- Is this the year that the Falcons finally put everything together and win the division? The team was a favorite in a lot of preseason publications last year. They are projected to finish 1st in even more this season. The O has been challenged by a lack of a solid #2 WR. WR Jenkins must get it done this year. The D has just been challenged particularly against the pass.
- Will RB Michael “Burner” Turner return to his 2008 form? Last season he started slow and ended the season hurt. The team has others that can fill in but no one that can turn the game around with a single run like he can.
- Will the DB play improve? The team ended up 28th against the pass. If HC Smith is going to get this team to the top of the NFCS, that has to improve a lot. One corner and one safety spot are up for grabs.
- Did the team make the right call in letting QB Jake Delhomme go to Cleveland and starting Matt Moore? Moore did well in relief of the horrible season Delhomme had last year. The team hedged their bet by taking ND QB Jimmy Clausen in the 2nd round. HC Fox shocked the team after the OTAs by announcing that there would be an open challenge for the QB spot.
Will the team be able to replace the sacks and QB hurries generated by Julius Peppers now that he is gone? The D backfield depended on steady pressure up front to be effective. The current group will struggle to get as much pressure without the double and sometimes triple teaming of Peppers that left the rest 1 on 1.
- How well will the D play without some key losses? FS Darren Sharper is hurt and may not be ready this year. LB Scott Fujita and DE Charles Grant are gone and will be hard to replace.
Will the Saints suffer the “year after” syndrome that other first time Super Bowl winners have? This year they have a tougher schedule, won’t sneak up on anyone and have had less turn around time than other teams. The coaching staff will have their work cut out to get the team deep in the playoffs again.
- Is Josh Freeman going to be the QB the team thought he would be when they drafted him? He started 9 games last year but had a 54.9 passer rating with 10 TDs but 18 picks. The team is not good enough to win unless he is in the 85-90 range this year.
Is DT Gerald McCoy the Warren Sapp this year or is he Wendy Sapp? The team needs him to be the penetrating pass rush that Sapp did in the Super Bowl years. That can make up for an aging group of DBs.
- Can QB Matt Leinart finally justify his 1st overall selection in the Draft? In a word no. Leinart has been given more chances at redemption than a crooked Congressman. He has been handed the job twice and has not been able to keep it. As insurance Coach Ken Whisenhunt brought in big armed former Pro Bowl QB Derek Anderson. Leinart is due BIG dollars in 2011. If he fails this year he is gone. Look for Anderson to be the starter before the end of the year.
Will the older incoming players like G Alan Faneca (13th season) and Joey Porter (12th) have anything left? They should provide some leadership in the locker room but the team needs them to produce on the field as well.
- How soon will the 50M man QB Sam Bradford be starting? The Rams fans have not had much reason to buy a ticket for several years. Sam is the “the man” but how quickly will he become the starter? Better question yet, how long will it take him to become an NFL Quality player. He is in the right stadium and division with a majority of his games to be played indoors. He does not have an above average arm. This team needs him to be the right guy.
Will the D play better with a year under their belts with the D scheme? 2008 2nd pick overall DE Chris Long should play better having to think less than he did last year converting to his 3rd D in 3 years. He started to get it in the last few games of 09. The rest of the D will know the D better this season having the same D scheme as last year.
The LB group will be wearing OSU Scarlet and Gray. MLB James Laurinaitis is a beast and should have all fellow ex-Buckeye guys around him. Na’il Diggs will start at SLB with either Larry Grant or Bobby Carpenter playing WLB. The fact that all 4 played together at OSU should help in communications.
- Will former 1st overall pick QB Alex Smith finally look like he deserved the money? Probably not. Smith started 10 games last year and had a semi-respectable 81.5 QB rating. He is in the last year of his rookie contract. Unless he plays better, he will be elsewhere next year. The team needs him to play better than that if they are going to contend for the NFCW title.
Will the DBs play up to the rest of the D? The lock down corner they paid big bucks to LCB Nate Clements had a bad season. He was benched but worked his way back onto the field. RCB Shawntae Spencer should be better with a year of recovery from knee surgery. The Ss play the run better than the pass.
- Will the Hawks have a good enough running game to take pressure off the passing game? Justin Forsett was brought in to compete with RB Julius Jones. Jones averaged only 3.7 per attempt despite starting 14 games last year. RB Leon Washington will likely be the 3rd down back if he is recovered from a broken leg last year.
Can the O line protect their fragile QB Matt Hasselbeck and open holes for the running game? Long time Pro Bowler Walter Jones retired. Russell Okung takes over LT. Other than LG Ben Hamilton the line is below average. OL coach Alex Gibbs is a magician and he will have to do some neat tricks to make this line perform well enough to win.
That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on
and edits .Questions in the NFC South and West training camps by Bill Smith