NFL football is coming soon. At least it's looking that way.
By now, though, you are probably sick of the laundry list of questions relating to the NFL and labor. I know I am.
So to help push away for a bit from the monotonous labor talk, we thought it a good time to ask one question and answer it for every team in the NFL as they wait patiently -- like us -- for this damn lockout to end.
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Who plays quarterback?
They will likely land a veteran in free agency or through a trade, but who and what happens if they don't? There isn't a capable quarterback on the roster as of right now, but there is some youth to develop.
Can Julio Jones make an impact in his first season that shows he's worth what the Falcons gave up to draft him?
The missed time has hurt Jones and all the other rookies. It often takes even more time for a rookie receiver to adjust to all the coverage he will see. They need to react and not think, but too often they think too much as rookies. Then again, Randy Moss was special as a rookie.
Is this the year Joe Flacco takes the next step?
Flacco has been good at times, really good. But he has to move to elite level. I think part of the problem has been a lack of a big-play receiver. The Ravens don't stretch the field. Flacco can do more. He just needs help. And he needs to be given the chance to do so.
Can a defense that struggled in 2010 be fixed?
They have added a nice piece in first-round pick Marcell Dareus, but they need more. Keeping linebacker Paul Posluszny will be key. They have some talent. It's time to see better results from the unit. The return to form of Shawne Merriman would be huge.
Is it Cam Newton or Jimmy Clausen at quarterback?
If you drafted Newton first, why not play him right away? He said he's been in the playbook already, so turn him loose. If Clausen plays, all they would be doing is delaying the inevitable.
Can Jay Cutler rebound from the NFC Championship Game injury flap?
|Jay Cutler should be able to win back the Bears locker room. (Getty Images)|
What do they do about Carson Palmer?
One thing you have to know about Bengals owner Mike Brown is that he is stubborn and I can't see him giving in to Palmer's demands to be traded. So if Palmer sits, so be it. If he wants to play, they will welcome him back. If he doesn't, rookie Andy Dalton will likely be the starter.
Do they really think Colt McCoy is the long-term answer at quarterback?
We will find out. All the chatter about McCoy is that he is a gym rat who loves the game and his teammates really like him. But he has to put up numbers to garner real respect. If he does, the Browns will have their guy. If not, they will go into next year's draft looking for another one.
Can new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan rejuvenate a defense that fell of in 2010?
Ryan is one of the best. He will bring a high-intensity approach to the defense, which will show. There is talent. Now he has to get some players, such as corner Mike Jenkins, to play to their ability.
Is it Tim Tebow time?
I say no. I think Kyle Orton will be the better choice, and deep down the Broncos have to know that. Tebow is a work in progress who is far from being ready to play. Orton isn't great, but at least he knows how to scan the field, which Tebow doesn't do.
Can Matt Stafford stay on the field?
He played three games last season and has played in 13 in his first two seasons. That's not good enough. If the Lions are to be the supposed trendy team that some expect in 2011, Stafford has to stay on the field.
Green Bay Packers
Will there be any hangover from winning a Super Bowl?
I think coach Mike McCarthy is too good for that to happen and I also think there are too many driven players -- see Aaron Rodgers -- for that to be a reality. Being away from the facility probably also helped. It will feel like an entirely new season, more so than with past Super Bowl winners.
Did they do enough to improve the defense?
Hiring Wade Phillips is a good move, but moving Mario Williams to a rush linebacker is a risky one. Phillips is a smart man who will improve the defense. But they need to add a corner to really make strides. Nnamdi Asomugha maybe?
How healthy is Peyton Manning?
He had neck surgery in the off-season and he hasn't been doing any real throwing since then. That has to be a concern. But Manning is a gamer. I would imagine he will sit out some of camp, but you can bet he will be ready for the open of the season.
Can one off-season improve the bad defense?
They didn't do a lot in the draft to improve it, so the answer will be decided by what they do in free agency. The team is planning to spend, and they might add two or three players in free agency to help move up the defensive rankings.
Kansas City Chiefs
Can the build on the success of winning the AFC West last season?
This is a young team with a lot of talent. But that talent needs to take the next step. That means players like Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson. But the success is really dependent on Matt Cassel. He played well last season, but has to show that was not a fluke.
Is it right to keep Chad Henne as the starting quarterback?
I think Henne deserves another chance, now that the outdated offensive system is gone with the departure of coordinator Dan Henning. It's tough to be a quarterback when it's run-run-pass all the time. Henne could surprise if given more freedom.
Can Christian Ponder really start as a rookie quarterback?
If there is one guy in this class who can, I think it will be Ponder. He is smart and new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave had a great working relationship with Matt Ryan in Atlanta, and I think Ponder is cut from the same cloth as Ryan. He can be a starter from the get-go.
New England Patriots
Where do they get the pass rush?
They hope second-year player Jermaine Cunningham, who flashed at times late last season, can develop into a top edge rusher in their scheme. He has speed off the edge. But that's a lot to place on a second-year player.
New Orleans Saints
Does the addition of Mark Ingram mean the 29th-ranked running game will be better?
The answer should be yes. But with the Saints, you never know. They are a pass-first team. But adding Ingram, a tough insider runner, will help. Pierre Thomas is also capable, as is Chris Ivory. They need to run it better when they have a lead.
New York Giants
What do they do at running back?
If they are smart, they make sure Ahmad Bradshaw is back. He could be a free agent. At 25, he still has a lot of good football left. He is their big-play back. Brandon Jacobs isn't the answer, so they need Bradshaw, but at what price?
New York Jets
Who will be is catching Mark Sanchez's passes next season?
Both Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards could be free agents, which means they could be gone. That would leave a big void in the Jets passing game. Sanchez is making strides, but he's far from there. Losing those two won't help.
With Nnamdi Asomugha likely gone, who takes over at corner?
They love Stanford Routt, who played well last season. That's why they gave him a long-term deal in the winter. But he has just one good year on his resume. That's risky. The other spot will be a camp battle, unless they sign a big-time free agent. Routt isn't Asomugha, so there will be dropoff.
Do they trade Kevin Kolb?
They would be foolish not to do so. They might be able to get multiple picks for him, and if they don't he can leave next season as a free agent. I say he goes to Arizona.
What happens at corner?
There's a chance the Steelers could lose Ike Taylor, their best corner, in free agency. If so, there isn't a lot on the roster to fill that spot. The Steelers have played good defense without top-tier cover players in recent years because of their rush. But the Packers and good passing teams have exposed that in recent years. They need help in the back end. They better hope third-round pick Curtis Brown or fourth-round pick Cortez Allen can step in and help.
St. Louis Rams
Who emerges as threats in the passing game?
Sam Bradford clearly showed as a rookie that he could be a top-tier quarterback soon. Now he needs some help outside from his receivers. The Rams hope Donnie Avery can come back from injury to be a speed receiver. They also might sign a player in free agency -- maybe Sidney Rice -- to help.
San Diego Chargers
Can they hold onto their key free agents?
They are a team with a lot of key players potentially bolting. They could lose safety Eric Weddle, wide receiver Malcom Floyd, linebackers Kevin Burnett and Brandon Siler and some others. General manger A.J. Smith will have his work cut out keeping his roster together.
San Francisco 49ers
Now that it appears Alex Smith is coming back to play quarterback, can Jim Harbaugh make him a better player?
Smith has had his moments at times, but he's had to learn so many systems already. But Harbuagh is a former NFL quarterback, which will help. Look for Smith to be improved under Harbaugh.
Will Matt Hasselbeck be the quarterback in 2011?
There is talk Hasselbeck, who is a free agent, will move on. If he does, it would mean Charlie Whitehurst or another veteran they acquire takes over as the starter. That's risky, but is it worth it to keep Hasselbeck? Depends on the price, but probably not.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
How much better will their pass rush be in 2011?
They had little pressure from the outside last season, which is why they drafted to ends in the April draft. They were counting on big impacts from Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers. Now we'll have to see about that.
Can Jake Locker be ready to play right away at quarterback?
Titans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer loved the kid coming out and Palmer is good with quarterbacks. But with so much missed time, it might be tough to get Locker ready. If they get a veteran, look for Locker to sit and wait.
Who plays quarterback?
If Donovan McNabb isn't back, and the latest word is that he might be, it would be between John Beck and Rex Grossman. Oh, boy. What, wasn't Mark Rypien ready to go?