KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 13: Receiver Jonathan Baldwin #89 of the Kansas City Chiefs catches the ball against the back of safety Brian Dawkins #20 of the Denver Broncos during the game on November 13, 2011 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The play was nullified due to a penalty. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Training camps are underway and virtually everyone is caught up in the optimism and good feelings which can lead to unrealistic expectations for teams and players.
The period of time in between when NFL teams begin training camp and their first preseason games seems to bring unbridled optimism to fans and media members alike. Most every report a person hears or reads is talking of which players are going to turn into superstars in the upcoming season or which players look to be back to 100%.The projected team and individual numbers being thrown around can be fairly unreasonable at times. It seems the only negative piece of news that fans hear about is when injuries occur or a backup just is not quite up to snuff with a starter.
In Kansas City for example the talk since beginning of training camp is how well Jonathan Baldwin is looking without Dwayne Bowe in camp.In a piece for the Kansas City Star columnist Kent Babb described Baldwin as "emerging as a player who looks like a young star". That is pretty high praise for a player who by all accounts had a pretty disappointing rookie season and had people wondering if he might be a bust. The fact that Baldwin is a big receiver who was worthy of being selected in the first round just a year ago suggests that he should look impressive in structured practices.
This is not to say that Baldwin may not go out this year and show that all he needed was a full offseason of workouts to turn into the player worthy of that first round draft pick but maybe everyone should hold off on the superlatives until at least a few preseason games have been played.
This situation is definitely not unique to Kansas City as a glance around the AFC West shows the same thing is happening in another city.
Out in Denver, the most obvious example of sky high reports and maybe even delusional expectations has to be with the arrival of Peyton Manning. Everyone is already far too familiar though with the Manning soap opera so let's not get into that and besides a better Bronco comparison to the Baldwin media coverage is that of second-year safety Rahim Moore.
A second round pick and the overall top safety selected in the 2011 Draft, Moore was expected to come into Denver last season and be a young dynamic playmaker next to an aging Brian Dawkins. In fact a story in the Denver Post almost exactly a year ago had a sentence from the author that started with "The jump to the NFL hasn't appeared too difficult for Moore". By mid-season Moore had been replaced in the starting lineup by fellow rookie Quinton Carter who was selected two rounds later.
His play had become so poor at one point last season that he was made inactive for the Broncos road game matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. He finished the year with 34 tackles and only one interception and it seemed he too was on his way to being a bust.
Fast forward to the beginning of training camp this year before any games have been played and it seems that Moore is once again being touted as a building block of the Denver secondary. He has been given a starting role for the Broncos and the talk leaking out is how much he has learned and should be vastly improved this season. As is the case with Baldwin we will see if the performance on the field measures up to the hype.
The reports coming out of San Diego and Oakland are not likely to be much different than the examples given with Baldwin and Moore. If you were to go and research how the Chargers are looking right now in training camp you would likely get a story on how Philip Rivers is poised to bounce back this season and how the defense looks to be much improved with an infusion of young talent.
The reports on the Raiders figure to be some combination of how improved Carson Palmer should be this year after a full offseason and how new head coach Dennis Allen and new general manager Reggie McKenzie are changing the culture for the better.
All of these stories obviously have some level of truth in them but they can present a challenge for a person who is trying to research and accurately gauge how each player and team will perform this coming year. Thankfully the pre-season games start this week and everyone will get their first glimpse of what the reality, good or bad, may be for this coming year.