It was five months ago that the Seattle Seahawks hoisted the Lombardi Trophy on that balmy winter day in MetLife Stadium. And here we are again. With the opening of training camps around the country, a new NFL season is here. Let's look at some of the intriguing players and teams heading into training camp.
Ready for Manziel Mania? Johnny Manziel slipped all the way to No. 22 in May’s draft, landing in Cleveland to become a potential savior for the Browns and their fans. But which Manziel are the Browns getting? Will it be the quarterback who took college football by storm in the fall of 2012 and won the Heisman Trophy as a redshirt freshman? Or will it be the player whose off-field lifestyle brings an unwanted media circus to town? It should be a fascinating training camp for the Browns, especially if Manziel wins the starting job.
The NFL’s first openly gay player had to wait until the seventh round of the draft for the Rams to select him as the 249th overall pick. Sam then signed a reported four-year, $2.65-million deal. But the former Missouri defensive end still needs to earn a spot. There are questions about whether Sam is big enough to play end and whether he’s fast enough to play outside linebacker. Rams coach Jeff Fisher told reporters in May that if Sam doesn’t earn a spot, he will be cut. The decision to postpone a documentary series with The Oprah Winfrey Network will enable Sam to focus on football. Training camp will provide the answers.
Jets fans already have a strong dislike for the Patriots. Now Revis joins the rival and becomes the enemy, starting in training camp. It will be quite a scene to see Revis in a blue Patriots jersey lining up for the first time opposite the Jets on Oct. 16 in Foxborough. When Revis did a conference call with reporters in March after signing with the Patriots, he was asked if he considered having to face the Jets twice a year. His response: "My thing is all about winning. I want to win. What better organization -- the New England Patriots -- to be a part of that?"
Manning did not extend his career to get back to the Super Bowl and lose. He signed with the Broncos in March 2012 to win another championship and cap his legacy as one of the game’s greats. But he’s 38 now and there aren’t many opportunities left. The Broncos are gearing up for Manning to make another Super Bowl run. They added wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and brought in defensive stars DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward in the offseason. It should be interesting to see how determined Manning is during training camp.
Sanchez starts a new chapter with the Eagles. His release in March ended his tumultuous five-year tenure with the Jets. He started his career by leading the Jets to two straight AFC title games and ended it with a long list of bad moments, including the infamous “butt fumble’’ and his season-ending shoulder injury suffered in a preseason game while playing behind a second-string line. “I loved everything that happened there [with the Jets],’’ Sanchez said in May. “Everything. Good, bad, ugly, don’t care. It was an awesome time. But I’m an Eagle now. I love being here. This is the best place I could have landed."
A dynasty in the making? All eyes will be on the Seahawks as they try to repeat as Super Bowl champions. The good news is that the defense -- with the Legion of Boom secondary leading the way -- is back and should be better than ever. Quarterback Russell Wilson will continue to improve. But the Seahawks lost wide receiver Golden Tate in free agency and there are questions about how much running back Marshawn Lynch has left. The Seahawks also play in the toughest division in football, the NFC West. That means playing the 49ers (12-4 last season) and Cardinals (10-6) twice each. The Rams also should be better. So a repeat won’t be easy.
New coach Bill O’Brien, who did a tremendous job in two years at Penn State while facing heavy NCAA sanctions, takes over a team that finished 2-14 last season. There are high expectations for No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney to live up to the hype. The Texans also will need to figure out what to do with disgruntled star wide receiver Andre Johnson, who wants out of Houston. And O’Brien needs to figure out if Ryan Fitzpatrick will be his starting quarterback. Or maybe it will be Case Keenum or Tom Savage.
Is this Jason Garrett’s last stand as the Cowboys’ coach? They went a disappointing 8-8 last season, but owner Jerry Jones decided to bring back Garrett. There will be plenty of pressure for the Cowboys to get back to the playoffs. They cut star pass rusher DeMarcus Ware, and tackling-machine linebacker Sean Lee can’t stay healthy. That puts a lot of pressure on quarterback Tony Romo and the offense. Dallas doesn’t have a favorable schedule with non-division games against the 49ers, Saints, Seahawks, Cardinals, Bears and Colts.
Washington should be fascinating to watch in training camp with the addition of DeSean Jackson, whose release by the Eagles in March was one of the biggest story lines of the offseason. The Eagles reportedly were concerned by Jackson’s off-field issues. Still, the three-time Pro Bowl receiver is only 27 and coming off a season with 82 catches for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. Now he’s with division rival Washington and gets to team up with Robert Griffin III and new coach Jay Gruden.
Late Raiders owner Al Davis went after stars and high picks after they left other teams (Jim Plunkett immediately comes to mind). It seems as though the Raiders are doing it again. Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Antonio Smith and Carlos Rogers were added to help the defense. Matt Schaub, formerly of the Texans, will be the starter at quarterback. Maurice Jones-Drew and James Jones also were added. It should be interesting to see how the team comes together in training camp.