Training camps are underway across the NFL, and there is already no shortage of notable headlines. Between quarterback competitions and contract holdouts, the summer should offer plenty of intrigue before the real games begin.
But what about the topics that aren’t getting the attention they deserve? Here’s a look at five of the most underrated camp stories worth monitoring as teams ramp up for the 2022 season:
The Buccaneers are (still) loaded
This offseason, Tom Brady literally retired, returned (after a reported flirt with the Dolphins), said goodbye to Bruce Arians, and is now going for an eighth Super Bowl ring at almost 45 years old, and somehow the Bucs don’t even feel close to being the talk of the town. Maybe we’re just so used to the clockwork that is Brady’s march to a playoff run, but has anyone looked at the Tampa Bay depth chart lately? Even with Chris Godwin recovering from injury, TB12 might have the best weapons he’s had in Florida yet: Mike Evans, Leonard Fournette, Julio Jones, Russell Gage, a sterling line and defense. If you take a moment to stop gawking at the AFC West, you’ll realize quickly that the old man and his buddies still stand out as an NFC powerhouse.
Odell Beckham Jr. is still without a team
No, he won’t be available early in the year as he recovers from his Super Bowl ACL tear, and no, he’s not a spring chicken as he approaches 30. But it’s genuinely surprising he’s yet to either re-up with the Rams or cash in elsewhere. Once he got far enough out of the dark hole that was his final stretch in Cleveland, OBJ re-emerged as a legitimate weapon on the outside, helping fuel Los Angeles’ title run. His hands and energy remain intact. If Julio Jones can get up to $8 million as a secondary piece at this stage of his career, then Beckham almost surely can, too. Someone will be glad to deploy him in December.
It’s only right they be linked together, what with Green Bay shipping Aaron Rodgers favorite Davante Adams to Las Vegas, and Rodgers now poking fun at Adams’ love affair with Derek Carr. Both teams have high hopes, the Packers looking to translate regular-season dominance to postseason victory and the Raiders looking to justify their pricey offseason. And both may be good; Rodgers, in particular, ensures Green Bay will at least stay competitive. But are the Packers really going into 2022, potentially A-Rod’s final season, with Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins and Randall Cobb as their top veteran receivers? Brian Gutekunst has to be using some of his new extension money to explore any possible last-minute trade, no? As for the Raiders, receiver isn’t a problem now that Adams is in town, but goodness gracious, will Carr have time to deliver the ball behind his line? His starting five was already iffy after a rough 2021, and then right guard Denzelle Good abruptly retired this week.
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Trubisky’s coast to the Steelers‘ QB job
Every indication out of Pittsburgh thus far has been that Mitchell Trubisky, the Bears castoff who’s started all of nine games the last two years, is basically a lock to open 2022 under center as Ben Roethlisberger’s successor. Which is fine, considering he’s been a full-timer before, as opposed to rookie Kenny Pickett. And certainly the setup for Trubisky is better than what he often had in Chicago; leaning on Najee Harris, an improved line and feisty defense might actually allow the QB to play spoiler. But the Steelers still made Pickett the 20th player picked in the entire 2022 draft class — the first Day 1 QB they’ve selected since Big Ben himself. Is he really that incapable of stealing the job early? Or has Trubisky been that composed?
The staffing behind Trey Lance’s takeover
Lance has rightfully been the poster boy for change in San Francisco, opening camp as the proclaimed QB1 while the proven but injury-prone Jimmy Garoppolo awaits his departure. His athletic gifts should help make the 49ers must-see TV in 2022. What isn’t getting a ton of pub, however, is the turnover that occurred on the sidelines this offseason, specifically in areas key to Lance’s development. As NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” noted this week, San Francisco didn’t just lose Mike McDaniel, Kyle Shanahan’s right-hand man, to a head coaching gig. It also tabbed former NFL QB and broadcaster Brian Griese, who’s never been an assistant before, as Lance’s QBs coach. That’s a lot of uncertainty there. One name who could be instrumental to unlocking Lance, too: Anthony Lynn, the former Chargers coach who essentially replaced McDaniel as the run-game leader.