It only feels like a few weeks ago that the Eagles left the field in Minnesota as Super Bowl champions. But after a whirlwind offseason that saw everything from major rule changes to a game of quarterback roulette, NFL training camps are ready to open. The Jets, who report on Thursday, hope that they finally have a quarterback. The Giants report on Wednesday determined to put last year’s debacle...
It only feels like a few weeks ago that the Eagles left the field in Minnesota as Super Bowl champions. But after a whirlwind offseason that saw everything from major rule changes to a game of quarterback roulette, NFL training camps are ready to open. The Jets, who report on Thursday, hope that they finally have a quarterback. The Giants report on Wednesday determined to put last year’s debacle season behind them with a new regime and retooled roster.
The top storylines to watch throughout the preseason:
Darnold headlines rookie QBs
The Jets got a potential franchise quarterback in April's draft when they took USC's Sam Darnold third overall. Darnold was one of five passers taken in the first round -- Baker Mayfield (Browns), Josh Allen (Bills), Josh Rosen (Cardinals) and Lamar Jackson (Ravens) -- and most, if not all, have a shot at an early starting job. The Jets have said they don't plan to rush Darnold into action, instead relying on Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater to help develop their young passer. But would a strong training camp from Darnold make them reconsider?
Shurmur/Gettleman Era begins
After a miserable 3-13 season that saw Eli Manning's consecutive starts streak end and the in-season firings of Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese, the Giants ushered in a culture change by hiring GM Dave Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur. Gettleman reshaped the roster via free agency (Nate Solder, Patrick Omameh, Jonathan Stewart), trades (Alec Ogletree in, Jason Pierre-Paul out) and the draft (Saquon Barkley, Will Hernandez). Now it's up to Shurmur to make it all work on the field. The Giants have committed to the 37-year-old Manning as their starting quarterback, and they'll get Odell Beckham Jr. back from a season-ending ankle injury, which should help an offense that scored the second-fewest points in 2017.
Show them the money?
A few big-name players are in line for hefty paydays, which could lead to some high-profile holdouts. Le'Veon Bell's agent already has said the running back will skip all of training camp after the sides failed to reach a long-term deal, while Julio Jones, Aaron Donald, Earl Thomas and Taylor Lewan all skipped minicamp while awaiting new contracts. Others (Beckham Jr., Rob Gronkowski) have said they don't plan on missing training camp time.
Shaking off the rust
Among the notable players coming back from season-ending injuries: Eagles QB Carson Wentz (knee); Texans QB Deshaun Watson (knee); Colts QB Andrew Luck (shoulder); Beckham Jr. (ankle), Cardinals RB David Johnson (wrist); Vikings RB Dalvin Cook (knee); Patriots WR Julian Edelman (knee); Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt (leg); and Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill (knee). Luck, Edelman and Tannehill all missed the entire 2017 season, so this will be their first snaps since 2016.
QB carousel keeps spinning
Kirk Cousins signed a fully guaranteed deal with the Vikings when free agency opened. Washington, foreseeing Cousins' exit, traded for Alex Smith. Smith's replacement in Kansas City: 2017 first-rounder Patrick Mahomes II. Meanwhile, the Vikings' three QBs from 2017 -- Case Keenum, Sam Bradford and Bridgewater -- went to the Broncos, Cardinals and Jets, respectively. Former Bills passer Tyrod Taylor is in Cleveland as a bridge to eventual starter Baker Mayfield, while A.J. McCarron left Cincinnati for Buffalo, where he'll help groom Josh Allen.
Dealing in L.A.
Trades aren't a common occurrence in the NFL, but Rams GM Les Snead changed that this offseason. Snead traded for Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters, Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib and Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks, and dealt Robert Quinn to the Dolphins and Ogletree to the Giants. At the same time, the Rams signed Ndamukong Suh to play alongside Donald. How will the personalities of Peters, Talib and Suh jell in the Rams' locker room and in defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' scheme?
Browns on the rise?
Don't look now, but the Browns have some talent. They traded for Taylor and drafted Mayfield. Whoever gets the starting job will throw to Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman and David Njoku, or hand off to Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb. On defense, they built around pass-rusher Myles Garrett by trading for Packers defensive back Damarious Randall, signing linebacker Mychal Kendricks and drafting Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward. On top of that, they'll be the stars of HBO's "Hard Knocks." So, yeah, things could get fun in Cleveland.
Gruden back in the saddle
The last time Jon Gruden was on an NFL sideline, Derek Carr and Khalil Mack both were high school seniors, and a 22-year-old Marshawn Lynch had just finished his second NFL season. Now, Gruden is back after nine seasons in the broadcast booth, and he's tasked with delivering a title after signing a 10-year, $100-million deal with the Raiders. The game has changed quite a bit since Gruden last coached. How will he adapt?
Edelman, Saints running back Mark Ingram, Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict and Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis each will miss the first four games after violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy. Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston was suspended three games after a league investigation into his alleged sexual harassment of an Uber driver, and 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster received a two-game suspension stemming from weapons and drug charges.
A real catch
Among the NFL's rule changes for 2018: a revamping of the catch rule. No longer is "surviving the ground" a requirement for a completed catch. All that's needed is control of the ball, two feet down and a "football move" (such as a third step, reaching/extending for the line-to-gain or the ability to do such an act).