Aggressive Eagles still have issues
How Philly manages middle of D is among top camp storylines; so is Tebow (of course)
After a 136-day lockout that cooled interest in the NFL, players and owners put all labor problems on ice for the next 10 years.
Football is back, and things couldn't be hotter. Temperatures in most camps have been blistering. And now that all players can go on the field and practice, the sport feels as though it is back to normal.
Do you have a query for John Clayton?
Click here to send a note to his mailbag.
It's been hard to equate the words football and normal in 2011. Labor problems wiped out the offseason and jeopardized training camps. At the last possible minute, a 10-year labor deal was struck, and now coaches and general managers have had to do their best to piece rosters together and get the players ready for the regular season.
Injuries are happening at a fast pace. In the first week, at least seven players blew out Achilles tendons. Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman suffered a groin injury that will wipe out his training camp. The debut of Lions first-round pick Nick Fairley has been jeopardized by foot surgery that will keep him out for three to four weeks.
But camps are hot, and here are the five hottest topics.
1. Eagles' overhaul: Andy Reid hates the notion that the Eagles are assembling a dream team. Despite having one of the greatest acquisition weeks in NFL history, the Eagles still have problems.
First, a quick recap of their moves: They added Jason Babin to rush the passer on the other side of Trent Cole. At corner, they added Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Cullen Jenkins and Anthony Hargrove were added at defensive tackle. Halfback Ronnie Brown and offensive linemen Evan Mathis and Ryan Harris felt good enough about what was happening in Philadelphia that they took discounted deals to be part of it.
Overall, the Eagles added a dozen new players to an already talented team. But they have major question marks up the middle of their defense. They traded defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley before finding out fellow defensive tackle Mike Patterson has a rare brain condition that could end his season. The linebacking corps is filled with three seventh-round picks, undrafted outside linebacker Akeem Jordan and two unproven fourth-rounders -- Casey Matthews and 2010 fourth-rounder Keenan Clayton.
As the Miami Heat found out, being a dream team can be a tough reality show.
2. Tebow drama: Push the Tim Tebow discussion button and you get plenty of noise. Fans love him. Coaches love his work ethic and competitiveness. But many doubt he can be a winning NFL quarterback, and his struggles have made Broncos camp one of the most interesting in football.
Many thought it was just a matter of time before Kyle Orton was traded and Tebow was anointed the starter. But first-year coach John Fox came in with an unbiased look and all of a sudden Tebow's snaps in practice are dropping. Instead of competing with Orton for the starting job, Tebow is competing with Brady Quinn for snaps as the backup.
Could Tebow end up as the Broncos' third-string quarterback? It's possible. The lockout prevented Tebow from getting much-needed coaching, and Tebow needs as much -- if not more -- coaching on his mechanics as the 2011 rookie crop of quarterbacks.
The Broncos wouldn't unload Orton for only a third-round choice to the Miami Dolphins. Now, they may look brilliant by keeping him.
3. Dolphins' QB situation: Orton might be more popular in Miami than he is in Denver. Fans who have watched Dolphins QB Chad Henne want change. In the first few days of camp, some booed Henne while others chanted, "We want Orton." One of the hottest questions in football is whether the Dolphins made the right moves or non-moves at quarterback. They couldn't come to terms with Denver on an Orton trade. They picked Matt Moore over Vince Young as the veteran quarterback to compete against Henne.
Even though coach Tony Sparano's job security is dependent on a winning season, the Dolphins have a hot controversy at quarterback, which always seems to be the case in Miami since the retirement of Dan Marino. The Dolphins have already had an interesting camp. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall divulged that he has borderline personality disorder. The Dolphins traded for Reggie Bush and brought in Tiki Barber for a workout. And the joke around camp is the Dolphins might bring in Brett Favre, but he reportedly is not interested.
4. NFC West inroads: Is the NFC West on the rise? To everyone's surprise, teams in the NFC West have been some of the most active in free agency, making their camps more interesting.
The Seahawks stole Sidney Rice from the Vikings and Zach Miller and Robert Gallery from the Raiders, but they calmed some of the excitement by signing Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback instead of re-signing Matt Hasselbeck.
The Arizona Cardinals not only traded for Kevin Kolb at quarterback, they also signed several top free agents -- linebacker Stewart Bradley, guard Daryn Colledge, tight ends Todd Heap and Jeff King and wide receiver Chansi Stuckey.
5. Saints' gains: The New Orleans Saints aren't drawing the headlines being gathered in Philadelphia, but they have assembled a nice team. General manager Mickey Loomis had the tough assignment of dealing with 26 unrestricted free agents. He's re-signed 12 so far. But he's also found a way to add 10 unrestricted free agents, which puts further pressure on the Falcons and Bucs, who have put their money into re-signings instead of additions.
The most interesting move by the Saints was trading Bush and replacing him with Darren Sproles, who adds excitement and big-play ability to the offense and special teams. They brought in defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin to work with Sedrick Ellis, Shaun Rogers and others in the middle of the defensive line. They plucked a good fullback (Korey Hall), an overachieving linebacker (Will Herring) and some interesting backups for depth -- Turk McBride, Paul Oliver, Fabian Washington and Alex Barron.
John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Follow Clayton on Twitter @ClaytonESPN
MORE NFL HEADLINES
- Cutler: 'Crossed my mind' Bears tenure over
- Sources: Bears 'confused' by coach's discipline
- Cowboys' Murray: Decision to play is mine
- 49ers' Harbaugh: 'Only talk about job I have'
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
The NFL on ESPN.com
WEEK 1 PICKS
MORE NFL COVERAGE
2011 NFL PREVIEW
JOHN CLAYTON QB RANKINGS
- vaughn mcclure retweeted
- vaughn mcclure retweeted
- Scott Brown retweeted
- trey wingo retweeted