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10 NFL players with the most to prove during training camp

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Young players looking to make their mark during late-summer action. Veterans attempting to hold on to their jobs on NFL rosters. Others will have to prove themselves while coming off injury.

That’s what will define training camp around the league.

It’s in this that we look at 10 NFL players with the most to prove as training camps get started for the league’s 32 teams.

Jimmy Garoppolo, quarterback, San Francisco 49ers

Let’s pull this scab off right away. Garoppolo is facing a do-or-die 2019 season. Signed to what was then the richest contract in NFL history last offseason, the veteran suffered a torn ACL three games into the 2018 campaign. He’s started a grand total of 10 games and has been an inconsistent performer.

San Francisco has done everything possible to put the pieces in place around Garoppolo. He now not only needs to remain healthy, but perform like a top-10 quarterback. That starts during camp with a plethora of new offensive weapons at his disposal. The good news here is that Garoppolo is going to be a full go for camp.

Laquon Treadwell, wide receiver, Minnesota Vikings

From first-round pick to being on the roster bubble. That’s where this physical receiver finds himself heading into his fourth training camp. Treadwell has caught a grand total of 56 passes over the course of his first three seasons. He’s now nowhere near a lock to make Minnesota’s 53-man roster.

Recent reports suggest that second-year undrafted free agent Chad Beebe is the favorite to land the No. 3 receiver job behind Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. If that is indeed the case, Treadwell must impress this summer to break camp with the Vikings.

David Njoku, tight end, Cleveland Browns

Njoku might talk a big game. He might be one of the best young tight ends in the game from both a physical and talent standpoint. The former first-round pick also upped his game big time as a sophomore in 2018. Cleveland will now be relying on Njoku to perform at a Pro Bowl level this season.

It starts during training camp. All eyes are going to be on the new battery mate of Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr. It’s in this that Njoku has an opportunity. He’s not going to be anywhere near the central focus of opposing defenses with OBJ and Jarvis Landry in the mix. Improving off last season’s 56-catch, 639-yard performance is going to be key to Cleveland success.

Jabrill Peppers, safety, New York Giants

An argument could be made that former Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams played Peppers out of position. Too often, the former Michigan standout found himself 10-plus yards off the line of scrimmage. That is not the best way to utilize someone of his immense talent.

Now in New York after being the headliner going back to the Giants in the Beckham Jr. trade, the pressure is squarely on this former first-round pick. Peppers will need to make an immediate impact during camp, showing Giants coaches that he can be counted on as a true center fielder in the secondary.

Le’Veon Bell, running back, New York Jets

Bell is already talking a big game ahead of his first training camp with the Jets. That’s nothing new. He was seen as a enigmatic personality with the Pittsburgh Steelers before holding out all of last season and signing a less-than-market deal in New Jersey.

The major question mark here is whether Bell is a fit in new head coach Adam Gase’s system. Gase was not a fan of signing him to a lucrative contract. In fact, the head coach preferred new 49ers running back Tevin Coleman. How this all plays out during training camp will be the biggest story at Florham Park.

Kyler Murray, quarterback, Arizona Cardinals

First impressions are everyhing in today’s NFL. How Murray performs in his initial training camp under rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury will be telling. Is he going to have control of the offense and maintain poise during otherwise ho-hum practices? How will Murray handle pressure in the few practices that allow for somewhat full contact?

This is all pretty big given that Murray is already in line to start Week 1. He’s not going to face pressure from veteran Brett Hundley for the starting job. It’s in this that Murray must show the brass in Arizona that he has what it takes to dive right in come September.

Marcus Mariota, quarterback, Tennessee Titans

Contract year. Two consecutive seasons of substandard play. A playoff contender. These are the three backdrops for Mr. Mariota as he faces what could be a do-or-die campaign for the former No. 2 overall pick.

Tennessee did well to add more talent to its offense by selecting A.J. Brown in the second round of April’s draft. He’ll team up with Corey Davis, Delanie Walker and Derrick Henry to form a solid skill-position group. The onus is now on Mariota not to act the part of a detriment, much like he’s done over the past two seasons.

Jimmy Graham, tight end, Green Bay Packers

Green Bay did not rest on its laurels at the tight end position this offseason. While it was a surprise to see the team retain Graham at a $12.67 million cap hit, general manager Brian Gutekunst and Co. went out there and added to other tight ends.

Former Texas A&M standout Jace Sternberger heads to Wisconsin after being a draft darling heading into April’s draft. He’s a physical freak and could be a Day 1 contributor. After putting up 55 receptions and just two touchdowns last season, the onus is on Graham to perform at a higher level.

Demaryius Thomas, wide receiver, New England Patriots

The loss of Rob Gronkowski to retirement opens up opportunities for other pass catchers in New England. Julian Edelman’s current injury only adds more significance to that. Simply put, the Patriots need production from those who have proven themselves in the past.

That includes this four-time Pro Bowler. Thomas suffered a torn Achilles as a member of the Texans last season. He’ll start camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. But he should be back at some point. He’ll have to make an immediate impact or face the possibility of being a late-summer roster casualty.

Jameis Winston, quarterback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Much like fellow fifth-year quarterback Marcus Mariota, it’s put up or shut up time for Winston. The former No. 1 pick has the confidence of first-year head coach Bruce Arians. He’ll see an offense built around his talents. Unfortunately, this has not led to success in the recent past.

Winston was benched multiple times for Ryan Fitzpatrick last season. He’s a turnover machine who continues to struggle with maturity off the field. Winston is now facing the most important training camp of his career. It’s that simple.