D.A.: The NFL's Ten Biggest Storylines Of Training Camp

From the Giants to the Patriots, from Jon Gruden to Andrew Luck, the NFL isn't shy on preseason storylines 

Damon Amendolara
August 01, 2018 - 4:46 pm

USA Today Images

Thursday marks the official beginning of the preseason with the Hall of Fame Game, which means it is now time to start looking seriously at NFL'18. The biggest questions of the season have five months to shake themselves out, but there are plenty of queries that will get answers before Opening Weekend. Let's count down the list from 10 to 1.   

10) Is this the end of Joe Flacco? 
The Ravens drafted Lamar Jackson to light a fire under their long-time starter and provide a solution for his eventual departure. But how soon will that be? Everyone in Baltimore seems to love how quickly Jackson is developing, and Flacco isn't one to ever get too worked up. If Flacco has a dog-food preseason and Jackson catches up quickly, we may see the Flacco era come to an end soon. 

9) Is Josh Rosen going to start the opener? 
The reports from Phoenix are glowing for the rookie. Yes, Sam Bradford should be the veteran starter. But Rosen has the potential to be the best quarterback of this class by a long shot. The Cardinals coaches are trying hard to contain their excitement, but there's a certain resignation already in Bradford's voice. He knows it's only a matter of time before the kid gets the reigns. Will he be too good to sit for Week 1? 

8) Is Patrick Mahomes ready? 
The Chiefs were a perennial playoff team with Alex Smith, but no one took them seriously as a Super Bowl contender. With a young, powerful quarterback, that would all change. Andy Reid's play-calling can look brilliant when executed correctly, but will it be too much for a sophomore signal-caller? Mahomes can make the Chiefs a scary opponent, or he can make them sink back into quicksand with inexperienced mistakes. 

7) Is Jimmy G really this good? 
Five starts, five wins last year for the Niners. But so much attention has come his way this offseason, you can only wonder how it affects him. Deep profiles done by SI and Bleacher Report, breathless coverage by the TV networks. If Garoppolo is the real deal, we'll find out pretty quickly. If this is all premature? The Niners are back to more dark days. 

6) Is Odell back to being Odell? 
Forget Saquon Barkley's impact as a rookie. The biggest game-changer to the Giants offense is Beckham. He makes Eli Manning look better than he is. He covers up the flaws of the pass blocking by a faulty line. He opens up space for other wideouts and tight ends. And he lessens the importance of the ground game. When Beckham was catching 10-yard slants and taking them 75 yards, the Giants made the playoffs two years ago. When injured, New York became the worst team in the NFC. If he's healthy and 100% after the injury, he single-handedly changes the G-men. 

5) Will Dez Bryant find a job? 
He's been a wildly productive receiver for years, but he's no longer at an elite level. He also comes with baggage, an emotional player who needs to feel wanted. He's already turned down the Ravens, and lashed out as his former teammates in Dallas. Is there a GM out there that will ignore all that and extend Dez's career? 

4) Can Kirk Cousins take the Vikings to the next level? 
Minnesota was a win away from hosting the Super Bowl, and it was rudely snatched by the Eagles. The Vikes have the defense, the skill weapons, and the coach to get it done. But will they get better quarterbacking than they had last year in Case Keenum? If Cousins earns his money, Minny is the best team in the NFC. But will Captain Kirk get lost in space with this newfound pressure? 

3) Can Jon Gruden coach? 
He's openly pining to bring back '90s football. His players say he's showing film from the '70s. He hasn't been on the sideline in a decade. If Gruden's tactics work, the Raiders are the favorites in the AFC West and a very good roster to make a run in January. If the game has passed him by, this could be a long nightmare contract for Oakland

2) Can the Patriots get along? 
There is one constant in New England: Themselves. As the league ebbs and flows, teams rise and fall, the Patriots are the metronome. 12+ victories. Win the division. First-round BYE. See you in the AFC Title Game, suckers. Same quarterback. Same coach. Two decades. But there's enough reason to wonder if we near the end. There's been rare drama around the franchise for months. Will it derail the impenetrable dynasty?  

1) Can Andrew Luck throw a football? 
It would seem to be a non-issue, the starting quarterback of an NFL team heading into a season should be able to toss a football. But the never-ending saga of the Colts signal-caller is the single biggest storyline of the summer. If he can throw, Indy has a chance to flip last year's disaster. If not? The career of a superstar is in jeopardy. Some of this list can sort itself out during the season, but this is the one question that will be answered in the preseason. Have we already seen the best of Luck?

Damon Amendolara, known by his fans as D.A., hosts “The D.A. Show,” from 9:00AM-12:00PM, ET, across the country on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. “The D.A. Show” is known for its unique perspective on sports, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, colorful listener interaction, and candid interviews with athletes and coaches. Amendolara also appears regularly on NFL Network as part of the “NFL Top 10” documentary film series, CBS television and SNY TV. He is a Syracuse University grad and native of Warwick, N.Y.