ON FOOTBALL: Some big questions remain heading into season

BY foxsports • September 1, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) Offseason workouts, training camp and preseason games are supposed to supply answers for the 32 NFL teams.

Sometimes, they do. More often, the questions remain when the real stuff kicks off.

Here are some relatively unsolved dilemmas:


STARTING QBS: Every team has one - yes, even the Broncos figured out who will take the snaps Peyton Manning hoarded so well the past few years. And you heard right, it is Trevor Siemian.

Not every team can be sure what it has. Such as:

Patriots - Now here's a switch. With Tom Brady suspended for four games, the untested Jimmy Garoppolo gets his first (and possibly last) chance. The joke going around is that Jimmy G will go 4-0 and the coaching staff will then tell Tom Terrific he is now a backup.

If nothing else, the Patriots will get some of those answers about their backup quarterback. Like, perhaps, is he a future replacement for a retired Brady down the road?

Texans - Brock Osweiler had a nice but short stint last season subbing for Manning. He parlayed it into, well, Manning-type money. Now he must show he is worthy of franchise-QB pay.

Houston won the AFC South with mediocre play at the position in 2015. So Osweiler doesn't need to be a superstar right away, even though he is getting those big bucks.

Browns - It only seems as if Robert Griffin III is the 100th Browns signal caller since Cleveland got back its franchise in 1999. Which RG3 will this be, someone close to the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year sensation? Or the oft-injured and benched RG3 of recent vintage?

Colts, Ravens, Eagles - Can Andrew Luck, Joe Flacco, and Sam Bradford make it through 2016 unscathed?


RIGHT COACH, WRONG COACH: Several coaches begin the season without a whole lot of security. Nothing that happens in the summer affects that. Everything that happens over the next few months does.

Those coaches are:

Rex Ryan - Sure, it's only his second year in charge of the Bills, and he did some nice work previously with the Jets. Still, Buffalo hasn't seen the playoffs since the previous century, and Rex comes with a lot of bravado and even bluster. Anything like last season's 8-8 won't do.

Gus Bradley - Not many coaches get a fourth season in charge after going 12-36. To their credit, the Jaguars have been patient and seem to have put together a contender in a mediocre AFC South. Should they flop again this season, Bradley likely will be looking for a defensive coordinator's job. If they succeed - a winning record could be enough, a playoff berth certainly would be - Bradley can begin thinking about seizing control of the division.

Jeff Fisher - Unquestionably, Fisher was the right guy to oversee the Rams' move from St. Louis to Los Angeles. He'd been through that drill before with the Oilers/Titans. And he eventually led that franchise to a Super Bowl.

That doesn't mean he has a long leash in Hollywood. The Rams have gone 27-36-1 under him and the offense has been particularly stagnant. Still, Fisher is a survivor, and a pretty fine coach.

Mike McCoy - The Chargers need a big turnaround before the November elections to entice the public to support a new stadium in San Diego. McCoy led the Chargers to a pair of 9-7 marks before they flopped badly to 4-12. In a very tough division, McCoy needs to solve a weak running game and underwhelming defense.


SACKMASTERS: In the pass-happy NFL, the most important defensive player has become the guy who can get to the quarterback. It certainly is critical to have strong coverage players, but the most effective way to prevent a Brady or Rodgers or Brees from tearing apart a defense is by not giving him time to set up and throw.

Every team is searching for them. Some have found them recently: Khalil Mack in Oakland, Aaron Donald in Los Angeles, Ziggy Ansah in Detroit.

So can they remain consistent threats to the passer? And who else might emerge, carrying their teams into contention?

Some names to consider: Leonard Williams of the Jets, Mario Addison of the Panthers and Jacquies Smith of the Buccaneers.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL