NFL minicamp Week 1 storylines: QB concerns for Raiders and Niners? New look for Lions’ backfield?
Nine NFL teams are scheduled to open their mandatory three-day minicamps this week, and 21 more will follow next week.
As the rookies and the veterans come together, it will not be uncommon to see some familiar faces in new uniforms, with this week seeing the mandatory debuts of defensive tackle Javon Hargrave with the San Francisco 49ers and cornerback Jalen Ramsey with the Miami Dolphins. This whirlwind of an offseason also included ownership changes and record-setting contracts. With minicamps underway, teams are beginning to get a taste of what this coming season could bring.
What do you need to know about this week’s activities? We asked our NFL Nation reporters to preview this week’s minicamps and tell us the biggest storylines they are watching.
CLE | DAL | DET | LV | MIA
SF | SEA | TEN | WSH
Storyline to watch: Quarterback Deshaun Watson’s sharpness
How will Watson look through his second offseason in Cleveland? Watson struggled in six games last season coming off a 700-day layoff from football, including an 11-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy by committing sexual assault, as defined by the league, on massage therapists. Watson now has had this entire offseason to settle into coach Kevin Stefanski’s offensive scheme and build chemistry with teammates. How that translates this fall — and whether Watson can regain his 2020 form — will ultimately determine Cleveland’s fate in 2023. Minicamp will provide a glimpse. — Jake Trotter
Storyline to watch: Two-minute drill
The Cowboys have been careful with their contact and pace during organized team activities after coach Mike McCarthy was fined each of the past two offseasons. That will continue to some degree in minicamp, but McCarthy indicated the plan is to have some full-team, two-minute work, which will raise the level of competitiveness. It will also help McCarthy and Dak Prescott continue to work on their communication as playcaller and quarterback in as close to live play as a team can get in the offseason. — Todd Archer
Storylines to watch: Running back Jahmyr Gibbs’ progression
The Lions’ front office gave offensive coordinator Ben Johnson a gift by drafting Gibbs at No. 12. It’ll be interesting to see how they use the rookie running back going forward, especially after holding him out of rookie minicamp after he tweaked an ankle. However, he was able to display his route-running skills during OTAs. As proof of its confidence in the rookie, Detroit completely reconstructed its backfield this offseason by letting go of D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams, then adding former Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery to pair with Gibbs. Although Gibbs is listed as a running back, the Lions see him as a dual option who is equally talented at catching and running. He’ll have a chance to showcase his talent. — Eric Woodyard
Storyline to watch: Who’s playing quarterback?
With quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo sidelined as he recovers from surgery to his left foot that took place after he signed with Las Vegas in March, Raider Nation turns its eyes to Brian Hoyer, Aidan O’Connell and Chase Garbers. While Las Vegas bet on Garoppolo being ready for training camp, there remains a possibility that he’ll never play for the Raiders, meaning minicamp will give the 14-year vet (Hoyer), the fourth-round draft pick (O’Connell) or the second-year pro who has yet to take an NFL snap (Garbers) a leg up on the competition. — Paul Gutierrez
Storyline to watch: The battle for WR3
Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are the obvious 1a and 1b in the Dolphins’ passing offense, but the team has several options for its third starting receiver. Miami signed Braxton Berrios and Robbie Chosen this offseason, and the latter was a standout during OTAs. Erik Ezukanma, Cedrick Wilson Jr. and River Cracraft are also in the fold, but this is a position battle that should last well into training camp. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Storyline to watch: The quarterback quandary continues
Brock Purdy remains the presumptive starter, but he’s still in the early stages of the throwing program that goes with his recovery from right elbow surgery. Which means Trey Lance and Sam Darnold will continue to get the bulk of the reps. They’ve taken turns with the starting unit during OTAs in what passing game coordinator Klint Kubiak calls a “pretty fierce” competition. Nothing about the quarterback pecking order will be decided during this minicamp, but it will set the stage for what figures to be an interesting training camp at the most important position. — Nick Wagoner
Storyline to watch: The status of the top two draft picks
Unlike last offseason, the Seahawks don’t have a quarterback battle or an unresolved contract situation with a star player. But there is a question of how much cornerback Devon Witherspoon (fifth overall) and wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (20th overall) will participate in minicamp after both were somewhat limited during rookie minicamp and the first few OTAs. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Witherspoon, who has yet to sign his rookie contract, is coming back from a minor hamstring injury. Smith-Njigba missed most of his final college season because of a hamstring injury. Both have been limited in full-speed 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills so far. — Brady Henderson
Storyline to watch: The secondary
Veteran safety Kevin Byard did not attend voluntary OTAs, which is unusual for the four-time team captain. The timing of Byard’s absence is interesting given how he was asked to take a pay cut, resulting in unsubstantiated rumors that he asked to be released. Byard’s presence at minicamp would put everything to rest. Conversely, his absence would be cause for concern. The Titans rotated nickel cornerback Elijah Molden to the back end of the defense while Byard was away. Starting cornerback Kristian Fulton tried something different this year by working out on his own in Miami instead of attending voluntary OTAs. Fulton’s return to minicamp is something to monitor, given that he’s in a contract year and the team signed free agent defensive back Sean Murphy-Bunting. — Turron Davenport
Storyline to watch: Quarterback Sam Howell’s progress
Coach Ron Rivera has made it clear: Howell is the starting quarterback for now but still must earn the job over Jacoby Brissett. While there’s optimism surrounding Howell, he started only one game last season. But Washington’s coaches like Howell’s progression — from his quick decision-making to his command of the huddle and accuracy. But he hasn’t been perfect. The Commanders have a good roster surrounding Howell, so if he plays well, it could lead to a strong season — and an end to the multi-decade search for a long-term solution at the position. It would also buy the staff job security with a new owner. — John Keim