As the preseason is about to be kicked up into high gear, there are notes, tidbits, rumors and speculation coming from the NFL training camps. From roster competition to what is happening on either side of the ball, Scout.com is there to provide the latest on your team.
The San Francisco 49ers are not expected to compete for much more than respectability in the 2005 season. This doesn't mean the team isn't feeling the transformation under new head coach Mike Nolan. Nolan has brought a sense of responsibility and dedication back to the 49ers' football operations. The 49ers are working hard, players are prepared to practice, and there is a sense of pride and commitment. All of which waned under the direction of former coach Dennis Erickson in recent seasons.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick continues to impress second-year head coach Jim Mora with his improved grasp of the offense. Somewhat one dimensional in his first-season under Mora, Vick is gradually learning how to utilize the pocket, though he still is displaying impatience when looking downfield to his wide receivers. Also, second-year wide receiver Michael Jenkins is slowly emerging as a legitimate potential starter.
While all talk of head coach Mike Holmgren being on the hot-seat in Seattle has died-down, quietly the talk is Holmgren must take this team to the next level in 2005 or he will be shown the door. The front office and coaching staff remains concerned with the team's questionable speed at the wide receiver position and continues to look at potential players to fill the void. Additionally, the Seahawks continue to monitor the progress of former Baltimore Ravens pass-rusher Peter Boulware (knee) as a potential pass-rush specialist.
How satisfied are the New York Giants with second-year quarterback Eli Manning? The phrase "difference between night and day" has been used in describing the progression of the other Manning quarterback. Manning, early in his second training camp is displaying the leadership qualities and competitive nature which led the Giants to complete a blockbuster deal on draft-day 2004 to acquire his services.
Movement on a new contract between tight-end Antonio Gates and the San Diego Chargers has been slow. Gates has become the go-to receiver in what is becoming a potent Chargers offense and wants to be compensated as such. While he has been tendered by the Chargers, both sides are hopeful a resolution can be reached prior to the start of the season.
Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams has been accepted back into the fold by the organization and players. If it weren't for the dramatic change of attitude and leadership in Miami (Nick Saban), this would have never occurred and Williams may have remained retired. As of this writing, the Dolphins have no plans of trading Williams, regardless of the talents and availability of their first-round draft selection, Ronnie Brown from Auburn.
If Green Bay Packers iron-man quarterback Brett Favre were to be injured during the 2005 season, rookie Aaron Rodgers doesn't appear ready to be the successor. Throughout the off-season workouts, passing camps, and into training camp, Rodgers has been tentative and floating far too many passes to his exposed receivers.
Attention: Paging Cedric Benson, head coach Lovie Smith would like a word with you. The Chicago Bears second-year head coach states he is comfortable heading into the season with veteran Thomas Jones being his starting running back. Okay, then why select Benson, you can do better than that Lovie. Incidentally, negotiations between the team and representatives for Benson have heated–up.
In Baltimore, the lack of consistent play at the wide receiver position has been an ongoing issue. The signing of Derrick Mason and selection of Mark Clayton has the organization excited, but the quarterback situation may prove to be the underlying factor in the progress of the offense. Kyle Boller isn't impressing, though he appears to be growing under the immediate tutelage of Jim Fassel. Anthony Wright is physically gifted, but makes far too many mistakes to take the starting job from Boller.