NFL players have begun reporting to training camps, which means the 2021 season has unofficially begun. Games aren't yet ongoing, of course, but teams are laying the foundations for the regular season.
From position battles and scheme installations to injury rehab and just getting back into football shape, camps encompass vital parts of the process.
For fans, training camp also brings a sense that football is back. Important things are happening, and the rumor mill is spinning. What's the word on your favorite team? Let's dig into some of the latest buzz.
Arizona Cardinals: Chase Edmonds Set to Open Camp as Starting RB
The Arizona Cardinals are set to have a powerhouse passing attack. Quarterback Kyler Murray is emerging as a star, and he has a plethora of pass-catchers—including DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk and A.J. Green—at his disposal.
"We have a great receiver room," Murray said, per ESPN's Josh Weinfuss. "More weapons than I can ask for."
Things are a little less settled at running back. Kenyan Drake departed in free agency, while Arizona added former Pittsburgh Steelers starter James Conner. According to Adam H. Beasley of Pro Football Network, however, "A source tells us ... [Chase] Edmonds is the favorite to be the team's featured back after splitting time with Kenyan Drake in 2020."
Last year, Edmonds averaged 4.6 yards per carry and racked up 402 receiving yards, but he has never carried the ball 100 or more times in a season. It could be a career turning point.
Atlanta Falcons: Josh Andrews the Favorite at Left Guard
The Atlanta Falcons are looking to revamp the way their offensive line plays under new head coach Arthur Smith and offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford.
"For us ... it's going to be (about) speed off the ball, toughness, and it's going to be about our finish," Ledford said, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The retooling could involve starting 30-year-old journeyman Josh Andrews at left guard, as a source told Beasley that Andrews got starter's reps during the spring. He'll likely compete with rookie third-round pick Jalen Mayfield for the job.
If Mayfield cannot beat out Andrews—who has also played for the Philadelphia Eagles, Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets—the Falcons may still find a way to get the rookie some game action this season. Atlanta seems to like his style of play as much as his potential at any one spot.
"Jaylen, when you watched his film, that's something that stuck out with me was his play style," Ledford said, per Ledbetter. "You saw that he liked to mix it up."
According to Ledbetter, Mayfield could also be part of the right tackle competition and could serve as a backup swing tackle if he can't win a starting role.
Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson Could Get $40-Plus Million Annually
There will be no competition at quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens. Lamar Jackson was the unanimous league MVP in 2019 and has taken Baltimore to the playoffs in all three years as a starter.
The only uncertainty surrounding the position is when Baltimore will sign Jackson to an extension—and for how much.
The "when" is unclear, though the Ravens have seen enough from their quarterback to put pen to paper now. As for the price tag, ESPN's Dan Graziano recently reported that a new deal is expected to fall in the $40 million to $45 million range.
Jackson's price appears to be bookended by those of Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott.
"It wouldn't surprise people around the league if Jackson's deal came in behind Mahomes' $45 million-a-year average and ahead of Prescott's $40 million, but as always, the key will be to watch the structure and guarantees," Graziano wrote.
This would make Jackson one of the league's highest-paid quarterbacks, though not the highest.
Buffalo Bills: Ken Dorsey Being Groomed for OC Job?
Like the Ravens, the Buffalo Bills will have to decide on their quarterback's future. Josh Allen is coming off an appearance in the AFC title game and is extension-eligible. While there's no telling how soon Buffalo will lock him up, the Bills may already be trying to nail down one of his coaches.
As Sal Capaccio of WGR 550 recently noted, quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey had "passing game coordinator" added to his job title this offseason.
According to Nick Wojton of Bills Wire, this could be an attempt to keep Dorsey satisfied with the organization and in line to replace offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.
"The reason being is really a low-hanging fruit. He has long been the assumed replacement for offensive coordinator Brian Daboll if he were to land a head-coaching gig," Wojton wrote.
Daboll, the reigning Assistant Coach of the Year, did receive some head coaching interest this offseason. Should the Bills have another successful season with a prolific offense at the forefront—Buffalo ranked second in both yards and points last year—Daboll could be hired away next offseason.
Promoting Dorsey would help maintain continuity on offense if Daboll does indeed depart.
Carolina Panthers: Team Looking to Build Big-Play Offense Around Darnold
The Carolina Panthers made two significant moves at quarterback this offseason. They traded for former Jets signal-caller Sam Darnold and then dealt 2020 starter Teddy Bridgewater to the Denver Broncos.
While Darnold may not be immediately better than Bridgewater, the 24-year-old has room to grow, and the Panthers are hoping Darnold's arm strength can provide a new big-play element to the passing attack.
"They want to take advantage of his stronger arm to move the ball downfield," Darin Gantt of the team's website wrote. "DJ Moore, who was third in the league with 18.1 yards per catch last year, will help in that area. And when they were together in New York, Darnold and Robby Anderson made some big plays at times."
Darnold did show flashes of his arm talent while with the Jets, but he finished his New York career with a pedestrian 6.6 yards-per-completion average. He was 32nd in the league with a 6.1 yards-per-attempt average last season.
We should find out soon enough if an upgrade in receiving talent will help unlock Darnold's true passing potential.
Chicago Bears: Allen Robinson II Looking to 'Smash' Free Agency
The Chicago Bears and wideout Allen Robinson II did not reach an agreement on a contract extension before the July 15 deadline.
That wasn't surprising, as NFL Network's Tom Pelissero said on Total Access ahead of the deadline, "At this point, it seems unlikely a long-term deal will get done."
ESPN's Jeremy Fowler went into a little more detail, explaining on SportsCenter that Robinson could play on the franchise tag in 2021 and look to "smash" free agency next offseason.
Robinson's presumed plans could change, of course, if he likes the direction Chicago is taking with rookie quarterback Justin Fields. However, there's no doubting that the 27-year-old wideout will be heavily courted on the open market.
Even with a lackluster quarterback tandem in Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles last season, Robinson finished with 1,250 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
Cincinnati Bengals: Logan Wilson Poised for Big Defensive Role?
Heading into Cincinnati Bengals camp, the biggest storyline is the recovery of quarterback Joe Burrow. The No. 1 pick in 2020 played well as a rookie but was lost to a torn ACL 10 games into his inaugural campaign.
Understandably, any 2021 turnaround is expected to revolve around Burrow, rookie wideout Ja'Marr Chase and the offense. However, Cincinnati could have a rising star on defense too, as second-year linebacker Logan Wilson may be emerging as the proverbial quarterback of the unit.
"Bengals DC Lou Anarumo praised LB Logan Wilson's communication. Seems entrenched as the starting middle LB heading into training camp," ESPN's Ben Baby tweeted last month.
Wilson, a third-round pick out of Wyoming, played just 32 percent of the defensive snaps as a rookie. However, he flashed a lot of promise and finished with 33 tackles, a sack, three passes defended and two interceptions.
If the Bengals hope to regain relevance in 2021, they'll have to improve their 26th-ranked defense. Wilson could be poised to play a huge role in that.
Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield Will Have 'More on His Plate'
Inconsistency has been a constant during Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield's pro career. He had three head coaches in his first two NFL seasons, with reigning Coach of the Year Kevin Stefanski becoming his fourth in 2020.
Mayfield has repeatedly been forced to learn new schemes, but that shouldn't be the case this offseason. Stefanski and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt are both back, which should allow the 26-year-old to grow.
According to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, the newfound continuity will allow the Browns to ask more of Mayfield in 2021.
"Now that Mayfield knows the system and his retooled mechanics, the coaches can give him more responsibility and let him run the show a little more," Cabot wrote. "... The coaches won't hesitate to put more on his plate because they know he can handle it."
Mayfield flourished under Stefanski and Van Pelt over the second half of the 2020 season, throwing 11 touchdowns and one interception in the final six games. If he can be even more effective by carrying more responsibilities, Cleveland will be a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Dallas Cowboys: Team 'Not Worried About' Prescott's Recovery
The Browns are hoping to see Mayfield make a jump in 2021. The Dallas Cowboys saw their quarterback do so early last season. Dak Prescott, a two-time Pro Bowler, was borderline elite in the first five games of 2020 and led the NFL with 1,856 passing yards.
Unfortunately, he was lost for the year in Game 5, suffering a broken and dislocated ankle.
The good news is that the 27-year-old appears to be fully healthy, and the Cowboys won't hold him back in camp.
Fowler reported on SportsCenter earlier this month that Prescott had "passed all hurdles" in his recovery and that Dallas is "not worried about" his ability to return to preinjury form.
If Prescott is indeed back to being 100 percent, the Cowboys offense could be one of the NFL's most unstoppable units. It is loaded with weapons such as CeeDee Lamb, Ezekiel Elliott and Michael Gallup, and should have a healthier offensive line than the injury-plagued unit we saw last season.
Dallas, which will face Pittsburgh in the Hall of Fame Game, opened camp July 21.
Denver Broncos: Quarterback Battle Could Take All Preseason
The Denver Broncos are set to stage a quarterback competition between holdover Drew Lock and trade acquisition Teddy Bridgewater.
According to NFL Network's James Palmer, the competition could take all preseason to settle.
"This could go, to my understanding, through all three preseason games before they make a decision," Palmer said. "That's where they stand right now.
The competition could be the key to Denver's success in 2021—or its lack thereof. Lock was arguably the worst starting quarterback in the league last season. He tied for the NFL lead with 15 interceptions and had a paltry passer rating of 75.4. Denver desperately needs to get more out of its quarterbacks, either by turning to Bridgewater or having the competition push Lock to be better.
Denver has offensive weapons—including Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant, Tim Patrick and KJ Hamler—but it has lacked a reliable starting quarterback since Peyton Manning's retirement following the 2015 season.
The battle between Bridgewater and Lock, it seems, is only getting started.