut fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez after being charged with murder. Even though the Patriots in the past have made the Super Bowl without big name weapons on offense, what they face now is unprecedented and will be a constant distraction.
New Orleans Saints: The Saints defense last year was dead last in yards overall. So, the team hired Rob Ryan to take over. Will the change in a base defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4 spur the defense to perform efficiently?
New York Jets: There is no team that is more dysfunctional than the Jets. They are stuck with a quarterback in Mark Sanchez who appears to be erratic and inconsistent. They are reportedly tinkering with the idea of making rookie quarterback Geno Smith a situational player in their Wildcat offense. So, for them, it’s will they realize that may be a bad idea or continue their lack of being able to develop another quarterback?
New York Giants: For the Giants it comes down to defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. After a stellar 2011 season with 16.5 sacks, Pierre-Paul had an average season of 6.5 sacks. With the loss of defensive end Osi Umeniyora to free agency, will Pierre-Paul return to his 2011 form or disappoint once again?
Oakland Raiders: The Oakland Raiders traded for quarterback Matt Flynn earlier this offseason to be their starting quarterback. So, will he prove to be viable or just another poor choice?
Philadelphia Eagles: With a new head coach, a new starting quarterback comes along. With the Eagles hiring Chip Kelly earlier this off-season the big question is who is going to be the starter come the beginning of the regular season?
Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers big question is can they fill the void that was left with the departures of nose tackle Casey Hampton and outside linebacker James Harrison? The Steelers will probably move defensive end Ziggy Hood to the nose tackle position to replace Hampton, but that leaves a void at defensive end. As for Harrison’s replacement, the Steelers drafted outside linebacker Jarvis Jones in the first round of this past April’s Draft.
San Diego Chargers: The departure of wide receiver Vincent Jackson prior to the 2012 season left a huge void on the offense. The question is can someone on the Chargers step up and fill that void.
San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers made it to the Super Bowl, but lost to the Baltimore Ravens. So, can they overcome the let down of the loss to the Ravens.
Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks did help out their passing game by trading for wide receiver Percy Harvin, but it still comes down to quarterback Russell Wilson. He had a spectacular rookie season so the question is can he repeat it?
St. Louis Rams: Rams quarterback Sam Bradford had his best season in the NFL. Can the Rams get him the weapons he needs? The team did sign tight end Jared Cook who was a solid player for the Tennessee Titans before signing with the Rams this offseason, and they drafted wide receiver Tavon Austin. On paper they look like good moves, but what matters is when play starts.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Buccaneers had one weakness last year and that was pass defense. So, they went out and traded for cornerback Darrelle Revis, but he only played in a few games before tearing his ACL. So, can Revis return to his old form or will he be merely a shadow of himself?
Tennessee Titans: The Titans season rests on the shoulders of quarterback Jake Locker. Locker started the season well, but got hurt. After missing five games he returned and had a good game in his first start after his injury, but from there it was downhill. So, can Locker be consistent throughout the year?
Washington Redskins: There is no bigger question than the one looking at quarterback Robert Griffin III. After having a solid season RGIII tore his ACL, so can he return to the way he played in the regular season and stay healthy?