NFL training camp 2016: One key question, one simple answer for each team

By the end of the week, all 32 NFL teams will have opened for business in training camp. Like every year at this time, they all face some huge, pressing questions.

Here’s our best shot at providing the answers for 2016.


Cowboys: How much do they need Ezekiel Elliott to live up to the hype?

While he waits to get cleared of any trouble, Elliott will put to work in pads to see how well he can hold as a feature back. Dallas will need to go back to the heavy ball-control scheme of two seasons ago, and its defense has even more holes — starting with end — than it had back then. The Cowboys need to careful and not run Elliott into the ground early.

Giants: How much can they really count on Victor Cruz?

There are feel-good vibes that Cruz can contribute on the field for the first time since 2014. But he will turn 30 in four months, and it’s hard for any wideout to run and cut the same away after major calf and knee injuries. The Giants have rookie Sterling Shepard to start opposite Odell Beckham Jr., and versatile subpackage player Dwayne Harris also is in the mix. Throw in tight end Will Tye and running back Shane Vereen, and they don’t need much out of Cruz in the slot to keep the passing game humming.

Eagles: Will they change their mind at quarterback?

Blame them for investing way too much to keep Sam Bradford before drafting Carson Wentz. They’re stuck with Bradford in the lineup based on his contract and having Wentz sit, with Chase Daniel a pure veteran backup in between. We’ll see how long that plan lasts for Doug Pederson once Bradford struggles when the regular season starts.

Redskins: How much can Josh Norman improve their pass defense?

Norman went from an elite pass-rushing team to a mediocre one that just lost a key piece (again) in Junior Galette. Norman’s presence opposite Bashaud Breeland (and with fellow free-agent newcomer David Bruton) in the secondary will help a unit that ranked No. 25 against the pass last season. But for Norman to have the same impact he did last season, Washington’s front seven needs to overachieve. It’s hard to see that happening.


Bears: How quickly will those new defensive parts come together?

Don’t worry about Jay Cutler with a new coordinator and new offensive line — a better supporting cast will make him just fine. As for John Fox and Vic Fangio on the other side of the ball, they can’t expect the big personnel changes for their 3-4 turn the group from sub-par to great right away. New inside linebackers Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan are a good foundation, but it will take a while for rookie outside linebacker Leonard Floyd to become more than a situational pass rusher.

Lions: Should they still worry about replacing Calvin Johnson?

No. They got a big target with a scoring knack when they signed former Bengal Marvin Jones. They then doubled down on slot options with Jeremy Kerley and Anquan Boldin. They expect Eric Ebron to break out at tight end and Theo Riddick to remain a pass-catching machine at running back. They rebounded as well as any team possibly could from the Megatron bomb.

Packers: What should they expect out of Eddie Lacy?

So far so good with Lacy appearing to be more svelte after his rigorous offseason re-conditioning. For those worried about Lacy losing his power, don’t. Focus on him getting back the elusiveness to go with his hard-to-tackle frame. Just as important, Mike McCarthy and the coaches have seen his dedication and will reward it with an increased workload. He’s in for a rebound season as both a runner and underrated receiver in the screen game.

Vikings: Can Teddy Bridgewater silence a few more critics?

We get it. Bridgewater doesn’t have the deep ball you would like from a top NFL starter. But he does so many other things well, and the Vikings have made it a point to play to those strengths. Rookie Laquon Treadwell was the perfect wide receiver to draft: a big, strong, reliable intermediate target. They should be a lot steadier in front of the quarterback with guard Alex Boone and tackle Andre Smith forming the new right side. Norv Turner and the rest of the coaching staff aren’t forcing Bridgewater to be something he’s not, and that should allow him to take a leap.

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