Welcome to training camp
Training camps are opening all over the NFL, preseason games start next week and the regular season is right around the corner.
All around the league optimism is high, as it is always at this year, even for those teams with no chance to playing meaningful games come December. But all the teams, including the good ones, have questions heading to camp.
Yes, even the almighty New England Patriots, who could go undefeated with their talent. They have flaws as well.
Here is a major question for each of the 32 NFL teams.Credit: USATSI
Is the window closing on their Super Bowl chances?
When your top quarterback-receiver combo – Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald – are both coming to the end of their careers, it's natural to say the window is shutting. But Palmer, despite what some think, played well down the stretch last season. This team can push for a division title this season, but how much more they have depends on whether Palmer decides to walk away after the season. This is still a talented roster.Credit: USATSI
Is their any Super Bowl hangover? If not, how will they be different?
It's easy to say they will have a Super Bowl hangover, but the young defense, which started four rookies late last season if you count nickel corner Brian Poole, will be better. The offense should once again be a point machine with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. They won't miss Kyle Shanahan with Steve Sarkisian on board.Credit: USATSI
Who plays running back?
The Ravens suffered a hit this week when the team learned Kenneth Dixon would be lost for the year with a knee injury. That leaves a thin group, with Terrance West and Danny Woodhead the leaders to play big roles. Look for this team to poach a veteran back as camp moves along.Credit: USATSI
Can Tyrod Taylor prove he's the long-term answer?
The Bills restructured Taylor's massive contract in March -- giving him a big money haircut -- but he goes into this season with a chance to prove to the new regime that he should be the starter for the long term. Taylor did some good things last year -- throwing 17 touchdown passes against six picks -- but he has to do even more to convince the team he should be more than just a stop-gap player.Credit: USATSI
Can they return to playoff contention after Super Bowl hangover?
They can, but they've had a lot of turmoil the past few years, including the recent firing of general manager Dave Gettleman. Former Panthers GM Marty Hurney takes over. Cam Newton is coming off a shoulder surgery and there are questions at a lot of spots. The division is also brutal. They need to get back to 2015 play if they are to push in the strong NFC South.Credit: USATSI
Who plays quarterback?
The plan is for it to be Mike Glennon, who they signed as a free agent from Tampa Bay. But they moved up in the draft to take Mitch Trubisky in the first round in April, so he's the future. I would imagine he gets the job at some point this season, maybe even late October. There's no reason to wait if he's truly the guy.Credit: USATSI
Is the offensive line good enough after suffering two major losses?
They suffered big hits when they lost veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth to the Rams and guard Kevin Zeitler to the Browns in free agency. They plan to play veteran Andre Smith at right guard with third-year linemen Cedric Ogbuhei and Jake Fisher taking over as the tackles. Ogbuehi played right tackle last year, but struggled. He should be better at his more natural spot. If the two young tackles don't step up, the line will be a major problem.Credit: USATSI
Who plays quarterback for a team that will be improved?
The Browns have done a nice job improving their roster the past two years, but it comes down to the quarterback play. Who will start? Will it be Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler or rookie DeShone Kizer? The job is wide open, but Kizer has a ton of ability if he can deal with being a rookie starter.Credit: USATSI
Who rushes the passer?
They've had a lot of issues at the defensive end spot in recent years -- suspensions and injuries among them -- so they need rookie first-round pick Taco Charlton to be a factor right away. DeMarcus Lawrence, who has pass-rush skills, is limited to start camp coming off back surgery. Tyrone Crawford is a good player at one spot, but David Irving's four-game suspension to open the season is a blow. This could be the undoing for this team.Credit: USATSI
Who wins the starting quarterback job?
Trevor Siemian heads into camp as the No. 1 guy, but there's been a lot of chatter coming from the around the team about how good second-year player Paxton Lynch looked this offseason. John Elway didn't pick him in the first round last year to sit on the bench. I think he will open as the starter. Get on with it. He's the quarterback with the most upside.Credit: USATSI
Can they amp up the pass rush?
The Lions had 26 sacks last season, tying the Cleveland Browns for 30th in the league. Ziggy Ansah, their best pass rusher, missed three games with an ankle injury and seemed to struggle with it for much of the season. He had two sacks after getting 14.5 the year before. He needs to get back to his 2015 season. Kerry Hyder led the team with eight, but it would be hard to expect him to duplicate that. They signed Cornelius Washington away from the Bears to help. They have to get the sack number up at least to the high 30s.Credit: USATSI
Green Bay Packers
Can cornerbacks rebound after a horrible injury-riddled 2016 season?
The Packers were 31st against the pass last year, and a lot of those issues had to do with corner problems. They had a lot of injuries at that spot, but they could have two new corners starting this season. They took Washington's Kevin King in the first round and brought back veteran Davon House. They also have young players Damarious Randall, the likely nickel back, and Quinten Rollins and Ladarius Gunter, all with starting experience. There is enough talent here to improve from 31st.Credit: USATSI
Who starts at quarterback in Week 1?
It sounds like it will be Tom Savage, but how long does he keep the job? They traded up to get Deshaun Watson for a reason. He is their future. Savage has an edge having played in the complicated system, but Watson will likely take the job at some point this season.Credit: USATSI
How concerning is Andrew Luck's shoulder injury?
It should be very concerning. He didn't do much this offseason, and this team is built around him. Without him, they are a bottom feeder. They have to get him healthy. I would expect he will take it easy in the preseason, but he has to be there on opening day or this will be a long season for the Colts.Credit: USATSI
Has quarterback Blake Bortles fixed his issues?
They can talk all they want about his mechanics being refined, but the issue I saw last year was more upstairs in his head. I think the previous staff got into his head about turnovers, and he played scared. He also has to do a better job on his pre-snap reads. He makes it way too hard on himself. An improved run game will help, but Bortles has to get better in the mental part of the game to show improvement.Credit: USATSI
Kansas City Chiefs
How will the Patrick Mahomes pick affect Alex Smith?
The Chiefs made the bold move to draft Mahomes in the first round in April, and he is clearly the quarterback of the future. Smith has done some good things getting the Chiefs to the playoffs, but the perception is he's a game manager. He should keep the job this year, but will he play looking over his shoulder?Credit: USATSI
Los Angeles Chargers
Will the new-look offensive line come together?
They've had issues up front for years, which has impacted Philip Rivers a ton. They signed Russell Okung as a free agent to play left tackle, but he wasn't good in Denver last year. They also drafted guards Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney in April. Spencer Pulley, an undrafted free agent in 2016, is working as the starting center, with Matt Slauson moving over to left guard. That means new faces in four spots this season. That might not be a bad thing.Credit: USATSI
Los Angeles Rams
Will Jared Goff show he's the long-term answer in Sean McVay's scheme?
McVay did a great job turning Kirk Cousins into a quality passer, so there is hope for Goff. He struggled as a rookie last season, but the offense lacked talent, and the line was really bad. An improved line will help his growth and McVay should help make him a better passer. How much better is the big question.Credit: USATSI
Can they stop the run?
The Dolphins were 30th in rush defense and 31st in yards per rush last year, which is awful considering they were a playoff team and Ndamukong Suh plays in the middle of their defense at tackle. It wasn't him; he needs help. Jordan Phillips is talented next to him, but he has to be consistent. They have youngsters as depth behind them. They hope signing veteran linebacker Lawrence Timmons will help, but he is on the tail end of his career.Credit: USATSI
How improved will the new-look offensive line be in 2017?
Last year's unit was a disaster, so it doesn't have to do much to be better. They signed tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers as free agents to upgrade the line, and they should do that. They moved center Joe Berger to guard, which means either Nick Easton, who had five starts last year on the line, or rookie Pat Elflein will be starter, with Easton likely the guy in Week 1. With this group at least Sam Bradford will have time to let the downfield stuff develop, which wasn't the case last year.Credit: USATSI
New England Patriots
Who rushes the passer?
They lack a dominant edge rusher, but they didn't have one last season when they won the Super Bowl. That did show up some in 2016, so it remains an issue. Trey Flowers was a breakout player last season and has a chance to be a 10-to-12-sack player in 2017. They traded for Kony Ealy, but he was a disappointment last year in Carolina. Rookie Derek Rivers might need to be a factor early on.Credit: USATSI
New Orleans Saints
Is the defense playoff-caliber yet?
Good? No. Better? Yes. This is a unit that has been a disaster in recent years, but with second-year player Sheldon Rankins, their first-round pick last year, expected to show big improvement and the addition of help from both the draft and free agency, they should be better. Rookie first-round corner Marshon Lattimore will help the coverage, but the pass rush still has some issues.Credit: USATSI
New York Giants
Can the offense get back to being Super Bowl-caliber after a down year?
The Giants had offensive line issues last season that hurt their offense. They need to get better play from left tackle Ereck Flowers, and center Weston Richburg had an off year. If that happens, with the addition of Evan Engram and Brandon Marshall to the passing game, the offense will be much better.Credit: USATSI
New York Jets
Who plays quarterback?
It's not exactly the greatest trio to pick from, but what does playing veteran Josh McCown do for a team that's clearly rebuilding? They should play Christian Hackenberg to see what he can do. If he flops, then maybe try Bryce Petty and McCown. Then it's draft one next year.Credit: USATSI
Can the defense make big strides?
All the spotlight was on the Oakland offense last year, and rightfully so, but the defense wasn't very good. That unit ranked 32nd in yards per play in 2016, even with Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack. They were also 32nd in passing yards per play, which means the secondary had major issues. That unit has to be better.Credit: USATSI
Is Carson Wentz ready to take a big step forward in his second season?
He was thrown in right away as a rookie last year and got off to a great start. But then things leveled off. I think with an entire year in the system, he will be that much better. Wentz has to the tools to be a big-time passer, but the expectations were a little high after his fast start last season.Credit: USATSI
When will Le'Veon Bell show up with his contract situation unsettled?
Does it really matter? As long as he's there the first week of the regular season and plays against the Minnesota Vikings in the opener, it doesn't really matter. It's not like he doesn't know the offense. And it's doubtful that he will miss game checks. Bell will be a big part of the Steelers offense.Credit: USATSI
San Francisco 49ers
What will the new regime do in Year 1?
They clearly got off to a good start with their draft-day maneuvering to land a lot of good players, but this is a team that will take some time to push for a playoff spot. In general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan, they have a nice 1-2 combination that can grow together. I like the early look.Credit: USATSI
Can they fix the offensive line?
They didn't do a lot in the offseason to try and fix it – Is Luke Joeckel the answer? – so they better hope a lot of their young guys take big steps forward. If they don't, Russell Wilson could take a beating again. They keep saying they will be fine up front, but at some point even the front-office brass has to admit this is a unit with problems.Credit: USATSI
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Is this a team ready for the HBO "Hard Knocks" spotlight?
This is a young team, but, for the most part, it is not made up of guys who will seek the spotlight and ham it up. There are a few who might, according to some close to the team, but coach Dirk Koetter is a no-nonsense coach who won't put up with that type of crap. One prediction: Koetter will be the star of "Hard Knocks." He has a biting sense of humor normally few get to see.Credit: USATSI
Can they improve the passing game?
The Titans were 25th in passing offense last season in Mike Mularkey's exotic smashmouth system. They clearly want to upgrade that part of their offense, which is why they used the fifth overall pick on Western Michigan receiver Corey Davis, a third-round pick on Western Kentucky receiver Taywan Taylor and also signed Eric Decker as a free agent. The tools should help quarterback Marcus Mariota put up improved passing numbers.Credit: USATSI
Will the Kirk Cousins situation impact this team's playoff chances?
Cousins seems to be a true professional who shouldn't let it impact his play on the field. But you can bet it will be a season-long distraction. If he plays well, it will be all about why the Redskins didn't give him a long-term deal. If he doesn't, all the venom will come his way. It will be hard to keep this out of the locker room.Credit: USATSI