After months of offseason projections, predictions and rankings, the focus around the NFL has turned back to the action on the field. Even though training camps are less than a week in, players have already begun to exceed expectations while others have disappointed in the early going.
A good, or bad, few practices in training camp doesn't necessarily mean much, but here is a quick look at a few players who are rising and a few others who are falling.
It seems every season, the Raiders have a young, talented wide receiver poised to break out. Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore have been that guy in recent seasons and Rod Streater is that guy this season. An undrafted free agent entering his second season, Streater has impressed early in camp. He's performed so well, Levi Damien of Silver and Black Pride said Streater could offer the Raiders a legitimate No. 1 receiver.
Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins
Lamar Miller's stock has been on the rise all offseason and the rise has continued early in training camp. He didn't play much as a rookie, but with Reggie Bush gone, he will have a much larger opportunity this season. When you listen to Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin describe Miller, there aren't many weaknesses.
"He has good instincts as a runner," Philbin said, via the Miami Herald. "Has very, very good athletic ability. Has good speed. He can pass protect. It took him a little while to get the responsibilities down, the blitz adjustments down. At the end of the year, he was very sound in his pass protection. He has good hands, can catch the football."
Vernon Davis' production dropped across the board last season, but his stock has begun to recover from the hit it took. He's been spending more time at wide receiver during camp and 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh said Davis has improved as a football player and with his route running. He's always been one of the most athletically gifted tight ends in the league, but if he's refined his technical skills, Davis could once again be a matchup nightmare.
With Wes Welker in Denver, Rob Gronkowski recovering from offseason surgeries and Brandon Lloyd and Aaron Hernandez no longer with the team, many questioned who Tom Brady would throw the ball to next season. Former undrafted wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins could fill some of the void, and he's been impressive early. According to the Boston Globe, Thompkins has spent time running with the first team and is "catching everything that comes his way."
Julius Thomas, TE, Denver Broncos
Julius Thomas' transition from college basketball player to NFL tight end has been slow. Although he only caught one pass during his first two seasons, that may change this year. According to the Denver Post, Thomas has been getting reps with the first team during camp. Lindsay Jones of USA Today reported Thomas is still running with the first team even though Joel Dreessen returned from a knee injury.
It's been a rough introduction to the NFL for rookie Justin Hunter. Tennessee wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson criticized him for sitting out OTA practices and now safety Bernard Pollard has been vocally ripping Hunter during practice. According to the Tennessean, Pollard has been "blistering the ears" of Hunter, including giving the rookie second-round pick a hard time about his ability to come over the middle.
Once a rising star in the league, Ryan Mathews is now battling Ronnie Brown and Danny Woodhead for first-team reps. Injuries limited Mathews during his first three seasons and though he's healthy now, it doesn't sound like he'll be in a feature role anytime soon. According to Fox Sports, Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said the plan is to rotate running backs and "play the hot hand."
Hankerson has all of the athletic ability you could want in a wide receiver, but it hasn't translated to on-field production. He entered training camp in a battle with Josh Morgan for a starting spot, but is struggling with consistency early in camp. According to the Washington Times, Hankerson has been up-and-down in practice, with Mike Shanahan saying he needs to have a better concentration level and be more mentally tough.
Chris Ivory received a lot of hype during the offseason, with the Jets reportedly seeing him as a potential top-10 running back in the league. Then camp opened and once again Ivory was hampered by an injury. Ivory's had trouble staying healthy dating back to the start of his college career at Washington State. The fact that he's already missing team drills puts a damper on the hopes he could have a breakout season.
Arian Foster injured his calf during offseason workouts and now two months later, there is still no timeline for his return. Foster opened training camp on the physically unable to perform list and said it's not an injury you can play through, according to the Houston Chronicle. Foster's yards per carry average declined in each of the last two seasons, and opening the season with a calf injury will only add to the concern.