As the summer approaches and NFL players take one last break before training camp begins next month, we examine the five biggest questions heading into the 2019 NFL training camp and preseason.
How real is Kyler Murray’s hype, and how high is his ceiling?
It’s easy to be on polar opposite ends of a debate when it comes to this year’s top overall draft pick, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray – the guy who originally signed a pro baseball contract with the Oakland Athletics, only to play a year of college football at Oklahoma, absolutely dominated, then committed to football full time, voiding his A’s contract and is now in camp with the Cardinals as their projected QB1.
Kliff Kingsbury got his guy, and it’ll take an injury or some freak performance in the preseason by any other Cardinals quarterback to start over Murray during the preseason, let alone the regular season. Most rookie quarterbacks, especially those drafted early in the first round or first overall, are expected to hit the field running – we can take that literally with Murray.
The question is how will he react to adversity, especially in an NFL atmosphere that will ask for your replacement if you’re not producing immediately. Murray may have moments in his first season, but there will need to be some kind of patience with him. Not only is he going to have to adjust to how NFL defenses will play the type of air-raid offense Kingsbury will install in Arizona, he only started for a year at Oklahoma, and (as we’re all aware at this point) is undersized for an NFL quarterback.
A renewed and improved SuperCam?
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is throwing again for the first time since shoulder surgery in January. Not only did he look good throwing during the team’s offseason workouts, he improved his throwing motion which looks more effective and quicker.
“His footwork, just keeping it compact and making sure his feet and his eyes were working together,” Panthers quarterbacks coach Scott Turner said to Panthers.com.
“That’s where we really started. When your feet match your eyes, you are going to make decisions faster. Getting (Cam’s) feet consistent helped the ball go where he wanted it to go.”
The process started with his footwork in 2018, which saw him finish the season with a career-best 67.9 completion percentage. The next step he’ll undertake this season is his throwing mechanics and release.
“Making him a little more compact in his upper body. A little more closed off, just so he’s not as open throwing the ball. And just to make him as efficient as possible and putting the least amount of stress possible,” Turner said. “Now, you are going to put stress on your arm throwing the football – it’s not a natural movement. But as little as we can on his shoulder, just to take care of him.”
The new release mechanics should help him get rid of the ball faster, with more velocity and accuracy. Newton has always thrown off of his back foot, forcing him to open his body up more and use more of his arm than he would need to. It adds more of an arc to his ball instead of being able to drive it on a line. His new release places more weight on his front foot, allowing for an easier release and less stress on his body. He’s also not cocking back as much as he used to, allowing for a quicker release and delivery, and releasing over the top instead of side-arm, which allows his ball to travel smoother and more accurate.
The question going forward will be if he can keep his mechanics when under pressure.
Newton missed the last two games of the regular season in what was a disappointing season for Carolina last year as they won just one of their last eight games after a solid 6-2 start.
Which Raiders are we getting on Hard Knocks, Oakland or Vegas?
Grab your snacks and your overalls and let the sports soap-opera that will be the Oakland Raiders 2019 season begin as the Silver and Black take the Hard Knocks spotlight for the first time.
Earlier this week, the Raiders were announced to be the team subjected to Hard Knocks on HBO this summer and while many fans around Raider Nation are excited that they’re finally in the spotlight, the question has to be asked: which Raiders team are we getting? The one that’s getting ready to leave to Vegas, with all five episodes continuously highlighting the move, or the team that’s getting ready to play one last season in Oakland, paying some kind of homage to the city they’re, once again, leaving?
There’s no question that the team’s imminent relocation to Las Vegas will be a focal point in the show. The Raiders have been loud on social media about their move to Vegas with constant stadium updates and even rooted for the Vegas Golden Knights during the NHL playoffs the last two seasons.
But there are so many storylines and characters to focus on surrounding the current Oakland Raiders that are better than the move to Vegas. From the relationship between Derek Carr and Jon Gruden, to the locker room impact of newcomers like Antonio Brown and Richie Incognito. Josh Jacobs’ story from homeless to top-rookie halfback especially deserves a spotlight.
A storyline that should be followed is the team’s departure and the impact it has had on the Bay Area Raiders fans. Yes, there are those who will fly to Vegas every week for the Raiders games, but a majority of them either can’t or won’t. No fan base deserves to lose a team, let alone twice. While Vegas is a big move, personally, I’d rather see HBO focus on the Bay Area, the East Bay, and the Raiders heading into 2019.
Also, HBO better have cameos of BART and the Bay Bridge with the OAKLAND skyline in its intro.
Will Daniel Jones look the part of franchise savior?
Life comes back around fast. 15 years ago, it was Eli Manning that was taking over for Kurt Warner midway through the 2004 NFL season. Warner knew that his stay in New York wouldn’t be a long one, but he was there to mentor the younger of the Manning brothers to become the eventual face of the franchise. After a decade and a half under center with two Super Bowl wins and many franchise passing records, he did.
Now, it’s Eli’s turn to play mentor. From what’s been said about Eli around the Giants, he’s been a great teacher to the quarterbacks behind him, including Geno Smith, who started over Manning for a game in 2017 that broke Manning’s Iron Man streak.
Manning took over midway through the 2004 season, with the Giants riding a 5-4 record with Warner under center after losing three of their first four games after the bye week. A similar situation could come up this season, especially if the Giants are out of the playoff hunt by their Week 11 bye.
So far, the Giants have been impressed with Jones despite the typical ups and downs during his first career OTA’s. He’s reportedly silenced his critics about his arm strength and deep ball and has shown a better arm and athleticism than he was thought to have.
Whether the Giants like it or not, Daniel Jones should and probably will play at some point this season.
Will the Browns make Cleveland believe again?
Last year, the Browns got their quarterback, even though it took them a few games to finally play him. This year, they got his weapons. If there was any time for Cleveland to get its hype back, it’s this year with Baker Mayfield leading the way, right?
That should be the case; however, the team filled with the most hype and expectations in 2019 is already dealing with their share of drama after Duke Johnson publicly requested his trade out of Cleveland and team veterans took issue with how Mayfield handled questions about it.
Toss in the inevitable questions surrounding new Browns star wideout Odell Beckham’s status at camp after losing much of last year to injury, as well as the uncertainty of first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens, and this Browns hype feels more like a circus than a team looking for its first playoff berth since 2002.
At the very least, if anything, this team will be fun to watch in 2019.