It’s late July and the football fan can almost feel it. Fantasy football leagues are being formed, new jerseys are being bought and any little piece of news is magnified due to the thirst for the sport. It seems as if this years training camps have brought more coverage and more excitement than before. America’s new favorite pastime is football – let me clarify for those over zealous soccer enthusiast – NFL football.
It’s still early but every camp has their certain standouts and there is a certain buzz around center players. In Green Bay, they are finding much to their delight that Eddie Lacy just might be the three down back they’ve been in need of. Green Bay loves to keep defenses at bay with their no huddle attack and relying on Lacy as a legit pass catching and blocking back will cut down on pre snap substitutions in a big way. Lacy’s has continued to excel in practice and this is something to keep an eye out for as the season begins.
We all know Lacy is a guy who has a roster spot though, so let’s move on to one who’s impressing while fighting to show his place on the team. Rookie wideout Jared Abbrederis has proven to be just what he was at the University of Wisconsin – a good route runner who can catch everything. He opened up eyes breaking off of one on one coverage against Tramon WIlliams and making the catch. He doesn’t have blazing speed, but what the qualities he possesses should be enough to earn him a roster spot for a team who’s offense is built off precision and timing.
The secondary is a position that needed a kick and it seems as if Micah Hyde is going to make first round selection Ha-Ha Clinton-Dixx fight for a starting job. Hyde seemingly needed to be threatened by the young athletic rookie from Auburn in order to maybe reach his full potential. Hyde has been taking first team snaps and mostly going up against wide receiver Jordy Nelson (who was just given a four year $39 million contract extension) and in the dime set has been featured at nickel corner with Dixx playing safety. With Hyde exceeding expectations, this can let Green Bay be very creative in how to use Dixx moving forward.
There is one main story at the Minnesota Vikings training camp and it’s all about the quarterback position. With Christian Ponder being kept away from snaps with the first team, it’s clear the competition is between veteran Matt Cassell and rookie Teddy Bridgewater. If one was to take a guess, it would appear that at the moment, Bridgewater may be edging out Cassell. New offensive coordinator, Norv Turner, has been raving about Bridgewater’s accuracy, arm strength, instincts and quick release. While Bridgewater is impressing Norv Turner, running back Adrian Peterson is impressed with Norv Turner. Peterson said this is the offense he’s “been looking for, for the past seven years,” and when talking about the Vikings’ history of being a predictable offense, Peterson added: “You won’t be able to do that because this offense is so versatile.”
On the defensive side, it was almost a blessing that Captian Munnerlyn is currently not able to participate because there are about 7 other corner backs who need time to show they deserve a spot on the squad. A player that understands how important it is to take advantage of the time is rookie Jabari Price. Price if anything has shown the willingness to “get dirty.” He doesn’t shy away from contact at the line of scrimmage and has been closing the gap quickly between he and the ball carriers. It might be those extra showings of effort that earn him a spot where many will get cut.
The Chicago Bears have already been impressed by their first round pick, cornerback Kyle Fuller. He snagged two interceptions at his first day in camp, while his instincts and reaction times seem to be on-par with a veteran at his position. The Bears intention when drafting Fuller was to have him on the field as much as possible and be the heir apparent to Charles Tillman. During one drill, Brandon Marshall was being covered by Fuller and for Marshall to make the catch he had to push off of Fuller. Tim Jennings immediately ran over to Marshall comically gesturing for a flag to be thrown for offensive pass interference. . .
The Bears have number one and number two receiver are probably the best combo in the league – Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey. Which leaves Marc Trestman and his coaching staff searching for the player who will step up as the slot receiver. The early favorite is second year man Marquess Wilson, who has been training with Jeffrey and Marshall in the off-season and it shows. He returned as a crisper route runner and has gained an over-all confidence in his game. The name that seems to be picking up steam on Wilson’s is Chris Williams. Williams has seen himself go to the Dolphins as an un-drafted rookie free agent and then found himself in the CFL where he was successful as a wide receiver and special teams player. That bit of versatility, as was discussed by Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs, kind of puts him in the mold of Devin Hester. Williams has proven in training camp that he can flat out fly on go routes and has better hands than Hester ever did.
While most teams rookies are holding their own, Detroit’s first round pick, tight end Eric Ebron seemingly struggles holding on to anything. Ebron had issues with following the ball into his hands while playing at UNC and that problem still persists. Head coach Jim Caldwell said he’s not too concerned with it right now. Caldwell defends Ebron by saying : “One thing I think people don’t quite understand about playing a tight end position, you can probably notice that he lines up in a number of different places. . . he’s got to know all the protections at (those) particular location(s) as well as the routes. . . so it’s not easy for him.” That doesn’t sound like a defense, more like an excuse for a kid who just is not picking up the Lions’ system as quickly as folks thought he would.
Kevin Ogletree has worked his way into reps with the first team as the slot receiver. Reports from training camp are that he’s been catching any and everything thrown in his general direction. On the defensive side, last years rookie cornerback disappointment Darius Slay has been playing stronger and with a slight chip on his shoulder. Slay has caught a lot of negative press and in practices he’s been looking forward to his one on one’s with Johnson or Tate. Adding an extra push, jawing off a little more than usual and actually jumping patterns well.