ESPN’s NFL Nation reporters were on hand this weekend to document the first taste of the NFL for first-year players as more teams held rookie minicamps. Here are some of the sights and sounds from some of the NFL’s new blood.
Saquon Barkley looked like the No. 2 overall pick at rookie minicamp. He did a ton of damage during practices catching the ball out of the backfield. Linebackers had no chance against him. But it’s the pass blocking that coach Pat Shurmur said will be most difficult for the running back. He’ll be seeing blitzes he’s never seen before throughout the summer and his rookie season.
Cardinals first-round pick Josh Rosen is one of two quarterbacks in Arizona’s rookie minicamp along with Chad Kanoff from Princeton.
Josh Rosen’s first NFL practices started with a little rust but steadily improved as he settled down. He showed off his arm with a variety of short and long passes, as well as his athleticism on roll outs from the pocket. Part of Rosen’s adjustment to the NFL over the weekend came as he worked out of a huddle.
Colts 1st round pick, guard Quenton Nelson, like every other player, didn’t have pads on during the team’s rookie minicamp. The emphasis was put on fundamentals and getting a first look at the system new coach Frank Reich will run next season. Even without pads on, that didn’t stop Nelson, the No. 6 overall pick in last month’s draft from showing off impressive size, power, footwork and technique in what the Colts hope will be a long career starting at guard for them. “A lot of it is head placement, hand placement, leverage, still playing low, still being disciplined in your footwork,” Reich said. “Even without pads, there’s a big emphasis on taking the proper footwork, getting to the right landmark, coming off with leverage. You get that right start, then – the one thing you’re not able to do without pads is really finish plays like we want to finish them. That’s really the one thing you lose.” Nelson is the frontrunner to start at left guard alongside left tackle Anthony Castonzo next season.
The Panthers are working first-round pick D.J.Moore, a wide receiver out of Maryland, as expected at all receiver spots in the first of a two-day rookie camp. His versatility and speed is a big reason they made him the 24th pick. They also like his strength after the catch. Here he goes in motion from the slot and catches a short out pattern.
Mason Rudolph “made some plays” on Day 2 of Steelers rookie minicamp, coach Mike Tomlin said. Despite a few under-center fumbles on Day 1, the quarterback responded with seven straight completions in team drills, according to receiver Marcus Tucker, who likes Rudolph’s “really big arm” and leadership. “Certain guys just have a command of the huddle, and I think he’s one of those guys,” he said.
Falcons first round pick Calvin Ridley looked pretty fluid on the first day of rookie minicamp despite one noticeable drop. He ran routes smoothly and used full extension to catches passes. He also drew one pass interference although he should have caught the ball.
Here is the first look at Josh Allen in a Bills uniform. He is practicing pocket movement drills early in Friday’s rookie minicamp practice with new OC Brian Daboll.
Bears first-round pick linebacker Roquan Smith (#58) said prior to the beginning of rookie minicamp that he doesn’t feel much pressure following in the footsteps of Chicago linebackers such as Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher. But expectations are high for Smith, who’s likely to start immediately and play almost every snap on defense. Smith was the center of attention at the annual rookie camp, which featured seven draft picks, 15 undrafted free agents and a host of tryout players.
Not much for Bengals first-round pick Billy Price to do today except watch as he recovers from a partial pectoral tear. But considering nobody had pads on, it didn’t hold him back too much as he was able to watch, take mental reps and go through the motions.
First-round pick Taven Bryan was pretty pumped up after the on-field part of the first day of the Jaguars’ rookie minicamp. “It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s awesome to be able to dedicate 100 percent of your time [to football]. There’s only 24 hours in a day and you get to spend 16 doing football, so it’s pretty sweet. I mean, it’s like the ideal job in my opinion.”
First-round pick Marcus Davenport dons his new No. 92 as the Saints kick off their rookie minicamp Friday. Players will be available to the media on Saturday. (Photo via NewOrleansSaints.com)
The Steelers are putting first-round safety Terrell Edmunds’ versatility to the test early in rookie minicamp. Edmunds (No. 34), who looks every bit of 217 pounds, said he played safety and linebacker snaps for the defense. He’s also getting to show his leadership by making a few defensive calls. “You can’t think that you are a first-round pick and everything is going to fall to you,” Edmunds said. “I come out here and compete every day.”
I don’t know if a picture can really do Vita Vea justice. That is one VERY large man. He weighed in at 347 at the combine but looks even bigger, if that’s possible.
Defensive lineman Daron Payne didn’t take part in full-team work Friday but his presence in the early work made an impression. His footwork in and over the bags was solid as he worked on staying low and maneuvering in traffic. More than anything, his girth was evident. He’s a solid 310-315 pounds. It’ll help the Redskins front.
Chargers first-round selection Derwin James took reps mostly near the line of scrimmage in his first day of rookie minicamp. However, head coach Anthony Lynn said that defensive coordinator Gus Bradley will move James and the rest of the rookies around so that the coaching staff can get a better feel for their skill set.
Rashaan Evans got plenty of attention from Mike Vrabel during rookie minicamp as they were putting in a set for the ILBs. Vrabel said he wants Evans and second-round pick Harold Landry to set a tone for rookies and become leaders for the team. A lot of teaching in open portions of minicamp Saturday, but don’t confuse that for inactivity. Evans described his first experiences with Vrabel as “intense” and noted the first-year HC is “specific in the things he wants.”
Eagles second-round pick TE Dallas Goedert on his mentality as rookie camp opens. “I plan to be the best at whatever I do. I don’t come out here to be second string. Not saying I’m going to be the first string, but I plan on doing whatever I can to contribute to this team as fast as I can.” The Eagles think they can create some matchup problems with Goedert and Zach Ertz on the field together.
Texans safety Justin Reid was vocal on the practice field during rookie minicamp. Bill O’Brien said he thought the third-round pick had “good size” and good speed.” “[He’s] a smart guy,” O’Brien said. “A guy that’s a versatile guy. He can do some different things. He can help us on special teams [and] obviously help us on defense. We just got here, so we’ll see how he does in our system.”
Rookie minicamps: May 4-7
QB Baker Mayfield, the first overall pick in this year’s draft, spent a lot of time working on taking snaps from center in this weekend’s Browns rookie minicamp. It wasn’t always very smooth, and multiple exchanges were dropped throughout Friday’s practice especially. “We’re going to hammer that until I’m good and it feels natural, and that’s the way it should be. Because I can play out of the ‘gun.’ Everybody here knows that.” Coaches are working a lot with Mayfield on his footwork, especially when he’s taking snaps from under center, because it will have a lot to do with the progress he makes in terms of his timing with his throws and his receivers. Mayfield showed plenty of fun flashes, including his quick release and his ability to keep his cool and still make strong throws downfield when the play breaks down. But the work he does at this point in the offseason will be on the things he didn’t do at Oklahoma, and he welcomes that.
Takeaways from Sam Darnold’s rookie minicamp: First, keep in mind that practice was like an “American Idol” open audition — 45 tryout players. Darnold seemed at ease, never rattled. There were a couple of more botched exchanges with the center. He displayed a nice touch on his deep balls. He called a few audibles, which is a new concept for him. (He didn’t have much freedom at the line at USC.) He stared down a few receivers, resulting in a couple of PBUs and an interception (on a deflection). Said Todd Bowles: “He’s making progress. Every day is a progression.”
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson had an up-and-down performance at rookie minicamp. Jackson showed great touch on deep throws, hit fellow first-round pick Hayden Hurst in stride over the middle and sprinted past defenders after pulling the ball down. But he had trouble connecting with his receivers outside the numbers, overthrowing them on out routes with some wobbly passes.
John Harbaugh defends Lamar Jackson’s accuracy
Pete Carroll said linebacker Shaquem Griffin looked “very comfortable, very natural” during the Seahawks’ three-day rookie minicamp. He added that the weak-side spot still seems to suit him best.
CB Denzel Ward, the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft, didn’t do a whole lot at Browns rookie minicamp this weekend. Ward left Friday’s practice early and sat out Saturday’s practice due to a hip flexor strain. The team called the decision to hold out Ward “precautionary,” and coach Hue Jackson said any “little nicks” were reason enough to hold a player out of action this time of year.
The Packers top-two picks — cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson — showed their differing styles right away in rookie camp. Alexander showed his scrappiness and his speed, while Jackson displayed his size and strength. What’s more, the two appear to have hit it off since first meeting at the combine. Said Alexander, the first-round pick: “It’s great. Josh is my guy. It’s cool to see him lined up across from me. We’re both putting in work fighting for the same thing.”
Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst was impressive at rookie minicamp, smoothly running routes and showing soft hands. The first-round pick caught nearly everything thrown his way. Hurst almost pulled in a one-handed grab in the back of the end zone.
LB Breeland Speaks had a solid day in his first practice at Chiefs rookie camp. Speaks, the Chiefs’ top pick, was able to get some pressure on the quarterback, though the Chiefs were practicing without pads and the player charged with blocking him had never played against someone with his skills. Speaks also said he was comfortable with the playbook. “The first reaction had to be ‘I can do this,’ ” Speaks said. “I looked at a few defenses we installed for today and we pretty much went over those and I know those pretty much by heart already. I’m feeling pretty good about the playbook so far.”
RB Nick Chubb, a second-round pick by the Cleveland Browns in last week’s NFL Draft, was as impressive as anyone during rookie minicamp practices Friday and Saturday. Chubb runs decisively, exudes professionalism and seems to understand what’s being asked of him. The Browns are trying to get him plenty of work in the passing game, as that’s a way he wasn’t used much at Georgia (where they had a wealth of RB options). During the pre-draft process, Browns decision-makers convinced themselves Chubb had good hands and could handle a variety of passing-game responsibilities. But as is the case with top pick Baker Mayfield, who’s working on taking snaps from under center, the Browns want to use these early practices to drill things Chubb isn’t used to doing.
WR Antonio Callaway, a fourth-round pick by the Cleveland Browns in last week’s NFL Draft, made a strong impression with his speed and playmaking ability in Friday’s rookie minicamp practice. “He is very, very fast – a fast man,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “He makes good plays on the ball. When you have a guy like that and you get chemistry down, then it is dangerous.” Unfortunately, Callaway had to leave Saturday’s practice with a toe injury whose severity is unknown. He fell to the fourth round due to a variety of off-field issues in his past, but if he’s healthy and can stay out of trouble, the Browns think he can prove to be a bargain.
Rather than have first-round draft pick Kolton Miller start his NFL career at right tackle, the Raiders have him working almost exclusively on the left side. Yes, even if Oakland already has a Pro Bowler there in Donald Penn, who, by the way, is 35 and coming off Lisfranc surgery in his right foot. “That’s where he has recently played,” Gruden said of Miller, stretching in front of Gruden in this picture from rookie minicamp. “We like him at left tackle. We think he’s a prototype left tackle. He can bend, he’s got the length that you’re looking for and he’s a sharp kid…that doesn’t mean that’s where they’re going to end up, though.”
Nathan Shepherd, the Jets’ third-round pick, took a long journey to the NFL, working odd jobs to get through school. Asked if it has hit him yet that he’s a pro football player, Shepherd, 24, offered this reflective response.
Mike Hughes got some work in at slot corner today. Hasn’t played a lot inside and says he’s adjusting to knowing where his help is, run fits, etc. Mike Zimmer said when Hughes was drafted that he expects to start him on the outside and work his way in as it’s easier for rookies to adjust to an NFL secondary that way. If it keeps up, Hughes could end up challenging Mackensie Alexander for the nickel corner position come August.
First-round pick Mike McGlinchey got his first on-field work with the 49ers at their rookie minicamp. As expected, McGlinchey worked exclusively at right tackle. He was as steady and solid as advertised in his first practice and, though there were no pads, showed a willingness to finish blocks down field.