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2007 AFC Training Camp Previews

2007/08 NFL Training Camp Previews
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Philadelphia, PA (My Sportsbook) - Lance Briggs and Asante Samuel want the world to feel sympathy for their plight.

Both the Bears linebacker and Patriots corner have been slapped with the hated "franchise" tag, and neither of their teams appear willing to negotiate the type of lucrative, long-term deals that both feel they deserve. In turn, the disgruntled players have threatened to sit out all of training camp.

And while there are undoubtedly those that feel sorry for the likes of Briggs and Samuel, with the dog days of summer nigh, you won't count many of their NFL brethren among that group.

You see, Briggs and Samuel will get to spend most of their summer reclining in the air conditioned climes of their comfortable homes. No long afternoons spent in the August heat, no freight train-like collisions with spastic rookies trying hard to make an impression on irritable coaches, no time spent patching up those inevitable bumps and bruises in the training room.

When faced with their respective teams' unflinching positions on contract status, the linebacker and the cornerback are far from happy. But in the short term, Briggs and Samuel have to be quietly pleased that they won't, at least for one summer, be slaves to the training camp grind.

Below we take a capsule look at the training camp missions of the 16 teams of the American Football Conference, with reporting dates and sites included for your perusal. Click here for NFC training camp previews:


REPORT DATES: Rookies July 29th, Veterans July 29th

SITE: McDaniel College, Westminster, MD

CAMP OBJECTIVES: Getting the offense in sync will be job number one for a Ravens team that will be featuring a new running back (Willis McGahee), fullback (Justin Green or rookie Le'Ron McClain), an offensive lineman or two (former starters tackle Tony Pashos and guard Edwin Mulitalo are now ex- Ravens), and coordinator (Rick Neuheisel was promoted). The glue should be Steve McNair, who is expected to make a positive step forward in his second year at the helm of the Baltimore offense. Defensively, all eyes will be on fourth-year-pro Jarret Johnson, who takes over at outside linebacker for free agent defection and Pro Bowler Adalius Thomas. Otherwise, Rex Ryan's defense remains intact. There could be an issue in the return game, where the dynamic B.J. Sams returns from injury but will be pushed by third-round draft choice Yamon Figurs (Kansas State).



REPORT DATES: Rookies July 26th, Veterans July 26th

SITE: St. John Fisher College, Pittsford, NY

CAMP OBJECTIVES: Though there are significant questions on the offensive side of the football as well, it is shaping the identity of the defense that should be head coach Dick Jauron's top priority as camp begins. Linebackers Takeo Spikes (Eagles), London Fletcher (Redskins), and cornerback Nate Clements (49ers) all have new addresses, and the team is counting on youngsters like rookie linebacker Paul Posluszny (Penn State), second-year safeties Donte Whitner and Ko Simpson, and developing LBs Angelo Crowell and Keith Ellison to step into the leadership void. The battle to start opposite Terrence McGee at cornerback will be a good one, to include veterans Jason Webster (ex-Falcons), Kiwaukee Thomas, and second-year-pro Ashton Youboty. Jauron and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell also need to find some depth on the interior line, since it is becoming clear that disgruntled former Eagle Darwin Walker will not report to camp. On offense, the spotlight will be on first-round draft pick Marshawn Lynch (Cal), who takes over for Willis McGahee at running back. Other issues concern finding a reliable receiver to start opposite Lee Evans and shaping a line that should feature two new starters in guard Derrick Dockery (ex-Redskins) and tackle Langston Walker (ex-Raiders).



REPORT DATES: Rookies July 26th, Veterans July 26th

SITE: Georgetown College, Georgetown, KY

CAMP OBJECTIVES: Assuming he doesn't have a rash of off-the-field issues to deal with, Marvin Lewis' chief directive throughout the month of August will be sorting out a number of important defensive battles. With Tory James gone to the Patriots and expected starter Johnathan Joseph coming off foot surgery, the team should get a long look at cornerback and first-round draft choice Leon Hall (Michigan), who could end up starting if things go well. At linebacker, Lewis needs to find three guys that can play out of a group including Ahmad Brooks, Landon Johnson, Rashad Jeanty, Ed Hartwell, Caleb Miller, and perhaps the soon-to-be-reinstated Odell Thurman. Up front, there is a gaping hole where the released Sam Adams used to be, and the team needs either Michael Myers (ex-Broncos) or Kenderick Allen (ex-Packers) to help fill it. The Cincinnati offense returns basically intact, though the team needs to find a third receiver to replace the suspended Chris Henry, and must also sort out a running back depth chart where rookie Kenny Irons (Auburn), former first-round pick Chris Perry, and the reliable Kenny Watson are all vying for touches behind Rudi Johnson.



REPORT DATES: Rookies July 22nd, Veterans July 26th

SITE: Cleveland Browns Training Facility, Berea, OH

CAMP OBJECTIVES: Much of the Browns' training camp development will hinge on when the team's two first-round picks - tackle Joe Thomas and quarterback Brady Quinn - arrive at camp. If either or both partake in a long holdout, Cleveland will find itself in something of a holding pattern. Other offensive issues for new coordinator Rob Chudzinski include determining how much running back Jamal Lewis has left in the tank, whether new guard Eric Steinbach (ex- Bengals) can take over a leadership position up front, and whether the miraculously healed LeCharles Bentley can really compete with Hank Fraley and Lennie Friedman for the starting center job. On defense, a team that struggled to stop the run last year needs new interior players like Robaire Smith (ex- Titans) and Shaun Smith (ex-Bengals) to raise the overall level of play. Some interesting battles could be afoot in the secondary, where rookie corner Eric Wright (UNLV) and free agents Mike Adams (ex-49ers) and Kenny Wright (ex- Redskins) will threaten the incumbents for playing time.



REPORT DATES: Rookies July 28th, Veterans July 28th

SITE: Paul D. Bowlen Memorial Centre, Englewood, CO

CAMP OBJECTIVES: The Broncos and their demanding fan base will be looking for immediate returns from a revamped offense, one that will not only include second-year-pro Jay Cutler at quarterback but will also have new faces in running back Travis Henry (ex-Titans), wide receiver Brandon Stokley (ex- Colts), and tight end Daniel Graham (ex-Patriots). With the status of veteran wideout Rod Smith (hip) in question, Mike Shanahan is banking on second-year- pro Brandon Marshall, who has battled nagging injuries of his own throughout the spring and early summer, on making a large contribution. Defensively, new coordinator Jim Bates needs to find a pass rush, and rookie ends Jarvis Moss (Florida) and Tim Crowder (Texas) could be a major part of those plans. Conspicuously absent from the linebacking corps will be longtime middle man Al Wilson (released), meaning D.J. Williams will have to make a seamless transition to that spot. The secondary looks to be in good shape, with ex-Lion Dre' Bly now lodged at one corner following the tragic death of Darrent Williams. Prodigal son Todd Sauerbrun is back to do the punting, and Shanahan will expect him to continue kicking at an elite level throughout camp.



REPORT DATES: Rookies July 26th, Veterans July 26th

SITE: Houston Texans Practice Facility, Houston, TX

CAMP OBJECTIVES: The summer learning curve will be steep for new starting quarterback Matt Schaub, whom many Houston fans have ordained as team savior despite the continued presence of a shaky supporting cast. If a still-suspect offensive line, which welcomes only one noteworthy new member in tackle Jordan Black (ex-Chiefs), doesn't learn how to block, neither Schaub nor running back Ahman Green (ex-Packers) will make much of an impact. Elsewhere on offense, Gary Kubiak must find a credible receiver to start opposite the overworked Andre Johnson. The defense is largely the same as last year's unit, a scary fact considering that Houston finished in the bottom half of the league in every major defensive category. The biggest upgrades came on the interior line, where the Texans used their first-round draft pick on Amobi Akoye (Lousiville) and also brought in veteran Jeff Zgonina (ex-Dolphins) to add depth. Akoye and Zgonina must immediately prove that they can raise the level of play within the front seven.



REPORT DATES: Rookies July 29th, Veterans July 29th

SITE: Rose-Human Institute of Technology, Terre Haute, IN

CAMP OBJECTIVES: Tony Dungy's most important training camp job could involve the psyche of his football team, as the reigning champs try to avoid the natural complacency that comes with winning the Super Bowl. Otherwise, Dungy needs to take a hard look at his defense, which still has some major holes following last year's Jekyll-and-Hyde routine. With playmaker Cato June now a Buccaneer, Indy is looking at entering the season with a linebacking corps of Gary Brackett in the middle and Rob Morris and Freddie Keiaho on the outside. Identifying depth in that department will be a major task for Dungy. The secondary also needs some work, as cornerbacks Nick Harper (Titans) and Jason David (Saints) took the money and ran, leaving the less experienced Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden to man the corner slots. The perpetually injured but unquestionably important Bob Sanders (shoulder) could miss the start of training camp, meaning Indy needs a solid plan B at safety. On the other side of the ball, the defection of Dominic Rhodes to the Raiders means the team must find a backup to Joseph Addai at the running back spot. Also worth keeping an eye on is rookie wideout Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio State), who will be expected to replace Brandon Stokley (Broncos) as the No. 3 receiver.



REPORT DATES: Rookies July 27th, Veterans July 27th

SITE: Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, Jacksonville, FL

CAMP OBJECTIVES: All of Jacksonville's major training camp questions reside on offense, beginning at the top with new coordinator and ex-Arizona State head coach Dirk Koetter. The battle between quarterbacks Byron Leftwich and David Garrard will be well worth watching, and if the team ends up with Daunte Culpepper as is widely expected, things will get exceptionally interesting. Elsewhere in the backfield, Koetter must find a way to get the football to rising star Maurice Jones-Drew without offending the declining Fred Taylor. The pass-catching situation is no less certain, with major competitions going on at both receiver (Reggie Williams, Matt Jones, Ernest Wilford, Dennis Northcutt) and tight end (Jermaine Wiggins, Marcedes Lewis, George Wrighster). By comparison, the defense has all of its ducks in a row, though the team will need to ensure that last year's injured (end Reggie Hayward, linebacker Mike Peterson) have made a full recovery and will expect this year's highly- regarded draft picks (safety Reggie Nelson, linebacker Justin Durant) to develop quickly.


Kansas City

REPORT DATES: Rookies July 26th, Veterans July 26th

SITE: University of Wisconsin-River Falls, River Falls, WI

CAMP OBJECTIVES: Herm Edwards' second training camp with Kansas City will be all about answering burning questions, each one seemingly more concerning than the next. Who will emerge in the quarterback battle between longtime backup Damon Huard and second-year-pro Brodie Croyle? Will the potential absence of Larry Johnson, who is hinting at a training camp holdout if he doesn't receive a new contract, be a distraction? Will first-round draft choice Dwayne Bowe (LSU) develop into the consistent target the Chiefs have long lacked? Will an offensive line that saw Will Shields follow Willie Roaf into retirement come together quickly? The questions persist on an aging defense, where projected middle linebacker Donnie Edwards and cornerbacks Ty Law and Patrick Surtain are all above the age of 30. And just for good measure, the special teams will be going through a transition, as longtime return staple Dante Hall was traded to the Rams and kicker Lawrence Tynes dealt to the Giants. Second-year-pro Jeff Webb will have to step up on returns and rookie Justin Medlock (UCLA) will have to show he is ready in the kicking game.



REPORT DATES: Rookies July 22nd, Veterans July 27th

SITE: Dolphins Training Center, Davie, FL

CAMP OBJECTIVES: Cam Cameron figures to endure so many headaches in his first training camp as Dolphins coach, team owner Wayne Huizenga might want to look into a sponsorship deal with Excedrin. Projected offensive weapons like quarterback Trent Green, running back Ronnie Brown, and rookie wideout Ted Ginn, Jr. all have concerning injury histories, and the depth is not great at any of the above positions. The offensive line remains a bottom-tier unit, and won't be any better following the surprise release of tight end Randy McMichael in the offseason. The defense still boasts the likes of Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas, but the fact that those two players and projected starters Joey Porter, Keith Traylor, and Vonnie Holliday are all well over the age of 30 should put Cameron and his staff on red-alert when it comes to identifying reliable backups. There is even total uncertainty on special teams, where probable return man Ginn, rookie punter Brandon Fields and kicker Jay Feely will all be wearing Miami uniforms for the first time.


New England

REPORT DATES: Rookies July 27th, Veterans July 27th

SITE: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA

CAMP OBJECTIVES: After adding receiving weapons Randy Moss, Donte' Stallworth, and Wes Welker to an offensive corps that already included standouts like quarterback Tom Brady, running back Laurence Maroney and tight end Ben Watson, New England will spend much of the late summer polishing what could be a frighteningly explosive attack. The offseason receiving additions mean that '06 wideout staples like Jabar Gaffney and Reche Caldwell - not to mention 2006 second-round draft choice Chad Jackson - are on notice. With Corey Dillon gone, New England needs to locate a primary backup to Laurence Maroney, who comes off of shoulder surgery. Ex-Dolphin Sammy Morris is the favorite there. Defensively, the big news should concern the addition of Pro Bowl linebacker Adalius Thomas, though the threatened holdout by franchised cornerback Asante Samuel could end up being the juicier item. If Samuel fails to report, Bill Belichick will have to do some finagling in a secondary that includes new faces such as ex-Bengals corner Tory James and first-round draft choice Brandon Meriweather (Miami-Florida) along with holdovers Ellis Hobbs, Eugene Wilson, Rodney Harrison, Randall Gay, and Chad Scott.


N.Y. Jets

REPORT DATES: Rookies July 27th, Veterans July 27th

SITE: Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY

CAMP OBJECTIVES: Eric Mangini won't have to concern himself with a quarterback controversy in this, his second, training camp, since Chad Pennington proved his durability and effectiveness during 2006. But there will be some drama, especially concerning disgruntled left guard Pete Kendall, who wants a bigger contract and is reportedly in Mangini's doghouse for being something of a "clubhouse lawyer." If Kendall is traded or released, as expected, there will be greater pressure in terms of the development of a young o-line. Elsewhere on offense, coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will look to find a role for new starting running back Thomas Jones, and will try to find a credible third receiver. In the offseason, the Jets showed particular concern for the edges of their 3-4 defense, signing five players (Eric Hicks, David Bowens, Kenyon Coleman, Michael Haynes, and Andre Wadsworth) that fit the description of either an end or outside linebacker. Watching to see which of those players stick will be entertaining. Many both inside and outside the organization will also be closely monitoring the work of cornerback Darrelle Revis (Pittsburgh), whom the team traded up to select in April's first round and is expected to offer the team another much-needed playmaker.



REPORT DATES: Rookies July 26th, Veterans July 26th

SITE: Napa Valley Marriott, Napa Valley, CA

CAMP OBJECTIVES: Though it is that most tired of clichs, the notion of "changing the culture" will be a primary objective of Lane Kiffin's first training camp. The Raiders are 15-49 (.234) and have been through three head coaches in the past four years, so Kiffin is going to have some work to do in proving things are about to change for the better. Critical to the progress of the team will be the organization's ability to sign top pick JaMarcus Russell. If it doesn't happen quickly, either newcomer Josh McCown or holdover Andrew Walter will have to step in at quarterback. Identifying a final group of receivers should also be a challenge, since newcomers such as Mike Williams, Travis Taylor, and rookie Johnnie Lee Higgins (UTEP) will be competing with holdovers Jerry Porter, Ronald Curry, Alvis Whitted, and Doug Gabriel for playing time. Reworking last year's woeful offensive line will also be a considerable task for Kiffin and coordinator Greg Knapp. Rex Ryan's defense is in much better shape than the offense, with former Jaguar safety Donovin Darius looking like the only newcomer who will seriously contend for a starting job.



REPORT DATES: Rookies July 23rd, Veterans July 23rd

SITE: Saint Vincent College, Latrobe, PA

CAMP OBJECTIVES: The Steelers' veterans will report before any of those on the league's other 31 teams, which is handy given the amount of work new head coach Mike Tomlin has before him in his first summer session. The most pressing concerns are on defense, where major questions remain about how the Tampa-2-loving Tomlin will coexist with coordinator Dick LeBeau and his zone blitz. The fact that the team drafted a pair of defensive end/outside linebacker hybrids - Lawrence Timmons (Florida State) and LaMarr Woodley (Michigan) in the first two rounds - failed to tip Tomlin's philosophical hand. Other battles worth watching will come from the secondary, where Deshea Townsend, Ike Taylor, and Bryant McFadden are fighting for two cornerback jobs, and where Anthony Smith and Ryan Clark are duking it out for free safety honors. On offense, there won't be much philosophical transition from departed coordinator Ken Whisenhunt to Bruce Arians, who served as Pittsburgh's wide receivers coach for the past three years, but the team will be expected to be more consistent behind a fully healthy Ben Roethlisberger from the outset of camp. There are issues on the offensive line, where ex-Buccaneer Sean Mahan is expected to take over for the retired Jeff Hartings at center, and where veteran left guard Alan Faneca could make some waves due to dissatisfaction with his contract.


San Diego

REPORT DATES: Rookies July 23rd, Veterans July 27th

SITE: Chargers Park, San Diego, CA

CAMP OBJECTIVES: Since there are very few legitimate position battles on a very talented Chargers team, training camp will be more about self- preservation and getting to know a new coaching regime than about personnel decisions. In light of the altered scheme, head coach Norv Turner will employ, however, there is a chance that principles like LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates could see more preseason action than usual. The best offensive competition will be at wide receiver, where first-round draft choice Craig Davis (LSU) and holdovers Vincent Jackson, Eric Parker, and Malcom Floyd will be expected to step up following the release of veteran Keenan McCardell. On defense, it's Ted Cottrell's show now, and the longtime NFL assistant's most significant directive will be whipping the oft-maligned secondary into shape. The battle between strong safety holdover Clinton Hart and second-round draft pick Eric Weddle (Utah) could be particularly fun to watch. The other area of minor concern is at inside linebacker, where mainstays Donnie Edwards (Chiefs) and Randall Godfrey (released) are history, and Stephen Cooper and Matt Wilhelm are expected to assume full-time starting roles.



REPORT DATES: Rookies July 27th, Veterans July 27th

SITE: Baptist Sports Park, Nashville, TN

CAMP OBJECTIVES: The Titans roster was pillaged during the offseason, with one-time key pieces like running back Travis Henry (Broncos), wideouts Drew Bennett (Rams) and Bobby Wade (Vikings), tight end Erron Kinney (released), linebacker Peter Sirmon (released), and cornerback Pacman Jones (one-year suspension) all leaving by either desire or force. The challenging task of finding replacements for those players will consume Jeff Fisher and his staff throughout camp. At running back, the once-left-for-dead Chris Brown has magically returned to the top of the depth chart, and should be able to hold off the embattled LenDale White. Receiver is more problematic, since projected starter David Givens (knee) will likely start the year on the Physically- Unable-to-Perform list and no one else on the roster at that position has more than 31 catches in an NFL season. On defense, Fisher must locate some depth behind cornerbacks Nick Harper (ex-Colts) and Reynaldo Hill, and will have to come up with a plan B in the event that the green Stephen Tulloch falls on his face in a transition to the starting middle linebacker slot.

July 17, 2007, at 05:19 PM ET

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