Five burning camp issues, including what to do with Favre

  • By Pat Kirwan
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Brett Favre's status will be big news until a decision is finally reached.

With training camps getting ready to open soon, there are a number of storylines that will shape this season. Here are five that will have a significant impact on the teams, coaches, front office personnel and, of course, the fans.

1. The Goodell discipline policy

Commissioner Roger Goodell might go down in football history as the man who saved the NFL from itself. He realizes there is an element in the league that has to be disciplined and maybe even removed from the profession. Mr. Goodell made June 1, 2008, as the line of demarcation. Any issue that arises after that date could have implications for the club as well as the player.

Sad to say, the new discipline policy has not eliminated poor decision-making among some of the players. When it comes time to finalize rosters in August, team decision-makers will be factoring in the Goodell policy or potentially suffer penalties that might include draft picks. Is it good business to keep a player who is slightly better than someone else on the roster but a big liability off the field?

2. The Giant pressure defense

Steve Spagnuolo, the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants, opened up a can of worms when he perfected the "fire-zone" pressure package that brought the undefeated Patriots to their knees in Super Bowl XLII.

Nobody had a real answer on how to stop the Patriots offense, but now a blueprint is available if you have the right kind of players.

The Jaguars took two pass rushers to start their 2008 draft and they extended the contract of their best pass rusher, defensive end Paul Spicer. They look like a team that is building a Spagnuolo-like package, which they'll need having to deal with Peyton Manning -- as well as Tom Brady -- if they ever want to get to the Super Bowl.

The Jaguars are not alone; a number of teams around the NFL spent the offseason studying the Giants' defense and how it broke down protections and got quarterbacks to hold the ball a split second longer while they tried to figure out who was applying the pressure and who was dropping into coverage.

If the Giants package is adopted by as many teams as I believe it will be this year, quarterbacks could find themselves being hit a lot more than they did in 2007.

3. Brett Favre

The Brett Favre story isn't going away, and if he's back on the Packers as the starter, Green Bay is a Super Bowl contender. If he's back and holding a clipboard, the pressure on Aaron Rogers could be legendary. If Favre winds up being released, his path may cross with the Packers, which would be the story of the year. If he's traded to an obscure AFC team with little hope to make the playoffs, it may force his permanent retirement.

The NFL is better with Brett Favre on the field and his journey this summer will be the news of the day every day.

4. The year of the run

I wrote a piece a few weeks ago about how the running game is growing in the NFL. In 2002, only three teams ran the ball more than they passed it. In 2005, we watched 10 teams run the ball more than they threw it. But it fell back to just seven teams in 2006 and 2007.

This year could be the year we see upwards of 12-13 teams stay on the ground more than they take to the air. Undersized defenses built to rush the passer and play coverage, inexperienced quarterbacks not ready to throw it 35 times a game, the two running back systems that are so popular right now, and the number of defensive-minded head coaches are just a few of the reasons why 2008 could be the year of the run.

5. QB battles

Quarterback is the most important position in pro football and there are too many teams unsettled at this time. San Francisco, Chicago, the New York Jets, Baltimore and Atlanta go to camp with a wide-open battle. Miami, Arizona, and maybe even the Packers will be joining the list of teams unsure of who their starter will by the time mid-August arrives.

Eventually someone will win the competition, but it doesn't mean the situation is resolved. There should be a short leash on the starter with the loser of the summer battle waiting in the wings for his chance if the starter stumbles.



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