The Biggest Standout of Every NFL Team's Offseason so Far

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJune 24, 2019

The Biggest Standout of Every NFL Team's Offseason so Far

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    The National Football League is in the midst of its dreaded dead zone. Most training camps aren't slated to start until late July—though some teams will have rookies report in mid-July—so there isn't a lot of meaningful action going on, even on the practice field.

    Of course, this offseason lull provides a perfect opportunity to take stock of how players have performed in the early offseason. While some players have struggled to provide a spark, others have stood out in a more positive way.

    We're going to focus on the latter group here—you know, that offseason optimism and all. While a lot is likely to change once the pads go on and the intensity of training camp rises, these are the players who have stood out the most in the 2019 offseason so far.

Arizona Cardinals: QB Kyler Murray

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    The fact that Kyler Murray has been the top standout for the Arizona Cardinals this offseason shouldn't come as a shock. The former Oklahoma star was the most dynamic quarterback in the 2019 draft and is now the most important player on Arizona's roster.

    Through organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamps, Murray has flashed his unique physical talents and high football IQ.

    "Everything that I heard, he's lives up to," offensive lineman Justin Pugh said, per Josh Weinfuss of "And I've heard a lot of good things, so it's been great so far."

    What should really excite Cardinals fans is the fact that Murray appears on track to start in Week 1.

    "The first thing that pops out to you, how intelligent he is," wideout Larry Fitzgerald said, via the team's official website. "He knows the system better than we do."

    Murray has been one of the biggest standouts of any team this offseason.

Atlanta Falcons: WR Calvin Ridley

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    The Atlanta Falcons have arguably the best wide receiver in the league in Julio Jones. If 2018 first-round pick Calvin Ridley is able to build off his impressive rookie season (821 yards, 10 touchdowns), the Falcons could also have the top wideout duo.

    Fortunately for the Falcons, Ridley has been hard at work to improve heading into his second campaign. His strong work ethic has drawn the attention of the coaching staff.

    "He's somebody that always does the hard things," head coach Dan Quinn said during OTAs, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "He's always down to compete. He's always down to fight to get better."

    Ridley's hard work has him in the spotlight now, and it should have him in the spotlight often during the regular season.

Baltimore Ravens: S Earl Thomas

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    Safety Earl Thomas has typically been a standout player during his NFL career. Given the fact that he's coming off a broken leg and is new to the Baltimore Ravens, though, there was never a guarantee that he'd immediately be an offseason standout.

    Fortunately for Baltimore, he has.

    "He has looked determined," head coach John Harbaugh said, per Todd Karpovich of "He looks like he understands the defense. ... He looks crisp and sharp. He has been moving really well. He looks really good to me. I’m really excited about him."

    Thomas was one of the biggest offseason acquisitions for any team this offseason, and he appears poised to make an immediate impact for the Ravens.

Buffalo Bills: QB Josh Allen

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    The Buffalo Bills are hoping to see an improved Josh Allen under center in 2019. Though Allen showed plenty of physical potential as a rookie—both running and passing the ball—he did struggle with accuracy and with some of the nuances of the pro game.

    Allen, of course, wasn't expected to be pro-ready immediately.

    The good news is that Allen is using his second offseason to make strides as a professional quarterback. Those strides have stood out in Buffalo.

    "Josh has been great," quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey said, via the team's official website. "Obviously, he's got all of those physical tools that everybody talks about. But the thing I've been really impressed with is just the intelligence—how smart he is. Very intelligent-hard worker, studies the game, puts in a lot of time. And a great leader."

    It appears that the Bills will indeed see an improved Allen in 2019.

Carolina Panthers: WR Curtis Samuel

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    Wideout Curtis Samuel finally began to emerge as a legitimate threat for the Carolina Panthers last season—he finished with 494 yards and five touchdowns. He's shown even more improvement this offseason, which has stood out to star running back Christian McCaffrey.

    "He's obviously a heck of a physical talent," McCaffrey said, per Steven Taranto of 247Sports. "Seeing him develop, learning where to sit in certain zones, getting in and out of cuts, catching the football—the sky's the limit for him."

    The Panthers, who parted with Devin Funchess in the offseason, need Samuel to emerge as one of their top receiving options in 2019. Based on the early offseason, he's poised to do exactly that. 

Chicago Bears: WR Javon Wims

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    With guys like Allen Robinson II, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton on the roster, the Chicago Bears aren't exactly hurting for weapons in the passing game. This doesn't mean, however, that they don't have room for a young player to emerge.

    This is good because emerging is exactly what second-year receiver Javon Wims is doing this offseason.

    "This game is about opportunities, and he’s got a great opportunity in front of him," head coach Matt Nagy said, per The Athletic's Adam Jahns. "Javon is a guy who knows all of our positions. He’s smart. He’s got great hands, and you saw last year at the end of that Minnesota Vikings game, he made some big catches."

    Don't be surprised if an improved Wims adds another element to the Chicago passing attack in 2019.

Cincinnati Bengals: CB B.W. Webb

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    The Cincinnati Bengals were relatively quiet during free agency this offseason. However, one under-the-radar addition could prove to be a valuable piece.

    Based on the early offseason, cornerback B.W. Webb is looking like he'll be a regular contributor to Cincinnati's defense.

    "He sets a great example, sets a good standard for the other guys on the other side of the ball and this is what it should look like, this is what we want," head coach Zac Taylor said, per Fletcher Page of the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Happy with the way he’s playing right now." 

    The signing of Webb was one of the quieter moves of the offseason, but it could be a huge one.

Cleveland Browns: RB Dontrell Hilliard

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    Given Duke Johnson's ongoing desire to be traded and the fact that Kareem Hunt will be suspended for eight games, the Cleveland Browns could need a back to complement Nick Chubb this season.

    The good news is that second-year man Dontrell Hilliard is looking like he can be that back.

    "I think what he has to understand is that he has to believe in himself as much as we believe in him," head coach Freddie Kitchens said, via the team's official website. "Now, he's getting an opportunity. This is huge for him, and he's having one heck of a spring training camp."

    A lot has been made about Cleveland's new-look receiving corps this offseason, but if Hilliard is as good as he's been in the offseason, the Browns are just as loaded at running back.

Dallas Cowboys: WR Randall Cobb

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    The Dallas Cowboys already have a No. 1 receiver in Amari Cooper. They added Randall Cobb in the offseason to be their No. 2. Based on the early offseason, that decision is looking like a smart one.

    "I don't think he's lost a step," wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal said, per Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News. "[Cobb] has a chip on his shoulder cuz people think he's washed up. Those are his words. So, he did great all offseason."

    Cobb had just 38 receptions and 383 yards for the Green Bay Packers in 2018, but he could be much more productive as the Cowboys' second option this coming season.

Denver Broncos: LB Bradley Chubb

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    Denver Broncos edge-rusher Bradley Chubb was fantastic as a rookie. Though it's fair to say he was helped by playing opposite Von Miller, Chubb's 12.0 sacks were impressive. Based on the early offseason, he could be even more dangerous in his second year.

    Miller has lauded the way Chubb has been working this offseason.

    "He's worked extremely hard this offseason," Miller said, via the team's official website. "His moves, I don't want to give away his secrets and what he's got coming this season. He's been working on some particular moves and they're going to do a lot for him this year."

    If new quarterback Joe Flacco and the Denver offense regularly produce points this year, Miller and Chubb should both have opportunities to improve upon their 2018 sack totals.

Detroit Lions: LB Jahlani Tavai

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    The Detroit Lions' selection of former Hawaii linebacker Jahlani Tavai in the second round of the draft turned plenty of heads. He wasn't widely considered one of the top linebacker prospects in the draft, but now we're beginning to get an idea of why Detroit was higher on him than most.

    Tavai is a big, physical and versatile linebacker, which is something head coach Matt Patricia loves to have in his defenses. Because of his versatility, Tavai has stood out in the early offseason.

    "Sure enough, Tavai was used all over the box to bring the heat during OTAs and minicamp," Kyle Meinke of MLive wrote. "I don't have a great feel yet for exactly what we'll see from Tavai in the fall. But from what I saw during spring practices, he'll be used in a variety of ways, perhaps immediately."

    With Tavai and offseason acquisition Trey Flowers now in the fold, Patricia should be able to implement the kind of playoff-caliber defense he was known for with the New England Patriots.

Green Bay Packers: WR Jake Kumerow

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    Wideout Jake Kumerow was one of the stars of the Packers' 2018 preseason, but he was placed on injured reserve before the start of the regular season. He did return late in the year to catch eight passes for 103 yards and a touchdown.

    This offseason, Kumerow is standing out, earning the trust of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and potentially working his way into a significant offensive role.

    "Just little things that he does—I think almost innately—that separates him from a guy you might not trust as much because you know the guy is going to do it right," Rodgers said, per Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal. "He’s always going to be in the right spot."

    If Rodgers is learning to trust Kumerow, fans can probably trust that he'll be a reliable piece of the passing attack in 2019.

Houston Texans: RB D'Onta Foreman

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    Houston Texans running back D'Onta Foreman didn't play a significant role in 2018 because he began the season on the PUP list with a torn Achilles. However, he's now back to 100 percent and has been standing out in the offseason.

    "I think he's been doing a great job," fellow running back Lamar Miller said, per Mark Lane of Texans Wire. "He came back in great shape. He got leaner. He came with a different approach this year. Missing all of last year, so now heading into his third year, he's very comfortable with the offense."

    Expect the Texans to utilize both Miller and Foreman on the ground this season in an effort to take some pressure off quarterback Deshaun Watson, who was sacked 62 times in 2018.

Indianapolis Colts: WR Parris Campbell

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    The Indianapolis Colts selected former Ohio State wideout Parris Campbell in the second round of April's draft. The shifty speedster should add another explosive element to Indianapolis' passing attack, but for him to do so as a rookie will require a quick transition to the pro game.

    While Campbell hasn't gotten a taste of game action yet, he's managed to stand out by quickly absorbing everything the Colts have thrown at him in the offseason.

    "Parris is picking it up very quickly and he's picking up the techniques that we are asking him to do quickly," offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni said, per Kevin Hickey of Colts Wire. "He is having a good OTA, minicamp session."

    Alongside fellow deep threat T.Y. Hilton, Campbell should help give Indianapolis one of the most explosive deep-passing attacks in the league this season.

Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Chris Conley

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    The Jacksonville Jaguars added quarterback Nick Foles this offseason in an effort to spark their passing attack. Foles, the Super Bowl LII MVP, will make an impact. It's looking like fellow offseason acquisition Chris Conley will help him do so.

    Conley has stood out as a big receiving threat in early offseason workouts.

    "Chris Conley always seems to find the open areas in the defensive coverage. He's had a strong week catching the football," John Reid of the Florida Times-Union wrote in May.

    Conley was often overshadowed in the Kansas City Chiefs offense, but he'll have the opportunity to break out in Jacksonville.

Kansas City Chiefs: LB Anthony Hitchens

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    The Kansas City Chiefs are transitioning to a 4-3-based defense under new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo this year. Thanks to the offseason efforts of linebacker Anthony Hitchens, the transition may go relatively smoothly.

    "Hitchens is unbelievable," head coach Andy Reid said, per Pete Sweeney of Arrowhead Pride. "Hitchens kind of keeps everybody intact. You like to have that guy, just like we were talking about with Austin [Reiter], he’s your transmitter from the back end to the front end. Those guys become important."

    Hitchens, who played in a 4-3 base with the Cowboys, is proving to be a player the defense can lean on during the learning process. He'll likely be a player the defense leans on early and often once the regular season finally arrives as well.

Los Angeles Chargers: CB Trevor Williams

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    Cornerback Trevor Williams started 22 games for the Los Angeles Chargers over the last two seasons. However, he only made nine appearances in 2018 before landing on injured reserve with a knee injury.

    Fortunately, Williams is again healthy and has been standing out in the offseason.

    "I have to tell you, Trevor looks outstanding," head coach Anthony Lynn said, via the team's official website. "His confidence is back. He's playing like it in practice. His change-of-direction is night and day."

    As long as Williams continues to get healthier and continues to improve on the practice field, he'll likely pick up where he left off as one of L.A.'s starting corners.

Los Angeles Rams: TE Gerald Everett

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    The Los Angeles Rams didn't heavily utilize their tight ends last season, due in large part to the talent they had at wide receiver. However, Gerald Everett, who had 320 yards and three touchdowns in 2018, could force the Rams to look to the tight end more this year.

    Everett has shown improvement this offseason and is standing out because of it.

    "I think the game's slowing down for him," head coach Sean McVay said, via the team's official website. "I think with some of the routes that entail some of the decision-making things are slowing down for him. He's playing with some patience."

    If Everett can emerge as a quality receiving option this season, the Rams passing attack is going to be that much tougher to defend.

Miami Dolphins: WR DeVante Parker

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    Wide receiver DeVante Parker has struggled to live up to his first-round-pick status with the Miami Dolphins. Could this year finally be the year in which he puts everything together?

    If the early offseason is any indication, it just might be.

    "He’s done a nice job," quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said of Parker, per Adam H. Beasley of the Miami Herald. "Attention to detail. He does a good job tracking the ball, has a nice catching radius. He’s a big, physical guy, and he has been impressive thus far."

    The Dolphins need Parker to continue improving throughout training camp because he's their best chance of having a No. 1 receiver this season.

Minnesota Vikings: WR Chad Beebe

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    The Minnesota Vikings have arguably the best wide receiver duo in the NFL in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. What they've lacked over the past couple seasons is a reliable third receiver. However, that could be changing thanks to the offseason emergence of wideout Chad Bebee.

    "[Beebe] has probably had as good an offseason as any player that I know on our side of the ball," assistant head coach Gary Kubiak said, per Andre Krammer of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "He’s got a chance to be a really good player for us. It gives us good flexibility to be able to bounce around personnel-wise."

    Beebe was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Northern Illinois last offseason. Though he only had four receptions as a rookie, he could be in line for much, much more production in his sophomore campaign.

New England Patriots: LB Jamie Collins

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    The Patriots traded linebacker Jamie Collins to the Browns in 2016. At the time, it felt like New England no longer had a place for him on its defense, but the Patriots brought Collins back this offseason.

    As things stand, it's looking like Collins won't just have a place on the defense; he'll be a key piece of it.

    ESPN's Mike Reiss described Collins as "active and looking like a key cog" during minicamp.

    Collins is educated on what it takes to be a critical member of the Patriots defense. This has allowed him to stand out even after only recently rejoining the team, and it should allow him to regularly be in the spotlight once meaningful games are underway.

New Orleans Saints: C Erik McCoy

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    The New Orleans Saints lost center Max Unger to retirement this offseason, which left a big hole along the offensive line. New Orleans added Nick Easton to help replace him, but rookie second-round pick Erik McCoy may already be passing the veteran on the depth chart.

    McCoy has stood out to this point.

    "He's exceptionally smart. He picks things up well. He's a strong player," head coach Sean Payton said, via the team's official website.

    At the very least, McCoy appears poised to provide strong competition at the center position in training camp. While he likely won't be as good as Unger, a three-time Pro Bowler, right out of the gate, he could be the Saints' long-term solution at center.

New York Giants: WR Darius Slayton

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    The New York Giants are going to miss having the playmaking ability of a top-tier receiver like Odell Beckham Jr. this season. However, this doesn't mean they won't still field a quality receiving corps. With Sterling Shepard and offseason acquisition Golden Tate on the roster, the Giants should have plenty of options in the passing game.

    Rookie wideout Darius Slayton appears in line to be one of those options. The speedy receiver out of Auburn has steadily improved throughout the offseason and has worked his way into opportunities with the first-team offense.

    "Darius has done a really good job," head coach Pat Shurmur said, per Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News. "I think he is the most improved in my eyes."

    If he continues improving through training camp, Slayton should be a notable piece of New York's passing attack in 2019.

New York Jets: QB Sam Darnold

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    Not every player on this list has stood out because of what they've physically done during the offseason. New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, for example, has been a standout because of the mental maturity he's flashed during workouts, as SNY's Ralph Vacchiano explained:

    "What's impressed [head coach Adam] Gase is how much Darnold has learned from last year—mistakes he made in the past that he doesn't make now, or things that he suddenly knows he needs to do. Darnold has also impressed his coach with how fast he's picked up a new playbook and scheme. It can't be easy for a young quarterback to learn his second NFL scheme in his second NFL year."

    Darnold showed plenty of potential as a rookie, but he also had a habit of making bad decisions and turning the ball over (15 interceptions, 5 fumbles). Simply correcting these mistakes should have him on his way to being a legitimate franchise quarterback.

Oakland Raiders: TE Darren Waller

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    The Oakland Raiders lost Pro Bowl tight end Jared Cook in free agency. However, they may not miss him, if the early offseason is any indication. Darren Waller, who had just six receptions last season, has impressed teammates and appears ready to pick up where Cook left off.

    "Darren has the skill set, he has the want-to, he has the aggression to do it, now he just has to go do it," quarterback Derek Carr said, per Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area. "I'm really excited about him. Darren Waller is super, super fast, if I'm being real, and he works his tail off."

    Waller spent four years with the Ravens before landing in Oakland last year, and he has just 18 career receptions. Given the defensive attention that Antonio Brown and Ty Williams will draw this season, though, he could top that total within the first few weeks.

Philadelphia Eagles: TE Dallas Goedert

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    Zach Ertz is an offensive standout for the Philadelphia Eagles and one of the best tight ends in the NFL. However, teams focusing heavily on stopping him in 2019 could get burned by second-year tight end Dallas Goedert.

    Goedert showed plenty of playmaking potential as a rookie, catching 33 passes for 334 yards and four touchdowns. If the early offseason is any indication, however, he's going to be even more dangerous in his second season.

    "Dallas impressed me," safety Trey Sullivan said, per The Athletic's Bo Wulf. "I mean, we already knew he was a good player, good red-zone target, but, you know, he’s just opening his game as an overall tight end."

    With improvements from Goedert and the addition of receivers DeSean Jackson and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, the Eagles could end up with one of the best receiving corps in all of football this season.

Pittsburgh Steelers: LB Devin Bush

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers moved up in the first round to select former Michigan linebacker Devin Bush. They did so for two primary reasons. For one, they wanted get in front of the Bengals to ensure Cincinnati couldn't land Bush. Secondly, they believe that Bush, who racked up 79 tackles and 5.0 sacks last season, can replace Ryan Shazier in the middle of their defense.

    This offseason, Bush has been as good as advertised.

    "He showed really quickly he’s going to be able to fit in well with the defense with that group of guys," tight end Vance McDonald said, per Jeremy Fowler of "When you look at him, you don’t expect him to be as quick or as agile as he is."

    The Steelers missed the speed and sideline-to-sideline ability of Shazier in a big way last season. It's looking like Bush will indeed fill the enormous void at inside linebacker sooner than later.

San Francisco 49ers: WR Trent Taylor

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    San Francisco 49ers wideout Trent Taylor was impressive as a rookie in 2017, catching 43 passes for 430 yards and a touchdown. However, he was limited last season while recovering from back surgery, and he finished with just 215 yards and a score.

    Now fully healthy, Taylor is working his way back to rookie form and has stood out in the early offseason.

    "It’s awesome for Trent to be healthy. It’s been a grind for him to get back, so super happy and proud for him," quarterback Nick Mullens said, per Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports Bay Area. "He’s definitely let people know Trent’s back this year during camp."

    If Taylor continues to improve this offseason, San Francisco could have quite an intriguing young receiver group on its hands. Dante Pettis showed flashes as a rookie last season, and the 49ers added Jalen Hurd and Deebo Samuel during the draft.

Seattle Seahawks: LB Cody Barton

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    Rookie third-round pick Cody Barton has gotten some opportunities with the Seattle Seahawks first-team defense this offseason with Bobby Wagner out. He's used those opportunities to stand out, as ESPN's Brady Henderson noted.

    "He was everywhere in team drills yesterday," Henderson wrote on Twitter in May. "Was watching next to Brock Huard and his well-trained eyes saw the same. Barton is in a perfect spot w/ Bobby Wagner there but not practicing. Gets to take first-team reps while soaking up info from an All-Pro."

    While Barton may only be a depth player to start his Seahawks career, he's looking like a guy who will contribute sooner than later.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: LB Devin White

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    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers used the fifth overall pick in the draft on former LSU inside linebacker Devin White. That's traditionally been high for an off-ball linebacker. However, in today's NFL, linebackers who can cover and tackle from sideline to sideline are coveted.

    This is exactly the kind of defender the Buccaneers hope to have in White, and it's the kind of defender White has appeared to be during the offseason. His talent and potential have been a big highlight, as Carmen Vitali of the team's official website noted.

    "White snared an interception in the very first OTA and then seemingly got his hands on at least one pass every day that week," Vitali wrote. "It was a very fast and very encouraging start for a young player the Buccaneers are going to count on immediately to produce big plays."

    Defense was a major issue for the Buccaneers in 2018, as the team allowed 383.4 yards per game (27th). White should provide an immediate boost on that side of the ball, similar to the sort of impact linebackers Darius Leonard and Leighton Vander Esch had last season for the Colts and Cowboys, respectively.

Tennessee Titans: WR Tajae Sharpe

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    The Tennessee Titans are hoping to get more out of quarterback Marcus Mariota this season. That's one of the reasons they added Adam Humphries and A.J. Brown in the offseason. The potential of third-year receiver Tajae Sharpe shouldn't be overlooked as the Titans try to provide Mariota with weapons.

    According to Jim Wyatt of the team's official website, Sharpe has regularly stood out during early offseason practices.

    "Sharpe has looked good in several OTAs this offseason," Wyatt wrote.

    Sharpe provided just 838 yards and four touchdowns in his first two seasons, but he could emerge as more of a regular contributor this season.

Washington Redskins: WR Trey Quinn

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    Plenty has been made this offseason about the Washington Redskins and their underwhelming receiving corps. Josh Doctson led all wideouts with just 532 yards receiving last season, and Washington did little to upgrade its receiver room outside of drafting Terry McLaurin in the third round.

    This could make things tough on rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins if he is given the starting nod in 2019. However, things may not be as dire as they appear on the surface. Based on the early offseason, Washington could have a rising receiver on its hands in the form of second-year wideout Trey Quinn.

    "Trey Quinn has taken over the inside slot role," head coach Jay Gruden said during minicamp, per JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington. 
"He’s confident, he’s quick, he’s got strong hands, he’s physical, [and] he’s tough."

    Quinn had just nine receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown as a rookie, but he should be in line for a much larger role in his sophomore campaign.