In the words of Terrell Owens…get your popcorn ready. NFL training camp is here, and that means the regular season is just over a month away. The excitement is in the air as the most popular sport in America gets closer and closer. There are plenty of storylines to watch for around the league, including quarterback competitions, new coaches, new playbooks, new teammates, not to mention 32 teams fighting for a Vince Lombardi Trophy. Let’s take a look at the five biggest NFL training camp storylines this summer.
5. Can Johnny Manziel win the starting job in Cleveland?
Johnny Manziel has been a big storyline in the NFL since his name was called by Roger Goodell at the NFL Draft over two months ago. Most of those reasons have been negative. With training camp finally underway, we can now talk about the football storylines and not the money phone or the Las Vegas bathroom drama. On the field right now, Brian Hoyer is winning the quarterback competition. It’s a strange feeling that when the regular season comes around, we may see Johnny Football on the bench without a football in his hands. The player with one of the top-selling jerseys in the NFL could be a benchwarmer this season, which is almost hard to fathom. It’ll be intriguing to see if Manziel’s partying catches up with him in the dog days of summer. Browns fans want to see Manziel in the regular season, but they may not get what they want. Stay tuned.
4. Can Bill O’Brien take the Texans from worst to first?
After a 2-0 start to the 2013 season, the Texans season took a dramatic turn for the worse. They would go on to lose the final 14 games of the season. They brought in a new head coach in Bill O’Brien. They got rid of Matt Schaub and picked up Ryan Fitzpatrick to become their new starting quarterback. They drafted Jadaveon Clowney with the first pick. It was a major overhaul for a Texans team that made the playoffs then turned into the worst team in the league. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens this season with a sub-par QB and a really good defensive front. Andre Johnson is back on the field after holding out for two months, but will he be in Houston all season? Can O’Brien be a successful first-year NFL head coach? How will the offense work? And, most importantly, can they improve on last year’s disaster?
3. Can Geno Smith be a mainstay as the Jets starting QB?
The Jets always know how to fill the headlines every off-season. Rex Ryan has already made his usual summer controversial statement. Dee Milliner proclaimed that he’s the best cornerback in the NFL. Rookie Calvin Pryor said the Jets have the best defense in the NFL. The quarterback competition has actually not been a cause for stress amongst Jets fans. Geno Smith had his moments in his rookie season, while also having some moments that were out of a horror movie. For the first time in a long time, the Jets brought in a solid quarterback to compete with the youngster. Michael Vick will mentor Smith and help him get better. If Smith struggles, they have a capable quarterback to step in and fill the void. Most expect Smith to start and be the answer at QB for the future, but if he fails in training camp and the pre-season, Vick can step right in. It will be very interesting to watch how the quarterback competition plays out in the next month.
2. Will Derek Carr beat out Matt Schaub in Oakland?
The Raiders brought in Matt Schaub, but then they drafted Derek Carr in the second round. So who’s their starting quarterback going to be? Reports out of training camp are saying that Schaub is “getting his mojo back.” Schaub had been a reliable starting QB with the Texans, but fell off dramatically last season. It appears that he’s going to get another chance in Oakland, at least for the short-term. The Raiders don’t have a ton of firepower on offense, which means it could get ugly if they go with a rookie QB. Carr is likely the guy in the future, but if Schaub looks good in August, he should be behind center for the 2014 season. Another young vs. veteran QB battle to watch in training camp.
1. Will Michael Sam make the Rams roster?
Where would I be if Michael Sam was NOT included on this list? Answer… not on this planet. Sam was picked in the last round of the NFL Draft, but nobody knows just yet if he will make the Rams roster. If Sam can work his tail off in training camp, he should make one of the final roster spots when the regular season arrives. It’s hard to imagine the linebacker/defensive end gets significant playing time, if any. The Rams have plenty of talent in their pass rush, so Sam may only get time if somebody goes down with an injury. With that being said, we all will know whenever he is on the field. Any contribution that the first openly gay player in NFL history makes will be right there amongst the major headlines. He’ll need to prove himself in training camp and the pre-season.