Wednesday, August 1, 2018
Updated: August 2, 12:12 PM ET
Training camps have begun for all 32 teams, so it’s time for us to get bold.
Who starts? Who gets cut? Who gets traded?
Earl Thomas will be a Cowboy.
The Cowboys and Seahawks talked about a deal at the combine and again during the draft but nothing came to fruition. Now that the players are on the field and Thomas appears willing to stick to his play-me-or-trade-me stance, the two sides can get back to talking about a deal. The Cowboys have not addressed the position in a meaningful way in the draft or free agency. They like Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods as a pairing now, but Thomas is one of the top safeties in the NFL. They have the wherewithal to give him a new deal or allow him to play on the final year of his contract in terms of salary cap space. Given how long there has been a Thomas-to-the-Cowboys, there just seems to be too much smoke for it not to happen. — Todd Archer
Safety Michael Thomas works himself into a pseudo-starting role as the nickel cornerback.
The veteran isn’t being talked about much for that position, but it’s something he has done plenty of during his time with the Dolphins. The Giants’ lack of experience at that spot will have them turn to Thomas, also a stalwart on special teams, before the summer is complete. — Jordan Raanan
Quarterback Carson Wentz will be cleared for takeoff.
He’s doing just about everything on the practice field, including 11-on-11 drill work. All that’s left for Wentz in his climb back from a torn ACL and LCL is to be cleared for contact. Once that happens, there’s not much standing between him and game action. The team wants to be cautious with their franchise player, but he has made considerable progress. And with six weeks worth of runway between now and the start of the regular season, he’s going to make a push. — Tim McManus
Receiver Robert Davis will create some buzz and push for decent playing time this season.
He won’t become a starter, but he could emerge as their fourth target by the end of camp. The second-year receiver, a sixth-round pick out of Georgia State, has improved and is in much better shape than a year ago — he dropped his weight from 229 to 213 this offseason. The Redskins have been pleased with his development; he still has more to learn about playing receiver, but he’s talented and has good size (6-foot-3) and speed. — John Keim
The Bears will show they have at least three reliable pass-catchers.
Chicago had the NFL’s worst receiving corps in 2017. Of course, free-agent addition Allen Robinson gives Mitch Trubisky a true No. 1 target. But coach Matt Nagy’s offense is all about spreading it out. Speedy Taylor Gabriel and rookie Anthony Miller have looked great in camp. Tarik Cohen will remain heavily involved all over the offense. And if Kevin White can finally stay healthy, Trubisky suddenly has ample (and capable) targets as he makes the leap in Year 2. — Emily Kaplan
Ameer Abdullah ends up finding a role on the roster.
The fourth-year running back’s spot is in question entering training camp after the team signed free agent LeGarrette Blount and drafted Kerryon Johnson. And there is a definite chance Abdullah — if he has a good preseason — could end up traded. But he has been putting in the work and there never has been a question about his talent. And that talent becomes tantalizing enough for new coach Matt Patricia to keep Abdullah around … as a kick returner and catch-all back. — Michael Rothstein
Brian Gutekunst will make one more significant roster addition.
Maybe it will be Dez Bryant to boost an unproven receiving corps behind Davante Adams and Randall Cobb. Or maybe it will be a trade for a pass-rusher. But the first-year general manager has shown an early penchant for the unexpected and that will continue before the season. — Rob Demovsky
Rashod Hill will win the starting right tackle job.
With Mike Remmers moving inside to fill the void at right guard, Hill is the Vikings’ top veteran option to hold down the right end. After starting nine games last season because of injuries along the O-line, Hill dropped from 325 pounds to 313 to maintain strength down the stretch. He surrendered 14 pressures in two playoff games, according to PFF, and his run-blocking still needs work, but Hill has made major strides since joining the Vikings in 2016. — Courtney Cronin
Rookie cornerback Isaiah Oliver will make a strong impression and get serious consideration for a starting role.
Oliver, a bigger corner with length, already impressed during the offseason. His likely emergence will make the Falcons decide whether to kick Robert Alford inside and put Oliver outside opposite top corner Desmond Trufant. — Vaughn McClure
Quarterback Cam Newton will complete 65 percent of his passes.
This is really bold since he has a career percentage of 58.5 and hasn’t topped 60 percent the past four seasons. This will be the culmination of Norv Turner’s new scheme and the most talent around Newton since he entered the league in 2011. He also will come up with a new touchdown dance that will become bigger than the dab was in 2015. — David Newton
The Saints need running back depth behind Alvin Kamara since Mark Ingram is facing a four-game suspension to start the season. And they signed both West and Vereen over the past month to compete for a backup role. But I still think the Saints would prefer that one of their younger backups (Boston Scott, Trey Edmunds or Jonathan Williams) proves ready for the No. 2 job during training camp. The Saints didn’t sign West or Vereen until after OTAs and minicamp because they wanted to give more reps to the young guys. And if they keep either West or Vereen on the Week 1 roster, they’ll have to guarantee their salary for the entire year. It’s possible that they just want to identify their emergency option in case anything happens to Kamara. Still, the Saints will pony up and pay the veteran rate if West or Vereen is clearly the best option. — Mike Triplett
Rookie Carlton Davis will win a starting job.
Davis, a second-round draft pick, will beat out Vernon Hargreaves and Ryan Smith to become the Bucs’ starting cornerback opposite Brent Grimes. Hargreaves will move to nickelback, which is where he spent a large portion of last season. Davis was already getting a portion of first-team reps during OTAs and minicamp. — Jenna Laine
Sam Bradford will make it through camp.
Yes, you read that correctly. The Cardinals have limited their injury-prone veteran quarterback this offseason and that blueprint will continue in training camp. It’s hard to imagine he’ll practice every day. By treating Bradford with the necessary white gloves, the Cardinals will ensure he’ll make it through camp without an injury. — Josh Weinfuss
Rookie Joseph Noteboom will break camp as the starting right guard.
Fourth-year pro Jamon Brown is suspended for the first two games of the season, creating an opportunity for younger players to compete for a job on a veteran line. Noteboom, a third-round pick, played tackle at TCU and was drafted to learn at the elbow of Andrew Whitworth, but Rams coach Sean McVay said Noteboom is versatile enough to play inside. Noteboom will compete for the spot against third-year pro Austin Blythe, a reliable backup last season. — Lindsey Thiry
Matt Breida will play a bigger role than some are expecting at running back.
Yes, the Niners spent big on Jerick McKinnon in the offseason and McKinnon will start and get plenty of opportunities, but it would be unwise to forget about Breida in the Niners’ running back room. Breida looked bigger and stronger during the offseason program while maintaining his speed and now that he has a year in the system under his belt, he should be even more comfortable. By the time the preseason ends, don’t be surprised if Breida offers a reminder that he deserves a meaningful role in the offense. — Nick Wagoner
The common assumption has been that Penny will overtake that role after Seattle drafted him 27th overall despite greater needs elsewhere, but Carson has easily been the most impressive of Seattle’s running backs. He’s added about 10 pounds of lean weight and appears to be all the way back from the ankle/leg injury that cut short his promising rookie season. Penny will play as a rookie — perhaps in a third-down or change-of-pace role — but Carson looks like the favorite to enter the season as the starter. — Brady Henderson
AJ McCarron will start at quarterback in Week 1.
Although Nathan Peterman‘s performance in the spring seemed to give him an edge over McCarron entering training camp, McCarron was the sharper passer through the first four practices in July. In splitting first-team reps with Peterman and occasionally rookie Josh Allen, McCarron is emerging as the safest bet to lead the Bills into a grueling first-half schedule that includes five road games in the first seven weeks. Allen has made some of the best throws of camp but also some of the worst. Meanwhile, McCarron has been steady, although unspectacular. — Mike Rodak
Danny Amendola will become the Dolphins’ top receiver.
The Dolphins do not have a clear-cut No. 1 receiver, which could open the door for Amendola to become quarterback Ryan Tannehill‘s favorite target despite playing in the slot. Jarvis Landry put up big numbers for Miami in that role the past four seasons, and according to the Miami Herald, Amendola has been receiving first-team reps over fellow free-agent acquisition Albert Wilson early in training camp. — Mike Rodak
Undrafted cornerback J.C. Jackson will make the team.
The Patriots annually have at least one undrafted player make the team, and Jackson, who played at Maryland, has already taken a step in that direction with strong play in the spring and then into the opening of training camp. The Patriots have Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe and Duke Dawson as locks at the position, with Jackson putting himself in position for a fourth, fifth or possibly sixth spot. — Mike Reiss
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will be traded by the end of the preseason.
Comfortable with veteran Josh McCown and rookie Sam Darnold, the Jets will flip Bridgewater for a draft pick. They signed him (one year, $6 million) with the idea that he could be trade bait under the right circumstances. If his surgically repaired knee withstands the preseason, Bridgewater will intrigue quarterback-needy teams. — Rich Cimini
Tim White will win the returner job and rank among the top five in the NFL.
White, who went undrafted out of Arizona State a year ago, is the front-runner for the competition at returner, and the Ravens have a history at developing impact special-teams players. Over the past five seasons, they’ve had five different punt returners. But they’ve ranked in the top 10 in four of those years. — Jamison Hensley
The Bengals won’t keep seven wide receivers this year, and that could mean a surprise veteran cut.
They went with the unusual move of keeping seven wideouts last season with rookie John Ross dealing with various injuries. With another big draft class now in, it seems unlikely the Bengals could afford to do that again. That might mean that a veteran like Brandon LaFell, Cody Core or Alex Erickson doesn’t make the team. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said this week: “Brandon LaFell has done a nice job. He feels the heat. … That’s a competitive group of wide receivers. So we can only keep so many of them. They’re going to be competitive that way and that’s a good thing.” (Note: The Bengals released LaFell on Thursday.) — Katherine Terrell
Denzel Ward will leave camp with a starting job.
The fourth overall pick showed quickness and coverage skills in the offseason, key attributes for a press corner. He will emerge from preseason as a starting cornerback and immediately be greeted by Antonio Brown in the opener. — Pat McManamon
Vance McDonald will emerge as a primary target on offense.
McDonald has the inside track on the starting tight end job, and Ben Roethlisberger said he has a chance to become the second or third option in the passing game (hello, JuJu). New OC Randy Fichtner wants his offense to be tight-end friendly — McDonald split out wide for a score on Day 2 of camp — and the fifth-year player can build off his 112-yard playoff game with a 50-plus catch season if healthy. — Jeremy Fowler
Running back Lamar Miller will hold onto the starting job in training camp.
Miller knows he has to rebound from a career-worst season in 2017, and running behind an improved offensive line should help. Although second-year running back D’Onta Foreman is expected to return from a torn Achilles’ heel — coach Bill O’Brien said he’s hopeful that he will be by the season opener — Miller will impress in training camp and the preseason and see more playing time in 2018. — Sarah Barshop
Moore’s play since offseason workouts in April has validated why Colts general manager Chris Ballard wasn’t too concerned about losing Rashaan Melvin in free agency and why he didn’t heavily pursue a cornerback during the offseason. Moore, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Valdosta State in 2017, was pressed into playing duty last season because of a plethora of injuries. Now he’s one of the defensive players often talked about more than Wilson, who went to Twitter and proclaimed he would be the team’s No. 1 cornerback during the offseason. — Mike Wells
The Jaguars will look elsewhere for a backup quarterback.
Cody Kessler and Tanner Lee each struggled at times during organized team activities and minicamp and haven’t been any better in the first week of camp. The team traded for Kessler and drafted Lee in the sixth round, so there isn’t much invested in either. There is a steep drop-off after Blake Bortles (a statement that may surprise some) and the Jaguars need to have a viable option available if Bortles does sustain an injury that keeps him out several weeks. So far that hasn’t been an issue because he has never missed a start. Don’t be surprised to see the Jaguars scoop up another QB after the first or second round of cuts late in camp. — Mike DiRocco
The Titans will add another receiver via free agency or trade.
Tennessee is betting big on Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor and Tajae Sharpe filling three of the top four receiver spots despite each having just one year of NFL experience. Davis and Taylor combined for 50 catches, 606 yards and one touchdown last season. Sharpe didn’t play due to injury. There’s a lot of potential, but not much proven production outside of veteran Rishard Matthews. Don’t be surprised if Titans GM Jon Robinson examines the trade or free agency market to see if there’s a reliable option to add more talent and depth to this group. — Cameron Wolfe
Denver’s rookie class will be its most impactful since 2011.
Expect several players to assert themselves, with first-round pick Bradley Chubb leading the way. The No. 5 pick’s work at outside linebacker showed this offseason an exceptional athleticism as well as an awareness for the position that is rare in young pass-rushers. Wide receivers Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton are already getting snaps with the first-team offense, and running back Royce Freeman will quickly push for a chance to be the lead back. Linebacker Josey Jewell, who opened training camp with a hamstring injury, could also carve out meaningful snaps. Toss in the fact that cornerback Isaac Yiadom, a third-round pick, could push for work in specialty packages and center Sam Jones, a sixth-round pick, could take one of the final backup spots on the offensive line, and the Broncos could have a special group of rookies. — Jeff Legwold
Eric Berry will make another strong comeback from an injury.
It’s not wise to doubt Berry’s will. He returned as good as ever twice earlier in his career, once from a torn ACL and later from a battle with cancer. He’ll do it again with a strong camp after he missed most of last season with a torn ACL. — Adam Teicher
Defensive end Isaac Rochell will have a breakout season.
Talented edge rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram will rightly garner most of the attention at the start of training camp. However, Rochell showed flashes of developing into an effective pass-rusher his rookie year, and thanks to a plant-based diet that helped him lose 25 pounds, the seventh-round pick in last year’s draft raised eyebrows with his high motor as a pass-rusher during offseason work. “He’s different,” Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said about the Notre Dame product. “He’s not even the same guy. I give our position coach Giff Smith a lot of credit, along with [strength coaches] John Lott and Jonathan [Brooks]. His weight is down, he’s leaner and he’s quicker. I’m really excited about Isaac.” — Eric D. Williams
Cornerback Gareon Conley will emerge from his hip strain to be a bona fide starter.
Bold? After all, this is what the Raiders expected out of the Ohio State product when they drafted him in the first round last year. But a shin injury last season limited him to two games and required surgery, which stalled the start of the purported shutdown corner’s pro career. Now he has to recover from a hip strain that will sideline him for a couple of weeks. He is referring to himself as “Conley Island” these days and stranding receivers would be a good thing for Oakland’s pass rush. — Paul Gutierrez