NFL Training Camp Storylines: Part Five

By Lloyd Vance
Updated: August 2, 2007

NFL Training PHILADELPHIA — Training camps have opened and the 2007 NFL preseason is upon us and so are the storylines. Here is the final installment of a five-part series of the top 15 storylines that I will be following during the early weeks of training camp:

Who is my breakout player: Whenever a fantasy football player or a fan looking for the next big thing asks me “who is next”, I point to Atlanta Falcons second-year RB Jerious Norwood. Norwood reportedly has bulked up in the off-season (5-foot-11, 220) so he can stay on the field longer. As a rookie out of Mississippi State, Norwood exceeded everyone’s expectations by tallying two 100-yard games and averaging over six yards per carry.

He possesses a dazzling combination of speed and quickness and has the big-play ability where he can take it to the house early and often. He was a three-year starter at MSU where he tallied 3,760 all-purpose yards ranking him third in school history and he holds the school’s career-record rushing record with 3,222 yards on 573 carries (5.6 avg) with 15 touchdowns. With Warrick Dunn being shelved by neck surgery and Michael Vick tied up in his mess look for new Falcons Head Coach Bobby Petrino to lean on Norwood early and often.

Will the Cowboys take care of Tony Romo?: After a magical 2006 season where he passed for 2903 yards with 19 TDs and went to the Pro Bowl after starting the season as an unknown from Eastern Illinois, Romo is back and looking for his payday. The nation (Jessica Simpson and or Carrie Underwood) fell in love with the 27-year-old phenom, but going into his second season as a starter some are questioning is he the real deal. Romo struggled in his last two regular season games losing on Christmas Day to the Eagles and losing to the basement dwelling Lions to end the season and let’s not even bring up the playoff loss to the Seahawks, which feature Romo bobbling a game-winning field goal snap.

Since last season ended, Romo and the Dallas Cowboys have hoped to hammer out a contract extension, however they have never gotten past the talking stage. Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones seems ready to sign Romo, but the question is will it be at Romo’s agent Tom Condon’s price. Condon just got Rams QB Marc Bulger a 6-year, $65 million extension with $29 million guaranteed. I am not sure that I would invest that kind of money in a player, who could just be a flash in the pan. With those kind of numbers out there expect Jones to let Romo play out his current contract that pays him $3.9 million this year. You cannot blame him as we have seen many quarterbacks rise quickly and fall just as fast in recent NFL seasons. Plus, I am sure the NFL will now want to see what Romo is made of as defensive coordinators have studied the way Eagles Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson defended and put pressure on Romo in the Eagles 23-7 shellacking last December

Coaches on the “hot seat”: Every year certain coaches and their teams know that the head man better get off to a good start and win or it will be curtains. With Super Bowl Champion coach Bill Cowher lurking in the weeds, coaches in tenuous situations better watch their back. Any coach on a hot seat list must start with Browns third year Head Coach Romeo Crennel. Crennel came from a winning background in New England, but he has yet to add any of the Patriots magic to the hapless Browns. His record stands at 10-22 and GM Phil Savage and Owner Randy Lerner have given a win or leave ultimatum. In Crennel’s defense he has had to battle injuries and ineffective play at the quarterback position.

Two other coaches that have experienced some playoff wins, but are now on the hot seat for not living up to expectations are Carolina’s John Fox and New York’s Tom Coughlin. Fox needs to get his aging team back to the playoffs after failing to post a winning season in 2006 (8-8) and Coughlin must silence a combustible Giants group, who is missing their leader with the retirement of Tiki Barber. Also keep your eye on Tennessee as Titans Head Coach Jeff Fisher coming off an improbable 8-8 record in 2006 is entering the final year of his contract. Most expect Fisher to sign a new deal, but you never know if he has had his fill of the Titans after 13 seasons and possible plum opening at the end of the season. Also keep an eye on the Washington Redskins as there have been rumors of Joe Gibbs leaving after three disappointing seasons since unretiring in 2004.