Believe it or not, the Falcons open training camp four weeks from today. And the Broncos start four days before them. But since everyone’s on break now (and I will be soon too), I figured we’d use this week’s MAQB to look at some truths from the spring...
• Let’s start with this one: The Cardinals are very, very excited about how Kyler Murray has looked early on. You hear “legit” from one coach. You hear “impressive all the way around” from another. Realizing this is before the team has really seen the guy pull the rip-cord as an athlete—that’ll have to wait for live situations—it’s pretty easy to see the potential for some cool stuff in the fall. What they have seen, to this point, is impressive accuracy, instincts and command at the line of scrimmage, to go with a feel for a new scheme, that isn’t completely new to him. Add that to the mystery around that Kliff Kingsbury offense, and it’ll be a challenge for defenses to deal with in the first six weeks of the season or so (remember what the Redskins looked like early in 2012, or the Eagles looked like early in ’13 and ’16).
• Mark me down as having Dwayne Haskins and Murray as the only two rookies starting at quarterback in Week 1, with both Daniel Jones and Drew Lock having a good shot to start a game before the 2019 season is finished.
• There’s quiet confidence in Pittsburgh—many are thinking that the post-Antonio Brown/Le’Veon Bell era will go better than most people expect. For one, the team was without Bell last year, so that’s nothing new. For another, the Steelers haven’t struggled to find skill position talent recently—it’s actually been much harder for the team to rebuild the defense the last few years. To me, that makes first-round pick Devin Bush a more pivotal figure in where the 2019 Steelers go than any single receiver trying to make up for Brown’s lost production.
• A few weeks ago, when Jets GM Joe Douglas was explaining to me how hard it was to leave Philadelphia, he said this of the 2019 Eagles: “It’s as deep of a team as I’ve ever seen there. And that’s including the ’17 team.” A big piece of that—the brass is very encouraged with the spring they saw from their skill players (and that’s even without Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor, who are rehabbing injuries). Both DeSean Jackson and Jordan Howard flashed as veteran additions, and Dallas Goedert’s work through OTAs has the team confident he’ll break out along side Zach Ertz. Add that to a leaner Carson Wentz ripping it, and there’s a lot of reason for optimism on offense in Philly.
• Speaking of the Jets, it’s worth keeping an eye on their third-round picks: Florida DE Jachai Polite and USC OT Chuma Edoga. Based on character and makeup, I’m not sure that either would’ve been up Douglas’s alley, if he’d had the trigger in April. And they don’t strike me as Adam Gase’s type either. But both have a boatload of talent, which will make their individual fates interesting.
• There are just 16 unsigned rookies. Six of them are first-rounders and, as you might expect, all eyes are on second overall draft pick Nick Bosa. That’s largely because his brother Joey carried a holdout to the end of August in 2016, before winning Defensive Rookie of the Year honors a few months later. The younger Bosa’s got the same representation, the same family infrastructure, and the same resolve his brother does. So what caused the holdout three years ago? A dispute over offset language and the payment timeline of the elder Bosa’s $17.02 million signing bonus. And the Niners are generally pretty strict on their contractual terms, and have been here the last couple years. They signed 2017 second-overall pick Solomon Thomas a day into camp, and last year’s ninth-overall pick, Mike McGlinchey, three days before camp started. (Both those guys, by the way, had offset language in their contracts.) Which is to say, this might take a little while.
• One thing lost in the questions over contracts in Dallas is that it’s a result of how well the team has drafted over the last few years. And to that end, it’s worth paying attention when you hear consistently good things about a player early on there—as I have with rookie DT Trysten Hill.
• News of Lincoln Riley’s buyout (as reported by the Tulsa World) won’t do much to deter NFL teams from making a run at the Oklahoma coach after this season—and probably every season until he says yes to someone. The pricetag is $4.6 million, or less than what the average NFL head coach makes per year, which would be a fairly cheap toll to pay to get one of the hottest young minds in the sport.
• We saw the Patriots win a Super Bowl last year with a defense that was heavily invested in the secondary, and it was pointed out to me how the Ravens were similarly splurging on the back end this year. Four of the eight biggest cap numbers on Baltimore’s 2019 ledger are assigned to defensive backs, and four of the six highest average salaries (and five of the top eight) are being collected by DBs. That’s an insane investment, and it doesn’t even include Marlon Humphrey, who’s still on his rookie contract. And when two pretty smart teams skew in one direction this way, it’s worth paying attention to.
• Mark July 11-14 on your calendar—the dates of the NFL’s officiating clinic, held in Dallas. I’d guess that’s when we’ll hear about the pass interference changes again. As Scott Green alluded to us last week, there’s certainly concern over how this will affect the officials’ jobs in the fall.
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