14 Biggest Winners and Losers from Early Going of NFL Minicamps
Minicamps around the National Football League allow teams to get a gauge of where some of their primary competitions are going to be heading into actual training camps later in the summer.
These battles are going to be not just for starting spots, but for roster spots as well.
While we cannot draw a final conclusion about a certain player due to just three days in June, we can get the conversation going and find out where they stand.
Winner: Christian Thompson, Safety, Baltimore Ravens
There has been a lot of talk about retirement as it relates to future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed. The Baltimore Ravens standout was a no-show for mandatory camp last week, which will only add fuel to the fire that he isn't committed to play during the 2012 season.
The Ravens don't have a tremendous amount of depth at the free safety position outside of Reed. Rookie fourth-round pick Christian Thompson, who has been looking good in camp, was getting reps with the first team.
If nothing else, this goes to show you that Thompson might play a larger role than most people expected heading into the 2012 season.
Loser: Chris Clemons, Defensive End, Seattle Seahawks
NFL.com reports that Seattle Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons is holding out of mandatory training camp.
Head coach Pete Carroll indicates it is because Clemons is concerned about his future with the franchise. It is up to the coach whether to fine the defensive end for missing minicamp, but that really isn't the point.
Don't expect Carroll to sit back and play a game of chicken with Clemons. Instead, Seattle does have other options at the defensive end position that it can explore.
Rookie first-round pick Bruce Irvin is a prime example of someone that can benefit from this holdout. He is currently slated to be the backup right defensive end to Clemons.
Winner: DeMarco Murray, Running Back, Dallas Cowboys
Not only is DeMarco Murray a winner simply because he is back at full health following a devastating injury during his rookie season, the young running back looked awesome in Dallas Cowboys camp last week.
According to Josh Ellis of the Cowboys' official website, Murray was looking good, saying, "You might want to think about DeMarco Murray with a high first round pick in fantasy football. He's caught a LOT of passes this summer."
While it is apparent that Murray is going to go into the 2012 season as the Cowboys' starting running back, this new bit of information may indicate that he is going to get a lot more touches than first anticipated.
This isn't only good news for the young back; it is also great news for Tony Romo, who needs some balance on offense to be successful.
Loser: Jah Reid, Offensive Line, Baltimore Ravens
Jah Reid had been lining up with the first team at tackle during minicamp last week before he went down with an injury. The young offensive lineman was carted off the field during the final day of camp and was apparently walking with some help of an assistant in the locker room.
According to The Baltimore Sun, head coach John Harbaugh isn't talking about the injury, which shouldn't come as a huge surprise to Baltimore Ravens fans.
Needless to say, a significant injury would be a major blow to Reid's ability to earn a starting job heading into the season.
Winner: Brandon Tate, Wide Receiver, Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals are holding an open competition for the No. 2 receiver job opposite A.J. Green. There appear to be four vying for the job, but according to the Dayton Daily News, Brandon Tate looks to be the favorite right now after looking really good in camp.
Tate came over from the New England Patriots following the 2010 season and was a huge performer for the Bengals on special teams. However, he did not catch a single pass on offense and has a total of 24 receptions in three NFL seasons.
This obviously cannot be seen as great news for Mohamed Sanu, who had been pegged as a major competitor for the No. 2 slot after being selected in April's draft.
Loser: Colt McCoy, Quarterback, Cleveland Browns
This might not have a great deal to do with minicamp, but the story is unfolding during that part of the offseason.
For a franchise that has struggled in regards to the quarterback position over the course of the last 20 years, this makes little sense.
Do they really think that Brandon Weeden is going to be that much better than McCoy? If so, they are more lost than initially imagined.
Either way, some team is going to get a really good backup quarterback in the form of McCoy.
Winner: Randy Moss and Michael Crabtree, Wide Receivers, San Francisco 49ers
Moss, who signed a one-year contract in March, has been singled out by Jim Harbaugh and Co. throughout the offseason. It appears that the veteran receiver is back in 2009 form, which would be huge.
On the other hand, Crabtree continues to draw rave reviews from Harbaugh, who recently stated he has the best set of hands that the coach has seen in his life.
If this can actually translate to the field on Sundays, the 49ers are going to be an incredibly hard team to stop. That being said, we must acknowledge that it is just minicamp at this point, so I am going to take a wait-and-see approach in regards to both.
Loser: A.J. Jenkins and Kyle Williams, Wide Receivers, San Francisco 49ers
This is not an attack on either Kyle Williams or A.J. Jenkins. Rather, it is to suggest that they have not fared all too well against the likes of the aforementioned Randy Moss and Michael Crabtree in training camp.
The enigmatic Grant Cohn over at The Press Democrat wrote an article over the weekend that suggested Jenkins, a first-round pick in April's draft, didn't look too good in camp.
While I am not even going to get into detail in regards to Cohn and his opinions because they are too far off the wall, I will indicate that Williams and Jenkins are probably looking at battling one another for the fourth wide receiver spot on a team that rarely runs those sets.
Pure depth-chart logistics indicate that both are losers of 49ers camp. I will have a better understanding when I see for myself how they look late next month at training camp.
Winner: Adam Weber, Quarterback, Denver Broncos
This could be taken with a grain of salt, but Adam Weber got second-string reps for the Denver Broncos during camp last week. This despite the fact that Denver signed Caleb Hanie and drafted Brock Osweiler in the second round of April's draft.
Mike Klis over at The Denver Post does caution us not to read too much into this, saying, "It could be that Weber has been No. 2 because he understands the offense better than newcomers Caleb Hanie and Brock Osweiler."
That being said, this should be an indication that Weber will vie for the backup job during training camp. At the very least, Hanie as the Broncos' backup quarterback isn't etched in stone.
This is definitely something to watch considering the uncertainty surrounding Peyton Manning and his ability to play after he missed the entire 2011 season.
Loser: Chase Daniel, Quarterback, New Orleans Saints
Chase Daniel has been patiently waiting in the wings behind Drew Brees for quite some time now, so you have to believe he was excited about being given the opportunity to take first-team reps during minicamp because of Brees' contract situation.
It didn't go according to plan.
Daniel, a rookie free agent signing of the New Orleans Saints in 2009, suffered a hairline fracture in his right thumb and won't be ready to participate in skills until training camp begins in late July.
You have to feel bad for the guy.
Winner: Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
New Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson had the following to say about Andrew Luck during minicamp last week (via NFL.com):
He's strong when he needs to be strong. He listens when he needs to listen. He's just a natural. Nothing's forced with him. He's not afraid to take charge of the huddle. But also, if a college free agent from who-knows-where asks him a question, I believe he'll take the time with that guy to explain it to him in a non-demeaning or condescending way, because he's Andrew Luck. He epitomizes the word "team" to me.
This has to sound familiar to Colts fans.
It might be hard to believe, but Luck could be a calming influence on the Colts offense as a rookie in 2012. This is the way he played at Stanford, and don't expect that to change heading into the National Football League.
We all know the talent is there. Now Luck appears to be showing great leadership skills, which should be uplifting to a franchise that was very much without this last season.
Loser: Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver, Jacksonville Jaguars
This shouldn't come as much of a surprise, but Justin Blackmon was the clear loser of the Jacksonville Jaguars' camp last week.
While the talented young receiver didn't shine, many others along this unit did for the Jaguars.
Laurent Robinson has clearly taken over as the lead dog in Jacksonville following his departure from the Dallas Cowboys in March. The veteran receiver seems to be outshining everybody else along this unit, but he isn't alone.
The Jaguars are also happy with Brian Robiskie, who was picked up from the Cleveland Browns during the offseason.
New Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey had the following to say about the oft-injured Robiskie (via the Florida Times-Union):
He’s really come out and not had a down day. He just comes out here and does his job. You don’t hear his name, you don’t hear Jerry [Sullivan, receivers coach] screaming at him. He’s playing a lot of different roles where he’s lining up. That’s a good thing. The more you can do and he’s doing it well, he’s going to be good for us.
This seems to indicate that Blackmon, who is still mentally recovering from an embarrassing DUI arrest earlier in the month, might actually be much lower on the depth chart than most people expected.
Training camp is going to be huge for him.
Winner: DeSean Jackson, Wide Receiver, Philadelphia Eagles
The simple fact that DeSean Jackson is in camp after signing a long-term contract extension in March should dispel notions that he is going to repeat a down 2011 season.
Adding more fuel to the fire are reports that Jackson is not only looking great in camp, but also seems to have rekindled a passion for the game.
A committed Jackson in the fold for Michael Vick and Co. is going to be absolutely huge for a team that failed to live up to mighty preseason expectations in 2011.
As Don Banks of Sports Illustrated put it, "A year later, Eagles could finally be poised for a 'dream' season."
I couldn't have put it any better, and Jackson will be a major reason why this happens.
Winner: Brandon Lloyd, Wide Receiver, New England Patriots
The New England Patriots signed Brandon Lloyd this offseason with the understanding that he would be one of their two starting wide receivers.
The talented player has done absolutely nothing to dispel this notion.
According to various reports, Lloyd has look great throughout all the Patriots' organized team activities and during camp last week.
The Boston Herald said of his performance thus far, "Lloyd has gotten off to a terrific start, and he stood out as much as anyone over the three weeks of organized team activities and one week of minicamp."
This pretty much mirrors what I pointed out above and everything else we are hearing around Patriots camp.
If Lloyd does live up to expectations, it is going to make Tom Brady and Co. nearly unstoppable in the passing game. He adds an entirely new dimension to a corps that already boasts Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez.
Scary stuff for opposing AFC East defensive coordinators.