Winners and losers of final minicamp week


The real offseason starts now. After 24 minicamps this week, teams escaped their facilities this week and won't be back until late July. Players like Jason Pierre-Paul can warn about the dangers of the coming weeks and there will inevitably be some mishaps for us to report on. But this isn't just vacation time for players.

NFL executives, coaches and reporters all get their vacation time over the next six weeks before settling in for the craziness. Before we all downshift, let's take a look at some of the winners and losers from this week.


Rex Ryan's undying optimism: If this is Rex Ryan's final season as an NFL head coach, then he's going out his way. Only Rex could declare his team the winners of the offseason after watching his No. 1 receiver Sammy Watkins undergo offseason foot surgery and seeing his first-round pick Shaq Lawson undergo shoulder surgery that could keep him out for most of the season.

Throw in Karlos Williams' pregnancy-related conditioning problems and LeSean McCoy's nagging injuries, and there has been plenty of reason for consternation in Buffalo this offseason. But not for Rex.

Melvin Gordon truthers like myself: Speaking to an NFL Media luminary this week about Melvin Gordon, the following phrase was uttered: "The guy can't play."

I disagree. Watch Gordon down the stretch last year and you see how incredibly bad his offensive line was and how he mostly shook the indecision that plagued him early last year. This offseason brought more bad news in the form of microfracture surgery, but Gordon was back on the field by minicamp practicing fully with sharp cuts. The Chargers have an intriguing backfield with Gordon and Woodhead. It looks like Gordon will be more than ready for Week 1 as a starter for a bounce-back sophomore year.

Rookie receivers that can move around the formation: I'm speaking specifically about Giants wideout Sterling Shepard and Titans fifth-round receiver Tajae Sharpe. These are admittedly the types of players that excel in non-padded practices, but both players made big noise in OTA season. Chris Wesseling did a great job recapping all the rookie news in his buzz column.

Bad "Blind Side" jokes in Carolina: Michael Oher's new contract in Carolina is a nice comeback for a player whose career arc was pointed down the last few years. His teammates did a great job celebrating the news on Twitter with choice Sandy Bullock clips. The headline writers of America and the guy in your my office was less successful.


Comfort of Jets fans: This Ryan Fitzpatrick story has gone from annoying to exasperating to even making Todd Bowles feel dead inside.

"With all due respect, I'm through talking about Fitz," Bowles said this week.

No coach would answer repetitive questions about his missing presumptive starting quarterback with as much patience and understanding as Bowles this offseason. It's hard to knock him off his affable-yet-serious tone, which is why he's such a perfect fit for New York. But he knows this Fitzpatrick mess has gone on too long and they need to find a resolution before training camp.

Bowles won't set a "drop-dead deadline" for Fitzpatrick to sign, but there was a change in tone around the Jets this week. Bowles talked up Geno Smith being "light years" ahead of where he was last year. He entertained possibly signing another veteran quarterback, presumably to back up Geno. Kimberly Martin of Newsday puts some of the blame on Bowles' decision to name Fitzpatrick the team's starter minutes after the season ended. It's a great point, and it's not the only thorny situation for Jets fans to compartmentalize this time of year.

Muhammad Wilkerson believes the Jets don't want him. We believe they just want him less long-term than Sheldon Richardson, which is a decision we discussed on Thursday's Around The NFL Podcast. Wilkerson was the Jets' best defensive lineman last year and their best over the last four years. This shouldn't be so hard.

Darren McFadden: The Dallas running back's cell phone excuse for breaking his elbow was curious, yet ultimately irrelevant. The Cowboys didn't need much of an excuse to give Ezekiel Elliott all the touches. Elliott's complete game is already wowing the Cowboys staff in practice. McFadden has to worry now about Alfred Morris passing him on the depth chart because keeping both active on gamedays will be tricky since they don't help on special teams.

Wade Peters: Long live Son of Bum: Wade Phillips!

Jared Goff optimism: We aren't going to overreact to a rookie quarterback struggling in early practices. That's what rookie quarterbacks do. The problem is when that rookie quarterback is fully expected to start 16 games and be the face of a franchise in its first year in a new city. While Carson Wentz can luxuriate at the bottom of the Eagles depth chart (or in a New Jersey bathroom), Goff is under far more pressure in Los Angeles. It is very early, but NFL Media's Steve Wyche says he's "nowhere near" ready at this stage. That's what camp is for.