10 Lessons We Learned from NFL OTAs
OTAs are only the beginning of the offseason workouts, but they offer some insight to a team's thinking process. Teams use the OTAs to get an early grasp on a possible depth chart before they head to training camp. They also get a chance to check on the health of some players and how everyone is picking up the game plan.
This article looks at 10 things we've learned this early in the NFL offseason.
The St. Louis Rams Have Good Depth at the Wide Receiver Position
Brian Quick ended the recent OTAs as the team’s No. 4 wide receiver. He’ll need to overtake Tavon Austin, Chris Givens and Austin Pettis to work his way into the rotation. This shows that the St. Louis Rams have some good depth at the position.
However, the issue is that none of these players have established themselves as a star-caliber player. Someone out of this group needs to step up and provide Sam Bradford with a consistent threat.
Quick is still in the mix and will have the entire preseason to move up the depth chart. He absolutely has the talent needed to develop into the team’s top target.
Ryan Broyles Will Have a Major Impact for the Detroit Lions This Season
Despite still recovering from an ACL injury, Ryan Broyles is working out and showing signs of significant progress. The Detroit Lions need Broyles to be healthy to help draw attention away from Calvin Johnson.
Detroit’s wide receiving corps is a little thin after having to cut ties with Titus Young. Broyles has a great chance to claim the No. 3 wide receiver spot.
If Broyles takes more time to recover from his injury the Lions offense could be in some trouble. Johnson demands double-teams no matter who’s on the field, but it’s more of a problem when the defense has no other threat to worry about.
The Green Bay Packers Are Having an Open Competition at Running Back
Even after drafting Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin, the Green Bay Packers appear willing to give everyone a legitimate shot at winning the starting running back job. Alex Green had a strong showing during OTAs and is in line to open training camp as the starter.
Establishing a strong ground attack is important for the Packers because it will help balance out the offensive attack. It will also provide a shaky offensive line time to improve as a unit.
Last year, Aaron Rodgers was constantly under pressure and took a lot of big hits. This had to do with the offensive line struggles, but also because the defense didn’t have to worry about defending the run. Defensive ends just pinned their ears back and focused on putting pressure on Rodgers.
Victor Cruz and the New York Giants Are Still Not Seeing Eye to Eye
The contract situation involving Victor Cruz and the New York Giants had a band-aid put on it when Cruz signed his one-year tender. However, this is only a short-term fix because Cruz is determined to find security with a long-term deal.
New York still doesn’t seem to feel that Cruz is worth the money he is demanding. A report from the New York Daily News states that Cruz is looking for between $11 million and $9 million per year on a long-term deal.
The Giants are in an interesting situation because they know that Hakeem Nicks will also need a long-term deal in the near future. They also have second-year player Rueben Randle in the mix as someone who could be the long-term replacement for Cruz.
NFL teams need to be wary of the salary cap and just can’t commit too much money to just one position. They pay Eli Manning the big bucks to make those around him better.
Jay Cutler Has a Lot of Work to Do to Gain Confidence in Marc Trestman’s Offense
Jay Cutler may not be the most popular player in the NFL, but nobody has ever questioned his work ethic. This is a good thing because it’s going to take time and effort for Cutler to pick up head coach Marc Trestman’s offensive attack.
Trestman runs a version of the West Coast offense, which is much different from what Cutler has been asked to run throughout his career. This new offense is about timing and getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quickly. Cutler is more used to locating and throwing at his target rather than throwing him open.
The Chicago Bears are in a win-now mode, so there isn’t much time for Cutler to learn this new offense. This team is expecting to make a playoff appearance, and anything less than that will be considered a disappointment.
The Miami Dolphins Are Giving Lamar Miller a Chance to Be the Starting RB
After letting Reggie Bush leave via free agency, the Miami Dolphins knew they were heading into this season with a new starting running back. The Miami Herald reports that Lamar Miller has the early inside track at the starting job.
Miller will need to hold off both Daniel Thomas and rookie Mike Gillislee to keep the starting job. This competition will be one of the more noteworthy coming out of Miami’s training camp.
The Dolphins see a ton of potential in Miller. He’s an explosive athlete who’s capable of scoring from anywhere on the field. Miami is looking to surround second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill with as many weapons as possible.
The Philadelphia Eagles Have a Lot of Things to Figure out on Defense
The Philadelphia Eagles are going through a defensive transition, switching from a 4-3 attack to a 3-4 alignment. This change is creating some interesting situations as far as what position certain players will be asked to play.
Brandon Graham, Trent Cole and Vinny Curry are just three players facing a position switch. Both Graham and Cole will be asked to play outside linebacker and learn to rush from a two-point stance. The Eagles will need to use the preseason to determine whether or not they can handle this change.
Curry is being asked to bulk up and play the 5-technique position. This will take a major adjustment because Curry will now need to focus on playing some two-gap football rather than rushing the passer.
How these players handle this change will go a long way in determining the success of Philadelphia's defense.
The New York Jets Already See Dee Millner as a Starter
When the New York Jets drafted Dee Milliner it was expected that he’d quickly work his way into the starting lineup. However, Kyle Wilson and Antonio Cromartie were both coming off pretty good seasons. Wilson likely had hoped to retain his starting job at least into the preseason.
It looks like the Jets are already handing Milliner the starting spot. According to the New York Post, Wilson has seen most of his action this offseason in the nickelback role. It’s expected that he’ll mainly handle the slot receivers and take a backseat to Milliner.
Because the NFL continues to move towards more of a pass-heavy league, defenses need to have at least three good cornerbacks. Even though Wilson might not be considered a starter, he’ll see plenty of playing time.
The San Francisco 49ers Will Survive Michael Crabtree’s Injury
Michael Crabtree’s Achilles injury was a big blow to the San Francisco 49ers offense. He and Colin Kaepernick were hoping to build off the strong relationship they formed late last year. However, the 49ers now need someone to step up and replace Crabtree in the lineup.
So far, both A.J. Jenkins and Quinton Patton have made a strong case for this spot during OTAs. Jenkins is looking to rebound from a disappointing rookie season where he failed to make an impact. This may be his best opportunity to carve out a long-term role in the offense.
Patton could be one of the bigger steals of the draft. His quickness and route-running ability makes him a good fit to work out of the slot.
Mark Sanchez Has No Chance to Succeed with the New York Jets
Mark Sanchez’s time with the New York Jets has been filled with ups and downs. He played a major role in the team’s playoff success a few years ago, while his lack of development has helped the team regress.
However, the Jets have done very little to help out this young quarterback. The first thing to point out is the revolving door of offensive coordinators. Last year’s play-caller Tony Sparano only hurt Sanchez’s development.
The next thing that must be discussed is the fact the offense lacks any consistent playmakers. This offseason hasn’t been any different, as the wide receivers have been a major disappointment throughout OTAs. ESPN’s Rich Cimini points out that Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley in particular struggled.