20 burning questions as Dolphins, NFL teams enter training camp

With NFL training camps underway this week, here are 20 questions to ponder.

The time is now for Ryan Tannehill to prove he can lead the Dolphins to the next level. (Allen Eyestone/Palm Beach Post)

The time is now for Ryan Tannehill to prove he can lead the Dolphins to the next level. (Allen Eyestone/Palm Beach Post)

Is Ryan Tannehill out of excuses?

Adam Gase was hired by the Dolphins partly to fix QB Ryan Tannehill. After three years it’s shut-up-and-put up time for Tannehill. The Dolphins need to know if Tannehill is the quarterback to take them to the next level and this will be the year they find out.

Could things be any worse for the Dallas Cowboys?

Talk about a circus. The Cowboys already have enough concerns to last a season. We start with Tony Romo’s health (he played four games last season) and move into more serious issues like Rolando McClain, Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence suspensions and first-round pick Ezekiel Elliott being accused of domestic assault. Should be a fun season in Big D.

Has Joe Flacco recovered from knee surgery?

The Ravens quarterback tore his ACL and MCL in Week 11 and Baltimore went on to lose four of its final six games. Baltimore’s season comes down to the health of its best players. The Ravens added receiver Mike Wallace and tight end Benjamin Watson, but they need Flacco for it all to work.

How much does Jordy Nelson’s return help Green Bay?

In 2014 Nelson caught 98 passes for 1,519 yards and 13 TDs and was targeted 151 times. That season, Aaron Rodgers had a 112.2 QBR and threw for 4,381 yards. Last year, with Nelson missing the entire season because of an ACL tear, Rodgers had a 92.7 QBR and threw for 3,821 yards. Answer: A lot.

Was Carolina a one-hit wonder?

The Panthers were the story of the regular season, flirting with perfection (their only loss in their 15th game) and advancing to the Super Bowl after a blowout win in the NFC title game. The Panthers were the fifth NFL team to win at least 17 games in a season. Now, QB Cam Newton has another weapon with the return of stud receiver Kelvin Benjamin from injury. One-hit wonder? Probably not. But don’t expect another historical season.

Is this Sean Payton’s last season in New Orleans?

Many believed Payton was out after a third 7-9 season in the last four years. But Payton received a five-year extension in March. Still, the Saints are a long way from that 2010 Super Bowl victory in Miami and it will struggle to get back to .500. Will Payton be fired? Probably not unless it really goes south.

Bill Belichick or Don Shula?

Please, this isn’t even close. Belichick has cemented his title as the greatest coach in league history. Since joining New England in 2000, Belichick is 22-9 in the postseason with four Super Bowl titles. His 23 postseason wins (one with the Browns) are the most in history. Shula was 19-17 in the postseason. With Tom Brady as his starter for 15 years, Belichick has been to the playoffs 13 times and the Super Bowl six times. With Dan Marino as his starter for 13 years, Shula went to the playoffs seven times and one Super Bowl.

Can the Broncos repeat after losing one of the greatest QBs of all time?

Peyton Manning is a sure fire Hall of Famer. His (regular season) numbers are incomparable. But he is not the reason the Broncos won the Super Bowl. That reason is the defense. That being said, Denver needs to get something from the position whether it’s Mark Sanchez or Paxton Lynch. The defense will remain strong and the Broncos have a shot at repeating, but they won’t.

Will RGIII make a difference in Cleveland?

Robert Griffin is looking to revive his career after flaming out in Washington. But this won’t be easy with the most dysfunctional franchise in the NFL. Griffin must fall in with new coach Hue Jackson. If he stays healthy he will help, but it is going to take a lot more than Griffin for the Browns to become relevant again.

Which QB will have a bigger impact, Jared Goff in L.A. or Carson Wentz in Philadelphia?

Goff, the top overall pick, has a much better chance of starting from the get-go than Wentz, who was taken second overall. Goff’s competition is Case Keenum, who has started 15 games in four years and completed 56.7 percent of his passes. The Eagles appear to have a clearer plan to groom Wentz with Sam Bradford around for one more year.

Jameis Winston

Jameis Winston

Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota?

This debate will carry on as long as both QBs play well, and under the circumstances for both (i.e. dreadful teams) they did as rookies. But Winston rebounded from being clearly outplayed by Mariota in the opener, and showed the Tampa Bay made the right choice in taking him No. 1 overall last year, as did Tennessee taking Mariota with the second pick. But who will prove to be the better QB: That would be Winston.

Will the Redskins ever change their name?

Many believed it would have happened by now but president Bruce Allen has said the franchise will not consider a chance even if it hurts its chances for a new stadium. The pressure is mounting, though, and the NFL may be forced to step in and force the change.

Which is the best up-and-coming team?

The Jaguars have averaged fewer than four wins in each of the last four seasons. But things are looking up. After adding QB Blake Bortles in 2014, Jacksonville invested heavily in its defense this offseason and should have as many as six new starters. They are young and will need time but the Jags are on the rise.

Are the Vikings for real?

Minnesota has gone from five to seven to 11 wins the last three years and made the playoffs in 2015 for the first time since 2012. QB Teddy Bridgewater has been solid and has room to improve and the defense was fifth in points allowed. The Vikings are not in the class of Carolina, Arizona, Seattle or even Green Bay (this year), but they are not far behind.

What does the Ryan Fitzpatrick signing mean for the Jets?

New York had its first 10-win season in 2015 since winning 11 in 2010 and it took a 33-year-old Fitzpatrick having a career year. With Fitzpatrick back (he signed a one-year deal for $12 million Wednesday), the Jets once again are the second best team in the AFC East. But a playoff team? Not likely.

What does a Ryan brothers reunion mean for Buffalo?

For one, a lot more entertaining sound bites. The last time the twins worked together was 1995, for their father, Buddy, in Arizona. Now it’s head coach Rex who has hired bother Rob as an assistant head coach for defense. This has all the markings of something that is not going to end well, especially for Rex who was 8-8 in his first year in Buffalo and who has not had a winning season as a head coach since 2010.

Are the Raiders ready to take that next step?

Raider Nation, in the midst of a 13-year non-playoff stretch, is starving for success, which explains the excitement over a team that has won 18 games the last four years. But last year’s 7-9 season was a marked improvement and the roster has unquestionably been upgraded. The rebuild started in 2012 and it’s time to show those results. Look for improvement but not a postseason.

Which team is worse, Cleveland or San Francisco?

It’s a shame these two don’t play this season, then we would have a true answer to this question. Both are beyond bad and have taken different routes to the bottom, the Browns in the midst of a stretch in which they have finished last in their division 11 of 13 years; the 49ers falling off the cliff after playing in the NFC title game from 2011 to 2013. But I’m going with. … a coin flip after both finish 1-15.

Andrew Luck

Andrew Luck

Will Andrew Luck bounce back?

Luck was just one of several QBs whose seasons were cut short because of injuries, but a lacerated kidney is not just any injury. Luck’s recovery has been slow as he also dealt with ribs and right shoulder ailments before his season ended. Barring further setbacks, the Colts now need to keep Luck upright and using four draft picks on offensive linemen was a start.

Who will join the Rams in L.A.?

The Chargers have first dibs, with a year to accept an option to move up the I-5. If not, then the Raiders will have the chance to partner with the Rams. The decision hinges on the Chargers securing a new stadium and the momentum appears to be building in their favor. The guess is San Diego gets it done and the Raiders return to L.A. once again.

[RELATED: NFL Power Rankings: Patriots, Packers on top (for now)]

 

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