Winners and Losers from OTAs in Each NFL Division
Earlier this week I focused on the winners and losers from the early minicamps that took place a week prior around the National Football League. Needless to say, there wasn't a great deal of information out there that could be taken with much substance.
That being said, this is how news presents itself during this point in the year, and we run with it.
This article is going to focus on winners and losers from all organized team activities for each division around the National Football League.
There promises to be more information coming out about each team, but for now we have a pretty good understanding of what the primary stories are going to be heading into training camp late next month.
Let's take a look.
Winner: Taiwan Jones, Running Back, Oakland Raiders
Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times reports that the second-year back had an explosive and dominating performance during the Raiders' three-day camp.
Corkran says despite the fact that Oakland is loaded with fast players, "Jones’ speed just seems to be otherworldly, especially when he gets into the open field."
The bigger question here is whether this athletic ability can translate to the field and between the hashes. At the very least, Oakland might have its own version of Darren Sproles on the roster.
Oakland is also interested in Cedric Benson, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter (h/t Bill Williamson), which could limit the impact that Jones' offseason performance has when actual football starts in August.
Winner: Adam Weber, Quarterback, Denver Broncos
As Mike Klis of the Denver Post reported, Adam Weber took second-team snaps for the Denver Broncos during camp last week. While this isn't an indication that the young quarterback is the favorite for the backup job behind Peyton Manning, it does show that Denver views Weber as someone that could land that job.
Rookie second-round pick Brock Osweiler and newly signed free agent Caleb Hanie will be competing for the No. 3 job during training camp. This is somewhat of a big position battle in Denver due to the uncertainty surrounding Manning after he missed the entire 2011 season due to a neck injury.
Winner: Eddie Royal, Wide Receiver, San Diego Chargers
The talented young receiver is just a couple of seasons removed from nearly acquiring 1,000 yards as a rookie. Despite this, the Denver Broncos made little effort to re-sign him. That is good news for the Chargers.
According to Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego (h/t Rotoworld), Royal has looked "sharp" and "explosive" during the offseason for San Diego. This could be huge news for a Chargers team that is going to be without Vincent Jackson after he signed as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Loser: Caleb Hanie, Quarterback, Denver Broncos
Less than a calendar year ago, there were some that thought Hanie had a chance to become a starting quarterback in the National Football League. After a disastrous performance in replacement of Jay Cutler for the Chicago Bears last season, this changed.
Hanie, who signed with the Broncos this offseason with hopes of being the primary backup to Peyton Manning, is now battling for the No. 3 position. Considering that Denver selected Brock Osweiler in the second round of April's draft, it is hard to imagine Hanie making the club out of camp.
Loser: Knowshon Moreno, Running Back, Denver Broncos
How can a player that is not participating in organized offseason activities be considered a loser? Well, it is pretty simple. He isn't participating because an injury has disabled his ability to do so.
As Lindsay Jones of the Denver Post notes, Moreno tore his ACL last season and doesn't look like he will be 100 percent for training camp in late August. This is bad news for the former first-round pick considering that the Broncos selected Ronnie Hillman in the third round of April's draft.
You could be looking at Moreno being a training camp casualty before he is even given another chance to shed that bust label. Time will tell.
Winner: Steve McLendon, Defensive Tackle, Pittsburgh Steelers
With Casey Hampton more than likely to miss the first six games of the 2012 campaign, it does appear that this young defensive tackle will be inserted as the Steelers' starting nose tackle heading into the regular season.
According to Mark Kaboly of The Tribune-Review, McLendon is drawing rave reviews from the coaching staff and could be an actual upgrade from the aging veteran Hampton. Time will tell.
Winner: Vontaze Burfict, Linebacker, Cincinnati Bengals
Yes, the very same player that I had come out against at the very earliest stages of the draft process is considered a winner. Yes, the very same player that was considered by many to be a first-round prospect before completely blowing his shot is on the list of winners.
According to a report from Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com, Burfict's new organization is giving the enigmatic defender a new slate and is prepared to move on without looking to the past.
Apparently Burfict has taken to his new opportunity in Cincinnati and seemed to look really good during organized team activities and minicamp. The talent is there with the former Arizona State standout. Now it is time to prove he can take advantage of his chance to be an NFL player.
Loser: Colt McCoy, Quarterback, Cleveland Browns
It is now common knowledge that McCoy isn't in the Browns' plans moving forward. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com reports that they are attempting to trade him for pennies on the dollar and could end up actually releasing the young quarterback.
While we all have our opinions about this, I think it is safe to say that the Browns organization just hasn't handled this the right way. Expect McCoy to catch on with another team and be a valuable backup until he earns a starting job down the road.
Loser: Casey Hampton, Defensive Tackle, Pittsburgh Steelers
According to Sporting News, Hampton, who tore his ACL last season, is a prime candidate to be put on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) and could miss the first six games of the season.
This isn't great news for the Steelers either, but they do have options. They drafted Alameda Ta'amu in April and have a rising star in Steve McLendon prepared to hold down the fort.
If Hampton doesn't come back strong, it could mean that he has played his final game for the Steelers. They might not want to "waste" a spot on the 53-man roster for a third nose tackle who will be 35 and coming off a serious injury.
Loser: Jordan Shipley, Wide Receiver, Cincinnati Bengals
According to the Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy, Shipley is still feeling "stiffness" in his surgically repaired knee. This has given others, including Armon Binns, an opportunity to earn the No. 2 receiving job opposite A.J. Green.
Hobson's Bengals.com report indicates that Binns is making the most of his opportunity and has the inside slant, pun intended, to earn that starting job.
Winner: Dwight Freeney, Linebacker, Indianapolis Colts
It appears that the veteran pass-rusher is transitioning well to outside linebacker in the Colts' newly implemented 3-4 defensive scheme, as reported by Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star.
While you wouldn't expect anything less from the veteran, it is still important to note that older players do tend to struggle when switching positions.
Freeney and Robert Mathis could shine on defense for the Colts in 2012 after down seasons by both last year. This will help out their secondary and inexperienced group of interior linemen a great deal.
Winner: Lestar Jean, Wide Receiver, Houston Texans
Never heard the name before? You might want to jot it down, because it is going to be huge come August. Jean, a Florida Atlantic alum who wasn't drafted in 2011, is opening up some eyes in Texans camp this offseason.
It began with an amazing performance during OTAs and has continued into the latter part of the offseason.
The Texans' No. 2 wide receiver job is wide open with DeVier Posey, Kevin Walter and Jean fighting for the job opposite Andre Johnson. At this point you could conceivably see Jean win that job, which would be a great story heading into the season. Victor Cruz 2.0? Okay, not going that far just yet.
Winner: Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
Most people that were lucky enough to follow Luck's career at Stanford shouldn't be surprised that he shined in OTAs as well as the Colts' recent minicamp. Albert Breer of NFL.com reports that Luck is taking on a leadership role, which will be absolutely huge for their offense.
This might not translate to huge numbers as a rookie in 2012, but it is extremely important for Luck's growth process as a quarterback moving forward. It gives him the trust of the team early in his career. That is huge!
Loser: Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver, Jacksonville Jaguars
Let's ignore his DUI arrest for a second. Justin Blackmon has not shined in any of the Jaguars' offseason activities and could fail to make an impact as a rookie in 2012.
Laurent Robinson, Lee Evans and Mike Thomas could all be slotted ahead of Blackmon on the depth chart. Others, including Brian Robiskie, are also standing out ahead of Blackmon at this point, according to Tania Ganguli of The Florida Times-Union.
Winner: Shawne Merriman, Defensive End/Linebacker, Buffalo Bills
It has been five years since Merriman was an impact player in the National Football League. Ever since, he has been an enigma of sorts around the league and someone that many people love to hate because of performance-enhancing drugs.
In fact, Merriman has a combined five sacks over the course of the last four seasons, 7.5 less than he totaled in 2007 alone.
According to the National Football Post, Merriman looks like he will be a go for training camp after participating in offseason activities with the Buffalo Bills. Despite being only 28, the talented pass-rusher has struggled with injury issues in the past. If he is 100 percent come September, we could see some type of positive impact from him.
Loser: Chad Ochocinco, Wide Receiver, Miami Dolphins
Any time a receiver goes from catching passes from Tom Brady to catching balls from Matt Moore, it usually isn't a good thing. This is the situation that Ochocinco found himself in after being released by the New England Patriots earlier this month.
Couple this with the fact that he went from a successful Patriots franchise to the Dolphins, and you have to conclude that the veteran receiver is one of the losers of the offseason so far. It also didn't help that Ochocinco failed to show up and perform well in Patriots camp.
Loser: Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback, Miami Dolphins
When a team selects a quarterback in the top 10, it definitely expects him to contend for the starting job as a rookie. It doesn't appear this will happen for Tannehill in 2012. The Texas A&M product is stuck behind both Matt Moore and David Garrard on the depth chart.
He didn't take first-team snaps during any of the organized team activities and seems to be nothing more than a third-string quarterback heading into the 2012 season.
Winner: Randy Moss, Wide Receiver, San Francisco 49ers
The indications are definitely there for Moss to struggle a great deal in 2012. He sat out last season after being a non-factor for three different teams in 2010, and the future Hall of Fame receiver is 35 years old, which is well past a receiver's prime.
Adding more fuel to the fire is that fact that Alex Smith, not Tom Brady, is going to be throwing him the pass this upcoming season.
All that said, Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com (via Pro Football Talk) reports that Moss is receiving rave reviews from 49ers coaches and appears to be in 2008 shape. That is extraordinary considering all the things going against Moss at this point. If the veteran receiver can be just 70 percent of what he was with Brady and the New England Patriots, then San Francisco will be quite happy.
Winner: Michael Crabtree, Wide Receiver, San Francisco 49ers
Probably less of a surprise than Moss is the fact that Crabtree finally appears to be turning the corner in his young career. The talented receiver was among the most productive pass-catchers during the final seven games last season. However, he struggled a great deal in the postseason.
Maiocco indicates that Crabtree is excelling during the 49ers' offseason programs. Head coach Jim Harbaugh even went as far to say that Crabtree has the "best hands" he has ever seen. Mighty high praise for someone that coached Jerry Rice and Tim Brown.
Winner: Russell Wilson, Quarterback, Seattle Seahawks
It appears that Wilson is still in competition for the starting quarterback job in Seattle with Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson, according to Percy Allen of The Seattle Times.
While it is hard to believe that Wilson could win the job outright as a rookie over those two veterans, stranger things have happened.
You have to realize one thing: If Wilson were three inches taller, he would have most likely been a first-round pick in April. The quarterback has a tremendous amount of talent and could be a really good starting quarterback in the National Football League.
Loser: Chris Clemons, Defensive End, Seattle Seahawks
Clemons surprised Seattle by holding out of mandatory minicamp (per John Boyle of the Everett Herald, h/t Rotoworld) and is seeking a long-term extension. This seems to have come out of nowhere, but it is affecting him more than the team.
This is an example of the player, not the team being a loser. Sure, Clemons is a major cog in the Seahawks' talented defense. That being said, they do have other plays prepared to fill his role should the veteran pass-rusher hold out longer.
Pete Carroll isn't into playing games and won't be waiting around for Clemons to return. Instead, you can fully expect Bruce Irvin, among others, to get an opportunity here.
Winner: Titus Young, Wide Receiver, Detroit Lions
One of the few Lions players that haven't been arrested this offseason, Young has taken full advantage of being free to work out by shining during activities all spring long. He has an opportunity to earn their No. 2 wide receiver job opposite Calvin Johnson.
The second-year receiver from Boise State has been nothing less than amazing in camp for Detroit and looks to be the real deal following a standout rookie season.
Head coach Jim Schwartz had some glowing things to say about Young's performance thus far. Via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press:
He's worked hard, he's been a good teammate. He's probably looked the best that I've seen him look in this couple-week span. But we just need to keep him on this track because he's been outstanding.
Winner: Nick Perry, Linebacker, Green Bay Packers
According to Dan Arkush of Pro Football Weekly, Perry "already has established himself as the clear-cut starter opposite [Clay] Matthews."
That was quick.
While I have been a critic of Perry's ability to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, he should provide an immediate pass-rush ability opposite Matthews. This is something that Green Bay was missing last season, and it caused the Packers to get torn apart through the air.
Any type of contribution near the level of what we saw from Von Miller and Aldon Smith last season would be huge from Perry as a rookie in 2012.
Loser: Christian Ponder, Quarterback, Minnesota Vikings
This has absolutely nothing to do with Ponder and his progression as a quarterback in the National Football League. Instead, it has everything to do with Percy Harvin. The talented young receiver has requested a trade from the Vikings.
While I don't expect Harvin to actually be traded, his absence from part of minicamp was huge for Ponder. The young quarterback needs every possible waking moment with his receivers in order to get more comfortable with them on the outside.
That isn't going to happen anytime soon with Harvin.
Winner: Aqib Talib, Cornerback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The talented cornerback has to be considered a winner because he is going to be able to fully participate in training camp late next month after having felony gun charges dropped this week.
Loser: Chase Daniel, Quarterback, New Orleans Saints
As I mentioned in an earlier article, it is really hard not to feel bad for Daniel. He has been waiting in the wings of Drew Brees for the last couple seasons only to get injured last week in Saints minicamp. Daniel, who is reported to have a hairline fracture of his right thumb (per Mike Triplett of The Times-Picayune), will not be able to resume throwing until training camp.
At that point, Brees should probably be on board and ready to go for the regular season. At least Daniel will have another opportunity to show that he can be a viable quarterback during preseason games in August.
Loser: Jon Beason, Linebacker, Carolina Panthers
The former Pro Bowl linebacker didn't take part in OTAs as a precaution, as reported by Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. That being said, Beason and Thomas Davis really need to show that they can perform at a high level and remain healthy for the 2012 season.
If not, the primary role as a leader along that unit will go to rookie Luke Kuechly, who is performing extremely well this offseason.
Winner: Robert Griffin III, Quarterback, Washington Redskins
According to various reports, the rookie No. 2 overall selection is not having major issues picking up the Washington Redskins offense and looks to be relatively smooth on the field during his first days as a NFL quarterback.
This should be taken with a grain of salt considering that teams do attempt to boost the confidence of rookie quarterbacks prior to them seeing the field during the preseason.
That being said, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has been outspoken in regards to RGIII (via Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk):
I don’t think you have to be a coach to see how talented the guy is. I think everyone knows that, so there wasn’t that much surprise there. But he’s picked it up faster than I expected. Anytime a guy doesn’t do a lot of drop-back stuff and things like that for really his whole career, it’s going to take time.
And with him, he’s really showing improvement each day. He can comprehend what he needs to do and what he needs to get better at, and it’s all about giving him reps. You know he needs reps.
That's a pretty big deal if you ask me.
Winner: DeMarco Murray, Running Back, Dallas Cowboys
The talented young running back has been a force to reckon with during offseason activities in Dallas. It appears that Murray is not only recovered from a devastating ankle injury, but he seems to look as good as ever.
Josh Ellis of the Cowboys' official website has also indicated that Murray is catching a lot of passes out of the backfield, which is a great sign for such a young running back. At this point, it is hard to imagine Murray not being the featured back in Dallas heading into the 2012 season.
Winner: Dez Bryant, Wide Receiver, Dallas Cowboys
The former first-round pick has had his ups and downs over the course of his first couple seasons in the National Football League. Despite showing a great deal of talent, Bryant just hasn't been able to stay consistent, disappearing in the second half of games a great deal.
That being said, Bryant is still only 23 and has a lot of room for improvement. He has been a standout in camp over the course of the offseason and appears to be ready to take off in his third NFL season.
He just keeps improving and improving. He’s a kid that I enjoy playing with because he wants to get better. He’s always asking, "Hey Tony, what can I do to be better?" I love playing with guys like him.
Winner: Mychal Kendricks, Linebacker, Philadelphia Eagles
It goes without saying that the Eagles linebacker corps was dreadful last season. This is a unit that might have cost Philadelphia a couple games due to their inability to tackle.
This is where Kendricks comes into play. The 2012 second-round pick has to be considered one of the best rookie prospects in the entire league at this point. He can go sideline-to-sideline on a dime and plays much bigger than his frame suggests.
I guess this is why Ourlads already has Kendricks as the Eagles' starting outside linebacker before camp has even started.
Loser: Ramses Barden, Wide Receiver, New York Giants
The young receiver has struggled a great deal in OTAs this offseason and could easily be passed on the depth chart by rookie Rueben Randle.
Some think consistency is the problem for Barden, while offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride believes the problem stems from a lack of speed on the outside (via Mike Garafolo of The Star-Ledger).
Not what the receiver wants to hear as he is vying for the No. 3 wide receiver position, a spot previously held by Mario Manningham.