A Pre Camp Primer For The NFL

By Tony McClean
Updated: June 22, 2005


NEW HAVEN, Ct. — When we last left the NFL, the Patriots were getting ready for life without Romeo and Charlie, T.O. was playing a game of “Red Rover, Red Rover” with Eagle owner Jeff Lurie, and Rickey Williams was thinking of a comeback after having a few Twinkies.

Since then, we’ve all been educated on the dangers of The Whizzinator, Alex Smith is wondering just what the hell he’s gotten himself in Frisco, and NBC is happily jumping head first back into the NFL landscape.

All this and I didn’t even mention Super Dave Osborne……oops, I mean Kellen Winslow Jr.

Lo and behold, we sit less than a month away from the opening of training camps around the land. Some teams have improved, some have stood pat, while others have just been on hold due to either cap issues or owner issues.

Here are some acquisitions from both conferences that may be talked about later in the year. Especially if they make the impact that these teams are hoping they’ll make.

AFC WR Derrick Mason (Titans to Ravens) The Ravens ended 2004 with the 31st ranked passing game in the league. Now Kyle Boller has someone else to throw to besides Todd Heap. Rumor has it that Mason was also being wooed by the Patriots, but he went with what he called a “better situation” in Baltimore. If Boller ever gets his act together and rookie Mark Clayton jells the Ravens’ offense will more than just Jamal Lewis left, Jamal Lewis right, and……well, you get the point.

LB Chad Brown (Seahawks to Patriots) Not a bad insurance policy for the World Champs. With the uncertainty of Tedi Bruschi’s health, what better way to fill his void that with a three-time Pro Bowler. The Seahawks’ loss could prove to be New England’s gain if Brown stays healthy. Two years ago, they signed Rodney Harrison and won the Super Bowl. Last year, they inked Corey Dillon and went back-to-back. Will Brown make it a three-peat?

RB LaMont Jordan (Jets to Raiders) While getting Randy Moss from the Vikings was Da Raidah’s biggest splash, luring Curtis Martin’s backup from the Big Apple may be just as vital. The ex-Maryland standout averaged 5.2 yards a carry in spot duty last year with Gang Green. His career 4.9 YPC is impressive when you factor in that he’s been a caddie to Martin for most of his time in New York. This could be a breakout year for him.

DE Carlos Hall (Titans to Chiefs) Another victim of Tennessee’s salary purge, Hall should make an immediate impact on K.C.’s much maligned defense. In 2004, Hall started 14 games, recording 72 tackles (42 solo), 2.5 sacks (-11.0 yards), seven QB pressures, one fumble recovery and a forced fumble. Adding ex-Steeler Kendrick Bell along with Hall lets everyone know that at least the Chiefs are trying to change things around on the other side of the ball.

RB Ruben Droughns (Broncos to Browns) With the emergence of Tatum Bell in the Mile High city, Droughns became expendable for the Broncos. However, he may be getting into the same situation in Cleveland. A backfield that already includes Lee Suggs and William Green just got even more crowded with Ruben coming to town. Look for someone in this group (likely Green)to either be traded or sent packing after training camp.

NFC WR Plaxico Burress (Steelers to Giants) Say hello to Eli Manning’s new toy. The 6-5 reciever could very easily replace Jeremy Shockey as Big Blue’s go-to guy. Burress led the Steelers with five touchdown catches among his 35 receptions for 698 yards (a 19.9-yard average that was second in the NFL). One note of caution: Burress was hampered by a hamstring injury that forced him to miss five of the last six games. If the injury is healed, Burress will give New York the home run threat they desperately missed last year.

CB Fred Smoot (Redskins to Vikings) The Vikings were one of the busier teams during the offseason. Adding Smoot and ex-Packer Darren Sharper to a defense that finished the year ranked 28th overall was a good start. The talkative Smoot will likely play alongside Antonio Winfield in the secondary and hopefully give this defense a boost. If Minnesota is going to contend for the NFC North crown this year, Smoot and other will have to step it up a notch.

OT Fred Miller (Titans to Bears) Yielding a franchise record 66 sacks last season made this signing a no-brainer for Lovie Smith and Da Bears. Nightmares of watching Rex Grossman going down didn’t help either. The ex-Titan should fit in well with Chicago at right tackle. Adding ex-Panther wide out Muhsin Muhammed gives them another big body on the line as well. If the offense can catch up the defense, the Bears could be a spoiler in 2005.

DE Chike Okeafor (Seahawks to Cardinals) Two years ago, Okeafor almost signed with the Cardinals but instead he went to Seattle. Now coming off a season when he had a career-high 8.5 sacks, Okeafor may be coming to Arizona at the right time. Very quietly, the Cards finished with the league’s 12th ranked defense last year. Adding Okeafor and linebacker Orlando Huff could make Arizona a team to watch in the NFC West.

RB Anthony Thomas (Bears to Cowboys) Two years ago, Thomas’ 1,024 rushing yards made him a star in Chi-Town. Now after an injury-plagued 2004, the A-Train looks to be a backup to Julius Jones in Big D. However, don’t be surprised if the Tuna gives Thomas some decent playing time. While Jones will probably still be the Cowboys’ featured back, Thomas will still get a chance to contribute. Especially if he can knock the injury bug.