NFL Training Camp: Six Key Questions as Pre-season Begins

Philadelphia Eagles players kiss the Lombardi Trophy after defeating the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots, 41-33. Patrick Smith/Getty Images

After a long wait, football is back. Five months and three weeks on since the Philadelphia Eagles triumphed in Super Bowl LII, the NFL is again open for business, with 30 of the league's 32 teams reporting for the first day of training camp.

A flurry of big free agency moves and trades characterized the off-season, while a new crop of rookies will be eager to show what they are made of.

Here's six talking points as the NFL goes back to work.

Can the Eagles repeat themselves?

For the first time in their history, the Philadelphia Eagles begin the season as defending champions after winning Super Bowl LII. The Eagles thrived in the underdog role last season and how they will cope this season remains anyone's guess.

Michael Bennett is a shrewd off-season addition to an already talented defensive line and Carson Wentz will return from knee reconstruction to challenge Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles.

Can the Eagles do it again? According to Odds Shark, they certainly have a chance. The Eagles are second-favorite to win Super Bowl LIII with 17-2 odds.

Anthem controversy

Political controversy is now as common in the NFL as fans eating hotdogs in the stands. Earlier this month, the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) filed an official grievance over the league's new anthem policy, which stated players would have to either stand on the sideline during the national anthem or wait in the locker room.

However, in a joint statement released Thursday, the NFL and the NFLPA struck a more conciliatory tone, indicating they had discussed the issue in recent weeks and were working on a solution.

Protests against social and racial injustice during the national anthem will continue, as will the controversy around it and President Donald Trump's tweets on the topic will keep coming.

A new dawn in Cleveland?

Last season the Browns became only the second team in NFL's history to go 0-16, sharing the unwanted feat with the 2008 Detroit Lions.

However, the sense of doom has been replaced by a feeling of mild optimism. The Browns have added Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward in the draft—the number one and four pick respectively—and new general manager John Dorsey has welcomed a host of new players.

New signing Tyrod Taylor will start ahead of Mayfield as quarterback, safety Damarious Randall, offensive lineman Chris Hubbard, wide receiver Jarvis Landry, cornerback T.J. Carrier and running back Carlos Hyde will all wear Browns uniforms this season.

Cleveland's fortunes might finally be looking up.

New kids on the block

Speaking of Mayfield and Ward, they are just two of the rookies to keep an eye on this season. However, while number two overall pick Saquon Barkley could make an immediate impact with the New York Giants, neither of the two Browns picks are guaranteed a place in the starting line-up.

Similarly, Sam Darnold, Josh Rozen Nelson and Josh Allen—the other three quarterbacks among the top-10 draft picks—might have to bide their time.

Conversely, Denver pass rusher Bradley Chubb and Miami defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick could find themselves thrown in at the deep end from the start and the same applies to Bears linebacker Roquan Smith and Tampa Bay defensive tackle Vita Vea.

Saquon Barkley of Penn State poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #2 overall by the New York Giants during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. Tom Pennington/Getty Images

What will the Patriots do?

If the Patriots hoped for a quiet off-season to sweep February's Super Bowl debacle under the carpet, they got anything but. Doubts over the future of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski rumbled on for months, with the duo declining to publicly commit to play this season and then opting not to attend voluntary workouts.

Add to that Brady's comments over his relationship with coach Bill Belichick and the departures of Malcolm Butler, Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, Dion Lewis and Nate Solder and it all makes for a turbulent few months.

Few would bet against Belichick and Brady to rally one last time but at the same time it is legitimate to wonder how long the Pats' dynasty can keep going.

Will the free agents prove their worth?

Some major moves were expected in the off-season and there was no shortage of blockbuster signings. Kirk Cousins agreed a three-year deal with the Vikings worth $84, while Case Keenum and Sam Bradford waved goodbye to Minnesota and joined the Broncos and the Cardinals respectively.

While Cousins will be tasked with taking the Vikings to the Super Bowl after they fell at the last hurdle last season, his predecessors in Minnesota face just as difficult a task in turning Denver and Arizona into competitive teams.

Elsewhere, Drew Brees agreed a $50 million, two-year extension with the Saints, while the Rams will hope new signing Ndamukong Suh will help them shore up their defensive line.