The on-going feud between the New York Giants and defensive end Osi Umenyiora is just one of a many storylines that have spiced up the NFL Preseason
The preseason is the unofficial beginning of the quest for the Lombardi Trophy. There are 32 teams that hold the hopes and dreams of winning a Super Bowl title for their respective cities.
This preseason is guaranteed to be a little different from what we have seen in the past. The four and a half month lockout made it that way. The new CBA wasn’t signed until early August, less than a week before the first preseason game. Free agents who signed with new teams weren’t allowed to practice until last Thursday, and in most cases didn’t take the field until last Friday. Gone are the training camp two-a-days, and the long physical training camps. Heck, you can’t practice for more than 6 consecutive days anymore.
These will be a big issues not only this preseason, but all through the regular season and playoffs. How will the play on the field be affected by the new practice and training camp limitations? Let’s look at 8 other intriguing storylines to watch this preseason.
The holdout of Chris Johnson — CJ2K has rushed for 4,598 yards and 34 touchdowns in his 3-year career. In 2009, he became only the sixth player in NFL history to rush for over 2,000 yards with 2,006. This season he is scheduled to make $800,000 in base salary. He reportedly wants $30 million guaranteed. It doesn’t look like he is coming to camp anytime soon in spite of the $30,000 he is fined for every day of camp he misses. Tennessee won’t negotiate until he comes to camp. He doesn’t want to risk injury by coming to camp or playing in meaningless preseason games. My gut feeling is they work out a lucrative contract before the season starts.
The development of NFL No.1 Draft Pick, QB Cam Newton — The Carolina Panthers were a disappointing 2-14 last year. They drafted Newton to be the quarterback of the future. The future is now. Carolina was one of the most active teams in free agency. They signed the two anchors of their defense Jon Beason and Charles Johnson to long term deals. They hope Cam Newton will be the same on offense. He should have the opportunity right away. Don’t bet on Jimmy Clausen, Derek Anderson, or Tony Pike holding off Newton as the Panthers starting quarterback.
The Osi Umenyiora / NY Giants Saga — The much publicized spat between the Giants and their disgruntled defensive end keeps taking strange twists. Umenyiora skipped the first few days of training camp. Once he reported he never practiced with the team because of a knee injury. They sent him home for a few days and gave his agent permission to look for a trade. Once they realized nobody was giving a number one draft pick for Umenyiora’s services, they said the trade window is closed. Now we hear that Umenyiora is set to see a specialist in Atlanta to determine if he will need knee surgery. This is the strangest storyline of the preseason. In my opinion Umenyiora has played his last game as a Giant.
Philadelphia “Dream Team”?? — The Eagles made their intentions clear over the first two weeks of the new league year. They want to win now, and are bringing in the players including some high-profile free agents — Asomugha, V.Y, Ronnie Brown and others — they believe will help attain that ultimate goal of winning the city’s first football championship since 1960. As the preseason goes along it will be interesting to see how this team comes together, and how they handle the added media attention and fan expectations. While the first chapter may play out now, we’ll have to wait until February until the book is complete on this team.
The return of Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo — Rumblings out of Dallas are that Tony Romo poised to have a big season. No matter how optimistic Dallas is the truth remains the same. Romo still has never lived up to the expectations that Jerry Jones has for him. He got over the hump two years ago by beating the Eagles in the wildcard round for his first playoff win. Unfortunately in Dallas you’re measured by Super Bowls, so a 1-3 playoff record won’t cut it. If Dallas is to get to the promised land, Romo has to step up and be the leader. They will be closer than a lot of people think.
The Shanahan Show, Back in the Nation’s Capital Again — Mike and Kyle Shanahan don’t need a quarterback. Well, according to them they don’t. The rest of us aren’t sold on John Beck. Washington traded Donovan McNabb to Minnesota because the Shanahan’s believe Beck is the quarterback of the future in Washington . This preseason is crucial for Washington . If Beck shows promise, the fans will be patient. If he stinks, the Shanahan’s will be on the hot seat. They may even have to turn to Rex Grossman. Knowing how stubborn Mike Shanahan is, the Redskins maybe in for a long year. I’d say they’re the favorites in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.
The Broncos quarterback competition — There is a new regime in Denver . John Elway is the vice president of football operations and John Fox is the coach. Neither was with the team when they drafted Tim Tebow 16 months ago. They are in a precarious situation. Tebow is a fan favorite. He has the top selling jersey in the NFL. Nobody says a bad word about him. Kyle Orton is the best quarterback on the Broncos roster. He gives them the best chance to win games on Sundays. If it was anybody else in the NFL besides Tebow, this wouldn’t even be a controversy, and Orton would the starter. Reports out of Denver are that Tebow has regressed in his mechanics since last season. Hearing the reports of Tebow struggling, I’d say Orton outplays Tebow this preseason and starts the whole year.
Peyton Manning’s Recovery from Neck Surgery — The lockout affected many teams and players differently. It may have affected Manning and the Colts more than any other team. Manning is still recovering from offseason neck surgery. No. 18 wasn’t allowed to rehab with team doctors and that’s why the recovery is going so slow. That, coupled with the fact that this is Manning’s second neck surgery in 20 months should make Colts fans very nervous. Manning is 35. He isn’t getting any younger. The Colts did very little in the offseason. They are counting on Manning to carry them. The Colts offense is predicated on rhythm and timing. If Peyton misses all or some of the preseason, the Colts could be in trouble. Two years ago when Manning missed the entire preseason the team started 3-4. They won the last 9 games to finish 12-4. Can they afford another slow start? They have a tough schedule and Houston looks to be closer than ever to dethroning the defending AFC South champs. This will be one of Peyton’s toughest challenges yet.
Jason King is a contributing writer at Taking It to the House and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org