The NFC – Riddle Me This?
By Leo Paciga @FFHoudini
With training camps in full swing across the NFL, it’s the perfect time to work through the NFC and pose a few questions that need to be answered during the next few grueling weeks of practice. Rather then spend time speculating on the myriad of possible outcomes; I’d rather focus on the key queries at hand and provide dynasty owners a “CliffsNotes” version of things to specifically watch for during camp. So let’s go through the NFC – we’ll do it team by team focusing on the top two fantasy related questions that we’re all dying to have answered as NFL training camps unfold.
1.) How will Chip Kelly’s offense translate to the NFL? Kelly may have hired two “seasoned” coordinators in Pat Shurmur (offense) and Bill Davis (defense), but after those two fellas there is very little NFL experience on the Philadelphia coaching staff.
2.) Who will win the starting QB job in Philadelphia, Mike Vick or Nick Foles? Vick’s skill set is better suited to running a typical Chip Kelly offense, but Foles gets rid of the ball very quickly. Foles could see a bump in value, especially if new OC Pat Shurmur injects some of his patented west coast philosophy into the basic play calling.
Bonus question – With the recent Jeremy Maclin ACL injury and the Riley Cooper vocab debacle – which WR will now step up? Will it be one of the speedsters – Damaris Johnson or Russell Shepard? Maybe it will be the promising, but often injured Arrelious Benn? Or maybe the workmanlike and under appreciated Jason Avant?
1.) Will Dez Bryant continue to build on his progress from last season and take even more strides toward solidifying his place as a top tier NFL wide receiver?
2.) Can DeMarco Murray finally stay healthy in 2013? Will rookie RB Joseph Randle show enough in training camp to step in should Murray miss more playing time this season, or will that responsibility fall to running back Lance Dunbar?
New York Giants
1.) Can David Wilson demonstrate improved pass protection and ball security early on in camp and lock down a huge role in the New York offense right out of the gate?
2.) Will 2013 finally be the year Hakeem Nicks puts his lower leg issues in the rear view mirror, or will second year wide receiver Ruben Randle be called upon to have a much larger role than expected in just his second season?
1.) Will franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III be ready for the season opener, and more importantly, will he still be that dynamic difference maker early on?
2.) Another health question that needs answering in camp deals with the feet of wide receiver Pierre Garcon and tight end Fred Davis. Garcon played last season with a torn ligament in his right foot, keeping him out of six games and limiting him in even more. When he played, however, Garcon performed admirably finishing the season with 44 receptions, 633 yards and 4 touchdowns. Fred Davis could be a huge target for the Redskins, but Davis is returning from a ruptured Achilles’ tendon that cut short his 2012 season.
1.) Meet the new boss, DEFINITELY not the same as the old boss. How will the new look 2013 Bears perform this season with an innovative and offensive minded head coach at the helm? HC Marc Trestman’s influence should be evident right away.
2.) Can the new additions to the offensive line keep Jay Cutler upright long enough to sling the football? Quarterback Jay Cutler obviously can’t get the ball down field if he’s pounded into a pouting mess by opposing defenders every time he drops back to pass. New additions to the Bears O-line include 2012 Pro Bowler Jermon Bushrod (Saints), 1st round selection Kyle Long and guard Matt Slauson. How well this line meshes in training camp will go a long way in determining just how prolific this new offense is in 2013.
1.) Is Christian Ponder capable of showing signs that he’s a franchise quarterback and the right choice to lead this team for the next 10 years?
2.) Can newly acquired wide receiver Greg Jennings and 1st round draft pick Cordarrelle Patterson create a Percy Harvin sized migraine for opposing defenses?
1.) Is Reggie Bush exactly what the doctor ordered to cure Detroit’s rushing woes? When healthy, Reggie Bush has that electric skill set to move the chains with not only his legs, but also his pass catching abilities. Could his versatility finally open things up for the top wideout in the game, Calvin Johnson.
2.) Is second year wide receiver Ryan Broyles healthy and ready to makes his presence felt in 2013? Lets face it, the injury history hasn’t been pretty for Ryan Broyels. Broyles sustained a torn ACL in his right knee on Dec. 2 against the Colts at Ford Field and he previously rehabbed all the way back from a torn ACL in his left knee that he suffered late in the 2011 season while at Oklahoma. The WR#2 spot is just sitting there for someone to take and Broyles may be that player as long as his speed returns this season.
Green Bay Packers
1.) Will one of the rookie running backs emerge in training camp as a perfect fit for the Green Bay offense? Eddie Lacy‘s physical running style and ability to break tackles make him the favorite to lead the Green Bay ground attack, but there are some question marks surrounding Lacy’s work habits, his lack of long speed and his long term durability (specifically pertaining to a “fused” big toe). Fellow rookie Johnathan Franklin is a smaller, more versatile running back who just may leap frog Lacy, or at least secure a role in the passing game with a solid camp.
2.) How will the Packers adjust to life without Greg Jennings? Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones are all very capable wide receivers and it seems like tight end Jermichael Finley is always on the verge of a big season. It will be interesting to see if Randall Cobb continues his ascension up the ranks, leaving Nelson and Jones in his dust.
San Francisco 49ers
1.) Will second half sensation Colin Kaepernick continue to develop as a leader and a dynamic duel threat in the 49ers “run first” offense?
2.) With the loss of wide receiver Michael Crabtree for the season (torn Achilles tendon), who will step up and fill the role of security blanket for quarterback Colin Kaepernick? Can either newly acquired Anquan Boldin (Ravens) or physically imposing tight end Vernon Davis shoulder the load in the San Fransisco passing game? After a slow going regular season adjustment period between Davis and Kaepernick, can the two players continue to build on that late season chemistry?
Bonus question – Is UDFA Chuck Jacobs a name dynasty owners should watch for at WR during training camp? Hint: Yes
1.) With Percy Harvin (hip surgery/labrum) missing significant time, can either Sidney Rice or Golden Tate step up at the receiver position to provide Russell Wilson with enough quality targets? Yes, Seattle is a “run first” offense, but Wilson will still need some solid WR play to continue developing as a premier signal caller in the NFL.
2.) Can running back Marshawn Lynch withstand another grueling year of punishment? The super talented, but often injured rookie Christine Michael waits in the wings along with second year running back Robert Turbin. Both of theses young running backs are players to monitor closely the next few weeks.
St. Louis Rams
1.) Is this the year Sam Bradford takes the next step? Danny Amendola (Patriots) may be long gone, but with athletic TE Jared Cook, rookies Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey and second year receivers Brian Quick and Chris Givens; the Rams have assembled a nice collection of young talent to help Sam Bradford elevate his game. Another positive for Sam Bradford is that for the first time in Bradford’s short career, he’ll be dealing with the same OC (Schottenheimer ) and QB coach (Cignetti) for consecutive seasons.
2.) What Greek mythological character best describes the St. Louis rushing attack? Well, the answer to that question is “Cerberus” who just happens to be a three headed hell-hound that guards the gates of the Underworld. The Rams head into 2013 with a three headed monster of their own – a rushing attack made up of second year players Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead and rookie running back Zac Stacy. All three players have been fantasy football darlings at some point this off season, so how this situation plays out in terms of playing time, work load distribution and productivity will be a major component in any success the Rams may have in 2013.
1.) What kind of impact will Bruce Arians have on the Arizona offense and can he – and newly acquired quarterback Carson Palmer – breath new life into a dismal passing attack? The Cardinals already have weapons in the uber talented Larry Fitzgerald and future star Michael Floyd – but it’s up to Arians and Palmer to re-energize this offense.
2.) Can improvements to the offensive line provide a much needed jolt to both the running game as well as the aerial attack this season? First round draft pick Jonathan Cooper is officially signed and in camp and the Cardinals recently signed FA tackle Eric Winston to a one year deal. Is this bolstered offensive line improved enough to create space for running backs Rashard Mendenhall, Andre Ellington, Stepfan Taylor and the always injured Ryan Williams?
1.) Is one football enough to keep everyone happy? Talk about a plethora of offensive weapons; QB Matt Ryan will have his hands full keeping Roddy White, Steven Jackson, Tony Gonzalez, Jaquizz Rogers and Julio Jones fed and content.
2.) In 2012, Michael Turner failed in his role as a legitimate running threat and the Falcons paid the price when it came to closing out teams down the stretch. Will the versatility and power that Steven Jackson brings to the Falcons make them a truly unstoppable offense in 2013?
1.) Will running back Jonathan Stewart ever be healthy or will DeAngelo Williams be counted on to lead the Carolina ground attack this season?
2.) At 34 years of age, can Steve Smith still dominate the targets at wide receiver and continue to be a down field threat?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1.) Can Josh Freeman finally progress to the next level? Freeman, the starter since 2010, has not taken that “next step” up the quarterback ladder. With the weapons surrounding Freeman, it’s a make or break year for a player entering the final year of his rookie deal.
2.) Is Doug Martin capable of improving upon his stellar rookie season? And if Martin misses any extended action, who will the Buccaneers turn to in his absence?
New Orleans Saints
1.) Will Sean Payton’s return fix all that was wrong with the Saints in 2012? Considered an offensive genius by many, can Payton pull even more elite fantasy football production out of RB Darren Sproles and TE Jimmy Graham?
2.) Is 2013 the year running back Mark Ingram steps up? The Saints are a tough fit for the running style of this former Alabama Heisman Trophy winner. Ingram is a grinder who gets stronger as the game goes on and the Saints have been extremely one dimensional and lacked their normal offensive creativity when Ingram enters the game. With the departure of Chris Ivory (Jets), all eyes will be on Mark Ingram during training camp.
Well, that will do it for the NFC and some of the more important questions that need to be answered as training camps hit full swing around the NFL. You may or may not agree with my analysis on the players and situations mentioned above, but hopefully you’ve at least enjoyed the article. I encourage everyone out there to take the time to research players, watch some film and continue to actively improve your dynasty rosters. The tools and opinions provided here at DFW can certainly help take your teams to the next level. Feel free to contact me on Twitter @FFHoudini with any questions or comments.
Read more DFW articles by: Leo Paciga