5 NFL Players Who Turned Heads During OTAs and Minicamp

By Rachel Wold

As teams now prepare for the start of training camp later this summer, OTAs and some minicamps have already concluded. There were some rookies and veterans who stood out and performed extremely well for their respective teams.

Here are five players who are already turning heads.

1. Carson Palmer, Quarterback, Arizona Cardinals

The 35-year-old veteran quarterback looked impressive after undergoing knee surgery seven months ago. It is reported that Palmer and second-year wideout John Brown connected on multiple touchdown passes. Gaining the attention of his head coach, Bruce Arians had this to say after observing Palmer in practice (via Fox Sports):

“Of the 100 balls he threw, he only had one bad one. I thought his movement in the pocket, there was no hesitation in him.”

In fact, Arians was so thrilled with his entire team as a unit that he cancelled the last day of the team’s minicamp. Palmer also received positive feedback from veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who claimed that nothing has changed and noted that Palmer looked as accurate as ever.

It appears Palmer still has some tread on his tires as he enters his 12th season in the NFL. Barring any setback, Palmer will hopefully be full-speed ahead come September.

2. Marcus Mariota, Quarterback, Tennessee Titans

The second pick in this year’s draft dazzled his new teammates with his performance during camp. One veteran player even went as far as to describe the young quarterback as a “stud player with a great arm.”

Titans wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson also had some glowing comments about the team’s rookie quarterback (via ESPN.com):

“He is deadly accurate. I am just giddy about his future going forward.”

Mariota’s accuracy carries over from three successful season at Oregon where he completed 66.8 percent of his passes. While it’s important to ground expectations based on what a player does during the summer, Mariota is obviously impressing his new team.

The downside here is that the reigning Heisman winner doesn’t have an elite group of receivers to throw to. Once the preseason starts and he’s in a real-game situation, it will be interesting to see how the rookie connects with his pass catchers. For now, Mariota will have to make the best with the weapons he does have.

3. T.J. Yeldon, Running Back, Jacksonville Jaguars

A second-round pick of the Jaguars back in May, Yeldon is already edging himself ahead of veteran running back Toby Gerhart and fellow youngster Denard Robinson on the team’s depth chart.

After the conclusion of the team’s OTA’s, Yeldon drew positive input from offensive coordinator Greg Olson (via the Florida Times Union).

“He was a playmaker and he played big in big games. He’s a very knowledgeable, intelligent player at the running back position. “[Playing every down] would be asking a lot of any player. I wouldn’t put it past him. He’s another real self-starter and hard worker.”

Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times Union concluded it would not be surprising if Yeldon is the featured back when the Jaguars break camp for the regular season.

Yeldon also caught the eye of Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny, who said that the rookie looked impressive:

“How does a guy move in space? How athletic is he? That’s what stands out,” the veteran linebacker said. “With him, he definitely has it.”

Yeldon certainly sounds like a bright spot for a team that has struggled through a three-year span that has seen it win a total of nine games. Whether it translates to the regular season is a completely different story.

4. Doug Martin, Running Back, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Martin may be a surprising name to be found on this list after putting up dismal campaigns over the past two seasons. However, this slimmed-down version of Martin impressed Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht, who indicated that Martin “has never looked better.”

Martin, who is entering a make-or-break 2015 campaign after the team did not pick up his fifth-year option, has to show dramatic improvement during the remainder of the summer and through the preseason if he’s going to be given a chance to start.

Knowing full well what’s at stake, Martin had this to say about how he’s improved from a physical standpoint during the offseason:

“I’m trying to get my body fat percentage down. I am a little smaller in terms of my body fat percentage that’s decreased, so that’s good,” the former first-round pick said, via pewterreport.com. “I’m just trying to get my muscle gain up and get that fat out. Definitely I feel quicker – faster. I feel real good.”

The former Pro Bowl performer put up 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns during his rookie season in 2012. If he can return to that form, he’s going to be an amazing asset for first-year signal caller Jameis Winston.

5. Mike Wallace, Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings

Wallace has impressed thus far with his new team. Wallace has received a ton of praise from the Vikings’ brass. Head coach Mike Zimmer had this to say about Wallace’s performance after seeing the new receiver firsthand in practice (via the team’s official website):

“I know he’s a dynamic receiver and he’s been doing a great job of working, he’s a guy that works very, very hard. He’s been catching the ball well. He’s been learning the playbook. All of these things are all different, but he’s looked good.”

It was reported by NFL Network’s Jeff Darlington that Wallace’s speed “is the real deal.” Offensive coordinator Norv Turner also made note of how smart Wallace has been as it relates to picking up the team’s playbook. Perhaps Wallace will be a better fit with Teddy Bridgewater in Minnesota than he was while in Miami.

Photo: USA Today Sports