Ah training camp.
That wondrous moment has arrived when we know that another great NFL season is about to rise. And it’s a time when you are supposed to be filled with great optimism for your favorite team. After all parity is king in the NFL and any time can suddenly find itself in the Super Bowl, like say Arizona.
Unfortunately I remain a bit skeptical about this season’s prospects for Florida’s trio of NFL teams. The Bucs and Jags, and to a lesser extent the Fins, have some issues to work out in the next few weeks that could determine their fortunes in the upcoming season.
So here’s the 5 burning questions for the upcoming season.
1. Can anyone play quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? The Bucs quarterback situation is a mess. Any fan should think the prospect of Byron Leftwich battling Luke McCown for the starting job is depressing. Some Bucs apologists may like to think this is a short-term solution until rookie Josh Freeman is ready, but team officials have already tried to dial down expectations by suggesting Freeman will spend the season on the sidelines. At this point in time, I think it may be better to bring in Jeff George from retirement. Yeah, that’s how bad I think it is. Unless someone emerges as a bonafide starting quarterback, the Bucs will be lucky if they win six games.
2. Is Maurice Jones-Drew the answer? Hate to sound like a broken record on this score, but I remain utterly unconvinced that Mojo will be able to handle the load of a full-time running back in Jacksonville. He can be explosive and he catches the ball out of the backfield, but I’m just not sure he can run the ball 20-25 times a game and still be effective. If I’m wrong, the Jags fortunes this season look up. But if I’m right that puts a lot more pressure on David Garrard to revert back to his winning form of two seasons ago.
3. Another year of magic for the Dolphins? Last year was an amazing turnaround for Miami. To go from 1-15 to 11-5 is simply astounding. And there are a lot of reasons why it happened. But this year the schedule is much harder, New England is expected to get Tom Brady back from injury, and the Wildcat offense may not be the big surprise it was a year ago. The Bills brought in Terrell Owens, the Jets brought in a new coach and a new rookie quarterback, you get the idea. The AFC East could easily be one of the most competitive divisions in the league.
4. Will Jack Del Rio keep his job? This is easily a make or break year for Del Rio. There’s no doubt that his offensive line was devastated last year and it contributed mightily to the team woes. But Del Rio also showed signs of losing control of his team. It’s hard to believe this team almost made it to the Super Bowl just two seasons ago. This year Del Rio has to rebuild his defense and hope that additions like Torry Holt will breathe life into a lackluster offense. If it doesn’t happen, Del Rio will likely be history.
5. Will Ted Ginn Jr. ever live up to the hype? The great thing last year about Chad Pennington is that he didn’t rely on just one receiver to get the job done. And with expectations that incoming West Virginia quarterback Pat White could help run the Wildcat offense, there may be even less pressure on the Fins squad of wide receivers. But let’s not forget that Ginn was a first-round draft pick back in 2007. The Fins passed on Brady Quinn despite their need for a quarterback. But even if Quinn hasn’t lived up to the hype, neither has Ginn. He had a solid season last year but I’m not sure 56 catches and 2 touchdowns is worth a No. 9 pick. Fellow Ohio State receiver Anthony Gonzalez was drafted at No. 32 by the Colts and last year caught 57 catches and had 4 touchdowns.