Buying or Selling NFL's Latest Training Camp Buzz, Rumors

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistAugust 11, 2020

Buying or Selling NFL's Latest Training Camp Buzz, Rumors

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    NFL training camps might be unorthodox this year, but that hasn't stopped buzz from each of the 32 teams.

    While players won't don pads until mid-August and the preseason was canceled outright, comments from coaches and players, as well as footage, reports and rumors, paint an interesting picture of buzz early in the training camp process.

    Whether it's players who are hoping for a Super Bowl, rumors of free-agency additions or potential leaps for big names, the camp mill is one thing onlookers can count on to remain the same.

    Here's a look at the biggest buzz from the early portions of camp with a verdict for each.

Fresh Start for Saquon Barkley, Giants

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    Saquon Barkley and the New York Giants want to sell a fresh start under the guidance of new head coach Joe Judge.

    But the reality might be a little more complicated.

    Still, Barkley made the case to reporters.

    "What tells me this could be different? One, it's a brand-new year. It's a fresh start," the running back said. "From what I have seen in these first couple of days is we are steps ahead, in my opinion. We are coming in, we're locked in. Are mistakes being made, yes, that's part of the nature of learning a system and learning a new offense."

    A fresh start might not mean a great start, though, as implementing a new system isn't a quick process, especially during this odd offseason. Complicating matters is the opt-out of star left tackle Nate Solder, meaning some combination of veteran Cameron Fleming, first-round pick Andrew Thomas and third-round pick Matt Peart will have to start on the edges in front of Daniel Jones.

    While Barkley's production will probably be fine, Jones is only going into his second season and last year struggled to a 61.9 completion percentage with 3,027 yards and 24 touchdowns against 12 interceptions.

    While 2020 is technically a fresh start, it always seemed earmarked as a transitional and/or developing year for a team that hasn't won more than five games in a season over the last three years.

    The verdict: Selling

Mike McCarthy Impressed with Dak Prescott

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    It didn't take long for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott to make an impression on new head coach Mike McCarthy.

    McCarthy knows a thing or two about quarterbacks, given his history with the position, and he is already singing Prescott's praises.

    "I'm very pleased with where he is and very impressed," McCarthy told reporters. He added: "I've really enjoyed his personality. He's very upbeat, very driven. I'd say he's kind of picked up where he left off based on what I've been told about him as far as he operates. Very detailed in his preparation."

    McCarthy, who has overseen names like Aaron Rodgers and even Brett Favre briefly, was always going to like what he inherited under center when he took the job. While Prescott's offseason was littered with speculation about whether he'd get a long-term extension after receiving the franchise tag, he's a career 65.8 percent passer with 15,778 yards and 97 touchdowns against 36 interceptions with a 40-24 record.

    It should be a point of comfort to hear that the head coach tasked with getting more creative than his predecessor is already a fan of the franchise passer. What's more, Prescott gets to hand off to Ezekiel Elliott and throw to newly re-signed Amari Cooper and newly drafted CeeDee Lamb.

    The verdict: Buying

Colts Super Bowl?

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    In an offseason littered with massive moves and attention-grabbing oddities, the Indianapolis Colts' trade for DeForest Buckner from the San Francisco 49ers didn't get the attention it deserved.

    The Colts have won seven or more games in each of the last two seasons and added a player in Buckner who had 19.5 sacks over his last two seasons, as well as a 78.8 Pro Football Focus grade last year.

    Now Buckner is thinking Super Bowl for his new team.

    "Being short last year obviously left a bad taste in my mouth," he told reporters. "Obviously, not a lot of guys are able to make it to that game in their career, but also when you get there, you've gotta make it count. And I wasn't able to make it count last year. So I feel like we have the team that can do it, and we've just gotta get it done."

    Problems abound with that idea, though. Quarterback Philip Rivers joins a new team for the first time in his lengthy career during a challenging offseason for doing so and regressed last season (23 touchdowns, 20 interceptions). The Colts didn't have a first-round pick because of the Buckner trade a year removed from going just 3-3 in a rapidly improving AFC South.

    Buckner's addition should improve a 41-sack defense from a season ago. But uncertainty under center, closing last year as losers in five of six and the rough offseason make for a tough slog in one of the NFL's better divisions.

    The verdict: Selling

Dwayne Haskins Leap Incoming?

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Washington first-round pick Dwayne Haskins wasn't dealt a fair hand last year.

    The 15th overall selection wasn't permitted to start out of the gates, watched as a dysfunctional organization fired his head coach after five games and finally got thrown into the action under the guidance of an interim head coach.

    The hope in Washington seems to be that better organizational stability from the top down will lead to a big sophomore leap for the former Ohio State star.

    Count guard Brandon Scherff as all-in, as he told the media Haskins is "doing a great job."

    New head coach Ron Rivera said Haskins has "done a great job of studying, preparing and getting himself ready for this. He's been great."

    Great as it all sounds, it's never so simple with young quarterbacks not named Patrick Mahomes. Consistency and Rivera's leadership will be huge for Haskins, but his struggles last year—seven touchdowns and seven interceptions on a 67.6 PFF grade—might've done more harm than good. It doesn't help that Washington remains one of the biggest rebuilding projects in the NFL.

    Which isn't to say things aren't looking up. Terry McLaurin is quietly an elite wideout, the offensive line is finally free of the Trent Williams drama and the defensive front seven is flirting with elite status. But expecting a massive leap from Haskins in what could be classified as his on-field rookie season might be misguided, never mind the odd offseason.

    The verdict: Selling

Seattle Not Done Just Yet

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The Seattle Seahawks haven't shown any signs of pumping the brakes when it comes to the pursuit of a Lombardi Trophy.

    Seattle has made big move after big move in recent years, including acquiring Duane Brown at left tackle in front of Russell Wilson, getting Wilson a big playmaker in the form of DK Metcalf and most recently securing elite safety Jamal Adams.

    And the Seahawks might not be done.

    According to NFL Network's Michael Silver, the Seahawks have an interest in free agents Clay Matthews and Everson Griffen, a pair of veterans who could boost the pass rush.

    There are some interesting dynamics at play. Speculation has linked the Seahawks to a reunion with Jadeveon Clowney, though he doesn't do much to boost the pass rush for a defense that only tallied 28 sacks last year. Adams, albeit classified as a safety, is an elite pass-rusher with 12 sacks over three seasons and 16 pressures last season.

    Either way, adding Matthews and his eight sacks over 13 games last year would provide a boost. So would Griffen, owner of at least eight sacks in five of his last six seasons, the outlier an injury-riddled campaign. At this stage of the preseason and with the need apparent, why not?

    The verdict: Buying

Best DL Duo in History?

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The revamped Kansas City Chiefs defense from a year ago played a massive part in helping Mahomes and Co. win it all.

    Especially impressive was a pass rush led by Frank Clark and Chris Jones that drummed up 45 sacks. Clark, in his first season with the team, had eight sacks, while Jones had nine.

    Clark has followed up his impressive debut season by suggesting year two for the tandem will be even better, telling reporters, "We're going to be the best two defensive linemen ever to play the game together."

    It's an exaggerated stance, but Clark is right to suggest the two have plenty of room to grow. The defensive end's first season in Kansas City actually saw a regression in sacks, down from 13 the year prior and his lowest mark since his rookie season in 2015. Jones' sacks dropped from 15.5 in 2018 as injuries hampered his 2019 output.

    The greater theme? A rich-get-richer approach for a Chiefs team that just won it all and continues to trend upward on a rebuilt defensive unit. Jones and Clark probably aren't going to hit best-ever status, but they'll flirt with enough-to-repeat status.

    The verdict: Selling