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Picking the winners and losers of minicamp season

  • By Around The League Staff
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Minicamp season is over. NFL teams now slip off the grid until the start of training camp and another long season.

In the latest edition of the award-winning Around The League Podcast, we picked the winners and losers from offseason programs across the league. We've expanded on our thoughts below:

WINNERS


Around The League predicts the Week 1 starting lineups for all 32 teams, analyzing the potential impact of each rookie class.

AFC East
» Bills | Dolphins | Jets | Patriots
AFC North
» Bengals | Browns | Ravens | Steelers
AFC South
» Colts | Jaguars | Texans | Titans
AFC West
» Broncos | Chargers | Chiefs | Raiders
NFC East
» Cowboys | Eagles | Giants | Redskins
NFC North
» Bears | Lions | Packers | Vikings
NFC South
» Buccaneers | Falcons | Panthers | Saints
NFC West
» Cardinals | 49ers | Rams | Seahawks

Teddy Bridgewater: No quarterback prospect took more slings and arrows during the buildup to the draft. No rookie quarterback quietly impressed more during offseason practices. While it's always smart to be wary of minicamp hype, the Vikings are very pleased with what they've seen out of Bridgewater thus far. He appears ahead of other rookies mentally, and offensive coordinator Norv Turner has raved about his deep ball. Bridgewater landed in an ideal situation for his development. It wouldn't be a shock if Bridgewater was the only rookie quarterback starting in Week 1.

-- Gregg Rosenthal

Hue Jackson: The man who turned the Carson Palmer-Jason Campbell Raiders into a top-10 offense thumbed his nose at veteran deference, installing promising rookie Jeremy Hill ahead of declining power back BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The Bengals' offensive coordinator is also prescribing a bigger role for playmaking second-year back Giovani Bernard, who took the offense to a higher level when he was on the field last year. In addition to double-team defeater A.J. Green, Jackson has "Making the Leap" candidate Marvin Jones and an impressive tight-end pairing comprising his receiving corps. The Bengals boast as many weapons as any AFC club outside of Denver.

-- Chris Wesseling

Lamar Miller: With Knowshon Moreno battling knee issues and plummeting down the depth chart, Miller has seen first-team reps all offseason in Miami. The third-year running back struggled last season in Mike Sherman's predictable offense, but he's poised to make good on last year's "Making the Leap" prediction in Bill Lazor's new attack. Lazor is determined to get Miller into space and use the runner's outstanding speed and burst.

-- Marc Sessler

Giants' offense: There's reason to be optimistic about a bounce-back season from this unit, now led by coordinator Ben McAdoo. Eli Manning's quick return from ankle surgery is a huge plus during the installation process. Watch out for Rueben Randle, a breakout candidate at wide receiver who could form a potentially lethal combo with Victor Cruz and first-round pick Odell Beckham. NJ.com noted that Randle made "significant progress" in OTAs and minicamp and "could be primed for a big year." Another positive sign? The Giants are scheming to find different ways to use Randle, who has all the tools to become an Eli favorite.

-- Dan Hanzus


Watch "The Top 100 Players of 2014" every week at 9 p.m. ET on NFL Network as we count down to the top player in the NFL. "The Top 100 Players of 2014 Reactions" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET.

Robert Woods: Trade-acquisition Mike Williams hasn't impressed during the offseason, with some questions about whether he's even a lock to make the Bills. Sammy Watkins is still working on chemistry with EJ Manuel, leaving Woods as Manuel's favorite receiver. Woods didn't drop a pass all of last year. It wouldn't be a surprise if he started on the outside, and moved to the slot on passing downs.

-- Gregg Rosenthal

Derek Carr: NFL Media's Albert Breer reported last week the Raiders have internal belief that the second-round rookie will push Matt Schaub for playing time. Coach Dennis Allen confirmed Thursday that Carr already has bypassed Matt McGloin for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart entering training camp. Schaub currently stands as one of the NFL's shakiest starting quarterbacks. If he's outplayed by Carr in August, there will be pressure to play the rookie.

-- Chris Wesseling

NFL fans: Steelers coach Mike Tomlin described offseason practices perfectly on Thursday.

Quote 1: "This is not football. It's football-like."

Quote 2: "You can convince yourself of anything this time of year. I'm not interested in telling the story to myself."

The next month is the only true month off of the year for NFL teams. When they return, the stories matter. It will be football again, not football-like.

-- Gregg Rosenthal

LOSERS

Houston Texans fans: What's more interesting: an established mediocrity or a mysterious mediocrity? The Texans opted for the former, naming an uninspiring journeyman quarterback -- with a career winning percentage of .350 and obvious physical limitations -- as their starter. As if that wasn't deflating enough, the best player in franchise history has spent the offseason wondering if he still wants to represent the franchise on the field. We won't even talk about the No. 1 overall draft pick who just went under the knife. It's all too depressing.

-- Chris Wesseling

Washington Redskins: The Redskins spent good money to swipe Jason Hatcher away from the rival Cowboys in free agency. Early returns aren't good. We learned this week that Hatcher's ailing knee required arthroscopic surgery. While the four-to-six week recovery timetable should put Hatcher back on the field in time for training camp, it's an inauspicious start that makes you wonder if the Redskins were wise to invest in an inconsistent big man on the wrong side of 30.

-- Dan Hanzus

Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals: Both teams lost upper-echelon inside linebackers for the season. Dallas' defensive overhaul had plenty of challenges before losing Sean Lee to another devastating injury. Now they looked destined to be mediocre at best. The Cardinals lost Daryl Washington to a year-long suspension, and it sounds like he may never play for the team again. Arizona has enough defensive talent to overcome Washington's injury, but their route to a Super Bowl goes through a top-five defense. That will be tougher now.

In today's NFL, linebackers that excel on passing downs come at a premium. Lee and Washington are two of the best. Most OTA stories are overblown, but these losses will reverberate all season.

-- Gregg Rosenthal

Kyle Orton and the Cowboys: The will-he-or-won't-he shenanigans are tiresome. Instead of reaching a clear-cut decision about his playing future months ago, Orton is "strongly considering retirement" while holding the Cowboys hostage. Upshot? Dallas is one Tony Romo back spasm away from Brandon Weeden as its starter. Orton's hemming and hawing -- mostly over money -- played a part in Dallas failing to aggressively find a proven veteran backup.

-- Marc Sessler

Michael Vick: On a scale of one-to-10, how much does Vick regret signing with the Jets? Eight? Nine? This isn't what he thought he was signing up for. Vick made it abundantly clear that his top priority entering the offseason was ensuring his next job would be Week 1 starting quarterback. He firmly believes he can take the Jets to the Super Bowl. The idea of holding a clipboard is anathema. Yet here he is, stuck in a rigged quarterback competition.

-- Chris Wesseling

Ben Tate: The former Texans running back was under the impression he'd be Cleveland's unquestioned bell-cow. Instead, we're not certain he'll even lead the Browns in carries. The coaching staff is impressed with rookie Terrance West, the Towson product who NFL Media's Charley Casserly predicts will "be the starting running back this year." While Tate says "nobody in that room that scares me," Kyle Shanahan's ground game is going to be a committee affair that leans on the hot hand.

-- Marc Sessler

Making the Leap in 2014
Around The League profiles 25 players (like Minnesota Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes) primed to enjoy breakout seasons. READ

Jermichael Finley: There's a real question whether the free agent tight end will play this season because of his neck injury. Despite all the optimistic projections from his agent, no team will clear Finley for full-contact action. Even if he does get cleared, he's destined to get a one-year "prove it" deal.

-- Gregg Rosenthal

Chris Johnson: The New York Jets running back -- who was thisclose to a season free of unrealistic expectations -- said this week he still could be a 2,000-yard rusher. He also spoke of a connection to Lil Boosie, a jailed rapper with deep drug ties. Sit a couple plays out, CJ.

-- Dan Hanzus

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