Each week during the season, I will give you Six From Sunday as a reaction to the six most interesting storylines that surfaced during the games. But this week we'll look forward to what can be expected in Week 1.
1. Here come the returns: Week 1 spells trouble for special teams -- especially coverage units. Last year in Week 1, there were nine touchdowns scored on special-teams plays. Darren Sproles: 72-yard punt return. Jacoby Jones: 79-yard punt return. Patrick Peterson: 89-yard punt return. Ted Ginn: 55-yard punt return. Eric Decker: 90-yard punt return. Randall Cobb: 108-yard kickoff return. Percy Harvin 103-yard kick return. Ted Ginn: 102-yard kick return. Isaiah Trufant on an 18-yard blocked punt return. Coverage units are full of inexperienced rookies, teams hadn't practiced as much as they did in the years prior to 2011 and it was clear early in the season special teams coaches let returners bring the ball out of the end zone. Get ready for Week 1 fireworks!
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2. It's all about the no-huddle attack: The most dominating theme of my camp visits was the amount of time teams spent on their no-huddle offense. The trend is developing a personnel group that can morph into any formation -- like the Patriots with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez -- and eliminate the defense's ability to substitute. New England leads the way, but Denver, Buffalo, Baltimore and Cleveland impressed me with their no-huddle attacks. Rest assured there will be a lot more teams than I mentioned employing the no-huddle.
3. 46-man rosters may be too small: Players with concussion symptoms are going to be removed from games at a higher rate in 2012 and not be allowed to return. That's a good thing for player safety, but it could present a problem: A 46-man active game roster could be depleted. For example, most teams activate seven offensive linemen per game. Two concussions up front and teams will be down to five, enough for each O-line position. Commissioner Roger Goodell said there have been discussions about roster size, and I'm sure the competition committee will further study the impact this season. As one former head coach said, "We need more guys on the active roster and if there's not, it puts more pressure on the active players not to report any [concussion] symptoms they are having."
4. Replacement officials and division games: All games in a 16-game schedule are important -- but none more important than the six division games in Week 1. Last season, four of the division races were settled by a game or less. In Week 1 last year, Baltimore beat Pittsburgh and went on to win the AFC North with the same 12-4 record as the Steelers. I sure hope the people in the press box and at Park Avenue pay special attention to these division games with replacement refs.
5. 12 personnel: Teams always experiment with different personnel groups on offense. Clubs like Philadelphia roll in lots of personnel groups, looking for key matchups. That is a principle of the West Coast offense but a new look is challenging that strategy: The 12 personnel package (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR). This isn't a new deployment, but it is starting to be used more than some others. Bill Parcells once told me that he prefers the matchup a second tight end gets over that of a third wide receiver against the nickel corner. After my camp tour I can easily say that 12 personnel will be utilized often in 2012.
6. Less blitzing in 2012: The zone blitz and the pure man-to-man blitz game still have a place in the NFL, but I suspect it is slowing down. Too many quarterbacks are in shotgun, quick-throw schemes designed to get rid of the ball before the heat reaches the passer. There are too many spread sets that neutralize a significant percentage of pressure calls and make it easy for the QB to read where the pressure originates. It will be interesting to watch the Jets, Steelers, Saints, Texans, Cowboys and Packers, in particular, to get a sense of what high-pressure teams will do. My guess is they don't dial up as many blitzes as a year ago.