What a glorious day! The seemingly endless offseason is over and training camp and the new season are here. I'm so happy I won't even bother commenting on the potential of a strike taking this all away.
It's been a busy few days with both Mike McCullough and Geroy Simon retiring, us signing some new guys and camp opening. So I'll start with a quick comment on the retirements and then jump into what I'll be watching for (at least metaphorically since camp is in a different town) at training camp.
I'll start with Geroy who was a surprise. Pretty much everyone assumed he would play one more, me included. Evidently he decided that he didn't want to end his illustrious career as a role player. It would have been nice to have him this season but I don't think it is a massive loss. I spent most of Geroy's career hating him... mostly because he was cocky bastard who backed it up more often than not by inflicting loses on us. I wasn't overly keen on us dropping big bucks on him last season but he came up big when needed (like when Willy played and in the GC) and he helped us win the cup so evidently it was worth it. His resume speaks for itself, he's one of the best the League has ever seen. My only hope is that his retirement brings to an end those god awful Hall Executive Suites ads on the radio he appears in.
Next is McCullough who will go down as one of the best to wear green and white. Not because he was superstar, or set records or won awards. Simply because he consistently did what was asked, did it well and never complained.
- "Mike, Trevis Smith did some bad things go play middle linebacker"
- "Mike, Mo Lloyd is better than you go back to special teams"
- "Mike, Rey Williams is hurt go play middle linebacker"
- "Mike, back to teams"
- "Mike, Rey is hurt again, you kow the drill"
The answer from #45 every time was "Yes coach" along with a smile... and likely a hilarious/sarcastic comment. He was never the fastest LB or most game breaking but he was cerebral, always in the right place and never hurt you. He was a pro on and off the field and his leadership will be missed.
Onto camp. I'll dive more into things in the coming days but as a starting point here is an overview of what to watch at each position.
QB - Nothing to watch really. Sunseri will solidify #2 and given that clipboard holding is not complicated I could care less about the battle for #3.
RB - Early signs have Jermaine Thomas and Keith Toston as the lead horses. I'll reserve judgement on anyone until I see them play in a game.
FB - Only thing to watch is how Neal Hughes adjusts to being the oldest guy out there. Seriously, I would like to see Spencer Moore take the next step. A big body like that could be a weapon in the passing game on occasion.
WR - Two starting spots up for grabs and there is competition even for the back-up spots. We know that Taj, Getzlaf and Bagg are in. We know that Swain and Schillens are the early favourites. We also know that training camp performance can be deceiving. Remember that Taj Smith looked unimpressive and was briefly cut while Terrence Nunn had more help written about him than yards receiving. This battle could go any way. I'm also interested to watch the Cdns. With the drafting of Pierzchalski and Bastien guys like Sisco and Etienne will need to step up and prove their worth (more than likely both will confirm their statuses as wastes of high picks but that's just the overly judgmental me talking)
OL - Will be boring as hell and that is great news. Our starters are solidified and i don't see Watman and Clark being unseated as back-ups. That leaves such interesting battles as back-up import OT. When you look around the league at the uncertainty surrounding other lines you should be bloody thankful for what we have build at OL.
DL - Our ends are rock solid and George has one DT spot locked down. But there is a gaping hole at the other DT spot. Richard Sumlin is the man to beat but he is far from assured the spot. DT is a tough spot to fill so it will be interesting to see if we can find someone.
LB - Outside of Weldon Brown keeping his spot, everything is up in the air here. Sam Hurl (MLB) and Brian Peters (OLB) will be given first shot at the starting roles but keep an eye on Morty Ivy and Chad Kilgore at MLB and Brandon Isaac at OLB as they are viable options. Also wouldn't surprise me too see us try some DBs at the OLB spot. I'm less worried about OLB. MLB is so important though. Just go back and look at 2012 when Shomari played that spot vs. when Lobendahn did and look at our success against the run. We no longer have old man McCullough to fall back on so someone needs to step up.
DB - Starting 5 from last year are back but a crop of new talent is looking to unseat them and will be given the chance. The spot I would most keep an eye on is Tristan Jackson's CB spot of the 5 I would say he is the least secure.
K - I have nothing against Josh Bartel but I'm really hoping John Mark or Brett Cameron steal his punting job if for no other reason than I couldn't handle a full season of Rod Black reminding us he is Australian.
Did I mention how happy I was that football is back?