-Tony Romo, DAL: I often hear people defend their claim that so-and-so is not going to be a great fantasy QB this year because he plays in a “run-heavy offense.” Whether a team runs 40% or 60% of the time hardly matters as much as whether that offense is good and sustains drives. Consistently moving the chains means that team will run more total plays and also will be in scoring position more often. I’m not even sure Terrell Owens was that big of a problem for this team, but whatever negative effect he may have had on Romo (and others) is gone. And as for the positive effect he had? Romo is not lacking for explosive weapons in the passing game with Roy Williams, Jason Witten, Martellus Bennett, and Miles Austin. “Smash, Dash, and Tash” will keep defenses very honest, and this team should be lethal when operating out of the two tight end set. Throw in the fact that everyone around training camp this year feels the intense desire radiating from Jerry Jones to open the new stadium with a highly successful campaign, and, yeah, this team will score. A lot.
-Trent Edwards, BUF: Terrell Owens and Lee Evans? That’s hard to cover. Everyone has seen what Evans can do as a deep threat, but defenses have been shading enough help to his side the last couple of years to contain his game-breaking ability. Would you have been overly concerned about Josh Reed? But now, Owens will demand the same treatment, and defenses simply won’t be able to provide it to both sides with the backfield duo of Marshawn Lynch/Fred Jackson also looming.
-Jason Campbell, WAS: The guy is not that bad. Owner Dan Snyder may fantasize about Brett Favre, Jay Cutler, and other big ticket names, but this is a solid player in a solid offense who is being overlooked. He has demonstrated consistent improvement (both statistically and “to the eye”) each year he’s been in the league. He is in a contract year. And this will be his first time entering training camp without a new offensive coordinator/system to learn. There’s a lot to like here.
-Sage Rosenfels, MIN: Should win the battle with Tarvaris Jackson and defenses will have to focus on stopping AP. But it’s always a concern that his head coach looks like a child molester.
-Jake Delhomme, CAR: Oh he’ll make bone-headed mistakes, but this is another guy on a good team with explosive weapons around him.
-David Garrard, JAX: Bounce-back year.
-JaMarcus Russell, OAK: Not saying they’ll be good, but Oakland will not be nearly as embarrassing as in recent memory. Don’t forget, he’s a former #1 overall pick.
-Julius Jones, SEA: Going quite late in drafts, yet he is a featured back! T.J. Duckett might steal some goal-line snaps, but with Maurice Morris now out of the picture, JJ will man the backfield most of the time for the Seahawks. And this Seattle squad is looking like one of the league’s biggest comeback stories, with their receiving corps now healthy and bolstered by the addition of new #1 T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Factor in a healthy Hasselbeck, a solid defense, and a fiery coach in Jim Mora, and this team could end up being a nice place to be a RB.
-Johnathan Stewart, CAR: DeAngelo Williams proved his worth in a huge way last season, but all along the coaching staff was trying to evolve the Panthers’ running game into a “thunder & lightning” attack that featured their two distinct backs. Stewart’s nagging injuries were the only thing that prevented this from happening in full force. DeAngelo will still be the lead back, but don’t let his huge 2008 dispel the notion that Stewart will do even more this year than he did during his rookie campaign.
-Jerome Harrison, CLE: I don’t doubt Jamal Lewis’ heart, but I do doubt that Eric Mangini will want to watch him plod along for 16 games while Harrison is ripping through holes in practice.
-Torry Holt, JAX: Not finished yet. He withered last year amongst the imploding mess in St. Louis, but his precise route-running will make him the apple of David Garrard’s eye. Keep your eye on WR Mike Walker as well.
-Justin Gage, TEN: With a reliable deep threat opposite him in Nate Washington, Gage should have a slightly easier go of it this year as Kerry Collins’ #1 receiver. And with their running game firmly established, the Titans will be looking to throw more to keep opponents off-balance.
-Chaz Schilens, OAK: Big, talented, and more ready than the other Oakland wideouts. Oakland’s defense will get them the ball, and making sure they have at least a respectable passing attack will be priority #1 for new head coach Tom Cable.
-Devin Thomas, WAS: Promoted to the #2 receiver spot over Antwaan Randle El. And while finding A.R.E.’s replacement was becoming a need for the ‘Skins, this is clearly an indication that Thomas showed up to training camp looking ready to make things happen.
-Earl Bennett, CHI: Devin Hester is fast, but he’s not a natural receiver. And Jay Cutler is not the most patient person in the world. Cutler and Bennett lit it up as college teammates at Vanderbilt, and you can bet the Bears’ new QB will be looking Bennett’s direction every time his Hester has run himself out of the play.
-Vernon Davis, SF: Mike Martz does not think tight ends are meant to catch the ball. Davis certainly needed to improve in certain areas upon entering the league (e.g. focus, route running), but Martz was his chief obstacle to success last year. New offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye says, “We would like to use him not as much in blocking in pass situations as we would running routes.” Looking at the other receiving options in San Fran (especially with Michael Crabtree making sure that he’ll be behind from the get-go), Davis is primed for numbers.
-Martellus Bennett, DAL: I’m not sure he’ll catch as many balls as some people are projecting, but he will be on the field a lot and he will have plays called for him around the goal line to take advantage of his basketball frame.
I’m not that bored.
RECENT UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS ALUMS
This includes Cedric Benson, Roy E. Williams, and Vince Young. I personally watched all these guys play in college, culminating in Young’s 4th-and-5 scramble to win the 2006 Rose Bowl, and trust me (it’s not just all the alcohol speaking here): these are some incredible football players. Now Benson may be a dumbass – I don’t really know. But he is the unquestioned RB on a revitalized CIN team. 1,000 yards and 7 scores is the floor here barring injury. Williams played his high school state championship game in Texas Stadium and he has got to be thrilled to be the go-to WR for the Dallas Cowboys. And Vince may not get a chance to play much this year, but just don’t count him out. He is special. After all, he is now two covers removed from the Madden curse so maybe he’s fianlly getting back on track.
(By the way, other NFL players on that UT team: Jamaal Charles, Brian Orakpo, Michael Huff, Selvin Young, Cedric Griffin, Aaron Ross, Limas Sweed, David Thomas, Quan Cosby, Ahmard Hall, Lyle Sendlein, Tony Hills, Michael Griffin, Johnathan Scott, Justin Blalock, Tarell Brown, Rashad Bobino, Chris Ogbonnaya, Franklin Okam, Kasey Studdard, Brian Robison, Henry Melton, Rodrique Wright, and Marcus Griffin. Colt McCoy will soon join that list. Wow.)