NFL Training Camp 2012: The Most Shocking Developments Two Weeks In
Every NFL city has a different issue it has to deal with during training camp.
Some are heated quarterback jobs, others are backup positions along the offensive line, and some are just spots on the 53-man roster.
Whether you're a seasoned veteran or an incoming rookie, few things are certain. It's a guarantee that someone behind you is looking to take your job.
Now that we are two weeks into training camp, let's take a look at some shocking camp battles and player performances both good and bad.
Seahawks' Quarterback Battle
This may or may not be surprising to some, but I'm shocked that Matt Flynn hasn't separated himself from Tarvaris Jackson and Russell Wilson.
Pete Carroll is a big fan of creating competition at every position; I get that. But at what point does he start giving one quarterback more reps than the others? All three players are currently rotating days as the starter.
Flynn signed a three-year, $19.5 million contract with $10 million guaranteed this offseason. Are the Seahawks really going to pay him that kind of money to be a backup? Maybe they already know who is going to start but are letting things play out for the sake of competition.
Remember, Carroll did the same thing two years ago with Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst, even though there was no way Whitehurst was beating Hasselbeck out.
In Danny O'Neil's article from The Seattle Times, he asked Coach Carroll a couple of questions about the competition. Carroll called the schedule for evaluation "very strict" and the criteria for a decision "a big-time formula."
Very vague answers to say the least, yet we shall see who can make the most out of their limited reps against one of the league's best defenses.
All signs right now point to Flynn, and ESPN reports that Flynn has been named the started for the Seahawks' first preseason game and that he'll likely play the entire first half, so we'll learn a lot more about this competition at that time.
UPDATE: Blackmon and the Jags reportedly agreed to a deal Tuesday.
The new collective bargaining agreement is supposed to be an aid in ensuring all draft picks are signed on time before training camp opens.
Currently, all of the first-round draft selections have been signed except for Justin Blackmon. According to Vito Stellino of The Florida Times-Union, talks between the Jaguars and Blackmon are "healthy," even though there are still financial hang-ups at the base salary level.
Jacksonville wants the opportunity to retake some of his money if there is another off-the-field incident. One can't blame the Jags for wanting to do so considering he has had two run-ins with the law since 2010.
The ball appears to be in the court of Blackmon and agent Todd France.
France only represented one other first-round selection in this year's draft, but he does represent Prince Amukamara, who was the last first-rounder to sign last year.
If being drafted as your team's No. 1 wide receiver wasn't enough pressure, now you're 12 days removed from the start of camp, and the odds of you making an early impact are slipping.
Considering it's now August, most would think that the ankle has healed in full and Bradford is fully healthy going into 2012. That doesn't seem to be the case, as he told the St. Louis Post Dispatch, "It's close, I think it's as good as it's going to feel. It's something that we're managing right now."
One has to wonder if the better decision would have been opting for surgery. Rob Gronkowski suffered a similar injury last season deep into the playoffs but decided against letting the ankle try to heal on its own.
After the Super Bowl, he underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair the ankle. The scheduled recovery time was about 10 weeks.
Obviously, different people heal at different rates, but 10 weeks seems to be more favorable than 10 months.
Hindsight is always 20/20, and the injury could end up not affecting him at all during the season, but it's safe to assume that the injury will be monitored very closely going forward.
With Dwayne Bowe being a no-show at Chiefs camp, I'm a bit surprised that Jonathan Baldwin is taking advantage of the increased reps. I don't say this because I think Baldwin is a bad player, but because of the poor season he had last year.
His development has been noted as rapid and quick by observers. Bucky Brooks of NFL.com attended practice this past Thursday and said this about Baldwin's performance:
Chiefs officials raved about his ability to make highlight catches appear routine. During the night practice, he demonstrated those traits by making an acrobatic catch in the end zone during which he used his extraordinary length to reach up high to grab a ball before nimbly dragging his feet along the end line.
Quite the ringing endorsement from Chiefs officials. Many talent evaluators felt he was a diva and would create plenty of headaches for the Chiefs' organization. Just last year, Mike Mayock had this to say: "Jonathan Baldwin is a diva. Jonathan Baldwin is a handful. But he's a talented handful."
It looks like that talent is shining through, and it's poising him for a breakout year. For good measure, let's add one more ringing endorsement. Bleacher Report's very own Matt Miller had nothing but good things to say after watching him on Friday, saying he was going to "break out."
So, are you convinced this is his breakout year?
The news about Josh Gordon quickly adjusting to the NFL game can't only shock me, can it? By no means would I have ever thought that Gordon would be making an impact so quickly.
Maybe it was his off-the-field problems that left a sour taste in my mouth, or maybe it was because he didn't play a snap all of last year. Whatever the reason, it seems as if he is out to prove all the naysayers wrong.
Early reports out of Browns' camp are extremely encouraging. Everyone who has seen Gordon has used a different adjective to describe him: big, fast, strong and imposing.
Pat Kirwan and Tim Ryan of Sirius XM's Movin' The Chains visited Browns camp on Tuesday, and Kirwan offered up the following observation via Twitter:
with the Browns today...watched B Weeden run a very good 2 minute drill & Josh Gordon looks like the real deal
— Pat Kirwan (@PatKirwanCBS) August 2, 2012
It's all but set in stone that he will be the starter opposite Greg Little, right? Cleveland knows what they have in Mohamed Massaquoi. Even though Mike Holmgren said he's ready for a breakout season, I'm not buying it. The guy has been in the league three years now and never caught more than 40 balls.
Josh Gordon shouldn't have any problems catching 40 balls, and for once, maybe things are looking up for the Browns.
"Shocked" wouldn't be the right word in addressing how well Stephon Gilmore has performed thus far in training camp. "Shocked" would be the right word if one was describing his ascent in camp.
Really, the last two years have been a fast-paced uproar for Gilmore. His stock leading up to the draft saw an uptick after an impressive combine. He showed the ability to run well, and his footwork was on point for his size.
The Bills already have him penciled in at right cornerback, opposite Aaron Williams. He still has plenty to prove on game day, but endorsements of his play just keep coming in.
Buffalo wide receiver David Nelson had this to say about Gilmore (via ESPN):
He’s earned our respect already, every time you go against him, you’ve got to be ready. You know you’re going to get everything he has, and it’s going to be that way when the ball’s snapped until the whistle.
It seams as if he is ready to make a big impact in a Bills secondary that needs all the help it can get in coverage. They have the pieces; now they just have to put all the pieces together and add some consistency to the formula.
This was an intriguing quote from Stephon on how he and Stevie Johnson make each other better players in practice (via CBSSports.com):
He gets me better everyday, I'm trying to get him better. I'm trying to show him some stuff that I know. He's a great receiver, I'm trying to learn from him, compete against him. I know he's one of the greatest receivers in the league right now, so that's a great thing to go up against him every day.
Anyone would say that Blaine Gabbert could have played better in 2011, but all this talk about him being a bust after one season is nonsense.
I've been particularly critical of his pocket presence and decision-making, yet I realize the underlying circumstances of his situation. He was put in a bad spot last season, plain and simple. The offensive line was awful at a couple of spots, he had no receiving help outside of Marcedes Lewis, and there was no offseason preparation.
And don't say, "Look at Cam Newton." Newton is far and away a better quarterback than Gabbert. It's not fair to compare them just because they were both drafted in the first round. Two totally different players with two totally different skill sets.
New head coach Mike Mularkey is known as a bit of a quarterback guru, which has been cited as the reason for Gabbert's improved offseason. Even Gene Frenette of Jacksonville.com has seen major strides from last season:
During offseason training activities, minicamps, and into training camp, a better Gabbert is evolving. How much that transitions into real games, we’ll find out. But it’s clear to coach Mike Mularkey’s staff and teammates that they’re stoked about where Gabbert is headed.
They see it in his footwork, technique, film study dedication, field presence and throwing motion. He just looks more the part of what a quarterback is supposed to be.
Just remember, very few players come into this league and dominate. For some, it takes years of annual improvement to reach their prime. Let's give Gabbert some time progress and mature as a player.
By no means am I saying he is going to be the next Aaron Rodgers, but let's at least wait until the games actually count before judging him.
Bears' Left Tackle Job
It's shocking to me that the Bears think J'Marcus Webb is the long-term answer at left tackle.
After a 2011 season where Webb gave up 12 sacks, six quarterback hits and 30 quarterback hurries, one would think that those kinds of numbers would get you replaced immediately. Not to mention the 14 times he was penalized.
Offensive guard Chris Williams is one of the players who was battling Webb for that tackle position. Williams started five games at left tackle in 2009 and held up quite well. Over those five starts he only allowed a combined nine pressures.
Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald sent out a tweet that shed some light on the situation:
J'Marcus Webb getting all the 11-on-11 reps at OLT with the 1s for third straight day while Gabe Carimi and Chris Williams split work at ORT
— Bob LeGere (@BobLeGere)
It looks as if Williams is slowly falling out of the running for the left tackle job, but that doesn't mean Webb has won. James Brown, an undrafted offensive lineman out of Troy, has also been getting some first-team reps.
Chris Williams at right tackle with 2nd team in walkthroughs. James Brown at LT. #Bears
— Jeremy Stoltz (@BearReport)
If Chicago doesn't think Webb is capable of being their left tackle of the future, why not give someone else a shot? You know what you're getting with him. By playing Brown, things can't get worse.
Arizona's Quarterback Battle
Kevin Kolb is the quarterback who has nine lives. No matter how many times he gets injured or plays poorly, he always gets another shot. One of these days his lofty contract will no longer be valid reason as to why the starting job should be his.
John Skelton's performance at the Hall of Fame game showed why he should be the starter of the Arizona Cardinals. He was 4-of-6 passing with 32 yards through the air and led the Cardinals on their only touchdown scoring drive of the night.
But it goes deeper than just statistics. There are so many things that Skelton offers in terms of physical tools and mobility.
When I watch him, I see a big, strong player who has a live arm and moves well in the pocket. Kolb doesn't offer any upside; the only thing I've noticed he is good at as of late is collecting a check.
Apparently, others were just as impressed. NFL Network's Albert Breer chimed in on Twitter with his thoughts about Skelton's performance:
Really liked what I saw from John Skelton ... Very quick, compact release, and the ball gets there in a hurry.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) August 6, 2012
It would be shocking to see Kolb as the opening-day starter. If Arizona wants to win, they know who they need to start.