Reflecting on training camp travels
Tebowmania not helping Sanchez's growth; do Broncos still have concerns at QB?
After visiting 11 training camps in 10 days, there's a lot to digest.
Initially, I worried about the impact of the new collective bargaining agreement on the camp tour. As it turned out, the one-practice-a-day mandate offered a more conducive schedule and more chances to see more teams. I was able to hit the Browns and Bills on the same day and the Jets and Eagles the next day.
Here are 10 reflections from the camp visits, which covered 2,433 miles driven.
1. Tebowmania can only hurt Mark Sanchez: The idea of replacing Sanchez with Tim Tebow in the red zone will only diminish Sanchez's reputation as a quarterback. In three seasons, Sanchez has proven he's more about the wins than the stats, but look at the statistical impact of taking Sanchez off the field in scoring situations. Last year, Sanchez completed 56.7 percent of his passes and had 26 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. I know the idea is to create a dual threat with Tebow as a runner and a thrower, but 12 of Sanchez's touchdown passes came in goal-to-go situations, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He completed 16 of 33 passes and had one interception on those plays. Take away those numbers and you have a starting quarterback with 14 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions. Even worse, he'll probably feel more compelled to gamble on a few throws from outside the 10-yard line that might end up being picked off, making his numbers worse. Twenty-one of his 26 touchdown passes were in the red zone. If you're going to be a playoff quarterback, shouldn't you have a chance to complete the drive?
2. Who came up with the idea of making Tebow bigger? When Tebow took off his jersey during that rainy Saturday in Cortland, N.Y., you should have seen the reaction in Broncos camp. Broncos officials couldn't believe the Jets allowed Tebow to bulk up so much. He looked more like a fullback than a quarterback. "Name me a quarterback who is encouraged to get that big," a Broncos official said. "He came out of college weighing around 230 pounds." It's fine for the 6-foot-5 quarterbacks to weigh 250 pounds or more, but Tebow is little under 6-3. How can 15 extra pounds help his throwing?
3. Is there a place for Donovan McNabb? As we've seen with Terrell Owens, it takes only one team to sign a player whom many have disregarded. After bad experiences in Washington and Minnesota, McNabb is on the outside looking in. According to a source, McNabb has taken a different approach to his preparation this offseason. He's been talked into getting leaner. For several seasons, McNabb spent so much time in the weight room getting his body ready for the pounding of being a starting quarterback. Friends told him he got too big, so he's adjusted his workout routine. It's going to take an injury to open a starting job for McNabb and many believe he's a long shot to play again.
4. Thinking about the Broncos' backup situation: The Broncos have the quarterback of the present in Peyton Manning and the quarterback of the future in Brock Osweiler. The current backup is Caleb Hanie. From watching practice, you get the idea that Osweiler, though listed No. 3, might end up beating out Hanie for the backup job. That might be a big gamble to have him as a backup. I could see the Broncos signing Matt Moore if he's cut by the Dolphins. Moore has a good background with Broncos coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy from their days in Carolina. There is a good chance David Garrard will beat out Moore, which puts the Dolphins in a position to decide if they want Moore or Ryan Tannehill as their backup.
5. Is Brian Urlacher's knee a concern? Much has been made about Urlacher being out a week with a knee injury. Although it is worrisome that Urlacher's knee isn't 100 percent, I don't think it will affect him this year. Bears coach Lovie Smith is doing a good job of resting his aging core group of defensive players -- Urlacher, Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and others. As long as Urlacher is healthy for the opener -- which he should be -- all should be fine.
6. Ravens will have pass-rush concerns: If Terrell Suggs has to sit out the entire season because of his torn Achilles tendon, I don't know where the Ravens will come up with the 14 sacks to replace him. Courtney Upshaw may be an option, but I don't see him being a double-digit sacker as a rookie. Paul Kruger would have to have a career year to get to 10. The Ravens still should make the playoffs, but there might be a slight drop-off in their overall defensive numbers if they can't generate much of a pass rush.
7. Steelers could still get a long-term deal done with Mike Wallace: By giving an $8.5 million signing bonus to wide receiver Antonio Brown, the Steelers have only $2.5 million of remaining salary-cap room. To give Wallace, who's holding out, a five-year, $50 million contract, they would have to do it on their terms to make the cap work. That might mean a signing bonus and an option bonus. Some people in the organization believe Brown might be better long-term than Wallace, but Wallace's speed is special and opens up the offense. That's why they offered Wallace more than Brown. I can't see the Steelers letting Wallace hit the free-agent market next year. He's too valuable.
8. Still can't figure out Devin Hester's role: Hester remains the Bears' top return specialist and is the team's starting flanker. As past offensive coordinators found out, the more Hester plays at wide receiver, the more it wears him down as a specialist. I can see Hester and talented rookie Alshon Jeffery sharing the flanker position, but it might be better to have a 60-40 split in Jeffery's favor. That would keep Hester fresh and give Jeffery a chance to develop.
9. It's good that Andy Reid has football: The loss of his eldest son is a big burden on the mind of Reid, but I'm not surprised he was away from his team for only a couple of days. Reid loves the game, and this team is like family to him. Before I went to Eagles camp, I wondered if Reid would maybe consider moving into the front office and getting away from the pressures of coaching in the next year or two. Reid runs the Eagles and runs them well. Now, I see him coaching indefinitely. Having football to occupy his mind is good medicine. It won't fill the void created by the loss of his son, but the game and the team help Reid emotionally.
10. Poor Pat Shurmur: How would you like to have a lockout and an ownership change define your first two years as a head coach? As we've seen, it's hard for a head coach to have job security if he starts off with two losing seasons. With so many young players on offense, the Browns will struggle to get more than four or five wins this season. Shurmur has proven he's a good playcaller and will have no trouble finding employment as an offensive coordinator if he loses his job after the season. Shurmur needs a break.
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