Let’s go camping gang…training camp, that is!
Around the NFL, players young and old are arriving at their facilities, setting up for a new season and beginning their workouts that will be the focal point of training camp. Rookies are about to get their first taste of professional football; veterans are set to pick up where they left off, and roster bubble players are ready to earn their spot for the impending season.
Anything can happen in the NFL, especially at training camp, which means the news will be arriving on your doorstep in a matter of seconds. Training camps will always have rumors spreading, facts about a player’s status and speculation on what could be the outlook of the team’s future.
Position battles, contract disputes, and veteran players on the roster bubble will always make headlines. Teams are going to have something happening, making their camps far from boring. Here at Pro Football Network, we try to bring some of the most compelling news that will keep you up to date with what’s happening around the league.
Ok, at least I try to be fair and give you all the news happening around the league. Most people cover a team or division on this site as well, so follow them on Twitter if I make you snore.
Here’s a look at some of the latest news coming out camp.
Baltimore Ravens Training Camp: The year of Kenny Young
The Baltimore Ravens on paper might be the favorite to win the AFC North. They have one of the league’s best defenses on only improved with the addition of All-Pro safety Earl Thomas. With Thomas patrolling the deep part of the secondary, Baltimore took a hit in their front seven with the loss of linebacker CJ Mosley.
The team tried to convince him to stay for a smaller deal, but the four-time Pro Bowler signed an $85 million contract to join the New York Jets. With now Mosley, Terrell Suggs, and Ray Lewis all gone, it’s time for a new linebacker to step up and command the defense. Look no further than second-year product Kenny Young.
“As far as awareness wise, I feel like I’m lightyears ahead of where I need to be,” Young said according to Ryan Mink of the team site. “And the credit for that goes to the coaches. I’m way more prepared than I’ve ever been in my entire football career. Things are slower for me.”
A fourth-round pick out of UCLA, Young played in all 16 games last season, starting three inside and collected 51 total tackles along with 2.5 sacks. A speedy linebacker with the ability to adapt in coverage, Young will likely be the first to earn a starting spot in Baltimore’s 3-4 defensive front in place of Mosley.
While Chris Board certainly deserves some praise, Young should become a name Baltimore fans remember in the future.
Buffalo Bills Training Camp: Extended role for rookie Singletary
The Buffalo Bills are more than likely going to be the team that has the ” they’re a year away” stigma. It was a productive offseason for Brandon Beane and his staff as free agency and April’s draft added some excitement down in Orchard Park. The running back position is one area where the team will likely struggle finding a stable runner.
Frank Gore, who signed a one-year deal this offseason was placed on the non-football injury list due to what is considered a minor injury according to the Associated Press. Perhaps more of a veteran leader than lead back with the team, there’s no timetable to when he will return to practice. While this door closes for Gore, it opens the chance for third-round pick Devin Singletary to extend his role for the upcoming season.
“He could play, man. He knows the game of football,” Gore told The Sun-Sentinel. “He’s got great eyes, great quickness. He’s going to be fine. If he stays humble and works, he’s going to have a bright future in his career in this league.”
The lesser-known standout for Florida Atlantic, Singletary can be Buffalo’s change of pace back early on. Nicknamed “Motor” for his work ethic and heavy carries for the Owls, the 23-year-old runner was praised by Beane for his instincts and ability to make plays and “violent” running style.
LeSean McCoy will start the season off as the team’s lead back. If Singletary can make the most of his time with Gore’s departure, we could see a prominent future playmaker in the works for Buffalo.
Cincinnati Bengals Training Camp: Expect a heavy passing offense
The Cincinnati Bengals finally ended the slow march of mediocrity in 2018 after electing to fire Marvin Lewis. The team announced following the Super Bowl that Zac Taylor, quarterbacks coach of the Los Angeles Rams, would take over as the team’s new head coach and change the culture.
To put it in layman’s terms; expect a more significant aerial attack from the Bengals’ offense in 2019 since Taylor, and Sean McVay once shared a locker room and talked about being best buddies for a season.
The Bengals recently extended wide receiver Tyler Boyd to a new four-year $43 million contract after he finished 2018 with over 1,000 yards. AJ Green has been the go-to target for Andy Dalton since the pair were drafted out in 2011. Joe Mixon is, of course, going to see his fair share of handoffs, but he’s also collected 63 receptions throughout his first two seasons.
With the offensive line finishing near the bottom of all stats last season, Dalton will likely rely on a quick; short passes to keep drives alive. If Taylor can show the skills of John Ross‘ speed, the team will finally have a homerun threat to go up for the big play.
This isn’t to say that Mixon shouldn’t be considered a pass-catcher over the runner.
But with the recent extension of Boyd, Taylor’s focus is going to be getting the Bengals to win through the air.
Dallas Cowboys Training Camp: Extensions are coming, but to who?
If you’ve lived underground since February and just decided to see the light of day, let’s get you caught up. The Dallas Cowboys are looking to be one of the top contenders for a Super Bowl this season thanks to their revamped offense and growth of young talent. One slight problem; their window is likely only open for a season since five key members are up for contracts after the year.
Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, La’el Collins, Byron Jones, and Jaylon Smith all will be due for a payday following the 2019 season. It doesn’t help that running back Ezekiel Elliott has been reported to possibly holdout if negotiations long-term are not progressing in his direction. The good news is that someone is getting paid soon. The question; who is it?
The Cowboys announced Tuesday they would be releasing wide receiver Allen Hurns one year into his contract. Hurns horrifically broke his fibula last season during the playoffs. With $6million now on the table, that will be able to go to someone’s extension deal in the new future.
Prescott is set to be paid at some point while Elliott is under contract through the 2020 season. The reality is that the Cowboys could be using Hurns’ salary to pay Cooper, who helped enhance Dallas’ passing game following a midseason trade from Oakland last season. As one of the smoothest route runners in the league, Cooper’s extension would give Prescott a top weapon for several years as the team looks to recreate their own “big three” on offense.
If someone’s getting paid first, Cooper seems like the best option at the moment.
Houston Texans Training Camp: Remember the name, Vyncint Smith
Houston’s already been through the wringer this offseason and training camp hasn’t even started yet. After losing key defensive players, failing to sign Jadeveon Clowney to his franchise tag and firing general manager Brian Gaine, what else could go wrong?
The team announced the two All-Pros would be placed on the active physically unable to perform list. Both should be fine and return to practice before their season opener against the New Orleans Saints in September.
With Hopkins missing time, any wide receiver on the team could boost their stock. Let’s go for the wild card and pick Vyncint Smith to become a rising factor in Houston’s passing offense. Undrafted out of Limestone College, Smith, battled his way onto the team, earning the final roster spot in 2018. He finished the year with five catches for 91 yards and a touchdown.
“He’s a guy who has improved mentally, physically, just all-around,” Deshaun Watson said according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. “He’s been doing a great job. He’s handled every challenge. He’s done a good job for us.”
It’s impossible to trust Will Fuller after three injured seasons, and Keke Coutee is limited in the slot. Smith made one of the best catches last season against Philadelphia for a touchdown. If he makes a name for himself in the preseason, he could be earning some first-team reps.
Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp: A good defense?
We’re not talking about Tyreek Hill. That’s done, it’s over with, moving on.
The Kansas City Chiefs are expected to once again contend for a title with Patrick Mahomes under center. Thanks to a solid offensive line, an above-average receiving corp and the reigning MVP leading the charge, fans of the Arrowheads should feel confident about their chance.
They also should be ecstatic that their defense is looking much stronger under the direction of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. With the former Rams head coach switching the unit over to a 4-3 set and the additions of new faces (Frank Clark and Tyrann Mathieu), Spagnulo is trying to head back to basics.
“In today’s football we don’t play a lot of base defense, we usually have a lot of what we call sub defense, with nickel and dime, I think a great number of defenses in the league play that way 70% of the time,” Spagnulo said. “So everybody is kind of playing the same way.”
Kansas City is going to score points. A lot of points. Under Spagnulo’s direction, maybe they’ll stop being scored on so much as well.
Los Angeles Chargers Training Camp: Henry hungry for redemption
Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon is holding out of camp until a new deal is reached. According to reports from Yahoo Sports, that’s not happening anytime soon as the team is not budging.
As we turn away from the drama, the Chargers offense still could be dynamic thanks to the return of a playmaker. Hunter Henry could have taken Los Angeles deeper in the postseason if not for suffering a torn ACL early last spring. He returned in time for the postseason but was targeted just once on 14 snaps.
Fully healthy, there are high hopes for the 24-year-old to elevate his game to the next level this season.
“When he’s in the game, he’s a big deal,” Chris Hayre of Chargers.com said. “He’s been one of Philip Rivers favorite targets with 12 touchdowns his first two years in the league. I’m envisioning a wide receiver core with a healthy Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Travis Benjamin spreading the field, and then Hunter being a big target in the red zone.”
In a contract year, Henry will need to bounce back to his 2017 form. Should Gordon indeed hold out for the season, the Chargers will rely on their passing offense. Expect Henry to be that x-factor for Rivers and Los Angeles’ offense in a tough AFC West division.
Miami Dolphins Training Camp: Ring around the Rosen
Serious question people. What has Josh Rosen done to deserve the hate? The former top 10 pick for the Arizona Cardinals had limited protection, a below-average arsenal and was sacked 52 times last season. The Dolphins got him for a steal, and yet people are already preparing for Tua or Justin Herbert to join the roster.
Sorry Phins fans, your roster isn’t doing Rosen any favor.
But while Rosen will once again face the uphill battle of commanding a struggling team, the job still isn’t his. According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has impressed his teammates early throughout the offseason.
“The real competition starts in training camp,” Rosen said.
With the Dolphins looking to rebuild, there’s no rush to put Rosen out on the field. But if Fitzpatrick is starting because he’s looked better, it might be time to get on the quarterback draft train.
Oakland Raiders Training Camp: Lights, Camera, Gruden
By now we all know that HBO’s Hard Knocks is heading out west to join Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders for the 2019 pre-season. Gruden, who signed a 10-year, $100 million deal in 2018, struggled to pick up wins last season and finished with a 4-12 record.
Listen, we all knew the Raiders were going to struggle under Gruden last season. Now under the spotlight, we’re going to get a chance to if he can correct the mistakes in year two. Gruden was vocal in the hiring of GM Mike Mayock as well as the additions made in free agency.
Oakland spent millions in free agency to correct the problems on both sides and even traded for Antonio Brown to give Derek Carr a true No.1 receiver. With Chucky back in front of the camera, how much is going to change for the organization moving forward?
“New GM Mike Mayock helped Gruden begin to rebuild the roster after stockpiling picks, providing an infusion of talent that should at least make this team more competitive,” Elliott Harrison of NFL.com said. “Given the strength of the division-rival Chargers and Chiefs, simply leading Oakland to the playoffs should be a ringing endorsement for the coach.”
The Raiders are going to be a fun team. With that many personalities, it’s much-watch TV this offseason. Are they going to be a good team, though? That’s all going to rely on Gruden and his adjustments from last season. Don’t worry America; we’ll get to see it live.
Seattle Seahawks Training Camp: Welcome to the Poona Ford era
Undrafted players who become franchise stars are the best stories in football. The Seattle Seahawks have been known for the past decade of transforming late-round and undrafted picks into stars. Remember the Legion of Boom? Only one of them was drafted before day three.
The Seahawks took a blow over the weekend with the announcement that defensive tackle Jarran Reed would be suspended for six games this upcoming season. This is due to the NFL’s personal conduct policy relating to an incident of alleged domestic violence in 2017.
With Reed now out for the first half of the season, it’s a perfect chance for Poona Ford to expand his role. The undrafted defensive tackle out of Texas was highly underappreciated during the draft process last season, failing to be invited to the NFL combine. In limited snaps, Ford made the most of his time collecting 21 total tackles, according to Pro Football Reference.
“Poona had a great finish to the season,” Seattle coach Pete Carrol said according to Corbin Smith of FootbalMaven.com “Poona is legitimately going to play for starting time when we come back, and he’ll be competing to do that. He warranted it with the activity.”
Reed will be missing time, opening the door for Ford to make a massive impact. Entering a contract season, perhaps the Seahawks will let Reed walk if the second-year player becomes a focal part of their front seven.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp: Ronald Jones RB1?
Did any running back have a worse rookie season last year than Ronald Jones? The former USC standout was drafted in the second round by Tampa and seemed to be the favorite to take over as their leading rushing. He finished his campaign with just 44 yards, averaging 1.9 yards per carry.
Yeah, he didn’t even crack 100 total yards last season. Still, after what would be considered a productive offseason, Jones is looking to become the runner Tampa expected him to be a season ago. According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, the 21-year has bulked up, adding nearly 20 pounds of muscle this offseason and weighing in at 221 pounds for camp.
Jones understands last season was a down year for him and the organization. With the potential he showed for the Trojans, the second-year prospect believes that his future is bright with the organization and will exceed expectations for the 2019 season.
“Last year was a disappointment for me,” Jones said according to Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk. “I’m putting in the work to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Personally, for me, I just want to lead the team in rushing and be that player who can ignite the offense and things like that, because that’s who I am. I’m a playmaker. I just want that opportunity.”
Tennessee Titans Training Camp: Get to know Austin Pasztor
If you are like most people, you have no idea who Austin Pastor is. Don’t feel too bad since most offensive linemen are barely known in the first place. With the recent news coming out of the Music City, however, Pasztor could be up for a big season.
Titans’ offensive tackle Taylor Lewan announced Wednesday that he will be suspended for four games after failing a drug test and testing positive for a banned supplement. Lewan stated in his video that he took a polygraph test, saying he did not know the substance was on the NFL’s ban list.
“There’s no statement coming from the NFL just yet,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said. “They’re still in the process of going through the different samples making sure that the first sample matches the second sample. If it does, Lewan is expected to be suspended the four games that he mentioned. Until then he is still in limbo.”
Should the test result match, Pasztor will get the first chance to win the starting part-time left tackle role. The 28-year-old Canadian has played in 67 games since 2012, making 43 starts along the way. Most recently, Pasztor was a swing tackle for the Atlanta Falcons the past two seasons.
The loss of Lewan would be a massive blow for Tennessee’s offense, who is hoping to bounce back with Marcus Mariota under center. Pasztor could be a saving grace with a strong camp. He also could be the reason Ryan Tannehill is the starter after a week one matchup against Myles Garrett and the Cleveland Browns.
Cole Thompson is the Lead NFL writer for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter at @MrColeThompson.