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.
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.