Mandatory NFL minicamps preview: 23 more things to watch this week

NFL

Now that nine teams have completed their mandatory minicamps, it’s time for the 23 remaining squads to have their formal workouts. They’ll do exactly that, starting Tuesday and running through Thursday.

As we did last week, we’re going over the main things to watch in this week’s minicamp extravaganza. From how rookies mix with veterans to which veterans choose not to show up, we’re there to cover it. So here are the main things to watch for the 23 teams practicing this week.

JUMP TO A TEAM:
ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI
CIN | DAL | GB | HOU | IND | JAX
KC | LAC | LAR | MIN | NO | OAK
PHI | PIT | SF | SEA | TEN


How well is Kyler Murray adjusting to the NFL passing game?

Murray’s size will undoubtedly be an issue for him. Standing at 5-foot-10, he will have to adjust to playing behind an NFL-sized offensive line and facing an NFL-sized pass rush. But that’s just one part of his transition. Mandatory minicamp will give Murray another chance to bond with veteran receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk, along with the three rookie receivers the Cardinals drafted. Murray’s arm is as strong an aspect of his game as his running ability, but how will he fare throwing to NFL-caliber receivers defended by NFL-caliber defensive backs? If he holds his own, then Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense could get off to a fast start in 2019. — Josh Weinfuss


Julio Jones‘ return

The Falcons have become accustomed to Jones not being around for voluntary workouts, but Jones told ESPN he planned to take part in the “mandatory stuff” despite not yet coming to terms on a new contract. Jones is one of three Falcons awaiting new deals, along with Grady Jarrett and Deion Jones, and should become the highest-paid receiver in the league sometime soon. What he has to say about the contract and how he looks upon rejoining the team will be topics of discussion. — Vaughn McClure


The continued development of Lamar Jackson

There has been up-and-down play for Jackson in the two offseason practices open to the media. He can hit tight end Hayden Hurst perfectly in stride on one pass and overthrow a wide-open receiver on the next one. Consistency is a big key for Jackson at mandatory minicamp, which will give him a confidence boost going into training camp. “It’s just fun seeing him grow every day, because he just gets better and better each day,” Hurst said. “I think we all know he’s a heck of an athlete, and it’s fun to watch him do his thing out there.” — Jamison Hensley


Can the offense build chemistry despite health issues?

At the organized team activities open to reporters June 4, the Bills were without their top three receivers in Zay Jones (undisclosed injury), John Brown (undisclosed absence) and Cole Beasley (core muscle surgery); two tight ends in Tyler Kroft (foot surgery) and Jason Croom (hamstring) and five offensive linemen in Mitch Morse (core muscle surgery), Russell Bodine (shoulder surgery), Jeremiah Sirles (foot/ankle), Ty Nsekhe (undisclosed injury) and Quinton Spain (thumb surgery). The carousel of players at those positions has made it difficult for Josh Allen to establish chemistry. “It’s tough to develop that continuity when you got this number of guys that aren’t practicing or who are missing significant time right now,” coach Sean McDermott said. “But that’s the hand we are dealt.” — Mike Rodak


Outside of Cam Newton throwing, the defensive front seven

The Panthers are transitioning to multiple fronts after running primarily a 4-3 scheme during Ron Rivera’s first eight seasons. They made Florida State’s Brian Burns the No. 16 pick of the draft because he can play OLB and DE. They signed Gerald McCoy because he can play tackle or end. The transition also means adjustments for perennial Pro Bowl middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and defensive tackle Kawann Short, who also will be asked to play end. How this unit meshes will be key to the defense returning to top-10 form. — David Newton


Can a kicker emerge?

Yes, we’re discussing kickers. On paper, the Bears appear solid at virtually every position except the one (place-kicker) that cost them a playoff victory last season against the Eagles. Chicago will have three kickers at minicamp (Chris Blewitt, Elliott Fry and Eddy Pineiro), and the race to replace Cody Parkey is wide-open. — Jeff Dickerson

The health status of several key players

The Bengals have a large contingent currently sitting on the sidelines — including A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert and Darqueze Dennard — while Joe Mixon is limited and Cordy Glenn wasn’t at practice last week. Green could be back for minicamp, although it’s certainly not a given after a toe injury ended his season. Injuries derailed the Bengals last season, so the health of everyone will be something to keep an eye on. — Katherine Terrell


How does the offense look?

That was the question during the organized team activities and will be again in training camp. Coordinator Kellen Moore is not transforming the Cowboys’ offense but is making some changes, especially in its motions and formations. The goal is to get to a point where the Cowboys can run multiple plays out of the same looks and avoid predictability. For a first-time coordinator, every practice matters, and Moore has gone through a lot of the installation already so they can be ahead of the game as the summer moves on. So far, everything has looked solid between Moore and Dak Prescott, but these final three practices of the offseason will be at a different tempo than the OTAs. — Todd Archer

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Will Cain is not sold that Aaron Rodgers and his new head coach Matt LaFleur will be a winning combination in with the Packers.

How do things look on offense?

That has been where most eyes have been all offseason. Yes, the Packers made major personnel changes on defense via free agency (Adrian Amos, Preston Smith, Za’Darius Smith) and the top of the draft (first-round picks Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage Jr.), but the team hired new coach Matt LaFleur for his offensive ingenuity. Glimpses of that have been on display during OTAs: condensed formations, crossing routes, an emphasis on run and play-action. By the end of minicamp, the entire offense will have been installed. — Rob Demovsky


Who could provide depth at receiver?

Bill O’Brien calls the spring workouts more of a passing camp because the pads aren’t on. With Will Fuller still recovering from a torn ACL and DeAndre Hopkins not taking part in OTAs, there have been plenty of opportunities for younger receivers to get some reps. Last year, the Texans struggled to replace production after they lost Fuller and slot receiver Keke Coutee to injuries, so they need to figure out who will be the Nos. 4 or 5 receivers this season. Undrafted free agents Johnnie Dixon (Ohio State) and Tyron Johnson (Oklahoma State) could be players competing for those spots. — Sarah Barshop


Will Andrew Luck miss all of minicamp for the second time in three years?

Colts coach Frank Reich hopes to have his starting quarterback, who missed minicamp in 2017 due to shoulder surgery, on the field for the mandatory three-day minicamp, but he’s fine if it doesn’t happen. Reich wants Luck’s calf strain to be fully healthy so there’s nothing to worry about once training camp starts in late July. Luck also did not participate in the three weeks of OTAs. — Mike Wells


How does Leonard Fournette look?

Fournette has missed the past five OTAs. While they are voluntary, Fournette was the one player who needed 100 percent attendance. His issues last season were well-documented and Fournette had to have a productive offseason, especially with new OC John DeFilippo saying Fournette would be “a major reason for where our offense goes.” Fournette didn’t completely know the previous offense by the end of his rookie year, so he doesn’t have the best track record in that area. He needs to have a good minicamp to gain some momentum heading into training camp. — Mike DiRocco


Whether the Chiefs have enough receiving depth

Tyreek Hill won’t be around because of his suspension and Travis Kelce is unlikely to participate because of offseason ankle surgery. So the Chiefs will get a long look at some backups who could inherit significant playing time depending on what happens to others on the depth chart ahead of them. Among the most interesting developmental candidates for playing time are WRs Byron Pringle and Gehrig Dieter and TE Deon Yelder. — Adam Teicher

What kind of shape is Melvin Gordon in?

The Wisconsin product finished last season hobbled due to two balky knees and did not participate in voluntary offseason work for a second straight year. Gordon, 26, is in the final year of his rookie contract and set to make $5.6 million in 2019. He wants a new deal. Coach Anthony Lynn expects Gordon to report to mandatory minicamp this week, so the Chargers should get an up-close look at the bell-cow running back they would like to keep around long term. “It’s something that we’ll definitely look at,” Chargers GM Tom Telesco said, when asked about a Gordon contract extension. “He’s a huge part of our offense. He’s a warrior for us.” — Eric D. Williams


Will Todd Gurley II participate at all?

The Rams’ star running back did not participate in team drills during OTAs but instead went through a specific, individualized workout plan with an outside trainer and at the team facility. Questions about the health of Gurley’s left knee are plentiful, and the list of queries continues to grow the longer Gurley does not participate in football activities. — Lindsey Thiry


How will the Vikings’ offseason additions on offense look?

Minnesota made changes to its coaching staff and brought in several pieces on offense to further support quarterback Kirk Cousins. In minicamp, we’ll see how those things play out, from the Vikings’ use of more multiple tight end sets with Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. to who emerges as an early front-runner for the No. 3 receiver position. We’ll also see how the offensive line is jelling with Garrett Bradbury at center and how comfortable Cousins is in Year 2. — Courtney Cronin


Who will emerge as the pass-catchers?

The most intriguing battle for a starting job is at center, but those guys are hard to evaluate when they’re not in pads. So most eyes should be on the passing game, where the Saints need more reliable targets to emerge this summer. New TE Jared Cook will definitely be one of them. Hopefully a young player such as Tre’Quan Smith, Cameron Meredith, Keith Kirkwood, Austin Carr or a surprise can step up as well. — Mike Triplett


The continued development of the Derek CarrAntonio Brown relationship

There have been nothing but positive reviews when it comes to the quarterback and receiver vibing thus far, and their chemistry has been on point — especially with the two reading each other’s on-field tendencies. Brown, with his legendary work ethic, has pushed Carr and the other receivers, and that figures to be ramped up in minicamp. “I’m making a lot of the positive so we have a lot in the bank,” Brown said at OTAs. “To put the work in action, show these guys what I’m about, you know on the field, off the field, it’s exciting to build that correlation and see it come to fruition right here.” — Paul Gutierrez


Will Malcolm Jenkins show up?

The veteran safety is looking for a pay raise. Barring a new deal, there is not a lot of optimism that he’ll be in attendance for mandatory minicamp despite facing a potential fine of roughly $90,000. His absence would heighten the pressure to resolve the issue before training camp. — Tim McManus


How the collection of pass-catchers replaces Antonio Brown

During OTAs, Ben Roethlisberger spread the ball around to a bevy of playmakers. The offense believes it has at least nine capable options at receiver, tight end and running back. But minicamp, with pads on, will be a true test of growth, and Brown won’t be there for that easy third-down pick-up. Expect outside receivers James Washington and Donte Moncrief to build on their strong offseasons. — Jeremy Fowler


How far along is Jimmy Garoppolo in his return from a torn ACL?

All indications regarding Garoppolo’s rehabilitation have been positive and he has done everything in OTAs except for team drills. The Niners don’t intend to rush Garoppolo back, and he won’t be cleared for full participation until training camp. But since he is off limits for contact in these practices, this minicamp will offer one final opportunity for Garoppolo to show how far he has come in his recovery and how far along he is in coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense heading into training camp. — Nick Wagoner

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Darren Woodson and Tedy Bruschi discuss Doug Baldwin’s retirement and how the Seahawks’ new wide receivers will need to develop to replace him.

Russell Wilson and his new pass-catchers

Doug Baldwin’s departure leaves Tyler Lockett and Jaron Brown as the only Seahawks receivers with more than three seasons of NFL experience. It’s a young group that includes draft picks DK Metcalf, Gary Jennings Jr. (who missed his first several weeks with a hamstring injury) and John Ursua, plus undrafted rookies Terry Wright and Jazz Ferguson. There’s also third-year tight end Jacob Hollister, who was acquired in a trade with New England. Quarterbacks, especially those who are as protective of the football as Wilson, need to trust their receivers before they’re comfortable throwing to them. Minicamp will be a gauge of which newcomers are earning Wilson’s trust. — Brady Henderson


How has the timing with Marcus Mariota and Adam Humphries developed?

Humphries said the primary task at hand is to build chemistry and trust with Mariota. Most of the routes that Humphries will be running are underneath routes that depend on Mariota and Humphries being on the same page. Mariota has to confidently know how Humphries is going to react to various coverages and be able throw the ball before Humphries makes his break. Trust is a huge factor for Mariota. Building that trust can only be done with extensive time together on the field and in the film room. — Turron Davenport

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