The Stack is here with a special Saturday post with three final training camp previews today. We started it Monday with the Dolphins and Cowboys. Four more on Tuesday and a lot more on Wednesday and Thursday. With the Giants and Steelers opening up on Friday, that leaves just the Bills, Colts and Jaguars who start camp today so let's get right to some training camp previews in "the stack" for today, Saturday, July 27:
Buffalo Bills training camp preview
The Bills were a trendy pick by some (myself included) to do well and maybe make the playoffs last year after signing Mario Williams to help their defense. Plus Ryan Fitzpatrick looked like he was going to be the quarterback of the future. My how things changed in a year. Now the Bills are rebuilding (again) with a new coaching staff and new quarterback. Time to take a look at some storylines as the Bills open up camp at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, NY:
- Is E.J. Manuel going to be the starting quarterback? The Bills surprised all but a handfull of people when they took Manuel off the board in this spring's NFL Draft as the first quarterback. Manuel has a lot to like, but he is raw. The Bills seem to be putting all of their hens in Maneul's basket though. By trading Tavaris Jackson backo to the Seahawks, it's really just down to Manuel and Kevin Kolb and very few people see Kolb starting day one. Manuel must impress from the get go at camp and needs to get Bills fans believing their future is bright with him at quarterback. That's a lot of pressure on this young man's shoulders. Hope he has what it takes.
- Do the Bills have enough weapons around Manuel to be successful? Apart from Steve Johnson, the Bills lack the skilled wide receivers. The Bills drafted a couple of young wide receivers and brought in a couple of undrafted free agents to camp and they need a few of them to step up and be reliable or their offense will suffer and that will make Manuel look bad and his confidence suffer. C.J. Spiller is dynamic and Fred Jackson is a solid running back, but if the Bills fall behind, they won't be able to run it as much and that will mean that other weapons will have to get open and step up their play. Who does that in training camp will be very interesting.
- Will the Bills defense improve this year and when will Jarius Byrd show up? All-pro safety Jarius Byrd did not report to camp unhappy with being designated as the team's franchise tag player. His situation bears monitoring. The defense in camp also bears watching. They were the second worst unit in the league in rush yards allowed. While better on the passing game, the defense as a whole needs to improve and it starts with Mario Williams who was injured at times last year. He signed that big contract. He needs to plays like he earned it.
The Bills full schedule can be found here. Here are a few intersting notes on their schedule:
- The Bills have only one primetime game this year, the one that every team gets. The Bills' game occurs week 5 on Thursday night @ Cleveland 8:25 PM ET NFL Network.
- The Bills start and end the year playing the New England Patriots.
- The Bills start with three of their first four games at home and end with three of their last four on the road.
The dawning of a new era has begun in Buffalo. For Bills fans, they hope that this is finally the time that the Bills can play well and make it to the playoffs for the first time in the new millenium. Last playoff appearance, 1999. Ouch. Don't anticipate it this year though.
Indianapolis Colts training camp preview
The Colts began the Andrew Luck era shocking a lot of people by making the playoffs, eventually losing to the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. More expectations for the Colts this year, but it won't be easy. Here are a few storylines as the Colts report for camp at Anderson University in Anderson, IN:
- Can Andrew Luck be better this year than last year? Most absolutely so. He will be better. Losing offensive coordinator Bruce Arians to Arizona. The Colts brought in Pep Hamilton from Stanford, someone Luck is very comfortable with and knows well. That should bring even more out in Luck's game. He has a new running back (more on that in a second) and some great offensive weapons at tight end and wide receiver. The Colts are here to stay and fans are hoping the Luck era in year two will be better than the Manning era in year two. That might be tough to do as the Colts were 13-3 in Manning's second year, but lost in the divisional round of the playoffs.
- Will the Colts ground game improve? The Colts have not had a decent running game in a few years now. Vick Ballard and Donald Brown were ok last year, but the Colts upgraded in the offseason by getting Ahmad Bradshaw from the Giants in free agency. By adding a reliable running back, the Colts will hopefully get have more balance on offense which will open up the playbook more and mean better things for Luck and company.
- Key to the Colts success may be their defense. The Colts were one of the worst teams in the league last year stopping the run and they weren't much better stopping the pass either. They tried to address that by drafting Bjoern Werner on the defensive line and adding LaRon Landry to help the secondary, but elected not to re-sign Dwight Freeney. That could hurt them. The Colts need that defense to be middle of the pack for the Colts to get further in the playoffs and be a legit Super Bowl contender.
The Colts full schedule can be found here. Here are a few interesting notes on their schedule:
- The Colts are popular in primetime this year with four nationally televised games, all within a six week period (Week 6 @ San Diego 8:40 PM ET ESPN, Week 7 VS Denver 8:30 PM ET NBC, Week 9 @ Houston 8:30 PM ET NBC and Week 11 @ Tennessee 8:25 PM ET NFL Network (Thursday night)).
- Five of the Colts final nine games are within the division and they play the Titans twice in three weeks in that span (weeks 11 and 13).
- It's a year full of reunion games for the Colts. They welcome Peyton Manning back to town in week 7, they visit old friend Dwight Freeney week 6 when they go to San Diego and they get to see former offensive coordinator and reigning NFL head coach of the year Bruce Arians when they travel to Arizona week 12.
The Colts look like they will be good for years to come. Andrew Luck and the entire team though need to take that next step and take nothing for granted. Going to be another fun year in Indianapolis.
Jacksonville Jaguars training camp preview
The Jaguars hired a new head coach in former Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. He certainly has his work cut out for him as the Jaguars are in a world of hurt and have a lot of different areas full of question marks. Here are a few of those storylines as the Jaguars report to camp today at their pracitice facility in Jacksonville, FL:
- Is Blaine Gabbert down to his last strike? Gabbert is coming into his third year and so far he has been less than stellar. Some think it's time for the Jaguars to move on, but they appear ready to give Gabbert another shot. He was injured last year, but for the Jaguars to get on the path back to improvement, they need Gabbert to show he can be a franchise quarterback and so far, he has not shown that to be the case.
- Is MJD 100 percent? After suffering a foot injury last year that took him out for half of the season, running back Maurice Jones-Drew is back and now that he's not talking about a contract or injury, he appears focused on this season. The Jaguars were third worst in the league last year in rushing the football and they need the MJD of a couple of years ago in order for them to achieve something on offense. We'll find out in the upcoming practices if MJD is in great condition and ready to be the workhorse back the Jaguars need him to be if they want to improve from last year.
- What will the Jaguars do with Denard Robinson? Robinson was an electric quarterback at Michigan, but he won't be taking snaps under center unless it's in a wildcat like package this year. He has a ton of speed and the Jaguars should plan on using him all over the field; kickoff, running back, wide receiver and quarterback. The more they get the ball in his hands, the better the offense will be. Keep an eye on that during training camp to see how they use him.
The Jaguars full schedule can be found here. Here are a few interesting notes on their schedule:
- One lone primetime game for the Jaguars this year, the one every team gets, the NFL Network game on Thursday night at 8:25 PM ET. Their game happens week 14 VS Houston.
- The Jaguars play the entire AFC West before their bye in week 9.
- The Jaguars will play a "home" game in London against the San Francisco 49ers week 8.
Jaguars fans should expect improvement this year, but still another long year for the team. Things will be better and the team will be more watchable, just not playoff bound yet.
Coming up Monday: Reaction to top sports headlines from the weekend