The NFL is in the midst of one of the major mile markers of the offseason: minicamps. Unlike OTAs, this period of workouts is mandatory and subject to fines if a player decides to skip out. With that in mind, not only will we be able to get a firm glimpse of entire rosters before everyone reconvenes later this summer for training camp, but those players who opt out of these mandatory workouts (if there are any) also create another major storyline.
NFL is following suit as . Below, we'll highlight each team that is opening up minicamp this week and cover one of its bigger storylines., and now the rest of the
Bills: Can Kaiir Elam position himself for a starting job?
Kaiir Elam had an up-and-down rookie year, but the young corner did end it on a high note by carving himself into the starting job opposite of Tre'Davious White in the postseason. After a solid performance against the Dolphins during Super Wild Card Weekend, head coach Sean McDermott even called it a "launching point" for Elam. Buffalo selected him in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft out of Florida, so it'll likely want to give him as many opportunities as it can to solidify himself as a set-and-forget starter in the secondary. He will have competition, however, with Dane Jackson and Christian Benford still on the roster.
Patriots: Can the rookies carry the momentum from OTAs?
In the OTAs practices open to the media, three rookies for New England were not only playing well but positioning themselves for instant and sizable roles on defense. First-round corner Christian Gonzalez was routinely slotted in with the starters, while second-round pick Keion White was making plays at defensive end. Also, linebacker/safety hybrid Marte Mapu (third-round pick) had a standout day Friday leading into minicamp. While the Patriots offense under new OC Bill O'Brien will rightfully garner a lot of attention, if this rookie class can have three impact players on Day 1 on defense, that'll help New England in what is an extremely tough division.
Ravens: How does Lamar Jackson fit into the new offense?
With his contract issues behind him, Lamar Jackson can center his focus on Odell Beckham Jr. and drafting Zay Flowers in the first round of the NFL Draft. Similar to OTAs, using this time throughout minicamp to immerse himself in the new terminology and nuances of the offense will only help Jackson hit the ground running when they open up training camp.under OC Todd Monken. The expectation is that Jackson will be than he has in the past, and the Ravens did revamp the wide receiver room this offseason by adding
Bengals: Jonah Williams transitioning to right tackle
The Bengals reshaped their offensive line this offseason by signing Orlando Brown Jr. in free agency to play left tackle. That move triggered a trade request from former blindside tackle Jonah Williams, but the team decided against moving him. Instead, it plans to try him out at right tackle. If Williams shows up to minicamp, the team will also get an update on his health after undergoing knee surgery in February. If he's cleared by team doctors, he could get some initial reps at right tackle leading up to a potential training camp battle between him, La'el Collins -- who is also coming back from knee surgery -- and Jackson Carman.
Steelers: Kenny Pickett gearing up for Year 2
Pittsburgh is playing in a division filled with highly talented quarterbacks, so it'll be up to second-year signal-caller Kenny Pickett to ascend into those ranks in his sophomore season if the Steelers want to contend. The Pitt product was impressive as a rookie, and now that he has a year's worth of experience under this belt, Allen Robinson this offseason into a mix of receivers headlined by Diontae Johnson and George Pickens, while also giving Pickett protection in the form of first-round left tackle Broderick Jones.. The Steelers added wideout
Texans: C.J. Stroud gearing up for rookie season
By all accounts, No. 2 overall pick C.J. Stroud is coming into minicamp as the presumptive Week 1 starter. With that in mind, this period will be a continuation for him to set a solid foundation before training camp. A rookie season is a whirlwind for any rookie, let alone one who is expected to start under center on Day 1, so getting all of the reps he can to feel comfortable within Bobby Slowik's offense is vital.
Colts: Will Anthony Richardson be Indy's Week 1 starter?
It's going to be fascinating to see how the Colts handle Richardson. Throughout the pre-draft process, the skinny on Richardson was that he arguably has the highest ceiling of any quarterback coming out. At the same time, he'd also likely be best served to take a redshirt year and develop in the background before assuming the QB1 throne the following season. After Indy took him with the No. 4 overall pick, it remains to be seen if he'll be afforded that year to marinate or if they'll throw him out into the fire at some point in the year. If Richardson begins impressing during minicamp, he could force the Colts' hand to play him sooner rather than later.
Jaguars: The chemistry between Lawrence and Ridley
The Jaguars were able to get themselves back on track in 2022, and Trevor Lawrence started to look more like the phenom he was billed as coming into the NFL. What could help Jacksonville's offense take another leap in 2023 is the arrival of wideout Calvin Ridley. He was acquired at the trade deadline last year in a deal with Atlanta after he was suspended for the year due to a violation of the league's gambling policy. If Ridley can return to form, he is one of the more talented pass-catchers in the league. Injecting that type of talent into this offense could have a massive impact on Lawrence, and these offseason workouts could go a long way in forming some early chemistry.
Broncos: Sean Payton's impact
The 2022 season was a forgetful one in Denver. The team hired and subsequently fired Nathaniel Hackett as its head coach, and the club went 5-12 as Russell Wilson largely disappointed in his first season. The Broncos have since tried to get themselves back on an upward trajectory by making a major move of trading for Sean Payton to be their head coach this offseason. His arrival should shift the culture at Mile High, and it'll be intriguing to see how much magic he can work on Wilson to get him back to the quarterback he was in Seattle. If he can do that, Denver has the pieces to turn things around in a hurry.
Chiefs: What does the WR room look like?
The defending Super Bowl champions have a ton of wide receivers on the roster, but it remains to be seen how the pecking order will shake out. Kadarius Toney, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, and second-round pick Rashee Rice are the likely top four, but there's also Richie James and Justyn Ross who could factor into the equation as well. Whom Patrick Mahomes gains a rapport with will be worth monitoring.
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Chargers: Have things smoothed over with Austin Ekeler?
It was nearly the end of Ekeler's tenure in Los Angeles after the back requested a trade in search of a new contract this offseason. That didn't come to fruition as the Chargers Kellen Moore's new offense., but we'll know for certain if/when he joins the team for minicamp. If things are still salty, this could be a storyline to follow all the way through the trade deadline. Also, Ekeler should still be a key piece to L.A.'s offense, so his presence is important as it installs
Giants: The Saquon Barkley situation
Barkleyafter the Giants placed the franchise tag on him back in March. The star back has yet to sign the tag and doesn't plan to in time for these workouts. He even entertained the possibility of sitting out the entire season if the two sides can't work out a deal, so this situation will loom over the franchise throughout minicamp and through the July 17 deadline to hammer out a long-term extension.
Bears: Has Justin Fields improved his passing?
The big takeaway from GM Ryan Poles' end-of-season press conference was the desire for quarterback Justin Fields to improve his passing. Poles said at the time that he "has to get better as a passer and I'm excited to see him take those steps as we move forward." Throughout the offseason, Chicago put Fields in a position to improve in that area by trading for D.J. Moore and drafting offensive tackle Darnell Wright. With the major roster-building periods over, it'll be up to Fields to show he has worked this offseason to improve his throwing and take advantage of the new weapons the Bears front office has put in front of him.
Packers: The Jordan Love era
This is certainly a more macro view for the Packers, but it's THE story in Green Bay. The club traded away Aaron Rodgers this offseason and has now handed the keys to Lambeau Field to Jordan Love. How the young QB carries himself in press conferences and during practices, as well as his overall command of the franchise, will be must-see stuff. And then there's actually his play on the field and whether or not he will be able to come in and play well after spending the past three seasons in the shadows.
Vikings: Can Brian Flores fix Minnesota's defense?
A large part of the reason why most folks weren't fully convinced by the Vikings last year was because of their defense. The unit ranked 27th in the NFL in DVOA and gave up the second-most yards in the league. That led to the firing of Ed Donatell and the hiring of Brian Flores. Throughout his stretches as an assistant in New England, head coach in Miami, and assistant in Pittsburgh, Flores has helped craft sturdy defenses. Whether or not he'll be able to work his magic again with the Vikings will be a big reason whether or not Minnesota finds itself back atop the NFC North.
Falcons: Can Desmond Ridder be a franchise QB?
This is a storyline that's going to hang around for the rest of the offseason and bleed into the regular season. Atlanta decided against jumping into some of the trade conversations for upper-echelon quarterbacks this offseason, nor did it pursue one in the NFL Draft, opting instead to ride with 2022 third-round pick Desmond Ridder. The Falcons have collected several highly skilled and athletic pieces around Ridder like tight end Kyle Pitts, wideout Drake London and rookie running back Bijan Robinson, so the young QB will have plenty of weapons at his disposal.
Panthers: How is Bryce Young progressing?
Of course, the No. 1 pick is going to be the center of the show, right? How Bryce Young is progressing within Carolina's offense will be the storyline to follow all year. He has already been working with the first-team offense, so things appear to be running smoothly. While Frank Reich and his staff haven't announced that Young will be under center in Week 1, it seems like he is tracking that way.
Saints: Michael Thomas' recovery
Derek Carr's arrival in New Orleans makes the Saints the top dog in the NFC South, but a healthy Michael Thomas could help this team be a real contender in the NFC. He as limited throughout OTAs and said last week later this summer. If he can gain a bit of chemistry with Carr as he continues to recuperate, the Saints will have a solid one-two punch at receiver with Thomas and second-year pass-catcher Chris Olave.
Buccaneers: Who will be QB1?
The Tom Brady era is over in Tampa Bay, and the Bucs are now proceeding forward with either Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask as the team's starter for 2023. The two will continue to duke it out during minicamp and training camp for the starting job, so how many first-team reps each of them gets will be a key indicator of where this battle stands. Trask may have the advantage thanks to him being in the offense for the past few seasons, but Mayfield has plenty of starting experience under his belt.
Cardinals: How does the Budda Baker situation play out?
The mandatory aspect of minicamp allows for some insight into specific players and their relationship with the team. In Arizona, star safety Budda Baker requested a trade but arrived at Cardinals minicamp on Monday. Whether that means his trade request has been rescinded or he simply is avoiding a fine will be worth keeping an eye on.
Rams: Are they healthy?
Injuries ruined the 2022 season for the Rams, as the three pillars of their Super Bowl-winning team in 2021 (Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and Aaron Donald) all went down with season-ending injuries. L.A. is extremely young coming into 2023, so it'll need to lean on this trio a lot more if it is to contend in a competitive NFC West.