Nothing quite defines August in the NFL like training camp buzz.
With the regular season less than a month away, fans are already calibrating their expectations to the developments coming out of their teams' summer workouts. From rookies getting into the swing of things, soon-to-be-starters stepping into new roles or off-the-radar prospects vying for a slot on the 53-man roster, there are plenty of young players making a name for themselves this summer.
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USA TODAY Sports surveyed the training camp landscape by having 15 reporters from the USA TODAY Network identify the top performers they have observed the past few weeks while on the ground. Here are 40 training camp standouts you need to know:
LB Isaiah Simmons
Simmons could be a jack of all trades for the Cardinals this year. He’s lined up at inside linebacker, outside linebacker and safety during training camp.
Simmons has been working on his takeaway skills in training camp as well. He intercepted Kyler Murray in 11-on-11 during the first week.
“He’s a pretty athletic guy. You got to get him on the field. He can do everything they ask him to do. That’s what I respect about him. He’s been putting in the work all offseason. Even in camp, he’s stepping up and doing everything at a high level – rushing the passer, setting the edge, flying around out there,” Cardinals outside linebacker Markus Golden said of Simmons. “I think he’s a great player and has a bright future. That’s gonna help him a lot being able to move around using everything he got. That’s gonna be good for us.”
Arizona’s defense is void of many playmakers, especially after the departure of pass rusher Chandler Jones. Simmons might be able to help fill the void. – Tyler Dragon, USA TODAY Sports
WR Greg Dortch
The 5-foot-7 target has taken advantage of opportunities during training camp while veteran Arizona receivers have often been out. He’s had some nice catches during 7-on-7 and team drills.
“He’s fearless,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said of Dortch. “Anytime he gets his number called, he'll go up and across the middle, he doesn't think anyone can cover him. He's got a very confident personality.”
If Dortch can play with the same fearlessness and confidence in preseason games, he likely earn a spot on the 53-man roster. He’s made a strong impression on coaches in training camp. – Tyler Dragon, USA TODAY Sports
OLB Odafe Oweh
The Ravens need a top-flight impact pass-rusher, and the second-year pro has impressed with signs of growth during the early going of training camp. The 31st overall pick of the 2021 draft, Oweh recorded five sacks as a rookie. After an offseason of growth, the Penn State product has displayed improved explosiveness and a feel for the game. He has done well in one-on-one and team matchups while daily picking the brains of veteran teammates for insight on how to advance his development. – Mike Jones, USA TODAY Sports
WR Jaylon Moore
After two seasons on the practice squad, Moore is looking to lock up a spot in Baltimore’s revamped receiving corps. Moore’s comfort in the offense is evident as he consistently gets open, and he also has displayed a knack for making tough catches in traffic. Rashod Bateman is eyeing that vacant spot as Lamar Jackson’s No. 1 wideout. But Moore certainly appears capable of filling a valuable role as a secondary receiver. – Mike Jones, USA TODAY Sports
RB James Cook
The Bills' rookie second-round draft pick probably isn’t going to unseat Devin Singletary in the RB1 role, at least right now. He’s going to have to prove that he can hold up in pass protection and blitz pickup, as well as making sure he knows his assignments, before Sean McDermott will trust him in that capacity.
But it’s clear that the former Georgia standout is going to be a factor in the passing game, and that will start early in the season. He is the best of the Bills' backs when it comes to catching the ball and then making something happen. He has shown the ability to make quick decisions and crisp cuts to avoid defenders, and that has been a missing link for the Bills’ dynamic offense. – Sal Maiorana, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle
CB Christian Benford
A sixth-round pick out of Villanova, Benford wasn't given much of a chance by anyone to make the 53-man roster in the days after the draft. But then he showed up for OTAs and opinions began to change, and his strong spring has carried over to the start of training camp, where he has even earned some first-team reps covering Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis.
At 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, Benford is the biggest outside cornerback on the roster, but he moves well and has shown the willingness to support in the run game. With Tre’Davious White still recovering from knee surgery and possibly unavailable in the first few weeks, there will be a spot open on the depth chart, and Benford is looking more and more like a player who can win a job. – Sal Maiorana, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle
S Daxton Hill
The unresolved contract dispute between the Bengals and veteran safety Jessie Bates has opened the door for the rookie to gain valuable first-team reps. As he has taken them, Hill is impressing his coaches. The 31st overall pick of the 2022 draft, Hill has displayed good versatility while seeing time at free safety and nickelback. The Michigan product seemingly has a nose for the ball and has been solid in coverage. Because of his positive showing thus far, Hill seemingly will have a role in the defense even when Bates returns. – Mike Jones, USA TODAY Sports
WR Stanley Morgan Jr.
The fourth-year pro is eager to make a leap from core special teams contributor to regular target on offense and has gotten off to a strong start in training camp. Morgan said he has worked hard this offseason hoping to get stronger and become more well-rounded in all areas of his game, and that work appears to be paying off. Morgan has made some impressive contested catches while also displaying good consistency and versatility, and he’s making an impact without even having the luxury of practicing with Joe Burrow, who is still recovering from appendix surgery. – Mike Jones, USA TODAY Sports
TE Mitchell Wilcox
Wilcox signed with the Bengals as a college free agent in 2020 and has impressed the Bengals’ coaching staff through training camp. After earning a roster spot in 2021, with Drew Sample suffering a knee injury that will keep him sidelined for a few weeks, Wilcox could make an even bigger leap with increased reps. Expect to see Wilcox be a top target in the preseason, and his role on special teams very much plays in his favor to make the 53-man roster come early September. The Bengals only signed Hayden Hurst for one season, and what Cincinnati’s future holds at the tight end position past this season is unclear. – Kelsey Conway, Cincinnati Enquirer
CB Greg Newsome II
The cornerback on the other side of the field, Denzel Ward, is an All-Pro-caliber player when he’s healthy. Newsome, the Browns’ 2021 first-round pick, is taking strides to become a No. 2 option whose ceiling may be very close to Ward’s. With Ward having missed the start of training camp with a foot injury, it’s allowed Newsome extra chances to showcase his abilities, and he’s thrived. Almost daily, he’s managed to make at least one play that has left observers talking. The key for Newsome, though, is similar to Ward in that he has to remain healthy. He missed five games in his rookie season due to injuries. A healthy Newsome gives the Browns another potentially top-line corner in a league where that position is so important. – Chris Easterling, Akron Beacon Journal
K Cade York
A kicker? A rookie kicker, no less? You better believe it. Of all the players the Browns selected in April’s draft, none have generated conversation like York, a fourth-round pick out of LSU. Part of that is the Evan McPherson Effect, where Browns fans watched the in-state rival Bengals get huge contribution from their rookie kicker on the way to the Super Bowl. Part of it is that it’s been a decade since Phil Dawson departed, and the Browns have not been able to find an answer to the kicker question in that time. They hope the big-legged York is the one, and nothing in camp has slowed down that momentum. He’s shown off the leg with consistent kicks from beyond 50 yards, something recent Browns kickers haven’t been able to say. – Chris Easterling, Akron Beacon Journal
WR Donovan Peoples-Jones
The third-year pro out of Michigan is the answer to a trivia question that many people may not have gotten right. The question: Who was the Browns’ leader in receiving yards in 2021? That’s right, Peoples-Jones. The 2020 sixth-round pick had 597 yards a year ago, which was 27 more than the now-departed Jarvis Landry and more than 100 yards above anyone who played for the team a year ago and is back this season. That shows why Peoples-Jones is such an important piece for the Browns offense. Yes, the team brought in Amari Cooper to be the No. 1 receiving option. However, the Browns are banking on someone to emerge as the consistent No. 2 option at receiver, and Peoples-Jones fits the mold. He has also come out in camp and shown that he’s anxious to be the person to grab that spot. – Chris Easterling, Akron Beacon Journal
WR Dennis Houston
Count Houston among the young Cowboys receivers impressing teammates, coaches and front office members. Quarterback Dak Prescott raves about his consistent accountability, timely releases and accurate routes, while receivers coach Robert Prince touted the undrafted rookie’s “seriousness” and studiousness. Houston already turned heads in the spring, but he has further elevated his performance with midair and diving catches in team drills at training camp.
The 23-year-old Western Illinois product earned his reps with the first-team offense and will be relied upon to contribute to a retooling receiver corps that lost Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson in free agency, and now will begin the season without Michael Gallup (ACL) and James Washington (foot fracture).
Two more dark-horse roster contenders to watch in the Cowboys’ young receiver crop: T.J. Vasher and Simi Fehoko. Vasher’s 6-6 frame and contested-catch skills have wowed in the end zone, while Fehoko’s shown increasing precision to pair with the speed the Cowboys have long liked. – Jori Epstein, USA TODAY Sports
Dak Prescott to Dennis Houston, a Cowboys WR who’s gotten plenty of chances in practices and often delivered pic.twitter.com/eULgSpwGBs
— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) August 2, 2022
S Markquese Bell
Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s vision breathed life into Jayron Kearse’s NFL career last season. This year, expect Bell, the undrafted rookie safety, to benefit from Quinn’s versatile packaging. The Cowboys are scheming a role to capitalize on Bell’s speed in the secondary and his size closer to the line of scrimmage. He’s among the players who will most benefit from the team cross-training its linebackers and safeties. Cowboys coaches sense they’ll see a hard hitter when the Florida A&M product enters preseason games, and they already appreciate his ability to conceptualize multiple positions. Add in ball skills—five forced fumbles last season at Florida A&M, a pick-six on a jump route already in offseason activities—and a 53-man roster without him would be a surprise. – Jori Epstein, USA TODAY Sports
WR Montrell Washington
The Broncos made Washington a fifth-round draft pick because of his prowess in the return game at FCS Sanford, but he’s caught on quickly offensively, too. Quarterback Russell Wilson has taken Washington “under his wing,” according to head coach Nathaniel Hackett.
Washington is small at 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds but has a chance to crack Denver’s receiving rotation out of the slot, especially after the early-August loss of Tim Patrick to a torn ACL. He’ll also likely be Denver’s primary kick and punt returner. Whether Hackett and company put him on the field extensively or use him in more limited situations, Washington has the combination of speed and athleticism to perhaps be the surprise of Denver’s 2022 draft class. – Parker Gabriel, USA TODAY Sports
LB Jonas Griffith
Denver acquired Griffith just before the 2021 season from San Francisco and he appeared in 13 games, coming on late in the season with 45 tackles over five weeks of the year.
Now, he appears to have cemented his place in the middle of the Broncos defense. He’s taken virtually every No. 1 repetition next to Josey Jewell at inside linebacker in first-year defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero’s 3-4 system, and he has the length and range to play in sub packages, as well.
Griffith is 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds and didn’t start playing organized football until his senior year of high school before starring at FCS Indiana State. Something of a late bloomer, Griffith has a chance to turn himself into a heavily counted-on part of a Broncos defense that has high hopes in 2022. – Parker Gabriel, USA TODAY Sports
OLB Baron Browning
A third-round pick in the 2021 draft, Browning spent his rookie season playing inside linebacker for the Broncos. This year, he’s moving to the edge and joining an outside linebacking group that has talent but also question marks. The top pair – Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory – has missed extensive time in recent years due to injuries and, in Gregory’s case, suspensions.
Browning has drawn rave reviews so far in training camp for his natural pass-rush ability and has taken advantage of the opportunities afforded by the fact that Gregory is still rehabbing a shoulder injury.
Griffith said recently that the transition from inside to outside would be different for “normal people,” but that Browning, “is a freak.”
“Seeing him fly on the edge and his bend, it’s freakish to see,” Griffith added. “I’m excited for him. I think he’ll have a great year.” – Parker Gabriel, USA TODAY Sports
DT Alim McNeill
A third-round pick in 2021, McNeill turned many heads in his debut season. The 6-foot-2, 317-pounder primarily played nose tackle for Detroit last year. He led the Lions’ interior players with two sacks and had the team’s highest run-stop rate at 68%. He also had eight hurries last season, the second most among Detroit’s interior defensive line.
McNeill has spent this offseason focused on his diet in hopes of adding an extra speed boost to his game. The former North Carolina State star will also move as the team shifts to a new four-man front.
The slight move on Detroit’s defensive line should come easily for the 22-year-old, as he previously played the same position during his freshman year at N.C. State. McNeill tallied a career total 17 ½ tackles for loss and 10 sacks for the Wolfpack. – Chandler Engelbrecht, Detroit Free Press
LB Malcolm Rodriguez
Rodriguez has gone from long shot to likely late-round steal over the course of training camp. The 2022 sixth-rounder has worked tirelessly this summer to make Detroit’s roster, and so far, all signs point to him finding a spot among the team’s linebacker corps.
The former Oklahoma State star earned All-American honors after posting 123 tackles (14 for loss), two sacks and three forced fumbles as a senior in 2021. Listed at 5-foot-11 and 230 pounds, Rodriguez plays above his size and has received multiple reps with the Lions’ second-team defense throughout camp. – Chandler Engelbrecht, Detroit Free Press
DE Austin Bryant
A fourth-rounder out of Clemson in 2019, Bryant has been limited the last three years by injuries. However, he played a career-high 14 games and started five last season, making 31 tackles (five for loss) and 4 ½ sacks, plus six quarterback hits. If he stays healthy, he should easily add to those numbers this fall.
Though first-round pick and 2021 Heisman Trophy runner-up Aidan Hutchinson is the defensive end Lions fans are waiting for to shine, Bryant has racked up plenty of his own impressive plays and sacks in training camp. He also showed he’s not afraid to get chippy, engaging in a scuffle with offensive lineman Dan Skipper during one morning practice.
It’s worth noting Bryant was a late bloomer in college, too. After recovering from a broken foot, he recorded college career highs of 15 ½ tackles for loss and 8 ½ sacks in his third season with the Tigers. The door is open for him to emerge similarly with the Lions, since fellow pass rushers Josh Paschall and Romeo Okwara will probably start the season on the physically unable to perform list. – Mason Young, Detroit Free Press
Green Bay Packers
WR Romeo Doubs
It isn't common a fourth-round rookie carves a significant role for himself in an offense. Nor is it often any rookie enters camp and starts making highlight plays from Day 1. But Doubs, the fourth-round receiver out of Nevada, has emerged as a potential playmaker in a Packers offense quarterbacked by the demanding Aaron Rodgers.
Doubs' camp opened when he Moss'd cornerback Kabion Ento in the first practice, going over the 6-1 defensive back to make a highlight grab deep down the left sideline. He caught a back-shoulder throw from Rodgers for a touchdown in a goal-line drill on another day, showing impressive chemistry with the four-time MVP. In the first padded practice, Doubs had maybe his most impressive play of camp, catching a perfectly-placed Jordan Love pass in the back, right corner of the end zone against tight coverage from cornerback Rico Gafford.
Doubs has had the usual mental mistakes that accompany rookies in their first camp -- Rodgers had to banish him to the sideline after a miscommunication during middle of a two-minute drill -- but those issues will smooth out. He's certainly looked the part through the early portion of camp. – Ryan Wood, Green Bay Press Gazette
OL Zach Tom
The Packers felt like they drafted a unicorn when they selected Elgton Jenkins with a second-round pick out of Mississippi State in 2019. Jenkins, a college center, is the rarest of blockers, capable of playing all five positions on the offensive line. It's possible general manager Brian Gutekunst found a protegee in Tom, the fourth-round rookie out of Wake Forest.
Tom has a long way to go if he wants to duplicate Jenkins, who was a Pro Bowler in his second season and emerged as an above-average starter at every spot on the offensive line before tearing his ACL last November. Tom has repped every position except center, where he started his first two college seasons, for the Packers this offseason. After breaking onto the field as a guard during OTAs, Tom has gotten tackle reps on both sides in camp. He's currently in the running to be the Packers starting right tackle if left tackle David Bakhtiari is unable to play Week 1. – Ryan Wood, Green Bay Press Gazette
CB Rico Gafford, cornerback
The Packers’ top three cornerback spots are secured, but the depth chart is fluid behind Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes and Rasul Douglas. With those three all career-long perimeter corners, slot experience will be a premium when filling out the position. Still, the Packers need depth on the perimeter too, and the formerly undrafted Gafford has given himself a shot at cracking the 53-man roster in that role.
Gafford has slot size at 5-10, 184 pounds, but he's lined up on the outside of the field all offseason. His coverage has been solid throughout the early stages of camp, and the former receiver has good ball skills for a defensive back. Most significant, he has experience playing for new special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia with the Las Vegas Raiders. Gafford has rotated with returners during special teams drills, giving him another path to the 53. – Ryan Wood, Green Bay Press Gazette
WR Parris Campbell
He was once a buzzy draft prospect coming out of Ohio State, but the Colts' former second-round pick has played in just 15 games across three injury-riddled seasons. If Campbell can avoid the big injuries this season, he could build on the chemistry he's had consistently with Matt Ryan since the spring, which has allowed his 4.31-second 40-yard dash speed to shine. In a contract year as the team’s starting slot receiver, he has a route to finishing as high as second on the team in receiving this season. He could become the No. 2 that Michael Pittman Jr. so desperately needs. – Nate Atkins, Indianapolis Star
S Julian Blackmon
Last fall, Blackmon was six games into his second season when he tore his Achilles in practice. It ended the safety's season and maligned his offseason, but he somehow made it back in full shape for the start of training camp for his third season. Now, that means starting as the deep free safety in Gus Bradley's Seattle-style defense. He'll serve as the "eraser," as he calls it, of a defense with newcomers Stephon Gilmore and Yannick Ngakoue that could rank in the top five if everything comes together. He has the explosion to potentially fill a critical position, which would make him this defense's latest young star. – Nate Atkins, Indianapolis Star
Los Angeles Rams
WR Tutu Atwell
Atwell’s been determined to prove himself this year after a disappointing rookie campaign in which he logged just 10 offensive snaps. The second-year wideout had a strong showing at minicamp, and it’s led to impressive performances during training camp.
The Rams like Atwell’s ability to stretch the field, and the club is working him on special teams as a returner.
“He is a guy that (has) elite speed, can track the football, does a great job catching the football away from his body,” Rams offensive coordinator Liam Coen said. – Tyler Dragon, USA TODAY Sports
CB Cobie Durant
The South Carolina State product has been raising eyebrows this offseason in Southern California. Durant had a two-interception day at training camp that really caught the Rams coaching staff’s attention.
“He’s got great ball skills,” Rams coach Sean McVay said of Durant. “He made some plays even in the spring that stood out where you can see he's a great competitor. Even when you watch his film… He just got a great play swagger. He's getting more and more comfortable. He is playing outside and inside, but he's getting a lot of work inside.”
Durant, a 2022 fourth-round pick, could see significant playing time in the Rams secondary. – Tyler Dragon, USA TODAY Sports
OG Zion Johnson
The Chargers' 2022 first-round pick is already turning heads during training camp.
“He’s living up to the bill right now,” Chargers center Corey Linsley said of Johnson. “He’s a really good player. He has a ton of raw talent. You can see he’s already put a lot together. Honestly, the sky is the limit. He’s very talented. I’m excited to play next to him.”
Johnson is practicing with the Chargers’ first-team offense at right guard and is on track to be the Week 1 starter. – Tyler Dragon, USA TODAY Sports
WR Joshua Palmer
The Chargers have two wide receivers who get paid a base annual average of $20 million in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. They combined for 286 targets, 182 receptions, 2,284 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns last season. The dynamic duo will get the bulk of the targets again in 2022, but the Chargers are searching for a reliable third wide receiver to take some of the pressure off of Allen and Williams.
Palmer had some bright moments as a rookie, but the Chargers are looking for the 2021 third-round pick to take a leap after catching 33 balls in his first season. He’s been practicing in the No. 3 wideout role during training camp and has impressed.
“I think he keeps getting better and more confident,” Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said about Palmer. “He’s another guy, we keep saying this, that I think we can get involved more.” – Tyler Dragon, USA TODAY Sports
DT Christian Wilkins
The outgoing former Clemson standout has been Miami’s best defensive performer in training camp. After a breakout year where he was tied for the most tackles (89) among all defensive linemen, Wilkins has an edge about him this training camp, routinely winding up in the backfield and blowing up plays for QB Tua Tagovailoa. Wilkins was the first pick at the start of Miami’s extensive rebuilding process in 2019, and his infectious personality has been a catalyst for the Dolphins defense. He enters his fourth season, hoping to top his career high of 4 ½ sacks last year, while solidifying himself among the NFL’s best defensive tackles. – Safid Deen, USA TODAY Sports
WR Cedrick Wilson
Emerging as a capable third receiver behind CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper in Dallas, Wilson signed a three-year, $22 million deal to solidify the same role in Miami. So far in training camp, he has delivered. Wilson is a downfield threat just like Miami's standout receiving duo Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. His offseason work creating chemistry with Tagovailoa has already come to light in all areas of the field during camp. He will provide the Dolphins with another safety valve on offense when opposing defenses are focused on Miami’s two star weapons. – Safid Deen, USA TODAY Sports
CB Noah Igbinoghene
The third of three Dolphins first-round picks in 2020, Igbinoghene hasn’t been a major contributor in Miami while playing behind Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. But with Jones sidelined as he recovers from offseason Achilles surgery, Igbinoghene has been the No. 2 corner in camp and could be in line to start the season opposite Howard. He’s been taking his lumps against Hill but not shying away from the competition. And he certainly won’t face faster receivers than Hill and Waddle. Igbinoghene has had several pass breakups and pressures in the backfield in camp as hopes to turn the tide on his NFL career in his third season. – Safid Deen, USA TODAY Sports
New York Giants
S Xavier McKinney
Giants defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson was asked last season a simple question: how high is McKinney's ceiling as a playmaker?
That's when Henderson looked to the sky and laughed.
"Very high. Very high, obviously," Henderson said with a smile.
The Giants believe McKinney is an ascending player, and he’s given them plenty of reason for optimism so far this summer. He was an impact performer in center field coverage last year, and now he’s moving all over the field in defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s more aggressive system.
McKinney will wear the green dot on his helmet and relay the plays on the field for the defense, a rare occurrence for a defensive back in the NFL, but not for Martindale, who had Pro Bowler Eric Weddle take that responsibility in Baltimore. It’s why Martindale put McKinney in touch with Weddle this offseason, and the two players connected and swapped ideas, with Weddle dropping knowledge about what to expect in Martindale’s system.
McKinney plays with tenacity close to the line of scrimmage and he can cover while also playing underneath as a robber. At Alabama, he was a do-everything star for Nick Saban, and is in position to be that for the Giants. – Art Stapleton, Bergen Record/NorthJersey.com
WR Wan'Dale Robinson
The unexpected offensive attention-grabber of Giants’ training camp so far has been the rookie wide receiver Robinson, both in volume and performance. Daniel Jones has been at his best targeting the diminutive rookie from Kentucky, who is elusive in space on intermediate throws. Robinson's quiet hands while making catches on the move are also impressive.
Robinson can do a little bit of everything, and general manager Joe Schoen said the Giants have "a clear vision" of how he fits in Brian Daboll's offense when they drafted the playmaker in the second round. He'll also be influenced by offensive coordinator Mike Kafka's time with the Chiefs.
“Being versatile is really what they want, and just being able to be smart and being able to adjust out there,” Robinson said. “They give us a lot of freedom with the way that we run our routes and things like that, so you gotta be a really smart football player.”
At 5-foot-8, Robinson knows how to use his size to his advantage. He’s slippery on crossing routes and gives defenders fits, but don’t mistake his lack of height for an absence of strength. He has shown great balance while absorbing contact, and the Giants are eager to see how much he can do in packages with Robinson and 2021 first-round pick Kadarius Toney – another electric player with the ball in his hands – on the field at the same time.
With an increase in pre-snap motion, the Giants believe they’ve found an ideal player to expand what has been an archaic offense at times under previous regimes. – Art Stapleton, Bergen Record/NorthJersey.com
S Marcus Epps
Over the past three seasons, the Eagles have released stalwarts in Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod at the safety position. It’s not because they had a young early-round draft pick waiting his turn (they don’t), or that they had spent lavishly on a free agent (they didn’t).
Rather, the Eagles are turning the position over to Epps, the Vikings’ sixth-round pick in 2019 who has eight career starts in three seasons. Sure, the Eagles brought back veteran Anthony Harris and added former 49ers safety Jaquiski Tartt in June, signing both to one-year contracts.
But the Eagles were working Epps in last season at safety, even with McLeod and Harris. That convinced them that Epps could handle a starting job this season. Epps is taking the promotion in stride with a strong training camp so far.
“I haven’t arrived by any means,” he said. “I know that. I still got a lot to learn.” – Martin Frank, Wilmington News Journal
DT Jordan Davis
The first thing you notice about Davis is his size. At 6-foot-6, 336 pounds, the rookie defensive tackle engulfs his counterpart at center, almost like a total eclipse. The next thing you notice about the Eagles’ first-round pick out of Georgia is his speed.
Davis was timed at 4.78 seconds in the 40-yard dash during the NFL scouting combine, faster than some running backs and tight ends. That closing speed is evident as he chases down a quarterback trying to escape the pocket, something the Eagles have seen often during camp.
For now, Davis is behind veterans Fletcher Cox, who’s 31 but only had 3 ½ sacks last year, and Javon Hargrave. Both are in the final years of their contracts. But the Eagles use a rotation at the position, so Davis will get plenty of chances.
“You have to block him,” Eagles defensive line coach Tracy Rocker said. “And sometimes it requires two (people). And sometimes it requires three. That’s the plus side for us.”– Martin Frank, Wilmington News Journal
San Francisco 49ers
S Talanoa Hufanga
Year 2 seemingly has big things in store for the 49ers’ 2021 fifth-round pick out of USC. After making three starts mid-season and playing sparingly on defense the rest of the way last year, Hufanga has capitalized on every opportunity during offseason practices and training camp to impress coaches. He’s routinely one of the first players on the field and one of the last to leave. He has consistently made plays and displayed strong communication skills while developing good chemistry with veteran Jimmie Ward. After drawing praise from defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans for his development, Hufanga appears positioned to land a starting job. – Mike Jones, USA TODAY Sports
DT Kevin Givens
Used as a rotational player in the first three seasons of his career, Givens appears poised to make a significant leap for the 49ers. With Maurice Hurst likely lost for the season due to a torn biceps, Givens is now working primarily with the first team. The 6-foot-1, 285-pound Penn State product has made his presence felt in the trenches. Givens has displayed great strength and physicality while winning one-on-one drills and disrupting plays against the run and the pass. – Mike Jones, USA TODAY Sports
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
WR Tyler Johnson
Establishing a bigger role as a Tom Brady target won’t be easy … unless it becomes essential. On paper and in promise, the Bucs receiving corps is the deepest in years. And Johnson is one key reason. He started camp with such a bang that he earned kudos from veteran Mike Evans, who praised the completeness and improvement of the third-year pro. Injuries (including Chris Godwin’s torn ACL and the setback that led to Antonio Brown’s implosion) weakened Tampa Bay’s playoff run last season. Enter veteran free agents Russell Gage and Julio Jones. Even better, Johnson, a fifth-round pick from Minnesota in 2020, is showing that answers can also come from within as they seek options that could keep the flow moving if adversity strikes. Godwin is still working his way back; Evans has been nursing a hamstring injury; and Jones has been iffy in recent seasons due to his own hamstring issues. In other words, the Bucs need Johnson to continue earn more trust from Brady as a reliable threat. – Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY Sports
C Robert Hainsey
Opportunity has come in a flash – and with a major setback on Brady’s front line – for the second-year pro who is the frontrunner to assume the starting role while Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen recovers from a knee injury. Hainsey is hailed for his football IQ, which is essential for playing the position that comes with the responsibility to make the O-line calls in the heat of the moment.
The other big challenge is for Hainsey to continue transitioning to the interior line after playing right tackle in college. The Bucs immediately projected Hainsey as a center when they drafted him out of Notre Dame in 2021 with a third-round pick. With Hainsey's shorter arms, the Bucs concluded that he had the type of physique (6-4, 306) better suited for the interior. Obviously, they didn’t want to rush the transition with the crisis presented with the loss of Jensen – the leader and enforcer on the line. Hainsey is getting a crash course in learning Brady’s nuances, and the early signs have been encouraging. Compounding the issue, though, is that the Bucs are breaking in two new starting guards, too. Chemistry will be a key barometer. – Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY Sports
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL training camp: 40 standout players you need to know for 2022