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Ten burning questions entering NFL training camp

With NFL training camps getting into full swing this week, St. Petersburg Times staff writer Tom Jones looks at 10 burning questions.

What's up with Brett Favre?

Will he or won't he play? Of course he's going to play. The question with Brett Favre is more like when. The quarterback is coming off left ankle surgery, and being a wise veteran, he can milk this ankle thing to miss a good chunk of training camp. Besides, how much does he need training camp? Not as much as the Vikings need him to play. Without Favre, the Vikings might be lucky to finish .500. With Favre, they are good enough to get to the Super Bowl if he can avoid making his last pass of the season an interception.

Will the Saints repeat as Super Bowl champs?

Very recent history says no. The Saints were the fifth different team to win it all in the past six years. Then again, the Saints did seem to improve in the offseason, particularly on the defensive side with the addition of a first-round draft pick, Florida State CB Patrick Robinson, and free agent DL Alex Brown and Jimmy Wilkerson. The Saints already have one of the best offenses in football with no real questions other than who will be Drew Brees' backup at quarterback. And let's face it: If Brees goes down, the Saints are in trouble anyway. This isn't to say New Orleans will become the first team to repeat since the Patriots of the 2003-04 seasons, but they seemed as poised any team since them to do so.

Which teams have the biggest quarterback questions?

Let's start in Arizona, where the retired Kurt Warner is being replaced by Matt Leinart, right, whose career hasn't progressed as expected since winning the Heisman at USC. He started 11 games as a rookie in 2006. But he struggled and was placed on injured reserve early in 2007 and hasn't been a starter since. It's put-up or shut-up time for Leinart, and with backup Derek Anderson, the Cards might not show the lefty much patience.

Oakland is depending on former Redskin Jason Campbell to replace No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell. And he won't have to do much to be considered a major upgrade and help the Raiders win more than the five games they won last year. It's assumed Kevin Kolb is going to replace Donovan McNabb as the Eagles starter. But know this: Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is a big fan of Michael Vick and has been talking him up during the past week.

Which rookie quarterbacks are looking to make an impact in training camp?

How soon will the Rams throw No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford into the fire? The feeling is the Rams will go with veteran A.J. Feeley to start the season but Bradford could start once the season is lost — which should be about the seventh or eighth week. Former Texas QB Colt McCoy is considered the future starter in Cleveland. But the Browns won't rush him, especially with veteran Jake Delhomme projected as the starter. Same scenario in Carolina, where former Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen is expected to back up Matt Moore. In fact, Clausen could end up the No. 3 behind Moore and Hunter Caldwell. The Panthers also have former University of Cincinnati QB Tony Pike, but he likely will head to the practice squad.

One of the biggest stories in all of the NFL is what will happen in Denver with Tim Tebow. The Broncos seem intent on sticking with the former Gator as a quarterback but as a backup with Brady Quinn to Kyle Orton. The real intrigue: Will the Broncos draw up a few trick plays featuring Tebow lining up as something other than a traditional quarterback?

Are the Steelers in trouble without Ben Roethlisberger?

The bad news is Ben Roethlisberger is suspended for the first four to six games because of his off-field shenanigans. The good news is the Steelers know now that they won't have the quarterback, they have a veteran who is familiar with the system (Byron Leftwich) and coach Mike Tomlin's plan even with Roethlisberger is to go back to a more traditional Steelers style. That means running the ball, controlling the clock and playing defense. The first four games won't be easy, home against the Falcons and Ravens and at Tennessee and Tampa Bay. You get the feeling the Ravens will get an early jump in the division and the Steelers will be playing catch-up all season.

How good will the Redskins be with Donovan McNabb?

No question, Donovan McNabb, right, is an upgrade over Jason Campbell at quarterback. But he is taking over a team that went 4-12 last season and still has a lot of questions at receiver and line. They have three interesting running backs in Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson and Willie Parker, and a good running game will help. But it's hard to look at that record and believe McNabb alone can turn 4-12 into 10-6.

What about the teams with new coaches?

Mike Shanahan returns to the NFL after a year's layoff. And the Redskins are heading in the right direction, although probably not as fast as owner Daniel Snyder believes. Shanahan's biggest headache is DL Albert Haynesworth, who doesn't want to play in a 3-4. Meanwhile, in Buffalo, Chan Gailey has loads of coaching experience, but it still seemed the 58-year-old was an odd choice.

The most interesting new coach is Pete Carroll, who begins his third stint as an NFL coach. It's generally perceived Carroll was a failure in the NFL, but he spruced up his resume at USC. And did Carroll really want the Seahawks job? Or did he take it because he knew USC was in major trouble with the NCAA? Carroll can coach, but he doesn't have a lot to work with in Seattle. Not yet, anyway.

Which coaches are on the hot seat?

Despite bringing in QB Jay Cutler last season, the Bears were a disappointing 7-9 and are just 25-25 under Lovie Smith, left, since reaching the Super Bowl after the 2006 season. You have to believe Smith's job depends on the Bears getting into the playoffs. Some are surprised that John Fox (Panthers), Tom Cable (Raiders) and Jack Del Rio (Jaguars) weren't fired after last season. And doesn't it seem as if the Cowboys' Wade Phillips is always on the hot seat?

Who are the Super Bowl favorites?

It's hard to go against the defending AFC (Colts) and NFC (Saints) champs, but that's boring. This year? With the best defense in the NFL and the additions of WR Santonio Holmes and RB LaDainian Tomlinson on offense, the Jets will win the AFC. Over in the NFC, Brett Favre will again guide the Vikings to the championship game but lose (again), this time to the Cowboys.

Will anyone sign Terrell Owens?

The controversial T.O. actually wasn't that controversial last season in Buffalo. Unfortunately for him, he wasn't very productive. The 36-year-old receiver caught only 55 passes, his fewest for a full season since his rookie year. (He caught 47 in seven games in 2005 with the Eagles.) Somebody is going to sign Owens. reported Saturday that the Rams and Bengals have recently talked to him. But it might take a team suffering an injury during camp or realizing early that it needs help. Fox analyst Jimmy Johnson believes Pittsburgh would be a good spot because it has an opening after parting ways with Santonio Holmes. Plus coach Mike Tomlin's no-nonsense style would keep T.O. from being, well, T.O.

Ten burning questions entering NFL training camp 07/24/10 [Last modified: Saturday, July 24, 2010 10:07pm]
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