The Latest Buzz Around Every NFL Team as Camp Season Nears
If you've been lamenting the void that has been the months between the NFL draft and the start of the 2018 season, take comfort. Training camps are about to begin, and the preseason is set to start in a matter of weeks.
The NFL world never sleeps, of course. So, while there hasn't been much for fans to get excited about on the surface, there has been plenty going on beneath it. Heading into camps, we have quarterback battles brewing, a prominent linebacker duo set to swap positions and a pair of reigning Rookies of the Year pushing to be even better in 2018.
We're here to examine the biggest storyline surrounding each team as the league turns the corner from the offseason to training camp season.
Arizona Cardinals: A QB Competition Could Be Brewing
The Arizona Cardinals revamped their quarterback room this offseason, adding Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon in free agency and grabbing UCLA's Josh Rosen with the 10th pick.
Head coach Steve Wilks made it clear in May he wants competition.
"We're pushing everybody to start," Wilks told NFL Network. "... Sam's going to be the first guy out there, but everybody's fighting for a position."
Cornerback Patrick Peterson lauded Rosen's readiness on The Rich Eisen Show in early July but last week threw his support behind Bradford and his experience.
"Right now, I'd probably take Sam due to his experience," Peterson told NFL Network (via NFL.com's Marc Sessler), "due to some of the records that he has in the league. Because when Sam is healthy and is on the field and has talent around him, he's a top-10 quarterback."
This should be one of the more interesting battles of training camp season.
Atlanta Falcons: Is Julio Jones Holding Out?
The Atlanta Falcons have one of the league's most potent offenses. They also have one of the NFL's most dangerous wide receivers in Julio Jones. But will he play?
While Jones has not said he plans to hold out for a new deal, he did stay away from organized team activities. NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported in May that Jones wants to "update" his deal.
One-time Atlanta star Michael Vick believes Jones is indeed attempting to leverage a new deal.
"To my knowledge, Julio is holding out for a bigger contract, and Julio deserves it," Vick said, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Julio and Matt [Ryan] are the ultimate combination. They just paid Matt, and I think Julio should get everything that he deserves, too."
Jones is the Falcons' biggest offensive weapon outside of Ryan. If this supposed contract conflict continues into training camp or the regular season, it would significantly weaken the offense.
Baltimore Ravens: QBs Already Trust Hayden Hurst
The Baltimore Ravens drafted former Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson in the first round, and at some point, he's going to take over for Joe Flacco. In the meantime, both quarterbacks have been learning to work with Baltimore's other first-round pick, tight end Hayden Hurst.
According to Hurst, both Flacco and Jackson are learning to trust the former South Carolina star.
"Both of those guys can throw it where they want it," Hurst said on SiriusXM Radio. "They'll put it up even when I'm not open, and they trust me to go make a play. And that's what I tell them I'm going to do: 'If you're ever in trouble, just put it up. I'm going to make a play for you guys.'"
Baltimore, which ranked just 29th in passing last season hasn't had many pass-catchers it can really rely on in recent seasons. Hurst may be able to buck that trend, regardless of who is under center.
Buffalo Bills: LeSean McCoy Situation Continues to Unfold
Unless you've been on a sabbatical from NFL news, you've heard about the situation involving Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy, his ex-girlfriend Delicia Cordon and the home invasion in which she was beaten.
According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, both the Bills and the NFL are looking into the matter.
If McCoy was involved in any way in the attack, his playing career would rightfully be over. However, this is far from a clear situation, and it's still developing.
While Cordon initially suggested in a 911 call that McCoy may have been behind the assault, her attorney, Tanya Mitchell Graham, told CBS News that Cordon is uncertain McCoy was involved.
This story is likely to envelop both McCoy and the Bills for the foreseeable future.
Carolina Panthers: Looking for a More Consistent Cam Newton
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is an intriguing player. He can play at an MVP-caliber level—he won the award in 2015—but he can be wildly inconsistent. He's only completed 60 percent of his passes once in his career and led a passing attack that ranked just 28th in the NFL last season.
The Panthers are hoping to get more out of Newton, which is why they brought in seasoned offensive coordinator Norv Turner this offseason. According to Turner, the key to unlocking Newton's potential will be getting him to play more consistently.
"What we're going to try to work hard for is eliminate the peaks and the valleys and try to, on a weekly basis, make it more consistent," Turner said on SiriusXM Radio. "And I think that'll help us, offensively, be more consistent and certainly will help him."
Newton is unquestionably one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL. If he can also become one of the most consistent, Carolina should be right back in the Super Bowl mix.
Chicago Bears: Prepared to Unleash Mitchell Trubisky
The Chicago Bears took a lot of steps to support second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky this offseason. They brought in pass-catchers Allen Robinson II, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton. They also brought in offensive mind Matt Nagy as head coach.
According to guard Kyle Long, however, the best thing the Bears have done is stop coddling the North Carolina product.
Long said the following on NFL Network (via NLF.com's Kevin Patra):
"I can only envision a 3-year-old Mitch Trubisky riding around on training wheels being pissed off because he wants to go over the jumps and he wants to do all the tricks like the big kids are doing. Because that's who Mitch is. He's a kid, but he can roll with the big guys. That's [what] he's going to do this [season], and be able to have some freedom and creativity. We really respect that about coach Nagy."
With the freedom to operate like a big-boy quarterback and with more talent around him, Trubisky is in prime position to make a second-year leap.
Cincinnati Bengals: Cedric Ogbuehi Feeling Comfortable at RT
The Cincinnati Bengals had an absolutely atrocious offensive line in 2017. Thankfully, they didn't stand pat during the offseason. The traded with the Bills for left tackle Cordy Glenn and drafted former Ohio State center Billy Price in Round 1.
Glenn's addition pushed 2015 first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi back to right tackle. Considering Ogbuehi was a liability during his time on the left side, this may be his best opportunity to avoid the dreaded "bust" label—according to Pro Football Focus, he allowed 78 pressures over the past two seasons.
Ogbuehi appears ready to seize that opportunity.
"Coming in at right, at a new position, I felt comfortable," Ogbuehi said, per Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Feeling comfortable is a big part of it. I played it. I know what to expect now. I know a lot; like what to do better than last time. I'm excited for the challenge. I'm excited for camp."
Hopefully for the Bengals, Ogbuehi and the line as a whole will both improve.
Cleveland Browns: Drew Stanton Happy to Be in Cleveland
Fans just don't get excited about third-string quarterbacks. However, Cleveland Browns fans should be thrilled to have 12th-year veteran Drew Stanton as theirs. The Michigan State product has a wealth of experience, knows how to win—he's 11-6 as a starter—and can be an ideal mentor.
That is important for Cleveland because the Browns have two new players ahead of Stanton on the depth chart. Tyrod Taylor has three years' starting experience but is still learning how to be a consistent winner. Baker Mayfield is a rookie.
Therefore it's a big deal to have a quarterback like Stanton on the roster, and it's important that he's happy to be in Cleveland.
"I did have choices, and I felt that this was the best choice. I am getting to the point in my career where I am looking for good situations," Stanton said, via the Browns' official website. "I have been fortunate to be around some really good organizations, and I felt like this was a great fit from top to bottom."
Stanton may not grab any headlines, but he's going to play a major role in training camp.
Dallas Cowboys: Randy Gregory May Be Back by Camp
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory was handed a minimum one-year suspension for missing a scheduled drug test last year. There's a chance that suspension will end before the Cowboys report to training camp.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported Gregory would apply for reinstatement in May.
According to 247Sports's Mike Fisher, a decision on Gregory's reinstatement should be coming soon and may result in the Nebraska product's return.
"A source close to Gregory tells me he believes there soon will be 'some good news to give,'" Fisher wrote.
Fisher isn't the only one who believes the NFL could rule in Gregory's favor. SB Nation Radio's Bobby Belt reported there is "growing confidence" Gregory will receive a favorable ruling.
The first step for Dallas will be getting Gregory back into the fold. The second will be figuring out how he can contribute to a defense that tied for 15th in sacks last season.
Denver Broncos: Case Keenum Preparing Like Peyton Manning
Quarterback Case Keenum showed last year he is capable of leading a team to the postseason. That is why the Denver Broncos signed him to a two-year, $36 million deal shortly after the start of free agency.
According to Broncos wideout Emmanuel Sanders, Keenum works like a quarterback who helped lead Denver all the way to the Super Bowl—twice. Sanders said the following, per BSN Denver's Zac Stevens:
"It's like when Peyton [Manning] rented out Duke University and we all went out there and threw. It's like during training camp when everybody's exhausted after practice, everybody wants to go in, Peyton's still out there throwing that extra five to ten balls that the rest of the NFL is probably not doing. That's what we're doing and that's the type of quarterback Case is. It's going to end up paying off for us."
The Broncos' quarterback situation has been a major weakness over the past couple of seasons, but if Keenum can be at least as reliable as Manning was in his final year, Denver could well return to playoff contention in 2018.
Detroit Lions: Ameer Abdullah Could Be Headed for Special Teams Role
Running back Ameer Abdullah hasn't quite lived up to expectations after he was a second-round pick in 2015. He has missed 16 games over the last two seasons, has averaged just 3.8 yards per carry for his career and hasn't been the kind of workhorse back the Detroit Lions have been missing.
Oh, and like every other back the Lions have had since 2013, Abdullah has never rushed for 100 yards in a game.
That is why Detroit brought in LeGarrette Blount and Kerryon Johnson. With receiving back Theo Riddick also in the group, Abdullah could be pushed from the offense toward special teams in training camp.
According to Chris Burke of The Athletic, Abdullah has been "splitting his time between offense and special teams, with a slight lean toward the latter."
Lions fans should be fine with that so long as the move means Detroit finally has a productive rushing attack.
Green Bay Packers: Facing Big Expectations
The Green Bay Packers had a disappointing season in 2017, in large part because of the collarbone injury that cost quarterback Aaron Rodgers nine games. With Rodgers healthy, things should be better.
However, some folks are going a little overboard when it comes to expectations for the coming season. James Jones and Maurice Jones-Drew of NFL Network wondered if Green Bay could go undefeated. Seriously.
Former quarterback and current analyst Tony Romo named the Packers as his NFC pick for Super Bowl LIII. Rodgers would prefer expectations to be a little more reasonable.
"I like to fly under the radar a little bit," he told NFL Network.
With a healthy Rodgers, the Packers aren't likely to fly under the radar often.
Houston Texans: Keke Coutee Making Noise
The Houston Texans used a fourth-round draft pick on former Texas Tech wide receiver Keke Coutee. It hasn't taken him long to generate buzz.
According to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, Coutee is working to usurp Braxton Miller as the team's slot receiver. Coutee has also caught the eye of one man who knows a little something about catching passes in Houston.
"To see the kid Keke, how he is and how much he can help them in the return game, great receiver," former Texans great Andre Johnson said, per Wilson. "So, they have a lot of talent in that room."
If Coutee proves to be a quality receiver as a rookie, it would be a major win for the Texans. They didn't hold a first- or second-round pick but may still have netted a weapon for second-year quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck Working with Receivers
The Indianapolis Colts' season will largely be determined by the health of quarterback Andrew Luck. It's going to take time for Luck, who missed all of last season following shoulder surgery, to get back into game shape, but the quarterback said he won't rush himself heading into the regular season.
"I'm convinced I'll be ready for training camp, but I'm not going out throwing 150 balls a day," Luck said, per Dave Calabro of WTHR.
While Luck won't risk another injury, he has gone back to Stanford to work with his Colts wideouts ahead of camp, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Colts wideout Chester Rogers all but confirmed it via Twitter.
"Next stop Stanford, CA," Rogers wrote.
The fact Luck is on pace to return by training camp is certainly a buzz-worthy development.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Blake Bortles Doesn't Listen to Criticism
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles has received his fair share of criticism since entering the NFL—from fans and media members alike. However, the Jaguars tuned out the noise and gave the Central Florida product a three-year, $54 million deal this offseason.
Bortles isn't allowing the criticism to get to him either.
"I have no problem with people critiquing me when I don't play good," Bortles told NFL Network. "It's never really bothered me. I love going to work every day. I love playing football. I love being in the locker room. So, why let something affect me that I have no control over?"
One thing Bortles has at least some control over is how he performs on the field. We've seen glimpses of greatness from him before—he had 35 touchdown passes in his sophomore season—and if he can eliminate mistakes, he'll be an above-average starter.
If Bortles can be an above-average starter, the criticism will die down, and the Jaguars will be an even tougher team to challenge.
Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes May Not Be an Immediate Star
The Kansas City Chiefs moved on from quarterback Alex Smith this offseason. In the process, they turned over the keys to 2017 first-round pick Patrick Mahomes.
The Texas Tech product performed respectably in his first NFL start, last season's finale against the Broncos. He completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 284 yards with one interception and delivered a win. While this performance didn't prompt the trading of Smith, it likely made Kansas City feel better about doing so.
While there is reason for optimism, not everyone believes Mahomes will be a star in his first year as a starter.
"It's hard not to get excited about what this offense can do when it's clicking," Will Brinson of CBSSports.com wrote. "But the reality is Mahomes might struggle to acclimate to life as a starter."
USA Today's Steven Ruiz had a similar outlook.
"Moving on from Smith was 100 percent the correct move for Kansas City," Ruiz wrote. "That doesn’t mean it will make the Chiefs a better football team in 2018. They are going from one of the smarter QBs in the league to one with only a year of experience in a pro-style offense."
Smith will be a tough act to follow, and Mahomes' continued development will undoubtedly be one of the most important storylines of Chiefs camp.
Los Angeles Chargers: Mike Williams Eager to Prove Himself
The Los Angeles Chargers used the seventh overall pick on former Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams last offseason, but they didn't get much in return for their investment. Williams suffered a back injury before the season started, didn't appear in a game until Week 6, hurt his knee and finished the year with just 11 receptions for 95 yards.
Heading into training camp, Williams is looking to show the Chargers they didn't make a mistake.
"I'm excited about this year to not only prove to everybody else, but prove to myself that I know who I am and what I can be," Williams said, via the Chargers' official website. "I'm real confident in my abilities. I wasn't capable of doing what I can do last year because of the injury. This offseason, I feel 100 percent. I'm ready to go out there and dominate."
The Chargers certainly hope to see more of the dominant receiver Williams was at Clemson.
Los Angeles Rams: Preparing for Jamon Brown's Suspension
Los Angeles Rams guard Jamon Brown was issued a two-game suspension earlier this month for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
It was a blow to an offensive line that had five consistent starters and helped running back Todd Gurley II become an MVP candidate last season. The offense will obviously have to adjust, but players like Gurley believe Brown can come back a better player.
"Always want a starter out there, but hopefully that will be some motivation," Gurley said, per Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times. "A lot of guys put themselves in a bad position, but it kind of makes a player come back even hungrier to be able to prove to his team and his coaches, so he'll be fine."
The Rams will face off against the Oakland Raiders and Cardinals in the first two weeks of the season.
Miami Dolphins: Frank Gore, Others Grinding Through Offseason
When training camps open, the Miami Dolphins should expect a few of their players to report close to playing shape.
While plenty of NFLers have surely been enjoying their off time following OTAs, Frank Gore, Albert Wilson, Davon Godchaux, Charles Harris and Isaac Asiata have been hard at work.
Gore, the 14th-veteran who signed this offseason, has been particularly impressive.
"What's most amazing is he has such [a] hard, strong work ethic," trainer Joe Ferrer said, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. "He's not going half speed ever. He motivates the other guys if they half-ass a rep. He's a good team guy."
That team-first attitude and work ethic is precisely why the Dolphins were eager to add Gore in the offseason.
Minnesota Vikings: Kirk Cousins Is Ready to Be a Franchise Quarterback
Keenum helped the Minnesota Vikings reach the NFC Championship Game in 2017, but Minnesota clearly didn't feel Keenum was franchise quarterback material. It allowed him to join the Broncos and instead inked Kirk Cousins to an unprecedented three-year, $84 million deal that is fully guaranteed.
While Cousins' contract may well change the way NFL pacts are composed, he isn't in Minnesota just to make a buck. He's going to be counted on to be the face of the franchise.
"I think you have to understand I wasn't brought here to just be OK and just kind of exist," Cousins said, per Bleacher Report's Dan Pompei. "I was brought here to produce and win football games and impact the city and the organization in a really strong way."
Cousins' contract may only cover three years, but if he can positively impact the organization, he will likely become a Minnesota mainstay.
New England Patriots: Is Rob Gronkowski Still Available in a Trade?
Tight end Rob Gronkowski is both one of the NFL's biggest stars and one of the New England Patriots' biggest weapons. However, it appears New England has at least considered parting ways with him this offseason.
Last month, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported New England called teams a few days before the draft in order to gauge trade interest in Gronkowski. Nothing materialized, but that doesn't mean the Patriots have slammed the door on a possible deal.
Some believe Gronkowski can still be had.
"Where's the restructure of his contract?" one AFC personnel executive told Greg A. Bedard of Boston Sports Journal (h/t NESN's Dakota Randall). "Until that's done, I think he's still available."
While New England doesn't appear to be actively shopping Gronk, the possibility he could be on the move will remain until he signs a new deal or we reach the trade deadline.
New Orleans Saints: Rookies of the Year Looking to Build on Standout Campaigns
The New Orleans Saints had a strong 2017 campaign and were within one play of reaching the NFC title game. A big part of the team's success was the rookie performances of running back Alvin Kamara and cornerback Marshon Lattimore.
Kamara and Lattimore were named Offensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Rookie of the Year, respectively.
Saints fans should be happy that neither player is heading into camp willing to rest on his laurels.
"We talk about it all the time—we're just trying to be the best," Lattimore said, per Bryant Crews of the Daily Advertiser. "We won Rookie of the Year; now we're trying to win Defensive Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year."
If Kamara and Lattimore can build on what they accomplished, New Orleans will have a good chance of going a step further in the postseason.
New York Giants: Odell Beckham Jr. Looking Like 'Old Self'
The New York Giants had a disastrous 2017 season, and a big part of the problem was the absence of star wideout Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham, who made the Pro Bowl in each of his first three NFL seasons, suffered a fractured ankle in Week 5 and missed the remainder of the season. While the hope is that Beckham will be the same guy he was before the injury, he was limited during OTAs.
More recently, however, Beckham and other Giants skill players gathered to work out in California. According to tight end Evan Engram, Beckham is close to being back to 100 percent.
"He looks really good," Engram said, per Zach Braziller of the New York Post. "He's running all his routes, making all his breaks, making all the cuts. He's getting his confidence back. Definitely he looks like his old self."
The Giants—not to mention plenty of football fans—will be thrilled to see Beckham back on the field this season.
New York Jets: Terrelle Pryor Gearing Up for Training Camp
Former quarterback Terrelle Pryor shined in his first full season as a wide receiver, catching 77 passes for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns in 2016. Last season with the Washington Redskins, however, injuries and a lack of offensive chemistry limited him to nine games, 20 receptions, 240 yards and one score.
The New York Jets took a chance on Pryor this offseason, hoping he could be more like the player he was two years ago.
Pryor underwent ankle surgery in the spring but said he's healthy and ready to compete for a significant role in camp.
"Right now I'm healthy, and I'm ready to get back to form and have a dominant year," Pryor said, per Brian Costello of the Post.
If Pryor can again be a 1,000-yard receiver, his $4.5 million salary will look like a bargain.
Oakland Raiders: Jon Gruden Challenging Veterans, Rookies Alike
The Raiders took a step back in 2017, dropping from 12 wins the season prior to just six and missing the playoffs. It was a year that came with expectations, and Oakland failed to meet them in a big way.
New head coach Jon Gruden, who won Super Bowl XXXVII, joined the Raiders with some expectations of his own. While he won't yield any tangible results until at least September, Gruden is challenging his players to head into training camp better than they were last season.
"I challenged our draft picks, rookies, all of them," Gruden said, per Anthony Galaviz of the Fresno Bee. "I challenged really the last three draft classes. We need to get more out of our young players here."
Gruden also challenged his veterans.
"If the young guys don't start following you guys, you'll be playing in all four preseason games," he said.
If Gruden can motivate the Raiders, it could give Oakland a new mentality and a new outlook for 2018, which may be all the team needs to rebound.
Philadelphia Eagles: Preparing to Be the Hunted
The Philadelphia Eagles are the defending Super Bowl champions. That means the 2018 season is going to carry some mighty high expectations—especially if quarterback Carson Wentz is back to 100 percent sooner than later. It also means Philadelphia is going to get the best shot of every team it faces.
According to head coach Doug Pederson, that won't put too much pressure on the Eagles.
"Now we've got the targets on our backs, and we're going to embrace that and get ready this training camp, and we are going to try to defend," Pederson told Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia. "But at the same time, we're going to take it one week at a time and build the season just like we did last year."
If the Eagles have success again in 2018, it will come as a surprise to former Giants head coach Ben McAdoo.
"How much success has Philly had?" McAdoo said, per Paul Schwartz of the Post. "I think they're gonna have a hard time handling success."
Heading into camp, the Eagles have to be focused on proving McAdoo and other doubters wrong.
Pittsburgh Steelers: T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree Set to Switch Sides
The Pittsburgh Steelers have been searching for a way to mitigate the loss of injured linebacker Ryan Shazier. One experiment defensive coordinator Keith Butler has undertaken this offseason is swapping linebackers T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree.
As Bob Labriola of the Steelers' official website noted, that should help increase the effectiveness of the defense's second level, which Shazier once dominated.
"Dupree plays at 270 pounds, which to me seems to make him better suited to be working along the line of scrimmage and attacking the backfield," Labriola wrote. "Watt is close to 250 pounds, and based on the plays he made in space last season as a rookie, he seems to have an aptitude for playing in space."
Watt was often used as an edge-rusher in 2017, but he also played well as an off-ball linebacker—he had seven passes defended and an interception. While he won't be able to completely replace the speed and range of Shazier, playing off the ball more should help push the defense in the right direction.
San Francisco 49ers: Jimmy Garoppolo Draws a Lot of Attention
There were reasons to wonder if the San Francisco 49ers made the right decision in using a second-round pick to acquire quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. He had just two starts under his belt, and we've seen plenty of former Tom Brady backups fall flat with other teams.
So far, though, Garoppolo looks like the real deal. He completed 67.4 percent of his passes and posted a passer rating of 96.2 last season.
According to NBC Sports' Peter King, Garoppolo's success is a product of his pro upbringing.
"You're drafted by the Patriots," King said on the Murph and Mac Podcast. "You're in a quarterback room with Tom Brady. You're being coached every day by Josh McDaniels. You go sit in the team meetings and listen to Bill Belichick. ... You do that for three-and-a-half years, and then you go to a guy [Kyle Shanahan] who is as imaginative."
Plenty of people—not just those in San Francisco—will be eager to see if Garoppolo emerges as an elite signal-caller in his first full season as a starter.
"I don't want to overstate this," King said. "He's the most compelling story in the NFL this year."
Seattle Seahawks: Can Germain Ifedi Take That Next Step?
The Seattle Seahawks offensive line has been a mess for several seasons now. Seattle drafted former Texas A&M offensive tackle Germain Ifedi in the first round in 2016, hoping to help remedy the situation. But Ifedi has largely been a disappointment and is beginning to look like a bust.
According to former Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril, the problem isn't one of talent; it's one of attitude.
"Most players nowadays, they have this attitude of feeling like everything should be given to them," Avril said on Cliff and Puck. "That's what his approach has been the past few years, and I think that's why he hasn't taken that next step."
Seattle replaced longtime offensive line coach Tom Cable with Mike Solari this offseason. It would further boost the unit if Ifedi can take that next step and live up to expectations.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Running Game Not Expected to Take Leap
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had one of the league's worst rushing attacks in 2017, finishing tied for 27th. That is why they parted with Doug Martin, who averaged just 2.9 yards per carry and used a second-round pick on former USC back Ronald Jones.
Not everyone is convinced the changes will boost the running game. ESPN.com's Mike Clay ranked the Buccaneers backfield 27th and predicted Jones won't be an every-down back.
"His 5'11", 205-pound frame suggests he won't be called on for workhorse duties," Clay wrote. "Instead, expect passing-down specialist [Charles] Sims (career 9.2 yards per reception), [Peyton] Barber (3.9 yards per carry last season) and perhaps Jacquizz Rodgers to factor in."
The Buccaneers have to hope Clay is wrong in his assessment and that Jones can be the piece that helps the running game break through.
Tennessee Titans: Derrick Henry to Be Lead Back
The Tennessee Titans parted with DeMarco Murray and inked former Patriots back Dion Lewis to a four-year, $19.8 million deal this offseason. However, Lewis won't replace Murray as Tennessee's starting running back.
The starting gig, according to Jim Wyatt of the Titans' official website, will go to 2015 Heisman Trophy winner and 2016 second-round pick Derrick Henry.
"The plan is for him to be the lead back," Wyatt wrote. "He's proven to be a strong and durable runner, but he's also focused on getting better as a pass-catcher and in pass protection."
Heading into camp, it appears Henry will be the Titans' primary ball-carrier. He'll be the bruiser between the tackles on early downs, while the versatile Lewis will be Tennessee's change-of-pace and receiving back.
Washington Redskins: Adonis Alexander Joins Familiar Faces
The Redskins had a solid pass defense in 2017—ranking ninth in the NFL—and it may have gotten even better through the supplemental draft. Washington used a 2019 sixth-round pick to grab former Virginia Tech cornerback Adonis Alexander.
Alexander has good size (6'3", 207 lbs) and the flexibility to play either cornerback or safety. He was available because he was ruled academically ineligible for the 2018 season. However, his new team won't be completely foreign to him.
Washington drafted fellow Hokies Tim Settle and Greg Stroman in April. Redskins defensive backs coach Torrian Gray also spent a decade at Virginia Tech. Alexander seems to believe the familiar faces will be a boon to him in his rookie season.
"Coach Gray knows exactly how to coach me," he said, via the Redskins' official website. "With my teammates, they have been around me. They know exactly the type of person I am."
Washington hopes Alexander can be a lock-down defensive back.