The Biggest Standout of Every NFL Team's Offseason so Far
In less than a week, the NFL will essentially be on vacation.
And whether you're on a beach somewhere pretending to read a novel your wife recommended or you're in the office pretending to read a document your boss assigned, you're likely to find yourself daydreaming about what your favorite team's most hyped players will look like when the league returns from vacation for training camps at the end of July.
Before offseason programs wrap up this week, let's review some of the work put forth by those hyped players.
Based on media reports flowing (in some cases more freely than others) from 32 different practice fields, here's a look at the biggest standout of every team's offseason thus far.
Arizona Cardinals: QB Josh Rosen
Rookie Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen is entering the NFL with a lot of polish, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that the No. 10 overall pick out of UCLA seemed to shine during OTAs.
"Rosen has impressed his coaches early—coming as advertised with his ability to digest and apply the information he's being given on the practice field," Albert Breer of The MMQB wrote last week. "And he looks comfortable and poised in his surroundings as an NFL player."
That review came several weeks after Cards head coach Steve Wilks applauded Rosen's first impression.
"Josh looked great today," Wilks said after the 21-year-old put on a show with the first-team offense in his maiden OTA practice, per ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss. "Some of his timing and his throws with the quarterback and tight ends I thought were right on point."
If he can keep it up in training camp and the preseason, Rosen could be starting a lot earlier than many might have expected with Sam Bradford on the roster.
Atlanta Falcons: WR Calvin Ridley
Alabama product Calvin Ridley was the second wide receiver selected in the 2018 NFL draft, and early on this offseason he's proving why the receiver-rich Atlanta Falcons used a first-round pick on him.
Per Will McFadden of the team's official website, veteran cornerback Desmond Trufant found that Ridley looked "polished" during OTAs, while head coach Dan Quinn chose a different term.
"Des may say he sees polished, I probably see explosive," Quinn said. "I see a really aggressive player who's really going for it in a big way. I don't know if I would say polished yet, but I would say he's definitely further along than most."
But before Trufant and Quinn picked up on Ridley's early progress, quarterback Matt Ryan saw something in him.
"Calvin, he's been excellent," Ryan said last week, according to McFadden. "Really talented, really smart, very detailed in his work and works extremely hard. He's a good addition for us.
"He's done a great job. What I've seen is excellent transition in and out of breaks; it's as good as anybody I've been around. He's got very good hands. He's smart. We put a lot on these guys early in OTAs as far as knowing different positions, knowing where to line up, different route combinations, adjustments that we have versus certain coverages. He's picked up all that stuff really well. You can tell he's been well-coached prior to coming into the NFL."
And the Falcons want to try to get the ball in his hands as often as possible this season, which might explain why he's even been returning kicks in practice despite rarely doing so in college.
Baltimore Ravens: QB Joe Flacco
Coming off one of the worst seasons of his career, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco must hear footsteps. There's a lot of buzz surrounding the team's top pick, quarterback Lamar Jackson, and the pressure's on Flacco to deliver with new possession receiver Michael Crabtree in 2018.
Sounds like he's off to a strong start.
Matthew Stevens of Ravens Wire notes that the "offense has been active in the downfield passing game" and that "Flacco's accuracy has been better thus far," thanks partly to the dependability that Crabtree has brought to the table.
Meanwhile, ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley tweeted last week that "Flacco is passing the ball at a different level than the other three quarterbacks on the Ravens roster right now," adding that "he has been throwing tight spirals and showing good touch on deep throws into tight coverage."
Crucially, Flacco already sounds as though he's established plenty of chemistry with Crabtree, who he called "the guy" last month, per Hensley.
That duo has the experience and ability to help Baltimore bounce back in 2018.
Buffalo Bills: LB Tremaine Edmunds
While quarterback Josh Allen is getting the lion's share of the attention for the Buffalo Bills this offseason, the team's other first-round pick, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, is making a bigger impression on the practice field.
"Up to this point, he's handled it extremely well," Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said of Edmunds' work with first-teamers at OTAs last week, per ESPN.com's Mike Rodak, "so [I] don't really see any indication that that won't continue."
Bills head coach Sean McDermott has also praised the No. 16 overall pick out of Virginia Tech for his maturity, according to WIVB's Evan Anstey. And Frazier has already compared his progress to that of 2017 rookie sensation Tre'Davious White.
"Tremaine has done a really good job up to this point. There are going to be some rookie mistakes along the way, but his ability to gather information and then transfer it to the field has been very similar to what we saw with Tre'Davious," Frazier said last week, per Chris Brown of the team's official website. "So, you don't have some of the concerns that you ordinarily would have with most rookies because of it."
Many expected Edmunds to be a top-10 pick, which usually means you're special if you're an inside linebacker. So nobody should be surprised that he's settling in quickly.
Carolina Panthers: CB Lorenzo Doss
If you've picked up on the early trend, you're probably expecting Carolina Panthers rookie first-round pick D.J. Moore here. But while Moore has earned strong reviews early, let's instead give a shoutout to little-known cornerback Lorenzo Doss.
Six months after he was waived by the Denver Broncos and five months after he signed a futures contract with the Panthers, the 2015 fifth-round pick has flashed on multiple occasions during OTAs.
Per Bill Voth of the team's official website, Doss intercepted passes in three consecutive OTA practices. Could that be a sign that he's putting it together in a new environment? It's possible, especially if you consider that the 24-year-old recorded 15 interceptions during his three years at Tulane.
Doss still faces an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster, but Carolina isn't deep in the secondary. If he can keep making plays, he might be in the mix alongside James Bradberry, Captain Munnerlyn, Ross Cockrell and second-round rookie Donte Jackson.
Chicago Bears: LB Danny Trevathan
When the Chicago Bears defense is on the field this offseason, most eyes are on rookie first-round pick Roquan Smith. But while Smith has been "doing well" according to defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, it seems veteran position-mate Danny Trevathan has been on fire during OTAs.
"I know you guys are all interested in the rookies, and understandably so, but I think some of the veterans have gotten better through this time too," Fangio told the media last week. "Guys like Trevathan. You may ask why. Well, last year he didn't do any of this stuff. He didn't do any OTAs, he hardly did any training camp, didn't play in any preseason games, and to me that set him back last year, and he was injured the year before. This is the first time he's had a nice chunk of work. I see improvement with him."
Trevathan's first couple of seasons in Chicago have been marred by injuries and a suspension, but he's still only 28 and a couple of years removed from a superb season with the Denver Broncos. He's also healthy now and is well-supported by fellow linebackers (and recent first-round picks) Smith and Leonard Floyd.
His strong start to the offseason could be a sign of things to come.
Cincinnati Bengals: CB William Jackson III?
Why the question mark? Because the Cincinnati Bengals keep their OTA practices under wraps like no other team in the NFL and there's scant information coming out of Cincy this offseason.
However, Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported last week that cornerback William Jackson III looked like a "lockdown, top-tier [cornerback] in the two practices open to the media," while ESPN.com's Katherine Terrell tweeted on the same day that the 2016 first-round pick had yet to allow a completion in coverage.
This isn't surprising. Last year, Jackson allowed an opposing passer rating of just 36.1 and completion percentage of just 34.9, according to Pro Football Focus. "He could be the game's best corner with a repeat performance as an every-down starter in 2018," PFF's Sam Monson wrote.
He's off to a nice start. At least it looks that way from afar.
Cleveland Browns: CB Denzel Ward
Just as Buffalo's second first-round selection is expected to make a larger early impact than the team's first pick, the Cleveland Browns look as though they're going to get more out of No. 4 overall selection Denzel Ward than top pick Baker Mayfield early on.
The 21-year-old has lived up to expectations thus far.
"Very savvy rookie, very savvy, very confident," fellow corner TJ Carrie said of Ward last week, per Ohio.com's Nate Ulrich. "I think that when you come into this league, confidence is probably one of your best friends in the sense that you are playing with grown men. If you are not confident with who you are as yourself, you lose that ability to play instinctively and very fast. As you can see, he played exceptionally well today, had a number of pass breakups, a number of great plays out there."
That drove the team to promote the Ohio State product to the first-team offense for the final week of OTAs.
"Ward being out there is because he's earning it," head coach Hue Jackson said this week, according to Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot. "He's working at it. He plays a position that we've been needing a guy to step up. We see him improving each and every day and doing the things that we're asking. He needs to continue to do that to continue to be out there, but we know he's very talented. That's why we drafted him. He's displayed that since he's been here."
There's a lot to be excited about with the new-look Browns, and Ward is a big part of that.
Dallas Cowboys: DT Jihad Ward
ESPN.com's Todd Archer wondered this week if the Dallas Cowboys "have found something" in defensive tackle Jihad Ward, who was acquired in a draft-day trade with the Oakland Raiders and has received strong reviews coming out of OTAs.
Archer noted that Ward "has been active and moves well," while Bryan Broaddus of the team's official website has also praised his practice performances. He's "already turning some heads," according to Connor Livesay of Blogging the Boys, who suggested the 24-year-old is "in the mix for a big role."
It's possible a change of setting is just what Ward needed. We know he has the ability as a second-round pick. Now he's ahead of the game in Dallas.
Denver Broncos: QB Case Keenum
Sometimes in this business, it's best to simply step aside and let the players talk. And at Denver Broncos OTAs, the players have been doing a lot of talking about new quarterback Case Keenum.
Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, per Mike Klis of 9News: "He's a great leader. Every day, the majority of the days, he'll come in and ask me and D.T. [Demaryius Thomas] to go and watch practices and we'll sit in the back room and watch film and go over what he's thinking and what we're thinking. I've been a part of two Super Bowl teams, and that's what it takes. That extra work that's not mandatory, where guys are in there working out or working on their mental game. That right there, when it's the fourth quarter or when it's 4th-and-5 or 3rd-and-8, that's the stuff that gets you over the hill."
Cornerback Chris Harris, per the same source: "He wants it. It's good when you have a quarterback that's hungry. Just like any other player out there on the field, he wants it. He wants to be the best. He wants to prove to Minnesota, 'You all should have never let me go.' He's hungry out there, I like that chip that he has on his shoulder, and it's good to have a quarterback that really wants it and really wants to be the best."
Safety Justin Simmons, per the Sports Xchange: "I always say I'm not a quarterback coach, but just from what I've seen, he looks comfortable. The guys have already rallied around him. I know he talks about how he wanted to come in and earn that leadership spot. I'm not speaking for him or for anyone on the offensive side, but I feel like he is definitely earning it, if not has earned it. Day-by-day already, just in OTAs, he's taken full steam of the offense and has really gotten them going. He looked good. He's starting to look a little comfortable."
Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, per Chad Jensen of 247Sports: "The first thing is that he takes control of everything. Not just offense but the whole group. Offense, defense, special teams and all. He takes control of the huddle. I know that I was in the huddle one day and I said, 'Wait, wait, wait. We're missing…' and he said, 'I got this.' And I said, 'OK.' So, it's stuff like that. It's good to have him around."
Offensive tackle Garett Bolles, per Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio: "I'm grateful we have Case here. I think he brings a demeanor here...Knowing that everything he does—he's collected, he gets in that huddle, and he demands. But he showed us in the offseason, before we even started OTAs. He's bringing us along, we're doing outings together, hockey games and all those things. He's taking control."
Do you think this is going well?
Detroit Lions: WR Kenny Golladay
As a rookie last summer, third-round Detroit Lions draft pick Kenny Golladay put on a show that included a pair of touchdown catches in his first preseason game and then two more in his first regular-season affair.
The 6'4" Northern Illinois product faded down soon after that and lost a good chunk of his 2017 campaign to a hamstring injury, but it appears he's back in form with his second training camp around the corner.
Mike O'Hara of the team's official website reported this week that Golladay "looked like a veteran on the first day of minicamp," adding that the 24-year-old's "routes were sharp, and he cut and accelerated after catching the ball with power and no hesitation."
Meanwhile, MLive's Kyle Meinke sees a potential touchdown machine in the making.
"This guy could be so good, and he could be so good as soon as this year in the red zone," Meinke wrote of Golladay as the team wrapped up mandatory minicamp this week. "He's just chewing up everybody right now in the end zone."
Golden Tate and Marvin Jones might have company.
Green Bay Packers: RB Aaron Jones
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones averaged 5.5 yards per carry as a rookie in 2017, which puts him in the mix for the top spot on the running back depth chart in 2018. It might help that the 5'9", somewhat fragile back has looked bigger and stronger at OTAs.
"He came back a little bit bigger, and he's still moving around pretty good with the added size," Packers running backs coach Ben Sirmans said of Jones last week, per Brian Jones of 247Sports. "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."
It's been a quiet stretch on the practice field for the Packers, with Clay Matthews' broken nose, Aaron Rodgers' contract talk and the addition of Marcedes Lewis hogging the headlines for a team that doesn't reveal a lot to begin with.
So for now, the bulked-up Jones is the real winner of the spring.
Houston Texans: OT Julien Davenport
The Houston Texans had one of the worst offensive lines in football last year, and they desperately need better results from that unit for quarterback Deshaun Watson's sake in 2018.
It'll help if second-year offensive tackle Julien Davenport can take a large step forward and become an asset on Watson's blind side, and it appears the Bucknell product is off to a good start at OTAs.
"It seems like he has a new sense of urgency," offensive line coach Mike Devlin said this week, per John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. "He came back to the offseason program ready to go, and you could see a difference."
McClain has seen it, too.
"Davenport has been using the offseason program, particularly the OTAs, to get more comfortable and to make an even stronger impression on his coaches and teammates," the longtime Texans beat writer noted.
The 23-year-old struggled when thrown to the wolves as a rookie, but he did appear to improve late in the season. If indeed he's continuing to improve, Watson and the rest of the offense could be a lot better off in the fall.
Indianapolis Colts: WR Deon Cain
No, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck still isn't throwing regularly sized footballs. But when he does, an exciting new wide receiver might be catching a lot of 'em.
That's because sixth-round rookie Deon Cain has been attracting plenty of buzz at Colts OTAs, with Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star writing Thursday that the 21-year-old "seemingly makes a play every day that opens eyes."
Holder noted that Cain is "making strides" in terms of his route-running, his hands and his competitiveness, and he isn't the only onlooker who has taken notice.
"Deon's explosive," Colts head coach Frank Reich said of the Clemson product, per Holder. "You saw that on tape. And what I've also been impressed with is some consistency. Also football intelligence. So, he's had a really good start. He's got a lot to prove yet, but a really good start."
Meanwhile, the Star's Zak Keefer noted Cain has flashed his "nifty hands and footwork" while "jumping out in red zone drills."
It won't be easy to find consistent reps in a receiving corps that features T.Y. Hilton, Chester Rogers and Ryan Grant, but Cain is off to a hell of a start.
Jacksonville Jaguars: TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Things didn't quite pan out for 2014 second-round pick Austin Seferian-Jenkins with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets, but the physically marvelous tight end's third team might be the charm.
Jay Johnson of the Jags Wire noted Thursday that "Seferian-Jenkins has come on strong and has established himself as Blake Bortles' favorite target" at Jacksonville's OTAs.
And it seems that chemistry is easy to pick up on.
Mike Kaye of First Coast News wrote earlier in the week that Bortles and ASJ have "developed a downfield rhythm during workouts."
"Bortles has regularly been able to connect with Seferian-Jenkins on downfield lobs," added Kaye. "Seferian-Jenkins' ability to get open down the seam of the defense has been an ongoing feature of the Jaguars' offense during OTAs."
And Phillip Heilman of Jacksonville.com tweeted that Seferian-Jenkins "should set a career high in receiving yards and touchdowns" because "he's looked that good" at OTAs.
This might be the year the 6'5", 262-pound former Washington star finally breaks out at the NFL level.
Kansas City Chiefs: WR Sammy Watkins
The Kansas City Chiefs spent big bucks on wide receiver Sammy Watkins this offseason, and in the early going, the 2014 No. 4 overall pick has delivered.
Watkins opened OTAs making one-handed catches all over the field, and he's left an impression on those in attendance.
"Watkins has shown his skills as a pass catcher these last two weeks," wrote KC Kingdom's Chris Taylor. "Wowing his coaches and teammates alike with his ability to snatch and grab every ball thrown his direction. His circus catches have been a staple in Chiefs camp thus far."
Most importantly, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid seems to be impressed with his new offensive toy.
"Every day he does something a little better than he did the day before," Reid said last week, per BJ Kissel of the team's official website. "You see the quickness, the speed, the strength—phenomenal strength off the ball. You know we can't do bump and run here but you get an idea when he comes off the ball he comes off with a lot of energy and strength. Again, you guys have been out here, so you know this, but his ability to catch the football is incredible, he has very good hands."
"We are moving him all over the place and he's handled it," he added this week, per Dee Jackson of KSHB. "We've overloaded him. That's how we do in this offense. That's something new for him. You can tell he's a guy that takes it away from here and studies."
So far, so good.
Los Angeles Chargers: WR Mike Williams
The No. 7 pick in 2017, Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams caught just 47.8 percent of the passes thrown his way and failed to score a touchdown in 10 games after suffering a back injury in rookie minicamp.
But it might be a different story this spring.
ESPN.com's Eric D. Williams wrote Williams looked "more confident and explosive" and passed on a glowing review from top wideout Keenan Allen:
"I see a lot of potential. Last year, he had a lot of potential as well, but I could tell he put in a little bit more work this offseason. I think he's ready to go.
"[Last year] he wasn't sure about all the plays. This year, he acts like he's been in the playbook. When he runs routes, he's on depth. Today, he was more physical when he was getting pressed. He looked good."
It's early, and there hasn't been a lot of buzz coming out of Chargers camp, but it seems Williams will have a shot to win the No. 2 receiver job behind Allen.
Los Angeles Rams: TE Gerald Everett
Dispatches from Myles Simmons of the team's official website indicated the Los Angeles Rams have been rolling on offense throughout OTAs, and it sounds as though second-year tight end Gerald Everett is a big part of that.
The second-round pick caught only 16 passes while backing up Tyler Higbee last season, but a strong run could help him leapfrog Higbee on the depth chart.
"Gerald Everett's been one of the guys that's stood out really throughout the offseason program so far in terms of getting better," Rams head coach Sean McVay said, per Cameron DaSilva of Rams Wire. "You see the overall athleticism; he's getting better with the attention to detail."
As Kristen Lago of the team's official website pointed out, Everett is more confident this offseason.
"I don't have to think as much," he said. "Last year, I was spinning to say the least. But now that I can finally relax and just compete, it feels pretty good."
Everett vs. Higbee will be fun to watch in July and August.
Miami Dolphins: WR Albert Wilson
It was a tad surprising the Miami Dolphins handed receiver Albert Wilson a three-year, $24 million contract considering Wilson has failed to catch 45 passes or hit the 600-yard mark in each of his first four NFL seasons. But Miami may have seen something, and Wilson showed it in OTAs.
Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald noted the 25-year-old is "perhaps outplaying all of the others in OTA practices so far this spring."
Meanwhile, the Herald's Barry Jackson reported "the Dolphins have been so impressed with new receiver Albert Wilson that they have decided he can be lined up not only in the slot, but also on the boundary and in the backfield."
Said receivers coach Ben Johnson, per Jackson:
"When we looked at Albert on film, we were intrigued, obviously with the speed. We were intrigued with the run-after-catch ability. I think all of that has been there. It's been impressive to me to see him come in, pick up this system and learn these fundamentals that he wasn't really doing the same thing in Kansas City. He's really done a nice job the past two weeks. It's really triggered us to say he's not limited in the slot, he's not limited outside. He can line up in the backfield. He can do so many different things for us. His versatility is really, really showing up."
So maybe the Fins won't miss Jarvis Landry after all?
Minnesota Vikings: QB Kirk Cousins
The Minnesota Vikings are paying Kirk Cousins ridiculous money in hopes that the veteran quarterback can help the franchise win its first Super Bowl. By all indications, Cousins has come through with a strong early impression.
Said Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, per Kyle Ratke of Vikings Wire:
"I thought he looked good. He's a very anticipatory thrower. He throws guys open. He's very, very accurate. I think he's doing a good job of taking control of the offense. Like everybody he's learning a new system, learning new people. I thought he did good today and I thought he's done good the whole time he's been out here."
One of Cousins' top targets also sang his praises, with Adam Thielen telling NFL.com's Tom Pelissero:
"The ball comes out of [Cousins'] hand differently. Every quarterback has their strengths and weaknesses, and I'm not here to evaluate that, but all I can say is, the ball comes out of his hand differently.
"[Stefon] Diggs said it the other day—the spiral he puts on it just makes it easy for us to catch. 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."
And offensive coordinator John DeFilippo has also been impressed by what he's seen in person.
"I knew he had a strong arm coming in. I didn't know he was able to drive it as well as he does," DeFilippo told Pelissero. "He has a very compact release. The ball just jumps off his hand because he has a short stroke back."
That three-year, $84 million contract hasn't paid off yet, but Cousins is off to an ideal start.
New England Patriots: WR Jordan Matthews
It's hard to find coverage of New England Patriots OTAs that isn't all about the absence of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, and now Julian Edelman's looming suspension is the talk of the town, but one player quietly emerging is veteran wide receiver Jordan Matthews.
It didn't work out for the 2014 second-round pick in Philadelphia or Buffalo, but he's made a strong first impression in New England by consistently arriving early and grinding.
He hasn't had many opportunities to work with Brady yet, but NESN's Doug Kyed tweeted the 25-year-old "got a couple nice grabs with Brady at the helm."
And regardless of who's throwing the passes, Andy Hart of the team's official website pointed out "it's a good sign that he's on the field, getting reps and making plays."
With Brandin Cooks gone and Edelman slated to miss the first four games of the regular season, Matthews just might have a shot.
New Orleans Saints: QB Taysom Hill
The New Orleans Saints didn't draft a successor to quarterback Drew Brees, and free-agent pickup Tom Savage isn't the answer. Does that mean the team might be under the impression Taysom Hill could be the heir apparent?
For what it's worth, the former Packer's first offseason in New Orleans has gone extremely well.
James Parks of 247Sports noted "Hill has stood out in practice and earned some pretty serious compliments from coaches and players alike."
Those have come right from the top.
"He looks good," Saints head coach Sean Payton said, per the New Orleans Advocate's Nick Underhill. "We like where he is at. He is grinding and working hard. You guys saw [him make] a play today. When he does get outside the pocket, he can run, real fast. That presents a new challenge for the defense."
Quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi also heaped praise on Hill while suggesting "he might be the strongest guy on the team."
"The guy is a freak athlete," Lombardi added. "I've never seen anyone like him at this position."
At the very least, Hill would be a superb special-teamer. But he might be earning a much larger role.
New York Giants: CB Eli Apple
Two years into his New York Giants career, 2016 No. 10 overall pick Eli Apple has failed to live up to lofty expectations. But the cornerback just might be turning a corner.
ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan noted Apple has experienced "a spring of redemption" featuring multiple "splash plays" in practices.
"He's just out here making plays," safety Landon Collins said, per Raanan. "That's not the only play. He's doing his thing. I'm happy for him. He's growing up, doing his thing and playing great ball."
The Ohio State product's career was at least temporarily derailed during an ugly sophomore season on and off the field—he was called a cancer by Collins and was hit with a suspension for conduct detrimental to the team—but he's been excelling this offseason while working with the first-team defense.
Apple is still only 22, and a tremendous career might still be in the offing.
New York Jets: QB Teddy Bridgewater
Incumbent starter Josh McCown gets paid a lot more money, and No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold has higher expectations, but Teddy Bridgewater by all accounts has been the most impressive quarterback on the New York Jets this offseason.
As Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News wrote:
"Bridgewater was the best quarterback on the field on the first day of the Jets' organized team activities, a promising sign for a guy who had a solid start to his career before a mishap in practice nearly cost him that career. He was fluid in his drop-backs without a trace of a limp. He was smooth on a designed roll-out to his right on one of his nine snaps in 11-on-11 team drills."
But it didn't stop there.
"Not only did he perform well in the first practice, open to the media," ESPN.com's Rich Cimini wrote, "but he maintained it throughout the week."
The former Vikings quarterback also earned praise from Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who noted Bridgewater's surgically repaired knee hasn't slowed him down.
"He has shown no signs of weakness with the knee," Bowles said, per NorthJersey.com's Andy Vasquez. "He is moving around and taking every rep and every snap like everybody else. So, he is progressing and getting better."
If he keeps it up, the 2015 Pro Bowler could start in 2018—in New York or elsewhere.
Oakland Raiders: CB Gareon Conley
The Oakland Raiders continue to hope somebody will rise to the occasion on defense to support superstar pass-rusher Khalil Mack, and the good news is the team's top 2017 draft pick, cornerback Gareon Conley, is drawing strong reviews at OTAs as he prepares for his sophomore season.
"He's doing good. Most importantly, he's out there," Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said of Conley, who missed all but two games his entire rookie season with a shin injury, per Matt Schneidman of the Mercury News. "He's really understanding the little details of everything, the press techniques that we're teaching. We have a lot of different coverages in now, so he's done a really good job for us."
His teammates are seeing it too.
"I'm happy to see Conley out there running around," safety Reggie Nelson said. "A player of his caliber—long, just like [Rashaan] Melvin—he's showing why he was a first-round pick. I think there's a high standard out for him right now, and he's holding that up. I think Conley's doing a great job right now."
Still only 22 years old, Conley has a good chance to win the top spot on the cornerback depth chart.
Philadelphia Eagles: CB Sidney Jones
Conley isn't the only high-ceiling second-year cornerback who is flashing this spring after having his rookie campaign derailed by injury. Ditto for 2017 Philadelphia Eagles second-round pick Sidney Jones, who played just one game as a rookie but appears primed to make a major impact in 2018.
Jones stood out on the first day of Eagles OTAs, according to Dave Spadaro of the team's official website, and, as the Philadelphia Inquirer's Jeff McLane pointed out, he continued to look good. Albert Breer of The MMQB reported the 22-year-old "turned heads" early in OTAs, while Derrick Gunn of NBC Sports Philadelphia thinks he's "pushing for significant playing time."
If Jones can keep it up, he could give a boost to a team that is already well-positioned to make a run at a second consecutive championship.
Pittsburgh Steelers: RB James Conner
Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner's quiet rookie season ended when the third-round pick injured his MCL in December. But Conner has already recovered and is making waves in the Steelers' offseason program.
"I think he's looking really good right now. I like what he's doing," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told Jim Wexell of 247Sports (via Bryan DeArdo of 247Sports). "He took those rookie hiccups last year and has really gotten a lot better. Of course, we're in shorts and shortsleeves; no pads right now. But I'm excited to get to camp with him. He's one that I'm excited about."
And Big Ben isn't the only one who's noticed improvements by the 23-year-old.
"He's a little bit more confident in the playbook, handling protections—he's just in better shape," tight end Jesse James said, per ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler. "He's running fast, running every ball to the end zone. He looks good."
Maybe Le'Veon Bell shouldn't stay away too long.
San Francisco 49ers: WR Kendrick Bourne
With quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo taking the reins for his first offseason with the San Francisco 49ers, the slate feels relatively clean. Anybody could emerge as a Jimmy G favorite, including second-year undrafted receiver Kendrick Bourne.
He's been making plays throughout OTAs, and those who matter have taken note.
Said Garoppolo, per Kirk Larrabee of 247Sports, "Last year when I met KB, he was a rookie, you know, just coming along, but this offseason made some great strides."
And wide receivers coach Matt LaFleur: "He feels so much better about the playbook and knowing the details and stuff like that. ... That energy he brings every day—this is fun for him; this is not a job for him. He's loving what he's doing and put a lot of time into it."
More Garoppolo, per KNBR's Brad Almquist: "[He is] deceptively fast, but, at the same time, he has some wiggle to him. So, it's a nice combination. He does a great job of catching the ball. I don't know how many drops he has had all of OTAs; I don't want to jinx him. He has done a great job."
More of that, and Garoppolo might start preferring him to Pierre Garcon and/or Marquise Goodwin.
Seattle Seahawks: RB Chris Carson
The Seattle Seahawks spent their first-round pick on running back Rashaad Penny, but second-year back Chris Carson might not be ready to cede the top spot to the San Diego State product.
Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times wrote "Carson continues to have an impressive OTA, generally appearing to go first in the tailback rotations." And he doubled down on that, stating "Carson has been one of the standouts of OTAs."
The Oklahoma State product is feeling it, too.
"I feel a lot more solid than I did last year," Carson said, per ESPN 710's Stacy Rost, who noted the 23-year-old has put on 11 pounds. "I feel a lot better now. Just my body feels a lot more stable than it did last year."
He'll still have to hold off Penny, but Carson is certainly making a push for consistent playing time in August.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones
With the Doug Martin era over, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could have plenty of competition at the running back position this summer. That is unless second-round rookie Ronald Jones leaves everyone else in the dust.
Jones is on the right track and getting strong reviews.
As running backs coach Tim Spencer said, per Bonnie Mott of Bucs Wire:
"Watching the film he has done a good job. He's not afraid. And that's the thing. He's not afraid and you can see he has the want-to in him. So all I need to do is teach him technique in terms of hand placement, feet and, you know, where his aim points [are] and things like that. But he has it in his heart. So that's good. That's half of it right there."
That's good news for a running game that ranked 27th in the NFL last season.
Tennessee Titans: WR Corey Davis
If the young Tennessee Titans are going to take another step forward in 2018, they'll need Corey Davis to put together a strong sophomore season. While a balky hamstring held the wide receiver back for much of last season, he's looked healthy and productive during the Titans' 2018 offseason program.
Jim Wyatt of the Titans' official website wrote last week that Davis "looks confident, and plenty capable" before adding in another OTA report that the 23-year-old "looks fast." And those weren't the only times Davis caught Wyatt's eye.
Elsewhere, Dan Cotton of 247Sports delivered some praise.
"The 2017 No. 5 overall pick has had a solid offseason so far," Cotton wrote. "He spent time with a couple of teammates and quarterback Marcus Mariota for a week of training in Los Angeles earlier in the offseason. As for OTA practice this week, Davis appeared to be in midseason form, making a couple of contested catches."
If Davis is turning the corner, Mariota and the rest of that offense should flourish in the summer and fall.
Washington Redskins: RB Derrius Guice
Few players in the NFL have attracted as much hype during OTAs as Washington Redskins rookie running back Derrius Guice, who slid to the second round of the draft despite Round 1 expectations but has the ability to play a major role from the get-go in D.C.
Video has already emerged of Guice making impressive plays as a pass-catcher, and head coach Jay Gruden remarked to JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington this week that "it's been very exciting" watching the LSU product excel as a receiver in practice.
That came after Guice "put linebacker Jerod Fernandez on skates in the open field" in practice this week, according to Michael Phillips of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. But it looks as though he's made an impression beyond that, with quarterback Alex Smith noting—per Peter Hailey of NBC Sports Washington—that "he's looked really good so far."
Guice is apparently already a fan favorite among Redskins supporters, so look for him to be the center of attention when the team opens training camp next month.