Any true NFL fan has questions going into the season. Here are some of the more pressing questions for each team as training camps, preseason battles and depth charts are being concluded before Week 1 approaches.
Philadelphia Eagles – After a disappointing 8-8 season in 2011, are the Eagles ready to get back to winning? Will they rally behind a tough offseason for coach Andy Reid, who lost his son Garrett to a drug overdose over the summer? Can the offensive line keep Michael Vick upright long enough to propel the offense? Can the defense rebound after a rough year?
Washington Redskins – How much of an improvement is Robert Griffin, III at QB? Outside of Santana Moss, who will step up as a legitimate receiver? WR Pierre Garcon? TE Fred Davis? Who will emerge from the backfield as the consistent starter? Can Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan emerge as one of the more dangerous defensive duos in the league?
Dallas Cowboys – Can Tony Romo find his groove late and advance further in the postseason? Other than DeMarcus Ware, who will step up on the defense and make some plays? If you’re Jason Garrett, will you call a timeout and freeze your kicker again? Is the window closing on Dallas’ playoff chances? Will DeMarco Murray return to his midseason form of 2011 and blister defenses with his speed?
New York Giants – Who will emerge as the slot receiver behind Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz? After finishing last in the league in rushing in 2011, can the G-men get back to running the ball with authority? The Giants finished 9-7 last season, yet still captured the Super Bowl title as the Cowboys and Eagles squandered their playoff chances; can the Giants avoid a late season slump? Is Pierre-Paul, Umenyiora and Tuck the best pass-rush hydra in the league?
Minnesota Vikings – Will Adrian Peterson return to his pre-injury form and be elite? Who is catching passes other than WR Percy Harvin, who actually wanted out early in the offseason? Can Christian Ponder take the Vikings to the next level with his poise and command of the pocket? Can Jared Allen break Michael Strahan’s record of 22.5 sacks in a season? Who will step up in what was a putrid pass defense in 2011?
Detroit Lions – After 10 arrests in the offseason, are the Lions too distracted to make a powerful run like they did last year? Can Calvin “Megatron” Johnson avoid the Madden Curse, as he was placed on the cover of Madden ’13? If Jahvid Best gets another concussion and Kevin Smith can’t stay healthy, who steps up in the suddenly thin backfield? Matthew Stafford avoided the injury bug last year that he faced early in his career; can he avoid it again?
Green Bay Packers – Is Cedric Benson the answer to a questionable backfield in Green Bay? Will Greg Jennings be available early in the season, or will Rodgers look to Jordy Nelson for firepower? Is Charles Woodson’s move to safety a good move or a bad move? Can the defense tighten up on passing plays, or is the pass rush just not there? Who is helping Clay Matthews wreak havoc along the Green Bay front seven?
Chicago Bears – How much of a difference will Mike Tice and Brandon Marshall be for the Bears’ offense in 2012? Can Matt Forte stay healthy for 16 games and provide the much-needed game-breaking plays he often has? Can Michael Bush provide the ground-and-pound yards he produced so effectively in Oakland? What is Devin Hester’s role in the offense and how often will he be used? Is Brian Urlacher at 100 percent?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Are the offseason acquisitions of Carl Nicks and Vincent Jackson enough to push the Buccaneers back to the playoffs? Is LeGarrett Blount going to lose his job to Boise State standout Doug Martin? What role will Ronde Barber, now entering his 16th season, have on the younger defense? Will Josh Freeman rebound from an off year and return to his subliminal rookie campaign? Other than Vincent Jackson, who is new to the offense, which WR will step up and have a stellar year? Will Dallas Clark rejuvenate his career after an injury-plagued 2011?
New Orleans Saints – Can the Saints remained focused after what has been a tumultuous offseason with Bountygate? Who will lead this team after the suspensions of Joe Vitt and, more importantly, Head Coach Sean Payton? Will the losses of Carl Nicks and Robert Meachem greatly affect the timing of the offense? Did the Saints overpay Drew Brees, who received a 5-year/$100 million dollar contract? How will Spagnuolo transform the Saints defense, and will Curtis Lofton take over Jonathan Vilma’s role as head of the defense?
Carolina Panthers – Was Cam Newton’s rookie year just a freak of nature, or does he have more in store for teams this year? How much does WR Steve Smith have left in the tank, and whom can he pass the torch to in Carolina? With Williams, Stewart and new addition Mike Tolbert, is the Panthers backfield too crowded, or does Chudzinski have a few tricks up his sleeve? Can MLB Jon Beason return to his elite form this year after ACL surgery? Is Luke Kuechly the next Dan Morgan, and is there any more underrated DE than Charles Johnson?
Atlanta Falcons – Is this the year the Falcons break out and completely wreck defenses? Is Julio Jones and Roddy White the best WR tandem in the NFL? Has Michael Turner lost a step, and if so, is Jacquizz Rodgers ready to swipe some of the carries and provide a much-needed boost out of the backfield? Can CBs Brent Grimes, Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel keep quarterbacks honest in the NFL? Did the Falcons give up too much for Julio Jones, or was it the right amount? Can the offensive line keep Matty Ice standing tall in the pocket?
San Francisco 49ers – Was last year just a Harbaugh Miracle, or is Alex Smith ready to take his game to the next level, perhaps in the Super Bowl? Who will emerge as the no. 1 receiver out of training camp and the preseason? Will Randy Moss and Mario Manningham stretch defenses like the front office is hoping, or will they disappoint? Can Brandon Jacobs and Kendall Hunter provide the ball security behind seasoned running back Frank Gore? Will Vernon Davis take his place as one of the top TEs in the league, or toy with mediocrity once more?
Seattle Seahawks – Will it be Wisconsin product Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers backup Matt Flynn who leads the offense out of the tunnel? Can old vets Braylon Edwards and Terrell Owens really make a big impact in the passing game for the Seahawks? Why is no one talking about the Seahawks very large and very physical defense? Can Marshawn Lynch shake off a rough offseason and make it rain Skittles all day? Can Sidney Rice rebound and have a productive year, or was he only good with Brett Favre at the helm?
St. Louis Rams – Can Jeff Fisher return this team to prominence after an awful 2011 campaign? Even if Sam Bradford is 100 percent by the time the season starts, whom is he going to throw to? Can Steven Jackson carry the offense once again, or is his time almost over in St. Louis? Will Cortland Finnegan give the pass defense enough teeth to generate turnovers?
Arizona Cardinals – Can Beanie Wells stay healthy long enough to provide a consistent running game in Arizona? Is there any athlete better than Larry Fitzgerald in the NFL today? Is John Skelton really beating Kevin Kolb for the starting QB job? Can Calais Campbell and Patrick Peterson lead the defense to legitimacy? Can Michael Floyd step up and be the next Anquan Boldin for Larry Fitzgerald?
New England Patriots – With the NFL’s softest schedule, can the Patriots make a run at perfection once again? After cutting Joseph Addai, can Steven Ridley and Danny Woodhead provide enough punch out of the backfield to make defenses respect the run? Is this the last year we see Wes Welker in a Patriots uniform? Can the defense recover from being one of the worst in the NFL last year? Will the offensive line be as strong without the presence of Matt Light?
Buffalo Bills – If the Bills can afford the injury bug, is this one of the top offenses in the NFL? Is C.J. Spiller the answer behind do-it-all back Fred Jackson? Other than Stevie Johnson, who can be relied upon to consistently catch passes? Does the acquisition of Mario Williams make this defense one of the top defenses in the NFL? Alone, is he enough to make Buffalo a playoff caliber team?
New York Jets – What were the Jets thinking when they acquired Tim Tebow? Is Antonio Cromartie really the second best WR on the depth chart? And if so, should Jets’ fans be concerned about the passing game? Is Shonn Greene ever going to live up to expectations of him out of the backfield? Is this the year Mark Sanchez takes the chip off of his shoulder and carries Gang Green deep into the playoffs? Is this defense still scary on the field, or is it just all smoke and mirrors?
Miami Dolphins – Now that Chad Johnson has been cut, who becomes the primary WR in the offense? Hartline? Bess? Can Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas propel the offense to greater heights than perceived? Who will emerge as the starting QB: Garrard, Tannehill or Moore? Will one of the QBs get shipped off for some help at WR or defense? Are Cameron Wake, Vontae Davis and Karlos Dansby enough to scare offenses into making mistakes?
Cincinnati Bengals – Can A.J. Green repeat his sensational rookie season with a similar follow up? Is Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis a viable replacement for the surprisingly sturdy Cedric Benson? Can Jermaine Gresham take the next step and become one of the more elite tight ends in the NFL? Is QB Andy Dalton the real deal, or was his rookie year a fluke? In a tough division, what must the Bengals do to beat out the likes of Pittsburgh and Baltimore for supremacy?
Cleveland Browns – Are Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson the future of the Brown’s culture? Are they enough to turn a losing culture around? Will Joe Haden’s substance abuse violations carry over into the season, thus damaging the defense even further than it already is? Behind hopeful Richardson, who can carry the rock if something goes awry? Does Colt McCoy have a shot at starting QB anywhere in the league, much less the Cleveland Browns?
Baltimore Ravens – Is Jacoby Jones the last piece to really send the Ravens passing attack to the next echelon? Could Torrey Smith have a better year receiving this year than Anquan Boldin? Is Joe Flacco truly an elite quarterback, and if so, is this the year his numbers reflect that title? Can the Ravens make it to the playoffs without Terrell Suggs and an even older Ray Lewis? Can Ed Dickson provide the middle receiver the Ravens so desperately need?
Pittsburgh Steelers – Other than Maurkice Pouncey, is there a more disappointing offensive line in the NFL? Can they improve this year and keep Roethlisberger up long enough to make deep throws? How will Sanders, Brown and Wallace perform in Todd Haley’s offense, and will Big Ben grasp the changes quick enough to make the Steelers dangerous? Since the defense is getting older, can they still perform at the high level they have been over the past five years? Who will carry the rock if Mendenhall has to sit for an extended period of time?
Indianapolis Colts – After an electrifying start, can Andrew Luck make this franchise move on from Peyton Manning? Is Donald Brown the answer at starting running back? Does Reggie Wayne still have enough left in the tank to give Luck the go-to guy he needs to succeed? With the loss of Pat Angerer for the start of the season, can the Colts rely on bookends Mathis and Freeney to lead the defense successfully?
Houston Texans – If this offense stays healthy, is it the most balanced attack in the league? Is Arian Foster and Ben Tate the best 1-2 RB tandem in the entire NFL? If Andre Johnson has trouble staying on the field this year, who can take over at the no. 1 position? Will this defense miss the departure of Mario Williams, or can Wade Phillips work his magic once again and nullify offenses left and right? Is JJ Watt the next best defender in the NFL?
Jacksonville Jaguars – Are the Jaguars going to let Maurice Jones Drew sit on the bench and holdout all year long? Will offseason acquisition Laurent Robinson and rookie prospect Justin Blackmon enough to make this a dangerous passing team? Can Marcedes Lewis rebound to his old form and have a good year? Will Blaine Gabbert hold up in the pocket and make decisive throws this year, or wilt under pressure? If MJD doesn’t report, can Rashad Jennings take the helm and provide a strong enough running game for Jacksonville?
Tennessee Titans – Will it be Jake Locker or Matt Hasselbeck who takes the starting snaps in Week 1? Will we see the Chris Johnson of 2010 or 2011 this year? Can Kenny Britt take control of his life and stay healthy on the field? How much impact can rookie Kendall Wright have on the offense, and will Nate Washington repeat his lights-out 2011 season? Can the offensive line provide the run protection necessary for the rushing attack to succeed? Can the young defense take a step forward and cause more turnovers this year, or repeatedly get burned deep?
Denver Broncos – How weird is it to see Peyton Manning in a Broncos jersey? Can he take the team to a better record than 8-8, perhaps winning the West and leading Denver to the playoffs? Who will emerge as Manning’s favorite target? Other than aging back Willis McGahee, does Denver have anyone reliable in the backfield? Are Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil the best rushing linebacker tandem in the NFL? Does Champ Bailey have anything left at corner?
San Diego Chargers – Is Robert Meachem good enough to replace Vincent Jackson as the top wideout for the Chargers? Can Antonio Gates get back to 100 percent and return to his old form? Will Philip Rivers continue to force the ball downfield, or will he tone down and make fewer mistakes? Can Norv Turner really trust Ryan Mathews to run the ball 20 times a game? Who assumes the role Mike Tolbert had before leaving for Carolina?
Kansas City Chiefs – If injuries don’t eviscerate the Chiefs, does Romeo Crennel have the weapons for an explosive offense? Has Jamaal Charles recovered fully from his torn ACL? How much of a difference is the return of Eric Berry? Can Madden cover boy Peyton Hillis return to his videogame form and pinball his way to the endzone more often? Does Stanford Routt provide the pass defense another stop against powerful offenses, or is was he the product of a system in Oakland?
Oakland Raiders – How much does Carson Palmer still have left in the tank? Does Darren McFadden belong in the discussion for top RBs in the NFL? Will the absence of Michael Bush further damage the Raiders’ potent rushing attack? Who will be Palmer’s top receiver this year? Heyward-Bey? Ford? Can the Raiders finish strong this year, even though they have sputtered the last few years?