NFL TRAINING CAMPS ARE HERE! NFL TRAINING CAMPS ARE HERE!
The rookies are frantically thumbing through three-ring binders and the veterans will be filing in from today until the end of the week. Last week, we covered the first 16 teams - and talked about what those teams might be talking about - so let's get to the rest. Here we go:
On July 28 - just two days after Dolphins report to Nova Southeastern University - Champions League winner Chelsea will face AC Milan in a soccer friendly at Sun Life Stadium, marking the only time you'll see the words "Champions," "winner" and "Sun Life" in the same sentence this year.
It's safe, guys. You can finally start taking offseason phone calls from that Mississippi area code. Shh . shh . he's not coming back.
New England Patriots
The Patriots come into the season with the easiest schedule in the league, with a veteran team that features the fewest rookies (and the fewest undrafted free agents). They spent all but one of their seven draft picks on defensive players, hoping to improve a defense that was only out-sucked by Green Bay (Which you can only get away with when your offense averages 400+ yards and 32+ points per game. Sorry, Tampa.).
New Orleans Saints
Quarterback Drew Brees and coach Sean Payton had been together since both of them arrived in New Orleans in 2006. They collected a 62-34 regular-season record together, with four playoff appearances and a Super Bowl win. Payton has been grounded for the season so it'll be interesting to see how Brees fares and whether, by Week 6, he's morphed into a mini-Peyton, assuming more control of the offense. The rest of the team has to prepare for - and endure - a "Fresh Prince" style coaching swap: Aunt Vivian will be played by Aaron Kromer for the first six games, by Joe Vitt for the remainder of the season.
New York Giants
Yes, they won the Super Bowl and spent the offseason adding diamond-encrusted rings to their homeowners' insurance policies. But despite the confidence of The Littlest Manning and the pants-soiling speed of their pass rush, the Giants also had a lot of luck on their side, especially in the fourth quarter.
The plus side: They collected a record-tying seven final-quarter comebacks.
The minus side: Their average margin of victory was a tight-fitting two points and they lost at least three games in the last fifteen minutes, once by allowing Charlie Whitehurst to lead Seattle to a 20-point 4th quarter and by letting Aaron Rodgers move the ball 80 yards in the final 58 seconds.
Shoved into a cardboard box and buried at least 10 feet below the minus side: Vince Young - VINCE YOUNG - orchestrated a game-winning drive, throwing the go-ahead TD to Riley Cooper. That catch makes up 50 percent of Cooper's career TDs.
Adding the toughest schedule in the league to the 29th ranked defense makes me think Tom Coughlin won't have the opportunity to use his one annual smile this year.
New York Jets
I like to think that when Tim Tebow selects his 12 disciples, he'll consider using Antonio Cromartie's kids.
If the McFadden was a McDonald's menu item, it would only be available for 12 or 13 weeks a year.
Numbers aside, Vick needs to find a way to stay healthy this season because there's really no backup plan. After sending Vince Young to Buffalo, their next option at QB is either Mike Kafka (Career Stats: 11-16, 0 TD, 2 INT) or, um, seeing what that guy with the T-shirt cannon can do. (Career Stats: 50 percent cotton, 50 percent polyester).
Can we just talk about the Pirates for a sec? Because they're two games out of first in the NL Central and are actually a solid team, instead of the trash fire that they've been since 1992.
San Diego Chargers
A: The Nile, the Shenandoah, the Willamette and Philip.
Q: What are Rivers that run backwards?
San Francisco 49ers
Shh . this year we're NOT going to replace Alex Smith's offensive coordinator during the offseason. Let's see what happens when he hears Greg Roman's voice FOR TWO SEASONS IN A ROW.
SJax explains his durability PFT Live: Mike Florio talks with St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson, who recently turned 29, about his durability on the field, dealing with various injuries throughout his career, and dominating after the age of 30. They also chat about the new culture and attitude brought to St. Louis by head coach Jeff Fisher, Jackson's desire to retire as a Ram, and the depth and competition at the wide receiver position.
Tarvaris Jackson, Matt Flynn and rookie Russell Wilson will all compete to see who hands the ball to Marshawn Lynch and, no joke, I think Wilson is the best option. We've seen what Jackson can('t) do and Flynn spent four seasons working on his clipboard arm in Green Bay (although he did get to start in Week 17, which is sort of like when you were eight and your dad would trade you seats so you could pull the car into the garage.) Wilson is athletic, a solid leader and he's going to be amazing in The Hobbit.
SJax explains his durability
PFT Live: Mike Florio talks with St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson, who recently turned 29, about his durability on the field, dealing with various injuries throughout his career, and dominating after the age of 30. They also chat about the new culture and attitude brought to St. Louis by head coach Jeff Fisher, Jackson's desire to retire as a Ram, and the depth and competition at the wide receiver position.
St. Louis Rams
The Rams are the perfect choice to send to London for that Week 8 Euro-exhibition game, mainly because the English crowd is used to watching football players who can't use their hands.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs haven't won a game since last October 16 and those ten straight losses (the ones where they were outscored by a combined 325-156) were pretty much the worst finale since "Lost." I've looked into the eye of this island and what I saw was terrible.
When I noticed that I was legitimately intrigued by a Matt Hasselbeck vs. Jake Locker quarterback battle, I assumed that it was a side effect of taking expired medication. It wasn't. I AM intrigued.
Rex Grossman will be surprised to learn that RGIII wasn't the little robot in Star Wars.