Early Impressions from Every Team's Offseason Workouts so Far

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystJune 4, 2014

Early Impressions from Every Team's Offseason Workouts so Far

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    Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    It's that time of year across the National Football League.

    The OTA dog days of summer.

    All across the NFL, from Arizona to Washington, teams are conducting Organized Team Activities, a dry run of sorts before training camp begins in earnest next month.

    Whether it's an early chance for rookies to make a good impression, or a first glance at developing position battles, there's plenty to be gleaned from these workouts.

    Here's a look at some of the latest.

Arizona Cardinals

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    USA TODAY Sports

    It's been a rough week for the Arizona Cardinals. With star linebacker Daryl Washington suspended for at least the entire 2014 season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, the middle of a defense that was the team's strength is now a huge question mark.

    According to Darren Urban of the Cardinals' website, the team will go the veteran route to replace Washington in free-agent acquisition Larry Foote. The 33-year-old Foote, who had 113 tackles for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2012, missed almost the entire 2013 season with a torn biceps.

    The questions facing the Arizona defense are going to place additional pressure on the offense to keep the Redbirds in the NFC West race.

    No problem, says quarterback Carson Palmer, who raved about the team's offseason while speaking with 98.7 FM in Phoenix (per Vince Marotta of Arizona Sports):

    Seeing the additions we've made, with Jared (Veldheer) and Teddy Ginn, John Carlson's been awesome. And some of the young guys we've added, this little guy, John Brown, he's been a little bit banged up, but I'm so excited to watch this guy play.

    And obviously getting (Jonathan Cooper) back this year and really not getting a chance to play with him last year. It's just so much fun to see where we are as a team and you can't do it too much, but you start thinking about the potential and where we can go, and you just start getting excited.

    Palmer also singled out third-year wide receiver Michael Floyd, who has turned heads in OTAs after posting his first 1,000-yard season in 2013:

    I'm so proud of Mike Floyd and so excited to see what he's going to do this year. He and I trained this whole offseason together since late January and he's worked really, really hard to get more fluid and a little bit more explosive and more flexible. He's worked extremely hard. I think the year that Mike's going to have is going to shock some people.

Atlanta Falcons

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    USA TODAY Sports

    As the Atlanta Falcons attempt to erase the stink of last year's 4-12 debacle, one of the biggest changes underway has been the shift to a defensive alignment featuring more three-man fronts.

    Vaughn McClure of ESPN offered some early insights on the Falcons' new defense from OTAs:

    When defensive coordinator Mike Nolan screamed out "base defense" midway through practice, the Falcons move into a 3-4 setup with Tyson Jackson, Paul Soliai and Jonathan Babineaux up front, Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu as the inside linebackers, and Stansly Maponga and Jonathan Massaquoi rushing as outside linebackers.

    McClure points out that Kroy Biermann and Osi Umenyiora worked as situational pass-rushers, while rookie defensive end Ra'Shede Hageman "seems to be really hard on himself," with the coaching staff having to calm the youngster down after he missed an assignment.

    The Falcons also opened OTAs without their star receivers on the field. Julio Jones continues to rehab from the foot injury that derailed his 2013 season, while Roddy White is away dealing with the shooting death of his brother.

    Head coach Mike Smith wasn't concerned about White's absence. "Our thoughts and prayers are still with Roddy and his family in this difficult time," he said, via McClure.

    Many of the Falcons' problems last year started up front, and remaking the offensive line has been a priority this offseason. The selection of offensive tackle Jake Matthews in the first round may have grabbed most of the headlines in that regard, but the return of a healthy Sam Baker on the blind side could have an even greater impact.

    So far so good, according to what Smith told John Manasso of Fox Sports:

    I think Sam is moving around extremely well. He's gotten stronger, he's gotten bigger. I think it's very noticeable -- if you look at our team from what they've done in the offseason in terms of their body weights, their body weights are up, their body fat is down and that's a positive.

Baltimore Ravens

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    USA TODAY Sports

    After winning the Super Bowl two years ago, the Baltimore Ravens backslid in 2013, in part due to an offensive line that struggled mightily at times. The Ravens took several steps to address that in the offseason, including the acquisition of center Jeremy Zuttah in a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    There may not be much contact in OTAs, but that hasn't stopped Zuttah from making an impression on head coach John Harbaugh, according to Ryan Mink of the team's website.

    “Jeremy Zuttah is doing a great job,” Harbaugh said. “He’s smart – really smart, really mature [and] goes about his business in a mature way. I’m just very impressed with how smart he is.”

    Zuttah isn't the only big ugly putting on a show in OTAs. Guard Kelechi Osemele, who missed nine games a year ago due to a back injury, "jumped out" at head coach John Harbaugh, according to Mink:

    K.O. was really practicing fast, sprinting back to the huddle or back to the line when he was done after every single play, almost making a point to condition himself during practice. He’s in really exceptional condition.

    Of course, it hasn't all been good news for the Ravens. Not only is running back Ray Rice coming off the worst season of his NFL career, but the 27-year-old is still staring at a suspension stemming from offseason assault charges.

    As Jamison Hensley of ESPN reported, Rice appeared "noticeably slimmer and appeared to have a good burst when hitting the holes" in OTAs, but it wasn't Rice taking most of the first-team reps at running back. That honor went to veteran Justin Forsett, in what was likely a message that Harbaugh has grown weary of shenanigans from his running backs.

Buffalo Bills

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    USA TODAY Sports

    In today's NFL, backfield committees are becoming more the norm than the exception, and it appears the Buffalo Bills are working on ways to get both C.J. Spiller and veteran Fred Jackson on the field together.

    That's the latest from Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 in Buffalo, who reports that the Bills featured some offensive sets that had both backs on the field:

    Jackson was the man in the backfield while Spiller was the more athletic type that was motioned to different parts of the formation. If they can develop that and create a lot of side plays for either player based on those looks, that will be putting two of their better playmakers on the field at one time.

    Buscaglia also passed along good news regarding second-year quarterback EJ Manuel. According to Buscaglia, Manuel looked "more relaxed" in OTAs, "waiting on routes with receivers coming open and making some good reads."

    One of the biggest offseason position battles for the Bills lies at free safety, where second-year pro Duke Williams and Da'Norris Searcy are vying to replace the departed Jairus Byrd. Unfortunately, as Mike Rodak of ESPN points out, we weren't able to learn much about that battle so far in OTAs, as, with strong safety Aaron Williams recovering from shoulder surgery, both Williams and Searcy ran with the first team.

    Free safety isn't the only change for the Bills defensively in 2014. The team will feature more 4-3 looks this year under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, meaning that outside linebacker Jerry Hughes is making the switch to defensive end.

    The 25-year-old Hughes, who exploded for 10 sacks in 2013, is faring well in the transition, according to Chris Brown of the Bills' website:

    Jerry Hughes strongest practice in the first week may have been Thursday. He was effectively using an inside rush on some offensive tackles that were oversetting on pass plays. He’s still asking lots of questions of the position coaches when he’s not getting live reps, but he’s making progress.

    Unfortunately for Hughes, things aren't going as well off the field. As Mark Gaughan of The Buffalo News reports, Hughes is under investigation as the second driver in a street race and crash that resulted in defensive tackle Marcell Dareus being arrested for the second time in a month.

Carolina Panthers

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    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    Without question, the biggest question mark facing the Carolina Panthers has to be a wide receiver corps that was completely rebuilt after being decimated by free agency.

    There's been some good signs in that regard, though, at least according to ESPN's David Newton.

    Newton reports that wideout Jerricho Cotchery, who reeled in a career-high 10 touchdown passes for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2013, "already sounds like the veteran leader the Panthers hoped he would be when they signed him from Pittsburgh after letting (Steve) Smith go."

    "The 31-year-old looked far from washed up, making several nice catches in traffic," Newton wrote. "He's going to be a plus for this unit."

    Newton also singled out wide receiver Philly Brown as an under-the-radar star:

    Brown went deep for a score. The former Ohio State star may be small at 5-foot-11, but he's super fast. He's No. 16 on your program, and a player to watch out for as a sleeper in the wide receiver battle.

    However, the best news of all came with another Newton's return to the field—or at least off to the side of it.

    After undergoing ankle surgery, it was originally believed that we wouldn't see quarterback Cam Newton on the field until training camp. However, he was present at OTAs, throwing to receivers on the side.

    The most encouraging part? Newton staying after practice to work one-on-one with rookie first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin.

    The pair needs to develop chemistry quickly, and every rep helps.

Chicago Bears

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    The Chicago Bears were in contention in the NFC North right up until the final week of the 2013 season, but a porous defense did the team in in its do-or-die loss to the Green Bay Packers.

    The team spent big on the defensive side of the ball in free agency, and some of those new acquisitions were on display when the Bears kicked off OTAs.

    As Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Matt Bowen reported for The Chicago Tribune, it all starts with a revamped defensive front:

    Lamarr Houston has the movement skills, size and ability to play multiple spots to pair with the speed and power of Jared Allen off the edge. Plus, with the addition of defensive end Willie Young, the Bears have options — especially in the sub packages — to mesh that personnel in coverage and pressure schemes.

    The Bears also struggled badly in the back end in 2013, but Bowen passes along word that veteran free agent Ryan Mundy looks ready to stem the bleeding:

    When you watch veteran safeties on the practice field, they demonstrate patience in their footwork and show the ability to identify concepts in the passing game. That was Ryan Mundy on Tuesday versus quarterback Jay Cutler and the No.1 offense.

    The changes don't stop there. As Michael C. Wright of ESPN reports, the Bears are also tinkering with their veteran cornerbacks:

    Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are the club's starting cornerbacks. But when the Bears go into nickel defense, they bring in first-round pick Kyle Fuller to play outside at Jennings' spot, and move Jennings inside to nickel. At this point in the offseason, the Bears will continue to tinker with personnel and different sub packages to figure out what works best. But this is how things are looking early.

Cincinnati Bengals

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    Al Behrman/Associated Press

    Granted, it may have only been for warm-ups and stretching, but it still had to feel good for the Cincinnati Bengals to have three injured starters from last year on the field at OTAs.

    As Coley Harvey of ESPN reports, defensive tackle Geno Atkins (ACL), offensive guard Clint Boling (ACL) and cornerback Leon Hall (Achilles) were all present for the beginning of OTAs, albeit in a very limited fashion. All three are tentatively believed to be on schedule for the beginning of the regular season.

    With that said, however, Harvey passes along word that the team's new offensive coordinator wasn't limited even a little bit:

    We start with the beginning of the practice, when newly promoted offensive coordinator Hue Jackson loudly shouted "I love this day!" as players wrapped up stretching. Why is that worth mentioning? Because it was only the first of many things Jackson could be heard shouting all during the workout. He has been known league-wide for his energetic and intense style of coaching. Cincinnati's noticeably faster practice tempo certainly was a credit to him.

    Jackson's enthusiasm continued while speaking with Geoff Hobson of the team's website about quarterback Andy Dalton, who continues to draw rave reviews about his performance in workouts so far this year:

    Spectacular. It’s the first time I’ve been able to work with him hands on. He has all the characteristics I like in a quarterback. He’s smart, he comes to work prepared and ready to go, and he comes to the practice field ready to compete. He can make all the necessary throws. I haven’t see any throw he can’t make.

Cleveland Browns

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    Might as well get it out of the way.

    When Johnny Manziel took first-team reps with the Cleveland offense last week, the hearts of fans everywhere skipped a beat.

    Everyone, just slow your roll. As Kevin Jones of the Browns' website reported, that was planned by new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, largely to protect Brian Hoyer (ACL surgery) from the sort of accidental contact that just ended the season of Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee.

    That isn't to say Manziel hasn't made an impression on his new OC. In fact, Shanahan compared Manziel to the last quarterback who ran his offense, according to Jim Corbett of USA Today:

    Johnny and Robert (Griffin) are very similar. They're both talented guys who can make plays with their legs. But there comes a time in the NFL when they're going to keep you in the pocket, and you're going to have to have that ability to make the throws with your arm and mind. And Johnny, just like Robert, has that arm talent and intelligence to do that."

    Of course, while Manziel may have hogged the most headlines, he wasn't the first player the Browns selected this year.

    That was cornerback Justin Gilbert, and the prevailing wisdom has been that it would be the Oklahoma Star starting opposite Joe Haden.

    Not so fast, according to what defensive coordinator Jim O'Neill told Jones. O'Neill stated that Buster Skrine has looked very good in workouts, saying, "We kid with the receivers: you can’t run by Buster Skrine.”

    O'Neill also said the starting job is still very much up for grabs:

    I think it will be a competitive situation. I think we’ve done a great job of building depth at that position. That will be on [Gilbert]. He’s going to get every opportunity to win, but I don’t think that the guys who are playing the position will give it to him.

Dallas Cowboys

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    About the aforementioned Sean Lee.

    The ACL tear that Lee suffered in workouts last week was a crushing blow to a defense that ranked dead last in the NFL last year, and it leaves the Dallas Cowboys scrambling to plug a hole at middle linebacker.

    As Calvin Watkins of ESPN Dallas reported Monday, veteran Justin Durant ran with the first team at middle linebacker in workouts.

    The 28-year-old, who played some middle linebacker during his time with the Jacksonville Jaguars, told Watkins he's ready to step up if needed:

    I'm comfortable. We all cross train in all the meetings to step in, just in case something like this happens. I have been studying it. Coach called on me to go and so I went whenever they tell me to go I go. I know we have a depth chart when we come in and my name was up there today for the MIKE.

    The team also has youngster Devonte Holloman and rookie Anthony Hitchens, but Durant is far and away the most experienced potential replacement for Lee on the roster.

    It hasn't all been doom and gloom for the Cowboys, however. Running back Lance Dunbar, who showed flashes last year behind DeMarco Murray before going down with a knee injury, recently told Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News he "might be faster" now than he was pre-surgery.

    If what Todd Archer of ESPN Dallas saw in OTAs was any indication, that may well be true:

    Running back Lance Dunbar killed the backup linebackers in 7-on-7 drills. He ran away from Keith Smith on an underneath route. He lined up in the backfield, in the slot and even motioned wide. Dunbar has the look of a space player Scott Linehan has excelled with in the past in special circumstances.

Denver Broncos

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    Ed Andrieski/Associated Press

    Much as with "Omaha!" a year ago, it doesn't take long for nothing to become something when Peyton Manning is involved.

    So when Manning was spotted walking around OTAs with a green football, America's curiosity was piqued. The mystery only deepened when Manning playfully told reporters, per Lindsay Jones of USA Today, "That’s Denver Broncos offensive business. It’s kind of an A and B conversation and you can C your way out of it.”

    Still, head coach John Fox revealed to Mike Klis of The Denver Post what many already suspected. The green ball is simply a way to emphasize ball security after the Broncos led the NFL with 16 lost fumbles in 2013.

    "We're making an emphasis from Day One on ball security," Fox said. "We started with two of our better players in Demaryius and Peyton. What better guys to start with?"

    As Bleacher Report's Cecil Lammey reported, OTAs were also a chance for wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to make a positive impression on his new teammates.

    Offensive coordinator Adam Gase believes Sanders has accomplished that goal and then some:

    I’ve been very impressed. He’s been exactly what we thought from watching him in Pittsburgh. His ability to get off versus the jam is very impressive. Just that quickness, top of the route, and that speed down the field is something that we were very interested in to start with, and he’s shown us that he’s still got that.

    Demaryius Thomas echoed Gase's refrain:

    Sanders is too fast. He’s quick and fast at the same time. Some guys are quick [or] fast, and you’ve got [WR] Wes [Welker], who’s quick. Sanders is quick and fast. But I think it’ll be great for the team, because he can go over the top, he can be quick, he can go inside. I think it’s a big pickup for us. I think he’ll be great.

    It wasn't just Sanders who was turning heads. With running back Knowshon Moreno now in Miami, Montee Ball will be counted on for a larger role in 2014. Gase told Lammey he feels Ball is more than up to the task:

    We drafted him in the second round [last year] to be a big contributor. I know I keep saying the same thing, but we do have a lot of confidence in him. He brings that full package of a good running back, running the ball, catching the ball out of the backfield and protecting.

    Methinks the Denver offense may just score a few points in 2014. Again.

Detroit Lions

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    When the Detroit Lions declined to pick up the fifth-year option on defensive tackle Nick Fairley, it sent the message that the team wasn't sold on Fairley long-term.

    Now, entering a contract year, it appears that Fairley got that message loud and clear.

    As Dave Birkett of The Detroit Free Press reports, Fairley showed up for OTAs at a trimmed-down 295 pounds, over 25 pounds lighter than he finished last season.

    The 26-year-old also told Birkett that he plans to put talk that he takes plays off to rest in 2014:

    I think it’s more me, my play. Allow myself to get blocked at times, just stuff like that. (I need to start) being that guy, being relentless and just going out there knowing that no one can block me and going at it like that.

    As badly as the team would like an improved season from Fairley, it's even more crucial that the Lions get better in the secondary.

    A second-year leap from cornerback Darius Slay would be a huge help in that regard. Justin Rogers of MLive.com singled Slay out as a star of the last round of workouts, writing that he is playing with "a high level of confidence":

    On the first play of seven-on-sevens, Matthew Stafford challenged Slay deep down the sideline on a throw to Calvin Johnson, but the young corner stuck in Johnson's back pocket, turned his head and nearly intercepted the slightly under-thrown ball. Johnson became the defender, separating the ball from Slay at the last possible moment.

    However, the news wasn't as rosy on the other side of the ball. There's a new offense being installed by the Lions in 2014, and coordinator Joe Lombardi wasn't impressed with his team's execution last week, according to MLive's Kyle Meinke:

    Today was a little sloppy. I'm not going to lie to you, I was getting a little angry today because I thought that mostly the drops and some of the alignments weren't what you want. It was really a concentration issue more than anything, but I'm pretty excited about these players we have and the way this thing is going to develop.

Green Bay Packers

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    The Green Bay Packers aren't usually big spenders in free agency, but the team made an exception this year.

    According to Lori Nickel of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, it hasn't taken long for defensive end Julius Peppers to justify that—at least in the eyes of head coach Mike McCarthy:

    Julius is such an impressive person from all angles. Very professional approach, takes great care of himself. You can see that in phase one to phase two workouts, just the way he moves. He looks awesome in 56. I was worried we were not going to be able to find a shirt that would fit him. He looks very natural at the outside linebacker position.

    Those sentiments were echoed by linebacker Clay Matthews:

    I was a little shocked, I know we don’t make too many offseason acquisitions, especially with such a big name. But I am happy to have him, he’s a tremendous threat. He’s going to present new elements to this defense that they’re looking for.

    The Packers may be counting on big things from Peppers in his first year with the team, but McCarthy isn't about to hand anything to this year's rookie class.

    As Rob Demovsky of ESPN reported, none of this year's first-year players, including safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, ran with the starters in OTAs.

    The Packers may have won the NFC North last year, but injuries were a huge contributor to what most view as a disappointing season. As great as it was to see Aaron Rodgers back on the field, the return of Bryan Bulaga may be every bit as important to the Packers' odds of a deep playoff run.

    According to Demovsky, Bulaga, who tore his ACL before last season, ran with the starters at right tackle, and while he wore a brace on his knee he didn't appear to be limited.


Houston Texans

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    With Matt Schaub in Oakland, there's a huge question mark looming over the quarterback position in Houston.

    The looming position battle took a turn for the dramatic last week, when all four quarterbacks (Ryan Fitzpatrick, T.J. Yates, Case Keenum, and rookie Tom Savage) opened OTAs splitting reps.

    At the time, head coach Bill O'Brien called the competition "wide open," according to Brian T. Smith of The Houston Chronicle. However, O'Brien later conceded to 93.7 FM in Houston that the odds are against Savage becoming the Week 1 starter:

    I really think that it’s important that that guy learns in his first year. I think it’s very, very, very difficult to play quarterback as a rookie, especially in the first 6-8 weeks of the season in your first year. We’ve got veteran quarterbacks here… those guys are battling out for the starting job, and Tom’s in there, and he’s battling too, but hopefully Tom can come into this season and learn a lot, and run the scout team, and then go from there after this season.

    That isn't to say that there aren't rookies from whom big things are expected from by the Texans. First overall pick Jadeveon Clowney will be counted on to bolster the team's pass rush, but like Savage, Clowney missed last week's workouts to attend the NFLPA Rookie Premiere in Los Angeles.

    O'Brien insisted that it wasn't the players' fault they missed workouts, but the coach didn't sound overjoyed about it while speaking with Tania Ganguli of ESPN.

    "That’s something they were mandated to go to that," O'Brien said. "Hopefully they got a lot out of it and now they’re back and they have to catch up."

    However, while Clowney and Savage are back at it, another member of the Texans' 2014 haul remains on the shelf. Defensive tackle Louis Nix, who Houston selected in the third round of May's NFL draft, has been sidelined with an undisclosed injury.

    O'Brien didn't sound overly concerned, according to Deepi Sidhu of the team's website.

    “He's got something wrong with him but I’m not sure what it is,” he said. “I think he’ll be fine.”

Indianapolis Colts

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    The Indianapolis Colts traded a first-round pick for running back Trent Richardson last year, but after a disappointing 2013 and with Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard coming back, many anticipated a backfield battle unfolding in Indianapolis this summer.

    However, early workouts offered little information as to how that battle might unfold. Ballard (ACL) and Bradshaw (neck) didn't participate in workouts, and Richardson (shoulder) sported a red non-contact jersey.

    In fact, Ballard told Mike Wells of ESPN he might not participate in any workouts until training camp opens in earnest.

    I've got tendinitis, keep the tendinitis down and get the strength back up. I probably could participate now but there's really no reason to rush. Just want to make sure I'm feeling good for training camp.

    Ballard isn't the only Colts player coming back from an ACL tear. Wide receiver Reggie Wayne is doing the same, and while Wayne didn't participate fully in the latest round of OTAs, he at least ran on the side.

    Teammate T.Y. Hilton didn't sound a bit concerned about Wayne's Week 1 availability while talking with Kevin Bowen of the team's website:

    He’s always there, no matter what. Andrew (Luck) trusts him, and we all trust him. He’s been here the longest and he knows the ropes. He knows pretty much every defense. He’s a great guy. He’s going to shock the world. I saw him the other day and he looks great, like he never left.

    Wayne isn't the only veteran wideout the Colts are hoping for big things from in 2014. Unlike Wayne, though, Hakeem Nicks was on the field and making plays in workouts.

    As Bowen pointed out, Nicks has shown a nice chemistry with Luck, getting behind the defense for a long touchdown.

    Nicks told Bowen he realizes the importance of workouts as he acclimates to Indy after five seasons with the New York Giants:

    A lot of the terminology is different, so me being a pro, I have to make sure I put in time outside of here and while I’m here to make sure I get that stuff down on my end. That way, once they start calling it and doing what we do, we’ll be good to go.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    With quarterback Blake Bortles missing several days of practice to attend the NFLPA Rookie Premiere and several other players missing time with injuries, the offense has been lagging behind the defense at OTAs for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    At least, that's the gist of what head coach Gus Bradley told Vito Stellino of The Florida Times-Union Monday:

    Defensively, I thought we had a really good day. I thought guys were really competing. It doesn’t matter who is lined up against you just that whoever’s lined up against you appreciate that because that’s their job to get better. I think that the whole defense is getting a sense of that. Offensively, I think we’re seeing strides in the right direction. I think with timing and things like that it is so important that we need to get guys out on the field.

    Among the players who have missed time is rookie second-round pick Allen Robinson, who will be sidelined until at least the beginning of training camp with a pulled hamstring, according to Ryan O' Halloran of The Florida Times-Union:

    Hamstring for Robinson, out a few weeks. #Jaguars

    — Ryan O'Halloran (@ryanohalloran) June 2, 2014

    Still, it hasn't been all doom and gloom for the Jaguars offensively. While speaking with John Oehser of the Jaguars' website, Bradley singled out the offensive line as an area where there's been significant improvement:

    (Center) Mike (Brewster) has made really good progress with Zane (Beadles) and Luke (Joeckel). With Austin Pasztor at right tackle we know what he’s all about. We feel good there. That right guard spot is highly competitive right now and we’re really pleased with our young guys along with Jacques (McClendon) and guys that are battling there.

    Improved play from Joeckel, who missed 11 games last year with a broken ankle after being selected second overall by the Jaguars in 2013, would be a huge boost to the team this year.

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    When the Kansas City Chiefs kicked off OTAs after a surprising playoff run in 2013, the story had as much to do with the players who weren't there as it did with the ones who were.

    Granted, the workouts are technically voluntary, but neither outside linebacker Justin Houston (who is entering a contract year) nor cornerback Brandon Flowers (who has been mentioned as a possible trade candidate or cap casualty) was present for workouts.

    Quarterback Alex Smith didn't have a whole lot to say on the matter while talking with Terez Paylor of The Kansas City Star. “I’m worried about playing quarterback,” Smith said with a laugh. “To be totally honest, I’ve got enough on my plate. I think that’s the same for everybody here.”

    Of course, Smith has contract issues of his own. According to Paylor, ESPN's Ed Werder reported that talks between Smith and the Chiefs have stalled, with a "sense of pessimism" growing about the likelihood of a deal getting done.

    However, head coach Andy Reid downplayed the report while appearing on NFL AM:

    There has been open communication. I’ve always believed that if there is open communication, then normally good things happen. I’m sure something will get done; I can’t put a time frame on that but I’m sure something will get done.

    Now, not every report from Kansas City has had to do with contract squabbles. There's been good news as well, such as the early impression the team's first-round pick in 2014 is making.

    As Adam Teicher of ESPN reports, outside linebacker Dee Ford is drawing rave reviews from at least one of his new teammates.

    "If anybody reminds you of Derrick Thomas, that kid should pretty much remind you of Derrick Thomas with his first step," said Kansas City outside linebacker Tamba Hali, comparing Ford to the late Chiefs' Hall of Famer. "He gets off the ball so fast it's scary. I just kept rewinding (the video) yesterday just looking at his first step. I don't know if he times it, but his first step is incredible."

    High praise indeed.

Miami Dolphins

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    After gaining a career-high 1,038 yards in 2013, running back Knowshon Moreno signed a free-agent deal to become the lead back for the Miami Dolphins.

    However, as Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald recently opined, it looks like Moreno may have spent a little too much of his signing bonus on Chicken McNuggets:

    Knowshon Moreno looks a little thick around the belly. #needswork

    — Armando Salguero (@ArmandoSalguero) June 2, 2014

    It isn't just Salguero, either. Moreno has been working primarily with the second-team behind Lamar Miller, and The Herald's Barry Jackson reports that head coach Joe Philbin conceded that Moreno's conditioning "could be better."

    However, things are going much better early for a couple of other key offensive contributors. The Sports XChange reported (via KSPR-TV) that quarterback Ryan Tannehill has looked "sharp" in workouts, while wideout Mike Wallace sang the praises of the offense of new coordinator Bill Lazor, according to Omar Kelly of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

    [Defenses] can't key on me. Last year they knew where I was every single play. I was there every game, in the same spot. When you move around it is harder for the defense to know where you're at. Harder for them to adjust.

    There are changes galore on defense as well. The biggest may be at middle linebacker, where Koa Misi has taken over for 2013 starter (and pricey free-agent add) Dannell Ellerbe.

    As Jackson reports, defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle indicated the team is in no hurry to switch things back:

    I can’t commit today to saying it’s a done deal but I like what I’m seeing. So far, so good. Koa has such a physical presence. When Koa hits you, you stay hit for a while. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve used Koa an an example of how you compete each and every snap on defense. Last year, I felt I didn’t keep him in the game as often as I could have. We’ve got to get him more involved. He’s a big man, strong, explosive. He takes a tremendous amount of pride in doing little things the right way.

    In fact, Ellerbe, who the team has moved to the weak side, lost some first-team practice reps at "Will" to Jelani Jenkins in OTAs.

    Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/sports-buzz/2014/06/a-dozen-notes-quotes-tidbits-musings-from-monday-heat-and-dolphins-practices.html#storylink=cp

Minnesota Vikings

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Despite the fact that his 1,266 yards ranked fifth in the NFL in rushing in 2013, last year was generally considered a disappointment for Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

    The 29-year-old had groin surgery in the offseason (his third straight year going under the knife), but he was a full participant when the Vikings kicked off OTAs last week.

    Brian Hall of Fox Sports North reports that new head coach Mike Zimmer liked what he saw at practice:

    He looks great. He's made some tremendous cuts. I think he's -- you'd have to ask him, but he seems to be excited to be here, about some of the things that's we're trying do to with him, but I think it's only going to continue to get better.

    Peterson wasn't the only veteran looking good in workouts. According to Mike Wobschall of the team's website, wide receiver Greg Jennings "was catching everything in sight, from Teddy Bridgewater bombs to precision sideline lasers from Matt Cassel."

    Of course, all eyes are on the quarterback battle in the Twin Cities. Early in OTAs, Bridgewater, Cassel and Christian Ponder all received first-team reps, and all had their moments. However, Bridgewater lost some ground in the race when he was sidelined for several practices while attending the rookie premiere in Los Angeles.

    Peterson told Hall it's far too soon to declare a front-runner in the race:

    You know, it is what it is. Looking in (Bridgewater's) eyes, you can see he's hungry. He's out there competing for a starting job and he's going to have to really work hard, because Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder, those guys are out there working extremely hard too to get that starting position.

    All three quarterbacks have been working without their blindside protector, but Zimmer downplayed the absence of offensive tackle Matt Kalil as he recovers from off season knee surgery.

    "He had a little procedure done," Zimmer said, via Hall. "I'm guessing it was about four or five weeks ago. He's going through individual and stuff like that, so we're just being a little careful with him right now."

New England Patriots

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    Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

    The New England Patriots won the AFC East (again) in 2013, but as the team gears up for another playoff run, there are any number of prominent players returning from significant injuries.

    For most, the news was good. Outside linebacker Jerod Mayo, who missed 10 games last year with a torn pectoral muscle, was back on the field, although Mayo cautioned that his rehab still has a way to go, according to Zuri Berry of Boston.com.

    "OTAs, training camp, games, I think they’re all different milestones that you have to get to, to really gain that confidence with the injury," Mayo said.

    Wide receiver Danny Amendola, who battled a groin injury much of last year, also participated in drills, and Andy Hart of Patriots Football Weekly reports that he was "a full go for the workout, showing no limitations."

    However, Hart also added that Julian Edelman, who topped 100 catches for the Patriots last year, "seemed to be Tom Brady’s favored target on many plays," and that Edelman "made a number of nice plays and catches throughout the day."

    Unfortunately, not all the injury news from Beantown is positive. Star tight end Rob Gronkowski wasn't on the field for the latest round of OTAs, and Gronkowski told Ben Volin of The Boston Globe there's no timetable for his return to action:

    Just doing what I got to do, improving every week, and that’s all I can ask for. I just worry about what I’ve got to do, and what I’ve got to do right now is rehab and get better. Just take it week by week and day by day from here on out. We’ll see what happens and we’ll see where I’m at when it all starts.

    As Volin points out, Gronkowski, whose season was ended by a torn ACL last year, will all but certainly open training camp next month on the physically unable to perform list.

New Orleans Saints

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    Bill Haber/Associated Press

    After dropping $54 million on free safety Jairus Byrd in free agency, the Pro Bowler's tenure with the New Orleans Saints isn't getting off to the best of starts.

    As Katherine Terrell of The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports, the 27-year-old Byrd underwent back surgery last week that will sideline him indefinitely. However, head coach Sean Payton downplayed the severity of the injury:

    It's been asymptomatic but it's something we wanted to do, and he as well, to alleviate any issues coming in the fall. He'll be back here in a week. For this next week, he won't be at these OTAs, he'll be going through his rehab.

    The biggest story at Saints' OTAs is, of course, the player who isn't there, but folks holding their breath for a Jimmy Graham sighting had better exhale lest they pass out.

    As The Times-Picayune's Larry Holder points out, it doesn't look like Graham has been at Saints' headquarters in quite a while:

    There's a whole pile of boxes in front of Jimmy Graham's locker. Seems he hasn't been here in a while.

    — Larry Holder (@LarryHolder) May 29, 2014

    That isn't likely to change before June 17th, when Graham's grievance regarding his franchise designation as a tight end will be heard.

    It isn't all dark clouds and no-shows, though, at least according to John DeShazier of the Saints' website. Veteran cornerback Champ Bailey, who joined the Saints in free agency, "made his presence felt right away" in OTAs, drawing the praise of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan:

    He looks fantastic. You look out there, and you think he’s just one of these young guys running around. He’s bringing excitement to our defense and knowledge. It’s awesome to add a great player like him.

New York Giants

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    With Justin Tuck now plying his trade with the Oakland Raiders, there's more pressure than ever on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul to recapture his 2011 form after back-to-back disappointing seasons.

    The 25-year-old is "fully healthy and ready to go" and back on the field for OTAs, but according to Paul Schwartz of The New York Post, Pierre-Paul isn't feeling the weight of supporting the pass rush for Big Blue.

    “I don’t feel pressure at all,’’ Pierre-Paul said. “I’m ready to get out there and do what I do best, sack the quarterback and stop the run. I’m ready to get out there and show everybody.’’

    Pierre-Paul wasn't the only Giants defender turning heads. The G-Men sank a ton of money into their secondary this year, and John Schmeelk of the Giants' website reports it looks like money well-spent where cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is concerned:

    Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie showed off his tight man cover skills, first blowing up a quick wide receiver screen pass, and then stepping in front of an intended slant, almost coming up with the interception. He looks every bit the cover corner he was advertised as being.

    If the Giants are going to get back into the NFC East race this year, quarterback Eli Manning is going to have to break out of his two-year funk. Just seven weeks removed from ankle surgery, Manning was surprisingly a full participant in OTAs, a fact that wasn't lost on top wideout Victor Cruz, according to Judy Battista of NFL.com:

    It gives us a lot of confidence, especially with a guy coming off an injury and everything comes out saying that he's not going to participate. But he's out there with us, not being tame, not being shortened. It's just amazing to see a guy that doesn't have to be out here, who can sit back and heal as much as he wants to, but he's out there working with us and learning the plays and learning the timing.

    With the team breaking in a new offense under Ben McAdoo, having Manning on the field "early" has to viewed as a blessing.

New York Jets

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    There's been a ton of talk about whether or not the competition between Michael Vick and Geno Smith at quarterback for the New York Jets is really a competition at all.

    One of the combatants is trying to put the whole matter to rest early.

    Smith, who showed flashes during an uneven rookie season in 2013, has been one of the early stars of OTAs, according to what rookie signal-caller Tajh Boyd told Marc Sessler of NFL.com:

    #Jets rookie QB Tajh Boyd tells @NFL_AM that Geno Smith has "been the offense. Right now it's his team."

    — Marc Sessler (@MarcSesslerNFL) May 30, 2014

    Of course, whoever starts under center for the Jets will need someone to throw to. The Jets added wide receiver Eric Decker in free agency, but the starting spot opposite him is wide open.

    Brian Costello of The New York Post thinks another free-agent addition may emerge as the front-runner, pointing out that Jacoby Ford's "blazing speed" has been on display in OTAs.

    With that said, however, another of the Jets' big offseason acquisitions has yet to make an appearance on the field.

    In fact, Kieran Darcy of ESPN reports that running back Chris Johnson expects to sit out OTAs altogether as he continues to rehab from knee surgery.

    "I think they're gonna hold me out of OTAs and just let me continue to rehab until I get 100 percent," he said. "Take it slow, since I have time on my side, and just be ready for [training] camp."

Oakland Raiders

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The Oakland Raiders added wide receiver James Jones in free agency, but the team still needs a batterymate for Jones to emerge from a crowded group of young players.

    Steve Corkran of The Contra Costa Times reports that it's youngster Juron Criner who has been opening eyes early in OTAs.

    "Criner made a handful of eye-opening catches despite tight coverage, including a few in which he left his feet," he wrote. "Far and away, Criner looked like the best receiver on the field."

    Corkran also passed along an update on the Raiders' pair of new quarterbacks:

    All in all, it’s difficult to assess quarterback play when there isn’t contact and defenders aren’t there to wave their arms, bat down passes and make life more difficult in the pocket. Therefore, you look for accuracy, arm strength, tightness of spiral, footwork, decision-making, among other things, when breaking down quarterbacks at this time of the season.

    To that end, Carr, projected starter Matt Schaub and last season’s part-time starter Matt McGloin fared well today. If you’ll recall, it was about this time last season when Matt Flynn, Terrelle Pryor and the other quarterbacks struggled mightily. General manager Reggie McKenzie dismissed the criticism, which, as it turned out, was spot on and a harbinger for the regular season.

    OTAs were the first chance for fifth overall pick Khalil Mack to practice with his veteran teammates. Mack missed a few days while attending the rookie premiere, but he told Paul Gutierrez of ESPN that he's "doing everything it takes mentally to be ready.”

    Safety Charles Woodson likes what he's seen from the youngster so far:

    I’ve watched him a couple of times come off the edge, and he’s a guy that can bend at the waist, he can get low. He can get under tackles as he’s going around the edge. He’s quick enough to where he can get a guy in space coming off the edge. He can make movements in or out and go either way, and he seems to be put together pretty well, so we know he has some strength. It will be great to see him in action when it really goes down. We all have high hopes for him, because he’s only going to make us better as a team. I look forward to playing alongside him.

    Mack, who has been working with the first team at strong-side linebacker, also said that Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos tops the list of passers he wants to chase down.

    “No doubt,” Mack said, per Gutierrez. “That’s a goal of mine, to sack greatness.”

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia Eagles won the NFC East last year, but no team in the National Football League allowed more passing yards.

    The Eagles attempted to bolster the secondary with the addition of free-agent safety Malcolm Jenkins, but the starting spot next to him is up for grabs.

    As Andy Jasner of ESPN reports, head coach Chip Kelly recently offered a progress report on the battle between Nate Allen and second-year pro Earl Wolff: "Nate's the first guy up, and Earl is in running with the second group right now. And both have done a great job in the offseason program. We're excited to see those guys play it out."

    There's also a hole at wide receiver with the departure of DeSean Jackson, a hole that the Eagles hope Jeremy Maclin will step up and fill.

    Still, after missing the entire 2013 season with a torn ACL, Maclin gave coaches and fans alike quite a scare on Monday when he went down in a heap in practice, clutching at his knee. He insisted to Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer he's fine, though:

    Maclin said he's OK. Smiled when I said he scared some people.

    — Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) June 2, 2014

    That wasn't the only good news regarding Eagles' wide receivers to come from OTAs. According to Elliott Shorr-Parks of NJ.com, rookie second-round pick Jordan Matthews hasn't wasted any time making his presence known on the practice field:

    Seeing Matthews work on Monday, it was easy to see why the Eagles are hopeful about what he can bring to the offense. At 6-foot-3 209 pounds, Matthews has similar size to receiver Riley Cooper -- but is considerably faster. Matthews was very quick coming out of cuts, making one move during practice that split two defenders and freed him for a sprint to the end zone. Matthews' combination of size and speed was the best of any receiver on Monday, veteran or rookie.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Sean Lee's season-ending injury last week was a cautionary tale about the dangers of even "non-contact" workouts. As Scott Brown of ESPN reports, the Pittsburgh Steelers very nearly suffered a similar fate themselves:

    Center Maurkice Pouncey, practicing for the first time since tearing his ACL last September, locked onto rookie inside linebacker Ryan Shazier during a running play. Pouncey drove Shazier back before the Steelers' first-round draft pick threw off the block and sent Pouncey sprawling to the grass.

    Pouncey bounced up immediately and told Shazier, in so many words, to chill. But that play could have turned into another cautionary tale about OTAs had Pouncey reinjured his rebuilt right knee or accidentally taken out a teammate when he fell to the ground.

    Teammate Jarvis Jones relayed it was enough to draw a warning from head coach Mike Tomlin as the Steelers opened their latest round of workouts.

    "He told us we don't have pads on so we don't need to be on the ground, we don't need to be bull rushing each other and stuff like that," Jones said. "Use your hands, run to the ball and keep it clean."

    This latest round of OTAs brought with it the arrival of veteran cornerback Ike Taylor, but the Steelers are still short the elder statesman of their secondary.

    Safety Troy Polamalu has yet to show for workouts, but Taylor told Mike Prisuta of the team's website that that's hardly a cause for concern.

    “Troy’s doing well," Taylor said. "You know Troy around this time – he’s probably somewhere up in the mountains with the monks, praying. So you gotta let Troy be Troy.”

    Polamalu and Taylor aren't the only veterans the Steelers need a big year from in 2014. The absence of tight end Heath Miller for much of last year was a big blow to the offense, but this year, Miller pledges it will be different, according to Brown:

    I should be able to put more preparation in, should be able to work like I’m used to working. Last year was about trying to find a new normal for myself and I’m a creature of habit, so that wasn’t easy for me. I’m fully confident by the time the season rolls around I’m going to be feeling much better than the start of last year just from a confidence perspective.

San Diego Chargers

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    The San Diego Chargers' most recent round of OTAs began with some bad news.

    As Eric Williams of ESPN reports, offensive guard Jeromey Clary, who started 15 games at right guard last year, recently underwent both hip and shoulder surgery. No timetable was given for the 30-year-old's return, leaving his availability for training camp very much in doubt.

    Clary isn't the only player who may not be ready for the start of camp. Cornerback Jason Verrett, who the Chargers invested a first-round pick in in the hopes of bolstering their 29th-ranked pass defense from a year ago, is also iffy after undergoing shoulder surgery in March.

    With Verrett limited to "mental reps," veteran Richard Marshall has been running with the first team opposite Shareece Wright in OTAs.

    It's not all no-shows, though. Running back Ryan Mathews, who gained a career-high 1,255 yards on the ground in 2013, made some headlines last week when he missed Tuesday's workout.

    However, as Ricky Henne of the team's website points out, Mathews was on the field the following day, and the 26-year-old is looking to build on his breakout year:

    This whole process has been fun and it’s important. It’s great to be back to football and be around these guys. We brought a bunch of new guys in and they fit right in. We have a good group and all have roles. We’re going to be a tight knit group and will feed off each other to do whatever it takes to win.

San Francisco 49ers

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Sure, the San Francisco 49ers' latest round of organized team activities is technically voluntary, but it's no accident that tight end Vernon Davis is forfeiting a $200,000 workout bonus by being absent.

    As Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area reports, Davis, who has two years remaining on his contract, is angling for a new deal, although the tight end and and his agent declined comment.

    Guard Alex Boone, the only other 49ers player not in attendance, is also reportedly seeking a new contract, per Maiocco.

    Of the players who are in attendance, San Francisco's rookie class (hailed as being among the best in the league this year) drew particular praise from head coach Jim Harbaugh, according to Andrew Pentis of the team's website.

    “This is really their third week being involved with the team and the veterans,” Harbaugh said. “They’ve come a long way in a short period of time, and they’re acclimating well.”

    Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd is hardly a rookie, but after sitting out a year the 32-year-old is trying to rejuvenate his NFL career in San Fran.

    So far so good, as Harbaugh told Maiocco Lloyd has stood out in camp:

    Seeing really good things. Seeing surge off the line of scrimmage. He’s got ability to burst at the top of his routes. Runs excellent routes. Acrobatic type of catches that he’s able to make. Really good hands. So far, really good. It does not seem like a guy that’s had a layoff from football for a year.

    Lloyd is probably still something of a long shot to crack a suddenly crowded 49ers receiving corps, but a good first impression can't hurt.

St. Louis Rams

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Apparently, the St. Louis Rams like to sleep in.

    Of all the teams in the National Football League, the Rams got the latest start on OTAs. Their first workouts didn't begin until June 3.

    According to what head coach Jeff Fisher told Joe Lyons of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that's all according to plan:

    We’re probably the only team that didn’t have OTAs last week, but that’s part of our plan. As a staff, we felt it was important to give our new guys, the draft picks and the undrafted free agents, that extra week of conditioning and meetings to make sure they were in a position to learn and participate at full speed once we brought the full squad together for OTAs.

    That isn't to say that there isn't plenty to watch.

    There's the return of Sam Bradford from a torn ACL and how involved he'll be in workouts. There's a chance to check the progress of the rehab from January knee surgery for offensive tackle Jake Long. And it's the first chance for first-round picks Greg Robinson and Aaron Donald to take the field with their new teammates.

    For Fisher's part, he's just looking for a chance to take the field as a team again, per Lyons:

    It’s an exciting time because it’s the first time we can come together, offense and defense, and start to compete. The roster, the way it’s set up right now, is set up well from a competitive standpoint. We should have good competition for starting positions and for the back-up spots as well.

Seattle Seahawks

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    USA TODAY Sports

    It's hard to find fault with a 2013 season that ended with the Seattle Seahawks hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, but the second NFL season of former first-round pick Bruce Irvin has to be viewed as something of a disappointment.

    2014 isn't starting any better. As Dave Boling of The Tacoma News-Tribune reports, Irvin recently underwent hip surgery, and there's been no timetable established for the 26-year-old's return.

    However, Boling does say that Irvin's absence hasn't stopped the Seattle linebackers from shining in workouts:

    Even without Irvin, the linebackers have been a story in the early going, and again on Monday they came up with an interception — this time it was K.J. Wright picking off Russell Wilson on a pass over the middle after a scramble.

    As Stephen Cohen of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer pointed out, the key word for this latest round of practices may well be "intensity":

    Wide receiver Doug Baldwin — the epitome of head coach Pete Carroll’s “always compete” mantra — proved that his new three-year, $13 million extension with the team hadn’t taken the fight out of him, calling out linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. with a string of vulgarities after the Hawks defense got the best of Baldwin’s offense during some 11-on-11 reps.

    The two worked things out with a hug and handshake just seconds later, but it was clear that Baldwin was going to continue in his role as a fiery leader on the offensive side of the ball.

    As is often the case with early workouts, the defense had the upper hand for much of the day, but despite a rough afternoon from both the quarterbacks and receivers, Wilson was still talking up his pass-catchers while speaking with Cohen.

    When asked about his receivers, Wilson said they were "as fast as it gets," calling them the "best looking position" group in OTAs.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    USA TODAY Sports

    After topping 1,400 rushing yards as a rookie, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin struggled with injuries last year, missing 10 games. In an effort to reduce the odds of a repeat, offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford apparently plans to reduce the odds of Martin seeing the 319 carries he had two years ago.

    That's the latest from Rick Stroud of The Tampa Bay Times, who writes that Tedford plans to "alternate" his backs this year:

    I think you have to alternate. Even when we had two, 1,000-yard rushers (at California), J.J. Arrington was a 2,000-yard rusher and and we had a couple times guys had a thousand yards apiece. But I don’t believe that one back can carry the load. It’s just too physical. I think you probably need to have two to three guys to bring different things to the table. But I think you at least need to have two to be able to spell them here and there and keep them healthy and [that] type of thing.

    When the Buccaneers took the field for OTAs, they did so without starting safeties Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron. Jenna Laine of Sports Talk Florida reports that isn't going to change anytime soon:

    Leslie Frazier said Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson aren't expected to be ready for minicamp next week. Hopeful they'll be back for camp.

    — JennaLaineBucs (@JennaLaineBucs) June 3, 2014

    Ira Kaufman of The Tampa Tribune reports that they weren't the only prominent players missing in action:

    Bucs G Carl Nicks, who has played only 9 games in the past 2 years due to a flurry of foot injuries, did not attend Tuesday's OTA session

    — Ira Kaufman (@IKaufmanTBO) May 27, 2014

    Rookie wide receiver Mike Evans, on the other hand, will no doubt be overjoyed to get back on the field. While in Los Angeles for the rookie premiere last week, Evans gave an interview on Jim Rome's radio show.

    It, um, did not go well.

Tennessee Titans

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    When the Tennessee Titans opened their OTAs May 27, a very welcome face was on the field.

    Quarterback Jake Locker was back in action for 11-on-11 drills for the first time since injuring his foot last November.

    As Craig Peters of the team's website reports, teammate Delanie Walker was glad to see the 25-year-old back under center:

    It’s always good to see your starting quarterback out there running the offense for us, especially in team and 7 on 7, but it didn’t surprise me. That’s Jake. He’s a fighter. He’s going to be out there, he’s going to compete, and he’s a leader and that shows leadership, so it is good to have Jake out there throwing the ball to us just to get the timing down.

    It was something of a different experience for rookie offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, as the offensive tackle was taking the field with the veterans for the first time.

    Lewan told Peters, "A lot of things were going through my head, but I just wanted to get out there and play ball and make sure I knew the plays because I’ve only been here for three weeks. I’m still learning plays and getting all that stuff done."

    Still, veteran tackle Michael Roos talked the rookie up, saying, "He’s very energetic, he’s intense, a hard worker and wants to learn, so he’s eager and asking questions all the time. It makes it easier to teach when someone wants to learn that much."

    The Titans are also installing a new defensive scheme, and after getting his first taste of Ray Horton's 3-4, defensive tackle Jurrell Casey told Teresa Parker of The Associated Press (h/t The State) he likes what he's seen so far:

    It's a great scheme. It's something I'm looking forward to going out there and lighting it up against another team already to put it to use. On my behalf, the scheme that we got going in is putting me in great situations to go out there and win one-on-one battles. The thing is to get everybody across the board one-on-one battles, and this scheme is doing that already.

    Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/2014/06/02/3483374/titans-defensive-tackle-happy.html#storylink=c

Washington Redskins

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    Richard Lipski/Associated Press

    The biggest star of OTAs for the Washington Redskins was no doubt quarterback Robert Griffin, who is under the microscope as he attempts to come back from a miserable sophomore season.

    New head coach Jay Gruden has been tinkering with Griffin's throwing motion, and the result was evident in workouts, according to John Keim of ESPN:

    Griffin was throwing more over the top; less windup. So the ball came out a little quicker. He was not always accurate, but he was not off as much as he was, say, last summer when coming back in training camp. And keep in mind that even as a rookie in practice Griffin would have off days throwing the ball.

    On defense, one of the dominant storylines has been how the team will replace inside linebacker London Fletcher. According to Keim, "Keenan Robinson lined up next to Perry Riley with the No. 1 defense. It’s only May, but it’s still telling when considering that he missed all of last season and part of his rookie year."

    Of course, new wide receiver DeSean Jackson also drew his fair share of attention, but as Kevin Patra of NFL.com reports, Jackson still seems more than a little hung up on how his time with the Eagles came to an end:

    Regardless if it is versus the Eagles in Week 3, that is highlighted, that is circled on the calendar. But any time I go on the field, any game I ever play in the NFL ... any time I strap it up and play, I'm ready to turn on versus anybody. But that game will be highlighted and I can't wait to get it on versus whoever we play against. But for sure, that game you already know I'm ready to turn it up.

    If the Redskins are going to get back into the thick of the NFC East, they're going to need improved play in the secondary, and cornerback Chase Minnifield is one of a number of young players fighting for more playing time.

    According to Keim, literally:

    Corner Chase Minnifield will get into a lot of tussles this camp – a safe prediction. He nearly got into one with tight end Niles Paul Thursday. Minnifield is physical and feisty and that will never please those running routes in practice. This time, Minnifield was grabbing Paul on the entire route and at the end Paul shoved him. Minnifield bounced up and shoved him back. It didn’t escalate.