Every team is well into its offseason program heading into the month of June as NFL OTAs have taken place around the league.
These workouts are great for installing new schemes and building chemistry. However, they aren’t typically what makes or breaks teams’ seasons, and some top veterans choose to remain away while working out on their own — Tom Brady and Le’Veon Bell are just two of many.
Still, we’ve learned quite a bit in the past couple of weeks during NFL OTAs.
Jets are a spectacular dumpster fire
Adam Gase refuses to admit there was a power struggle between himself and former general manager Mike Maccagnan, who was fired. His actions since being named interim GM say otherwise. Reportedly, potential GM candidates are concerned about jumping into this environment now, and it’s hard to blame them. On top of it all, the rumors surrounding Gase and big-money free-agent acquisition Le’Veon Bell portend doom. New York fans better buckle up, because it looks like this is going to be a heck of a bumpy ride.
James Conner might not be the main man in Pittsburgh
It’s a brand new day for the Pittsburgh Steelers now that Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell have moved on. Among the interesting things that have taken place during this transition is a new approach to the running back position. General manager Kevin Colbert recently hinted that James Conner — who was incredible last year — may split carries with rookie Benny Snell and Jaylen Samuels. Running back by committee is an approach many teams take these days. Still, this was a surprising revelation.
Injuries piling up for 49ers
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo continues to make a strong recovery from his ACL injury. That’s the good news for the San Francisco 49ers. The bad news is that many of their other top players are dealing with injuries. Top draft pick Nick Bosa may be out until training camp with a hamstring injury, running back Matt Breida has a torn pec, and safety Jimmie Ward broke his collarbone during NFL OTAs — to name a few. Head coach Kyle Shanahan better hope this trend doesn’t continue into the summer.
The Watson revelation
Benjamin Watson retired after last season, only to walk back that decision and sign with the New England Patriots following Rob Gronkowski’s retirement. The 38-year-old surprised everyone when he announced he’d open the 2019 season on the suspended list after being hit with a four-game ban. Watson took Bio Identical Testosterone Cypionate (prescription) this offseason because he thought he’d never play again. This wasn’t the case of a player trying to cheat in any way. Yet this suspension will still make things a bit more complicated for the Pats to open the season.
Patrick Peterson cheated
Entering his age-29 season, Patrick Peterson was busted by the NFL for taking a banned performance-enhancing substance, and for trying to cover it up. There is no fudging this: Peterson cheated. In the process, he tainted his legacy while leaving his team in the lurch. For the first six games of this coming season, Peterson will be an outsider on a team that desperately needed his leadership. With the veteran out of action, it’ll be up to rookie Byron Murphy to step up and keep the secondary from falling apart.
Keenum and Haskins may not settle things until Week 1
The Washington Redskins landed one of the biggest steals in Round 1 of the draft when Dwayne Haskins fell into their laps at No. 15. With no other solid option at quarterback outside of career journeyman Case Keenum, Washington has to consider starting the rookie out of the gate. Yet based on what Jay Gruden said recently after practice, that may not happen. In fact, it seems Gruden doesn’t think the competition between Keenum and Haskins will be settled for quite some time: “I’m sure it will be a good, lengthy competition,” he said, per ESPN.
Lamar Jackson has a long ways to go
One of the most dynamic quarterbacks to enter the NFL in a long time, former Heisman winner Lamar Jackson is still a work in progress as a passer. That was evident throughout his rookie campaign. And so far this spring, even he admits he’s frustrated with his performance in the pocket. Baltimore is fully invested in Jackson right now. Everything hinges on his ability to develop as a pure passer. It’s going to be fascinating to see if offensive coordinator Greg Roman and quarterback coach James Urban can get Jackson on the right track.
FitzMagic outperforming Josh Rosen
Rookie head coach Brian Flores has made it clear that Ryan Fitzpatrick and trade acquisition Josh Rosen will battle one another for the starting job this summer. It’s early, but so far it seems the birthday-cake-loving veteran has a leg up in the competition. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald recently reported Fitzpatrick “has been the best of the quarterbacks so far.” It sure sounds like this battle will take a while to play out, and nobody should be surprised if it’s FitzMagic time come September.
Jason Witten discovered the Fountain of Youth
Less than a year after retiring in grand fashion, Jason Witten is back with the Dallas Cowboys. His comeback story is among the most fascinating the NFL has to offer this year. And based on the comments coming out of Dallas during OTAs, the tight end discovered the Fountain of Youth during his year off. Quarterback Dak Prescott said Witten has “definitely gotten better, stronger and faster,” per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Entering his age-38 season, Witten could be a big factor for the ‘Boys.
Wentz looking strong and healthy
Now that Nick Foles is leading Jacksonville’s offense, the Philadelphia Eagles are without a reliable backup plan behind Carson Wentz. The former No. 3 overall pick has suffered season-ending injuries the past two seasons — the latter of which he recently admitted was still not fully healed. The good news is that Wentz had no limitations as the Eagles opened NFL OTAs, and beat writers gushed over his form during practices. That’s a significant, positive development for Wentz and the Eagles.