As always, late July means the start of NFL training camps. After substantial changes needed to be made for last year’s 2020 training camp to cope with the ongoing pandemic, we’re hoping things are a little more normal this year. Of course, normal means there are plenty of storylines to follow all around the league from rookies to watch to position battles and everything in between. Let’s take a look at some of the headlines you need to be aware of heading into the start of NFL training camps ahead of the 2021 season.
Dak is Back
Perhaps the biggest story in the NFL to watch is the return of Dak Prescott from the injury that sidelined him for most of the 2020 season. Despite the team’s defensive shortcomings in 2020, the Cowboys had one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL before Prescott got hurt. All eyes will be on Prescott during training camp to see how healthy he is and whether or not he can pick up where he left off last season before the injury. If Prescott can come back anywhere close to full strength, it changes the shape of the NFC East and could make the Cowboys sleepers in the NFC.
The Jacksonville Three
There are three people at Jacksonville’s training camp who will be particularly interesting to watch. First, there is quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who was the top overall pick in this year’s draft. Lawrence has been considered an NFL-ready quarterback since early in his college career at Clemson, and now is when we find out if that will be the case. The second person of interest is new head coach Urban Meyer, who has never been a coach in the NFL as an assistant or a head coach. Will Meyer be able to make the transition from college to the NFL? We’ll start to learn the answer to that during training camp. Finally, there is Tim Tebow, who is back in the NFL after Meyer, who coached him at Florida, gave him a chance with the Jaguars. Tebow has finally given up on being a quarterback and will attempt to make Jacksonville’s roster while playing as a tight end.
Da QB of Da Bears
The most intriguing quarterback battle before the 2021 season is in Chicago. Former Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields fell to the Bears with the 9th pick in this year’s draft. However, there is no guarantee that Fields will be ready to be the Week 1 starter. Keep in mind that the Bears also signed veteran Andy Dalton during the offseason. After back-to-back 8-8 seasons, Matt Nagy is under a little bit of pressure, so while Fields might be the more talented quarterback, Dalton might be the best option to help the Bears win right now. Plus, Nick Foles is still around as a wild card in the competition, as he tends to do his best work when expectations are low.
The Saints Successor
The other quarterback competition to watch closely is in New Orleans, as the Saints no longer have Drew Brees. Instead, it’ll come down to either Jameis Winston or Tayson Hill. Winston saw limited action as the backup in New Orleans last season and threw 30 interceptions when he was Tampa’s starter during the 2019 season. Meanwhile, Hill has excelled in a part-time role for the Saints because he can do a little bit of everything. He also started 17 games over the last three seasons when Brees was hurt, including eight games in 2020. But he also has some limitations as a thrower, so training camp will be telling when it comes to whether or not Hill is equipped to be the full-time starter on an NFL team.
The Man in Green Bay
Last but not least, there is Aaron Rodgers, who will be the most-watched person during training camp. Well, that is if Rodgers shows up at training camp. There is still a rift between him and the Packers. He could choose to not show up in hopes of forcing a trade. On the other hand, Rodgers could also show up and be professional, although that will lead to endless questions from the media about his relationship with the Packers and how committed he is to Green Bay.