Best, Worst Performer for Every Team During NFL Minicamps
NFL minicamps exist to give up-and-coming players a chance to set themselves apart from the pack. Additionally, the OTAs give the fans something tangible to dissect during the doldrums of June.
Therefore, we will take a look at who has performed the best (and the worst) at each camp throughout the league. Since some teams had not started when this article was written, predictions will be offered up instead of analysis.
If only because it's more fun, younger players will be highlighted where possible in the upcoming slides. Most veterans don't take the offseason too seriously until they get to training camp anyhow.
Yet, the beginning of the road for the undrafted starters and unknown stars of tomorrow begins early. Let's see who's ready to start the season today and who is still worrying about offseason vacations.
Denver Broncos: The Old Men Are Running the Show
Best: The old men are showing they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.
Champ Bailey must be excited about the additions of Peyton Manning and opposite cornerback Tracy Porter. The former All-Pro arrived in excellent shape, leading him to declare that he was still capable of running a sub-4.4 40-yard dash.
The most notable free agent in NFL history has not disappointed either. The former Indianapolis Colt reportedly looked "top notch" as he continues on the road to regain his premier quarterback status.
Worst: The Denver Broncos find themselves in a unique position: kicker Matt Prater held out of camp while refusing to sign his franchise tender.
It isn't a big deal, but kickers holding out is a sign of the apocalypse.
Kansas City Chiefs: Hopefully Defense Really Does Win Championships
Best: The defense for the Kansas City Chiefs was in regular-season form. The red shirts wrapped up camp by thoroughly dominating the offense.
Worst: The offense as a whole struggled throughout training camp. They were without top receiver Dwayne Bowe, who is holding out in hopes of getting a long-term deal.
To be fair, the offense had the disadvantage of installing a new system. Head coach Romeo Crennel moved over from defensive coordinator, so the scheme endured few (if any) radical changes.
San Diego Chargers: The Rivers Will Not Run Dry
The San Diego Chargers have not begun camp as of the creation of this article.
Therefore, the prediction is that Philip Rivers will come into camp looking sharp. His 2011 campaign was awful by his standards as he posted a career high in interceptions with 20.
The fiery leader of the Chargers won't accept last season and prepare with renewed vigor. He will return with a focused intensity that will spark a return to excellence.
Oakland Raiders: The Receiving Unit Goes Through a Shake-Up
Best: Free agent rookie wide receiver Rod Streater has burst onto the scene for the Oakland Raiders. Just two practices into his first minicamp and the kid is already taking snaps with the first team.
Worst: Unfortunately, there is a downside to the Streater story. Wide receiver Denarius Moore went out with a hamstring injury that shouldn't affect his training camp availability.
While that may not seem like too big of deal, Moore is a young talent who could contribute heavily to the offense in 2012. Any missed opportunity for him to build chemistry with Carson Palmer cannot be considered a positive.
Houston Texans: Rookie Risks and Rewards
Best: Another rookie is making an impact with his new team. Whitney Mercilus is adjusting nicely to life with the Houston Texans.
He is already beginning to react naturally to what is occurring around him instead of thinking about every move. For a first-year player to grasp the concepts so quickly is a huge step towards contributing next season.
Worst: Brandon Brooks has not shared Mercilus' enthusiasm for being a professional football player. He reported to camp overweight and did not execute during his reps.
The Texans are leaning on both of these players to make an impact this year. Brooks had better match Mercilus' effort for Houston to cash in on their lofty expectations.
Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck Starts off on the Right Foot
Best: Peyton Manning will be missed, but not for very long. First overall pick Andrew Luck reportedly made a great first impression completing his first 12 attempts of the passing session.
Worst: Veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne opted to come back to the Indianapolis Colts over chasing a ring elsewhere. While that decision may bear fruit for him, it hasn't yet for the franchise.
Wayne has discovered that he doesn't have the chemistry with Luck that he had with Manning. Considering they have only had three days to work together, there is little reason to be concerned.
Tennessee Titans: Running Back to Greatness
The Tennessee Titans find themselves in a similar position to the San Diego Chargers. Neither team had concluded a practice when this article was written, and both teams have a superstar looking to regain elite status.
For the Titans, running back Chris Johnson appears to be on a mission.
He has declared that he is still the top rusher in the league. If his effort matches his proclamation, Johnson should tear through minicamp on his way to a stellar 2012 season.
Jacksonville Jaguars: MoJo a No-Show but Gabbert Is Developing
Best: Only a few months ago, it seemed to be common knowledge that Blaine Gabbert was never going to pan out as a NFL quarterback. Apparently, nobody told him.
Gabbert was impressive during the Jacksonville Jaguars minicamp. His throws were crisp as he displayed a commanding grasp of the offense.
Worst: Jags fans know to keep a an eye over their shoulder for the other shoe. The good news surrounding Gabbert is quickly tempered by the continued holdout of stud running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
Miami Dolphins: Rookie Quarterback Has a Headstart on His Uphill Battle
The Miami Dolphins are another team that have not gotten started up quite yet. That doesn't mean that we can't speculate that Ryan Tannehill is going to shine this week.
The young gun excelled during the rookie camp last month. His proficiency isn't surprising considering he is running the same offense as he did in college.
He will continue to improve throughout minicamp and be ready to run with the first team when training camp kicks off next month.
New England Patriots: Bill Belichick Has a Finger on the Pats' Pulse
Worst: Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer had a rough outing during the time actually spent on the field. He finished camp with three interceptions and completed only 13 of 30 attempts.
Hoyer has shown promise during his first three years in the league. Thus, there isn't any reason to believe this type of performance will be permanent.
New York Jets: Shonn Is No Longer Greene
Best: Reports out of the New York Jets minicamp indicate that Shonn Greene was catching the ball well out of the backfield. If he can continue to improve this facet of his game, he should be the center of the offensive attack in 2012.
Buffalo Bills: Excitement Abounds for the Defensive Hounds
The entire defense for the Buffalo Bills will excel this week. The front seven finally gets to welcome free-agent signee Mario Williams to the fold.
Additionally, Stephon Gilmore adds an injection of talent into the secondary. The rookie has the size and strength to be an impact player right away.
The AFC East race will be much more interesting for the Bills faithful this year than in seasons past.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Pouncey Feeling Bouncy
Best: The Pittsburgh Steelers Achilles' heel the last few years has been a patchwork offensive line. Thus, the news that standout center Maurkice Pouncey's ankle is feeling "awesome" is a much-needed boost.
Worst: The Mike Wallace contract saga continues to drag out as he missed practice with his teammates. While that ordinarily wouldn't be disheartening, the Steelers are putting in a new offense.
Training camp may provide enough time to for Wallace to adjust to offensive coordinator Todd Haley's scheme. Yet, in a division as loaded as the AFC North, all preparations are vital.
Baltimore Ravens: Rookie Running Roughshod?
Best: Terrell Suggs may or may not play in 2012, but he's sold on his rookie replacement.
Courtney Upshaw started out on the strongside in the spot vacated by Jarret Johnson. However, the Baltimore Ravens have been so impressed by what they've seen that they decided to give him work at the rush position as well.
Worst: Ed Reed is another player whose contribution next season is unknown.
Rumors have swirled that the stalwart safety is not happy about his $7.2 million salary. Regardless, skipping minicamp without notifying anyone is a curious move.
Cincinnati Bengals: Quarterbacking with Confidence
Best: The Cincinnati Bengals didn't bite on one the higher-rated quarterbacks in last year's draft and struck gold in the second round.
Andy Dalton followed up a solid rookie season with a new attitude. Now that he has the playbook down, Dalton is taking his teammates to task when they fail to execute their assignments.
Worst: There aren't many reports that indicate a player performed poorly in Cincinnati. One thing everyone is certain about is that Adam Jones is back on the hot seat.
Last week, a court awarded the victim of his infamous shooting incident at a Las Vegas strip club over $11 million in damages.
Think that could cause a distraction for him?
Cleveland Browns: Weeden out the Real McCoy
Best: Brandon Weeden's minicamp performance started out shaky but built up steam. The rookie's ability to forget about his prior poor performance to finish strong shows he has the moxie to be a starting NFL quarterback.
Reports indicate that he wasn't performing well, throwing a couple of interceptions in 7-on-7 drills. However, he heated up in 11-on-11s, which is convenient since football is actually played with 22 players.
Worst: The McCoy brothers didn't help out Colt too much over the past week.
To make matters worse, Case McCoy couldn't contain himself when a fake ESPN twitter account reported that his brother had been traded. Case tweeted that the Browns were headed in the wrong direction, which can't stand to help his sibling's position with the franchise.
San Francisco 49ers: Wide Margin Between Receivers
Best: Jim Harbaugh took a chance when he signed former All-Pro Randy Moss. For the risk taken by the San Francisco 49ers, Moss has been providing immense rewards.
Moss has been "unstoppable" on the practice field and a model citizen in the classroom. The Niners have turned their weakest position into a strength.
Worst: Unfortunately, not every gamble has come up aces at the wide receiver position.
Rookie A.J. Jenkins has not been impressive this offseason. After showing up out of shape for rookie camp, Jenkins looked lost and couldn't stay on his feet during minicamp.
Seattle Seahawks: Rookie Backing Up Coaches' Confidence
Best: The Seattle Seahawks originally planned to have K.J. Wright handle the calls for the defense. That doesn't appear to be the case anymore.
Rookie Bobby Wagner has apparently been so impressive that the coaches feel comfortable with him running the defense according to Wright.
Worst: Ben Obomanu has not been nearly as impressive. After leading the team in dropped passes last year, he has picked up where he left off with several missed opportunities in minicamp.
Arizona Cardinals: Capitalizing on the Tight-End Trend
Best: The NFL has been moving toward speedy, agile tight ends for quite some time. The Arizona Cardinals have finally gotten the memo.
Rob Housler has all the necessary attributes to make an impact. His minicamp performance confirms these suspicions.
Worst: Unless Kevin Kolb shredded the secondary, his performance was going to be labeled a bust. No leader has emerged between him and John Skelton for the starting job, but Skelton isn't being paid as a top-tier starter.
It is now or never for Kolb.
St. Louis Rams: Do They Have the Next Undrafted Gamechanger?
Best: DeAngelo Peterson is another undrafted rookie who is making his presence felt.
The former LSU Tiger has been turning heads all offseason, and he didn't disappoint in minicamp. Specifically, he shook off linebacker James Laurinaitis on a deep pass, garnering praise from the offensive coordinator.
Worst: Rams fans should become concerned with the team's ability to field punts. A competition was held between the offense and defense which did not result in a single punt being caught.
Perhaps it should be mentioned that the contest was between the offensive and defensive line, although that seems like a minor detail.
Atlanta Falcons: Julio Has a Football Jones
The Atlanta Falcons are one of the six teams that opened camp on June 19th, so they'll be honored with another prediction.
Julio Jones is going to run wild in minicamp.
When you take into consideration that defenders are only allowed minimum contact, there is no way to stop him.
This week will be the springboard to a breakout season.
New Orleans Saints: And a Child Shall Lead Them
Best: The New Orleans Saints have been desperate for some good news. It came in the form of a third-round draft pick.
Akiem Hicks has been an animal. Joe Vitt was careful to caution that nothing is really known until the pads come out, but he couldn't hide his enthusiasm for the rookie.
Worst: Easiest call of the entire article. The front office needs to quit using their heads for self-administered colonoscopies.
If the franchise hopes to save any face this offseason, they need Drew Brees there on the first day of training camp.
Carolina Panthers: Continuing the Youth Movement
Best: The Carolina Panthers didn't win many games last year, but young gunslinger Cam Newton gave fans a reason to have hope.
This season, Josh Norman may provide the same type of style and substance for a struggling secondary. The cocky corner has reportedly been able to stay with dynamic veteran Steve Smith.
Worst: It really isn't his fault. Yet, Jeff Otah is nearing a crossroads with the franchise that chose him in the first round not long ago.
His knee injury, which has caused him to miss 31 games the last two-and-a-half years, has been re-aggravated. Stay tuned.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: He's Been There the Whole Time
Best: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers picked up a top receiver in Vincent Jackson through free agency. Apparently, they already had his complement on the roster.
Preston Parker was allegedly a monster throughout minicamp, which has created the possibility of him starting opposite Jackson.
Worst: Some may feel bad for LeGarrette Blount.
There haven't been any reports stating that he has played poorly.
However, there have been reports that his role with the team won't just be limited, it'll barely exist.
Philadelphia Eagles: DeMeco Ryans Is Settling in Nicely
Best: The Philadelphia Eagles have not had to wait long for their return on the investment in DeMeco Ryans.
The team traded with the Houston Texans for the former Pro Bowler and have not been disappointed. Ryans has not been shy since taking over as leader of the Eagles' defense and appears highly motivated.
Worst: As any good general must, Andy Reid might have to fall on the sword.
Again, this pick isn't a minicamp performance issue. Since all of his players are reportedly in prime form, a lack of success means Reid's job will be in the crosshairs of the media and fans.
New York Giants: Time Is on Their Side
Best: The CBA that brought last season's lockout to a halt takes the cake for the New York Giants.
New York's roster is chocked full of veterans at key positions who could use some rest. The new CBA means that OTAs are much more limited than in recent years, allowing the champs to return at maximum health.
Worst: The passing game's chemistry wasn't given much of a chance.
Mario Manningham has moved on, Hakeem Nicks is injured and Jake Ballard was claimed off of waivers by the New England Patriots. Rueben Randle is one of the few players who could have used a few more practices to polish his game.
Dallas Cowboys: Thrifty $50 Million Purchase
Best: Rarely do big-money free agents live up to their end of the contract. For every Julius Peppers, there is an Albert Haynesworth.
Brandon Carr belongs in the former category. The Dallas Cowboys minicamp was buzzing about the skills he brings to the secondary.
Worst: As if often the case at minicamp, a veteran is held out due to an injury, allowing a younger kid the opportunity to shine.
Felix Jones finds himself in such a position. His extensive injury history and the physical play of Phillip Tanner could mark the end of Jones' tenure with the Cowboys.
Washington Redskins: There's More Than One Moss in the League
Best: Santana Moss, much like Randy Moss, doesn't know that is 2012. He has been busy playing like it's 2005.
The veteran has slimmed down about 15 pounds in anticipation of playing with Robert Griffin III. It appears that he's excited that the Washington Redskins actually acquired a real NFL quarterback.
Worst: Settle down now Skins fans. Just because RG3 makes an appearance in the worst column is no reason to get all riled up.
He admitted that he had a rough final day of minicamp. The only issue is that rookies usually start slow and heat up as opposed to the other way around.
Regardless, there is no legitimate reason to worry that he won't be fully prepared come training camp.
Chicago Bears: Going Hardin in the Paint
Best: The Chicago Bears are have been criticized up and down for not addressing their aging defensive linebacking corps. However, they've certainly paid attention to the secondary.
Rookie safety Brandon Hardin has been turning heads during minicamp. He has done so well that there is the possibility that he grabs a starting spot.
Worst: Sure, this one might seem like a cop-out. Yet, the Chicago front office needs to be taken to task constantly until Matt Forte is signed.
Unless he is asking for more money than Adrian Peterson, get the deal done.
Detroit Lions: Bad Boy Makes Good
Best: The Detroit Lions have built one of the most fearsome defensive lines in the league. Thus, it's fitting that two of their young guys would be making a huge strides.
Worst: The defensive line also brings home the honors for worst performance as well.
The Lions have suffered from undisciplined play over the past couple seasons. They must correct the issue of continuously jumping offside.
Minnesota Vikings: Just Getting Started but Trouble Is Already Brewing
The Minnesota Vikings are the last team on this list to get a late start on minicamp. Somehow, they have just as much drama as those who have already put in three practices.
Percy Harvin is apparently displeased. While he hasn't directly said why, one can only assume it is a contract matter.
For actual on-the-field dramatics, the media will be keeping close tabs on the progress of second-year quarterback Christian Ponder.
UPDATE: Harvin reportedly requested a trade this morning. Check here for details.
Green Bay Packers: Not a Whole Lot Wrong in Wisconsin
Best: Life is good when one of the main worries is who is backing up the league's MVP.
Worst: Again, things could be much worse.
However, James Stark is still the starting running back.
The front office couldn't even find an undrafted free agent to challenge him for carries?
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