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NFL Preseason Capsules

Posted Jul 22, 2009

A look at the 32 NFL teams as training camps open for the 2009 season (2008 records in parentheses):

AFC EAST

MIAMI DOLPHINS (11-5)

OPEN CAMP: Aug. 2, Davie, Fla.

LAST YEAR: Led by the new Bill Parcells regime, the Dolphins became the first team in NFL history to make the playoffs a year after winning only once. Miami won the AFC East to reach the postseason for the first time in seven years. But a drubbing by Baltimore in the first round showed there's still room for improvement.

KEY CHANGES: Stephen Ross bought the team from Wayne Huizenga, but left Parcells in charge of football operations. The Dolphins' biggest splash in free agency was to sign aging DE/LB Jason Taylor, who returns to Miami after one disappointing season with Washington. They also acquired C Jake Grove, G/C Joe Berger, LB Cameron Wake, S Gilbril Wilson and CB Eric Green, while losing CB Andre' Goodman and S Renaldo Hill to free agency. DE Vonnie Holliday was released, and C Samson Satele was traded.

CAMP NEEDS: Miami must sort out a revamped secondary that could include first-round draft pick Vontae Davis or second-round choice Sean Smith at CB. The Dolphins want to continue to groom second-year QB Chad Henne, the heir apparent to Chad Pennington, and groom rookie QB Pat White for a role in the Wildcat offense. They also need to find ways for Taylor to complement LB Joey Porter and upgrade the pass rush.

EXPECTATIONS: Coming off a 1-15 season, the Dolphins benefited from a soft schedule last year, and this year's schedule is brutal. They play four defending division champions, with games at San Diego, Carolina and Tennessee, and a home game against Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh to conclude the regular season.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (11-5)

OPEN CAMP: July 30, Foxborough, Mass.

LAST YEAR: After QB Tom Brady was injured in the first quarter of the first game, the rest of the season became a tryout for Matt Cassel. The former backup led the Patriots to a tie for first place in the AFC East, winning the last four games by a combined 133-54. But New England lost the tiebreaker to Miami and missed the playoffs entirely - the second team in the 31-year history of the 16-game schedule to miss the postseason at 11-5.

KEY CHANGES: Brady is back from surgery to repair ligaments in his left knee, and he is not expected to suffer from anything more than rust. New England added RB Fred Taylor, WR Joey Galloway and DB Shawn Springs - all former first-round picks who provide veteran depth. Cassel parlayed his year of experience into the starting job in Kansas City.

CAMP NEEDS: The Patriots must have been confident Brady was healthy before trading Cassel to the Chiefs. If the two-time Super Bowl MVP gets hurt, inexperienced Kevin O'Connell or Matt Gutierrez will get the chance Cassel got last year.

EXPECTATIONS: The last time Brady was tossing passes to Randy Moss, the Patriots went 16-0 in the regular season and Moss caught an NFL-record 23 of Brady's NFL-record 50 touchdown passes. If Brady is healthy, New England's absence from the playoffs should be short-lived.

NEW YORK JETS (9-7)

OPEN CAMP: July 31, SUNY Cortland, Cortland, N.Y.

LAST YEAR: With an unretired QB Brett Favre leading the way, Jets had 8-3 record that included consecutive victories at New England and then-undefeated Tennessee. Things went bad in a hurry as Favre struggled through a biceps tendon injury with nine INTs and only two TDs while the Jets lost four of five to miss the playoffs and cost coach Eric Mangini his job.

KEY CHANGES: Rex Ryan left Baltimore after 10 seasons, including last four as defensive coordinator, to become Jets coach. Ryan brought assistant Mike Pettine to be defensive coordinator, along with former Ravens LB Bart Scott, S Jim Leonhard and DE Marques Douglas. Favre retired - again - and was later released by Jets, who traded up in draft to take Southern California QB Mark Sanchez with No. 5 pick. New York also traded up in third round to draft Iowa RB Shonn Greene. CB Lito Sheppard was acquired from Philadelphia to shore up secondary.

CAMP NEEDS: Is Sanchez ready to immediately step in as an NFL starter, or will fourth-year QB Kellen Clemens hold him off? If two are even in training camp, it's believed Sanchez will get nod from Ryan, who has repeatedly said he's not opposed starting a rookie QB. Jets also need to find true No. 2 WR opposite Jerricho Cotchery from an unproven group. After wasted rookie season, LB Vernon Gholston also must show he was worth sixth overall pick in 2008 - especially with Calvin Pace suspended four games for violating NFL's drug policy.

EXPECTATIONS: Ryan has set the bar extremely high with talk of having dominant defense and boldly proclaiming ``the Jets are coming,'' and that he expects team to win a Super Bowl. Defense should be much improved and running game should be solid again behind one of league's best lines. But a lot will ride on who lines up under center. The schedule is extremely tough early, with home games against New England and Tennessee in Weeks 2-3 possibly setting the tone.

BUFFALO BILLS (7-9)

OPEN CAMP: July 25, St. John Fisher College, Pittsford, N.Y.

LAST YEAR: Getting off to a 5-1 start didn't make a difference for a team that stumbled to its third straight 7-9 finish and missed the playoffs for a ninth consecutive season. A sputtering offense and an 0-6 record against division rivals contributed. That still didn't cost coach Dick Jauron his job; he was retained four a fourth season despite growing criticism.

KEY CHANGES: WR Terrell Owens' arrival in free agency created a stir. Bills also added free agents C Geoff Hangartner, RB Dominic Rhodes, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, CB Drayton Florence and LB Pat Thomas, and are counting on first-round draft picks DE Aaron Maybin and RG Eric Wood to make an impact. Bills traded LT Jason Peters; released LG Derrick Dockery and TE Robert Royal; did not re-sign centers Duke Preston and Melvin Fowler, CB Jabari Greer, QB J.P. Losman and LB Angelo Crowell.

CAMP NEEDS: T.O. to build instant chemistry - and not have any eruptions - with third-year QB Trent Edwards. All eyes are on completely retooled OL, which could feature two rookie guards, Wood and LG Andy Levitre, and RT Langston Walker switching to LT. CB Leodis McKelvin must show he's ready to compete for starting job after missing most of spring practices with hand injury.

EXPECTATIONS: With Owens in town, anything and everything is possible. Just keep checking his Twitter site. Owens will attract attention, and the Bills hope it's the on-field kind in which he can spark a popgun passing attack by complementing WR Lee Evans. Too many changes and a still-tough AFC East make it difficult to believe Bills - even with T.O. - can finally end playoff drought.

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AFC NORTH

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (12-4)

OPEN CAMP: July 31, St. Vincent College, Latrobe, Pa.

LAST YEAR: Won a record sixth Super Bowl, overcoming what was the NFL's toughest schedule when the season began to go 12-4, beating Ravens (three times), Chargers (twice), Cowboys and Patriots, plus Cardinals 27-23 to win second NFL championship in four seasons.

KEY CHANGES: No key additions except for draft picks. Ziggy Hood injects youth into the defensive line, Joe Burnett and Mike Wallace could move into kick-returning roles immediately. Gone are ILB Larry Foote, who left NFL-best Steelers for NFL-worst Lions to play more; OLs Kendall Simmons and Marvel Smith, WR Nate Washington, CB Bryant McFadden.

CAMP NEEDS: Remember 2006. Steelers were distracted and unfocused after winning Super Bowl during the 2005 season, partly because of QB Ben Roethlisberger's motorcycle crash and appendectomy, and season got away from them quickly. Look for coach Mike Tomlin to virtually refuse to mention last season during camp. Team held Super Bowl ring ceremony in June partly because Tomlin didn't want it to be a distraction as a new season approaches.

EXPECTATIONS: Steelers manage salary cap well, and usually retain their core players; 20 of 22 starters are back. This team fully anticipates contending as long as Roethlisberger stays healthy. One big plus: The schedule, on paper, looks much easier than last season's.

BALTIMORE RAVENS (11-5)

OPEN CAMP: July 27, McDaniel College, Westminster, Md.

LAST YEAR: Advanced to the AFC championship game under first-year coach John Harbaugh and with rookie quarterback Joe Flacco. Ravens were typically strong on defense, but the offense did its part as well, leading the NFL in possession time and ranking fourth in yards rushing.

KEY CHANGES: Lost defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, who became head coach of the New York Jets. LB Bart Scott and DB Jim Leonhard also went to the Jets; FB Lorenzo Neal left as a free agent; DB Chris McAlister was released; and WR Derrick Mason announced his retirement, although that's not quite definite. Newcomers include QB John Beck, C Matt Birk, CB Domonique Foxworth and TE L.J. Smith.

CAMP NEEDS: Loss of Mason leaves WR position unsettled beyond Mark Clayton and the oft-injured Demetrius Williams. RB position is also up in the air as Willis McGahee, Le'Ron McLain and Ray Rice will vie for carries. PK Matt Stover, with the Ravens since their inaugural season in 1996, was not invited to camp, setting up a competition between Steve Hauschka and Graham Gano.

EXPECTATIONS: The Ravens are poised to make another run at the playoffs, but only if: 1) Flacco continues to improve; 2) Clayton and Williams get help at WR; 3) The defense can overcome the loss of Ryan, Scott and Leonhard.

CINCINNATI BENGALS (4-11-1)

OPEN CAMP: July 30, Georgetown College, Georgetown, Ky.

LAST YEAR: They went back to the bad old days. With Carson Palmer sidelined by an injured passing elbow, the offense fell to last in the league. The line was the biggest problem, giving up 51 sacks and struggling to open holes for runners. WR Chad Ochocinco groused about not getting traded and had a subpar season with 53 catches.

KEY CHANGES: Most are on the offense. First-round pick Andre Smith is expected to take over at RT for Stacy Andrews, who left for Philadelphia. LT Levi Jones was released as well, leaving the line in transition. WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh left as a free agent, replaced by former Jet Laveranues Coles. Two Cowboys - S Roy Williams and DT Tank Johnson - were added to an improving defense.

CAMP NEEDS: Get Smith signed before the first practice. They need to find out fast whether the rookie can handle right tackle, a position he has never played. If the OL doesn't get fixed in camp, the offense is headed for another rough year. Coach Mavin Lewis also needs to make sure that Ochocinco, who says he'll go back to being flamboyant, doesn't go back to being a distraction as well.

EXPECTATIONS: If Palmer stays healthy, the Bengals ought to finish around 8-8, which has been the norm under Lewis. Four times during his six seasons, the Bengals have gone 8-8 or 7-9. Owner Mike Brown appears content with the status quo - the team still doesn't have a general manager, and Lewis' job is secure with two seasons left on his contract.

CLEVELAND BROWNS (4-12)

OPEN CAMP: Aug. 1, Berea, Ohio.

LAST YEAR: Collapsed under the weight of enormous expectations that followed their surprising 10-6 finish in 2007. Given five prime-time TV appearances, the Browns were perhaps the NFL's biggest disappointment. A much tougher schedule, key injuries, dropped passes (Braylon Edwards) and off--field distractions led to the firings of coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Phil Savage.

KEY CHANGES: Coach Eric Mangini and GM George Kokinis are now in control of restoring a once proud franchise that has spent most of the past decade in disarray. Mangini, fired after three seasons in New York, has brought seven former Jets players to Cleveland. Troublesome/talented TE Kellen Winslow was traded.

CAMP NEEDS: The Browns need to settle on a starting quarterback - quickly. Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson (Pro Bowler in 2007) will battle to take control of an offense that failed to produce a touchdown over the final six weeks last season. Quinn, who replaced Anderson as the starter before getting hurt last season, appears to have the upper hand in a competition that will dominate camp.

EXPECTATIONS: Much more realistic than a year ago. Cleveland has talent and is probably closer to a .500 team than most realize. Mangini will bring much needed discipline to players who took advantage of Crennel. His next goal will be to close the gargantuan gap with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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AFC SOUTH

TENNESSEE TITANS (13-3)

OPEN CAMP: July 31, Baptist Sports Park, Nashville, Tenn.

LAST YEAR: The Titans started 10-0 and won the AFC's No. 1 seed after veteran QB Kerry Collins took over for an injured Vince Young in the opener. But the Titans lost 13-10 to Baltimore in the divisional round after losing Pro Bowl rookie RB Chris Johnson to a sprained ankle late in the first half.

KEY CHANGES: DT Albert Haynesworth left for big money in Washington, while defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz now is the head coach in Detroit. KR Chris Carr joined Baltimore, and WR Brandon Jones signed with San Francisco. He was replaced by WR Nate Washington, who already is in a starting spot. DT Jovan Haye was signed for depth along with QB Patrick Ramsey. Draft picks WR Kenny Britt and DT Sen'Derrick Marks will be asked only to provide depth, while athletic TE Jared Cook has shown early promise. Chuck Cecil was promoted to defensive coordinator.

CAMP NEEDS: Work All-Pro C Kevin Mawae back onto the field after surgery to fix a tendon in his right, snapping arm. Lots of playing time to see how much Young has learned heading into his fourth NFL season, and whether Ramsey can take the backup job away from the 2006 top offensive rookie. Get Cecil comfortable calling the defense before the opener at Pittsburgh.

EXPECTATIONS: The Titans feel Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl they failed to grab. With 13 players hitting free agency after this season, 2009 may be their best shot at the franchise's first Super Bowl trip in a decade. Jeff Fisher, the NFL's longest-tenured coach with one team, has a lighter camp schedule he hopes has Tennessee ready to open strong.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (12-4)

OPEN CAMP: Aug. 2, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Terre Haute, Ind.

LAST YEAR: Peyton Manning's knee injury led to a slow start. But when Manning got healthy, the Colts returned to form. They produced a sixth straight 12-win season, and Manning earned his third MVP award before losing to San Diego in a first-round playoff game.

KEY CHANGES: Former coach Tony Dungy retired, record-setting receiver Marvin Harrison was released, punter Hunter Smith left in free agency. Jim Caldwell, groomed for the job, replaced Dungy.

CAMP NEEDS: Improving the run defense, finding a third receiver, getting rookie RB Donald Brown involved in the offense, and getting acclimated to Caldwell.

EXPECTATIONS: One of the league's most stable franchises certainly didn't look like it this offseason. Caldwell brought in a new defensive coordinator, a new special teams coach and then heard Manning vent about the possible loss of two key offensive assistants, coordinator Tom Moore and line coach Howard Mudd. The Colts also got bigger along the defensive line, something they desperately needed after struggling against the run. But make no mistake - a healthy Manning makes the Colts an annual Super Bowl contender.

HOUSTON TEXANS (8-8)

OPEN CAMP: July 31, Houston.

LAST YEAR: Rebounded from 0-4 start to finish 8-8 for the second straight year, but failed to make the first playoff appearance in the team's seventh season. Andre Johnson finished with a career-high and NFL-best 1,575 yards receiving and rookie Steve Slaton rushed for 1,282 yards, giving Houston the No. 3 offense in the league. DE Mario Williams continued to improve, making his first Pro Bowl, but Houston's defense remained one of the league's worst, leading to the firing of coordinator Richard Smith.

KEY CHANGES: DE Antonio Smith replaces Anthony Weaver at LE. First-round draft pick LB Brian Cushing replaces Morlon Greenwood. Frank Bush replaces Richard Smith as defensive coordinator. Backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels was traded to Minnesota and replaced by Dan Orlovsky and Rex Grossman. Added DT Shaun Cody and veteran LB Cato June.

CAMP NEEDS: CBs Fred Bennett and Jacques Reeves need to show they can handle the starting duties if Dunta Robinson's holdout extends into the season. Cushing has to get comfortable with the defense after being made a starter soon after the draft.

EXPECTATIONS: The offense will likely be more potent with an experienced Slaton - that is if QB Matt Schaub and Johnson remain healthy. Schaub missed five games in each of his first two seasons in Houston. Williams should be helped by the addition of another legitimate pass rusher in Smith, but the rest of the defense will have to improve if the Texans hope to finally make it to the playoffs in the difficult AFC South.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (5-11)

OPEN CAMP: Aug. 2, Jacksonville, Fla.

LAST YEAR: Injuries, defensive lapses and chemistry issues led to the team's worst record in five years. After losing four offensive linemen for most of the season, the Jaguars couldn't run consistently - a huge problem for a physical team built to pound opponents on the ground. The defense, meanwhile, struggled to generate pressure on quarterbacks, resulting in some of the worst performances in coach Jack Del Rio's six seasons. And the team's top free agent signings, WR Jerry Porter and CB Drayton Florence, were blamed for dividing the locker room.

KEY CHANGES: Owner Wayne Weaver cleaned house in the offseason, parting with a few coaches and nearly a dozen starters, including team captains Fred Taylor, Mike Peterson and Paul Spicer. Jacksonville signed veterans LT Tra Thomas and WR Torry Holt, but rebuilding plan is focused on adding young talent through the draft.

CAMP NEEDS: With Porter, Matt Jones, Reggie Williams and Dennis Northcutt gone, receiver position is a concern. So are both lines. OGs Vince Manuwai and Maurice Williams are returning from injury, and rookie OTs Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton could earn starting spots. DT John Henderson, coming off consecutive disappointing seasons, hopes to prove he's committed and return to Pro Bowl form.

EXPECTATIONS: Another long season, although Del Rio believes he has enough talent to surprise everyone in the AFC South.

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AFC WEST

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (8-8)

OPEN CAMP: July 27, San Diego.

LAST YEAR: Took a step back, having to win final three games and take advantage of Denver's monumental collapse to win the awful AFC West. A year after making it to the AFC championship game, the Chargers got a huge game from speedy Darren Sproles to beat Indianapolis in overtime, then were manhandled by eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh. LaDainian Tomlinson was slowed by toe and groin injuries and was held to a career-low 1,100 yards, but still finished fourth in the AFC. It looked for a while that the Chargers would jettison Tomlinson in a salary-cap move, but the sides agreed to a restructured contract.

KEY CHANGES: Added: ILB Kevin Burnett. Lost: G Mike Goff, LB Marques Harris, C Jeremy Newberry, DE Igor Olshansky.

CAMP NEEDS: The Chargers need to regain their swagger on the OL and in the secondary, two areas identified by GM A.J. Smith as holding back the Chargers. They're also looking for a healthy Tomlinson, who turned 30 in June. Sproles got a huge raise as the team's franchise player, so the Chargers will have two running backs making more than $6 million. OLB Shawne Merriman is ready after missing all but one game last year following knee surgery. He's entering the final year of his contract and there's been speculation the Chargers will let him leave as a free agent because Smith apparently doesn't like Merriman's extracurricular activities. Chargers drafted DE Larry English in the first round to add extra pressure from the edge, but also as a possible successor to Merriman.

EXPECTATIONS: Chargers should win the AFC West again, but they're clearly concerned that two Bill Belichick disciples, Broncos coach Josh McDaniels and Chiefs GM Scott Pioli, are now in the division. A deep playoff run will no doubt require that Norv Turner's squad stay healthy.

DENVER BRONCOS (8-8)

OPEN CAMP: July 31, Englewood, Colo.

LAST YEAR: The Broncos squandered a three-game division lead with three to go and missed the playoffs for a third straight season. The debacle cost coach Mike Shanahan his job after 14 seasons. The primary culprit behind Denver's collapse was a dreadful defense that finished near the bottom in points allowed.

KEY CHANGES: QB Jay Cutler, traded to Chicago after a messy fallout with new coach Josh McDaniels; RB Knowshon Moreno, taken with the 12th overall pick and who should split carries with free agent pickups LaMont Jordan and Correll Buckhalter.

CAMP NEEDS: QB Kyle Orton to step in for Pro Bowler Cutler and make teammates forget about his trade. A seamless switch to defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's 3-4 alignment. WR Brandon Marshall to drop his grudge over his contract, quickly recover from offseason hip surgery and emerge as the playmaking receiver he's been the last two seasons.

EXPECTATIONS: It's been a drama-filled offseason in the Mile High City, and now McDaniels must restore order. McDaniels is a disciple of New England's Bill Belichick, but can he win like the coach with whom he shares an affection for hoodies?

OAKLAND RAIDERS (5-11)

OPEN CAMP: July 28, Napa, Calif.

LAST YEAR: The season got off to a tumultuous start with the feud between Lane Kiffin and owner Al Davis leading to the coach's firing after four games. Interim coach Tom Cable finished strong with wins over Houston and Tampa Bay to earn the full-time job. After a slow start to his first full season as a starter, QB JaMarcus Russell posted an 88.5 quarterback rating over his final seven starts to show some signs why he was the top pick in the 2007 draft.

KEY CHANGES: After going on a spending spree before last season that paid few dividends, owner Al Davis focused on keeping his own free agents in Pro Bowlers Nnamdi Asomugha and Shane Lechler. Jeff Garcia was signed to be both a mentor to Russell and to push the young QB. The biggest change on defense comes with the departure of coordinator Rob Ryan after five seasons. Longtime NFL assistant John Marshall must fix a leaky run defense.

CAMP NEEDS: The biggest job of training camp will be developing a passing game which was woefully inadequate last season. The Raiders had just 82 catches from wide receivers, led by Johnnie Lee Higgins' 22. Rookies Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy, as well as recovering veteran Javon Walker, will need to develop a chemistry with Russell.

EXPECTATIONS: After a six-year run of ineptitude in which the Raiders have won a league-low 24 games, it's hard to have high expectations. But there is talent on the roster and if Russell can take another big step in his development, the Raiders could be a surprise team in '09.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (2-14)

OPEN CAMP: July 31, University of Wisconsin, River Falls, Wis.

LAST YEAR: Chiefs experienced their worst season in history, winning just twice in what Herm Edwards thought would be the first phase of his bite-the-bullet rebuilding program. But six wins in two seasons and an NFL-low 10 sacks proved too embarrassing for owner Clark Hunt. Fired along with Edwards was 20-year GM Carl Peterson.

KEY CHANGES: In are GM Scott Pioli from Bill Belichick's New England tree, and first-year head coach Todd Haley, former offensive coordinator at Arizona. After the draft, Pioli also made extensive changes in scouting and player development. All told, it's the biggest front office housecleaning in two decades for what has been among the NFL's most stable franchises. Pioli brought in a raft of veterans, most notably QB Matt Cassel and LB Mike Vrabel from the Patriots. Other veterans joining Haley's tough-guy program are linebackers Monty Beisel and Zach Thomas and wide receiver Bobby Engram. First-round pick Tyson Jackson will be counted on to play end in the new 3-4 alignment. The biggest on-field change is the trade to Atlanta of Tony Gonzalez, the most productive tight end in NFL history.

CAMP NEEDS: Haley will use camp to accelerate the change to a new offense and defense. They need to get Cassel ready at the beginning of a season for the first time since high school. Finding a successor to Gonzalez will be key, as will the transition of defensive ends Turk McBride and Tamba Hali to linebacker.

EXPECTATIONS: In draft and free agency, Chiefs virtually ignored gaping needs on the offensive line. They did refuse Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters' demand for a trade, perhaps because they realized they need him more than he needs them. The defense is almost certain to improve. But Cassel, RB Larry Johnson and a questionable cast of receivers will probably have trouble behind a sub-par line.

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NFC EAST

NEW YORK GIANTS (12-5)

OPEN CAMP: Aug. 2, SUNY Albany, Albany, N.Y.

LAST YEAR: A season that could have been. Won 11 of first 12, including win over Super Bowl champion Steelers on the road. New York's chance to repeat as NFL champions ended when Plaxico Burress shot himself in the thigh in late November. Without a deep threat in the lineup, New York lost four of five, including NFC semifinal against Philadelphia.

KEY CHANGES: With criminal case and league action still pending, Giants waived Burress in April. Fellow veteran WR Amani Toomer also wasn't re-signed. Got receivers Hakeem Nicks (first round) and Ramses Barden (third) in the draft and strengthened defense, signing DE Chris Canty, DT Rocky Bernard and LB Michael Boley as free agents. Two-time Pro Bowl DE Osi Umenyiora returns after missing last season with knee injury.

CAMP NEEDS: Nicks, Barden, or holdovers Steve Smith, Domenik Hixon or Sinorice Moss has to step up as the deep threat for Eli Manning. RB Brandon Jacobs has to stay healthy for a change, especially with backup Derrick Ward lost to free agency. The depth on the defensive line (Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, Barry Cofield, Fred Robbins and company) has to translate into pressure on quarterbacks.

EXPECTATIONS: If someone emerges as the deep threat and the defensive line plays like it did in the 2008 championship season, the Giants have the talent for a second title in three years.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (9-6-1)

OPEN CAMP: July 26, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pa.

LAST YEAR: Overcame improbable odds to make the playoffs in the final week, won two road games and reached the NFC championship game for the fifth time in eight years.

KEY CHANGES: Added LT Jason Peters, RG Stacy Andrews, FB Leonard Weaver, CB Ellis Hobbs, SS Sean Jones, WR Jeremy Maclin (first-round pick) and RB LeSean McCoy (second-round pick). Lost FS Brian Dawkins, RB Correll Buckhalter and CB Lito Sheppard.

CAMP NEEDS: Make sure that a revamped offensive line can mesh. Integrate rookies Maclin, McCoy and TE Cornelius Ingram into the offense. Monitor the health of RB Brian Westbrook. Figure out how to replace Dawkins, a perennial Pro Bowl safety and the heart and soul of the defense for the past decade.

EXPECTATIONS: It's Super Bowl or bust for the Eagles. They've surrounded QB Donovan McNabb with talented skill players, albeit young guys, and veteran blockers. He got a big raise over the last two years of his contract and now has to deliver that elusive championship.

DALLAS COWBOYS (9-7)

OPEN CAMP: July 29; Alamodome, San Antonio.

LAST YEAR: Great things were expected, but then QB Tony Romo got hurt and, when he returned, there were problems with WR Terrell Owens. Between the Romo-T.O. spat and some flubs on defense, the Cowboys missed the playoffs because of a 1-3 finish capped by a 44-6 flameout in Philadelphia when a win would've still put them in.

KEY CHANGES: Team owner Jerry Jones went for a personality makeover, getting rid of T.O., Adam ``Pacman'' Jones, Tank Johnson and Greg Ellis. He brought in Jon Kitna to back up Romo and coach Wade Phillips added ILB Keith Brooking and DE Igor Olshansky, guys who played for him on other teams. Phillips also is now his own defensive coordinator, a rarity in the NFL. Safety Roy Williams is gone, replaced by free agent signee Gerald Sensabaugh.

CAMP NEEDS: The other Roy Williams, taking over the lead receiver's role from Owens, and Romo need to get in synch. They weren't last year, but practically have no choice this season. RB Felix Jones needs to stay healthy to give the offense an extra dimension and OLB Anthony Spencer needs to prove he can handle the job opposite DeMarcus Ware.

EXPECTATIONS: Drama. Always drama from this group. But the one thing to look forward to is the new $1.15 billion stadium.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS (8-8)

OPEN CAMP: July 30, Ashburn, Va.

LAST YEAR: Promising 6-2 start under rookie coach Jim Zorn turned sour as offense faded in second half of season. Offseason included trying - and failing - to find replacement for QB Jason Campbell.

KEY CHANGES: Bolstered defense by signing free agent DT Albert Haynesworth to contract with NFL-record $41 million guaranteed, re-signing CB DeAngelo Hall and drafting LB-DE Brian Orakpo. Offense added G Derrick Dockery and potential comeback player T Mike Williams. Gone are DE Jason Taylor, T Jon Jansen, CB Shawn Springs.

CAMP NEEDS: Zorn needs to find his stride in second year at helm. Campbell, in final of year of contract, needs to show he can fit in Zorn's scheme and be a reliable, winning QB. There's major question at RT, where team hopes former Buffalo first-round pick Williams can return to form after three years away from the game. Second-year WRs Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly need to start producing.

EXPECTATIONS: Defense looks stout, but offense has question marks. If Campbell hasn't lost his confidence, if Williams can get in shape, if RB Clinton Portis can finally break a long run or two, if the young wideouts step up, and if Zorn can get his schemes humming, the team can be competitive in a tough NFC East. But that's a lot of ifs.

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NFC NORTH

MINNESOTA VIKINGS (10-6)

OPEN CAMP: July 31, Minnesota State, Mankato, Minn.

LAST YEAR: Continued the gradual progression under coach Brad Childress, from 6-10 to 8-8 to 10-6 and NFC North title. With inconsistent play at quarterback, relied heavily on All-Pro RB Adrian Peterson's emergence to move the chains. Jared Allen had 14 sacks in his first year in purple. Vikings finished first in rushing defense and sixth in total defense. QB Tarvaris Jackson performed very well in the final month of the regular season, but imploded in a 26-14 loss at home to Philadelphia in the opening round of the playoffs.

KEY CHANGES: Added: WR Percy Harvin, OT Phil Loadholt, perhaps QB Brett Favre. Lost: S Darren Sharper, C Matt Birk.

CAMP NEEDS: The Vikings have been in discussions with Favre about coming to Minnesota. Most expect him to be in camp when it opens July 31. If that is the case, Favre will have one month to forge chemistry with WRs Bernard Berrian, Bobby Wade, Sidney Rice and Harvin, and TE Visanthe Shiancoe. Vikings run nearly identical offense to what Favre ran in Green Bay for 17 years. Vikings will also have to get Loadholt, a rookie from Oklahoma, ready at RT, and figure out how best to use the versatile Harvin, first-round draft pick from Florida.

EXPECTATIONS: If Favre joins the team, the sky is the limit. With a powerful running game and a stout defense, the Vikings are thought to be only a quarterback away from a legitimate contender in NFC. If Favre, who will turn 40 during the season, can stay healthy and fill that hole, watch out.

CHICAGO BEARS (9-7)

OPEN CAMP: July 31, Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, Ill.

LAST YEAR: The Bears made a minor jump from bad to mediocre and missed the playoffs for the second straight year since the Super Bowl run. Rookie Matt Forte emerged as a top young running back, but poor execution on both sides ultimately did in Chicago. Receivers dropped too many passes, and Devin Hester looked lost at times with a bigger role on offense. Worse, he was also a non-factor on special teams after two record-setting seasons. The once-dominant defense ranked 21st overall and 30th against the pass, and coach Lovie Smith's cover-2 defense came under fire. It didn't help that knee problems dating to the previous season hobbled Tommie Harris, and Brian Urlacher has a history of neck and back problems.

KEY CHANGES: The Bears believe they have a franchise QB for the first time in decades after acquiring Jay Cutler from Denver. They also solidified their offensive line by signing seven-time Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Pace, along with veterans Kevin Shaffer and Frank Omiyale. They added LB Pisa Tinoisamoa, but the biggest change was on the sidelines: coach Lovie Smith is now calling the plays. The Bears also brought in Rod Marinelli to coach the defensive line and, they hope, restore the pass rush.

CAMP NEEDS: A wide receiver and a pass rush.

EXPECTATIONS: They're high - or are they mile high? - with the arrival of Cutler from Denver. A Pro Bowler who threw for 4,526 yards, 25 touchdowns with 18 interceptions, he got traded from Denver after a blowup with new coach Josh McDaniels. Although the tight ends are solid and Forte can catch, the Bears' wide receivers might test Cutler's patience. Chicago has just two on its roster with more than seven career receptions in Hester and Rashied Davis. Then again, will it matter who's catching the ball if the defense doesn't hold up?

GREEN BAY PACKERS (6-10)

OPEN CAMP: Aug. 1, St. Norbert College, De Pere, Wis.

LAST YEAR: Distracted by the Brett Favre unretirement saga in training camp and then depleted by several key injuries on defense, the Packers struggled after making it to the NFC title game the previous season.

KEY CHANGES: Green Bay fired nearly all of its defensive coaching staff and brought in new coordinator Dom Capers to engineer a switch from a 4-3 alignment to a 3-4 scheme. General manager Ted Thompson also reeled in a pair of first-round draft picks to bolster the defense, lineman B.J. Raji and outside linebacker Clay Matthews III.

CAMP NEEDS: The offensive line was a source of inconsistency last season as players shuffled positions to account for injuries. To find stability, they'll first need to find a replacement for longtime right tackle Mark Tauscher. QB Aaron Rodgers had a successful first season as a starter, but still has to prove he can pull out a victory in the final minutes. RB Ryan Grant must return to form and DE Aaron Kampman has to learn to play OLB in the 3-4.

EXPECTATIONS: Pressure is mounting on Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy to prove the 2007-08 NFC title game appearance wasn't a fluke. The Packers have the ingredients for a good offense, but will need their defense to come together quickly if they hope to contend in a division that has been bolstered by the arrival of Jay Cutler in Chicago, Matthew Stafford in Detroit - and, perhaps, Favre in Minnesota.

DETROIT LIONS (0-16)

OPEN CAMP: July 31, Allen Park, Mich.

LAST YEAR: Set dubious NFL record, finishing 0-16 and without Matt Millen in charge. Millen was fired as team president with an 0-3 record last season and a 31-84 mark over seven-plus seasons. Coach Rod Marinelli was fired with a 10-38 record over three seasons. The Lions started Daunte Culpepper just days after signing him in November and he was one of five QBs to take a snap. Millen's replacement, Martin Mayhew, made a shrewd move by dealing WR Roy Williams to Dallas for a first- and third-round pick. The team's sellout streak at Ford Field was snapped at 50 on Oct. 26, and there were blackouts on local TV for five of the last six home games as anger turned into apathy.

KEY CHANGES: Coach Jim Schwartz, QB Matthew Stafford, LB Larry Foote, LB Julian Peterson, CB Phillip Buchanon, CB Anthony Henry, S Louis Delmas, DT Grady Jackson, TE Brandon Pettigrew, WR Bryant Johnson, WR Dennis Northcutt, OT Jon Jansen, RB Maurice Morris all were added.

CAMP NEEDS: Stafford and Culpepper both need a lot of reps to let the coaches decide who will be No. 1 on Sept. 13 at New Orleans, where Detroit desperately hopes it can win for the first time since Dec. 23, 2007 - and for just the second time in 25 games. The OL, where Gosder Cherilus will try to hold off Jansen, has to come together. Foote's actions and words have to lead a new-look defense that gave up almost five TDs a game and was ahead of only the 1981 Baltimore Colts in points allowed in an NFL season. Schwartz's task: change a losing culture built up by a franchise with the worst eight-season stretch in the league since World War II and only one playoff win since 1957.

EXPECTATIONS: The Lions won't go through what they did last year even though it is tough to predict a game they're going to win before a bye in Week 7. Win or lose, WR Calvin Johnson is worth watching. Schwartz seems a good fit for the franchise, but Millen's mess wasn't created overnight and no one can possibly be asked to fix it in one season.

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NFC SOUTH

CAROLINA PANTHERS (12-4)

OPEN CAMP: Aug. 2, Wofford College, Spartanburg, S.C.

LAST YEAR: Used dominating running game of DeAngelo Williams (1,515 yards rushing, 18 TDs) and rookie Jonathan Stewart (836 yards, 10 TDs) to win NFC South before 33-13 playoff flameout vs. Arizona. Jake Delhomme had a solid return from reconstructive elbow surgery until he threw five interceptions and lost a fumble against Cardinals. Defense faltered late in the season despite DE Julius Peppers' 14 1/2 sacks.

KEY CHANGES: Coach John Fox has six new assistants, including defensive coordinator Ron Meeks, who replaces Mike Trgovac. Veteran CB Ken Lucas was released and will be replaced by Richard Marshall. Traded next year's first-round pick for extra second-rounder to take DE Everette Brown, who's expected to help anemic pass rush after Peppers. Fellow second-round pick Sherrod Martin may immediately become No. 3 CB.

CAMP NEEDS: Get Peppers up to speed with Meeks' system, and eliminate any hard feelings. Peppers skipped offseason workouts while saying he wanted to play elsewhere. He eventually signed one-year, $16.7 million tender under the franchise tag. His large salary-cap figure prevented Carolina from signing a single free agent, while Panthers lost several key backups, especially on OL. Delhomme, rewarded with a new contract, must recover from final game. Need to find KR and LS.

EXPECTATIONS: History hints the Panthers are in for a down year. They've never had consecutive winning seasons and face a brutal schedule that includes NFC East and AFC East. But running game, experienced OL and WR Steve Smith's explosiveness give Carolina a potent offense if Delhomme avoids mistakes. Defense, led by Peppers, LB Jon Beason and CB Chris Gamble, must improve for a repeat division title.

ATLANTA FALCONS (11-5)

OPEN CAMP: Aug. 1, Flowery Branch, Ga.

LAST YEAR: Rookie quarterback Matt Ryan started every game and free-agent addition Michael Turner rushed for 1,699 yards to lead the Falcons to a surprising playoff berth. John Abraham led the defense with 16 1/2 sacks. The Falcons lost at Arizona in the playoff opener as Ryan was intercepted twice, lost a fumble and was tackled for a safety.

KEY CHANGES: Signed LB Mike Peterson, but lost LBs Keith Brooking and Michael Boley, DT Grady Jackson, S Lawyer Milloy and CB Domonique Foxworth to free agency. The big move on offense was the trade with Kansas City for 10-time Pro Bowl TE Tony Gonzalez. Also added veteran offensive linemen Jeremy Newberry and Brett Romberg.

CAMP NEEDS: Second-year coach Mike Smith needs to work seven draft picks into the defense, including DT Peria Jerry, the first-rounder who should replace Jackson. Second-round pick William Moore may fill Milloy's spot at safety. Ryan must adjust to having a receiving threat at tight end.

EXPECTATIONS: Gonzalez joins Ryan, Turner and WR Roddy White to give the Falcons their most potent and balanced offense in recent years, but there are major questions on defense after five starters were lost to free agency. The schedule is tougher, but anything short of a return to the playoffs will be a disappointment.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (9-7)

OPEN CAMP: July 31, Tampa, Fla.

LAST YEAR: Fired coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen after one of the biggest collapses in NFL history cost the team a playoff berth. The plunge corresponded with the announcement longtime defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin would leave at end of the season to join his son, Lane, at the University of Tennessee. After a 9-3 start, the offense sputtered and the defense completely fell apart during four-game slide.

KEY CHANGES: Raheem Morris, 32, replaced Gruden, becoming the NFL's youngest head coach. Longtime personnel assistant Mark Dominik was promoted to GM. Youth movement began by not re-signing QB Jeff Garcia and releasing LBs Derrick Brooks and Cato June and WRs Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard. Morris scrapped the Tampa 2 defensive scheme the Bucs perfected over the past decade for a new system installed by incoming coordinator Jim Bates. Former Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski was hired to run the offense, which could be more productive with the offseason addition of TE Kellen Winslow and RB Derrick Ward.

CAMP NEEDS: Top priority is settling on a starting quarterback. After impressing the coaching staff during offseason drills, first-round draft pick Josh Freeman will be thrown into the mix with Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich. There figures to be plenty of attention, too, on the plan to move Jermaine Phillips from strong safety into Brooks' weakside linebacker spot.

EXPECTATIONS: Morris feels he inherited a playoff-caliber team that simply needs to find a way to play better late in the season. Uncertainty at quarterback, however, could translate into a long year unless Freeman is an instant hit or McCown and/or Leftwich perform better they have in the past.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (8-8)

OPEN CAMP: July 31, Metairie, La.

LAST YEAR: Coach Sean Payton's offense led the league in yards (410.7 per game) and scoring (28.9 points per game), while Drew Brees (5,069 yards passing) became the only quarterback other than Dan Marino in 1984 to pass for more than 5,000 yards. Yet the Saints were a .500 team and missed the playoffs for a second straight season because of a defense that ranked 23rd in yards allowed (339.5 per game) and 26th in points allowed (24.6).

KEY CHANGES: Replaced former defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs with Gregg Williams, overhauled the defensive backfield and increased depth at DE in case starting ends Will Smith and Charles Grant are forced to serve four-game suspensions relating to last year's positive tests for a banned diuretic. New defensive backs include first-round draft choice Malcolm Jenkins and free agent Jabari Greer at cornerback, along with veteran free agent safety Darren Sharper. The Saints also released veteran RB Deuce McAllister and CB Mike McKenzie, both hampered by multiple knee injuries.

CAMP NEEDS: The defense must get comfortable with a new scheme while new coordinator Williams must figure out a rotation among defensive backs. Williams also must have a vision for how the defensive line will look for the first four games if Smith and Grant are banned. Payton must decide if bulked-up RB Pierre Thomas is the answer to McAllister's departure, or whether another big back on the roster (Mike Bell, Lynell Hamilton or rookies Herb Donaldson or P.J. Hill) deserves a chance in the power running game.

EXPECTATIONS: The Saints' offensive numbers were so high last season because they often were trailing, requiring them to move downfield quickly. The Saints hope better defense allows for more balance and ball control on offense. They also hope TE Jeremy Shockey, hampered by injuries last year, will be a more reliable target for Brees.

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NFC WEST

ARIZONA CARDINALS (9-7)

OPEN CAMP: July 29, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Ariz.

LAST YEAR: Arizona, an NFL doormat for years, won the NFC West, then beat Atlanta, Carolina and Philadelphia in an improbable run to the Super Bowl, where the Cardinals lost a 27-23 thriller to the Steelers. The Cardinals rode the leadership and still-strong passing arm of ageless Kurt Warner and the phenomenal athleticism of wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston all surpassed 1,000 yards receiving. The worst running game in the NFL through the regular season gained some traction in the playoffs. The defense was uneven, and fell apart in the late Steelers drive to win the championship.

KEY CHANGES: Offensive coordinator Todd Haley left to become head coach in Kansas City and defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast was fired. Coach Ken Whisenhunt will call the plays and split offensive coordinator duties between Russ Grimm (run game) and Mike Miller (passing game). Bill Davis was promoted to defensive coordinator, a job he held with the 49ers in 2005 and 2006. The team released RB Edgerrin James and lost DE Antonio Smith to free agency. First-round draft pick Beanie Wells will split RB duties with second-year back Tim Hightower.

CAMP NEEDS: Will WR Anquan Boldin show up, and what will his attitude be if he does? Boldin wants a new contract, has asked to be traded, and didn't attend the team's voluntary summer workouts. He sat out minicamp with what he said was a sore hamstring. Wells has to make up for lost time after missing the summer workouts because his Ohio State class had yet to graduate. Davis will oversee what Cards hope will be an improved defense that includes new CB Bryant McFadden. There's a wide open battle at TE, but Ben Patrick, who caught a TD in the Super Bowl, will miss the first four games for a substance abuse violation.

EXPECTATIONS: The Cardinals' taste of the big-time makes them believe they can do it again. Much depends on the continued durability of the 38-year-old Warner, who is riding a string of 31 consecutive starts. For now, this is Warner's team. There's also the uncertainty with Boldin, and a big need for an improved running game, putting pressure on Wells to perform in a hurry. And Whisenhunt wants major improvement from the defense.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (7-9)

OPEN CAMP: Aug. 1, Santa Clara, Calif.

LAST YEAR: Finished their sixth consecutive losing season on a roll, winning five of their last seven under new coach Mike Singletary.

KEY CHANGES: Added WR Michael Crabtree, the 10th overall draft pick and the club's best young receiver in a half-decade; CB Dre' Bly, who replaces injured Walt Harris; OT Marvel Smith, DE Demetric Evans and WR Brandon Jones. Lost DT Ronald Fields, OL Jonas Jennings, QB J.T. O'Sullivan and WR Bryant Johnson.

CAMP NEEDS: Install a new offense and choose a starting QB - again. Alex Smith and Shaun Hill will compete for the job, and new coordinator Jimmy Raye claims he doesn't have a favorite. Smith, who has missed most of the last two seasons with injuries, will be suiting up for his fifth coordinator in five NFL seasons.

EXPECTATIONS: Niners have emerged as a dark-horse playoff pick with their solid late-season defense and Singletary's charismatic leadership, but big warning signs loom. Singletary is a neophyte coach, the offensive scheme is changing yet again from Mike Martz to Raye, and San Francisco made only one real change apiece on both of the inconsistent lines.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (4-12)

OPEN CAMP: July 31, Renton, Wash.

LAST YEAR: An epidemic of injuries on offense and the defense crumbling led to Seattle's worst season since 1992 - hardly a triumphant exit for coach Mike Holmgren. Three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck missed the majority of the season with a lower back injury; linchpin left tackle Walter Jones played hurt before finally having major knee surgery; and injuries to seven WRs led to guys getting signed off couches and streets. No wonder Arizona ended the Seahawks' streak of four consecutive NFC West titles.

KEY CHANGES: Live wire Jim Mora, hired as Holmgren's successor before last season, gets his second shot as a head coach after Atlanta fired him following the 2006 season. He and his almost entirely new staff have already jolted the Seahawks with fast-paced practices and energy. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, signed as the top free agent wide receiver from Cincinnati, arrives to replace dependable Bobby Engram, now in Kansas City. Fourth overall draft pick Aaron Curry becomes the starter at outside linebacker with Pro Bowler Julian Peterson traded to Detroit. CB Ken Lucas returns from Carolina to provide more size and experience opposite star Marcus Trufant.

CAMP NEEDS: New coordinator Greg Knapp needs to change the pass-first mentality Seattle had under Holmgren for 11 seasons as he installs a pounding running game. It would help to find a blocker to replace FB Leonard Weaver, who signed with Philadelphia. Hasselbeck, who turns 34 in September, must prove his back really is as healthy as he says while coming off his worst season since he became Seattle's starter in 2001. The 35-year-old Jones must prove he is recovered from microfracture surgery and is still an elite LT. WR Deion Branch must show he's healthy from two knee surgeries. And the defense needs to find guys who can rush the passer and cover receivers.

EXPECTATIONS: A lot of running, sweating and gassed veterans wishing Holmgren was still running camp. Mora promises a far more intense summer. The Seahawks expect to emerge from these five weeks with a new, more rugged mentality on offense and defense, plus a budding star in Curry. They also expect to begin proving last year was an aberration in the division.

ST. LOUIS RAMS (2-14)

OPEN CAMP: July 31, St. Louis.

LAST YEAR: An 0-4 start got Scott Linehan fired and Steven Jackson's injury helped torpedo interim coach Jim Haslett's chances in a season-ending 10-game losing streak that gave franchise the second overall draft pick for second straight season, plus a housecleaning.

KEY CHANGES: Steve Spagnuolo gets first NFL head coaching job after successful stint as defensive coordinator with Giants' Super Bowl champs. Billy Devaney enters first season as GM in revamped leadership. Center Jason Brown was major free agent addition, expected to solidify line along with tackle Jason Smith, No. 2 overall pick of the draft. Kyle Boller is new backup QB. Undersized LB Pisa Tinoisamoa was released despite leading team in tackles.

CAMP NEEDS: Develop backup RB behind Jackson on offense that averaged 14.5 points, tied for 31st; fast-track learning curve for Smith and rookie LB James Laurinaitis, who both should be immediate starters.

EXPECTATIONS: Rams have won only five games last two years, but should get an immediate boost from the overhaul and a fresh perspective. How much of a boost depends largely on health of Jackson, QB Marc Bulger.

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