As we head into Training Camp for the 2018 NFL season, there are a few storylines to keep an eye on. Training Camp can be a make-or-break time of the year for many players, especially veterans and undrafted rookies. This year, Training Camp will feature many position battles, depth chart madness, and standout players. In this article, we will take a look at 5 of the most intriguing situations and positional battles heading into camp.
1. Andrew Luck’s health
As many of you may know, Indianapolis Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck missed the entire 2017 NFL season with an injury to his right shoulder. With the Colts’ field general being a right handed Quarterback, this injury was not something he could play through. How did he suffer this injury? Quite honestly, there is no clear answer. One could argue that the problem started all the way back in September 2015. The Colts were playing the Titans in Week 3 of the 2015 NFL Season, and the Colts were down 27-21 with a little less than 7 minutes left to play. The camera showed Luck, who was obviously in some discomfort, on the sideline. Luck appeared to be nursing his throwing shoulder after teammate Matt Hasselbeck came and patted Luck on the chest for encouragement, as all teammates do. Don’t get it twisted, I’m in no way saying that the abysmal Indianapolis Colts 2017 NFL Season falls on the shoulders of Matt Hasselbeck for being a good teammate in 2015, however, it is important to point out this specific instance. Although there was no structural damage found in Luck’s shoulder after the game, the Colts gunslinger ended up missing the team’s next 2 games. Although Luck suffered a few other injuries that kept him out of games since then including a lacerated kidney, and a frayed labrum, that is the only recorded injury to his right shoulder during his NFL career thus far. Weird right? How did a fairly minor injury that occurred in 2015 that only kept the signal caller out for 2 games lead to a 2017 shoulder surgery? The world may never know. However, one thing is clear, Andrew Luck appears ready to get back on the field, and the Indianapolis Colts need him back more than anything else. It will be very interesting to see how the Colts handle Luck’s return, because they will obviously need to take some precautions. Luck’s return to the Colts and football as a whole will be one of the main storylines that I will be keeping up with as camp rolls around.
2. Denver’s Halfback battle
The Broncos have a big hole on their depth chart at halfback, and right now there is no clear starter. As Training Camp roles around, Vance Joseph will have his hands full. The main competitors for the position heading into camp are Royce Freeman, Devontae Booker, and someone who I think is a dark horse for the job, De’Angelo Henderson. Obviously, a running back by committee approach could very well be utilized in Denver, but its also very possible that one of these three backs could stick out from the rest and get the majority of touches during the season. The Broncos will be without 1,000 yard rusher and Super Bowl 50 Champion C.J. Anderson after he departed for the team he beat on the big stage, the Carolina Panthers. If I had to guess who will be the lead back come September, I would say Devontae Booker because of not only his skill as a rusher, but his experience in Denver’s offense. Freeman is a promising rookie, and Henderson has only taken 7 snaps in his NFL career. It appears its Booker’s job to lose as of now.
3. Lamar Jackson’s role on the Ravens
This one is probably the least interesting of the bunch simply because its pretty obvious that unless there is an injury to Joe Flacco, the former Heisman winner probably won’t see significant time on the field. However, Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh said something that may have raised some eyebrows during an interview. The Ravens head coach mentioned potentially having two Quarterbacks on the field at one time. What? Seriously? How could a team possibly successfully do that? Well that’s what is so exciting about Lamar Jackson. Its no secret that Lamar Jackson is built like a receiver more than a Quarterback, and he certainly has the speed to do it. It appears that the Ravens just want to get the ball in Lamar Jackson’s hands one way or another, and this potential system is just a very creative way of doing it. What would this offense look like? Well, it may look something like the memorable Julian Edelman touchdown pass against the Ravens in the 2015 divisional round. Flacco would throw it to Jackson who is just behind the line of scrimmage on the far side of the field, who would then throw to ‘X’ receiver or even tuck it down and run with it. It should be very exciting to watch the Ravens in camp to see what kind of trickery Lamar Jackson will be involved in.
4. Buffalo’s Quarterback battle
The Bills finally broke their 17 year playoff drought by merely making the postseason in 2017. Hooray! Buffalo finally appears to be back on the map when it came to sports (because let’s be real, the Sabres are horrible) and the fans have a lot to be excited about in the 2018 season. One downside to the Bills in 2017 was the departure of Quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Taylor gave the Bills an electrifying ball carrier who had a big arm, and now that he’s gone, the Bills seem to be in what many people like to call ‘Quarterback Hell’. They have talent on the roster, but no clear cut starting Quarterback quite yet. Yes, they traded up to number 7 in the 2018 NFL Draft to select Wyoming product Josh Allen, but he is a project. As of now, the battle seems to be between former Alabama Quarterback A.J. McCarron, and everyone’s lord and savior Nathan Peterman. Yes. You heard that right. Nathan Peterman. The guy that threw 5 picks in his first NFL start is getting a shot at the starting job. Half joking. Of course it is not fair to hang a guy’s first career start over his head for the rest of his career, but the tape that we have on Peterman just frankly is not good. Who knows, maybe we’ll see Peterman under center this year for Buffalo, or maybe we’ll see A.J. McCarron. Only time will tell, but if I had to guess right now who the starter for Buffalo would be come Week 1, I would say A.J. McCarron. Don’t be surprised if we see Peterman though.
5. Ryan Shazier’s progress
This last and final storyline is one that is more than football. Unfortunately, in Week 13 of the 2017 NFL Season, Steelers’ linebacker Ryan Shazier’s life changed forever. After going in for a tackle on Bengals’ receiver Josh Malone, Ryan Shazier suffered an absolutely terrible spine injury that left him temporarily paralyzed from the waist down. Fortunately, Shazier has made remarkable progress in returning to football and life as he knew it. As of right now, it does not seem like Shazier will be playing in the 2018 season, but the Steelers are expected to welcome him into a coaching-like role during the season. Nothing major, just something to keep the player that was well-liked by so many in the clubhouse. Regardless of what team you like, Ravens, Bengals, Browns, Patriots, etc, we are all rooting for Shazier.
It is appearing to be a very exciting Training Camp ahead of us.