We're only one week into training camp, and it already feels like we've been underway for a month. Major injuries and other significant developments in camps across the country are shaping the 2013 season with each passing day.
Let's take a look at nine of the biggest nuggets, both on and under the radar.
1) Ice loves Osi
Catching up with Matt Ryan on my SiriusXM Radio show "Schein on Sports" last Friday after he received a much-deserved megabucks extension, I asked the Atlanta Falcons quarterback to name one under-the-radar player on defense who is primed for a big season. Ryan didn't hesitate with his answer: Osi Umenyiora.
Ryan was effusive in his praise of the first-year Falcon, citing Umenyiora's "speed, ability to get to the quarterback and championship experience."
I don't think Umenyiora can be the dominant defensive end he was in his glory years with the New York Giants, but the 10-year vet certainly can perform better than he did last year, when he collected just six sacks. A key element in this equation is the Falcons' outstanding defensive coordinator, Mike Nolan, who plans on using his new weapon in a hybrid role. Nolan will treat Umenyiora like a wind-up toy and find ways to free him up to pressure the quarterback.
Atlanta needs a better pass rush to make it to Super Bowl XLVIII, which I think is a realistic goal. Working for one of the best coordinators in the business, Umenyiora is the guy to make this happen. I wouldn't be shocked to see him rack up 10 sacks and make Ryan look like a prophet.
2) Big blow to Baltimore
With Pitta sidelined, fellow fourth-year man Ed Dickson must step up at tight end. Baltimore signed veteran tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, a solid move under the circumstances, but I don't believe they can replace the rapport Pitta had developed with Flacco. I think the Ravens can smooth over the loss as the season rolls along, but it's unquestionably a major injury that will hurt Flacco early on. At least Ray Rice, who has logged 60-plus catches in each of the past four seasons, is a highly capable receiving threat out of the backfield.
3) Big boon to Baltimore
It's not all gloom and doom for the defending Super Bowl champions. I talked to Torrey Smith on SiriusXM, and the Ravens receiver was buzzing about this team's potential. He talked about having Jim Caldwell at offensive coordinator for a full season, about Bernard Pierce's immense promise in Year 2, and about notable newcomers on defense, like Elvis Dumervil, Chris Canty and Michael Huff.
Baltimore's defense is better than it was last year. And I think Suggs is primed to have a Defensive Player of the Year-caliber season.
4) Wounded Eagle
5) Mercy, Percy
The NFL already has been rocked by a number of significant injuries. As of this posting, we're still waiting to learn the seriousness of Percy Harvin's hip ailment, with a trip to a specialist in New York having taken place Tuesday. Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider told our good friend Rich Gannon, "It's really a huge, huge spectrum, quite honestly."
Here's the deal: Seattle traded for Harvin to take the lid off of opposing defenses and give Russell Wilson a legit deep threat. If the injury bug bites Harvin, who was available via trade because of his fragility and cantankerous personality, the NFC West pendulum might swing in the favor of the San Francisco 49ers. And home-field advantage is huge, as nobody beats Seattle in Seattle in January. This isn't hyperbole. On the road, though, the Seahawks are a different team. If Harvin misses time, his injury could equal a four-slot difference in the Seahawks' playoff seeding.
6) Koppen out
7) A new day in San Diego
This might just be my favorite story of the preseason: The San Diego Chargers have a new attitude. The players who were part of past underachievement feel the difference in intensity. It's a credit to new coach Mike McCoy ... and an indictment of former coach Norv Turner. The change is apparent to Chargers beat writers, who are writing, talking and tweeting about the work that's being done. Watching San Diego practice on NFL Network, you can't help but notice the great tempo.
I think this carries over into the regular season. The Chargers will be better prepared to deal with adversity, and they'll take some games you won't expect them to grab.
8) Gang Green mentality
Rex, first-year GM John Idzik and new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg all will have a say in selecting the New York Jets' signal-caller for 2013. It doesn't make sense to pencil in Sanchez after his last two years. The comments Idzik made over the weekend, which partially neutered Rex, loom large.
The staff has praised Geno Smith's play and knowledge of the playbook. I think Idzik wins out and the rookie wins the job.
9) Washington's backup plan
Not only will this help preserve RGIII's health, but it will increase Kirk Cousins' value for next offseason. With Griffin on the sideline, the Washington Redskins' other sophomore signal-caller can display his talents throughout August. And if the 'Skins want to put Cousins on the trade market next spring, they could draw a second-round pick for a player they plucked in the fourth.