As all 32 teams report to training camp, the NFL season is finally live. The remaining position battles will be resolved in the coming days and the last free agency wave will happen before the games kick off in September.
Even though most teams start training camp with a detailed plan of what to do in preparation for the upcoming regular season, a full month of practices can change a lot of things. Starting jobs can be stolen, injuries can alter the course of a season and the ascension of younger players may come at a veteran's expense.
The main point is that a lot of unexpected things can happen once teams gather for training camp. Check out our predictions for 5 surprises to expect during camp.
#1 - Mac Jones to win quarterback battle against Cam Newton
It's an open competition in New England and the best player will start week 1. Most bets were placed on Newton, but the good signs Jones showed during minicamp gave him a fair shot to win the battle in August, especially if Newton can't improve on his performances from last season.
It doesn't matter that Jones is a rookie. Right now, he's the better player, considering what he presented at Alabama. While his upside is not as high as the other 4 first-round quarterbacks, his floor is already good enough to lead New England into a surprising postseason run.
#2 - K. J. Wright to sign for a Super Bowl contender
This one might indeed surprise a few people. But Wright is coming off one of the best seasons of his career and he'd represent an upgrade as the SAM linebacker for at least half of the NFL. Yes, he's not young anymore. But Wright is a solid player who certainly would not demand much money as a 32-year old linebacker.
He was never the most athletic player on the field, but he made up for it with incredible technique and intelligence. Looking through these lenses, his physical decline wouldn't be a major problem in 2021. Any team who's serious about competing for the Super Bowl should give Wright a call before he signs with any other team during training camp.
#3 - Zach Ertz to remain with the Philadelphia Eagles
It's Dallas Goedert's time for the Eagles. Ertz and the organization both know his time is up and the best thing for both parties is to move on, whether through a trade or a release.
However, Ertz will report to training camp and his agents will try to find a solution with Howie Roseman. If the Eagles feel like they can coup a draft pick for the tight end and hold onto him, don't discard the possibility of the veteran playing for Philadelphia in week 1.
#4 - Trey Lance steals the starting job from Jimmy Garoppolo
Yes, Shanahan said that there's no open competition and Garoppolo is definitely the starter for the first week. But Lance is so much more talented that, once the coach sees it live in camp, it will be impossible for him not to wonder what's the ceiling of his offense with a better quarterback.
Even though Garoppolo took the 49ers to the Super Bowl two seasons ago, he's simply not reliable. Lance has a real shot at stealing the job even if Shanahan says there's no competition.
#5 - Drew Lock keeps his starting job
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With Teddy Bridgewater now on the roster, most of the signs point to the veteran winning the starting battle in camp because of his consistency.
But Lock is still the player with the biggest upside, and Bridgewater certainly won't take the Broncos far, let alone a Super Bowl. Even with all his flaws, Lock keeping his job would give Denver the best shot at surprising inside the AFC West and reaching the playoffs.