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Veterans report to NFL training camps as early as Saturday, and by the week’s end every team will be back to the business of football.
XN Sports will be previewing each division prior to the start of training camp to give the major storylines for each of the 32 NFL teams as they begin their camps.
Here’s the XN Sports Training Camp Primer for the NFC West:
Will Logan Thomas have a role? Quarterback guru Bruce Arians took a chance on the former Virginia Tech standout, but my gut tells me Thomas will have a specific set of players designed for him as a rookie.
How does Larry Fitzgerald look in the slot? Fitz is going to move inside, much like Reggie Wayne did when Arians was in Indianapolis. What effect does that have on Fitzgerald and the growth of Michael Floyd?
Is Andre Ellington ready to be the main back? Rashard Mendenhall abruptly retired, leaving the more explosive Ellington to be the starter. Ellington can certainly be a dynamic pass-catcher out of the backfield.
What does Antonio Cromartie have left? Cro is coming off a poor season with the Jets, but now he’s back to being the No. 2 guy opposite Patrick Peterson. Will that allow Cromartie to re-discover his form.
Who can step up at linebacker? Darryl Washington is suspended and Karlos Dansby is in Cleveland, leaving Larry Foote and Kevin Minter as the two starters. Foote is on the downside of his career, while Minter is an unproven talent.
San Francisco 49ers
What will Stevie Johnson’s role be? Johnson was acquired from Buffalo, giving the Niners a strong three-deep at wide receiver. Will he slide into the slot? And what does this mean for Jonathan Baldwin and Quinton Patton?
Is this the year Frank Gore begins to decline? Gore has defied age by churning out 1,000-yard campaigns year after year after year. However, with Kendall Hunter, rookie Carlos Hyde and a healthy Marcus Lattimore in the fold, Gore may be poised for a reduced role.
Who replaces NaVorro Bowman? Michael Wilhoite is penciled in as the starter on the depth chart, but there are whispers the 49ers drafted Chris Borland for this reason. Regardless, it’s hard to replace the production from Bowman, arguably the NFL’s best linebacker.
How is the new secondary looking? Chris Culliver and Tramaine Brock are now starters, while Antoine Bethea comes in from the Colts to replace Donte Whitner. Eric Reid is the only starter from a season ago.
What is Percy Harvin‘s role? He didn’t take the field much in his first year in Seattle, but he had an impact every time he did. How will Pete Carroll uses the ultra-dangerous Harvin now that he’s healthy?
Will Christine Michael bite into Marshawn Lynch‘s workload? All offseason there have been rumors speculating that Lynch is primed for a reduced number of touches, and it’s the second-year back Michael that’ll be the benefactor. How will this timeshare play out?
Is Byron Maxwell ready to be a starting corner? Maxwell thrived in 2013, despite playing in the shadow of Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas III. With Brandon Browner now in New England, Maxwell should draw plenty of attention.
How is Kam Chancellor progressing? Carroll said Chancellor is ahead of schedule in his recovery from hip surgery, but don’t expect the Seahawks to rush him back. He’s too valuable to risk injury.
Which rookie winds up being a star? Seattle tends to draft a gem annually, but it traded out of the first round in 2014. Among the candidates to break out or take on a major role this season are wide receiver Paul Richardson, tackle Justin Britt, defensive end Cassius Marsh and linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis.
St. Louis Rams
Will Michael Sam make the 53-man roster? After his ESPYs speech, we certainly hope and believe so. The co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year is behind one of the best pass-rushers in the game in Robert Quinn, but should have a chance to contribute on special teams.
How does Aaron Donald look? One of the Rams’ first-round picks, Donald joins arguably the NFL’s best front four. He’ll have a chance to succeed playing alongside Quinn, Chris Long and Michael Brockers.
Is Sam Bradford healthy? All eyes will be glued to Bradford entering a major make-or-break season. He suffered an ACL tear last year, but given the fact the team didn’t draft Johnny Manziel, they’re putting all of its eggs in the Bradford basket.
Which wide receiver will emerge for Bradford? Last year’s first-rounder, Tavon Austin, came on strong down the stretch of the 2013 season. And among Stedman Bailey, Chris Givens, Austin Pettis, Brian Quick and the veteran Kenny Britt, someone needs to step up.
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