Burning camp questions
Ten hot-button issues as teams hit the practice field
Posted: Wednesday July 25, 2007 11:26AM; Updated: Wednesday July 25, 2007 12:57PM
Here are the 10 burning questions I have as NFL training camps open this week:
1. Will Ben Roethlisberger quickly buy into head coach Mike Tomlin's new program in Pittsburgh?
Big Ben's 2006 in Pittsburgh was a strange, puzzling affair from his June motorcycle accident on. But a key indication that Roethlisberger's career is back on track will be if he forges an early relationship with Tomlin, the Steelers' first new head coach in 15 years.
It's no secret that tension existed last season between Roethlisberger and Steelers offensive coordination Ken Whisenhunt, who is now the Cardinals head coach. Roethlisberger was close to Steelers quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple, who was not retained by Tomlin and is out of the NFL. If there's any lingering ill will there on the part of No. 7, it could make Tomlin's job of winning over the team's veteran leadership that much harder.
2. Whose potential contract holdout could wind up costing the Browns more early season momentum -- Brady Quinn's or Joe Thomas'?
It's rare a first-round offensive tackle is a higher priority to crack the starting lineup than a first-round quarterback, but that's the case in Cleveland, where the Browns' troubles always seem to start with a shaky offensive line. Having Thomas beating out incumbent Kevin Shaffer at left tackle would give the Browns an anchor at one of the game's most valuable positions, and allow Cleveland to deal Shaffer late in the preseason for help elsewhere.
There's less urgency to get Quinn up and running, because the Browns may be hesitant to have him on center stage from Day One this season. The more tried and true approach in recent years is to have a veteran quarterback build an early season bridge to the start of the new guy's era in mid-season. Kurt Warner did that for Eli Manning in New York and Matt Leinart in Arizona, with Kerry Collins filling the same role for Vince Young in Tennessee, and Jake Plummer doing likewise for Jay Cutler in Denver.
Charlie Frye, and maybe Derek Anderson, should be able to buy the Browns enough time to get Quinn's feet on the ground before he's asked to assume control of the offense. Having Quinn miss some August practice time may prove less damaging than one might think.