Latest Rumors, Notes from NFL Offseason Workouts
Minicamps allowed first-year talents to test the waters with others in their class. Organized team activities introduce the next phase, which produces compelling offseason storylines.
It's the calm before the summer storm known as training camp, which kicks off in mid-July for every NFL team.
Coaching staffs must consider position battles, players recovering from injuries and how to fill certain roster gaps with the talent in the locker room. Prospective roles, goals and team chemistry also come into focus.
What's the latest from around the league? Who's already made a good first impression with their teams? What are some expectations for the top rookies?
Saquon Barkley Isn't Going to Just 'Bang His Head'
Though the Saquon Barkley pick was mostly praised, some believed general manager Dave Gettleman should've drafted quarterback Eli Manning's successor, especially with USC product Sam Darnold available.
The Giants front office executive drew more criticism when Gettleman revealed no intention to even listen to trade offers for the No. 2 pick with Darnold on the board. "Once Cleveland took Baker, I told our guys don't even waste your time. We're taking Saquon, and we're going to run," Gettleman said during his post-Round 1 interview.
Ultimately, Gettleman viewed Barkley as the "unanimous best player in the draft" because of his ability to elevate his teammates in several areas.
Barkley stepped to the mic at rookie minicamp and echoed Gettleman's perspective. He made a point to highlight his ability to help outside the traditional running back role.
"I'm not a guy that you just line up in the backfield and is just going bang his head, bang his head, bang his head. I'm a guy that is willing to do whatever it is for the team, whether it is a kick returner, whether it be a punt returner, whether it be running down on kickoffs, whether it's line up in the slot, whether it's run a dummy play, fake play."
Barkley has exceptional hands, experience as a bell-cow ball-carrier and familiarity on special teams as a kick returner. Giants head coach Pat Shurmur will likely use the No. 2 pick in a variety of ways to allow him to break open on any given play.
On the outside, we see a running back, but Gettleman and Barkley have the bigger picture in mind. Shurmur will use the 21-year-old in any way possible. Through that justification, he's worth the pick.
Josh Allen Has Best Chance to Be 2018's First Rookie QB Starter
Every year, pundits attempt to predict which first-round quarterbacks will take the field in Week 1. Five signal-callers came off the board within the top 32 selections. Who should you keep an eye on during training camp and preseason?
According to Bleacher Report's Chris Simms, Buffalo Bills rookie signal-caller Josh Allen won't just start, but he'll also earn mentions as a Rookie of the Year candidate. He shared the bold prediction on Pro Football Talk Live (via NewYorkUpstate.com reporter Matthew Fairburn):
"I think he is going to be the starter from day one. This is a Buffalo Bills football team that was a good football team that I think has a good support system around him. They should be able to run the football. They're going to be able to protect him. Weapons on the outside are not great. But I do think within that offense and some of the things we talked about, their defense being good, I think he can have a good enough year statistically and wins wise to where he's in this conversation for rookie of the year."
Let's expand on the probability that Allen wins the starting job for Week 1. He's competing with AJ McCarron, who only has three starts under his belt.
Unlike the incumbents in front of the other first-round rookie signal-callers on the depth chart—Tyrod Taylor (in front of Baker Mayfield), Joe Flacco (Lamar Jackson), Josh McCown (Sam Darnold) and Sam Bradford (Josh Rosen)—McCarron doesn't have an established track record under center. Allen could realistically beat him in an offseason battle for the starting spot.
However, it's best to hit the brakes on Rookie of the Year talk considering Buffalo's limited options downfield and average-to-below-average protection on the right side of the offensive line.
Arizona Cardinals Confident in Christian Kirk's Character Despite Arrest
In the near future, Rosen and wide receiver Christian Kirk should consistently connect in the passing game. Right now, the Texas A&M product has the wrong kind of spotlight on him.
According to Arizona Republic reporter Kent Somers, Scottsdale police arrested and charged Kirk with property damage and disorderly conduct in February.
"The suspects were intoxicated and leaving the [Waste Management Phoenix Open]," Scottsdale police said. "As they were walking through a parking lot, [they were observed] throwing rocks at cars and breaking a window of at least one of them."
Head coach Steve Wilks addressed the report with the media and confirmed the team knew about the arrest before the draft but felt comfortable selecting him in the second round: "We did our own independent research on it and we felt very good about the information that we received. That’s why we moved forward and really drafted him. As I stated before, we want to bring in great character guys, and I think Christian is one of those guys."
The 21-year-old is in a locker room with leaders such as cornerback Patrick Peterson and fellow receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Both veterans will serve as great examples on and off the field.
Oakland Raiders' Heavily Scrutinized Picks Build Chemistry on Defensive Line
The Oakland Raiders 2018 draft class drew mixed reviews. It's best described as a boom-or-bust group; specifically, three defensive line picks raised eyebrows among analysts.
Oakland surprised defensive tackle P.J. Hall with an early phone call, per San Jose Mercury News reporter Matt Schneidman. "I hadn't heard about me going in the second round at all during this draft process, so it really shocked me when I got the phone call," Hall said.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller and Simms gave the pick a C as a bit of a reach.
The Raiders chose edge-rusher Arden Key in the third round as a high-value selection, but off-field concerns, injuries and fluctuating weight factored into his draft stock drop, per Miller's scouting report. The added risks played into the boom-or-bust narrative.
When Oakland took a flier on defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, whose stock plummeted due to a heart condition, an anonymous source didn't hold back on his thoughts. Miller wrote:
"I spoke to over 10 scouts, coaches and executives regarding Hurst. One, in a heated rant, labeled the selection "irresponsible" by the Raiders because of Hurst's heart condition (which hasn't been publicly shared) and hoped the talented defender would "never put a f--king helmet on again in his life."
When you tally the skepticism for those three draft picks alone, it's clear the Raiders didn't receive high grades for the class. The trio of defensive linemen took reps as a unit and resembled a formidable group against rookie offensive tackle Kolton Miller, per Kyle Martin of the team's official website.
"One thing about Key, Hall, and Hurst that's obvious is their explosion. Each of them boasts a unique combination of power and agility that allows them to burst quickly off the line. Not only did the trio get to work with Defensive Line Coach Mike Trgovac, they were going up against first-round pick Kolton Miller, who was getting some reps at offensive tackle. Between the four of them there was a lot of talent on display, and it was clear they were all building some chemistry in the process."
All three players have likely heard the outside chatter about them. "The Raiders drafted Hall too high. Key is a huge risk. Hurst shouldn't be on the field."
For a natural competitor, it's more fuel to push harder at work. If they boom, the Raiders will have hit the pass-rushing jackpot.
Who Will Replace Nate Solder on Tom Brady's Blind Side?
For most of the past six seasons, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady could count on Nate Solder to protect his blind side. The Giants lured him to New York with a four-year, $62 million deal—the highest-paid salary at his position in total cash, per Spotrac.
The Patriots can't allow edge-rushers to tee off on Brady with Brian Hoyer and rookie seventh-rounder Danny Etling as the backups.
At the moment, Patriots first-rounder Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown, whom the team acquired from the San Francisco 49ers, lead the group as front-runners for the starting position, per NESN reporter Zack Cox:
Among other names to consider, LaAdrian Waddle will have an opportunity to make a push while Brown and Wynn miss time with shoulder injuries. Cox reported the team would prefer to keep Marcus Cannon at right tackle.
The Patriots have an intriguing battle between a veteran who's spent most of his time on the right with the 49ers and a rookie lacking ideal height-weight combination for the position but excelled on the left at Georgia in 2017.
Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup Has No Intention to Replace Dez Bryant
The Dallas Cowboys released wide receiver Dez Bryant two weeks before the draft, but he still casts a shadow over 2018 third-rounder Michael Gallup.
At 6'1", 198 pounds, the Colorado State product doesn't compare to Bryant (6'2", 220 lbs) in stature, and he's not interested in replacing the three-time Pro Bowler.
Dallas Morning News reporter Jon Machota tweeted the rookie's response to a question about the departed pass-catcher. "Dez is a great player. It's hard for a rookie to come in and just replace all of the stuff that he's done here. We're out here trying to practice to be like him, obviously. But I'm not coming in here just to replace him. That's not my role yet."
It's difficult to fill the position of a fan favorite who's no longer on the team, especially as a rookie coming into the league from a non-Power Five conference. Gallup joins a wide receiver corps that doesn't have a clear-cut No. 1 option. No. 13 won't become No. 88, but he possesses the physical tools to secure contested catches and create separation on short routes.
Washington Redskins Head Coach Jay Gruden Already Defined Derrius Guice's Role
Arguably the second-best running back in the draft fell late into the second round because of character concerns. The Washington Redskins expect Derrius Guice to uplift a backfield that lacked power between the tackles. Last year, Rob Kelley landed on injured reserve with high-ankle and MCL sprains. Samaje Perine didn't provide the juice needed to carry the ground attack down the stretch.
Despite the circulating reports about Guice, senior vice president of player personnel Doug Williams sang the LSU product's praises on Sirius XM NFL Radio.
Furthermore, head coach Jay Gruden avoided ambiguous coachspeak, plainly spelling out the rookie's role, per ESPN.com reporter John Keim. "He's more of a first-, second-down banger. But I've seen him at his pro day catch the football. He can catch the football fine, but really, our role for him is quite easy to see. It's first, second down."
Guice can expand his time on the field if he improves in pass protection, but he's already penciled into the early-down tailback role. Kelley and Perine will probably battle for the leftovers.
Assuming Chris Thompson makes a full recovery from a broken leg, he'll continue to serve as the pass-catching asset in the backfield; though Guice insists he has the skill set to stay on the field for all three downs. "I'm a great receiver out the backfield, and I can block as well. So I'll be able to protect the quarterback as well. My will to hit really separates from anyone else. I'm very willing to hit and do what I have to do to stay on the field."
The Redskins offense underwent an offseason makeover, which creates a work in progress. Despite the depth at the position, Guice could see his role increase as Gruden identifies the offense's strengths and weaknesses.
Shaquem Griffin 'Looked Very Comfortable' at Weak-Side Linebacker
The world saw Shaquem's Griffin's NFL dreams play out in real time when he was drafted in the fifth round. The moment with his twin brother, Shaquill, and relatives left a lasting impression on anyone who's ever been told they couldn't accomplish something in their lives. Weeks later, he reported to work like everyone else.
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll gave an early assessment on Griffin and didn't use the fact that he has one hand to prop him up or limit his ceiling.
"He looked very comfortable, very natural. He has a sense already for scheme and terminology. The position is the right spot for him, it looks like. We can be aggressive and use his speed. He's already shown some sense in the passing game and he had a couple really good plays adjusting to zone coverage and man coverage and things we've already seen. So those were good things to take away."
It'll take more than a rookie minicamp and OTAs to properly assess any defensive player, but it's possible we could see Griffin as a designated pass-rusher, a chase-and-tackle linebacker or dropping back in coverage. The Seahawks defense will go through major changes with notable names no longer in town. There's room for creativity this summer.
When training camp starts in July, we'll see how Carroll and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. plan to use Griffin's speed and ability to diagnose plays as a second-level defender.