Rookies to watch
WR Tavon Austin, St. Louis: The Rams turn to this diminutive (5-foot-8, 175 pounds), dynamic playmaker out of West Virginia to give a jolt to their stale offense, and he will return kicks.
S Kenny Vaccaro, New Orleans: The NFL’s worst defense in 2012 should benefit from adding Vaccaro, a physical safety who also can cover slot receivers.
CB Desmond Trufant, Atlanta: He’s expected to be an effective starter immediately at a position where veteran depth is thin and mistakes are costly.
LB Manti Te’o, San Diego: The fake-girlfriend scandal has faded from view, and now Te’o can concentrate on proving he’s better than he showed against Alabama in the BCS championship game.
RB Eddie Lacy, Green Bay: He was big man on campus for Alabama, but his rotund appearance during training camp drew scrutiny.
Potential breakout players
QB Alex Smith, Kansas City: Forgotten in San Francisco after his injury paved the way for Colin Kaepernick to emerge, Smith gets a chance to show that his big season in 2011 was no fluke.
DE Everson Griffen, Minnesota: Griffen gained notice when he recorded four sacks and returned an interception for a touchdown over the final four games of 2012 and should get more snaps in place of aging veterans Jared Allen and Brian Robison.
RB Daryl Richardson, St. Louis: Richardson won the competition to replace departed free-agent Steven Jackson as the starter. He averaged 5.2 yards on 122 offensive touches as a rookie in 2012.
WR Michael Floyd, Arizona: Floyd finished a disappointing rookie season with a strong game against the 49ers and should benefit from new quarterback Carson Palmer’s big arm.
RB David Wilson, N.Y. Giants: Ahmad Bradshaw is with the Colts now. That clears the way for Wilson, a first-round pick in 2012, to be the lead back, if he can earn coach Tom Coughlin’s trust with his pass blocking and ball security.
Coaches on the hot seat
Jason Garrett, Dallas: As long as Jerry Jones owns the team and the Cowboys remain average, the coach will be under pressure to win more games while dealing with the circus that Jones helps create.
Jim Schwartz, Detroit: The team’s ownership hasn’t exactly come to Schwartz’s defense against his critics, which is never a good sign. After inheriting an 0-16 team in 2009 and earning a rare playoff berth in 2011, Schwartz lost his final eight games to finish 4-12 in 2012.
Ron Rivera, Carolina: A coach with Cam Newton as quarterback won’t last long if he doesn’t win. The problem for Rivera has been slow starts to each of his first two seasons, so another one could mean trouble.
Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay: The Buccaneers finished 7-9 in his first season, and a coach from the college ranks such as Schiano won’t get as much benefit of the doubt with another disappointing season.
Leslie Frazier, Minnesota: Frazier’s job would seem safe after he guided the Vikings to a surprise playoff berth in 2012. But ownership didn’t offer him a contract extension and instead picked up his option for 2014.