Ranking the Best NFL Training Camp Performances so Far
NFL training camps have been in full swing for a little over a week, and certain players are starting to make their presence felt. Therefore, it's time to figure out whose effort has been the best.
When evaluating a player's work, it's important to note the extracurricular circumstances as well as the obstacles on the field. Delivering under pressure counts for something in these power rankings.
The Hall of Fame game kicked off the preseason slate and brought meaning back into our lives. To aid in your recovery from the football-less drought, click through to find out who has had the most impressive training camp performance thus far.
15. Green Bay Packers Offensive Tackle Marshall Newhouse
As if the Green Bay Packers needed anymore offensive advantages over their competition, Marshall Newhouse looks ready to provide just that.
The offensive line has been somewhat of a concern over the past couple seasons for the Packers. Especially in a division that includes Julius Peppers and Jared Allen, finding a proper replacement for the aging Chad Clifton has become a priority in cheesehead country.
Newhouse has turned in a strong effort thus far. There were a couple times he was beat by Clay Matthews, but there isn't much shame in giving up a couple sacks to a former Defensive Player of the Year.
I'm not sure how much better the Green Bay offense can get. It looks like we'll find out in 2012.
14. Jacksonville Jaguars Defensive End Andre Branch
The Jacksonville Jaguars don't know what they have in rookie Justin Blackmon since he has yet to sign his rookie deal. Fellow first-year man Andre Branch is doing his best to make up for his absence.
Branch has a reputation as a solid pass-rusher but needed to prove he could handle the running game. That question has been answered and Branch is in serious contention for a starting spot.
Perhaps Jacksonville's offseason will be remembered for more than holdouts.
13. Miami Dolphins Quarterback David Garrard
A team that has three possible starting quarterbacks usually means they have none.
David Garrard has apparently never heard of this old adage.
The Miami Dolphins are absorbing a new offense, so having a steady veteran at the helm is optimal. Ryan Tannehill's time will come, but the further off, the better.
Garrard has looked at ease in the West Coast system, and the year off has allowed him to heal from the various ailments that two decades of football had inflicted.
Things are starting to get interesting in Miami.
12. Buffalo Bills Cornerback Stephon Gilmore
The Buffalo Bills knew that Stephon Gilmore was talented, but even the front office has to be surprised with his training camp performance.
Gilmore has teammates and media members applauding his work ethic as he etches his name into the starting lineup. Head coach Chan Gailey raved about his "consisten[cy]" (h/t Mark Ludwiczak, CBSSports.com).
The Bills defense has a chance to be elite considering their front seven can be as dominant as anyone's. If Gilmore is up to the challenge of handling the opponent's top receiver, there will be reason to smile in January.
11. Detroit Lions Defensive End Willie Young
The Detroit Lions certainly wanted Cliff Avril to be present at the beginning of camp, but Willie Young probably didn't mind too much.
At least that's how his actions should be perceived. Young has jumped at the opportunity provided by Avril's absence and has reportedly been the star so far.
The backup defensive end has primarily been working on the left side and should take a step forward this year. Young showed signs last season that he would be the next breakthrough player along the crowded defensive line.
10. Houston Texans Outside Linebacker Whitney Mercilus
It's rare that a rookie can step in and replace a former No. 1 overall pick. Yet, Whitney Mercilus seems capable of pulling off the trick for the Houston Texans.
He loves the natural feel of the Texans defensive scheme. They employ a philosophy that allows the defenders to play football without too much thinking.
When you have a natural athlete like Mercilus, it's best to unleash him to terrify opposing quarterbacks.
Mario Williams' departure was an unfortunate and necessary move. There was just no way for the Texans to match the Buffalo Bills' $100 million offer.
If Mercilus' training camp performance is any indication, Houston won't regret it for long.
9. Dallas Cowboys Outside Linebacker Tyrone Crawford
The Dallas Cowboys have serious Super Bowl aspirations that won't be reached unless they improve their pass rush.
Tyrone Crawford might be the piece that pushes the Boys over the top.
Crawford has set the media abuzz with his play. The Boise State product is demonstrating the skills necessary to play early and often this season.
Can the Cowboys be super in 2012? They certainly have a shot if Crawford continues to deliver.
8. San Francisco 49ers Wide Receiver Randy Moss
If Peter King is impressed, there is certainly reason to investigate further.
The San Francisco 49ers have seemingly struck gold with the addition of Randy Moss. The speedy wideout has been flashing his former form and reminding people that there was a time when Moss was unstoppable.
It isn't as if he is dominating a sorry secondary either. The 49ers brought back every starter from their devastating defense.
Imagine what he'll do against lesser foes.
7. Washington Redskins Offensive Tackle Trent Williams
When a team spends the fourth overall pick to acquire your services, there will be certain expectations. Trent Williams hadn't been holding up his end of the deal with the Washington Redskins.
Which is good, because the Skins have a certain quarterback they'd like to keep upright.
6. Philadelphia Eagles Defensive End Brandon Graham
Brandon Graham sure is making up for lost time.
The former first-rounder hasn't made an impact in his first two seasons. Nobody is more aware of that than Graham.
Thus, he has been taking care of business in the absence of starters Trent Cole and Jason Babin.
Graham has the talent to be a significant contributor. If he finally lives up to expectations, the Philadelphia Eagles will keep opposing quarterbacks on the run all season long.
5. Denver Broncos Quarterback Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning didn't play a down in 2011 due to multiple neck surgeries, was released by the franchise that drafted him and is learning a new offense.
None of the above matters. Manning is still Manning.
Amid the media storm taking place at the Denver Broncos camp, Peyton continues to add to his legacy by slinging darts and handling the hype. Reports, from the Associated Press via The Washington Post, state that he looks "sharp and his decisions were sound."
Sounds awfully familiar.
4. New England Patriots Wide Receiver Brandon Lloyd
Some guys get to have all the fun.
Tom Brady has been his regular self, slinging the rock with impunity. But he has to be smiling even more this year than previous camps.
The New England Patriots are stacked at wide receiver. The recently signed Brandon Lloyd has wasted no time showing off his skills and knowledge of the offense.
Lloyd has only had one stellar season when he amassed 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns. However, he's always seemed to be a victim of circumstance as opposed to a talentless hack.
So take some free fantasy football advice and snatch him up early in your draft.
3. Indianapolis Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck
The buzz surrounding Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has been deafening for two years. Yet, he has always delivered.
That trend isn't likely to end anytime soon.
The kid has been on point with his throws and impressing his veterans teammates with his poise. Observers have noted, via Albert Breer of NFL.com, that he already looks like a veteran in his handling of the team.
At this rate, he should discover the cure for cancer by Week 6.
2. Atlanta Falcons Wide Receiver Julio Jones
The Atlanta Falcons have taken a lot of heat for their trade to get Julio Jones. The amount given up has created quite a bit of pressure for the wideout to perform.
And Jones appears to be fine with that.
Reports, courtesy of Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com, from camp have been adamant that the young wide receiver is in top form and fully ready to take advantage of his expanded role in the offense.
The bounty given up for Jones is still excessive, but it's becoming more and more defensible.
1. New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees
But this year, everything is different. The scandal surrounding the franchise could have been a major distraction instead of being utilized as fuel.
The New Orleans Saints know that people are counting them out, and Brees is using that to his advantage.
His statements regarding the lack of trust the players have in NFL commissioner Roger Goodell are proof of the team's attitude. That will intensify the respect that his teammates undoubtedly have for him and spark the rallying cry for this focused franchise.