We’re a solid two weeks into training camp. Preseason games start this weekend. We’ll be dismissing Week 1 results before you know it.
Like it does every August, the NFL timeline is compressing exponentially, but there’s no need to be worried. All 32 teams, definitely your team, is ready to play. I know this because I read the training camp reports. Every player is looking really good, unless they’re injured, and most of those injuries, I’ve been assured via every coach’s media session, are the minor, day-to-day variety (except for the torn pecs, ripped ACLs, etc).
With everyone practicing so well, it’s hard to determine who’s really standing out and who’s just getting their day on the front page of the official NFL team websites.
QB Paxton Lynch, DEN
Gary Kubiak declared that his rookie hurler was "really stepping up" and "making progress" in Monday’s practice. When you’re other options are Mark Sanchez and ol’ what’s-his-name, I suspect Lynch looks a little better every day.
But wait. Monday’s practice was a distant memory by Wednesday, overthrowing passes and just being inconsistent all over the place, the kind of thing you might expect from a rookie. We’ll still put him on the list this week, because August is all about boundless optimism, rational or not.
WR Davante Adams, GB
Packers offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said: "he continues to improve." That’s good! It’s also worth pointing out that he doesn’t really have anywhere to go but up.
WR Aaron Dobson, NE
It seems like Dobson always has a huge August before he disappears during the season. Bill Belichick to pointed that out on Tuesday.
"[Dobson] had a good spring and a good few days here at training camp. I think we’ve seen that from him before," he added.
TE Vance McDonald, SF
A couple tight ends who are already established blockers get touted as breakout players every year when someone finally notices them catching passes in practice. There’s probably someone in your fantasy league who stashes one of these players with a late-round pick. Maybe that nerd is you, and if it is, you’ll want to grab McDonald this year because he’s having the "best offseason of his career."
RB Arian Foster, MIA
Foster’s been in the league long enough that if he weren’t having great practices, I’d legitimately be concerned. But he’s fine. Miami’s raving about him, and nobody even talking about a committee anymore. All he has to do now is play he’s not a 30-year-old running back one year removed from a torn Achilles.
RB Christine Michael, SEA
Pete Carroll said Michael has been "on the money" in camp so far, which means he’s been a very adequate fill-in while Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise are both on the shelf.
Seahawks offensive line
Tom Cable says they’re not going to be terrible anymore. That’s an improvement, because they were pretty awful last season. Maybe it doesn’t even matter that much. Russell Wilson threw for 2,146 yards, 25 touchdowns and just two interceptions over the second half of the season.
Bookmark this for when we’re back to talking about the woeful state of offensive line play across the NFL next month.
DL Tyrunn Walker, DET
He broke his leg and dislocated his ankle in Week 4 last season, but now, he’s in the best shape of his life, "stronger and more agile" than ever.
DE Dante Fowler, JAX
Last year’s third overall pick has been "embarrassing" the Jaguars offensive line in camp, which sounds impressive until you consider who’s on that offensive line. I’m a believer in Fowler too, but this is a good example of why context matters in training camp.
DT Sheldon Day, JAX
Day, a fourth-round pick, has "impressed daily" according to the team’s official web site, which has absolutely no interest in cranking out hype, none. Head coach Gus Bradley added, "play after play after play – his motor I think jumps out." High motor alert!
There’s been plenty of Jaguars hype this offseason, including plenty from me. But I’m a little worried reality won’t match the buildup coming out of training camp.
DE Everson Griffen, MIN
He’s already been named the best player in Vikings camp. As he should be. The defense usually has an edge early in camp, and Griffen is a bona fide pass rushing star.
MLB Alec Ogletree, LAR
If the Rams are going to scratch out their usual six to seven wins, they’ll need a pretty serious jump in performance from Ogletree as he moves from outside to the inside, a role where it requires quite a bit more from a linebacker than just being fast.
Not to worry! Jeff Fisher assures us that Ogletree is already the right man for the job, barely a week into training camp.
"He went out and he worked and he came back and had the best overall time, from a defensive standpoint, in the conditioning test," Fisher said. "What a difference a couple years makes. I’m just really proud of him. He’s our guy in the middle."
OLB Jarvis Jones, PIT
Jones’ career has been pretty underwhelming so far, enough that that Steelers declined to pick up his fifth-year option this spring. But maybe this has gotta be the year, right? Linebackers coach Joey Porter says Jones can get double digit sacks this year.
OLB Bark Mingo, CLE
#Browns OLB Barkevious Mingo said weight he gained in offseason has helped him thus far in camp, more physical, stronger at point of attack— Nate Ulrich (@NateUlrichABJ) August 2, 2016
Best. Shape. Ever.
CB Bashaud Breeland, WAS
CB Jonathan Jones, NE
The undrafted rookie is working his way up the depth chart working over one mediocre receiver at a time. This being the Patriots, we can probably expect this kid to make the Pro Bowl in a couple years, a la Malcolm Butler.
S Tre Boston, CAR
Roster turnover thrust Boston into a starting role, and guess what? He’s ready.
"I see it as it’s my first time to make plays. Really take over the secondary, really be somebody the league fears. I mean that with everything in my heart. They will fear me one day," he told the Charlotte Observer.
You’ve been warned.
S Josh Shaw, CIN
Shaw made a position switch, from corner, and he loves it, naturally. He also picked off Andy Dalton in practice, so see ya at the Pro Bowl.
Training camp hall of leadership
Making great catches, doing outstanding drill work and other general rising and grinding type things are an important part of training camp.
But iron sharpening iron is only part of the equation. August is when leaders are born, one 6 a.m. film session at a time. So, let’s take a moment to recognize this week’s LEADERS.
QB Jameis Winston, TB
In Tampa, hard to overstate how much of a leader Jameis Winston is. #Bucs coach Dirk Koetter arrived at 6 am today, Winston beat him here— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 3, 2016
The next time the Buccaneers play in London, this guy is going to be ready for the time difference.
RB DeMarco Murray, TEN
With #Titans, RB DeMarco Murray is everything they hoped. "A coach's dream," 1 coach said. He's been known to host OL meetings by himself— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 5, 2016
Well, Mike Mularkey is a dream coach. I just hope the last few Titans fans don’t wake up.
Head coach Ron Rivera, CAR
Finally: Rivera told team in camp speech an old Madden/Parcellsism: You don’t pick up this yr where you left off last year. Preaching that.— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) August 4, 2016
WELL ACTUALLY, the Panthers left off in February of this year, but I’m not one to let facts get in the way of a lame football cliche that kind of makes sense but doesn’t really if you think about it too much.