The Biggest Revelation from Every NFL Team's OTAs

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystJune 8, 2017

The Biggest Revelation from Every NFL Team's OTAs

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    This time of year in the NFL is something of the calm before the proverbial storm. We're past the flurry of free-agency activity and the NFL draft, but not yet into training camp and the preseason. 

    The lazy days of summer, so to speak.

    Of course, there's really no such thing as "lazy days" in the National Football League. We may not have hit high gear just yet, but there's always something going on.

    Like, say, the "shorts and shells" workouts of organized team activities (OTAs).

    Now, this usually isn't the time for earth-shattering events. Usually if a team experiences a tectonic shift at this point of the year, it's a major injury that came at the worst possible time.

    However, there's still information to be gleaned from OTAs—developments that could have a significant impact on the season to come.

    So let's make with the gleaning, if you know what I'm meaning.

    I'll try to keep the rhyming to a minimum.

Arizona Cardinals

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    Next Man Up

    It's one of the oldest cliches in the NFL. One that's trotted out every time a team suffers a significant injury.

    The kind that befell Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Deone Bucannon late last season—one that has lingered into 2017.

    As Kyle Odegard of the team's website reported, Bucannon had surgery last month to repair the balky ankle that cut his 2016 campaign short. The Redbirds remain hopeful Bucannon will be back in time for Week 1, but head coach Bruce Arians admitted that's not a sure thing.

    “We think, if everything goes perfect, he’ll be ready,” Arians said. “But there’s always that chance that it won’t.”

    With Kevin Minter now in Cincinnati, that could mean a pair of new starters inside when the Cardinals open the season in Motown on September 10.

    Well, sort of.

    The Cardinals brought back veteran Karlos Dansby in free agency for a third stint with the team, and while Dansby isn't the linebacker he once was, the 35-year-old should still at least be a solid stopgap.

    However, the other starter would be new not just to the Cardinals, but to the NFL as a whole. Bucannon's absence from OTAs has opened up more first-team reps for rookie first-round pick Haason Reddick, and Arians told ESPN's Josh Weinfuss that Reddick has been a quick study.

    “It’s Wally Pipp,” Arians said. “It’s classic Wally Pipp. [Reddick’s] getting every single rep, and he looks damn good.”

    Reddick said the extra reps have helped. “It’s just making the process so much faster,” he said. “It’s making me have to learn at a faster pace. It’s making me be more accountable earlier.

    In case you were wondering, sports lore says that Pipp was a first baseman for the New York Yankees who sat out a game in 1925 due to a headache. He was replaced in the lineup by a little-known youngster by the name of Lou Gehrig.

Atlanta Falcons

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    Desmond's Back

    The Atlanta Falcons' run to a berth in Super Bowl LI was all the more remarkable given that the team completed it without arguably their best defensive player.

    However, the absence of cornerback Desmond Trufant, who tore his pectoral muscle last November, was sorely felt by the Falcons in their second-half collapse against the New England Patriots.

    Reports regarding Trufant's rehab had been almost universally positive, and head coach Dan Quinn told ESPN's Vaughn McClure that he was hopeful Trufant would make it back onto the practice field before the beginning of training camp.

    "I expect him to be back not only for camp, but possibly even sooner, when he can work into some portion of practice over the next two weeks," Quinn said. "We'll see where that goes. He's doing fantastic. He's really pushed it from a rehab standpoint, so he's strong. He's fit. Hopefully in the next few days, we'll have some clarity on that. He's chomping at the bit to get back with his guys. We'll always do what's right by him to make sure he's ready to go."

    Sure enough, per Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com, Trufant was spotted practicing with his teammates at OTAs.

    Atlanta defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel said he thinks Trufant's injury could have been a blessing in disguise where his development is concerned.

    "Tru is a competitor, the ultimate competitor," Manuel said. "Now he had to take the leadership role verbally, which now helps him in the room. Now he can pull a young guy and say, 'Hey, come over here and do this,' which I watched [Richard] Sherman do that. I watched Earl [Thomas] do that. I watched Kam [Chancellor] do that. We're in a nice, blessed spot right now with all of these guys."

    But I'm guessing Manuel would prefer Trufant leads from the playing field in 2017 instead of the sidelines.

Baltimore Ravens

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    Black and Purple Blues

    There's one thing above all others that NFL teams fear in OTAs. One thing they absolutely dread.

    The possibility of a major injury to a starting player in a non-contact practice.

    Someone must have broken a mirror in Baltimore, because the Ravens suffered two devastating injuries in as many days.

    First, it was cornerback Tavon Young. The second-year pro, who went from Day 3 draft pick to starter last year, suffered a season-ending torn ACL on June 1, per Dan Graf of Fox Sports.

    Then things got worse.

    As ESPN's Jamison Hensley reported, tight end Dennis Pitta, who led the Ravens with 86 receptions in 2016, went down in a heap the very next day after dislocating his hip for the third time in the last five years. It's an injury that may well have ended not only Pitta's season but also his career.

    The Pitta injury left general manager Ozzie Newsome shaking his head.

    "Dennis is one of the great Ravens," Newsome said, "and he's done everything he can to make our team better. This is incredibly disappointing, obviously for Dennis, and for the Ravens."

    Disappointing hardly begins to cover it. The Young injury is bad, but with Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, rookie Marlon Humphrey and OTA standout Maurice Canady, the Ravens at least have some depth in the secondary.

    At tight end, the Ravens have Ben Watson (who is 36 and rehabbing his own major injury) and Maxx Williams (who had a knee surgery in the offseason that's never been performed on an NFL player before).

    The Ravens' pass-catchers were already a potential area of weakness for the team this year. Now that Pitta's 86 catches are gone, there's nothing "potential" about it.

Buffalo Bills

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    All Out of Wideouts

    There isn't a team in the NFL sicker of the phrase "injured wide receiver" than the Buffalo Bills.

    Unfortunately, they keep right on hearing it.

    After a pair of injury-stained seasons (including eight missed games a year ago), the Bills somewhat surprisingly elected not to pick up Sammy Watkins' fifth-year option for 2018 despite the extra first-round pick it cost the team to acquire him back in 2014.

    The fact that Watkins still isn't on the practice field after another foot surgery would seem to bear out the wisdom of that decision. But in the opinion of Bleacher Report NFL Analyst Sean Tomlinson, all that's done is put the team in a lose-lose situation.

    "There's every reason to believe that if the former Clemson star stays healthy, opposing secondaries will be lit up once again," Tomlinson said. "If that happens, a mismanaged situation will lead to the Bills winning in the short term but Watkins winning in the long term. Or if he's broken again in 2017, the Bills will be left with the stain of three wasted recent draft picks."

    There's even more news. And it's not a bit better.

    With the 37th pick in the 2017 NFL draft, the Bills selected East Carolina receiver Zay Jones, at least in part as insurance against Watkins's absence. Now Jones is sitting on the shelf right next to him.

    As Chris Brown reported for the team's website, OTAs were barely underway before Jones went down with what's been called a sprained knee. There doesn't appear to be any ligament damage and Jones is considered "week-to-week," but any time missed will only slow the youngster's development.

    That leaves the Bills with a receiving corps headed up by the likes of Philly Brown, Andre Holmes and Brandon Tate.

    No wonder the team is courting recently released veteran Jeremy Maclin.

Carolina Panthers

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    Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

    Dumb Rules Are Dumb

    The biggest "revelation" from OTAs for the Carolina Panthers isn't some groundbreaking development. It's just the latest example of something we already knew.

    The NFL's rule barring rookies from joining their teams until the school year ends at their college (with the exception of rookie camp) is brain-bendingly dumb.

    Essentially, the rule does one thing—punishes players (and the teams who draft them) who attend schools that use the quarter system. Stanford does, so that means that No. 8 overall pick Christian McCaffrey can't join the Panthers until June 14.

    I get it. Education is important. The NFL wants to at least pretend to care about that. But McCaffrey (and players like him) are grown men who have signed contracts that will pay them substantial sums of money.

    They're past being told what to do. Never mind that McCaffrey isn't even enrolled at Stanford this quarter. He isn't attending classes. He's twiddling his thumbs waiting for an arbitrarily assigned date to pass so he can get on with his life.

    Carolina head coach Ron Rivera told ESPN's David Newton that in his opinion, the NFL is punishing the youngsters they're trying to protect.

    "I just think if a young man on his own is not going to enroll, don't hold that against him," he said. "You don't know who you're going to get through the draft. If those young men decided on their own, then they're being punished for something that is their choice. It really only hurts the player. He's got to come in [late] and learn and grow and fit in."

    For his part, McCaffrey was a bit more blunt while speaking at a charity bowling event (that he can show up for).

    "It sucks," McCaffrey said, per Bill Voth of the Panthers' website. "It's really tough."

    If a player isn't enrolled in school (and therefore isn't missing a danged thing), then there's no reason why this rule should apply to them.

    It's really not that complicated.

Chicago Bears

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    Trubisky Watch: OTA Edition

    It's going to be a long season in Chicago. Bright spots will be few and far between. And one question is going to dominate the conversation, just as it has since the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft.

    "What about Mitch?"

    Mike Glennon may be the starting quarterback for the Bears in Week 1, but in OTAs, all eyes were on Michell Trubisky, the signal-caller the Bears traded up to get as a replacement for the one they just signed.

    Yes, you read that right.

    As Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune reported, Trubisky is well aware that considering what the Bears gave up to get him, there will be big expectations—the expectations of a fervent fanbase that hasn't enjoyed the play of a true "franchise" quarterback since, well, ever.

    And to his credit, Trubisky welcomes it.

    "I love that," he said. "I've come to a place that's crazy about football, crazy about the NFL and takes a lot of pride in the city. That's who I am as a person. I feel like I fit in great. … It's an exciting time. I'm very blessed to be in the situation I'm in. Now it's my job to go to work and do whatever I can for the team."

    On the practice field, there have been the ups and downs you'd expect from a one-year collegiate starter learning both a new playbook and how to operate from under center after spending most of his time in the shotgun at North Carolina.

    Trubisky admitted he needs to be more consistent with his footwork at the professional level.

    "My throwing motion is what it is," he said. "I've got a quick release and I can throw the ball accurately as long as I bring my feet with me. So that's what Coach says: focus on the footwork, bring your feet with you, get through your progression and use your eyes well. So as long as my shoulders are level and I pull through with my hips, the ball should go where it's supposed to go."

    With Mark "Please God Don't Let Him Start" Sanchez out until at least July, Trubisky has gotten some extra work with the second team. And while it may be a good long while before he starts a game that counts, there's some cause for at least cautious optimism in the early going.

    And in Chicago, even cautious optimism is very welcome right now.

Cincinnati Bengals

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    Vigil-ance

    Organized team activities don't just hold value for NFL players and teams. They're also useful to fans and sportswriters. In many instances, it's the first inkling we get of surprising lineup wrinkles a team may have in the upcoming season.

    There might be one in the works in Cincy. As Jay Morrison of the Dayton Daily News reported, after a rookie season spent mainly on special teams, linebacker Nick Vigil has been working with the first team on the practice field.

    Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said Vigil has earned that time with the starters, even if the drills are non-contact.

    “Physically you’re not going to be able to show as many things this time of year,” Guenther said. “It’s the footwork, his eyes, his technique, things like that. Knowing if we’re changing a call at the line of scrimmage, can he communicate it to the safety or the corner or the D line. He’s done all those things so far, so it’s been good.”

    Even more interestingly, Vigil, who played just over 100 defensive snaps for the Bengals last year, per Pro Football Focus, has also been staying on the field in sub-packages—an indication that Guenther and the staff are confident in his ability to hold his own in coverage.

    It's still early. And it's not surprising that with a year in Guenther's defense under his belt, Vigil might have an edge over free-agent signee Kevin Minter for the second nickel linebacker spot.

    One will certainly go to Vontaze "Mr. Sportsmanship" Burfict.

    But for a Cincinnati defense that was slow at linebacker last year to have a real competition for that second spot as opposed to a limited player winning it by default...

    Well, that's what they call a good problem to have.

Cleveland Browns

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    Defensive Merry-Go-Round

    There's a lot we don't know about the Cleveland Browns in 2017, not the least of which is who will be the team's starting quarterback this year.

    Those uncertainties extend to the defensive side of the ball—especially after yet another personnel shakeup.

    After the trade that sent middle linebacker Demario Davis to the New York Jets for strong safety Calvin Pryor, the Browns are looking for a new starter at "Mike." Per Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Browns are going to give the first crack at the job to sixth-year veteran Tank Carder.

    "Carder, primarily a special teams ace and reserve linebacker, will get a look there during OTAs and mandatory minicamp, as will second-year pro Joe Schobert and Dominique Alexander," Cabot said. "[Defensive coordinator Gregg] Williams will tinker with the lineup until he likes what he sees."

    Carder's nowhere near a shoo-in to win that starting job. In five NFL seasons, Carder has played all of 261 defensive snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. Granted, his per-snap production has been pretty good (53 career tackles), but simply put, there's a reason he has averaged about 50 defensive snaps a season.

    Everything to this point in his career indicates he isn't especially good.

    There's another possibility for the "tinkering" Williams, though.

    Assuming Pryor can play a little more like a first-round pick (or at least a marginally competent NFL starter) than he did with the Jets, the Browns could slide Christian Kirksey back inside and go with a small-ball lineup featuring Jabrill Peppers as the team's weak-side linebacker.

    The Browns haven't yet given any indication they're considering that move, but it's worth pointing out that Williams did something similar (with considerable success) with Mark Barron while running the Rams defense.

Dallas Cowboys

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    Mr. Smith Goes to Practice

    When Jaylon Smith was drafted in the second round by the Dallas Cowboys in 2016, it was under a dark cloud of uncertainty. Nerve damage from a knee injury suffered in his last game at Notre Dame created the real possibility that the star linebacker would never play football again.

    Fast-forward just over a year, and Smith was on the practice field at Cowboys OTAs. As Pat Doney of NBC Dallas reported, Smith allowed that he has some catching up to do after a lost rookie season.

    “The speed of the game is a little bit faster, and at the next level everyone’s good,” Smith said. “That’s the biggest difference. There’s no drop off. That’s what I’m getting adjusted to. For me, it’s full confidence. I just have to keep improving.”

    Head coach Jason Garrett said he's been impressed by what he's seen from Smith so far.

    “He just needs to continue to progress, continue to work his rehab and get himself in situations on the field where he can grow,” Garrett said. “We’ve had no obstacles to this point. He’s done a really nice job working to get back.”

    Mind you, this isn't just any linebacker we're talking about. Before that fateful day at the Fiesta Bowl, Smith was widely considered a top-10 pick. After the Cowboys drafted him, Mike Mayock of the NFL Network wrote, "I thought he could be Luke Kuechly at the next level. Smith is three downs all day long."

    There's no guarantee after the injury and long layoff that Smith will ever be the player he was again.

    But if he's anything close to the wildly athletic, rangy and instinctive difference-maker he was in South Bend, then a Dallas defense in need of playmakers will be a lot better in 2017.

Denver Broncos

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    Paxton's Progress

    The Denver Broncos are one of a number of NFL teams facing a similar dilemma this summer—a quarterback controversy in the making between a young but raw prospect and a nominally more proven veteran.

    In Denver, the contestants are second-year pro Paxton Lynch and 2016 starter Trevor Siemian. Siemian is the presumptive favorite to at least open the season as the starter, but as Cameron Wolfe of the Denver Post reported, Lynch is doing what he can to narrow the gap.

    Per Wolfe, Lynch opened the week with his best practice session so far this summer, showing plus arm strength and accuracy while drawing kudos from head coach Vance Joseph.

    “He had a great day,” Joseph said. “He made some nice throws.”

    However, according to Mile High Sports, Arnie Stapleton of the Associated Press wasn't impressed by Lynch's day on the practice field.

    “I am not amongst the crowd that thinks that Paxton had a great day,” Stapleton said. “Did he have his best day that we’ve seen? Yes. That’s not saying much. He hasn’t had good days yet. Today he made a couple of good throws, Paxton Lynch did, but they came after some really bad decisions and some really bad plays again. If this were a game, he’d never get to the point where he’d be able to throw the touchdown pass.”

    Now, many will argue this is more a non-revelation. A statement of the obvious. We know Lynch has a bigger arm than Siemian, just as we know that he's not nearly as refined as Siemian at this point in their respective careers.

    But with starting tailback C.J. Anderson proclaiming his surgically repaired knee "ready to go," per Curtis Crabtree of Pro Football Talk, one issue looms over all others for the Broncos. One question that will go a long way toward determining if Denver contends in the AFC West in 2017.

    Quarterback play.

    And that makes every sliver of news that comes out regarding Siemian or Lynch potentially revelatory.

Detroit Lions

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    Double Decker Problems

    The last thing any NFL team wants to be is that club whose biggest OTA story is an injury to a prominent player.

    Detroit Lions, come on down!

    According to Michael Rothstein of ESPN, starting left tackle Taylor Decker will be out indefinitely after undergoing surgery to repair a shoulder injury. Head coach Jim Caldwell refused to offer much in the way of an explanation as to how the injury occurred, and he also wouldn't say when Decker might be back.

    "Sometimes they are non-contact injuries," Caldwell said. "I didn't say this was one of them, but I'm just talking about it doesn't require that there's any force contact for that to happen."

    "Any time that you've had surgery, you just don't know details," he continued. "So like I said, we'll update you in the fall."

    Now, a portion of that non-explanation is just Caldwell being Caldwell. When it comes to injuries, he's very much a disciple of the Bill Belichick school of dissemination.

    Say nothing. Ever. About anything.

    And part of it could well be that Caldwell just doesn't know how long Decker will be out. Whatever happened, it appears it was as sudden as it was unexpected.

    There's one thing we do know, however.

    This is a hammerblow to the Lions as a team. Decker was arguably the Lions' best offensive lineman in 2016, starting all 16 games on Matt Stafford's blind side as a rookie.

    Now, a Lions team hoping to build on last year's playoff appearance—a Lions team whose O-line ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in both run- and pass-blocking a year ago, per Football Outsiderscould well open the regular season without that best lineman in the fold.

Green Bay Packers

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    A BETTER Jordy Nelson?

    In 2016, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson reeled in 97 passes for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns.

    What a slacker.

    Despite those lofty numbers a year ago, Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy told Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette that with Nelson participating in his first OTAs since 2014, he's expecting even bigger and better things from the 32-year-old in 2017.

    “It’s all about sharpening your skills,” McCarthy said. “The proof is in the pudding. Any time you come back from a major injury, history would support a jump in the second year. Because that first year back, there’s a number of different thresholds you have to get over.

    "So now Jordy in here working on the specifics of getting better, not only himself but working (with) the other quarterbacks, and we have receivers and concepts that we may have in and so forth. It’s not that rehab component of we have to get to the next spot and get to the next spot and get back."

    Nelson, who remained in Green Bay over the offseason, told Wood it feels good to actually enter OTAs already at 100 percent for once.

    “I started up a few weeks before we reported, and the body felt great. Just needed to clear everything physically and mentally and just kind of refresh. I thought it was great for me.”

    At first glance, it might seem to be asking an awful lot of Nelson to improve on last year. In addition to those raw numbers, he was PFF's sixth-ranked receiver last year.

    Again, slacker. Five guys ranked higher, Jordy. Geez.

    But consider this: The last time Nelson got a full offseason under his belt, he responded with more catches than 2016. And more yards. And 13 touchdowns. And a trip to the Pro Bowl.

    So maybe it's not so unreasonable after all.

Houston Texans

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    Watt's Up?

    The dominant storyline this summer in training camp for the Houston Texans will undoubtedly be the quarterback battle between incumbent Tom Savage and rookie Deshaun Watson.

    Because quarterbacks are shameless glory hogs. Or because it's the league's most important position. Or both.

    But the most important storyline for the Houston Texans is the health of their best player. And there the team got some good news.

    As Deepi Sidhu of the team's website reported, after an injury-marred 2016 season, defensive end J.J. Watt was on the practice field at OTAs. Watt said his surgically repaired back is feeling great.

    “I feel very good," Watt said. "I think the slow pace applies a little bit more to the weight room and stuff like that than it does to the field. I don’t like to play slow. Very fast, feeling good. It’s so much fun to be in the meetings, to be on the field and just be back with the guys.

    "I mean, there’s no better feeling than being with my teammates. So, I feel great. I’m sure we’ll have some sort of program here where I take a day off here and take a day off there, but as far as when I’m allowed to be on the field, I feel awesome.”

    Head coach Bill O'Brien offered a similar assessment. “J.J. is doing great,” he said. “He’s been here all offseason. He’s working hard. It’s tough enough to block him in pads, let alone out of pads. So, he’s doing great. Like we all know, he’ll be ready to go.”

    The fact is, whether it's Savage or Watson on the field this year, Houston's QB play will probably be average—and that's if they're lucky.

    You know what will go a long way toward covering any deficiencies under center though?

    Adding a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year to a unit that was No. 1 in the NFL in yards allowed in 2016.

Indianapolis Colts

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    New-Look Defense

    For some players and teams, OTAs are something of a "getting to know you" period.

    That's especially true for the Indianapolis Colts on defense, where the team will be rolling out a new-look squad populated by any number of new faces.

    There's a pair of new edge-rushers in Jabaal Sheard and John Simon. New inside linebackers in Sean Spence and rookie Anthony Walker. A new nose tackle in free-agent acquisition Johnathan Hankins. And a pair of potential first-year starters in the secondary in Quincy Wilson and first-round pick Malik Hooker.

    With all the fresh faces in town, OTAs take on an added importance for the Colts. Sure, there isn't any live contact permitted. But the new guys can at least take the field as a unit. Learn the new playbook as a unit. Develop the beginnings of some cohesiveness as a unit.

    Head coach Chuck Pagano told Kevin Bowen of the team's website the importance of these practices cannot be overstated.

    “From a communication/learning the defense (standpoint)," he said, "it’s vital all those guys are here learning together.”

    In the last couple of years, a great deal has been made of the "struggles" of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. But the fact is Luck's had the weight of the world on his shoulders. He knew week in and week out that he was going to have to win shootouts, because stops on defense were few and far between.

    That's why the team took a buzzsaw to that side of the ball in the offseason, and the sooner Indy gets on the same page defensively, the better chance it'll have of getting back into the AFC South hunt in 2017.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Bortles' Reckoning

    The Jacksonville Jaguars may have already picked up quarterback Blake Bortles' fifth-year option for the 2018 season. But make no mistakethis is it for the 25-year-old. Put up another wildly uneven season a la 2016, and Bortles' days as the "franchise" quarterback for the team will be all but over.

    As John Oehser reported for the Jags' website, this fact has not escaped Bortles as he enters the fourth set of OTAs of his career.

    "I think everything is important: I think this is by far the most important month of my career," Bortles said. "Then, the following month will be just as important and so on and so forth until we start rolling. It kind of goes through the same thing with the season: each week is as or more important than the last."

    Bortles said that footwork have mechanics have been emphasized under new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.

    "Everything Nathaniel does with his system is based off your feet: It's a lot into that, and it's not something that we've done in the past," Bortles said. "It’s a little bit new to an extent, so there are constant reminders with that. If your feet get out of whack, everything else goes."

    Of course, talking about better mechanics and actually implementing then can be two separate things. Per Mike Kaye of WTLV, in the OTA practice he observed Bortles in, "(he) had an up-and-down day. His throwing motion looks improved, but his accuracy came in streaks."

    The adjective that Kaye used to describe the totality of the workout for Bortles and the other QBs?

    "Uneven."

    It's not as if Bortles has never shown anything at the NFL level. There's a reason the Jaguars picked up that option. Two years ago, Bortles was joint-second in the NFL with 35 scoring passes.

    But the more time Bortles and the Jags spend chasing that big season, the less likely it appears that they are actually going to catch it.

Kansas City Chiefs

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    King of the Hill

    Tyreek Hill was a rookie revelation in 2016. A blazing speedster who found the end zone six times as a receiver and three times in the return game. With the rock in his hands in the open field, he's as dangerous as any player in the NFL.

    He's also now the unquestioned No. 1 receiver for a team with aspirations of playing a game in Minnesota next February.

    As Terez Paylor wrote for the Kansas City Star, the Chiefs surprisingly released veteran receiver Jeremy Maclin on June 2. It wasn't necessarily a surprise to see a wide receiver with a cap hit of over $10 million in 2017 get the axe after an injury-marred season.

    But it was definitely a surprise that the Chiefs did it. In letting Maclin go, the Chiefs now have, among their wide receiver corps, the same number of 1,000-yard seasons on their combined resume that I do.

    Yes, the Chiefs have one of the best tight ends in the National Football League in Travis Kelce, who topped 1,100 receiving yards last season.

    And given the cap savings gained from Maclin's release, the Chiefs could, in theory, add another veteran receiver. There are still a few options available (outside Maclin), headlined by three-time Pro Bowler Anquan Boldin.

    But for as dangerous as Hill was at times last season, he tallied less than 600 receiving yards total. Hill averaged less than 10 yards a catch. He graded out 30th among NFL wideouts in receiving in 2016, per Pro Football Focus.

    Hill is a promising young receiver and already the most dangerous return man in the league. But in the span of one June afternoon, the Chiefs went from hoping for a second-year jump from Hill to desperately needing one if they're going to get back to the playoffs.

Los Angeles Chargers

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    Flat on his Back

    The Los Angeles Chargers are becoming far too accustomed to seeing their wide receivers all gathered in the same place.

    The trainers' room.

    In four NFL seasons, Keenan Allen still hasn't played in all 16 games. Over the past two years, he's missed a staggering 23 of a possible 32 games, including nearly the entire 2016 season.

    With the No. 7 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft, the Chargers attempted to hedge their bets against Allen's lack of durability by selecting Clemson wideout Mike Williams.

    Guess where I'm going with this.

    According to Kevin Patra of NFL.com, Williams will miss the rest of OTAs as he tries to rehab a mild disc herniation in his back.

    The Chargers are hopeful that Williams can avoid surgery, but head coach Anthony Lynn admitted that the absence isn't helping Williams' development one bit.

    "I'd like to see him out there next week because he's getting behind right now, and we've got to get him back out on the field," Lynn said. "If he wasn't a rookie it would be different. But he has so much to learn, and some of this you can only learn on the field."

    It's understandable that Williams and the Chargers are trying to avoid surgery. To those who say that Williams should just get it over with and go under the knife, I have two words.

    Steve Kerr.

    But that doesn't mean that Williams isn't still going to need that surgery at some point—surgery that would wipe out a sizable chunk of his rookie season. Even if he doesn't, back injuries can linger. And every practice missed puts Williams that much more behind the curve.

    This isn't a huge problem yet, but if it drags into training camp, it could become one quickly.

    And given the luck the Chargers have (or haven't) had with receiver injuries the past several years, I'm not exactly overflowing with optimism.

Los Angeles Rams

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Turn Your Head and Goff

    Odd though it may be to say it this early in his career, 2017 really is a make-or-break year for Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff.

    Given everything the Rams surrendered to move up to the No. 1 spot and select Goff in the 2016 draft, there's tremendous pressure on Goff to take a big step forward after an unimpressive rookie season.

    Actually, unimpressive is probably being kind. Goff couldn't beat out Case Keenum to start at the beginning of the year and struggled mightily once he did get on the field over the second half of the season.

    Goff completed less than 55 percent of his passes in 2016. His passer rating was south of 65. He threw five(!) touchdown passes in seven starts, and among 36 qualifying quarterbacks at Pro Football Focus, Goff ranked 32nd.

    In 2017, Goff is learning a new offense under head coach Sean McVay, and he has both new linemen protecting him and new targets in the passing game.

    However, as the Sports XChange (h/t UPI) reported, McVay said that the best teacher for Goff may just be experience.

    "It's hard until you actually work with a guy. You evaluate the traits and the characteristics, but I think what he's done above the neck in terms of the way that he's handled the different things and situations that we've put him in, (we've) been very pleased so far," McVay said. "We know that game-like atmosphere, you try to create that so that you can mimic and emulate those situations in practice. But until you're actually live as a quarterback, that's when you truly get challenged. You're having to move with the rush, avoid guys that can really tackle you. That's always the best evaluator."

    "I think he has done a nice job improving every single day, McVay continued, "and that's what's going to give us a chance."

    As with many of the glowing assessments offered up by coaching staffs this year, this one needs to be taken with a grain of salt. It's a lot easier to complete passes wearing a red non-contact jersey. And McVay waffled a bit when asked if Goff was the unquestioned starter, per Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.

    "Jared is our guy; we have a lot of confidence in what he's done," McVay said. "But we have confidence in Sean as well. ... We're going to play the guys that give us the ability to win football games and the guys that are competing at the highest level."

    But given how he played as a rookie, every step in the right direction for Goff is a big one.

Miami Dolphins

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Two Men Walk Into a Bar...

    Otherwise known as, "Stop me if you've heard this before."

    One year ago at about this time, there was plenty of chatter about how Miami Dolphins wideout DeVante Parker was going to take the league by storm. He was going to stay healthy, his substantial talents were going to assert themselves and...

    BANGPOWZOOM!

    That we're having this conversation again indicates there was no bang, or pow, or even zoom.

    However, that buzz is building again. Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald called Parker the most improved player on the team this offseason. "I am told by multiple sources Parker has been so impressive this offseason he has coaches hopeful he can finally develop into the dominant threat the Dolphins were expecting when they drafted him in the first round in 2015," he wrote.

    As Mike Florio reported for Pro Football Talk, that sentiment was echoed by offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen, who said he expects a "gigantic" season from the third-year pro.

    "The great thing," he said, "is we're seeing what we were hoping to see, and that's a healthy DeVante Parker—he is running probably better than I've seen him run since I've been here—and a hungry DeVante Parker. I think he has been around a lot more than last year. He is practicing hard. ... [He's] zeroed in. So, we are seeing what we wanted to see out of him."

    Talent has never been in question with Parker. He has everything you want in a young receiver, whether it's speed, athleticism or physicality. It's just that we only ever saw it in flashes because Parker spent his first two years in a constant state of nicked up.

    Per Salguero, Parker has been much more vigilant about everything from conditioning to diet this offseason in an effort to reverse that trend.

    In other words, it sounds like he's growing up.

    And a coming-out party could be next on the agenda.

Minnesota Vikings

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    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    Eye of the Storm

    Mike Zimmer is one of my favorite head coaches in the NFL. I admire his defensive acumen and respect his no-nonsense attitude.

    It's an attitude that has rubbed off on his team in a good way.

    Over the first two weeks of OTAs, though, it was defensive line coach Andre Patterson who handled head coaching duties while Zimmer recovered from surgery.

    His eighth surgery. On the same eye. In the past year.

    After having vision issues in a game against the Bears last October, Zimmer had surgery to repair a detached retina. Complications led to him missing a game in December due to an emergency operation.

    The latest surgery involved the insertion of a gas bubble into Zimmer's eye, which will (in theory) hold the retina in place until it heals. In true Zimmer fashion, he told ESPN's Ben Goessling that, whether this operation takes or not, he'll be on the sidelines this fall.

    "Like I texted Kyle Rudolph, I said, 'Hey, I'll be back shortly with one eye or two. Doesn't really matter -- I'm going to be back,'" Zimmer said. "So we can put that me retiring thing or whatever to bed quickly."

    It isn't Zimmer retiring that concerns me, and of course I hope that this latest surgery put the whole matter to bed.

    But NFL teams are creatures of habit. And while it's not a huge stretch to call the Vikings a playoff contender in 2017, they aren't one with much of a margin for error.

    The Vikings lost that game against Chicago. And the December game against the Cowboys Zimmer missed.

    In other words, if those vision problems continue and he's forced to miss time (his toughness notwithstanding), I have a hard time seeing the Vikings making the playoffs.

    Who knew a coaching injury could be this big a deal?

New England Patriots

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    Bill Sikes/Associated Press

    Gronk Smash

    Here's a revelation for you—there aren't going to be any revelations coming out of the New England Patriots OTAs.

    You have a better chance of getting the combination for the private safe Vladimir Putin keeps his Pokemon card collection in (if I disappear it's been fun) than getting information from Bill Belichick about the new pecking order in a crowded Patriots backfield.

    However, there's one bit of news that's rather hard to miss, given that it almost blocks out the sun when it runs by.

    After yet another season marred by injuries and offseason back surgery, tight end Rob Gronkowski has been a full participant in organized team activities. And after redoing his contract recently, Gronk has millions of reasons to have a dominant season in 2017.

    He told Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald that his back his fully healed and he's ready to rock.

    "I'm 100 percent," Gronk said. "Good to go. I just know that all the hard work you put in is what you're going to get out of it. I love to put in the work, love the challenge sometimes. It is what it was, and now I'm good to go."

    Now, this is something of an annual rite of passage with the massively talented but injury-prone tight end. Every offseason, there are proclamations that this will be the year Gronkowski stays healthy and has another transcendent season ala 2011.

    The rest of the NFL had better hope not. That year, Gronkowski had 90 catches for over 1,300 yards and an NFL-record 17 scores—and the Patriots went to the Super Bowl.

    In 2014, he topped 1,100 yards and scored 12 timesand the Patriots won the Super Bowl.

    As a matter of fact, in the three years Gronkowski has topped 1,000 receiving yards the Pats made it at least as far as the AFC title game.

    This year, on arguably the most loaded Pats team of his career, New England may not lose a game if Gronkowski stays healthy.

    That's right. I said it.

New Orleans Saints

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    Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

    All Day, Baby

    As you may have heard, the New Orleans Saints have a new tailback in 2017. Two of them, in fact.

    But while most casual fans may not be familiar with rookie Alvin Kamara, just about everyone has heard of Adrian Peterson.

    Amazing what a 2,000-yard season and an MVP award can do for the old resume.

    However, since that amazing 2012 campaign, things have gone steadily downhill for "All Day." Peterson topped 1,200 yards the following season and gained nearly 1,500 in 2015, but there were also two lost seasons—one due to a suspension amid child abuse allegations and another in 2016 as the result of a torn meniscus.

    Peterson gained less than two yards a carry last year before tearing up his knee. After that terrible year and with Peterson well past the age where backs usually begin to decline, it was fair to wonder if time had caught up to the 32-year-old.

    The Vikings apparently thought so, cutting Peterson loose in the offseason.

    As Josh Katzenstein reported for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan has some news for the naysayers.

    They're dead wrong.

    "He looks phenomenal. He looks great," Jordan said. He probably looks faster (than the last time I played against him in 2011). If you can reverse Father Time, maybe he knows him. I don't know, but either way, I'm going to be getting real familiar with A.P. to understand how can I move as he does as the age that he is."

    Now, there's a big difference between a few padless practices and hitting the hole in a game. But this wouldn't be the first time critics thought Peterson was finished.

    Or the first time he made them look foolish for saying so.

New York Giants

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Empty Chairs at the Table

    For the New York Giants, the biggest story from the voluntary rounds of OTAs has more to do with the players who weren't there than the ones who were.

    With defensive end Olivier Vernon, it's likely not a big deal. According to Tom Rock of Newsday, the veteran defensive end had a perfectly reasonable explanation for why he stayed home in South Florida.

    "It's too chilly out there, man," Vernon said.

    Vernon made it clear that when the time comes for next week's mandatory minicamp, he'll be there. "When I get back with the team, man, we're gonna be alright," Vernon said. "That’s all I know. I know those guys are working hard right now and so am I."

    Whether or not the same can be said about Odell Beckham is another story altogther. Because there's a different reason the Pro Bowl receiver has stayed away.

    Millions of reasons, actually.

    Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, Beckham, who is slated to make less than $2 million in the fourth year of his rookie contract in 2017, is staying away from voluntary OTAs to express his desire for a new contract. Giants receivers coach Adam Henry didn't sound especially worried about Beckham being MIA, but he also didn't sound overjoyed to be asking questions about it.

    "I just coach who is here," Henry said. "The thing is that, when he's here, we've had great work. But I coach who is here. I've never had a problem with him. When he's here, he's a breath of fresh air. That's it."

    It's much too early to call Beckham's contract situation a "problem." ESPN's Jordan Raanan reported that Beckham will attend mandatory minicamp, perhaps because he realizes he's under team control for at least two more years and has little to no leverage in this situation.

    But if I'm Giants GM Jerry Reese, I'd think long and hard about getting an extension done sooner rather than later. That Beckham has earned a huge payday isn't in question.

    And needlessly making waves with arguably the best offensive player for a team with Super Bowl aspirations just seems, well, needless.

New York Jets

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    Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

    The Purge: Gang Green Edition

    The biggest revelation from OTAs in New York is that it's Revelations in New York.

    As in the Apocalypse.

    An offseason of veteran purges rolled on for the Jets this week. As ESPN's Rich Cimini reported, on Tuesday alone the Jets announced they were cutting their most senior defensive player (inside linebacker David Harris), while team sources told Adam Schefter they would be showing their best wide receiver (Eric Decker) the door.

    It's just the continuation of a theme. Whether it was cornerback Darrelle Revis or center Nick Mangold, many of the biggest names on the Jets roster had already been let go. The team has been attempting to trade defensive end Sheldon Richardson for some time but hasn't found any takers, as Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reported.

    We already knew the Jets were not going to be a good team in 2017. That's being kind—we already knew the Jets were going to be awful in 2017.

    However, general manager Mike Maccagnan insisted to Cimini that the Jets are not throwing in the towel on this season.

    "It's going to be a competitive roster," he said. "There will be a lot of opportunities for a lot of players on this roster. We are doing things that we feel that are going to help this organization both short and long term."

    You can make the argument that some of these cuts needed to be made. Revis was a shell of his once formidable self a year ago. And frankly the Jets needed to commit fully to being what they are—a bad team in need of a ground-up rebuild.

    But the notion that this purge could in any way, shape or form make the Jets more competitive in the short term is a tough pill to swallow.

    You'd have a much easier time selling me on the idea that the Jets have their eyes set on the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft and USC quarterback Sam Darnold.

    If that's the case, they're off to a good start.

Oakland Raiders

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Beast Mode!

    In news that should surprise exactly no one, the biggest story at OTAs for the Oakland Raiders has been their new tailback who is actually an old tailback.

    However, left tackle Donald Penn told Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle that Marshawn Lynch certainly hasn't looked old on the practice field.

    "He is having a ball, bouncing around like a little kid," Penn said. "I have known Marshawn for a while and he has always wanted to play for his hometown team. It's a dream come true. For us, too, because he is going to help us win."

    You wouldn't expect Penn to say any differently. There's very rarely reports from players and coaches in OTAs that aren't glowing. The glass is half-full.

    But in this case, there's video to back it up.

    As ESPN's Paul Gutierrez reported, earlier in the week head coach Jack Del Rio tweeted out video of Lynch breaking a long touchdown run in practice. Given that it happened in a non-contact practice, said run has to be taken with a grain of salt, but there's no denying in that one clip Lynch doesn't look like a back who sat out the entire 2016 season.

    Per Gutierrez, Lynch also offered up the impetus for his decision to play again—Oakland's announcement they were moving to Las Vegas.

    "It's always been something, being from Oakland, you want to play at home or have the opportunity, but knowing that they were leaving, a lot of the kids here probably won't have the opportunity to see most of their idols growing up, won't be in their hometown no more," Lynch said. "With me being from here, and continuing to be here, it gives them an opportunity, then, that they get to see somebody that actually did it, from where they're from, and for the team that they probably idolize."

    If Lynch has one last big year left in those legs, the fans in the Black Hole are going to go absolutely berserk over him in 2017.

    And the Skittles will rain from the sky.

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

    Check Out the New Guy

    The Philadelphia Eagles signed Alshon Jeffery in free agency this spring for one reason and one reason only—to serve as the go-to wide receiver for second-year quarterback Carson Wentz.

    So far, so good.

    As Tim McManus of ESPN reported, Jeffery has regularly stood out for the Eagles in practice sessions, and he and Wentz appear to be clicking early.

    Wentz had nothing but good things to say about his new top target.

    "It's been great with him," said Wentz of Jeffery. "He plays on-time, he knows what he is doing. His catch radius is impressive; that's the first thing that jumps out at me. So I'm just looking forward to continuing to build on that relationship."

    Fellow free agent acquisition Torrey Smith said he expects huge things from Jeffery in 2017.

    "I expect Alshon to have a big year," said Smith." You can't double-team everyone. So for myself and Alshon and really the whole receiving corps, when you have speed on the outside, Alshon obviously plays the way he plays the game—he can stretch the field and he's a big body—you have [tight end Zach] Ertz inside, Jordan [Matthews] in the slot, teams are going to have to pick their matchups."

    It wasn't that long ago that Jeffery appeared to be a superstar in the making, reeling in over 80 catches and topping 1,100 receiving yards in both 2013 and 2014.

    But after a pair of down seasons marked by injuries, Jeffery was forced to sign a one-year "prove it" deal with the Eagles after the market for his services proved cool.

    That contract-year status and a desire to get his career back on track appear to have Jeffery focused keenly on a bounce-back year.

    If he gets it, he's going to make Wentz look good in the process.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    An Inside Job

    For the first time in a long time this year, Lawrence Timmons won't be prowling the middle of the Pittsburgh Steelers defense after leaving for Miami in free agency.

    That means that fourth-year pro Ryan Shazier will be called on to step into a leadership role for the Steelers defensively. Over his first three seasons, the former Ohio State standout has shown flashes of elite talent but also a maddening inability to stay on the field.

    After missing at least three games in every season and 14 in three years, Shazier told Teresa Varley of the team's website that his biggest focus this year isn't as much improving on the field as just staying on it.

    "I definitely feel like this year could be my year," said Shazier. "I feel like I have the ability to be one of the top players. I just have to show everybody and be healthy on the field and continue to get better every day. When I am healthy, I can bring more to the table. I definitely think my involvement in pass rush and overall coverage game is getting better. In the second half of the season, and especially the playoffs, I think everyone got to see how well I can play and my capabilities."

    Shazier will be flanked by fifth-year pro Vince Williams, who told Varley that he's ready to reward the confidence the team has demonstrated by elevating him to the starting lineup.

    "I am humbled," said Williams. "We had an opportunity to get some linebackers in free agency. We had an opportunity to draft a first-round linebacker. It shows the organization has a lot of confidence in me. It is the first time I have ever felt that way. I feel like I am ready. I feel like I am going to get better and be more ready as it progresses."

    Make no mistake, though. It's Shazier who is the difference-maker. He's one of (if not the) fastest linebackers in the NFL, and more than capable of chasing down tailbacks and covering tight ends.

    It's a good sign to see him flying around the practice field, and hopefully one that will continue into the fall.

San Francisco 49ers

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    John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

    Looking for Leo

    The San Francisco 49ers are taking a page out of the Seattle Seahawks playbook under new defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

    Actually, they're taking the whole playbook and moving to a similar 4-3 "under" defense.

    But there's a problem. The cornerstone of the line in that scheme is the "Leo" pass-rusher. It's a role usually filled by a smaller, quicker end who lines up wide of the weak-side tackle.

    And after several years of running the 3-4, smaller, quicker defensive linemen are in short supply in Santa Clara.

    At 6'7" and 292 pounds, third-year pro Arik Armstead is anything but small. But per Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area, Saleh and the Niners are giving first crack at the position in OTAs to Armstead.

    Saleh said he believes Armstead has the quickness and agility to pull off the switch. "He moves well," Saleh said. "The concern was that he's so big and he doesn’t exactly fit the prototype, but he's so athletic. He's so long and he's got a good first step."

    A development earlier this week may have muddied the waters even further.

    As Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reported, the 49ers have agreed to terms with veteran free agent edge-rusher Elvis Dumervil. At 33, Dumervil's best days are behind him, and he missed half of the 2016 season to injury.

    But Dumervil is also a five-time Pro Bowler with 99 career sacks who, if healthy, is the kind of player the "Leo" role was made for.

    My first guess would be a rotation of some sort, with Armstead playing on base downs and Dumervil spelling him in certain obvious passing situations.

    If, that is, Armstead shows he can adapt to the new role. And if Dumervil can stay healthy.

    In Dumervil, Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Tank Carradine and 2017 No. 3 overall pick Solomon Thomas, the Niners have the makings of one of the deepest front fours in all of football.

    How they make use of that talent will have an immense impact on their defensive fortunes in 2017.

Seattle Seahawks

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    All Is Well(?)

    Just below "major injury" on the list of things NFL teams don't want in OTAs is "any nonsense not directly related to the game of football."

    Like, say, having to address reports of discord between star players.

    That's what the Seattle Seahawks found themselves doing after ESPN's Seth Wickersham wrote a long piece reporting that there's considerable friction between quarterback Russell Wilson and cornerback Richard Sherman, dating all the way back to the fateful goal-line play that decided Super Bowl XLIX.

    As Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times reported, head coach Pete Carroll denied that there's a rift between the team's offensive and defensive units.

    "We are in great shape right now," Carroll said. "Everything is going in great fashion. I guess things are a lot differently than maybe you guys think. I don't know that, but in here and with us and the work we are doing I think we are in marvelous position. That doesn't mean everybody is on the same page exactly right all the time—I'm not either. We've got to work at it, it's a challenge and it's about developing relationships and working with people and helping them find their best and that's what we're working at right here. Now we ain't doing it right all the time but we are trying."

    Wide receiver Doug Baldwin (as he usually is) was even more forthright while speaking to Liz Matthews of Seahawks Wire.

    "It's kind of a lull time in the media for the NFL so you have to create stories," Baldwin continued. "No offense to you guys, that's your job. But at the same time, I think a lot of it was made about nothing – about little. If I'm speaking candidly, yes, do we have arguments and disagreements? Of course. Every locker room does. What I think makes our locker room so great is that we are transparent, is that we are upfront with each other, we do hold each other to a high standard of accountability."

    Baldwin is correct that this is a bit of a "lull time" for the NFL media. But to call the story "nothing" isn't entirely accurate. Note that no one has refuted anything that Wickersham wrote about Sherman stewing about Wilson's interception that gave the Patriots the Lombardi Trophy. Or about dust-ups with other players he feels aren't performing to his satisfaction.

    This could be nothing. It could be that now that the team has addressed the article, we won't hear of it again and the Seahawks will go on to another NFC West title.

    But not too long ago, rumors were swirling that Seattle was trying to trade their Pro Bowl cornerback.

    Maybe both were more than just talk.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Oh Look! More Weapons!

    There's been a lot said this offseason about the offensive weaponry assembled around Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston. Plenty has been written about the free-agent acquisition of veteran wideout DeSean Jackson. And the selection of rookie tight end O.J. Howard.

    But if OTAs have been any indication, they might not be the only new faces in Tampa who make a dent for the team this year.

    As Rick Stroud reported for the Tampa Bay Times, head coach Dirk Koetter singled out rookie receiver Chris Godwin as a player who has stepped up early in workouts.

    "The most consistent guy since we've seen out here has been Godwin and Adam (Humphries)," coach Dirk Koetter said Thursday. "Those two guys have been making plays every day. I'm real happy with what Chris is doing. He can play (inside) or out, either one."

    Winston has also been impressed. "Man, Chris Godwin is amazing,"Winston said. "He's an amazing young talent."

    A third-round pick of the Buccaneers out of Penn State, in many respects Godwin is a smaller version of Mike Evans—a long-striding pass-catcher who excels at both route-running and bringing down the ball in traffic.

    Things haven't been flawless. Stroud pointed out that Godwin has made a few mental gaffes, and he's the first to admit he has a lot of work to do.

    "I definitely feel like I've been making progress. It's a lot to learn," Godwin said. "But the veteran guys, they've been doing a great job of helping out not only myself but the rest of the rookies kind of get acclimated. Just having their help and having their confidence in me has allowed me to come in and make plays and be comfortable doing what I do."

    Godwin was a personal favorite of mine where Day 2 picks were concerned heading into the draft, precisely because I expected him to be a quick study.

    If he keeps that up, a quartet of Evans, Jackson, Howard and Godwin would be as good a cadre of receivers as there are in the National Football League.

Tennessee Titans

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    New Kids Catching On

    The Tennessee Titans spent most of the first two days of the 2017 NFL draft adding weapons around quarterback Marcus Mariota, and while No. 5 overall pick Corey Davis' recovery from ankle surgery has slowed his introduction to the pro game, the same can't be said of the Titans' other new pass-catchers.

    Jim Wyatt of the team's website singled out both tight end Jonnu Smith and wide receiver Taywan Taylor as players who have fared well in OTAs.

    "I feel like I'm always writing about Taywan Taylor," Wyatt said, "and maybe it's because the receiver from Western Kentucky is always making plays. Taylor has put together two really nice weeks in OTAs, and he looks very comfortable for a rookie."

    Taylor told Wyatt it's been an eye-opener to take the field with players he idolized. "Being out there with guys you grew up watching, never did I think I would be out there practicing with Marcus Mariota and DeMarco Murray, but it is real now," Taylor said. "But I want to embrace it and utilize those guys, because they are here to help me, just like they told me. They said they see the energy in me, and they see the competitiveness and they see the talent."

    Wyatt wrote of Smith that, "He's been respectful to the veterans around him, but there's no disguising the fact he believes he belongs and plans to prove it."

    Head coach Mike Mularkey said that the key with Smith will be moving the youngster around in an effort to create mismatches.

    "We are going to move him around a little bit," Mularkey said of Smith. "He is going to play both the Y and the F tight end, and he is going to be an every down player for us. So he is going to have a lot on his plate, he already has. And he seems to grasp it pretty good. He's a real easy catcher with the ball and can run."

    Smith and Taylor haven't been able to work with Mariota as much as the team would like as the quarterback works his way back from a broken leg, but with each successive practice, it becomes more evident that the Titans passing game should be substantially improved in 2017.

Washington Redskins

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    Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    Not Josh-ing Around

    Much has been made in the nation's capital of the acquisition of wide receiver Terrelle Pryor in free agency. But Pryor isn't the only new weapon quarterback Kirk Cousins could have at his disposal in 2017.

    "New" being a relative term.

    Josh Doctson, the team's first-round pick in the 2016 NFL draft, saw his rookie season all but wiped out by a lingering Achilles injury. Now, however, Doctson is healthy again, and, as Stephen Czarda of the team's website reported, head coach Jay Gruden singled out Doctson as a player who has stood out at OTAs.

    “He’s been impressive,” Gruden said. “I think the big thing for him is the confidence in his Achilles, and I think he’s got that right now. It looks like he can run down the field. He made a good catch down the sideline today and [he has] strong hands, we know that about him. Now we’ve just got to continue to put one day after another after another.”

    Doctson told Czarda his first season was a frustrating one, but he said from here on he's all about looking forward.

    “It was frustrating,” Doctson said. “I went on the record some of the time talking about how frustrating it was, but I’m not thinking back, the past, I’m just thinking about right now, the present, and how I’m feeling right now, and obviously when I’m out here making plays and stuff, it feels good.”

    After losing both Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson in free agency (the first time in NFL history a team lost two 1,000-yard receivers from the year before), the Redskins badly need an outside receiver to join slot man Jamison Crowder and the newly acquired Pryor.

    At 6'2", a healthy Doctson would fit that bill nicely. Doctson teased the Redskins with glimpses of what he can do as a rookie, including a 57-yard reception in Week 2 that was the longest by a Redskins rookie in a decade-and-a-half.

    Washington will be hoping for much more than glimpses and teases in 2017.