The next six weeks could be the toughest of the year for NFL fans as teams shut down until training camps open in late July.
It’s all good, though. Teams that completed their minicamps last week left plenty to talk about as the offseason will quickly turn into the preseason.
In no particular order, here are some of the developments from around the league during the most recent round of mandatory minicamps that wrapped up late last week:
Cam Newton’s throwing mechanics were the talk of minicamp as the quarterback continues to recover from arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in January. Newton didn’t do much throwing during camp, making about 15 warmup tosses and throwing some 20 times to stationary targets.
He was affected by shoulder soreness during the second half of last season, when the Panthers finished 7-9.
“If you go back and look at some of the things that happened earlier in the year before the shoulder injury, you can see the improvement, you can see the footwork and the development,” coach Ron Rivera told reporters. “When the shoulder started to go, everything just kind of fell to the wayside. Now he has an opportunity to go back, rework those things and do the things he needs to improve.”
Newton declined to speak with the press.
“He did exactly what we had scripted out and made some targeted throws,” Rivera said.
The coach said he expects Newton to be cleared for full practice when training camp opens.
This will be Lamar Jackson’s first full season as the starting quarterback after the Ravens traded Joe Flacco to Denver. Jackson took over for the injured Flacco late last season and led them into the playoffs, but then struggled in a home loss to Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers.
This offseason has been important to the former Heisman Trophy winner.
“You build around your players, nobody more so than your quarterback,” coach John Harbaugh said. “You identify who your quarterback is going to be for the long term, which we’ve done, we need to build everything around what he can do. Offense, defense, even special teams are built with that in mind. What type of team are we going to be, based on the skill set of the quarterback?”
That’s all good with Jackson.
“Right now it’s pretty calm to me. Playing in those seven games being around my teammates, it’s been pretty good.”
LOS ANGELES RAMS
Coming off a loss in the Super Bowl, the Rams held their usual organized team activities (OTAs) and then limited minicamp to just one day.
Most of the chatter was about quarterback Jared Goff’s contract and running back Todd Gurley II’s left knee.
Goff is heading into the fourth seasons of his rookie contract. He said he’s not concerned that he doesn’t have an extension even though Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles was given a $128 million extension recently. Wentz was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft, right behind Goff.
“You definitely think about it,” Goff told the media. “But at the same time, I know that none of that is even possible without playing on the field, and being available on the field. I’ll just continue to do what I’ve been doing the last few years, and hopefully it will take care of itself.”
Gurley, meanwhile, said his left knee is OK after his playing time was limited late last season. “I don’t feel like I need to do OTAs,” he said. “I know what I’ve done. I know what I can do.”
No. 1 overall draft pick Kyler Murray, who chose football over baseball, said he’s familiar with new coach Kliff Kingsbury’s playbook from their time in the Big 12 Conference.
So much so that wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said Murray is ahead of most veterans.
“Obviously, I’m more familiar with it; coach Kingsbury knows it the best,” Murray told reporters. “With (Fitzgerald) being a veteran, not having to come to the OTAs and me being there every day, studying it every day, yes I do know it better. But that’s my job.”
Kingsbury’s Texas Tech teams ran the Air Raid Offense for six seasons. He was fired at the end of last season, spent a few months as USC’s offensive coordinator and was then hired by the Cardinals to replace Steve Wilks.
The Cardinals used the No. 1 overall pick on Murray, who played at Oklahoma and won the Heisman Trophy last season.
Kirk Cousins expects more of himself as his aims to reach the proverbial “next level.”
“The next level really is all about winning,” Cousins said. “I’m pretty much a .500 quarterback in my career so far, and I don’t think that’s where you want to be, and that’s not why you are brought in or people are excited about you. If I don’t play well, if I don’t have gaudy statistics, but we win multiple playoffs games, the narrative will be I went to the next level.”
Cousins played six seasons with the Washington Redskins before joining the Vikings last year under an $84 million, three-year contract. They finished 8-7-1 and missed the playoffs, leaving Cousins with a career record of 34-37-2 as a starter. He lost the only playoff game he started, with Washington in 2015.
“If I have my best year yet (statistically) in 2019, but we’re 8-8, I didn’t go to the next level,” he said. “So that’s the reality of it. If we win, that’s the life of a quarterback is you are at the next level.”
Quarterback Andrew Luck sat out the three-day minicamp with a strained calf but vowed to be back in action for training camp.
“It’s OK, it’s not good enough to practice this week, which I’m bummed about,” Luck told reporters. “But I think we’re on a very, very good page and I’ll be ready for training camp.”
Luck missed all of 2017 after having his throwing shoulder surgically repaired. He bounced back so well that he led the Colts into the playoffs and won the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award.
Coach Frank Reich is optimistic about how Luck will play this season.
“He has missed the on-field work but he has gotten so much in the meetings. Second year in the system, talking through things, he’s been able to have even more input into the system this year, putting his imprint on the system now knowing what we’re doing, what he likes, what he doesn’t, and why he likes what he likes in our system,” the coach said.
There’s going to be a lot of attention on the Browns this season after they finished 7-8-1 — remarkable for them — in Baker Mayfield’s first season as quarterback and traded for receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
Along with that attention comes drama. Mayfield was critical of running back Duke Johnson, who skipped voluntary workouts and demanded a trade after finding out the Browns had shopped him around after signing Kareem Hunt.
Mayfield said Johnson’s situation was “self-inflicted” and said he has “got to do his job.”
The NFL Network, citing multiple sources, reported that several Browns players approached Mayfield in the locker room to voice their displeasure about his comments and any differences were “hashed out.”
Teams sometimes cancel the last day of minicamp if they feel they’ve accomplished their offseason goals, and to keep players healthy.
The Titans did just that, and then headed to Topgolf to have some fun.
“I don’t think we’re going to beat anybody on this last day, but I think that we could certainly lose to some teams by losing guys,” coach Mike Vrabel told the media. “I think that’s the biggest thing that you want as you come out of spring. You’re just trying to improve but stay as healthy as you possibly can.”
Stay tuned until late July.