The Biggest Developments from Every NFL Team's OTAs

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystJune 2, 2018

The Biggest Developments from Every NFL Team's OTAs

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The first step in every NFL team's preparation for the upcoming season is organized team activities (OTAs).

    It's admittedly an early step, with players in shorts and shells, but it can be a big one, too.

    It's a chance for young players to make a first impression on their new teammates. Or an opportunity for veterans to start putting a disappointing and/or injury-marred season squarely in the rearview mirror.

    Now that OTAs are starting to wrap up from Arizona to Washington, there's no shortage of storylines and developments that have emanated from each. Some are promising...others not so much.

    Here's a look at the biggest for each team in the league.

       

Arizona Cardinals: Josh Rosen Still Has a Ways to Go

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    With the Arizona Cardinals taking a cautious approach with oft-injured veteran Sam Bradford in OTAs, starting reps were opened up for No. 10 overall pick Josh Rosen.

    As Darren Urban reported for the Cardinals website, first-year Arizona head coach Steve Wilks has been impressed by what he's seen from the rookie signal-caller—with one very important caveat.

    "This guy is extremely smart," Wilks said. "I mean, his ability to see certain things from the defense, and pick it up quickly, and execute … I don't want to say this, but he has the mindset of a vet. The way he sees the game.

    "He's not playing like a vet. Make sure you guys understand that. He's still a rookie, OK? But he sees things, like I said before, through a different lens. And he picks it up quickly."

    Wilks also made it clear that as things stand today, Bradford is the starter. But Rosen's getting substantial reps that might not otherwise have been available were Bradford not being eased in—reps that could help shorten his learning curve and create a legitimate quarterback controversy later this summer.

Atlanta Falcons: Beasley Bounceback

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Two years ago, Vic Beasley led the National Football League in both sacks (15.5) and forced fumbles (six). Last year, those numbers plummeted, to five sacks and just one forced fumble.

    The reason for that slip isn't that hard to pinpoint—a shakeup in the linebacker corps forced the Falcons to move Beasley to the strong side for part of the year. Rather than charging up the field after the quarterback, Beasley was tasked with dropping back into coverage against tight ends.

    In 2018, however, Beasley will be sliding back to defensive end full-time. Per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Beasley looked "sleek and comfortable" at the strong-side end spot in OTAs, and defensive line coach Bryant Young expects another big season in 2018.

    "It frees him up to play more first- or second-down nickel and be available in that way and be fresher during the course of the game," Young said. "Not that he couldn't handle it because I thought he did a good job of handling the (strong side) and playing defensive end. Just having him available to play more reps at defensive end will be good for us."

    If Beasley can hold up against the run and notch double-digit sacks this year, it will be time to mention him among the best edge-rushers in the NFL.

Baltimore Ravens: Crowded QB Room Sorting Itself out

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    The Baltimore Ravens turned some heads with the selection of Louisville's Lamar Jackson in the first round of this year's draft—including the head of the team's Super Bowl MVP quarterback.

    However, as Mike Jones reported for USA Today, Flacco insisted at OTAs that he bears no ill will toward either Jackson or the franchise.

    "People want to act like I'm holding some grudge, but that's not how it is," Flacco said. "We welcome Lamar here with open arms, and that's the same for me. My approach doesn't change. I want to go win football games this year and we have a lot of new guys I have to get ready to play and help us win those games. That's the reality of it."

    It was much the same refrain from free-agent signee Robert Griffin III, who told Jones he doesn't see Jackson's arrival as a slight against himself or Flacco.

    "When they drafted Lamar, I didn't look at it as a shot at me or a shot at Joe," Griffin said. "It was 'OK, Lamar is coming in here, and it's our job to help him learn the offense and help him compete.' So, for me, my job is to show them that I'm an asset to the team and not a detriment."

    Frankly, Griffin's an afterthought in this drama—if he makes the team at all, it will be something of an upset. But all this hubbub underscores the changing dynamics for the Ravens at football's most important position.

    And a balancing act of sorts for Ravens head coach John Harbaugh.

Buffalo Bills: Nathan Peterman in the Mix

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    Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

    Nathan Peterman's first NFL start will long live in infamy. Fourteen pass attempts against the Los Angeles Chargers. Sixty-six passing yards. And five interceptions.

    However, the assumption that the battle to start at quarterback for the Buffalo Bills in 2018 is a two-way race between free-agent acquisition AJ McCarron and rookie first-rounder Josh Allen may be off the mark.

    Per Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News, Peterman has gotten his fair share of first-team reps in OTAs—and he intends to make the most of them.

    "We've all been out there getting reps," he said. "It's OTAs, you're kind of working with a bunch of guys, which is good. We've got so many new guys on our team, so it's good to get reps with everybody and kind of build chemistry with everybody, because you've got to be ready."

    To be fair, Peterman played much better in his second start of last season, throwing the first touchdown pass of his NFL career in a blizzard against the Indianapolis Colts before leaving the game with a concussion.

    But it's hard to imagine a scenario in which Peterman winning the starting job isn't more an indictment of McCarron and Allen than it is a testament to Peterman's development in his second season.

Carolina Panthers: Ryan Kalil Looks Like...Ryan Kalil

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    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    Carolina Panthers center Ryan Kalil was limited to just six games in 2017 because of a neck injury. As Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer reported back in January, he partly blamed his injury on the lack of a full offseason to prepare.

    "The thing I'm excited about is to actually have an offseason to train because I haven't had that. I didn't get that last year and I think that's part of what contributed to my injury this last season," the 33-year-old five-time Pro Bowler said.

    "I didn't get to start training until right around training camp, like actually football training. I just felt way behind, and I didn't feel as physically ready for the season as I would have liked to have been."

    That hasn't been the case this year. Kalil, who has announced he plans to retire after the upcoming season, has been a full participant in OTAs. Person's colleague, Jourdan Rodrigue, wrote that Kalil "looked healthier than he has in a while and moved around well in sled and loose-ball drills" in OTAs.

    The Panthers were a playoff team last year, but the offensive line play was shaky—Carolina ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in both run blocking and pass protection, per Football Outsiders.

    A healthy Kalil will go a long way toward shoring up that weakness.

Chicago Bears: Getting Nagy with It

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Ha! You thought this was going to be about Mitchell Trubisky, didn't you?

    Well, it is. Sort of.

    Many are predicting a big second-year jump from Trubisky in 2018, in large part because of the arrival of offensive-minded head coach Matt Nagy.

    Nagy preached patience regarding the switch while speaking with JJ Stankevitz of NBC Sports Chicago, saying that "in Kansas City it took us five years to get to that point that we got to." He continued: "We're kind of at a pace right now where we have to at times pull back and say to yourself we're months into this thing, not years."

    But Nagy also said he's been pleased with what he's seen from Trubisky in OTAs.

    "Coach (Vic) Fangio and his guys are doing a good job of mixing different coverages and disguising different looks, so for Mitchell to be able to see those looks on tape, he's building his own library right now within this offense," Nagy said. "We don't have to watch Kansas City's offense anymore. We're building our library now and he's able to see how it works against our defense right now and try not to make those mistakes and make the correct adjustments."

    There's a new offensive scheme. And new targets for Trubisky in wide receivers Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller and tight end Trey Burton.

    If Trubisky takes to the changes quickly, the Bears could be a tough(er) out in 2018.

Cincinnati Bengals: John Ross Getting Up to Speed

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    To say that John Ross had a disappointing rookie season is an understatement. In three games (including one start), Ross was targeted all of twice. He had zero receptions and one rush for 12 yards.

    Not exactly what the Cincinnati Bengals hoped for when they drafted the scouting combine record-holder in the 40-yard dash ninth overall a year ago.

    Ross missed much of camp after shoulder surgery. By the time the season was over, he had surgery on his other shoulder and battled a knee sprain. Head coach Marvin Lewis groused publicly that Ross had "let the team down." As Ross told ESPN's Katherine Terrell, everything that could go wrong in 2017 did.

    "Last year, I was just down, not being able to run full speed, not being able to do everything in the weight room," Ross said. "Not to have excuses or anything, but I honestly just wasn't physically or mentally ready for what I got myself into. There was so much going on."

    However, Ross is healthy in 2018 and participating fully in OTAs, and while the team is keeping a tight lid on news from the practice field, some positive tidbits have leaked out regarding the speedy wideout.

    Terrell tweeted that Ross has looked good in the practices she had access to, adding the "biggest thing for Ross is he's getting the reps he needs."

Cleveland Browns: Shaky Baker

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Hot take!

    There's no question that the biggest spotlight in OTAs for the Cleveland Browns is shining directly on No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield.

    As Mary Kay Cabot reported for Cleveland.com, Mayfield's first forays onto the practice field were rocky to say the least. There were missed reads. Missed throws. And not nearly enough missed defenders.

    Per Josh Edwards of 247 Sports, Mayfield admitted that he's had better days throwing the football.

    "A lot of basic mistakes that I do not usually make," Mayfield said. "You talk about just plays from the get-go. Snaps under center, we had a couple of problems. When you get used to somebody new, it is handled, but we have got to make sure that we are not worrying about that because if we take opportunities out of our guys' hands to get the ball and play, then you are hurting yourself. Then obviously, it puts you in play to turn the ball over. Making sure we handle the basics first, and then you are able to move on and progress from there."

    Obviously, this means the Browns completely blew it with Mayfield, who will never, ever amount to anything in the NFL.

    Or it could just be some shaky practice reps with second- and third-teamers from a young quarterback who, for all his talents, still has a lot to learn.

    Come to think of it, that second one's a fair bit more likely.

Dallas Cowboys: David Irving Still Sidelined

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    When he's on the field, David Irving has shown to be one of the more disruptive "three-technique" defensive tackles in the National Football League. In eight games last season, Irving piled up seven sacks.

    It's that "when he's on the field" part that keeps tripping things up.

    Irving sat out the first four games of the 2017 season because of a suspension. The 24-year-old sat out the last four with a concussion.

    And now Irving's a spectator at OTAs, sidelined not by injury or discipline but by conditioning—or lack thereof.

    Per Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli was clear he'd prefer Irving had been on the field for workouts, saying he wasn't sure if Irving would participate in June minicamps.

    "Just wait and see," defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "You'd just love to have him working, no question about it. But the guys that are here, I'm going all-out. Man, I just give everything I've got to the guys who are here because they deserve that."

    By the time September gets here, this may be much ado about nothing. But Irving isn't exactly making a good first impression where 2018 is concerned. 

Denver Broncos: Chubb Looks the Part

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Denver Broncos placed a lot of faith in North Carolina State edge-rusher Bradley Chubb when they made Chubb the fifth overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft.

    It's still early, but in OTAs at least, that faith appears to have been well-placed.

    Per Andrew Mason of the Broncos website, Chubb was a star of Denver's organized team activities. The 6'4", 269-pounder spent much of workouts in the opposing backfield, whether it was stuffing the run or harassing quarterback Case Keenum.

    Batterymate Von Miller cautioned that a few good workouts do not a Pro Bowler make.

    "You really can't get too high off a sack in practice out here," Miller said. "I mean, I think that's a joke -- 'I had 10 sacks today' -- you really can't put too much into it. You've just got to come out here and work and grind for the upcoming season."

    But the ease with which Chubb got upfield both standing up and with his hand in the dirt excited head coach Vance Joseph, who envisions a multi-faceted role for his new edge-rusher.

    "Last year, we were in base probably 35 percent of the time and then sub the rest," Joseph said. "So [Chubb] is going to be an outside linebacker slash defensive end on sub [packages]. Schematically, we won't change what we're doing because of one player."

    Miller and Chubb have the makings of a fearsome duo defensively.

Detroit Lions: Defensive Versatility

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    While he was defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, Matt Patricia was known for using a number of defensive looks to confuse opponents.

    The more things change, the more they stay the same. As Dave Birkett reported for the Detroit Free Press, the Lions featured a lot of both odd- and even-man fronts on the practice field in OTAs.

    Edge-rusher Ziggy Ansah, who is easily the Lions' most effective sack artist, watched most of OTAs from the sidelines. But Patricia singled out the 29-year-old as a player who is buying whole-heartedly into the new scheme.

    "Ziggy's actually probably one of the first guys I met when I got here," Patricia said. "So he's been great, really hard working, kind of just dialed in, focused. He can be quiet at times, which is fine, but to be honest with you, he's really into everything right now. He's really trying to learn at a high pace. Very professional, very much so trying to perfect his craft and what he does and learn to do some of the things that we're doing that may be a little bit different. But he's been great."

    That's most assuredly a good thing, as Patricia will be counting on Ansah to collapse the pocket from both a defensive end and outside linebacker spot at times in 2018.

Green Bay Packers: Mr. Jones and Me

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    The Green Bay Packers aren't a team with a ton of battles for starting spots this summer. Running back is an exception, with Ty Montgomery, Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones all fighting to earn the biggest slice of the backfield pie.

    As Brian Jones reported for 247 Sports, Packers running backs coach Ben Sirmans indicated he's been very impressed with what he's seen from Jones so far in OTAs.

    "He came back a little bit bigger and he's still moving around pretty good with the added size," Sirmans said. "I think as he continues to get as I call it his 'grown-man weight,' that we'll see some of that progress happen with him getting stronger. I think he saw also for himself what he could benefit from, particularly with his lower body. He could benefit from playing stronger and not just from an injury standpoint avoiding those things, but also it will help him break more tackles and do those things."

    On a per-carry basis, Jones was the most effective back of the trio in 2017. Before injuring his knee last November, Jones topped 100 rushing yards in each of his first two NFL starts. His 5.5 yards per carry in 2017 was third in the NFL among tailbacks with 80 or more carries.

    If Jones can add weight and strength without sacrificing speed, he could be in for an even more productive second season.

Houston Texans: Watson Back at It

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    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    If there's one thing fans of the Houston Texans most wanted to see as OTAs got underway, it was the return of a certain player to the practice field.

    That player wasn't even J.J. Watt, as much as they all love them some No. 99.

    No, the biggest storyline in OTAs for the Texans was easily the return of quarterback Deshaun Watson, who saw his breakout rookie season cut short last year by a torn ACL.

    Watson wasn't a full participant in practice, but according to Herbie Teope of NFL.com, he did take part in individual and 7-and-7 drills.

    "My knee feels well," Watson told reporters. "I'm comfortable to be able to go out there and throw and do some things on air and get the timing down with the receivers."

    Watson did go on to caution that there's no definitive timetable for the training wheels coming off. "There's really no timeline on ACLs," Watson said. "It just depends on how that person feels."

    Still, any step in the right direction for Watson is a welcome sight and then some.

Indianapolis Colts: Luck Watch (Year 2) Rolls On

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    The good news for the Indianapolis Colts is that Andrew Luck is in much better shape from all indications than he was at this point a year ago.

    The bad news is that Luck still isn't doing what earned him a $130 million contract extension from a team—throwing a football.

    As a matter of fact, as Zak Keefer reported for the Indy Star, Luck may not begin throwing a full-sized ball until after veteran minicamp concludes later in June.

    However, head coach Frank Reich continues to insist he isn't concerned about the Week 1 status of his star quarterback.

    "I'm not worried at all," he said. "I'm completely comfortable with him throwing when he's ready, when the doctors say he's ready. I've been around long enough time, he's been around the league a little bit, he's totally engaged in every aspect of what we're doing mentally, the physical part for a guy like him, now you gotta work at it, but I'm not worried about that. I'm comfortable with the process in place."

    For his part, Luck said he's trying to avoid repeating the missteps from his lost season in 2017.

    "I don't want to repeat those, maybe, missteps," Luck said. "Some things just take time, and I've learned that. And when I do get the urge to do something a little silly, I talk to myself and say, 'It's not worth it right now.'"

    The Colts can parrot the "nothing to worry about" line until the cows come home, but until Luck is on the field throwing passes, fans of the team are going to do just that—worry.

    A lot.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Taven Bryan Making Waves

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    The last thing the Jacksonville Jaguars needed in 2018 was another impact defensive lineman. The Jags are as loaded up front as any team in the NFL.

    Of course, just because the Jaguars don't need the help on the D-line doesn't mean the team won't gladly take it. And one youngster stood out in a big way in OTAs.

    As John Reid reported for the Florida Times-Union, rookie second-round pick Taven Bryan has made quite the impression on coaches and teammates alike. Bryan was singled out for praise by defensive line coach Marion Hobby.

    "That (first step) kind of jumps out at you," Hobby said. "I like that 6-foot-4, 295-pound frame. He's not doing a bunch of talking, but he's not afraid to ask questions. He's assertive. He's not a me guy. I think he wants to please."

    Veteran defensive end Calais Campbell also likes what he's seen.

    "We talk often," Campbell said. "He's trying to learn the actual plays and the techniques to use in certain situations that can give him advantages and stuff. He is really learning the basics right now. He's a very talented player and has shown a lot of flash, a lot of potential. I'm just eager to see what he does when we put pads on him. It is a long way away. He's getting better each day.”

    Bryan, for his part, appears to be keeping things in perspective.

    "I just want to do the right things," Bryan said. "I'm starting at the bottom and I'm trying to work my way up and maybe earn some playing time."

    That sound you hear is the quarterbacks in the AFC South throwing up.

Kansas City Chiefs: A Rocky Start for Mahomes

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    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    There isn't a player in OTAs for the Kansas City Chiefs who is under one-fifth of the scrutiny of young quarterback Patrick Mahomes. It's Mahomes the Chiefs traded up to draft in 2017. It's Mahomes who will be counted on to lead the Chiefs back to the playoffs this year after Kansas City traded Alex Smith in the offseason.

    The early returns concerning the chances of that happening didn't appear good. As Charles Goodman reported for Chiefs Wire, Mahomes has struggled, throwing multiple picks and completing less than half of his passes in team drills on the last day of the first week of OTAs.

    However, Mahomes brushed that off as just growing pains as he adjusts to a new role.

    "Yeah, him (head coach Andy Reid), (offensive coordinator) Eric Bieniemy and (quarterbacks coach) Mike Kafka have really tried to throw a lot at the whole offense," said Mahomes. "If you want to make mistakes you make them now. You don't want to make those mistakes in the game, so we throw a lot now so when we get to the game it's a lot easier."

    Frankly, Mahomes has a point—he's hardly the first young quarterback to have issues early in practice only to right the ship well before those mistakes can cost his team wins.

    But if these problems (or even the perception of a problem) continue into minicamp and/or training camp, the scrutiny is only going to grow. So will the grumbles from fans.

    And that will only serve to ramp up the burden on Mahomes.

Los Angeles Chargers: Injury Bug Bites Again

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    If there's been a team in the NFL more snakebitten by injuries in recent years than the Los Angeles Chargers, then the Bolts are a close second. The team seemingly can't even get to Week 1 without losing several starters to significant injuries.

    Head coach Anthony Lynn might want to consider an exorcism, because it's already happening again in 2018.

    First, as the Los Angeles TimesMike DiGiovanna reported, tight end Hunter Henry suffered a torn ACL that likely ended his 2018 season. Quarterback Philip Rivers did his best to downplay the loss of the team's best player at the position.

    "We've got a deep group of receivers—does that mean there's more times when we're in a three-receiver set or even four receivers? I don't know," Rivers said. "I'm not giving away any secrets, but those are all thoughts that you have."

    The problem is that receivers group isn't so deep right now. Per ESPN.com's Eric Williams, wideout Mike Williams has been sidelined as well at OTAs with a hamstring injury.

    Usually, a pulled hammy wouldn't be big cause for concern. But Williams missed most off his first offseason and six games of his rookie year in 2017 after hurting his knee in camp. He finished the year with all of 11 catches for 95 yards.

Los Angeles Rams: The Offense Is Even Better

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Breaking news!

    Last year, the Rams had all sorts of troubles moving the football offensively. They managed a measly 29.9 points per game, which is 32nd in the NFL if you count backward.

    Kidding aside, the Rams offense was a buzzsaw last year, peeling off chunk plays with ease. And if OTAs were any indication, that offense may be better in 2018.

    As Myles Simmons reported for the Rams website, wide receiver Cooper Kupp indicated that with a year of running Sean McVay's offense under their belts, the team's expectations are sky-high on that side of the ball this season.

    "I think having come back, having run this offense before, and a lot of the same guys are around, a lot of guys that were here this offseason being able to just be together on our own and go through this stuff," Kupp said.

    "Our expectations are high and so it’s great to be able to look good out here right now but, when we go back in the meeting room and we’re watching film there is a lot of stuff to correct, a lot of stuff that isn’t up to our standards. So, just continuing to correct that throughout the OTAs is going to be huge for us."

    Jared Goff is coming off a breakout season. So is reigning NFL OPOY Todd Gurley. And the Rams added a new No. 1 receiver in Brandin Cooks to pair with Kupp and Robert Woods.

    Can you say loaded?

Miami Dolphins: Tannehill Garnering Rave Reviews

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    The Miami Dolphins were sunk in 2017 before the season ever started. After partially tearing his ACL late in the 2016 campaign, quarterback Ryan Tannehill chose not to have surgery, only to then re-tear the ligament in camp last summer.

    However, Tannehill was back on the practice field at OTAs without a brace on his knee, and, according to Chris Perkins of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, his performance has been met with the approval of teammates.

    "He looks good," veteran safety T.J. McDonald said of Tannehill. "He looks real good right now. His leadership is also great on and off the field."

    "He’s been a great leader, gets us all together, get us on the same page. I think it’s going to be awesome to work with him," right guard Jesse Davis added.

    Quarterback isn't the only problem facing the Dolphins this year, but the only person who isn't cheering the return of Tannehill to South Florida is Jay Cutler.

    Jay Cutler never cheers.

Minnesota Vikings: Kirk Cousins Building Rapport with Receivers

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    There are approximately 84 million reasons all eyes are on Kirk Cousins in the Twin Cities at OTAs.

    The quarterback the Minnesota Vikings gave a fully guaranteed contract to in the hopes he can get the team over the hump and into the Super Bowl has yet to take a snap that counts in purple and gold. But as NFL.com's Tom Pelissero reported, Cousins has already put a smile on the face of 2017 breakout wide receiver Adam Thielen.

    "[Stefon] Diggs said it the other day—the spiral he puts on it just makes it easy for us to catch," Thielen said. "It just kind of pops out of his hand differently than you're used to, and you don't see that kind of stuff on film. You can only see that when you're out here practicing. It's been fun, and we have a lot of work to do."

    For what it's worth, Cousins said he's also enjoying the opportunity to sync with his new receivers.

    "Each play helps build a confidence, helps build a rapport with the receivers, with the tight ends, continue to try to get on the same page with the centers, making the right protection calls," Cousins said. "It is a lot of new, a lot of chemistry that still has to be built, but every day we're out here, we take another step, and that's exciting to be a part of."

    Granted, this is without pass-rushers trying to break him in half, but it's still welcome news that Cousins and his pass-catchers are clicking.

New England Patriots: The Return of Edelman

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    The New England Patriots traded wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams in the offseason, vaulting Julian Edelman back into the top spot at the position. With Edelman on the wrong side of 30 and coming off missing the entire 2017 season with a torn ACL, there's more than a little pressure on him to get in as much work as possible in OTAs and training camp so he hits the ground running in Week 1.

    Edelman appears to be doing just that.

    As Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald reported, not only was Edelman on the field at OTAs, but he was also already back to firing up teammates.

    "Having him out there brings leadership to this team, he brings excitement to this team and he brings an aggressive nature to this team," safety Duron Harmon said. "Having him out here makes the team better."

    Leadership abilities aside, what Tom Brady needs if the Patriots are going to get back to the Super Bowl is a dependable option in the passing game not named Rob Gronkowski. Having Edelman back at practice is like getting an old blanket back for No. 12.

    It's bound to make him more comfortable.

New Orleans Saints: Cameron Meredith Back at It

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    The New Orleans Saints have one of the NFL's better No. 1 receivers in Michael Thomas. But the team could use a dependable No. 2 who can both take a little pressure off Thomas and take advantage of how much attention the Pro Bowler draws.

    New Orleans may have found one in arguably the best under-the-radar signing in free agency.

    After catching 66 passes for 888 yards and four touchdowns for the Chicago Bears in 2016, Meredith lost all of last year to a knee injury—an injury that played a large part in the low RFA tender that set the stage for the Saints to swoop in and snatch the 25-year-old up in free agency.

    Now, the only snatching being done is by Meredith, who has been showing out in OTAs. He told Amos Morale III of the New Orleans Times-Picayune that he's grateful to be both back on the practice field and reunited with wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson, who coached Meredith in Chicago during that breakout 2016 season.

    "He brought a lot out of game being a coach for me," Meredith said. "So, to have the opportunity to go and play with him again and soak up some more knowledge from him is great. You see what he's done with the other guys in our room already."

    If Meredith can come close to those numbers, it's the Saints who will be grateful.

New York Giants: Eli Not Done Yet

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    The New York Giants raised an eyebrow or two when they passed on drafting a quarterback with the second overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft.

    If early returns are any indication, that was a wise choice—and Eli Manning may not be ready for the scrap heap just yet.

    Per Dan Salomone of the team's website, first-year head coach Pat Shurmur was effusive in his praise of Manning on May 29.

    "He looks great," Shurmur said. "He's doing great. I mentioned already, he is a joy to coach. A quarterback that is engaged at the level that he is is a lot of fun. Things are constantly changing. Plays change on the move, adjustments are being made. Within a practice, you might see something that you didn't think you would see. He is able to make an adjustment. He has been a lot of fun."

    With a healthy Odell Beckham Jr., tight end Evan Engram (another early standout at OTAs) and now rookie tailback Saquon Barkley (the player the Giants did select at No. 2) at his disposal, Manning could be primed for a bounce-back season after a rocky 2017.

    And the Giants, just like their quarterback, may not be ready for the scrap heap just yet.

New York Jets: Bridgewater Turning Heads

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    Once the New York Jets made Sam Darnold the third overall pick in this year's draft, it became clear that the former USC star is the future under center for the New York Jets.

    The present is less clear, partly because another first-round pick—this one from 2014—is doing his best to muddy the waters.

    As ESPN.com's Rich Cimini reported, the star of the first week of Jets OTAs was Teddy Bridgewater, who hasn't played meaningful regular-season snaps since 2015.

    After that came a gruesome knee injury that almost cost Bridgewater his leg and could have cost him his life. You wouldn't know that from the way Bridgewater is slinging the rock around at One Jets Place, though, and at least one teammate was left awe-struck by Bridgewater's performance.

    "For him to keep his optimism and continue to battle, I respect the s--t out of that," wide receiver Jermaine Kearse said. "Can't have nothing but respect for that."

    No matter how well Bridgewater plays in camp, he's not going to be the long-term starter for Gang Green. He may not even be a short-term one with veteran Josh McCown also in camp.

    But Bridgewater's trade value has skyrocketed of late. If another team suffers an injury at the position this summer, it's likely the Jets will be getting trade offers.

Oakland Raiders: Doug Martin Making Quite the First Impression

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    The Oakland Raiders are in a period of great transition as the second Jon Gruden era begins. But the new faces in Oakland are mainly old faces—the Raiders brought in a number of veteran free agents.

    At least one is making quite the impression in OTAs.

    Doug Martin spent six years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he told Kyle Martin of the team's website that he's approaching this training camp like it's his first.

    "My approach is just basically I'm a rookie again," he said Tuesday. "I have to prove to the team and the players, coaches that I can be useful on this team. Like I said, I just act like a rookie and go out and play. Play the game that I love."

    Given what quarterback Derek Carr had to say about Martin one day after practice, that approach appears to be working.

    "I feel like with running backs, you're going to see the most out of them when the pads come on and everything we've seen of Doug is awesome. You see why he's an All-Pro. You see why he's a 1,500-yard back. His work ethic is unbelievable. He finished a run to the end zone today and didn't stop until he got there and then he ran back to make sure he's getting even more in shape. It's little things like that that show young guys, ‘Hey man, that's how you do it.'"

    No one is saying that Martin is a serious challenger to unseat Marshawn Lynch as the team's lead tailback, but, then again, no one else isn't saying it, either.

Philadelphia Eagles: Secondary Shakeup (and Improvement)

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    Carson Wentz's rehab from a torn ACL is likely the biggest story in OTAs for the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. But the biggest question mark facing the team is on the back end of the defense.

    It appears that the outside corner spots are more or less locked in, with Ronald Darby and Sidney Jones penciled in as the starters. Per Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz indicated that 2017 third-round draft pick Rasul Douglas will likely serve as their primary backup.

    However, Schwartz also said the slot job is a wide-open competition.

    "You're going to see a lot of different guys in there," Schwartz said. "You'll see Jalen Mills at times, you'll see some other players like D.J. Killings, who was here last year, [De'Vante] Bausby's been in there, Sidney [Jones] was in there. … It's sort of cross-training a lot of different guys."

    "Nobody's earning any starting jobs now," Schwartz said. "Now's the time for individual improvement, now's the time to start talking about some scheme stuff and anticipate some changes and really just to set the table for training camp."

    The Eagles will be tinkering with this combo well into the summer, but Mills has the most experience, and Jones (per Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk) has been lining up as the slot man in OTAs.

    For what it's worth, Albert Breer reported for The MMQB that Jones, who missed most of his rookie season after tearing his Achilles in a pro day workout, has been "turning heads" in workouts.

Pittsburgh Steelers: The Battle to Replace Ryan Shazier

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Most of the conversation around Steelers OTAs has centered around players who aren’t there (the "Killer B" trio of Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown). But the bigger story is the pecking order at a position where one of the top options is at OTAs but won't be playing in 2018.

    With Ryan Shazier out for the season, there's a massive hole at inside linebacker for the Steelers. And while, per Jacob Klinger of Penn Live, third-year pro Tyler Matakevich has spent the majority of the workouts with the ones, L.J. Fort and free-agent signee Jon Bostic are also battling for snaps next to Vince Williams.

    ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler reported that while the loss of Shazier is a big blow, Matakevich believes the Steelers still have a talented linebacker corps.

    "They don't give the rest of our inside linebackers credit," Matakevich said. "I think Vinny [Williams] is a tremendous player. He's smart. We just brought [Jon] Bostic in. He's played four years. He knows what's going on. L.J. Fort's been here for a long time. He knows this system. I think we have the guys who are capable of doing it."

    Matakevich, who was injured in the same game Shazier went down in last year, knows the system better. But Bostic is the more proven NFL commodity, setting the stage for a competition that could linger well into training camp.

San Francisco 49ers: Foster's Return

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    The biggest development for the San Francisco 49ers in OTAs is the arrival of a player who hasn't even practiced yet.

    After a tumultuous offseason that included his arrest on weapons and (eventually dropped) domestic violence charges, inside linebacker Reuben Foster joined the team at OTAs earlier this week. Foster will be eased back into things, but defensive coordinator Robert Saleh told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle that it isn't because Foster is not yet ready to roll.

    "He's in great shape," Saleh said. "He could have [practiced] today. He could have [practiced] the first day he was allowed back. … We're just giving him a chance to get back into it. Don't rush him. There's no need. Hopefully, we can get him back to practicing soon."

    After just one season with the team, Foster has emerged as one of the most impactful defenders for a Niners team with aspirations of a deep playoff run. But as good as it will be to get Foster back on the practice field, casting off the morass of distractions that had been swirling around him will be that much better.

Seattle Seahawks: Offensive Line Not as Offensive

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    The offensive line has been a serious point of contention for the Seahawks over the past few years. But, per the Seattle Times, head coach Pete Carroll has been pleased with the group's performance in OTAs.

    Part of that improvement may lie in a change in scheme under new O-line coach Mike Solari. As Brent Stecker reported for ESPN Radio in Seattle, offensive tackle Duane Brown said Solari has switched up the way the team blocks at times.

    "Last year we were pretty much emphasized on zone scheme. We still have zone concepts in our packages, but we also have power schemes and things that are more downhill. … We have everything. We have some man blocking, we have some double-team things and gap schemes, we have zone schemes. I think we have a great assortment of runs and packages in this system. I think we'll be able to throw defenses off balance."

    A healthy Brown is also a key to Russell Wilson's protection improving in 2018, but it's encouraging to hear that Solari is mixing things up to best take advantage of the strengths of his personnel.

    No one on the face of the earth is happier about this development than Wilson, who has reached the point where he hears footsteps in line at the grocery store.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Savior in the Secondary

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need help in the secondary in a big way. 

    And they appear to be getting just that. 

    Second-round rookie Carlton Davis has been one of the defensive stars of OTAs, earning practice time with the starters and praise from head coach Dirk Koetter.

    "He's off to a good start, he's off to a really good start," Koetter told Carmen Vitali of the team's website. "He did take some reps with the first group today. Again, it's day one of Phase Three, but where he was drafted, that's for a reason. He's showed up so far."

    Per Mark Inabinnett of AL.com, Davis acknowledged it took some adjustment after he played mainly press coverage at Auburn.

    "The way I learned DB in college initially was I played on and off, so I played press and off," Davis said. "My last two years, I played a lot of press man, so just coming here was just like, at times, was just get back into playing off and get comfortable with it. It wasn't a huge step for me, but I guess I'm back acclimated with it and I'm comfortable now."

    It's far too early to get overly excited about Davis' prospects in 2018 based off a few practices. But given how rotten the Bucs were against the pass last season, it's hard not to.

Tennessee Titans: Mariota Getting in Gear

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    The Tennessee Titans took a big step forward in 2017 by making the postseason and winning a playoff game. But if the team is going to take the next step and become a serious contender in the AFC this year, new head coach Mike Vrabel will need a similar leap ahead from fourth-year quarterback Marcus Mariota.

    Mariota scuffled a year ago relative to 2016, partly due to a knee injury that hampered his trademark mobility. Mariota told Jim Wyatt of the team's website that his knee feels much better and that he's quite pleased with the progress he's made with new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur and quarterbacks coach Pat O'Hara.

    "It's been great. Pat and Matt have been awesome. They've been tremendous in (continuing) to work fundamentals. At the same time, helping us learn the offense in a way that's easy and just makes it so that everything is pretty smooth. I've got to give a lot of credit to them, I think they've done a great job so far. Again, as we progress forward there's always going to be some bumps in the road, but I think these guys have done a great job of handling everything."

    Mariota has been on the practice field without a brace on his knee building a rapport with his receiving corps—a far cry from a year ago when offseason surgery on his leg limited his time in OTAs.

Washington Redskins: Alex Smith Looking Sharp

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Yes, there are a lot of quarterbacks in this piece. It's just a fact of life in the NFL that passers make the world go 'round.

    In the nation's capital, there was quite the shake-up at the position. Kirk Cousins is gone, off to Minnesota in free agency. He's been replaced by Alex Smith, who got a contract extension containing $71 million in guarantees before ever throwing a pass for the team.

    Smith still hasn't thrown one that counts, but his performance on the practice field has left a big impression on one of his new teammates.

    That's the latest from Matthew Paras of the Washington Times, who reports that fellow newcomer Paul Richardson gushed about Smith's performances in OTAs.

    "Alex, man, what stands out the most is he's very decisive,” Richardson said last week at OTAs. "He's not second-guessing himself, reading the coverage, man or zone. He's trusting us to make it out of our break to meet the ball. He's putting the ball in great spots with great timing.

    "For it to be this early, we can only go up from here.”

    Richardson was brought in to serve as the deep threat for a veteran quarterback who had the best season of his career in 2017 where attacking defenses vertically is concerned.

    That the pair is already clicking is what we in the business call good news. 

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