As NFL training camps heat up from coast to coast, injuries mount, tempers flare and the fuzzy outlines of the upcoming season begin to take shape. We all know that the football hype machine goes into overdrive this time of year, so what’s happening that will really affect the season?
Last season, the Dolphins captured a wildcard berth, despite missing signal caller Ryan Tannehill for three games. Hopes were high that this year’s team could challenge the Patriots for the AFC East title, but Tannehill suffered a non-contact knee injury on August 3rd, and was shut down for the season on August 11th. Coach Adam Gase wasted no time, luring his former Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler out of the broadcast booth. While inconsistent, Cutler did post his career best QBR under Gase in Chicago and reports out of camp are that Cutler has had no trouble leading the offense. The good news out of Miami is that starting running back Jay Ajayi, who had been sidelined with a head injury and was in the concussion protocol, is back up and running. Without Tannehill, they will need him to duplicate his breakthrough 2016 season to be contenders.
Who’s Sitting Down
On August 11th, the NFL handed down a six game suspension for the Cowboys Ezekiel Elliot under the league’s personal conduct policy. The suspension is the result of a year-long investigation into allegations of domestic abuse by the former Ohio State star. While no criminal charges have been filed, the NFL claims to have found enough evidence to warrant the suspension. The NFLPA will be appealing the suspension, but I think it’s safe to say that the Cowboys will be missing their All-Pro back for at least the first few games. This is the sort of personnel problem that can shift the balance of power in the NFC East.
Despite several teams suffering setbacks and looking for extra depth at quarterback, including Miami and Baltimore, Colin Kaepernick is still without a contract. While he has regressed some since his trip to the Super Bowl, Kaepernick is unquestionably a NFL talent and should make a roster.
Who’s Holding Back
The reigning champs are known for playing it close to the vest and it seems that this year’s preseason games are no exception. It seems that with the continued use of joint practices at Patriots’ training camp this year, Bill Belichick sees everything he needs to see before the preseason tilts actually happen. This was true during last week’s contest with the Jaguars where he sat forty starters. With few real roster battles in question, expect the Pats to focus on staying healthy in their pursuit of football’s greatest prize.