Answering biggest AFC North questions: Is it there for Baker's taking? Can Big Ben revive Steelers?

Woody: Pittsburgh finally has locker room under control (1:07)

Damien Woody says one of the major storylines in the AFC North is how quiet things have been for the Steelers. (1:07)

It might seem that summer just got into full swing, but we are a few weeks from the start of NFL training camps and only 2½ months from the 2019 season.

NFL Nation is setting up the biggest storylines for each division. Here's what to look for in the AFC North.

More questions: NFC East | AFC East | NFC West | AFC West | NFC South | AFC South | NFC North

AFC North

Will Lamar Jackson develop into an effective passing quarterback in Year 2?

No one can predict this with any certainty right now. What the Ravens know is they've done all they can to help him become one. Baltimore promoted Greg Roman to offensive coordinator because of his previous success with mobile quarterbacks and used three of its first four draft picks on offensive skill position players (wide receivers Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin along with running back Justice Hill). The Ravens have upgraded the speed around Jackson, which should help his efficiency. Short passes can turn into big gains. For Jackson to establish himself as an effective passer, he needs to come through when defenses know he's going to throw the ball. On third downs, Jackson ranked No. 31 in passer rating (76.0) and No. 32 in completion rate (55.1 percent) last season. It's just difficult to make projections for Jackson. During last year's training camp, Jackson didn't look ready to start in the NFL. A few months later, he's leading the Ravens to their first AFC North title in six years. Baltimore won't know the strides Jackson has made as a passer until the games begin. -- Jamison Hensley

What's more likely: This is the beginning of the end for Andy Dalton, or it's the start of a career revival under Zac Taylor?

The Bengals have long stood by Dalton and said he's the guy they want leading the team, but they haven't had much to show for it with no playoff wins, and the window with A.J. Green in his prime starting to close. There's more pressure than ever for Dalton to perform under a new head coach, although it certainly doesn't hurt that Taylor has a quarterback background. If anyone can get Dalton to maximize his potential, it's probably Taylor. However, it seems unlikely that Dalton will see another contract in Cincinnati, even if he performs to the best of his ability. In that situation, he could price himself out of Cincinnati. And if he doesn't perform, the team might go with another option anyway. The Bengals have been able to build around him with a team-friendly deal, but it seems unlikely that they would elect to pay him the market rate for quarterbacks over drafting a younger, cheaper alternative. Dalton still has the ability to take that next step, but it's not certain he's the quarterback in Cincinnati after the 2021 season. -- Katherine Terrell

Are the Browns primed to take over atop the AFC North?

Yes, indeed. There is a constant sense of fatalism surrounding the Browns, deeply and collectively shared among the fan base after so much losing. But Cleveland's window of opportunity in the AFC North has finally arrived. The Steelers no longer have wideout Antonio Brown or running back Le'Veon Bell. The Bengals have a new coach after losing seven of their final eight games to end last season. And the Ravens have had to overhaul their depth chart. The Browns, meanwhile, have upgraded their talent in a big way this offseason. General manager John Dorsey added Pro Bowl wideout Odell Beckham Jr., defensive end Olivier Vernon and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson to a roster loaded with potential future stars, such as cornerback Denzel Ward and defensive end Myles Garrett. Factor in the development of quarterback Baker Mayfield, who dazzled as a rookie, and the Browns are primed to make their run and finally take the division crown. -- Jake Trotter

Will the last remaining Killer B, Ben Roethlisberger, put the drama behind him and restore the Steelers back among the AFC's elite?

Yes, but not solely based on resurgence from the quarterback. Sure, Roethlisberger will find a way to stay productive without Antonio Brown -- he's better than most at spreading the ball around -- but the division doesn't feature a clear-cut favorite. The Browns got better but still have holes in several spots, including offensive line, and it's uncertain how they respond if they start slowly. Defenses will be more prepared for the run-heavy Ravens offense. The Steelers, meanwhile, will miss Brown but will try to replace him with cohesion and a balanced attack. The stage is set for Roethlisberger to have one of his best seasons. The team has publicly supported him, the offense is built around him, and he has at least nine viable pass-catching options. The defense features enough new pieces to show improvement, so Roethlisberger doesn't have to do it all. Several players reveled in a drama-free environment during minicamp. Guard David DeCastro called it more "team-oriented." All of that hardly guarantees 12 wins. But nine or 10 of them might just clinch the division, and the Steelers can rely on pedigree -- and Roethlisberger's arm -- to make it happen. "We're still the Pittsburgh Steelers," Roethlisberger said about the perceived underdog role in 2019. -- Jeremy Fowler

NFC North

Will the Bears' defense take a step back under new coordinator Chuck Pagano?

Pagano is a respected defensive mind, but Chicago's defense was so dominant last season that it's only natural to expect some slight regression. As a team defense, the Bears ranked first in the NFL in total takeaways (36), interceptions (27), interceptions returned for touchdowns (five), lowest opponent passer rating (72.9), rushing touchdowns (six), fewest rushing yards allowed per game (80.0) and fewest points per game allowed (17.7). Chicago became the first defense since the 2006 Baltimore Ravens to accumulate 45-plus sacks and 25-plus interceptions in a season. That's heavy stuff. Many have attempted to gloss over the loss of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who left to coach the Denver Broncos in the offseason. But Fangio had Bears defenders playing at an optimum level. The system will change under Pagano. Chicago has the good fortune of having a roster stacked with quality defensive players, but asking the group to duplicate that kind of success in 2019 is awfully ambitious. -- Jeff Dickerson

What does Matt Patricia have to do in Year 2 to show that he has the Lions on the right path?

The simple answer here is he has to win more than the six games he won in his first season with the Lions. But it goes deeper than wins and losses. Patricia has been open about needing to shift the culture within the organization, and he has a half-century of futility and coaches with every experience level and attitude who came in and failed before him as a barrier. That is going to take some time. If Patricia can push the Lions to .500 or above and make the playoffs, it would be a sign of progress and that his message is resonating with players. Playing better in November and December than at the beginning of the season would be another sign that the buy-in has taken place and that this thing can work. But if it craters in Year 2 or no improvement is shown, Patricia's status in Detroit could become a major question extremely fast. A division title or playoff win, and Patricia's horrific 2018 will become a memory. -- Michael Rothstein

After the way Aaron Rodgers struggled last season, is there reason to think his best days are behind him at age 35?

Probably not. That's because his issues last season didn't appear to be physical. It's not like his legs failed him, and he certainly hasn't lost anything off his fastball. If those things had shown up, then it would be a concern. But last season's issues -- and let's not forget, we're talking about a guy who threw 25 touchdowns and only two interceptions -- seemed more mental. It's didn't look like he trusted his receivers. It didn't look like he believed in what the Packers were doing on offense. It certainly didn't look like he was having much fun. Will all of that change with new coach Matt LaFleur and a new offense? Most expect that things will be different for Rodgers this season. There also was the injury factor. He hurt his left knee/leg in the opener and wore a brace for a good portion of the season. He later revealed that he not only sprained his knee but also had a fracture in his leg. -- Rob Demovsky

What will it take from the offense for the Vikings to make a deep playoff push in 2019?

Kirk Cousins' astronomical statistics are great for fantasy football, but if they don't translate to wins in 2019, he might be on borrowed time in Minnesota. Cousins was very blunt this offseason about his reality as a .500 quarterback. Taking his game to the "next level" means being the reason behind Minnesota winning games. A year ago, a fumble or interception might have been the deciding factor in a loss. Cousins has two 1,000-yard receivers in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, but this offense needs to find another weapon in the passing game to open things up when those two are on the receiving end of double-teams, like they were throughout much of the second half of last season. That's where the No. 3 receiver battle in training camp will get interesting, along with the use of multiple tight-end sets with Kyle Rudolph and rookie Irv Smith Jr. That could help create a less predictable passing attack. The biggest area that Cousins thought was lacking from his game in 2018 was the amount of explosive plays. Minnesota was tied for 20th last year in passes that traveled more than 20 yards and struggled to rip off big runs with an injured Dalvin Cook and a porous offensive line. The Vikings have addressed both of those areas by upgrading the OL and drafting Alexander Mattison to serve as a complementary piece for Cook, taking them a step closer to contending for a playoff run in 2019. -- Courtney Cronin

AFC South

Will the Indianapolis Colts regret not being more active in free agency?

It shouldn't be a surprise that the Colts signed only three players from outside the organization -- receiver Devin Funchess, defensive lineman Justin Houston and running back Spencer Ware -- during free agency. General manager Chris Ballard has repeatedly said his vision is about long-term success, not by signing a bunch of free agents from the outside with the hope that they'll be able to plug a bunch of holes on the roster. It's about the draft for the Colts. Ballard isn't against free agency. He's just selective in how much he uses free agency, and he has a price limit he isn't willing to surpass on players when going that route. The Colts return 21 of 22 starters from last season's team that reached the divisional round of the playoffs. The Colts used seven of their 10 draft picks on defensive players, proving once again that the objective remains the same: Build through the draft and retain key players. -- Mike Wells

Can Deshaun Watson make the adjustments necessary to become an elite quarterback?

There's no telling how good the Texans' franchise quarterback could be if he consistently had time to throw. Watson was sacked 62 times last season and his average time to throw was 3.01 seconds, which ranked third slowest among passer-rating-qualified passers, so it wasn't all the offensive line's fault. But even so, the line has room for improvement. The good news for Watson is that he's due to have more help in 2019. The Texans are expected to have wide receivers Will Fuller and Keke Coutee for the season opener, they add DeAndre Hopkins, and they should have a talented group of receivers. Coutee made an impact in the six games he played last season, and if he can stay healthy, having a consistent slot receiver could help Watson get rid of the ball quicker. At the end of the Texans' spring workouts, coach Bill O'Brien said he believed Watson's grasp of the offense is "light-years" of where it was even a year ago. Watson certainly has the pieces around him to take a step forward. -- Sarah Barshop

Can quarterback Nick Foles duplicate his Philly success and complement Leonard Fournette and the Jaguars' running game?

Foles started 13 games (including playoffs) in his two seasons with the Eagles and completed 67.1% of his passes for 3,290 yards and 21 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. Those aren't eye-popping numbers, and they look a lot like Blake Bortles' stats in 2017 (3,687 yards, 21 TDs, 13 INTs), but Foles is more accurate and consistent than Bortles, and that's a big upgrade. Foles was surrounded by playmakers in Philly -- Darren Sproles, Nelson Agholor, Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery and Trey Burton -- and he doesn't quite have that arsenal with the Jaguars. Still, the Jags believe Foles can elevate an average group of receivers, make the tight end position relevant again and take care of the football enough to keep the offense from being one-dimensional with Fournette and the running game. The biggest thing the Jaguars want Foles to duplicate from his time in Philly? His record as a starter: 10-3, including 4-1 in the postseason. -- Michael DiRocco

Do the Titans have enough offensive firepower to win the division?

The Titans' offense should be better after adding receivers Adam Humphries and A.J. Brown and guard Rodger Saffold to a group that already has receiver Corey Davis, tight end Delanie Walker and running back Derrick Henry. Their offense should now be capable of keeping pace with the Texans and Colts. Humphries gives Tennessee a reliable veteran wideout who will keep drives alive and help quarterback Marcus Mariota establish rhythm in the passing game. An efficient passing game that complements the rushing attack can help the Titans play keep-away from the Texans' and Colts' offenses, which can help an already good Tennessee defense shut down its AFC South opponents. -- Turron Davenport

NFC South

Winston, Newton among NFC South's biggest storylines

Victor Cruz, Mike Tannenbaum and Josina Anderson address the biggest storylines in the NFC South, including Jameis Winston's make-or-break season and Cam Newton's recovery.

Can the New Orleans Saints revive their passing offense?

Quarterback Drew Brees had a season for the ages last year at age 39 -- up until Thanksgiving, anyway. He was the MVP front-runner through his first 11 games, when he averaged 285 yards per game, with 29 touchdowns, two interceptions and an astounding passer rating of 127.3. But he and the Saints' passing offense began to crater in December, particularly when it came to getting the ball down the field. Brees averaged just 234.5 yards over his final six starts, with seven TDs and five interceptions, including the playoffs, which ended with his overtime interception against the Rams in the NFC Championship Game. Part of the problem was a banged-up offensive line. A bigger issue was New Orleans' lack of reliable pass-catchers (Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara were the only two Saints with more than 35 catches last season). Adding free-agent tight end Jared Cook should help, as should getting Ted Ginn Jr. back healthy and getting more development from New Orleans' young backup receivers. -- Mike Triplett

Can Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton's throwing shoulder hold up after his second surgery in three offseasons?

So far, so good on the rehab of Newton's shoulder. He threw some at the June minicamp and might be slightly ahead of schedule. Team officials insist the cleanup of scar tissue from Newton's shoulder he underwent in January was a minor procedure and that the 2015 NFL MVP should be ready for the season. But remember, Newton came into 2018 feeling better than he has in years. He had the Panthers off to a 6-2 start before the shoulder became an issue, forcing him to miss a lot of throwing in practice. Carolina lost seven straight, and Newton was shut down for the final two games. He insists he'll always be a running quarterback, so he'll continue to take more hits than most. To be successful, Newton must make it the entire season without a setback. His backups are unproven, and as Newton goes, so go the Panthers. -- David Newton

Can the Atlanta Falcons be as dominant on offense with coordinator Dirk Koetter as they were during the 2016 Super Bowl run, when they averaged 33.8 points per game?

The Falcons have all the tools to be explosive on offense, with 2016 MVP Matt Ryan at quarterback, arguably the most dangerous receiver in the league in Julio Jones, plus a shifty running back in Devonta Freeman. Throw in receivers Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu along with Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper and that makes for a rather intimidating crew. Ryan's familiarity with Koetter, who is back for his second stint as offensive coordinator, should help the offense flow a little better than last season. Having Mike Mularkey as the tight-ends coach, with his history for taking a smash-mouth approach, should be an asset in short-yardage, goal-line situations. If Jones and Freeman, who have dealt with nagging injuries over their careers, remain healthy, and if the rebuilt offensive line, with rookie first-rounders Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary, stands strong, the Falcons should push for 30 points per game. Then the question becomes, will Dan Quinn's defense keep opposing offenses out of the end zone? -- Vaughn McClure

Can the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quickly become contenders under head coach Bruce Arians?

Bruce Arians led the Indianapolis Colts to a 9-3 record and the playoffs as interim head coach while Chuck Pagano was undergoing cancer treatment. He led the Arizona Cardinals to two playoff berths in four seasons. Can he infuse the same winning mentality for a Bucs team that has had two winning seasons over the past 10, hasn't been to the playoffs since 2007 and hasn't won a playoff game since 2002? Further, can he turn Jameis Winston into an NFL winner like the quarterback was at Florida State? While teams such as the Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and New York Giants have essentially cleaned house and started over in recent years, the Bucs believe Arians can orchestrate a quick turnaround. He said the day he was officially hired, "We aren't rebuilding. We're reloading." -- Jenna Laine

AFC West

Murray, Cardinals headline top NFC West storylines

Dianna Russini, Jeff Saturday and Tim Hasselbeck break down the biggest storylines in the NFC West, including question marks surrounding Kyler Murray and the Cardinals.

Will the Denver Broncos' offseason moves be enough to end a three-year slide?

Yes, if their three biggest moves work out the way the Broncos hope. First, Vic Fangio, who waited more than three decades as an NFL assistant coach to get his first head-coaching job, has to be up to the challenge. Fangio's no-nonsense, tell-you-straight style won over players early. It included an old-school team-bonding "Field Day" carnival to end offseason workouts. But now it's about game-day management and handling the day-to-day of the regular season. Second, quarterback Joe Flacco, 34, has to have as much left in the career tank as the Broncos believe he does. The Broncos need the former Super Bowl MVP to push the ball down the field and give the offense some much-needed big-play pop. Third, offensive line coach Mike Munchak, who also interviewed for the job Fangio got, has to settle down a unit that has simply struggled to find any sort of continuity since before Peyton Manning retired. -- Jeff Legwold

Will defensive changes get the Kansas City Chiefs to a Super Bowl 50 years after their last one?

The important thing to remember about the Chiefs' defense in 2019 is they won't have to be perfect or great in order to help Kansas City to a championship. The Chiefs merely need to be better than they were last year. That's not an unreasonable expectation after they hired veteran coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to lead a new defensive coaching staff, switched their base system to a 4-3 and acquired as many as seven new starters, including end Frank Clark and safety Tyrann Mathieu. While the Chiefs won't be dominant defensively, they'll be improved. It's difficult to picture the Chiefs in 2019 losing five games in which they scored 40, 51, 28, 31 and 31 points, as they did last year -- including the AFC Championship Game. That overtime loss to the New England Patriots kept them from returning to the big game for the first time since Super Bowl IV. -- Adam Teicher

Can the Los Angeles Chargers ride Melvin Gordon to a championship?

That's the plan. Even though the Chargers were 4-0 in games Gordon missed last season, the Bolts' offense is more dangerous when the Wisconsin product is the engine driving it. Gordon limped through the playoffs last season because of two balky knees. Chargers coach Anthony Lynn likes to lean on the running game and said he will limit Gordon's touches in the preseason and during the regular season with the hope that Gordon is more fresh at the end of year. Gordon, who averaged a career-high 5.1 yards per carry last season, said he worked this offseason on becoming a faster and more explosive runner. Like Natrone Means during the team's lone Super Bowl run in 1994, the Bolts are banking on Gordon's violent running style leading them back to the title game 25 years later. "I want to be an all-around back," Gordon said. "I say it every year. Even the things I'm good at, I want to be great. Things I'm average at, I want to be great. That's just who I am. I just want to keep working, keep grinding and just be the best running back out there." -- Eric D. Williams

Antonio Brown and Derek Carr have become "besties" this offseason, but how will their relationship endure if the Oakland Raiders get off to a slow start and Brown is not getting as many targets as he would like?

Brown, whose ugly exit from Pittsburgh has been well-documented, has done and said all the right things upon his Oakland arrival, from his legendary work ethic to his preternatural ability to get open and catch the ball. But the Raiders have the toughest schedule in the NFL, exacerbated by a brutal start that sees them play their first two games at home and then not play in Oakland again until Nov. 3. With so many new pieces, especially on defense, a 1-6 start (four of the Raiders' first seven opponents were in the playoffs last season) would not be shocking. And Brown is used to getting the ball, as evidenced by his having averaged more than 11.3 targets per game since 2014. Jordy Nelson, Carr's top target at wideout last season, averaged just under 5.9 targets per game. Brown came to Oakland to win and be productive, not that those two things are mutually exclusive. But if the Raiders are getting clobbered early and Brown is getting the Nelson treatment, the honeymoon will be over in short order. -- Paul Gutierrez

NFC West

Who will rule the NFC East?

The Live crew debates whether the Cowboys or the Eagles will win the NFC East.

Will the Kliff Kingsbury-Kyler Murray experiment work for the Arizona Cardinals?

Will it? We won't know for months. Can it? Absolutely. This is a rare match. Kingsbury -- the Cardinals' first-year coach -- recruited Murray -- the Cardinals' rookie quarterback -- out of high school seven years ago and they were finally paired together in April when the team took Murray with the No. 1 overall pick. Murray has run a version of Kingsbury's Air Raid since the eighth grade. They talk all the time. Each understands what the other is trying to do. Kingsbury knows how to handle young players possibly better than anyone in the NFL, having spent the past six years as the head coach at Texas Tech. Sure, Kingsbury's offense could've worked with someone else running it, but there may not have been a better fit from a personality and history perspective than Murray. -- Josh Weinfuss

Will Todd Gurley's uncertainty and health keep the Los Angeles Rams from another Super Bowl?

With a roster that returns two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and each skill position starter, including receiver Cooper Kupp, who is coming off a season-ending knee injury, the Rams are in position to appear again in the Super Bowl. However, uncertainty looms over the health of running back Todd Gurley's left knee and whether it will allow him to contribute at the volume with which he has contributed over the past two seasons. The offense, which produced 32.9 points per game last season, also must adapt to two first-time starters on the line in center Brian Allen and left guard Joe Noteboom. The defense received a boost by adding veteran pass-rusher Clay Matthews and safety Eric Weddle, but inexperienced players -- Greg Gaines and Micah Kiser -- will be expected to step up at nose tackle and inside linebacker, respectively, after the departures of Ndamukong Suh and Mark Barron. -- Lindsey Thiry

Can Jimmy Garoppolo bounce back from a torn ACL and emerge as the franchise quarterback the San Francisco 49ers believe he can be?

The 49ers have been unwavering in their belief in Garoppolo since he led them to five straight victories to close the 2017 season. They paid him like a franchise quarterback and went into last season with outsized expectations despite a 6-10 record the year before. The question with Garoppolo isn't talent so much as it is durability. Garoppolo played just two-plus games in 2018 before a knee injury ended his season. This offseason, the Niners put many of their resources into the defense, but did spend two Day 2 picks on receivers and signed running back Tevin Coleman. There's plenty of potential on the roster offensively, but Garoppolo is the man charged with making it all work. It starts with staying healthy. If Garoppolo can play all 16 games in coach Kyle Shanahan's offense, there's reason to believe he can establish himself as the organizational centerpiece the team believes he is. -- Nick Wagoner

Can Russell Wilson top his ultra-efficient 2018 for the Seattle Seahawks?

Last season may have been Wilson's best, considering he set a career high in touchdown passes with 35 and tied his career low with seven interceptions. It was undoubtedly his most efficient season, given that Wilson did that on his fewest passing attempts (427) since 2013. But the departure of his longtime No. 1 target, Doug Baldwin, leaves Tyler Lockett and Jaron Brown as his only receivers with more than three seasons of NFL experience. Though the inevitable growing pains that come with young receivers could work to Wilson's detriment, it should help that he enters his second season under coordinator and de facto quarterbacks coach Brian Schottenheimer. No, the Seahawks won't need to rely on Wilson more because they just made him the highest-paid player in NFL history. They're going to be one of the NFL's most run-heavy teams as long as coach Pete Carroll is in charge. But the defense lost firepower for the second consecutive offseason and has a major question mark at pass-rusher. Seattle may need Wilson to have another 2018 stat line if the Seahawks are going to earn their eighth playoff berth in 10 seasons under Carroll. -- Brady Henderson

AFC East

Cruz: 'Super Bowl or bust' for the Colts next season

Victor Cruz sees the Colts' upcoming season as a "Super Bowl or bust" with a healthy Andrew Luck at the helm.

Can the Bills' decision-makers survive missing the playoffs in 2019?

Yes. Coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane earned goodwill from fans in 2017 when they led the franchise to its first playoff appearance since 1999. That kept fans off their backs when the Bills finished 6-10 last season, which was partly the result of trading quarterback Tyrod Taylor and drafting Josh Allen -- and then watching their developing rookie quarterback become injured midseason. Fans understood Beane and McDermott did not see Taylor as the foundation of a long-term contender and are more hopeful Allen can be the franchise quarterback. As long as Allen takes a step forward in 2019, Beane and McDermott can survive into 2020 without making the playoffs. The top decision-makers seem to have sold the fan base on incremental improvements over instant gratification. -- Mike Rodak

Can Josh Rosen keep the Dolphins from drafting a QB in the first round in 2020?

Rosen has to win the starting job first, and then we can discuss him being a part of the Dolphins' long-term future. This spring, it has been the Ryan Fitzpatrick show, as the veteran has outplayed Rosen during organized team activities and minicamp. But the competition should heat up in training camp. Rosen has said he's treating this like a one-year tryout to prove to the Dolphins he can be their franchise quarterback. After seven years of Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins can't afford to settle at quarterback anymore. Rosen can prove himself worthy of further evaluation beyond 2019 if he can show consistent examples of leadership when he gets his chance to start. On a rebuilding team, the eye test -- in practice and games -- will have to be the true barometer for Rosen. If there are doubts about him, the Dolphins have to be prepared to draft a quarterback high in 2020. -- Cameron Wolfe

How will quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots adapt after tight end Rob Gronkowski's retirement?

This question might not have a definitive answer until deep into training camp. The Patriots' offense under coordinator Josh McDaniels and Brady has always shaped itself to the personnel available, so if no more additions are made at tight end, it could lead to a de-emphasis of the position. Four-year veteran Matt LaCosse was running with the first unit in spring practices, but is he a realistic option to maintain a Gronk-type standard? No, but who really is? Veteran Benjamin Watson could be part of the mix, but he will miss the first four games of the season while serving an NFL suspension. "Move" option Stephen Anderson and 2018 seventh-round pick Ryan Izzo are next on the depth chart. However, there is always the possibility the Patriots swing a trade or an unexpected player comes available on the market. -- Mike Reiss

Can quarterback Sam Darnold show significant improvement in Year 2, following the recent trend of Jared Goff, Mitchell Trubisky and Carson Wentz?

Darnold's situation is similar to those of Goff and Trubisky in that he is going from a defense-minded coach (Todd Bowles) to a coach with an offensive background (Adam Gase). There's nothing better for a young quarterback's development than having a coach who sees the game through the eyes of the quarterback, as Goff and Trubisky showed with Sean McVay and Matt Nagy, respectively. It's unrealistic to expect a Goff-like jump for Darnold because his supporting cast (see: offensive line) isn't as strong as that of the Los Angeles Rams -- or Wentz's Philadelphia Eagles cast, for that matter. But Darnold has enough talent, and enough talented people around him, to replicate what Trubisky did in his second season -- 24 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. Darnold should be able to raise his completion percentage (57.7) by a few points; the additions of RB Le'Veon Bell and WR Jamison Crowder will help in that respect. The key will be to cut down his interceptions (15 in 13 games), and he can do that by not throwing into tight coverage as often as he did last season. -- Rich Cimini

NFC East

LaFleur's coaching style, Trubisky's evolution among NFC North storylines

Dianna Russini, Victor Cruz and Mike Tannenbaum detail what they have their eyes on in the NFC North, including Matt LaFleur as first-time head coach with the Packers.

Can Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz get over the injury bug?

Having suffered season-ending injuries each of the past two years (torn ACL/LCL, stress fracture in back), Wentz spent part of the offseason studying how to take better care of his body. He improved his diet and tweaked his training regimen in hopes it will lead to better health and greater career longevity. The Eagles are banking on Wentz staying upright. They moved on from Nick Foles and handed Wentz a four-year, $128 million contract extension. Only time will tell whether that investment will prove a wise one. What we know for now is Wentz looked like his old self this spring and has full intentions of returning to MVP-caliber form. This Eagles team is stacked from top to bottom. If Wentz can stay on the field, Philadelphia has a legit chance of going the distance. -- Tim McManus

What will coordinator Kellen Moore bring to the Cowboys' offense?

The Cowboys' offense grew stale the past couple of seasons. While they ran the ball effectively and had timely plays under Scott Linehan, Dallas lacked explosive plays. The Cowboys had 39 pass plays of 20 yards or more in 2018. As a first-year coordinator, Moore will have a learning curve. He has one year of coaching experience, serving as the quarterbacks coach last season. He has never called plays but has long been considered a coach-in-waiting dating to his Boise State days, when he became the winningest quarterback in college football history. The base of the Cowboys' offense remains -- which coach Jason Garrett implemented as coordinator in 2007 -- but Moore is bringing different elements that will marry some of the spread and run-pass options that have come from the college game to the NFL. In the offseason, Moore used more shifts and motions to run the same plays out of different looks, similar to what coach Sean McVay has done with the Los Angeles Rams. Moore's creativity on the fly will be a bonus. Teammates have lauded his ability to see the game clearly in real time, which should allow the Cowboys to adjust better than they have in the past. -- Todd Archer

When will rookie Dwayne Haskins take over as the Redskins' starting quarterback?

The Redskins have consistently used one word when discussing their first-round draft pick: patience. They liked what they saw this spring in terms of Haskins' talent and intelligence. The phrase "arm talent" has been used quite a bit. But before and after the draft, it was clear the Redskins felt he needed work. Haskins started 14 games at Ohio State, so his learning curve is bigger -- Kyler Murray has similar experience, but his legs add a weapon Haskins lacks. Washington needs Haskins to improve his footwork -- and some of that will come from quickening his reads so he doesn't feel rushed under duress. The underlying issue: coach Jay Gruden's job security. He's entering Year 6 after missing the playoffs three straight seasons. He needs to win, and his desires might clash at times with the organization's, knowing that Haskins' development is key to the franchise's future. But if the Redskins struggle early with Case Keenum or Colt McCoy, then there's no good reason to keep Haskins sitting. -- John Keim

Can the Giants' offense be better without wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.?

New York is going to need an improved offense overall this season to achieve any level of success. The Giants have 61% of their salary cap earmarked for their offense, with only 37% on their defense. That puts the fate of their 2019 season on quarterback Eli Manning & Co. It seems like a ridiculous premise to improve without Beckham, who is one of the most lethal offensive weapons in football. But the Giants improved their offensive line, still have ample targets and are going to lean heavily on running back Saquon Barkley. It's possible they'll produce more with their spread-it-around "village" approach, considering they were a well-below-average unit (27th in points per game through eight games) for a good chunk of last season. -- Jordan Raanan