The Biggest Story from Every NFL Minicamp
NFL minicamps are the proverbial calm before the storm. They are utilized in order to get entire rosters, rookies and camp fodder together, in order to build chemistry and learn new aspects of the team philosophy.
Much more than organized team activities, minicamps can give us a gauge as to where teams have players pegged on their roster and which players are not happy with their current situations. After all, attendance is mandatory if you are under contract.
This article is going to focus on the biggest story for each team during minicamp.
Arizona Cardinals: Michael Floyd and the Depth Chart at Wide Receiver
Pro Football Weekly is reporting that Michael Floyd is going to open training camp as the Arizona Cardinals' No. 4 wide receiver. While this might come as a major surprise considering he was drafted in the top half of the initial round, the indications are that they plan to take it rather slow with the talented receiver.
It will be interesting to see where the Notre Dame prospect ends up when camp breaks in late August.
Atlanta Falcons: The Maturation Process of Julio Jones and the Passing Game
Now the second-year receiver is looking to become a more consistent threat on the outside and provide the Falcons' passing game with another legit No. 1 receiving option opposite Pro Bowler Roddy White.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution "awarded" Jones the MVP of Falcon's minicamp.
This news couldn't be any better for a Falcons offense that is seemingly sprouting weapons all over the field. A more consistent performance from Jones would make Atlanta's passing attack nearly unstoppable.
Team Jones up with Tony Gonzalez and the aforementioned White and you have the makings for a dynamic aerial show in Atlanta.
Click on this video link to view a report conducted by Falcons' beat writer D. Orlando Ledbetter about the performance of Jones during the mandatory camp.
Baltimore Ravens: Filling the Shoes of Injured Star Terrell Suggs
You don't replace the production of the reigning Defensive Player of the Year with just one player. This is the situation that the Baltimore Ravens are going to have to deal with after most likely losing Terrell Suggs for the 2012 season with a torn Achilles.
They are going to be running somewhat of a committee at outside linebacker in order to replace that production this upcoming year. Courtney Upshaw joins roster holdovers Paul Kruger and Sergio Kindle in competition for the Ravens two starting outside linebacker spots.
Kindle, a second-round pick in 2010, has only played in two games due to a freak incident in which he cracked his head open following the that years draft. He is now dealing with hearing issues that could affect his ability to hear calls on the field.
The upper-hand at one of the two linebacker spots has to go to Upshaw, who showed a tremendous amount of pass-rush ability at Alabama before being selected in the second round of April's draft.
Buffalo Bills: Vince Young Might Not Break Camp with the 53-Man Roster
I guess this is a good sign that things are going according to plan for the Buffalo Bills leading up to training camp.
New defensive standouts Mark Anderson, Mario Williams and Stephon Gilmore all appear rearing and ready to go.
The Bills' primary issue and question-mark is the backup quarterback position behind Ryan Fitzpatrick. They have to figure out if Tyler Thigpen, Vince Young or Brad Smith is going to get the reps behind Fitzpatrick.
Buffalo signed the enigmatic Young earlier this month to compete for the backup job. That being said, it doesn't seem that he has been terribly impressive thus far.
According to a report by Buffalo News, Young has had "a hard time picking up the nuances of the Bills offense."
Chan Gailey had the following to say about the Bills new quarterback:
It would not have been as hard two years ago, but we are in so much more of an advanced stage now than we were two years ago. He is trying to learn what the base concepts are and how we have advanced to where we are today without the benefit of going through the baby steps.
That doesn't sound too promising considering where we are in the offseason. There is a chance that Thigpen and Smith end up being the two quarterbacks behind Fitzpatrick when camp breaks in late August.
Carolina Panthers: Plaxico Burress Wants to Play with Cam Newton and Co.
Just because Plaxico Burress spouted off at the media that he wants to play for the Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton, it doesn't actually mean he will be suiting up in teal come September.
Panthers beat writer for the Charlotte Observer indicated as much in a recent Tweet:
"Have gotten calls and tweets asking about Plaxico Burress' interest in Panthers. That's all well and good, but the interest isn't mutual."
I don't get it.
Burress would provide a great red-zone threat the Panthers young quarterback opposite Steve Smith. You can expect Carolina to rehash this issue during training camp if none of the other receivers on its roster step up.
Chicago Bears: The Seemingly Never Ending Story of Matt Forte
That being said, The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that Forte is seeking a deal similar to what LeSean McCoy received from the Philadelphia Eagles earlier in the offseason.
Considering that Forte has more mileage in those tires and is a bit older than McCoy, it is hard to imagine that he will receive the same five-year length that "Shady" got from the Eagles. That would put Forte at the "old" age of 31 when in the final season of the contract.
Moreover, there does seem to be some resentment from the running back directed at his organization at this point:
That's what happens when you get into the business side of sports... There's an easy way to get over those scars, but we'll see. Everyone looks at it and says, 'Oh, it's only about money. It's not only about money.' It's about you going out there and putting your heart and soul on the field, being respected for what you do, and then being rewarded for it.
With that, the optimism quickly fades into another set of public comments between Forte and his franchise.
Cincinnati Bengals: Vontaze Burfict Making a Name for Himself
For someone that has been so maligned ever since announcing his intention to enter the 2012 NFL draft, Vontaze Burfict really has turned it around in a short time.
Apparently the rookie linebacker has impressed the Cincinnati Bengals so much that he isn't even on the roster fringe at this point.
There wasn't ever any question about the talent and physical ability that Burfict possesses. Rather, his slide down the draft and completely out of it was due to off-field issues and character concerns.
If the Arizona State product can continue to progress, there is no reason to believe that he cannot become a starter in the National Football League. He needs to become more aware of the nuances of the defense and play much more contained football in order for that to become a reality.
Cleveland Browns: Brandon Weeden and the Starting Quarterback Job
The Cleveland Browns have made the decision to go with rookie Brandon Weeden as their starting quarterback heading into the 2012 season. While this isn't a huge surprise to those of us who have followed this situation over the course of the last few months, it has raised red flags around the football world.
What does this mean for Colt McCoy? Why would the Browns make the decision to replace their incumbent without fully giving him a chance to succeed?
Those questions have not been answered.
The one question that should be answered relatively quickly is whether or not Weeden is an upgrade over McCoy in 2012.
We should have a feel for this by the second month of the season.
Dallas Cowboys: Dez Bryant Nearing "elite" Status
According to a report by Dallas Morning News, the Dallas Cowboys seem to be really impressed by the performance of Dez Bryant in minicamp and throughout the 2012 offseason.
Tony Romo had the following to say about the enigmatic young receiver:
"He just keeps improving and improving. He’s a kid that I enjoy playing with because he wants to get better."
This pretty much jives with everything we have been hearing around Dallas camp in recent months. If Bryant can become a more consistent performer it will be a huge bonus for the Cowboys offense moving forward, as that unit has a chance to become dynamic with the skill position players they currently boast.
Denver Broncos: Rookie Running Back Ronnie Hillman Impressing a Great Deal
According to ESPN's Matt Williamson, rookie running back Ronnie Hillman is impressing so much in Denver Broncos camp that he could eventually take over as the starting running back in 2012.The ESPN reporter had the following to say about Hillman:
"Hillman might not be a 300-carry type of guy in Year 1, but he doesn’t have to be. Also, Hillman is a better fit in the Colts/Manning stretch running game than McGahee."
This shouldn't come as much of a surprise for those of you that were lucky enough to watch the talented young running back at San Diego State. He was extremely productive in college and seems to possess the field awareness to be a dynamic player at the next level.
Time will tell.
Detroit Lions: Arrests the Theme of Lions Offseason Thus Far
How many Detroit Lions does it take to hail down a cab? Zero, because they don't think the law applies to them.
Okay, that was a really bad joke.
Still, you have to wonder what is going around in Detroit these days.
They have now had four players arrested on DUI-related charges and a total of six arrests have occurred on this team since the end of the 2011 season.
Something has to give!
Green Bay Packers: Tramon Williams Injury Issues
It isn't a secret that the Green Bay Packers pass defense struggled a great deal in 2011. Most of this had to do with an inconsistent pass-rush from the front seven, but you do have to place some blame on the secondary.
That being said, there is no questioning the talent of Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams, who are both Pro Bowl-caliber players.
A freak shoulder injury suffered by Williams last season could have a long-term effect on his ability to produce at a high level moving forward.
Williams did acknowledge that his shoulder did suffer nerve damage last season, but he vows to be back to full health in 2012.
"The shoulder’s doing fine. I’m still rehabbing it at this point, everything’s looking good. Structurally the shoulder is doing well. It’s more of a nerve thing at this point."
Let's hope for the Packers' sake that Williams is able to return to Pro Bowl form. If that does happen, you can expect their defense to take major steps forward this upcoming season.
Houston Texans: The No. 2 Wide Receiver Spot
It doesn't take a football expert to understand that Andre Johnson is a top three wide receiver in the National Football League. He has been the go-to guy for Matt Schaub over the last few seasons, and that isn't going to change in 2012.
That being said, the Texans need to find a reliable complementary guy to start opposite Johnson.
Experiments with both Jacoby Jones and Kevin Walter at this position have failed in the past. Now it is time for the organization to move on and bring some new blood in to compete.
That is exactly what Houston did when it selected DeVier Posey in the third round of April's draft. They also went out and picked up Michigan State alum Keshawn Martin in the fourth round.
This report by the Texans official site indicates that Martin has been extremely impressive during the offseason. Even as a surprise mid-round pick, Martin does seem to possess some of the capabilities that teams look for in a consistent threat. He seems to run precise routes and have above-average hands.
Houston also has offseason phenom Lester Jean competing for a spot.
If any one of these three players are able to step up opposite Johnson, the Texans' passing game will be much improved in 2012.
Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck Doing All the Right Things
It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that Andrew Luck is the biggest news around Indianapolis Colts camp. The No. 1 overall pick in April possesses everything that a team looks for in an elite signal-caller.
Now it appears that Luck has taken over somewhat of a leadership role for the Colts during his first offseason with the franchise.
This is huge news for a Colts offense that seems to lack veteran leadership at skill positions outside of Reggie Wayne.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew Still a No-Show
The Florida Times-Union is reporting the following:
"According to people with knowledge of his thinking, Jones-Drew could stay away into the regular season."
This isn't a surprise considering that Jaguars' general manager Gene Smith has no desire to sit down with his star running back to negotiate a contract extension.
Besides the fact that a lengthy holdout would be a PR disaster for the Jaguars franchise, they are facing the possibility of being without the 2011 NFL rushing leader.
While it is hard to imagine Jones-Drew giving up a great deal of money to sit out into the regular season, it does seem that the relationship between the veteran running back and his current team isn't too great at this point.
Kansas City Chiefs: Positive Energy Surrounding the Team
I understand that this slide is broad by definition, but it does seem that there are only positive vibes coming from the Kansas City Chiefs following their mandatory minicamp.
Moreover, the additions that Kansas City has made this offseason appear to be getting acclimated to their new surroundings relatively quickly.
For a team that was on the ropes less than a calendar year ago, the Chiefs seem to be destined to compete for the AFC West Championship in 2012.
Miami Dolphins: The Dredded Quarterback Question
The Miami Dolphins seem to have enough talent at certain core positions to contend for a playoff spot. That being said, they seem to have some major issues at quarterback and wide receiver, which could place them in the cellar of the AFC East once again.
New Dolphins' head coach Joe Philbin indicates that the three-man quarterback competition has "been close" following Miami's mandatory minicamp.
It does appear that Ryan Tannehill is a little behind both Moore and recently signed veteran David Garrard for the starting position.
Either way, it promises to be an intriguing training camp in South Beach.
Minnesota Vikings: Christian Ponder Making Strides in First Full Offseason
Christian Ponder made strides during his rookie season with the Minnesota Vikings in 2011. While his numbers might not show it a great deal, the young quarterback did do a much better job in the decision-making process as the season progressed.
Ponder told The Associated Press that "the game has slowed down for him." This is a huge statement from the young signal-caller. One of the primary issues that inexperienced quarterbacks have in the National Football League is the pace of the game.
If Ponder can get that down to a more manageable level, he will be a successful and above-average starter in 2012.
New England Patriots: Ryan Mallett and the Backup Quarterback Position
The New England Patriots appear rearing and ready to go for training camp. This is magnified by the fact that the major news coming from this organization is related to the backup quarterback job behind future Hall of Famer Tom Brady.
Despite the fact that Brady has been relatively healthy throughout his NFL career, it is important that New England finds a capable backup in case he does go down to injury.
The "problem" is that they currently have two in the form of Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett.
Ian Rapoport of NFL.COM indicated back in April that the Patriots would listen to offers for their backup quarterbacks. This seems to make a great deal of sense considering that New England really doesn't have the need to carry three "game-ready" quarterbacks on their 53-man roster.
We shall see.
New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees' Contract Situation
This situation has drawn out a lot longer than most people initially figured when reports surfaced that the future Hall of Fame quarterback wasn't happy playing year to year.
Even when Brees signs the franchise tender, this situation isn't going to be resolved. The quarterback and his organization need to come to an agreement on a long-term extension for both sides to be fully prepared to move forward.
New York Giants: Osi Umenyiora Contract Situation Finally Settled
Boy, did this situation drag out. The New York Giants and Osi Umenyiora finally came to a conclusion that seems to have made both sides happy when his contract was restructured earlier this month.
That is great news for the defending Super Bowl Champions and their defense. A motivated Umenyiora will do absolute wonders for what is already the best pass-rush in the National Football League.
New York Jets: No Quarterback Competition That We Can See
Let's just end this discussion right now. The New York Jets do not have a quarterback competition heading into camp late next month as Mark Sanchez is the clear-cut starter.
Despite this, ESPN is reporting that Sanchez "didn't have an efficient minicamp."
You still have to wonder if the media will blow this out of proportion during training camp and somehow spin it to indicate that Tim Tebow could actually earn the starting job.
Oakland Raiders: Taiwan Jones Continues to Impress
This is pretty big news if you are an Oakland Raiders fan. We all know how much the late Al Davis loved adding speed to his roster via the draft but more times than not it didn't translate to the football field.
Many assumed this would be the case when Oakland selected Taiwan Jones out of Eastern Washington in 2011.
However, Jones is looking extremely good in camp and could be an extremely dynamic player in the Raiders offense in 2012.
The Contra Costa Times indicated that Jones' "speed seems otherwordly, especially when he gets into the open field."
In the end, Jones could act like a Darren Sproles type of running back for the Raiders, giving them a great complement to Darren McFadden.
Philadelphia Eagles: Smooth Sailing for Mychal Kendricks
As someone that had the pleasure of watching Mychal Kendricks play every Saturday at CAL, I am not surprised that he has all but earned a starting spot for the Philadelphia Eagles.
The talented young linebacker possesses some of the best natural instincts that I have seen from an inexperienced 'backer coming out of college. Moreover, he has all the physical and athletic talent that Philadelphia expected when they selected him in the second round of April's draft.
Kendricks' mere presence on the football field is going to make the Eagles front seven that much better. He can go sideline-to-sideline in a heartbeat and doesn't hesitate pumping the line against the run.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Finding Depth at Running Back and Nose Tackle
Recent reports have surfaced that both Rashard Mendenhall and Casey Hampton could start the 2012 season on the Physically Unable to Perform List (PUP), which means they will miss the first six weeks of the season.
The Steelers do appear that they are going to be okay at nose tackle. They are happy with Steve McLendon starting the season and selected Alameda Ta'amu in April's draft.
The larger issue here is at running back. Pittsburgh might go with a committee type set with the likes of Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and rookie Chris Rainey sharing the load.
Will all three be able to match the contribution that Mendenhall has made over the course of the last couple seasons?
San Diego Chargers: A Battle Might Be Brewing at Strong Safety
Former LSU standout Brandon Taylor seems to have the inside slant for the San Diego Chargers starting strong safety job opposite Eric Weddle. While Taylor might struggle early in coverage, he already possesses the build and tackling ability to be a damn good rookie against the run in the box.
Kevin Acee of The UT-Tribune has indicated that Taylor will start out of the gate in San Diego as a rookie in 2012.
That shouldn't come as much of a surprise considering that his primary competition at strong safety is Atari Bigby.
San Francisco 49ers: Wide Receiver Group Is Vastly Improved
The San Francisco 49ers acknowledged and then addressed a key position of need at wide receiver during the offseason.
They signed both Mario Manningham and Randy Moss in free agency. While both might leave a lot to be desired, they are major upgrades over what the 49ers had at this position last season and that is all they were attempting to do.
This doesn't even take into account the selection of A.J. Jenkins in the first round of April's draft. While the former Illinois standout might not make an immediate impact, he has unlimited potential.
If the 49ers passing game improves a great deal in 2012, they could be the clear favorites to bring home the Lombardi.
Seattle Seahawks: Tarvaris Jackson Retains Starting Job....for Now
How good is Matt Flynn if he cannot standout in a group consisting of Tarvaris Jackson and rookie signal-caller Russell Wilson? This is a question that many Seattle Seahawks' fans are probably asking themselves after it was reported that Jackson is going to retain his starting job heading into camp.
For a team that has playoff level talent up and down the roster outside of quarterback this has to be considered a major blow.
That being said, we haven't even seen the first day of training camp. Let's wait a little closer to the first regular season game before drawing any conclusions.
St. Louis Rams: Sam Bradford Has Some Shiny New Targets
Much like some other teams on this list, the St. Louis Rams did a solid job recognizing and filling specific needs throughout their roster.
None more so than the wide receiver position. St. Louis picked up both Brian Quick and Chris Givens in the draft. Quick, a second-round pick from Appalachian State, has shown tremendous talent and is going to be relied on a great deal as a rookie.
In fact, Steven Jackson had the following to say about his teammate:
"Over the next six weeks, he's going to have to work real hard to be prepared for a long season, because we're going to lean on him, lean heavily on him."
That is some high expectations to place on a rookie receiver coming from a small-school. That being said, I under the belief that Quick is more than ready for the challenge. He has all the physical tools necessary to be a dominating figure on the outside, even as a rookie.
St. Louis also added former Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants receiver Steve Smith in free agency.
At the very least, Sam Bradford should have some more consistent weapons to throw to at wide receiver.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Starting Running Back Job Up in the Air
Doug Martin was one of my favorite offensive players in the 2012 NFL draft. The Boise State product has everything you look for in a Pro Bowl running back. He has a rare combination of speed and strength that teams covet when looking for someone to shoulder the load.
The issue for Martin as it relates to his ability to start as a rookie is incumbent starter LeGarrette Blount, who rushed for 1,000 yards as a rookie in 2010 before slowing down a bit last season.
So, who wins the starting job?
Tampa Bay running backs coach Earnest Byner had the following to say about Martin and his fundamentals during minicamp:
"The thing that they struggle with most of the time is pass protection and especially nickel pass protection, but I don’t think that’s going to be an issue with him."
Expect Martin to win the starting running back job and compete for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Tennessee Titans: No Separation in Starting Quarterback Competition
Matt Hasselbeck is the ultimate professional. He sat idly by as the Tennessee Titans made a play for Peyton Manning. He worked hard to help Jake Locker get acclimated to the National Football League. And now he is competing with the aforementioned Locker for the starting job.
While it appears that the two will split first-team reps until a true starter is named, it is hard to believe that the Titans would be willing to let Locker, a 2011 top-10 pick, sit another season behind the veteran.
Either way, the difference shouldn't be too great as the Titans will contend for a playoff spot in 2012.
Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III Looking Every Bit the Part of No. 2 Pick
Robert Griffin III was leading a players-only camp in Texas earlier this week, which speaks volumes in regards to his leadership ability and willingness to go the extra-mile to build cohesion on the offensive side of the ball.
This is a surreal situation for a young quarterback and just goes to show you how mature he is.
Moreover, RGIII was extremely impressive in the Skins' final team activity prior to training camp last next month.
According to Dan Graziano over at ESPN, "Griffin III was impressing the Washington Redskins" in minicamp. Apparently he has picked up the offense relatively quickly and should be prepared to go into the season full-steam ahead.
Great news in D.C.