What we learned from this weekend's rookie camps
By Chris Wesseling
Around the League Writer
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin answered with a curt "not really" when asked if anyone stood out at rookie minicamp over the weekend.
"More than anything, it's just familiarizing yourself with the young men, how they learn and how they move, areas in which they may be deficient and things of that nature," Tomlin explained. "It's more of a get-to-know than anything else, as opposed to looking for anyone distinguishing themselves. Obviously, it's football in shorts."
Players at rookie minicamps don't wear pads and don't hit. Just introduced to the playbook, and they function at a slower practice speed. In other words, there's only so much we can take from practice reports.
Here is what stood out to us from the weekend rookie camps of the Steelers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins:
1. First-round pass rusher Jarvis Jones impressed Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert with his maturity and impressed beat writers with his thoughtfulness and humility. Taller and much leaner than LaMarr Woodley and Jason Worilds, Jones is going to have to bulk up over the next few months.
2. Second-round tailback Le'Veon Bell couldn't show his power in pad-less practices, but he did impress onlookers with nimble feet and soft hands. The Washington Observer-Reporter has anointed Bell the favorite to start, with the possibility of 300 carries.
3. Fourth-round quarterback Landry Jones had a rough weekend, outplayed by Purdue undrafted free agent Caleb Turnbush. Jones' passes fluttered and sailed off the market. It's not unusual for quarterbacks to struggle as they get used to new terminology and new teammates.
4. Fourth-round safety Shamarko Thomas, on the other hand, passed the eyeball test, impressing beat writers throughout the three practices. Thomas should contribute immediately as a gunner on special teams and rotational safety.
5. Keep an eye on undrafted Utah wide receiver Reggie Dunn. The electrifying kick returner is the only player in NCAA history with five returned touchdowns of 100 yards or more.
1. Second-round safety Jonathan Cyprien was a "man among boys" over the weekend.
2. First-rounder Luke Joeckel is adjusting well to right tackle after playing the left side at Texas A&M. Jacksonville's offensive line should be much improved.
3. Fifth-round "running back" Denard Robinson made an impression at his lone practice before flying back to Michigan for graduation ceremonies. The former quarterback is embracing a "Slash" role with the Jaguars.
4. Undrafted free-agent quarterbacks Jordan Rodgers and Matt Scott both ended the weekend on the sidelines. Scott has an ankle sprain -- not a high ankle sprain as originally feared. Rodgers is dealing with a groin injury. The two are battling for the third spot behind Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne.
Baltimore Ravens1. First-round safety Matt Elam and second-round inside linebacker Arthur Brown were as good as advertised. "Matt really picked things up quickly," head coach John Harbaugh said. "He really did a nice job of communicating on the back end, which is not usual for a rookie."
2. Space-eating, third-round nose tackle Brandon Williams took up two blockers on most plays during 11-on-11 drills.
3. Fourth-round fullback Kyle Juszczyk was used all over the field, just like at Harvard. He was even split out at wide at receiver on occasion.
1. Head coach Mike Shanahan was impressed with the intelligence, athleticism and versatility of his new defensive backs, second-rounder David Amerson, fourth-rounder Phillip Thomas and sixth-rounder Bacarri Rambo.
2. Third-round tight end Jordan Reed didn't practice because of a left knee bone bruise suffered during Florida's last game. Coming off anterior cruciate ligament surgery, fifth-round running back Chris Thompson is expected to be ready for training camp.
3. Alfred Morris' brother, Shawn Morris, a Division III All-American from Birmingham Southern, was a tryout participant.
"They have the same personality for sure," Shanahan said. "I'm not sure they both run the same."
Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.
By Marc Sessler
Around the League Writer
Rookie minicamps are underway, and contrary to reports, Geno Smith isn't the only human being on the field for the New York Jets.
The Daily News reported that coach Rex Ryan was thrilled with first-year defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson. "He's impressive to say the least," Ryan said, after employing Richardson at nose tackle for much of Friday's session.
Richardson said he felt comfortable lining up as a one-technique in the 3-4 after mostly playing in a 4-3 at the University of Missouri. We expect Ryan to use Richardson all over the line as New York shifts between three- and four-man fronts to suit the situation.
Here's what else we've picked up from the first 24 hours of league-wide rookie minicamps:
» Some wondered if Tim Tebow was back in the house at Florham Park, but not so. The man roaming the greens in a No. 15 jersey this weekend is undrafted Jets wide receiver Zach Rogers out of Tennessee, per Rich Cimini of ESPN New York. As of yet, we've heard no public promises of Rogers operating the Wildcat.
» Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery talked about first-round pick Kyle Long starting his career at left guard, but the former Oregon lineman opened Friday on the right side, according to the Chicago Tribune. Don't read too much into that here in May. The Bears have Gabe Carimi penciled in at right guard, and we'll learn more about Long's role when the veterans hit town.
» The Tennessee Titans quietly have improved their roster on both sides of the ball this offseason. I'm most excited about the addition of receiver Justin Hunter, the team's second-rounder out of Tennessee. The Titans love his blazing speed, but they've asked Hunter to pack on at least 7 pounds to his lanky 6-foot-4, 196-pound frame, per Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com.
» In Big D, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has talked up rookie running back Joseph Randle as a potentially big part of the ground game. But that's on hold as Randle is expected to be limited in workouts until training camp in order to rehab from thumb surgery. Jones told Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Friday that the team knew about the procedure, but "there are a lot of things we can do out here in OTAs and get that thumb clubbed up and he'll get a lot of work in, a lot of valuable repetition."
» While we're on the topic of the Dallas draft, third-round pick J.J. Wilcox played offense before moving to safety during his senior year at Georgia Southern. You'd think a third-rounder would have a chance at making an impact, but Cowboys defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson told the Star-Telegram that Wilcox is "light years, light years" from making a difference. Ouch.
» Some additional items we've expanded on this morning in Around the League: (A) The Buffalo Bills are impressed with EJ Manuel's deep-ball ability, but his footwork is under the microscope in Buffalo; (B) In Philly, Lane Johnson is digging in at right tackle for the Eagles and working out the kinks, while Matt Barkley's excessively positive outlook on life continues unabated.
With Saturday's sessions getting underway, keep it here for updates and news from around the NFL.
Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.
By Marc Sessler
Around the League Writer
The Cincinnati Bengals drafted Tyler Eifert to help their offense become more dynamic, and we already have proof of the transition.
The first-year tight end lined up all over the field in Friday's rookie minicamp session, something the former Notre Dame pass-catcher felt at home with.
"A lot of the things I'm learning are a lot of the same plays we had in with two tight ends -- move me around in different positions," Eifert told The Columbus Dispatch. "Today I was out in the slot quite a bit. I think I'm picking it up pretty fast."
When Around the League this week ranked the AFC North as the third-most powerful division in football, the Bengals had a lot to do with it. For years they were a weak sister, but Cincinnati is coming off back-to-back playoff seasons with a young roster. The Bengals defense is beastly, but quarterback Andy Dalton is on the hook to turn this offense into a more productive unit.
Marvin Lewis, of course, has seen the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots -- last year's AFC title game entrants -- toy with defenses using double tight end sets, and now the Bengals have the tools to wreak similar havoc. Pairing Eifert with Jermaine Gresham is going to keep coordinators up at night.
"You get the matchup of the tight ends on the linebackers and safeties," Dalton recently said. "So I think (Eifert's) going to be a great addition. He's going to make Jermaine a better player. I'm excited to get him in here and get working with him."
For fans of the Bengals -- and of the game -- it will be fascinating to watch how Cincinnati uses this new chess piece to outsmart opponents.
Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.
By Mike Sando | ESPN.com
RENTON, Wash. -- A few notes after watching the Seattle Seahawks' rookies practice on a clear, 75-degree day at team headquarters along the Lake Washington shoreline:
- Veteran presence: Veterans were not allowed on the field, but Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman showed up about 20 yards offshore -- on a personal watercraft. For a few minutes, photographers had their backs to practice while they snapped away, their cameras trained on the Seahawks' brashest player. Not that Sherman likes attracting attention. "Was that Sherm?" head coach Pete Carroll quipped, adding in jest that he thought he'd seen workaholic quarterback Russell Wilson peeking over the hill on the other side of the field, away from the water.
- Lots of faces: Seattle had 67 rookies in camp, including 38 players attending on a tryout basis. There were 12 draft choices and 17 players signed as undrafted free agents. Printed rosters have seldom been so helpful.
- Wilson's legacy: Carroll opened a morning staff meeting by showing video of Wilson struggling with some of the basics, including center exchanges, during the rookie camp last year. Wilson finished the season with a playoff victory and an appearance in the Pro Bowl. Carroll wanted to put into perspective the first day of rookie minicamp so his coaches wouldn't get down on a young player for struggling early.
- Tight end stands out: The recently released tight end Daniel Fells was among those trying out. He caught passes consistently, but fifth-round choice Luke Wilson was the tight end standing out most demonstrably. He beat safeties in coverage to make catches on the run and separated from defenders. Carroll singled out Wilson as impressing him. Carroll: "Luke stood out today. He has really good speed and it showed. Caught the ball really well. That was probably the brightest spot that you could really see a guy jump out on. That was a really good first impression."
- Inside job: Third-round choice Jordan Hill and fifth-rounder Jesse Williams worked together at defensive tackle, sometimes with seventh-rounder Ty Powell lining up in what appeared to be the "Leo" position. Hill and Williams are roommates. Hill played at Penn State, Williams at Alabama. Both played in tradition-rich programs led by old-school coaches, at least until Bill O'Brien succeeded Joe Paterno at Penn State. Carroll's new-school approach comes through loud and clear in the music playing over speakers during practice. Hill said that "wasn't going on in my first three years" at Penn State. "I just enjoy, you get to be yourself," he said.
- Scruggs update: Second-year defensive end Greg Scruggs underwent reconstructive knee surgery Thursday after suffering a non-contact injury while planting awkwardly during a training drill. It's too early to know whether Scruggs could factor at all during the 2013 season.
- Not much to go on: Players wore helmets, jerseys and shorts for practice. No tackling or hitting was allowed. Coaches encouraged defenders to make a quick attempt at stripping the ball from runners before letting them proceed upfield. This was not football, in other words. However, coaches were able to see players move. Second-round running back Christine Michael stood out for his quickness, balance and for the primal scream he let out after running to the end zone on one play. Michael also stood out for his biceps. He practiced in a No. 33 jersey with no sleeves.
- No vets around: Years ago, before the current labor agreement went into place, teams held mandatory camps for veterans and rookies at this time of year. Only rookies are allowed under the current agreement. That made it impossible to compare rookies to the players they'll challenge for roster spots and playing time.
- Smith at center: Seventh-round pick Jared Smith worked at center. He could project at guard, too. The Seahawks are converting him from defensive tackle, a transition J.R. Sweezy made last year. Carroll singled out Smith's quickness. He also praised seventh-round guard Ryan Seymour for having good feet.
That's it from here. Every team in the NFC West is holding its rookie camp Friday through Sunday. I would expect each team's coaches to come away excited about new players. That's a good thing. Draft choices come as-is, without receipts. There are no refunds.
- Harper's hands: Carroll liked what he saw from fourth-round receiver Chris Harper. Carroll: "He caught the ball beautifully. He really has great hands."
By Dan Hanzus
Around the League Writer
Bruce Arians took his downfield passing philosophy with him to the Arizona Cardinals, but don't assume the Indianapolis Colts are going to morph into a dink-and-dunk team under new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.
"Pep's not going to change just to change," said Stanford coach David Shaw, according to the Indy Star. "There's going to be carryover (from 2012). They did some phenomenal things.
"He's smart enough to say, 'Hey, we're not going to throw the baby out with the bath water.'"
Hamilton -- who coached Andrew Luck at Stanford -- echoed that sentiment prior to the start of rookie minicamp practice on Saturday. The "No Coast" offense is in town, but some DNA will be familiar.
"We really want to press upon our guys to be open-minded," Hamilton said. "We are going to continue on the success they had last year. They were able to push the ball downfield and make a ton of big plays in the passing game."
What else was happening on the second day of rookie minicamp? Read on ...
» Geno Smith declined to give himself a grade, one day after marking his Friday practice as an "F." "I'll leave the grading to the coaches, but I think today was another good day."
» Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz is not eligible for any offseason activities until after he graduates on June 16th. Luck, a fellow Stanford alum, was held back by the same situation last year.
"It's going to be tough at first," Ertz said, according to the team's official site. "I think all the reps that I'm going to miss are going to be tough, but I'm going to get in the playbook as much as I can."
» Tough break out of St. Louis Rams camp, where undrafted rookie wide receiver C.J. Atkins suffered a torn Achilles in practice, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Atkins will undergo surgery early next week.
» Raiders coach Dennis Allen had some nice things to say about Tyler Wilson, the quarterback taken in the fourth round last month: "I don't have any question about his arm strength and his accuracy." (Cut to Matt Flynn: "Dear God, not again.")
» The Bills lack depth at wide receiver. Undrafted free agent Da'Rick Rogers enters camp with plenty of talent. His off-the-field issues in college put him on a short leash, however. "I cherish it like gold. This is it. This is my last opportunity," said Rogers, according to the Bills' official site. "I've got to make the best of it."
» Have the Houston Texans finally found a suitable complement opposite Andre Johnson? HoustonTexans.com reporter Nick Scurfield says DeAndre Hopkins "continues to catch everything in sight."
» Havard "Kickalicious" Rugland is getting his shot in Detroit Lions camp, but the viral video sensation faces an uphill battle. Lions coach Jim Schwartz didn't sugarcoat it when asked what Rugland needs to improve.
"Everything. He's good at kicking the ball into cars that are driving down the road and helicopters and boats and stuff like that, but I don't think you get anymore points for doing that," Schwartz said, via the Detroit Free Press.
» Cleveland Browns linebacker Barkevious Mingo doesn't believe he needs more bulk on his frame, despite what others think. "Naw, I think I'm just fine the way I am," he said.
» Rex Ryan is not in a rush to mend fences with Quinton Coples.
» Jason Garrett still is ducking the Dallas Cowboys play-calling question.
Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.
Had never seen Sports Spyder before, that's good stuff. Thanks.I created a list for my dynasty leagues twitter account @rcgraphicscpap
Its a list that I created that is basically buzztap news for every team... So news that pops up for or is written regarding each team is posted there... Not sure how to share or follow a list on twitter from my personal twitter account but u can find the list feed at the following link
I believe most of those stories are written by beat writers and so you should consider the source before reading too much into the hype... Some beat writers have proven to be more "tuned in" than others...
I use this resource mostly once training camp breaks... But sometimes it's useful even earlier than that...
I also very frequently use http://sportspyder.com/sports/nfl/teams as well... It allows you to follow team news but the real nice thing is u can do specific player searches and it kicks back their latest tweets and more importantly it searches for any articles that a certain player was mentioned in
I would say sportspyder is actually one of my favorite resources
unrealI have most of the major news sources on a doc broken down by team with Twitter beat writers listed at the bottom....
By Marc Sessler
Around the League Writer
We asked last week if the Houston Texans were heaping dangerously high expectations on rookie receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
Maybe we have better things to worry about.
After Nick Scurfield of the team's official site watched Hopkins "catch everything" during Saturday's rookie minicamp practice, the pass-catcher's Sunday display had Texans coach Gary Kubiak downright giddy.
"He's special," Kubiak said. "Ball skills are extremely special. Very long, long arms. Big hands. You saw the catch he made out here today. He's going to help us early, and we know that, and that's why we brought him here."
The catch Kubiak referenced was a deep, arching rope down the left sideline from quarterback Case Keenum. Hopkins hauled it in with his left hand while his right arm was being tugged by a defensive back.
Here's where we apply some caution: Rookie minicamps are one step up from tossing the ball around out back. Everyone looks good, and coaches speak glowingly. Still, Hopkins has a prime opportunity in Houston to fill an immediate need and play a core role on offense. The training wheels are off.
Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.
15 things we learned from NFL rookie minicamps
By Gregg Rosenthal
Around The League Editor
The majority of the NFL held rookie minicamps over the weekend. These practices essentially are teaching sessions for new players, but we still can learn a thing or 10 from them. After three days in the books, here's what you need to know:
1. With Branden Albert coming to camp on Monday for the Kansas City Chiefs, No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher will play right tackle as a rookie. It's crazy that Fisher, No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel (Jacksonville Jaguars) and No. 4 overall pick Lane Johnson (Philadelphia Eagles) all will play right tackle this season.
2. The New York Giants will develop third-round pick DaMontre Moore as a hybrid outside-linebacker and defensive end. This is similar to the role Mathias Kiwanuka played in recent years.
3. Comcast SportsNet Bay Area believed wide receiver Quinton Patton looked "nowhere close to ready" to take snaps as the team's No. 3 receiver. We'll check back in August because the San Francisco 49ers need a young receiver to step up.
4. 49ers running back Marcus Lattimore (torn anterior cruciate ligament) said that he'd be fine sitting out the 2013 season if that's what the team wants. Don't be surprised if the 49ers take him up on the offer. They didn't draft him with 2013 in mind.
5. Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen says his team is not converting to a 3-4 defense despite the addition of a lot of linebackers. Allen does say the team will be more flexible to throw more 3-4 looks this year.
6. The Raiders are looking at Latavius Murray as a third-down back. The sixth-round pick had a nice weekend and a clear path to the role as a rookie.
7. Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins won the weekend award for most praise received. It would be a shocker if Hopkins doesn't start as a rookie for Houston.
(Runner up for praise: Tyler Wilson in Oakland. Could he start?)
8. The Chicago Bears say linebacker Jon Bostic is in an "open competition" for the middle linebacker job with D.J. Williams. It's more likely that Bostic will end up on the strong side as a rookie.
9. The return of offensive line guru Alex Gibbs to the Denver Broncos coaching staff is a significant development for second-round pick Montee Ball. Gibbs' presence alone should be worth a round bump in fantasy football leagues for Broncos backs.
10. The Cincinnati Bengals see new tight end Tyler Eifert as a movable chess piece. He's going to line up all over the formation from traditional tight end spots to the slot and occasionally on the outside.
11. While New York Jets coach Rex Ryan criticized second-year pro Quinton Coples publicly, Ryan couldn't say enough nice things about No. 13 overall pick Sheldon Richardson. The team surprisingly used him at nose tackle over the weekend, in addition to basically every other position on the defensive line. Richardson is going to make the defense more flexible.
12. Chicago Bears first-round pick Kyle Long started out his NFL career at right guard. He could move to the left side, but he'll definitely be a guard as a rookie. Long was talked up as a "leader" among the rookies.
13. The Dallas Cowboys were hoping to groom running back Joseph Randle for the team's backup job. But thumb surgery will limit him until training camp.
14. Cowboys defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson said third-round pick J.J. Wilcox out of Georgia Southern is "light years" away from helping the team, which is too bad because the Cowboys need safety help by September.
15. Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman put a camera on his quarterbacks' helmet during practice sessions so he could see where the player was looking. It will be interesting to see if this catches on around the league.
Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.