On-field evaluations during OTAs and minicamps are a waste of time. It's teaching season, and players aren't in pads.
That doesn't mean we can't learn something from the seven mandatory minicamps and other practices going on this week. With one week left in the NFL offseason, here's a look at the news that mattered -- and didn't -- from the practices that have been held so far this week:
Dak Prescott and Joe Burrow are on the right track. It's nice that Prescott was being described as dominant at practice coming off the compound ankle fracture that ended his 2020 season in Week 5, but the important thing is that the Cowboys' quarterback was out there at all. The only major news for players coming off injury at this time of year is bad news, and that hasn't been the case for Prescott.
The same is true for Burrow, even if the Bengals' quarterback is further away from knowing whether he's truly all systems go in terms of returning from his torn ACL by Week 1. I like hearing that Burrow recognizes his vertical passing was a problem last year. I like that he's working at that skill while protected by the non-contact nature of this time of year. August will mean more for both players, especially Burrow. But it's nice they are each checking boxes on their way back.
Danielle Hunter has yet to practice again with the Vikings. The contract standoff between Hunter and the franchise predates last season. Considering Hunter missed 2020 with a neck injury, though, this is a complicated situation for the Vikings to handle. Minnesota desperately needs the pass-rush juice a healthy Hunter would provide, but there's no guarantee he will return to work without more money. The 26-year-old Hunter, meanwhile, is under contract through 2023 and doesn't have as much leverage because of his recent injury.
Chandler Jones did not show up for mandatory minicamp. It was no shock that Cardinals linebacker Jordan Hicks didn't appear; we knew he was on the trade block. It was a much bigger surprise when Jones stayed away from the team and risked incurring fines.
The 31-year-old Jones, who just saw J.J. Watt earn a big deal in the desert and has one year left on his contract, could want an extension. But he's coming off a major injury (a torn biceps) that ended his 2020 season in October, following one of the quietest months of his career. I doubt the Cardinals want to give Jones more money right now, which means this is a story that could grow in the coming months. I'm not convinced Jones is a lock to play for Arizona this year.
Kyle Long's leg injury. The Chiefs' signing of Long, the ex-Bear coming back after spending 2020 in retirement, always carried risk, primarily for the former Pro Bowl guard. He's a difference-maker when healthy, but he hasn't been able to stay on the field consistently since 2015. The 32-year-old suffered a lower leg injury Thursday, and while NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported there's hope Long could return in time for the regular season, it remains to be seen whether that is enough time for him to win a battle for the right guard spot -- or to even make the team.
Amari Cooper may not be ready for training camp. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport noted that a recent ankle injury suffered by the Cowboys receiver could keep him out into training camp. The reflex at this time of year is for teams to call every injury minor. But that timeline would indicate that an injury suffered in May may not be healed until August. That's pretty major!
There's no need to panic, but Cooper's health is something to watch in training camp.
Colts extensions are coming. Most NFL teams are nearing their only true vacations of the year. The first order of business when executives get back to the office will be securing long-term extension for core players. When Colts owner Jim Irsay spoke on the prospective deals for linebacker Shaquille Leonard and tackle Braden Smith (who each have one year left on their rookie contracts) this week, it became clear that's where the Colts will spend some of their significant cap space before September.
Micah Parsons is practicing at all three linebacker spots. It would be a surprise if Parsons, the No. 12 overall pick, isn't playing starter snaps for Dallas in September. I was curious if he was going to focus on middle linebacker or on the weak side, which would help to indicate whether Leighton Vander Esch or Jaylon Smith was more likely to get displaced in the starting lineup. For now, Parsons is trying to learn everything, according to The Athletic, including the pass rush at the NFL level. It's dangerous for a rookie linebacker to try to do too much -- see: Isaiah Simmons in Arizona last year -- but it is teaching season, after all. Perhaps the Cowboys will have more of a defined plan for Parsons in August.
Deshaun Watson apparently wants to play in Denver. Watson's serious legal troubles stemming from sexual assault and misconduct allegations have clouded if and when he will play football again. The news this week, via Broncos safety Kareem Jackson, that Watson -- who earlier requested a trade out of Houston -- would like to play in Denver was the first football-related development involving the Texans quarterback in a while.
It doesn't matta
The answer, of course, is absolutely nothing! If you put a lot of stock into Love's strong second day of minicamp, then you have to put equal value into his first day full of struggles. It's nice to hear that the 2020 first-rounder is showing some signs of progression, but I don't believe Love can do anything that would impact the Aaron Rodgers equation until mid-August at the earliest.
If Love begins to stack up great weeks of training camp in pads and backs that up with a strong preseason, then his development could factor into the Rodgers equation. Rodgers' future is bigger than Love, who will be a mystery until he plays in the regular season. The Packers should still be motivated to avoid finding out what that looks like in 2021.
The Texans and 49ers are among teams canceling minicamps for next week. Here's how you know minicamps aren't that important: Not all teams are even doing them. The Texans and 49ers were the latest to announce they won't even fully line up next week, when their minicamp was scheduled. Cue the bad takes that they're taking it too easy!
The downside of offseason practices hit the 49ers this week when two key reserves, safety Tarvarius Moore and offensive tackle Justin Skule, were lost to season-ending injuries. The 49ers have had incredibly bad injury luck for most of the Kyle Shanahan era, so hopefully this isn't a sign of things to come this season.
The Bucs all showed up for minicamp! I wasn't worried when the Bucs mostly stayed away from voluntary practices. I wasn't overjoyed when 89 players showed up for a businesslike minicamp.
Rookie quarterback Justin Fields is taking second-team reps at Bears practice. I will not put too much stock into player performance or depth chart speculation in June. I will not put too much stock into player performance or depth chart speculation in June. I will not put too much stock into player performance or depth chart speculation in June.
Cam Newton is missing practice with a hand injury. While Bill Belichick isn't always the most reliable narrator when it comes to injuries, the Patriots coach's lack of concern about Newton bodes well. Missing pad-less practice in June is not a concern, as long as the quarterback is out there when it matters in training camp.
Drew Lock's first 11-on-11 pass was an interception. This is not a great sign if you are into omens, but the Broncos have made it clear the battle between last year's starting quarterback and offseason acquisition Teddy Bridgewater will play out for a while into August. Bridgewater has to be viewed as the favorite, but the competition, like all position battles, won't truly start until training camp.