10 players making headlines following NFL minicamps
There are good and bad headlines from minicamp, and NFL players made both with their performances throughout the offseason program.
Here are 10 players generating buzz with minicamps in the rearview mirror and training camps on the horizon:
Jordan Love, QB, Packers
With Aaron Rodgers holding out amid a contentious dispute with the Packers' front office, Love continued to receive a taste of being a starter in the NFL. Head coach Matt LaFleur said the team "threw everything" at the second-year quarterback during minicamp, and Love responded with a roller-coaster performance across three days. The youngster struggled mightily during Day 1 but bounced back on Day 2, wowing onlookers with his arm strength and deep-passing talents. He then regressed during the last session. Love's play in minicamp highlighted that, like most young quarterbacks, consistency will be his biggest hurdle if he's thrust into the starting spot.
Najee Harris, RB, Steelers
Harris' first career minicamp couldn't have gone much better. The first-round rookie turned heads in college with his combination of size and explosiveness, but his new teammates were equally - if not more - impressed with his pass-catching skills in practice.
Harris has already drawn frequent praise from across the organization for his work ethic. Pittsburgh is counting on him to revitalize a running game that averaged the fewest yards per contest last year and an offense that sputtered down the stretch altogether.
Chris Jones, DT, Chiefs
One of the top interior pass-rushers in the league, Jones took reps at defensive end in minicamp and is slated to see time there in the regular season. Kansas City has struggled to get production from the edge spots at times in the last couple years, leading the team to experiment with its 6-foot-6, 310-pound Pro Bowl tackle. The Chiefs signed Jarran Reed in free agency to keep the interior strong.
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Dolphins
Plenty of successful quarterbacks have endured hiccups in minicamp, but it's hard to ignore the five-interception day Tagovailoa had on the heels of an underwhelming rookie season. He and head coach Brian Flores both downplayed his struggles, and Tagovailoa did have a better showing the next day. Still, the pressure is intensifying and Ryan Fitzpatrick won't be in Miami to bail him out this year should he falter.
Elijah Moore, WR, Jets
Not many players, regardless of position and experience, have had a better offseason than Moore. While merely a second-round rookie, the Ole Miss product began dominating practice from the moment he stepped onto the field. Moore isn't just catching what hits him; he's making difficult grabs look straightforward.
Impressing the Jets' new coaching staff - Robert Saleh called his work ethic and mindset "off the charts" - Moore is trending toward earning a significant role in Year 1. He's quickly made Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder an afterthought on the first-string offense, which is no easy feat for a rookie.
Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Raiders
Ngakoue showed up to minicamp 12 pounds heavier than his listed weight from a year ago, and the extra muscle didn't seem to cost him anything in the pass-rushing department. "My goodness," quarterback Derek Carr exclaimed on the first day of camp. "Wow! What a guy. I sit there and I'm like, he's 26 years old? Oh my goodness. This is good for the Raiders." Las Vegas desperately needs Ngakoue to pan out, as its defense has ranked in the bottom 10 in sacks for five straight seasons.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys
After a down season in which he appeared to lose a staggering amount of athleticism, Elliott showed up to minicamp a new man. Dak Prescott marveled at his sharp cuts and explosiveness on the practice field and said Elliott is "in the best shape of his life." For what it's worth, the former rushing champion also seemed to have his mojo back:
Tee Higgins, WR, Bengals
Cincinnati selected Ja'Marr Chase fifth overall in April, but Higgins may be the receiver set to dominate in 2021. The 2020 second-rounder looked more twitchy than he was a year ago, and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan already declared him "a problem" for opposing defenses. Quarterback Joe Burrow echoed that sentiment, stating the Clemson product is "going to have a big year." After a 67-908-6 rookie line, we're excited to see what a breakout would look like.
Drew Lock, QB, Broncos
Lock may have been rattled by Teddy Bridgewater's arrival at the beginning of OTAs, but he seemed more settled by minicamp. The third-year gunslinger outshined Bridgewater in red-zone drills, though inconsistencies still marred his overall performance.
Broncos head coach Vic Fangio cautioned that minicamp performance will weigh no more than 3% into his looming quarterback decision, but Lock figures to be a leg up on Bridgewater in the early portion of the race.
Tyler Conklin, TE, Vikings
In an offseason where Irv Smith Jr. was supposed to emerge as the third option in the Vikings' passing game, Conklin was the one catching Mike Zimmer's eye. "He's kind of emerged as a guy that's moving upward and with those two guys, we have a lot of weapons there," the head coach said before minicamp. Conklin, a fifth-round pick in 2018, had 15 receptions for 168 yards and a touchdown in the four games Kyle Rudolph - who's now with the Giants - didn't play last year. Smith posted similar numbers over that span.