NFL OTAs: Examining the Burning Question for All 32 Teams as Spring Practices Begin

With NFL OTAs beginning around the league, let's look at the top burning question facing each team as spring practices get underway.

In the coming days and weeks, NFL teams will begin laying the foundations of what they hope will be successful seasons.

Some NFL OTAs — organized team activities — began last week, and the rest will get underway Monday or Tuesday. The spring practices, which are voluntary, serve as precursors for next month’s mandatory minicamps. From intriguing rookies to potential contract dramas to quarterback controversies, there’s no shortage of storylines to follow.

One Burning Question for Each Team as NFL OTAs Begin

Arizona Cardinals

Burning question: Does Marvin Harrison Jr. make an immediate impact?

There’s only so much you can glean from OTAs and minicamp, as players aren’t allowed to wear pads until training camp. That’s when the real football starts. A young receiver can look great in shells and shorts but get shut down once padded practices start. It happens all the time.

Nevertheless, all eyes this spring will be on Harrison, the No. 4 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. If he’s as good as he’s supposed to be, he should look like a generational talent right away.

Atlanta Falcons

Burning question: How do they split the QB reps?

This will be the top question for a few other teams, too.

The Falcons’ decision to select quarterback Michael Penix Jr. with the No. 8 pick stunned many around the NFL. However, nobody was more surprised than Kirk Cousins, whom Atlanta signed to a lucrative contract during free agency. There’s no doubt that Cousins will begin the spring as the presumed starter, but Penix’s workload will be worth monitoring.

Baltimore Ravens

Burning question: Who’ll get first reps on the offensive line?

The Ravens might have three starting O-line spots up for grabs.

Assuming good health, Ronnie Stanley and Tyler Linderbaum should be the top left tackle and center, respectively. But as many as seven players could be fighting for the other three jobs: rookie Roger Rosengarten, Daniel Faalele, Patrick Mekari, Andrew Vorhees, Ben Cleveland, Josh Jones, and Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu.

Buffalo Bills

Burning question: How do the receivers look?

Out are Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis, in are Curtis Samuel, Mack Hollins, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and rookie Keon Coleman. You can add Chase Claypool to that group if you want to.

There’s talent in that group, with Coleman being the most intriguing piece. But nobody is on Diggs’ level, and Davis probably has a slight edge over both Samuel and Coleman. The Bills are undergoing a soft reset, and they need at least two of their new receivers to emerge as trusted weapons or Josh Allen.

Carolina Panthers

Burning question: Has Bryce Young made a Year 2 leap?

The future of the Panthers hinges on the answer to this question.

Of course, it can’t be fully answered during OTAs. Young needs to show major improvement during training camp and carry it into the regular season. Still, last year’s No. 1 overall pick endured a terrible rookie campaign and the seeds of a turnaround must be planted during the spring. He can’t wait much longer to start looking like a franchise quarterback.

Chicago Bears

Burning question: Does Caleb Williams live up to the hype?

The Bears already have named Williams their No. 1 quarterback, which is both warranted and unnecessary. Willaims obviously will be the Week 1 starter in Chicago, but why not make him first earn it on the practice field?

Regardless, there now is even more pressure on the No. 1 overall pick, who’s been gifted with an incredible assortment of receiving weapons.

Cincinnati Bengals

Burning question: Does Tee Higgins show up?

He probably won’t, so this question isn’t difficult. Nevertheless, Higgins, who requested a trade after being franchise-tagged earlier this offseason, will be a top storyline at Bengals OTAs. It would be a big deal if he shows up before the mandatory minicamp, but again, he likely will stay home.

Cleveland Browns

Burning question: What kind of workload will Deshaun Watson have?

Cleveland’s franchise quarterback is still working his way back from last year’s season-ending shoulder injury.

“The situation is good,” Watson said on his “QB Unplugged” podcast in early April. “We’re in a great spot right where we need to be. We have plenty of time to ramp up the throwing sessions and things like that, but everything is going pretty smooth.

“As long as I’m feeling well and the doctors and (physical therapists) and everyone are on the same page, we’re in a good spot.”

The Browns could be a Super Bowl contender if Watson fully recovers and reclaims his Houston-era form. It’ll be interesting to see how he looks throughout the spring and summer.

Dallas Cowboys

Burning question: Will there be any holdouts?

Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb are both set to hit free agency next offseason, with Micah Parsons scheduled to hit the open market in 2026. All three want new contracts and are potential holdout candidates. Prescott is the real headliner, as Lamb can be franchise-tagged next offseason. Will the Cowboys really let Prescott play in a contract year?

Denver Broncos

Burning question: How do they split the QB reps?

Rookie Bo Nix and veterans Jarrett Stidham and Zach Wilson make up an interesting QB room in Denver. The Broncos hope Nix is their quarterback of the future, but Stidham might be the best choice to start in Week 1. Wilson probably is a roster longshot, but he arguably is the most talented of the three. Let’s see how Sean Payton handles it.

Detroit Lions

Burning question: Can Jameson Williams step up?

Injuries and a gambling suspension have prevented Williams, the No. 12 pick in 2022, from living up to his pre-draft hype. But with Josh Reynolds now in Denver, the Lions need Williams to step up and establish himself as the No. 2 wideout behind Amon-Ra St. Brown. Williams showed flashes last season; now it’s time for a real breakout.

Green Bay Packers

Burning question: How does the defense look under a new coordinator?

The Packers fired defensive coordinator Joe Barry in January and replaced him with Jeff Hafley. Green Bay ran a 3-4 base defense under Barry, but Hafley prefers a four-man front. It takes time to learn any new system, so Packers defenders must make real progress during the spring.

Houston Texans

Burning question: Who’ll emerge in the secondary?

We know what Derek Stingley Jr. can do. He’s one of the best cornerbacks in football. But there are questions at the other cornerback spot and both safety positions. The Texans took three safeties in the draft, including Javon Bullard in the second round, so they’re working on addressing those needs. Someone needs to step up.

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Indianapolis Colts

Burning question: How does Anthony Richardson look?

Richardson saw his promising rookie campaign cut short due to a shoulder injury. He recently said he’s a “full go,” but ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler indicated the Colts could limit Richardson’s workload during the spring. The Colts’ top storyline moving forward is whether Richardson can pick up from where he left off.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Burning question: Does Trevor Lawrence get a new contract?

Fowler on Monday reported Lawrence and the Jaguars are working on a new deal, one that could pay the star quarterback $50 million annually. But what if this thing drags on for a while? Lawrence is the future in Jacksonville, and signing him to a long-term deal should be the top priority for the Jags.

Kansas City Chiefs

Burning question: How do they manage the distractions?

It hasn’t been a great off-field offseason for the defending Super Bowl champions. Rashee Rice is facing multiple charges for his role in a car crash last month and is under investigation for an alleged assault in Dallas. He’s expected to participate during OTAs.

So, too, is kicker Harrison Butker, whose recent commencement speech at Benedictine College created an immense sociopolitical backlash. And then there are tackles Wanya Morris and Chukwuebuka Godrick, who recently were arrested on misdemeanor marijuana possession charges.

Chiefs players and coaches surely will be asked about the controversies. Can they keep the focus on football?

Los Angeles Chargers

Burning question: Does Jim Harbaugh fit right in?

Harbaugh has proven himself in the NFL and college. But moving back to the NFL after nearly a decade away is easier said than done — just ask Jon Gruden. Harbaugh needs to earn the trust and respect of his new players, and he must get Justin Herbert back on track. Those processes start now.

Los Angeles Rams

Burning question: Will there be growing pains under new coordinators?

Zac Robinson, who served as the Rams’ de facto offensive coordinator last season, now is in Atlanta. So, too, is Raheem Morris, who spent the last three seasons as L.A.’s defensive coordinator. Chris Shula is the new defensive coordinator, with Nick Caley taking over as passing game coordinator.

The Rams should be fine with Sean McVay running the show, but there could be growing pains.

Las Vegas Raiders

Burning question: How do they split the QB reps?

Sophomore Aidan O’Connell likely will get the starter reps, but Antonio Pierce is a player’s coach; if Gardner Minshew II plays better, he’ll get the job. This is a quarterback competition that will start in the spring and likely continue throughout the summer unless someone takes the job and runs with it.

Miami Dolphins

Burning question: How are things going on defense?

Miami lost multiple key defenders during the offseason, including Christian Wilkins, Xavien Howard, and Andrew Van Ginkel. They also parted with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and hired Anthony Weaver. That’s a lot of turnover, and no one would be surprised if the Dolphins’ defense gest smoked during spring practices.

Minnesota Vikings

Burning question: How will they split the QB reps?

We told you this question would be used a few times (and we’re not done).

The Vikings used the No. 1 overall pick on J.J. McCarthy, who’s undeniably talented but also inexperienced. He might need to sit for a season. Veteran Sam Darnold likely will get the majority of first-team reps during the spring, but McCarthy could force his way into a larger share if he starts strong.

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New England Patriots

Burning question: How do they split the QB reps?

Like McCarthy, Drake Maye might need to red-shirt his rookie season. But he also is talented enough to blow past Jacoby Brissett, who, at this juncture, projects as the Week 1 starter. Regardless, Maye will get plenty of work during the spring. If he impresses with his limited opportunities, we could be in for a real QB battle once training camp arrives.

New Orleans Saints

Burning question: What’s Marshon Lattimore’s mindset?

The star cornerback popped up in trade rumors throughout the offseason, and the speculation likely will persist. However,  Saints head coach Dennis Allen recently said he had a “positive conversation” with Lattimore and that the two sides are “moving forward.” We’ll see about all of that.

New York Giants

Burning question: How’s the Daniel Jones-Malik Nabers connection?

The Giants opted against taking a quarterback in the draft despite myriad reports indicating they were targeting Maye and/or McCarthy. Instead, the Giants took Nabers with the No. 6 pick. If the Giants are to have any chance of competing in 2024, they’ll need Jones and Nabers to develop great chemistry.

Some NFL teams had Nabers ranked ahead of Harrison on their pre-draft receiver rankings. If Nabers is that good, there should be a ton of buzz coming out of spring practices.

New York Jets

Burning question: What’s up with Aaron Rodgers?

This really is two questions: 1) Does he look fully recovered after last season’s Achilles injury, and 2) Can he act at least somewhat normal and not cause headaches for the Jets’ public relations department? All eyes will be on Rodgers, as the Jets could be Super Bowl contenders with him, or AFC doormats without him.

Philadelphia Eagles

Burning question: Are new additions good fits?

Saquon Barkley, Bryce Huff, and Devin White all will see their first practices since joining the Eagles. All figure to have big roles in 2024, but they wouldn’t be the first stars to start slow with new teams. Plus, there could be growing pains as Philly transitions to new coordinators on both offense (Kellen Moore) and defense (Fangio).

Pittsburgh Steelers

Burning question: How do they split the QB reps?

Now this is a juicy quarterback competition.

Mike Tomlin recently said that Russell Wilson will begin the offseason as the No. 1 quarterback, but he also indicated Justin Fields will be given every chance to win the job. A decision likely won’t be made until late August, but strong first impressions during OTAs would go a long way for both QBs.

Seattle Seahawks

Burning question: What’s the vibe with a new head coach?

Pete Carroll’s approach to coaching a football team is unique, to say the least. With him no longer hootin’ and hollerin’ on the sidelines, the Seahawks will look, sound, and feel differently than they have in over a decade. New head coach Mike Macdonald has his work cut out for him.

San Francisco 49ers

Burning question: Could either star receiver be traded?

Trade rumors have surrounded Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk throughout the offseason. And it sure seemed as if Aiyuk would be dealt away sometime during draft weekend. Both still are on the roster, but it’s fair to wonder whether either could be traded in the coming weeks. Aiyuk’s contract drama remains a top storyline in San Fran.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Burning question: Who’s WR3?

Chris Godwin will be a free agent next offseason, and Mike Evans isn’t getting any younger. The Bucs need a young receiver to establish himself as a No. 3 option this season while showing potential for an even greater role. This likely will come down to Trey Palmer and Jalen McMillan, both of whom need to have good springs.

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Tennessee Titans

Burning question: Does an aggressive offseason produce early returns?

The Titans produced headlines throughout the offseason, landing Calvin Ridley, Tony Pollard, and L’Jarius Sneed, among others. They’re all in on finding out whether their new core, with Will Levis at quarterback, is worth building around. We’ll get our first answers during OTAs.

Washington Commanders

Burning question: Does Jayden Daniels live up to the hype?

Like Williams, Daniels — the No. 2 pick in the draft — has a clear path toward landing the starting QB job. There’s no established veteran starter standing in the way like there is in New England, Minnesota, and Atlanta. So, Daniels will be given every opportunity to prove his draft slot was warranted.

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