Lockout is over, but questions remain for new season
Reporting from Green Bay, Wis. -- Have the Philadelphia Eagles assembled the “Dream Team,” or is this another fantasy football roster built to disappoint?
That’s just one of the pressing questions heading into this NFL season.
A few of the others:
Did the lockout truly favor those teams with an established coach and quarterback, or can the teams that really had to cram in this compressed off-season make the grade?
Will the Peyton Manning saga be a pain in the neck for the Indianapolis Colts all season?
Seattle made the 2010 playoffs at 7-9; is the NFC West still the NFC Worst?
Carolina’s Cam Newton looked very good in the preseason. Will this top pick follow in the cleat-steps of fellow No. 1s Sam Bradford and Matthew Stafford, or will he go the way of JaMarcus Russell and Alex Smith?
Will a franchise that has never won the Super Bowl — maybe San Diego, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Detroit or Houston — finally hoist the Lombardi Trophy?
Minnesota, which last year had a 41-year-old quarterback in Brett Favre, now has a relative pup in Donovan McNabb, 34. Can McNabb rekindle some of the success he had with the Eagles, or is this experiment simply Redskins redux?
Which team will make a beeline for the bottom of the league and be in position to draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck?
The Green Bay Packers are ready to defend their Lombardi Trophy. That’s not so easy to do. Only eight times in the past 45 years have Super Bowl champions come back the following season to win it all, with three other teams losing in the title game. The last to repeat were the 2003-04 New England Patriots, who beat Philadelphia in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
How the previous 10 champions fared the following season:
2000; XXXV; Baltimore; Lost divisional playoff game
2001; XXXVI; New England; Missed playoffs
2002; XXXVII; Tampa Bay; Missed playoffs
2003; XXXVIII; New England; Won Super Bowl
2004; XXXIX; New England; Lost divisional playoff game
2005; XL; Pittsburgh; Missed playoffs
2006; XLI; Indianapolis; Lost divisional playoff game
2007; XLII; New York Giants; Lost divisional playoff game
2008; XLIII; Pittsburgh; Missed playoffs
2009; XLIV; New Orleans; Lost wild-card playoff game
There are several new rules and points of emphasis this season:
Unnecessary roughness: Illegal “launching” — a player leaving both feet prior to contact to spring upward into an opponent and deliver a blow to any part of the helmet — has been banned. Also, roughing-the-passer rules have been clarified so that hits to the passer’s head by a defender’s hands, arms or other body parts will not result in a penalty unless they are forcible blows.
Kickoffs: Kick returns are among the most exciting plays but also some of the most dangerous. The league, therefore, has moved kickoffs up five yards to the 35 to promote touchbacks. The kicking-team formation also has been adjusted so all players other than the kicker must be lined up no more than five yards behind their restraining line.
A legal reception: In order to complete a catch, a player must first have a firm grip and control of the ball, and two feet or some other part of his body other than his hands on the ground. He then must maintain control of the ball long enough to make a “football move” — a common act such as being able to pitch, pass or advance the ball.
Instant replay: The replay official will review all scoring plays.
Dead-ball personal fouls: If a team commits a dead-ball personal foul at the end of a half, that penalty will now be enforced on the opening kickoff of the third quarter, eliminating the extension of the first half.
Color of playing field: The surface must be a league-approved shade of green, so no unusual colors such as those for the home fields of Boise State (blue) or Eastern Washington (red).
Familiar players who have switched teams (new team/old team):
Nnamdi Asomugha, CB (Eagles/Raiders): More a shutdown corner than a big playmaker, Asomugha has a total of three interceptions in the last three years.
Marion Barber, RB (Bears/Cowboys): Barber’s signing paved the way for Bears to release Chester Taylor from their crowded backfield.
Nick Barnett, LB (Bills/Packers): A wrist injury limited Barnett to four games last season. In Buffalo, he’s reunited with former Packers defensive coordinator Bob Sanders, now a linebackers coach.
Kevin Boss, TE (Raiders/Giants): Oakland signed Boss to fill the vacancy created by Zach Miller’s departure. The Giants couldn’t match the Raiders’ offer to Boss.
Ronnie Brown, RB (Eagles/Dolphins): Brown is a good third-down back and could step in for starter LeSean McCoy in a pinch.
Plaxico Burress, WR (Jets/Giants): Burress, recently released from prison, is an upgrade from Braylon Edwards, but can he stay healthy after his hiatus from the NFL?
Reggie Bush, RB (Dolphins/Saints): Bush had some splashy plays for the Saints, but he never made a Pro Bowl or rushed for as much as 600 yards in a season.
Kerry Collins, QB (Colts/Titans): The Colts coaxed Collins out of retirement as an insurance policy in case Peyton Manning hadn’t recovered from neck surgery. Uh oh.
Jericho Cotchery, WR (Steelers/Jets): The Steelers needed depth at receiver after Emmanuel Sanders had surgery on both feet in the off-season.
Braylon Edwards, WR (49ers/Jets): If Jim Harbaugh is going to develop a quarterback, he has to give him some targets.
Ray Edwards, DE (Falcons/Vikings): Falcons needed a pass rusher, and Jamal Anderson, a first-rounder in 2007, wasn’t getting the job done.
Shaun Ellis, DE (Patriots/Jets): Rex Ryan was not at all pleased Ellis signed with the Patriots, upgrading their pass rush.
Lee Evans, WR (Ravens/Bills): The Ravens traded for deep threat Evans after losing Derrick Mason and Todd Heap in free agency.
Robert Gallery, G (Seahawks/Raiders): Gallery never reached his potential as a tackle, but was a solid guard. Tom Cable lured him to Seattle.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB (Titans/Seahawks): Hasselbeck, who turned down an offer to stay in Seattle, can help groom rookie Jake Locker.
Albert Haynesworth, DT, (Patriots/Redskins): Haynesworth says he’s happy in New England. Maybe Bill Belichick can find the dominant player Mike Shanahan couldn’t.
Todd Heap, TE (Cardinals/Ravens): This is a homecoming for Heap, who was raised in Arizona. Kevin Kolb certainly applauds the move.
Tim Hightower, RB (Redskins/Cardinals): The Redskins traded for Hightower, who ran for 1,733 yards and 23 touchdowns over the past three seasons.
Vonnie Holliday, DE (Cardinals/Redskins): The 35-year-old Holliday came to the Cardinals as part of the trade for Hightower.
Tarvaris Jackson, QB (Seahawks/Vikings): In Seattle, Jackson was reunited with Darrell Bevell, his offensive coordinator with the Vikings.
Kevin Kolb, QB (Cardinals/Eagles): Kolb didn’t get much of a chance in Philadelphia after Michael Vick stepped in. Arizona gives him that.
Derrick Mason, WR (Jets/Ravens): Mason knows Rex Ryan from their Baltimore days and was a teammate of Plaxico Burress at Michigan State.
Donovan McNabb, QB (Vikings/Redskins): McNabb is a bridge quarterback — albeit a good one — until rookie Christian Ponder is ready to go.
Zach Miller, TE (Seahawks/Raiders): Miller made the Pro Bowl last season after catching 60 passes and scoring five touchdown. Big loss for Raiders.
Chad Ochocinco , WR (Patriots/Bengals): Maybe the Patriots can squeeze a couple more good years out of Ochocinco, the way they did with Randy Moss.
Sidney Rice, WR (Seahawks/Vikings): They might not have an elite quarterback, but the Seahawks have a top-notch receiver in Rice.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB (Eagles/Cardinals): Rodgers-Cromartie is the third Pro Bowl corner on a team that now has Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel.
Bob Sanders, S (Chargers/Colts): Staying healthy will be key for Sanders, who has played a total of nine games in the last three seasons.
Jeremy Shockey, TE (Panthers/Saints): In recent years, the Panthers have mostly used tight ends for blocking. They now have a four-time Pro Bowl player with hands.
Steve Smith, WR (Eagles/Giants): Smith, a very talented possession receiver, is coming off microfracture surgery on his left knee.
Takeo Spikes, LB (Chargers/49ers): Spikes, 34, had 109 tackles for the 49ers last season, his most productive year since 2003.
Darren Sproles, RB (Saints/Chargers): Sproles gives the Saints an outstanding change-of-speed back to complement Pierre Thomas and/or Mark Ingram.
Chester Taylor, RB (Cardinals/Bears): When rookie Ryan Williams went down with a season-ending knee injury, the Cardinals reached for a backup to Beanie Wells.
Cadillac Williams, RB (Rams/Buccaneers): The fifth overall pick in 2005, Williams will back up Steven Jackson, giving the Rams depth at the position.
Ricky Williams, RB (Ravens/Dolphins): Ray Rice had a career-high 370 touches last season. The Ravens needed a solid veteran for depth.
Roy Williams, WR (Bears/Cowboys): Williams is reunited in Chicago with offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who had that role when they were both with Detroit.
Vince Young, QB (Eagles/Titans): Michael Vick has played one 16-game season in his career. Young is a playmaking backup plan.
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