Around the NFL  

 

Minicamps start for Patriots, Dolphins, Bears, Lions

Print

Practices for four NFL teams become mandatory Tuesday.

The Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots kick off mandatory minicamp -- three-day sessions that run through Thursday.

The other 28 teams will hold their minicamps next week (June 12-14).

Other than the session going from voluntary to mandatory, not much changes from an on-field perspective from Phase 3 of organized team activities to minicamp. Practices remain pad-less. No live contact is allowed, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are permitted. Clubs can hold two practices per day for the three-day period, as long as the players' time on the field doesn't surpass a total of 3.5 hours per day, and the second session is a walkthrough.

Skipping mandatory minicamp can result in fines up to about $84,400 total for the three days. Players who have not signed their franchise tag -- like Le'Veon Bell -- are not under contract and therefore cannot be fined for avoiding minicamp.

While the Lions, Dolphins and Patriots will finish up OTAs next week, for the Bears it's the last time Matt Nagy's team will be on the field until training camp opens in July.

For teams with new coaches, like the Bears and Lions, mandatory minicamp is a time to continue installing their program. Players coming off injury have a chance to get involved in the on-field process before training camp. And players on the fringes of the roster have one more chance to impress coaches ahead of the battle for jobs in training camp. With most teams offering more media availability during minicamp than OTAs, we should get a better snapshot of how clubs are fleshing out their offseason.

Let's look at a few things to watch for the four teams holding mandatory minicamp this week:

Chicago Bears


Storyline to watch: Offensive changes. The Bears overhauled the entire offense this offseason, giving Mitchell Trubisky toys to play with in Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton and Anthony Miller. How will those pieces begin to mesh? How quickly is Trubisky picking up Nagy's new system? The Bears have spoken a lot this offseason about getting running back Tarik Cohen on the field more. How will the rotation with Jordan Howard shake out? Will Cohen split out wide more under Nagy?

Position group to watch: Edge rusher. The Bears brought back their solid secondary from a year ago and upgraded the linebacker position with first-round pick Roquan Smith. The question for Vic Fangio's unit is where the pass rush will come from opposite Leonard Floyd. Will Aaron Lynch lock down that role after compiling just 2.5 total sacks the past two seasons in San Francisco?

One lingering question: Can Kevin White stay healthy and earn a starting role? The Bears' upgrades at receiver have lessened the pressure on White to lead the group. Will the former first-round pick be squeezed out of a big role at all? Can he even stay healthy enough for the new coaches to trust?

Detroit Lions


Storyline to watch: Defensive changes. Moving from the stoic Jim Caldwell to the fiery Matt Patricia brings changes aside from personality. The Lions' defense is expected to be more multiple under Patricia. The player to watch is Ezekiel Ansah. What role will he have in Patricia's front? The franchise-tagged pass rusher sat out the OTA session open to the media earlier this offseason. Will he participate this week? If so, how will Patricia utilize his best pass rusher? The Lions have until July 16 to come to terms on a multi-year contract for Ansah. Figuring how he fits into the plan before then could speak to how likely a long-term deal is to getting done.

Position group to watch: Running back. Will second-round rookie Kerryon Johnson earn a big role this summer? What are the plans for LeGarrette Blount? Could it be the beginning of the end for former starter Ameer Abdullah in Detroit? If the 2015 second-rounder is buried on the depth chart he'll be squarely on the roster bubble heading into training camp. Abdullah likely will need to return to special teams to give himself a better chance at making the team.

One lingering question: What position will first-round pick Frank Ragnow play? The Arkansas product is a candidate to play left guard or center. Where he spends most of his time during minicamp could indicate the Lions' plans in front of Matthew Stafford.

Miami Dolphins


Storyline to watch: Offseason overhaul. Adam Gase and the Dolphins spent the offseason importing the coach's type of players. Gone is Ndamukong Suh, Mike Pouncey, Jarvis Landry, Lawrence Timmons and others. In are Danny Amendola, Frank Gore, Josh Sitton, Robert Quinn, Albert Wilson, et al. How will swapping mercurial talent for more stable veterans transform the Dolphins' roster? Will a hopefully more cohesive, hardworking group translate to upgrades on the field?

Position group to watch: Secondary. How will rookie Minkah Fitzpatrick fit in? The Alabama product was viewed as one of the top defenders entering the draft with the versatility to play all over the formation. What role will he settle into this summer? How will the Dolphins' safety situation shake out with Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald? The chemistry seemed shaky last season with both Jones and McDonald performing better in the box. Will those issues be smoothed out?

One lingering question: How smoothly will Ryan Tannehill's return go after missing an entire season? Tannehill played his best football under Gase but had the majority of his time with the coach wiped out due to injury. Will his return be seamless? Can he find a rapport with presumed No. 1 receiver DeVante Parker? How will Amendola and Wilson fit into the mix? Will Miami's offense be more than a cycle of checkdowns?

New England Patriots


Storyline to watch: Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski report. Our long nightmare is about to be over. Brady and Gronk will report to mandatory minicamp after skipping all the previous voluntary situations. Much consternation and internet ink have been spilled on why Brady and Gronk have stayed away from Patriots workouts thus far -- everything from contract speculation to rumors of being peeved at coach Bill Belichick. Perhaps we'll get some answers this week. Unlikely, but perhaps.

Position group to watch: Receiver. The Patriots have an abundance of players at receiver with overlapping traits: Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Jordan Matthews, Malcolm Mitchell, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson, Kenny Britt, Braxton Berrios, Riley McCarron and Cody Hollister. Who will stand out? Will Edelman's return be seamless? Who will provide the field-stretching element? Will Mitchell be healthy enough to secure a role? Will a full offseason unlock Dorsett's potential or is he heading into training camp on the roster bubble? The first work with Brady this offseason could provide us the start of some answers.

One lingering question: How will the Pats offensive line shake out? Can first-round pick Isaiah Wynn help replace Nate Solder at left tackle? Will newly acquired Trent Brown find a role or simply play swing backup? If Wynn doesn't win the left tackle job, would he be better inside -- where many scouts projected him leading up to the draft?

Print