With the NFL training camp already in full gear and with the Hall of Fame Game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Miami Dolphins airing this Sunday, Aug. 4, at 8:00 on NBC, I believe it’s time that I bring to you the biggest question marks going into the 2013 season.
In this 2-part series, today I will present to you my top 5 story lines heading into the regular season for the NFC.
1. The Return of RGIII
Now I know that head coach Mike Shanahan has already announced that quarterback Robert Griffin III won’t suit up for the Redskins during the preseason, but you know that won’t stop the media from making this topic one of the biggest headlines going into the regular season.
Last year, Mike Shanahan and the rest of the Redskins coaching staff were criticized for leaving RG III in the game during their wild card matchup against the Seattle Seahawks, in which the quarterback suffered some gruesome hits to his knee that eventually required surgery.
Griffin had knee surgery on Jan. 9, which required a reconstruction of his ACL and LCL, performed by Dr. James Andrews. Reports just after surgery stated six to eight months for the recovery, making his return right around the start of the 2013 season. Even after Adrian Peterson’s remarkable recovery and great season, this seemed a little optimistic to many.
The reason why this is such a huge concern for the Redskins organization is because RG III accounted for a total of 4,015 yards of the Washington offense last season ( 3,200 yards passing and 814 yards rushing). The 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year was a big part of the reason why the Redskins won their first NFC East division title since 1999.
If the Redskins look to return to the playoffs in 2013, the coaching staff, and RG III himself, better make better decisions regarding the quarterbacks health.
2. Who’s calling the plays in Dallas?
During the offseason, owner Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys was being himself once again and getting his name in the media. This time, the ruckus was all about who would be calling the offensive plays for the Cowboys in 2013.
Last season, head coach Jason Garrett was the man behind the offensive play calling, in which the Cowboys finished the season sixth in total offense at 374.6 yards per game, but just 31st as a rushing offense (79.1 yards per game).
So once news came out of Dallas that offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan will be the one calling the offensive plays for the Cowboys in 2013, head coach Jason Garrett, who has handled those duties since 2007, wouldn’t confirm anything.
Even months after owner Jerry Jones indicated that Callahan was the man, Garrett would still deny the rumors as if they weren’t true.
But eventually, Jason Garrett finally got around to admitting that Bill Callahan was calling plays. Even though Garrett stressed that he remains apart of the play-calling mix, but that the authority over that part of it will be Callahan’s.
It’s like a soap opera with this team, and the sad thing about it is that the players are not even the ones who are involved with the drama. For a team that hasn’t been over .500 in the past three seasons, they sure as heck act like they have all the time in their hands as if they were a Super Bowl contender.
3. Coach Kelly has a “Chip” on his shoulder
After leaving the University of Oregon, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly will now look to implement his high-powered offense at the professional level.
Kelly will be replacing former Eagles head coach Andy Reid, who is the most winningest coach in their franchises history.
But the situation Kelly is coming into couldn’t have been better a one for the former college football coach of the year.
Kelly will have a mobile quarterback in Michael Vick, and a dual threat running back in LeSean McCoy, which are similar pieces that he had in Oregon that helped him master his own offensive schemes.
The only problem is, there are a list of college coaches who made the transition from the collegiate level to the NFL and don’t do so well in their first stint as a head coach at the professional level. If Kelly doesn’t show any promise in the city of brotherly love, you can expect Philadelphia fans to push him out the same way they did Andy Reid.
4. Colin Kaepernick: Part 2
A huge question mark going into this season for all dual threat quarterbacks, not only Kaepernick, is how will they perform after having such a historic, trend-setting year as a starter in the NFL? The only difference between Kaepernick and all the other dual threat passers is that he has yet to have a full season under his belt.
In his short stint as a starter for the 49ers in 2012, we realized that Coach Jim Harbaugh probably made the wise decision replacing former starter Alex Smith with Kaepernick at the quarterback position, after Smith suffered a concussion.
In the 7 games he started for the 49ers last season, Kaepernick finished with 1,608 passing yards and 10 passing touchdowns, while collecting 238 rushing yards with 2 rushing touchdowns.
Most importantly, Kaepernick was able to lead his 49ers team into the Super Bowl, where they would eventually lose to the Baltimore Ravens in a final score of 34-31.
Last season, Kaepernick proved to his coach, to his team, to the NFL, and most importantly, to himself that he can be considered among the elite at his position. Expectations are through the roof for Kaepernick and the 49ers this season, so much so that he is among the top ten fantasy quarterbacks on everyones list. Hopefully the 3rd year man out of the University of Nevada can live up to all the hype.
5. Will Adrian Peterson eclipse the 2,500 mark?
The reigning MVP of the Minnesota Vikings reiterated in a Sports Illustrated interview that he has his sights set on smashing the NFL’s single-season rushing record.
“I’ve got my bar set for 2,500. If I could go up to that, the record is shattered,” Peterson said.
This statement doesn’t seem too farfetched, especially for a player who returned last year after having surgery on his ACL and MCL to find himself 9 yards shy of breaking the single season rush record held by Eric Dickerson. Peterson finished 2012 with 2,097 rushing yards.
A big part of a player achieving an individual goal such as the single season rushing record has a lot to do with his teammates, and especially his head coach, supporting him. And Leslie Frazier is doing just that.
In an article written on the StarTribune website, it said that after a Friday walk-through, head coach Leslie Frazier was asked if players vocalizing individual goals was OK with him or a potential distraction.
“Guys in general is one thing,” Frazier said. “Adrian Peterson is another. When Adrian says 2,500 or 2,000 it’s a different thing. It’s a different matter. Because he’s more than capable of achieving those goals. I’ve learned that. When he told me last season that he was going to have the type of year that he did have and for it to turn out the way it did, I don’t doubt Adrian Peterson. If he says he can gain 2,500, it’s possible. If it was someone else talking about predictions and this or that, maybe we’ll have a conversation. But Adrian? Nah. I like to see him achieve his goals.”