With football season within reach, NFL teams are getting ready to strap on their pads and helmets and get back on the field for training camp in late July and early August. Here’s a preview around the NFC of what to look for.
Washington Redskins: The Redskins will begin training camp on July 30 at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Virginia. A revamped offensive line will be a key focus in camp for Washington. With improvements made at a number of levels, including first round draft pick Brandon Scherff, the team’s offensive line is expected to perform significantly better than last season. Behind the revamped offensive line, running back Alfred Morris will be evaluated in the hopes of bouncing back from a disappointing season last year. On the other side of the ball, the Redskins have completely transformed their defensive look and strategy by bringing in a new defensive coordinator, secondary coach, and defensive line coach. In addition, the constant debate about quarterback Robert Griffin III will be a continued point of contention.
Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles start training camp on August 2 at the NovaCare Complex in Philadelphia. A main focus of camp will be new quarterback Sam Bradford and his performance after years of battling injuries. All eyes will be on Bradford as he comes into Eagles’ camp. Also, Philadelphia amped up their defense by adding top-caliber players in cornerback Byron Maxwell and linebacker Kiko Alonso, the team will need to prove that their defense can match the explosive ability of their offense.
New York Giants: The Giants open camp on July 31 at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. On the offensive side of the ball, fans are eager to see how Eli Manning and the offense will perform under the new offensive system that was put in place last year by Offensive Coordinator Ben McAdoo. In addition, the team is excited to get back Victor Cruz to work alongside rookie wonder Odell Beckham Jr. However, a big question mark on offense is the Giants’ offensive line. The line has pretty much been pieced together because of dealing with injuries, little depth at the position, and young players. On the defensive side of the ball, a huge concern is Jason Pierre-Paul. As of now, he has not signed his franchise tag contract because of his fireworks injury. The team will be looking for young players to step up and contribute to a successful pass rush.
Dallas Cowboys: Camp opens for the Cowboys on July 30 in Oxnard, California. With Dez Bryant’s contract finalized, the Cowboys no longer have to worry about Bryant holding out on camp. However, the big question mark lies in how Dallas will look and respond to losing star running back DeMarco Murray. Murray was the league’s leading rusher last year and was signed by NFC East rival the Philadelphia Eagles. In addition, the Cowboys will begin this season with a new offensive line coach. The team’s running game will be a big focus of evaluation at camp. On the defensive side of the ball, pro bowl linebacker Sean Lee will be returning after facing some injuries. Also, many eyes will be on Greg Hardy since he needs to prove that he deserves a place on an NFL team after facing domestic violence issues.
Green Bay Packers: The Packers open camp on July 30 at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin. A focus at camp will be the developing chemistry between Aaron Rodgers and his younger receivers. Rodgers already put up huge numbers connecting with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, but the Packers’ offense would likely be even more productive with DaVante Adams and Andrew Quarless in the mix. Defensively, the Packers have a strong front and deep secondary that will be able to handle their talented division opponents. In addition, head coach Mike McCarthy has made the decision to hand over offensive play calling to his offensive coordinator in order to give more attention to defense and special teams.
Chicago Bears: Camp opens for the Bears on July 30 at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois. All eyes will be on Jay Cutler at Bears’ camp after an extremely disappointing season last year that included issues with the team and bad performance on the field. In addition, with Brandon Marshall gone to the Jets, Cutler will need to find a different number one target. On the defensive side of the ball, Chicago needs some young players to step up to fill the shoes of veteran defensive back and longtime Bear Charles Tillman. However, the addition of pro bowl safety Antrel Rolle will be an asset to the team in the secondary.
Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings open camp on July 25 at the Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minnesota. The Vikings are expected to have an impressive offense going into this season. The team has confidence in second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and their young developing receivers, Charles Johnson, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Jarius Wright. Also, the team will be welcoming back a healthy Kyle Rudolph at tight end and star running back Adrian Peterson. In addition, the acquisition of Mike Wallace will add a speedy deep threat. Defensively, the Vikings need to establish depth at defensive end and determine which players can solidify a pass rush from the outside.
Detroit Lions: The Lions start training camp on July 28 at the Lions Training Facility in Allen Park, Michigan. After coming off a good season last year, the Lions are looking to continue the trend. Players on the defensive front will need to step up to replace Pro Bowl pass rusher Ndamukong Suh who was signed by the Miami Dolphins in the offseason. In the offensive backfield, running back Joique Bell looks to be ready for the beginning of camp and is expected to be the starter at the position.
New Orleans Saints: The Saints open camp on July 29 at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. After an unsuccessful 2014 season, all eyes will be on the Saints to see if they can return to their once dominating stature. The offense will look a lot different this season without Brees’ number one target, tight end Jimmy Graham. The question for the Saints is who will be the tight end to step up and attempt to fill the shoes of Graham. On the other side of the ball, the New Orleans secondary will be strongly evaluated to see if they can finally make the Saints a defensive threat. The healthy return of Kenny Vaccaro and Jairus Byrd and the addition of Brandon Browner are expected to significantly improve the Saints defense.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs start camp on July 31 at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Florida. All eyes will be on first round draft pick Jameis Winston as he handles the pressure of the being the expected starter at quarterback to lead a Tampa Bay team out of a disappointing last few seasons. The next big focus for Tampa Bay will be creating a successful offensive line to protect their franchise cornerstone. The Bucs have to determine which combination of the several young, unproven players can be the most efficient unit.
Atlanta Falcons: Camp opens for the Falcons on July 31 at the Flowery Branch Training Facility in Flowery Branch, Georgia. The Atlanta Falcons are looking to improve in the 2015 season, after a poor performance last year. The team brought in Dan Quinn, former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator, as the new head coach. Quinn is expected to improve the Falcons defensive unit after coaching the league’s number one defense two years in a row. Offensively, the team is looking to Matt Ryan to bring his team back to a successful state with the help of star receiver duo, Julio Jones and Roddy White. However, in order for the offense to be successful, the offensive line must come together and play as a cohesive unit.
Carolina Panthers: The Panthers begin camp on July 31 at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Although the Panthers came out atop the NFC South in the 2014 Season, they still finished with a losing record of 7-8-1. Many positions on the team are not solidified and camp will give players a chance to battle for starting positions. At the moment, Thomas Davis and Pro Bowler Luke Kuechly are set as the foundation for the Panthers linebacking corps; while Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei are in place as interior pass rushers. In the defensive secondary, a battle at defensive back will take place with Charles Tillman, long time Bear, in the mix. At defensive end, the team is still looking for someone to step up and replace Greg Hardy. Offensively, Kelvin Benjamin is the only wide receiver that has a definite starting position; the other spots should be open to competition.
Seattle Seahawks: The reigning NFC champs are set to open camp on July 31 at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, Washington. A big focus at camp will be the development of a connection between Russell Wilson and Jimmy Graham. It’s no doubt that the new superstar tight end will be a main target for Wilson; the question lies in how quickly their chemistry will develop. On the offensive line, the center position is up for grabs to fill the void of Max Unger, now a member of the New Orleans Saints. Defensively, many key players are returning and are expected to perform at the same championship-winning level they have been for the past couple seasons.
San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers start training camp on August 1 at the Marie P. DeBartolo Sports Center in Santa Clara, California. All eyes will be on a brand new coaching staff as Jim Tomsula and his team begin the 2015 season. After letting Frank Gore walk in free agency, the 49ers are depending on running back Carlos Hyde to takeover. Hyde had a solid performance in his rookie year, but he has to prove that he can be the number one back for this team. On the defensive side of the ball, San Francisco needs to establish their starters in the secondary and set up their depth chart at the position. In addition, NaVorro Bowman will be returning after missing an entire season due to injury and the team is counting on him to perform at his pre-injury level.
Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals open camp on August 1 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Arizona is ready to come back strong after dealing with multiple injuries at the quarterback position last season. Carson Palmer is healthy and the team is going to make sure it remains that way. The team made much needed improvements to their offensive line in the offseason, including the addition of Mike Iupati. Defensively, training camp will be the time to evaluate the defensive unit without former coordinator Todd Bowles. Bowles took the head coaching job with the New York Jets.
St. Louis Rams: Camp opens for the Rams on July 31 at Rams Park in Earth City, Missouri. For many recent years, the Rams have been regarded as a team that has the potential for a breakout season. This year is no different. It will heavily depend on the development and performance of Jeff Fischer’s new offense which includes new quarterback Nick Foles and rookie running back Todd Gurley. On the other side of the ball, the Rams are pretty much set with plenty of depth on the defensive front.