Part of the NFL preseason experience is undoubtedly the firestorm of recycled stories, and 2014 is no different. Three cheers for football fans counting down to Week 1! And for the repetition of training camp! But even the most ardent fans will get sick of hearing some stories by the time the regular season rolls around in September. Here are five of them:
One of the league’s most polarizing players has yet to take a professional snap. Johnny Manziel may be the lightning in a bottle that the Cleveland Browns have lacked since 1999. No team has cycled through more starting quarterbacks than the Browns’ 20 during that span, and they represented the lowest numbers in both yards per completion and in completion percentage. But Brian Hoyer was 3-0 last season as a starter, and new head coach Mike Pettine can’t be thrilled about inserting Manziel into the starting lineup without Josh Gordon. Still, not everyone is buying the drama. “I’m expecting (Johnny) Manziel to be the starter,” Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau told Cleveland.com. (The Steelers will host the Browns in Week 1.) For better or worse, this quarterback race promises to last well beyond Week 1.
Roger Goodell, “The Enforcer”
The Ray Rice situation was highly disappointing and unfortunate, as I explained last week. But Goodell still has to deal with Aldon Smith, Josh Gordon, Greg Hardy and Jim Irsay. Smith is a repeat offender, as is Josh Gordon, who was already suspended four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. As the commissioner, Goodell faces the challenge of sending a message to players, owners, fans — and perhaps most importantly, to the league itself. He hasn’t always lived up to this responsibility during his eight-year tenure. The good news for him is that once the season starts, everyone’s attention will probably turn to other things when the RedZone channel — one of the crown jewels of television — comes back on.
Geno’s Job To Lose
Geno Smith had some miserable moments during his rookie season, but he wasn’t the only one — his head coach, Rex Ryan, also faces the possibility of four consecutive seasons of no playoffs. That is unlikely to fly much longer, and the Jets — who have been grounded on offense since the Mark Sanchez days — have spent the resources give to Smith the weapons he needs in Eric Decker and Chris Johnson. Meanwhile, Michael Vick is 34 years old and saying all the right things, so this race is heating up. Just don’t mention the word “Wildcat,” okay?
Michael Sam’s Roster Spot
Sam was the first openly gay player to be drafted, and coach Jeff Fisher and the St. Louis Rams didn’t draft him merely to be a feel-good story — they thought he had a shot of contributing to the team. But NFL fans have a tendency to discount seventh-round picks, especially on a team with a front seven as loaded as this. And as inspiring as Sam’s story is, the unfortunate recent comments from Tony Dungy unfairly have put another target on him.
Jadeveon Clowney: The Myth or the Legend?
“Look at Clowney’s swim move! Check out his speed!” Enthusiasm over Clowney is all fine and good, but Houston fans remember the last time their team drafted a defensive ace first overall. His name was Mario Williams, and he’s had a very nice career, so it would be a colossal disappointment to fans if Clowney doesn’t surpass his performance sooner rather than later. The pressure on Clowney will be huge, and things won’t be easy — while the duo of Clowney and J.J. Watt is lethal on paper, the rookie hardly dominated the SEC last season, and he was noted for taking plays off. It’s not certain that his good 40 time will translate to record-setting success.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or ask me questions about anything sports-related at @Schultz_Report and follow me on Instagram @Schultz_Report. Also, be sure and catch my NBC Sports Radio show, Kup and Schultz, which airs Sunday mornings from 9-12 ET, right here.
REAL LIFE. REAL NEWS. REAL VOICES.
Help us tell more of the stories that matter from voices that too often remain unheard.