Five things to look forward to this NFL preseason

With just a few weeks to go until training camps begin, we’re putting together the top 10 things to look forward to this NFL preseason. Here are the first 5 to start:

  1. Will the Ryan Fitzpatrick saga ever end? The New York Jets and last year’s starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick have been tango-ing ever since last season ended. The Jets start their training camp schedule on July 27 which means the team has about 2 weeks to attempt to come to terms with the man so lovingly dubbed “Fitzmagic” last year. If they don’t agree to terms soon, head coach Todd Bowles said they’re ready to start the year with Geno Smith at quarterback. (Side note – I’m not.)
  2. Jimmy Garoppolo’s play in training camp. As of right now, Tom Brady is still suspended for the first four games of the NFL season for his involvement in the never-ending Deflategate saga. Those four games have the Patriots at Arizona to open the year and then three home games against the Dolphins, Texans and Bills. While, outside of the Cardinals, those are all relatively winnable games for the Patriots, they will be led by Jimmy Garoppolo. Garoppolo has played in 11 NFL games in his past two seasons with the Pats, with 1 touchdown pass. He needs to show his teammates and coaches that he’s ready to fill in for their All-Pro quarterback and at least keep the team afloat until he comes back. Garoppolo needs to gain chemistry with his receivers, show a mastery of the playbook and calm the franchise’s fears.
  3. How the six NFL teams with new head coaches learn their new systems. The Eagles, Browns, Dolphins, Giants, 49ers and Buccaneers all have new coaches leading the way. For the Giants, it’s a new era post-Tom Coughlin, who had been at the helm for quite a long time. The Eagles are moving on from the promising and then disastrous Chip Kelly years. The 49ers now will see if Kelly can bring them back to glory. The Browns want to put the Johnny Manziel and Mike Pettine years behind them with Hue Jackson taking over. The Dolphins and Bucs turn their teams over to Adam Gase and Dirk Koetter. Each team will have it’s ups and downs getting accustomed to their new systems, but I’m really looking to see: if the Eagles’ problems were all Chip-based or if they have bigger issues than that, how the Giants move on from their fearless leader, with one of his disciples and if Chip Kelly can resurrect his reputation out west.
  4. The quarterback competition in Denver. Goodbye, Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler. Hello, Mark Sanchez and Paxton Lynch. The sixth-overall pick in 2009 NFL draft has seen his stock drop over the years as he went from making back-to-back AFC Championships with the Jets to a backup position with the Eagles. Now he has a chance to reinvent his career under the guidance of one of the greatest quarterbacks ever in John Elway. It looks like he has a slight edge over the rookie first round pick, Paxton Lynch, but that edge could disappear quite quickly if Sanchez starts turning the ball over as he has been prone to. The Broncos are returning most of their Super Bowl winning team which should take the pressure off of the quarterback’s shoulders. Sanchez will probably have the best set of skill position players he’s ever had as a quarterback in the NFL, so the question is can he capitalize or will this be Lynch’s team to lead?
  5. How the rookie quarterbacks perform under the bright lights? Sticking with the quarterback theme, the top two picks in this past year’s NFL draft were Jared Goff to the LA Rams and Carson Wentz to the Eagles. Goff will by far and away be under more pressure than Wentz as he will now be the face of the Los Angeles Rams – the NFL’s hopeful jewel. He will be expected not to fail and while he has Todd Gurley behind him to help, that’s most of the Rams’ offensive talent. He’ll have a lot to do with little to work with. Wentz, meanwhile, will theoretically have a chance to sit behind Sam Bradford and learn for a year or so, at least unless Bradford holds out and demands a trade. The Philadelphia media market can be brutal, but at least in the beginning, Wentz should be able to hide away from some of it, while Goff will be on display front and center from the start. That is unless Wentz gets stuck in another bathroom.

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