NFL's biggest mysteries heading into camp

On the latest Around The NFL Podcast, we wondered aloud which Peyton Manning we'll see in 2015.

Will it be the whirlwind mastermind of early last season? Or the quad-addled fading arm who sagged down the stretch in Denver?

With the offseason giving way to 32 bustling training camps, it's time to address some of this year's burning mysteries.

Let's start with our boy Peyton:

How's Manning's arm?

Among the many NFL mysteries this summer, Peyton Manning's arm strength is perhaps the most critical to his team's success.

When Week 1 arrives, will we see the MVP candidate from the first half of last season or the injury-ravaged liability from December and January? By the end of last season, several NFL scouts and executives suggested to NFL Media's Albert Breer that Father Time had claimed Manning as his most recent victim.

Even if Manning appears to be at full strength entering September, there's no guarantee that he will remain an asset all season. He's never played in an offense like Gary Kubiak's boot-action, run-oriented scheme.

As John Elway knows all too well, aging quarterbacks tend to limp to the finish line as their bodies break down and their arm strength wanes in the harsher late-season elements.

Bill Parcells once surmised that quarterbacks approaching age 40 hesitate to pull the trigger because they want everything to be perfect before they throw the ball. "They're torn between the turnover -- which they don't want to make because it's a killer -- and throwing the ball when the separation between the receiver and the defender isn't quite enough. They're not confident throwers like they were when they were younger."

The Broncos' Super Bowl window slams shut if Manning is no longer willing or able to squeeze passes into tight coverage windows. -- Chris Wesseling

Bradford's future remains anyone's guess

Mythologies grow when football games aren't being played. We haven't seen Sam Bradford record a league victory since October 13, 2013. In the space between, the former Rams passer tore the same ACL twice in less than a year. Here's the short list of NFL quarterbacks who have bounced back from back-to-back shattered knees in recent memory:


I'm not counting Bradford out, but it's worth noting that he wasn't even remotely close to 100 percent during the spring. His health is a question and so is his destiny in Chip Kelly's offense. Yes, it's a massive upgrade over the Brian Schottenheimer-led attack Bradford suffered through in St. Louis, but the former No. 1 overall pick deserves some of the blame: I can't think of one signature victory Bradford willed the Rams to. His finest moment might have been a rousing 2012 contest with the Niners that ended in a ... 24-24 tie. I can't think of a more uncertain wild-card heading into camp. -- Marc Sessler

Can Clowney stay healthy?

The most hyped defensive player of his generation played just four games his rookie year before undergoing microfracture surgery. Team doctors are optimistic about Clowney's progress. What he can bring to the table remains an enigma, however. If he progresses to where he can utilize his freakish athleticism on the outside, he could be a menace with lines spending most of their energy blocking J.J. Watt.

If Clowney is healthy the Texans will possess a devastating front. If his knee suffers setbacks, keeping him off the field all of camp, or saps his quickness, the former No. 1 overall pick will flirt with the bust tag in 2015. --Kevin Patra

Daryl Washington and Le'Veon Bell status

Remember Daryl Washington? When he was indefinitely suspended last May, he was inarguably one of the most dynamic inside linebackers in football. That suspension, for violating the league's substance abuse policy, was not related to an April 2014 guilty plea for aggravated assault charges. It's unclear if and when he will be further suspended for that offense. Also suspended for the substance abuse policy in 2013, this is clearly not a guy the Cardinals are counting on for this season. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said recently there was "no change" to Washington's status so it's a mystery if he will even be allowed to play football this year.

Here's what we know: It's extremely rare for a player to be suspended two full seasons. And when you remove character concerns, Washington's skill level will guarantee he's playing somewhere once reinstated. He could be a big difference maker for a Cardinals team that has Super Bowl aspirations.

The other suspension everyone is ignoring happens to be regarding the best running back in the league last season. Steelers star Le'Veon Bell is "facing" a three-game suspension, but his appeal has not yet been heard. It's unclear when he'll be available for the season, yet it's a story no one has focused on outside of Pittsburgh or fantasy draft rooms. --Gregg Rosenthal

Gurley a potentially explosive force

With a Super Bowl-ready defense and an offense lagging lightyears behind, Rams general manager Les Snead had a stroke of brilliance this offseason; at least that's how we view it at this moment from afar. Todd Gurley might be the best power back to come out of the draft since Marshawn Lynch, and if that's the case, he can greatly assist in the remolding of Jeff Fisher's offense. He could also be hampered by a torn ACL, which is expected to have him to start camp on the team's NFI list.

Adjusting to the pro game is never a guarantee, just look at Trent Richardson. Will Todd Gurley be able to handle the rigors of professional football and jump into form with potentially limited training camp snaps? That, without a doubt, makes him one of the NFL's biggest head scratchers heading into camp. -- Conor Orr

*The latest Around The NFL Podcast discusses the eight most intriguing training camp battles heading into the season. *

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