The start of training camp signifies the beginning of a brand new season, providing hope and a clean slate for all 32 NFL teams, regardless of their performance during the previous season. As players strap on the pads for the first time, Vivid Seats has created a list of the top 10 storylines to watch for as preseason activities officially get underway across the country.
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Welker to Broncos
After going a league-best 13-3 in 2012, the Denver Broncos added several more pieces that should ensure that they will again be in the hunt for the AFC’s top spot this season. Former New England Patriot Wes Welker will go from playing with one all-time great QB to another, signing a two-year, $12 million contract with the Broncos in the offseason to be Peyton Manning’s top target in 2013. With rookie running back Montee Ball to assume the rushing responsibilities for the departed Willis McGahee, the Broncos may possess one of the most balanced attacks in the NFL.
Patriots Media Circus
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is famous for his ability to eliminate outside distractions, but drowning out the noise of the media frenzy present at the 2013 Pats training camp may be the toughest task of his career. Losing Welker to the rival Broncos is only one of the never-ending storylines that Belichick will have to handle heading into his 14th training camp with the team. Due to a combination of free agency, injuries, and off-field matters, the Patriots will begin camp without their top seven pass-catchers from last season. The addition of Tim Tebow to the team should make the preseason workouts in Foxborough the most extensively covered in the NFL.
RGIII Returns to Redskins
Robert Griffin III took the league by storm in his rookie campaign last year, engineering one of the league’s most efficient attacks through the air and on the ground, throwing for 20 touchdowns while running for seven more. After suffering a torn ACL in the team’s final playoff game, the Washington Redskins’ franchise QB will be the center of attention as he steps onto the field for the first time for the team’s preseason activities. Should RGIII’s participation be limited due to his recovery, second-year quarterback Kirk Cousins has shown that he is more than capable of guiding the team’s loaded offense.
Colts Continue Upward Trend
After narrowly avoiding a winless season in 2011, the Indianapolis Colts pulled off one of the greatest turnarounds in NFL history, turning a 2-14 team into an 11-win playoff squad in just one season. Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck proved he was deserving of the top overall pick, throwing for 23 touchdowns while leading the team to its first post-Manning playoff berth. Now, without 2012 offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, Luck and Co. will head into camp to prepare for their first season as the hunted instead of the hunters.
Seahawks Add Harvin
Like the Colts, the Seattle Seahawks benefitted from an incredible performance from a rookie signal-caller in 2012, as Russell Wilson led the team’s read-option attack to a top-10 ranking in scoring offense. Offseason workouts will be the first time that Wilson gets to play alongside high-profile free-agent acquisition Percy Harvin. Training camp will give a hint as to where the versatile Harvin will be lining up in 2013.
Payton Back on Saints’ Sideline
Training camp marks the first time in over a year that head coach Sean Payton will be at the helm of the New Orleans Saints after missing the entire 2012 season due to sanctions handed down by the league. One of the great offensive minds in the game, Payton will again be teamed up with star QB Drew Brees, who still managed to surpass the 5,000-yard mark for the second straight season, even without his preferred play-calling partner. With the two back together this season, the scoreboard operator at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is in for another busy season.
Reid Begins New Challenge with Chiefs
For the first time in 14 seasons, Andy Reid will be running a training camp for a team other than the Philadelphia Eagles. His presence will surely be a welcome addition to the Kansas City Chiefs, who have underachieved in recent years despite their wealth of talent. Reid will use training camp to get stars like running back Jamaal Charles, wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, and newly acquired quarterback Alex Smith acclimated to his West Coast offense.
Eagles Embark on Chip Kelly Era
Reid’s former team is likely eager to show off its new head man in training camp. The Philadelphia Eagles made the biggest coaching splash of the offseason when it hired former Oregon Ducks head coach Chip Kelly, the most sought after college coach in the country. Kelly will have his hands full at his first NFL training camp as he works to familiarize Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, and DeSean Jackson with his frenetic up-tempo style of offense.
Jets’ QB Battle
The spotlight is shining brighter than ever on New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, who is likely feeling the pressure to lead his team back to the postseason after a two-year absence. Speaking of pressure, the Jets defense will be able to apply plenty in 2013, as a young and tenacious defense headlined by first-round picks Dee Milliner and Sheldon Richardson will have opposing quarterbacks on the run all season long. The main attraction at Jets training camp, however, will be on the other side of the ball, as Mark Sanchez and rookie Geno Smith will battle for the starting quarterback position.
Ravens Ready to Defend Title
The reigning Super Bowl champions are ready to begin the quest to defend their title in 2013. Training camp will offer a chance to build chemistry for a Baltimore Ravens squad that sports a drastically different look than the one that hoisted the Lombardi Trophy just a few months ago. Ravens legends Ed Reed and Ray Lewis are among eight defensive starters that will need to be replaced this season. The offense, however, will enjoy great continuity, with key players Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, and Torrey Smith all returning.