The storylines are everywhere you look: Old faces in new places (welcome to Atlanta, Steven Jackson), high-profile rookies looking to make an immediate impact (Manti Te'o, the San Diego stage is yours) and battle lines being drawn (Mark Sanchez vs. Geno Smith: Pace yourselves, New York tabloids).
As training camps open across the country this week, which team/storyline is the most intriguing to you?
It's a new day in Baltimore for the defending champsThe biggest storylines concern the reigning Super Bowl champs. Think about the turnover! The 2013 season will mark the first time in forever that the Baltimore Ravens will be playing without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, the heart and soul of the team. Plus, the Ravens lost many other key cogs -- including Paul Kruger, Cary Williams and Dannell Ellerbe -- and traded away Anquan Boldin.
Yet, you can make the case that they are better. Joe Flacco, who just won a Super Bowl, got paid and will lead. Terrell Suggs and Lardarius Webb are expected to be healthy. Elvis Dumervil is better than Kruger.
But you can't minimize the leadership and emotion that Lewis and Reed used to bring.
What will Chip Kelly do?I'm most fascinated by the Philadelphia Eagles, primarily because of the questions and concerns surrounding new coach Chip Kelly. First, you have the fact that most college coaches without pro experience have not been successful as head coaches in the NFL. We even saw struggles from Nick Saban, who had that pro experience, because he could not get the quarterback position right. Next, how much of Kelly's fast-paced read-option offense will he use, and will it work? Finally, what happens at quarterback? Michael Vick, at one point, would have been a natural fit for Kelly's college offense, but how durable will he be at age 33?
Kelly says accuracy and decision-making are the two most important attributes he looks for in a quarterback, and Vick struggles in both areas. Kelly says he doesn't need a mobile QB. Nick Foles is not a mobile QB, and he is probably more accurate than Vick. Will he start?
Brian Banks' comeback prompts goosebumpsEasy. I'll go with the story about the one-time sure-thing superstar linebacker who was accused of rape before he ever got to college, was pressured into accepting a plea deal, spent five years in jail, logged another five on house arrest, then saw his accuser admit she made the whole thing up -- and who now has a chance to hit "reboot" on his dream.
Brian Banks had his conviction on rape and kidnapping charges overturned in May 2012. After a few NFL tryouts last summer, he seemed set to prove he could get back into football shape in the UFL -- until that league suspended operations. The tide of lousy luck mercifully stemmed this past spring, however, when Banks signed with the Atlanta Falcons. He impressed in rookie minicamp, he stuck through organized team activities, and he talked about the plays and checks really clicking by the end of mandatory minicamp. Even better, the Falcons' linebacking corps actually could use a little more depth.
So, sure, Michael Vick vs. Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez vs. Geno Smith will catch more headlines and maybe go down as more impactful plot points. But if Banks getting his freedom back is already a goosebump-inducing story, then think about what we'll call the one where he makes an NFL team.
Oakland's QB battle worth watchingThe Oakland Raiders' quarterback situation is the most intriguing in the league. None of the three quarterbacks -- Matt Flynn, Terrelle Pryor and Tyler Wilson -- are battled-tested. And thanks to the Raiders' lack of depth at receiver, whichever unproven signal-caller wins the job must manufacture production out of thin air.
This seems to be a real competition. Flynn and Pryor have nothing in common -- beyond their shared birthday of June 20. I believe Pryor's skill set, which is en vogue, will allow coach Dennis Allen to have variety in his offense. I'm watching this battle closely.
Promise of Andy Reid tantalizes fans in Kansas CityI'm really anxious to see what Andy Reid is going to be able to do with the Kansas City Chiefs. I liken him to a modern-day version of Marty Schottenheimer, the kind of guy who can produce an instant winner when dropped into a chaotic situation.
Despite a 2-14 record, the Chiefs were loaded with talent last year, as evidenced by their six Pro Bowl participants. Now they have a coach who is going to be able to bring it all together, as well as a quarterback (Alex Smith) who has shown he can thrive with the right guidance.
Mark Sanchez vs. Geno Smith tops all other subplotsSeriously, there's a story besides the New York Jets' quarterback competition? I'm the last one who likes being Captain Obvious, but in the summer, true quarterback derbies always take precedence over everything else. And the larger the involved team's profile, the bigger the spotlight.
Let's face it: The question of who starts in New York is just a bit more captivating than the same story in Jacksonville. Throw in the always-polarizing/fumbling/Vine-dancing Mark Sanchez and his talented/thin-skinned/Jets South counterpart Geno Smith, and you have all the drama you need. Can't wait for the daily hubbub spawned by 7-on-7 numbers that will help decide this race.
This might get more media attention than the royal birth. My only regret is that there's not one more QB we can insert into this storyline -- because the world would spin off its axis if the Jets were to sign Jeff George.