NFL training camps: the major questions

July 19, 1998

NFL writer Ken Murray ranks the NFL's 30 teams as they head into training camp this week:

1. Green Bay Packers

Coach: Mike Holmgren

1997 record: 13-3

1998 outlook: Despite losing four starters to free agency, the Packers still look like the team to beat.

No. 1: Can QB Brett Favre, working on a streak of 106 consecutive starts, collect his fourth straight MVP award after sharing it with Barry Sanders last year?

No. 2: Will the Packers sign -- and satisfy -- RB Dorsey Levens?

No. 3: Can veteran Vaughn Booker or rookie Vonnie Holliday replace Reggie White if White is finally finished?

No. 4: Can NT Gilbert Brown get in shape and save his knees, or will teams run roughshod over him the way Denver did in Super Bowl XXXI?

No. 5: Will Holmgren try to leave after the season for a dual title of GM/coach?

2. Pittsburgh Steelers

Coach: Bill Cowher

1997 record: 11-5

1998 outlook: Because they retained the right free agents -- Levon Kirkland and Joel Steed on defense -- they should be the class of the AFC.

No. 1: Will QB Kordell Stewart (17 interceptions in 1997) throw less into coverage and more to his backs and tight ends under new offensive coordinator Ray Sherman?

No. 2: Will FS Carnell Lake be forced to play CB again with the injury to Chad Scott?

No. 3: Is Mike Vrabel better suited to Greg Lloyd's OLB spot than the DE position he played in 1997?

No. 4: Can Jamain Stephens, a No. 1 pick in 1996, take over at right tackle for John Jackson?

No. 5: Will third-round pick Hines Ward, who played QB, RB and WR at Georgia, become Slash II?

3. Jacksonville Jaguars

Coach: Tom Coughlin

1997 record: 11-5

1998 outlook: They are putting all the pieces together for a powerhouse.

No. 1: By signing Bryce Paup at strong-side LB and moving Kevin Hardy to weak-side LB, have the Jaguars stabilized a run defense that allowed 310 yards to Denver in the playoffs?

No. 2: Will a combination of rookie Fred Taylor and veteran James Stewart improve on Natrone Means at RB, or will the team regret not trading up in the draft for Curtis Enis?

No. 3: Will rookies Donovin Darius and Cordell Taylor tighten a secondary that had just one interception in the last six games?

No. 4: Can QB Mark Brunell play without the bulky leg brace that slowed him down last season?

No. 5: Have the Jaguars written the definitive book on how to build an expansion team?

4. Kansas City Chiefs

Coach: Marty Schottenheimer

1997 record: 13-3

1998 outlook: Schottenheimer must get over the hump of home-field advantage in the playoffs.

No. 1: Will the arrival of WR Derrick Alexander and promotion of Jimmy Raye to offensive coordinator open up an ultra-conservative offense?

No. 2: Can RB Donnell Bennett replace retired Marcus Allen, especially on the goal line?

No. 3: How do the Chiefs get more out of underachieving defensive linemen Chester McGlockton and Leslie O'Neal than the Raiders and Rams did?

No. 4: What kind of web will WR Andre Rison, a.k.a. Spiderman, weave now that he has a four-year contract extension?

No. 5: By taking tackle Victor Riley in the first round, did the Chiefs repeat their mistake of 1995, when they whiffed on Trezelle Jenkins?

5. Denver Broncos

Coach: Mike Shanahan

1997 record: 12-4

1998 outlook: One miracle run for the Broncos was enough; two would be fantasy.

No. 1: Will QB John Elway's shoulder surgery or his indecision over returning for a 16th season affect his performance?

No. 2: Who is Elway's heir apparent -- third-year vet Jeff Lewis or rookie Brian Griese?

No. 3: Can RB Terrell Davis carry the Broncos back to the Super Bowl?

No. 4: Will the intense Shanahan be a victim of burnout or will he find a way to inspire the defending champs again?

No. 5: Are 20 surgeries the limit for OG Mark Schlereth or can he do a couple more?

6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Coach: Tony Dungy

1997 record: 10-6

1998 outlook: With improvement at quarterback, the Bucs can make a serious run at the Packers.

No. 1: Will free-agent signee Bert Emanuel and second-round pick Jacquez Green give the Bucs speed in the passing game they've lacked?

No. 2: Can QB Trent Dilfer (1-6 career against Green Bay) beat the Packers in a big game?

No. 3: Will RB Warren Dunn begrudge FB Mike Alstott's status as lone back in the one-back set?

No. 4: Armed with his six-year, $36.05 million contract, will DT Warren Sapp rise to an All-Pro level?

No. 5: Have Dungy and GM Rich McKay put together the best young team in the league?

7. San Francisco 49ers

Coach: Steve Mariucci

1997 record: 13-3

1998 outlook: It's a pivotal year for a great franchise.

No. 1: Can the 49ers lose six starters and still catch the Packers in the NFC?

No. 2: Can Denver castoff OT Jamie Brown keep QB Steve Young from a career-ending concussion while protecting his blind side?

No. 3: Who got the best of the free-agent cornerback switch in which Rod Woodson joined the Ravens and Antonio Langham joined the 49ers?

No. 4: Will WR Jerry Rice return for an injury-free season?

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