One of the most intriguing stories of training camp is whether this megastar of a rookie can prove to the Browns’ coaching staff that he deserves to be handed the starting job straight away over veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer.
2 of 30Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
After breaking down barriers and standing defiant before his critics—all before he was even drafted—Michael Sam now has to prove why he should be a part of the St. Louis Rams’ Week 1 roster.
3 of 30Evan Vucci/AP
After spending six seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles as their No. 1 wide receiver, DeSean Jackson had a much-publicized split from the team and landed with the Redskins. How the chemistry between quarterback Robert Griffin and Jackson develops in camp will be a big indication of how far this Washington team can go this season.
4 of 30Patrick Semansky/AP
Steve Smith, a lifetime Carolina Panther, was released in March by the team that drafted him. He quickly signed a three-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens and now will seek to prove to Carolina why he thinks it made a big mistake in letting him go.
5 of 30Pat Sullivan/AP
For better or worse, the selection of Jadeveon Clowney at No. 1 overall this year will be a defining moment in the tenure of Houston GM Rick Smith. Clowney stood out as the top football talent in the 2014 draft for months and months, only to have his detractors point out a lack of production last season. The Texans entertained the thought of trading down from the top spot, too, before opting for Clowney over a potential franchise quarterback. The Texans, coming off a 2-14 season, need Clowney to be everything it appears he can be.
6 of 30Stephan Savoia/AP
Dominique Easley’s task is simple: he must prove why he is worthy of being the successor to Patriots defensive standout Vince Wilfork, and he can use training camp to start that discussion. Wilfork is coming off an Achilles injury that saw him land on injured reserve last season, so his status upon returning to form this season is very much up in the air. Easley has a tremendous opportunity.
7 of 30Nell Redmond/AP
At first glance, Benjamin’s intangibles jump off the board. He’s 6’5” with a wingspan that falls just shy of 70”. His hands are huge (10.25”) and his range is up there with the best in the business, so he has all the tools. The question Panthers fans want to know is can he help replace the loss of Steve Smith.
8 of 30Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Coming off of a loss in the NFC Championship Game to the eventual Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers sport one of the strongest rosters in the league. But perhaps the weakest part of their team is the secondary, and that’s music to Jimmie Ward’s ears. The rookie defensive back will use training camp as an opportunity to show himself worthy of manning the slot for San Francisco for years to come.
9 of 30Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Since he became the New Orleans Saints' head coach and offensive mastermind in 2006, Sean Payton has always endeavored to put his skill players in unusual positions to make plays. Enter rookie receiver Brandin Cooks, the next in a line of innovative ideas.
10 of 30Ann Heisenfelt/AP
Teddy Bridgewater, the 32nd and final pick of the 1st round, whose offensive coordinator, Norv Turner, recently said should have been a top-10 pick, comes onto a roster without a good player behind center yet with a phenomenal receiving corps, led by Cordarrelle Patterson. Given the skills Bridgewater showed at Louisville and the fearsome ability with which he’s taken over games, Vikings fans can’t wait to see how he progresses during training camp.
11 of 30Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
Derek Carr’s case is interesting. On the one hand, he is going to play for the Oakland Raiders, and barring some miraculous rebirth of Matt Schaub, Carr will one day be the starter for the team. However, he’s got a lot working against him. Many critics have questioned his ability to be smart by staying in the pocket and not rushing things. In fact, he’s been compared, inevitably so, to his older brother David, who’s remembered as one of the worst quarterbacks in recent memory. How Carr responds to the naysayers will be a great indicator of whether he can succeed in this league or not, and it all begins at training camp.
12 of 30Rob Foldy/Getty Images
Marqise Lee was a happy man way before training camp started, seeing as he got to collect on an insurance policy that would pay out if his stock fell significantly in the draft. So, since Lee fell all the way into the second round, he’ll collect $5 million from Lloyd’s of London. But that’s not the only reason for Lee’s happiness. Going into training camp, he has the unique distinction of being among the best receivers on Jacksonville’s roster.
13 of 30Matt Rourke/AP
A big receiver (6’3”) with considerable speed (he ran a 4.46 40-yard dash) and good hands, Jordan Matthews will try to help Eagles fans forget about DeSean Jackson.
14 of 30Jeff Chiu/AP
The oh-so-colorful former Buffalo Bills wide receiver is now part of the San Francisco 49ers. Unfortunately for Johnson, in a receiving corps that includes Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis, passes won’t be coming nearly as often as they did when Johnson was with the Bills.
15 of 30Mike McGinnis/Getty Images
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
At a glance, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s name elicits chuckles. However, when standing face-to-face with him, laughter is among the absolute last things coming to the minds of his opponents. The former Alabama safety gained notoriety in college with his bone-crunching hits and now can use the time he has in training camp to show why head coach Mike McCarthy should allow him to play as much as possible this season for the Packers.
16 of 30Fred Kfoury III/Icon SMI
A second-round draft pick, Jimmy Garoppolo is the highest drafted quarterback by the Patriots since they took Drew Bledsoe No. 1 in 1993. There’s no way he’s replacing Tom Brady this year, but will he be the heir apparent?
17 of 30Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
Pro Bowl pick to waiver wire; that’s Brandon Flowers’ story. He had a banner year with Kansas City last season, but it apparently wasn’t enough for the Chiefs to save him from the chopping block. Luckily for Flowers, the San Diego Chargers see something in him. Whether they’re right could be borne out in training camp.
18 of 30Mel Evans/AP
Michael Vick is starting anew with his third NFL team, this time the New York Jets. Seeing how he meshes with his teammates will be crucial to figuring out whether he’ll be a success story or a benchwarmer in New York. Second, he’ll be locked in a battle to determine the Jets’ Week 1 starter at quarterback and it would be surprising if he didn’t at least challenge for that top spot.
19 of 30Mel Evans/AP
Chris Johnson has a chance to march into New York, claim the starting running back role and rebuild his reputation following a few abysmal years with Tennessee. His skill set is off the charts, but will he be able to find the same consistency with which he relied on to rush for 2,006 yards a few years ago?
20 of 30Mel Evans/AP
Geno Smith threw 21 interceptions last year to 12 touchdowns, completing just 55.8 percent of his passes. And he enters training camp with newcomer Michael Vick in the running for the same job. Vick believes the job is Smith’s to lose, which makes this training camp positional battle one of the more intriguing ones to follow.
21 of 30Bill Wippert/AP
As the only quarterback picked in the first round of the 2013 draft, E.J. Manuel fell far short of expectations, never really producing any eye-popping numbers in Buffalo before falling victim to injury in the second half of the season. With that in mind, Manuel will try to make everyone forget about last year and prove why having an asset as good as Sammy Watkins will prove infinitely beneficial in his developing into a franchise quarterback.
22 of 30Bill Wippert/AP
Sammy Watkins caught 101 passes for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013, cementing his status in many minds as the finest receiver in a loaded 2014 draft class. The Bills agreed with that notion, not only selecting him in the first round, but also trading up from the ninth overall pick to the fourth -- and giving up their 2015 first-round pick in the process. It’s time to see if their gamble was worth it.
23 of 30Elaine Thompson/AP
What can Russell Wilson do for an encore? After leading Seattle to its second Super Bowl victory in nine years, he’s perched on a pedestal with infinite possibilities. Can he carry the Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowls?
24 of 30Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
Jairus Byrd underwent back surgery during the offseason to repair a disc and opened training camp on the Saints’ physically unable to perform list. Coach Sean Payton doesn’t consider it to be a serious situation, but it’ll still be a storyline worth watching as camps progress.
25 of 30Cliff Welch/Icon SMI
One year after heaving passes to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery in Chicago, new Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown will get to enjoy a Vincent Jackson-Mike Evans combination in Tampa Bay – that is if Evans is the real deal. We’ll start to get a clearer picture in camp.
26 of 30Robin Alam/Icon SMI
Lamarr Houston doesn’t have the same kind of name recognition as others on this list, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t deserve attention. The newly-minted Chicago Bear was signed in the offseason to a five-year, $35 million contract with $15 million guaranteed. That said, Houston only has one big thing to prove: why does he deserve to be paid an average of $7 million a year for the next five years? Training camp’s a good place to erase any doubt.
27 of 30John Raoux/AP
After a few years in Minnesota as Adrian Peterson’s backup, Toby Gerhart signed a three-year deal with Jacksonville to be its No. 1 running back. The coaching staff has already let it be known that he’ll be the team’s workhorse. Jaguars fans won’t be the only one watching closely.
28 of 30Seth Wenig/AP
For a New York Giants team that has spent a number of years without any real running game, the field is wide open for Rashad Jennings to come in and make a lasting impression on Tom Coughlin. He’s definitely talented enough to launch himself into that position.
29 of 30Julio Cortez/AP
Eric Decker comes to the New York Jets from a dream situation for a wide receiver in Denver. Instead of staying in the Mile High City, Decker opted to sign in New York, and he’s promised to help make the Jets a contender in the AFC East. He can begin to back up his talk with a strong showing at training camp.
30 of 30Ed Andrieski/AP
Cody Latimer was drafted in the second round of the 2014 Draft by the Denver Broncos to help replace the loss of Eric Decker. He didn’t exactly have awe-inspiring numbers at Indiana, but he can use training camp to show why basing opinions purely off of collegiate performance is a bad.
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