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Monday, July 11, 2011

What do you you most look forward to in the upcoming NFL season?

This time of year we football fans are usually in frenzy as free agency is in full swing and training camps are on the horizon, as the beginning of the season would be less than a month and a half away. However, this year with the lockout being enforced since March 11th the only thing we can do as fans is wait, watch and hope that some type of agreement can be met before it interferes with the season. Most experts agree that in order for the season to go on as scheduled; a deal will have to be brokered sometime this week.

Barring a major letdown from the owners and players it looks as if an agreement should be reached soon. Both sides are now realizing the sense of urgency as the NFL Hall of Fame game between the St Louis Rams and the Chicago Bears is less than a month away. This entire summer of the NFL has been hijacked by the labor agreement but this article is not about the lockout. I found myself being asked this question this weekend that got the wheels turning in my head. The question was what do you most look forward to for the upcoming season? This is a question that of course assumes the season will goon but nevertheless it was a question I haven’t pondered so far this summer.

So I decided I would come up with a list of things I most anticipate going into this new season. There are so many players and scenarios that I look forward seeing to so lets just jump into the list starting with number 5:

5. How will the Pack attack after winning it all last year: The Packers went from a darkhorse in the NFC playoffs to the Super Bowl champs. They were led by Aaron Rodgers and a prolific passing game and a stingy defense led by Clay Matthews. Rodgers has received all the adulation of a Super Bowl MVP quarterback and deservedly so but will that affect his performance on the field this upcoming season? Will the team have any complacency issues as former Super Bowl winners have had in the recent past (2010 New Orleans Saints, 2008 New York Giants for example). It will also be great to see the Super Bowl champs at full strength as they had an astonishing 15 players on injured reserve. The Packers will get back starter and possible game breaker Jermichael Finley at tight end, starting running back Ryan Grant who was coming off a 1,200 yard season, linebacker Nick Barnett the franchises second all-time leader in tackles and many more on the field after a terrible year of injuries for Green Bay. Can Green Bay sustain the level of success it obtained last year? We shall see.

4. What kind of Free Agency Bonanza will we see: With the labor strife that has taken away most of the off-season, the NFL is set for an unprecedented and unforgiving free agency period. Teams with cash to spend will only have a limited amount of time to sign players like Nnamdi Asomugha, Matt Hasselbeck and Sidney Rice just to name a few. (For a complete list of the 2011 free agent class click here: Deep pocket teams like the Washington Redskins, Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys will be ready and willing for some wheeling and dealing. You know GM’s are ready to make improvements to their respective rosters and have to be itching to sign players they think can help out. This should be the best part of the shortened off-season as the signings should be fast and furious.

3. Can the Michael Vick experince continue its epic resurgence: We all know the story on Vick but his spectacular play last year added a new chapter to his book. Vick was everything and more that the Eagles bargained for as he put up an MVP worth state line of: 3,018 yards passing, 21 touchdown passes, 6 interceptions, and a career high QB rating of 100.2. Vick should be more acclimated with the offense this year and he also will have the benefit of being coached by OC Marty Mornhinweg who Vick made great strides under last year. If Vick can avoid injury, which always is a worry with his sometimes reckless abandon for his body, than he should be able to build off of last season and have an even better season this year. If a guy can make that much progress in a new system in one year just think about what he can do in year 2. However due to the success of Vick I do look for teams to gameplan more for him as the last two victors did over the Eagles last season. The Vikings and Packers had tremendous success blitzing their cornerbacks on Philly. The Eagles tried to address their lack of depth on the offensive line by drafting Danny Watkins at number 23 in the draft. So with the addition of Watkins and Vick’s continued growth in Andy Reid’s system I expect a big year from him.

2. How will the Dallas Cowboys respond after a dismal 2010 year: America’s team was America’s wasteland in terms of football last year. After a bunch of Pomp and Circumstance due to the Super Bowl being held in Dallas and Jerry Jones going on record as saying this team will be the first host team to make it to the Super Bowl, the Cowboys got off an ugly 1-5 start before losing starting QB Tony Romo and it just went all down hill from there. The terrible start caused Head Coach Wade Phillips to be relieved of his duties in favor of Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett. Garrett had a respectable 5-3 record down the stretch and was named head coach for good. Is this finally the year Romo and the ‘Boys can make it to the Super Bowl? A lot of things would have to fall in place for Dallas for that to happen. The Cowboys have an aging offensive line that could spell doom for their season as it did last year. Romo also has to prove that he can be a dependable clutch player something he has yet to do since taking over the reigns as the Cowboys starting QB. There are also questions in the defensive backfield as Dallas went from having one of the best DB units in 2009 to one of the worst in 2011. Dallas has all the talent in the world but they need to develop heart it takes to win a championship but they will be fun to watch as always and hopefully Roy Williams won’t mail it in on the field as he did in his proposal (Sorry Roy, but you made it easy for us writers)

1. How will the lockout affect players’ performance? Well we have come full circle as I mentioned at first that this column would not be about the lockout but in the end this is most burning question of them all and could not be avoided. All players have their off-season training regiments but they also haven’t had anyone around to force them to workout. The coaches and trainers are usually monitoring everything the players doing in the off-season including fitness, nutrition and a ton of other things. For those who can remember to back to NBA lockout of 1999 and the player most synonymous with lockout overeating is Shawn Kemp. The Reign Man had just signed a multi million dollar deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers before the lockout and when the season resumed for just 50 games, Kemp had ballooned to over 300 pounds. He was never the same high-flying above the rim dunk monster that led to him receiving that contract. Kemp’s story is the most cautionary tale about players not being supervised under the lockout. I guarantee you there will be players overweight and out of shape whenever the season does begin. I can think at least one guy that come to mind in Albert Haynesworth that more than likely hasn’t missed too many meals since the lockout started. Also another aspect is that players will be more susceptible to injury due to lack of preparation and inadequate time needed to fine tune their bodies. Yeah I know the players are holding their own “Camps” but do you really think they will push themselves as hard as a coach or trainer would? Yeah me neither.

So that does it for the things I most look forward to seeing this upcoming year. I know I missed on a few things so what are some of the things everyone else is anticipating going into the 2011 season? Feel free to drop comments and let’s get the ball rolling on this list.


  1. Hopefully they get it settled in time for the season to start.
    I believe they will, sooner rather than later.
    One strange thing is the Hall-of-Fame game with the Bears and Rams (both NFC teams) playing each other.
    Usually, the HOF Game features a team from both the NFC and AFC.

  2. I think this is the week it gets done Jim. And that is a very interesting point you bring up about the Hall game featuring two NFC teams, I didn't even notice that until you brought it up.