Do you smell what I smell? That smell is football.
Training camps are open. You can feel it in the air. And every NFL season is shaped by the developments of these summer days.
With that in mind, I offer up nine predictions for the coming weeks of camp:
I understand that the skeptic doesn't think that's possible. Last year's team went on to win Super Bowl XLVII in February. Ray Lewis is on TV now, while Ed Reed is in Houston. Anquan Boldin is playing for John Harbaugh's brother. And that's not all ... Dannell Ellerbe relocated to Miami, Cary Williams now calls Philly home and Paul Kruger followed the money to Cleveland.
Terrell Suggs is healthy. Lardarius Webb is a strong corner who will return to action after suffering a season-ending knee injury last October. The offensive line, which really came together during that magical playoff run, will be better than it was at any point during the 2012 regular season. Free-agent signee Elvis Dumervil is a sack master and a major upgrade. Chris Canty and Michael Huff, also newbies in Baltimore, will thrive in the Ravens' system. Bernard Pierce will run with even more authority in his second NFL season.
Joe Flacco just got paid after a flawless postseason, silencing the critics -- like me. Prior criticism was warranted, though, given his uneven and spotty play. However, now he'll be more relaxed to play his game, what with that Super Bowl ring in tow. And a full offseason of working with Jim Caldwell, who took over offensive coordinator duties late last year, will raise his game to another level. Flacco won't feel the pressure of living up to his new $120.6 million deal. He doesn't feel pressure. The Flacco-to-Torrey Smith connection will be omnipresent in camp.
I don't want to minimize the loss of leadership with Lewis and Reed gone, but that's really all they brought last season. They are two likely Hall of Famers and all-time Raven greats, but Lewis retired after the season and Reed was allowed to walk for a reason.
I love the fact that he didn't attend "Jets West" and go along with the Mark Sanchez charade. Smith is on this team to win the job. I talked to Rex Ryan on SiriusXM last Friday, and he said the QB competition is most certainly open. New offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, a fresh set of eyes, will have a big hand in this decision.
I think Geno works hard and plays well, Sanchez turns it over, and the rookie earns the gig.
3) Mike Shanahan and Robert Griffin III will be at odds over camp reps.
A big part of RGIII's appeal is that he genuinely loves football. He loves to compete and work. He's a true gamer.
It's also part of the reason his stellar rookie campaign with the Washington Redskins ended with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Shanahan didn't protect RGIII from himself in the rook's first playoff game. Shanahan needs to do that in training camp. Griffin tweeted on Monday that doctors have cleared him for practice, and NFL.com's Jeff Darlington reported that the quarterback will compete in 7-on-7 drills. I think that's great. But let's remember that he's also the franchise.
Shanahan had better have learned from last year. I anticipate that the coach will frustrate his star pupil by limiting his involvement. It will bother RGIII, but it's the right thing to do.
4) Maurice Jones-Drew will return to greatness.
I talked with the Jacksonville Jaguars running back on SiriusXM last week, and he's healthy and in a great frame of mind. Jones-Drew is champing at the bit to get back on the field. In fact, he showed up to Jacksonville a week before camp. It's easy to forget -- with the holdout, relatively bad play and injury last year -- but this is one of the elite running backs in the game today. New offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch runs the offense MJD thrived in at UCLA. The Jags RB is going to turn heads in camp and fuel a huge season.
By the way, he's in a contract year.
5) Manti Te'o will face more questions on the field than off of it.
His girlfriend was a fake, and he didn't handle it well. But that's not the definitive reason for his fall from the first round of the draft. Even when Te'o was dominating at Notre Dame, there were questions about how his game -- and specifically, his speed -- would translate to the NFL level.
I think he will be fine, eventually. But getting acclimated to NFL speed is always the most difficult adjustment for rookies. I predict that this will be a long and slow and highly scrutinized camp for the San Diego Chargers linebacker.
6) Chip Kelly fascination will go into overdrive.
I'm obsessed with Kelly. I wrote earlier this offseason that he was the perfect choice to replace Andy Reid. I think his X's and O's are special and he knows how to run a team.
But who will be the quarterback?
What will the offense look like?
7) Ryan Tannehill will continue his ascent.
I thought Tannehill was solid last year. But this is his first full camp as the guy, the leader, the starter of the Miami Dolphins. That goes a long way.
8) Tavon Austin will become the favorite to be Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Jeremiah: Instant-impact rookies
Daniel Jeremiah identifies seven rookies who are primed to make immediate contributions in the coming season. More ...
It's tough for rookie receivers to make an immediate impact, but the St. Louis Rams' savvy front office knew what it was doing in taking Austin with the eighth overall pick in April.
The West Virginia product has the unteachable gift of speed, as well as great hands and refined route-running skills. He is the exact kind of weapon Sam Bradford dearly needed in past seasons. I think this electric playmaker is primed for a monster camp.
Broyles tore his ACL against the Indianapolis Colts in December. It's his second recovery from an ACL injury, after he suffered the same fate in his senior season at Oklahoma. If Detroit is going to get back on track, Broyles must play a big role in the Lions' offense. Not incidentally, Calvin Johnson talked up Broyles and his progress this offseason.
Remember the name. I think Broyles emerges as the No. 2 receiver in Detroit.