As training camps forge into their second week, a rash of rookie runners are making compelling cases for heavy workloads right away:
» In Carolina, Christian McCaffrey's early handiwork compelled fellow back Jonathan Stewart to call the first-round pick "a special player," saying: "He's pretty unstoppable as far as coming out of the backfield running routes. I can tell you now there's not going to be anybody in this league that can cover him 1-on-1."
» While it's truly strange to see Adrian Peterson in a Saints uniform, his former club in Minnesota feels fine about the progress of Dalvin Cook. "[He] tries to make the most of every rep he gets," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said, per ESPN. "You see him do a lot of things really well, and if he does make a mistake, he's able to correct it and move on. ... I think he's going to have a bright future."
"Zero," Doug Marrone bluntly answered during organized team activites in June when asked how many times a game he wants to see Bortles throw the ball. "For me, I'd like to run the ball every play. I want to go back to the old way. I want to change the game."
This is excellent news for fourth-overall pick Leonard Fournette, who suddenly looks like the beating heart of a pass-averse attack set to ship football back to the 1970s.
A rare combination of blinding speed, physicality and pass-catching prowess, Mixon posted better pro day measurables than Ezekiel Elliott and could earn a starting role long before September. Just as McCaffery gives the Panthers an electric athlete with the ability to transform that offense, Mixon's early work in Cincy is another reminder that this year's crop of rookie runners has the potential to go down as one of the finest backfield classes in many years.
Here's what else we learned from Monday's training camp action:
While guys like Austin Davis and Josh Johnson draw paychecks, Kaepernick has generated scant interest since opting out of his contract with San Francisco in March. He could help the Ravens, though, with Joe Flacco battling a bad back and backup Ryan Mallett staging intense on-field meltdowns during camp.
Kaepernick generated massive attention last season by kneeling during the national anthem to raise awareness for social injustices. As a result, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said the team has reached out to its players, sponsors and fans -- and even Ray Lewis -- to gauge the reaction of a potential Kaepernick signing.
After the team was "inundated with phone calls" from fans over the prospect of signing Kaepernick, Bisciotti told the crowd at Sunday's fan forum: "I hope we do what is best for the team and balance that with what is best for our fans. Your opinions matter to us."
John Harbaugh's opinion matters, too, with the coach revealing he's had "great conversations" with Kaepernick, whose protests boil down to someone exercising a basic American right -- no matter how anyone feels about the message. From a football perspective, this signing simply makes sense for the Ravens.
"They think he is just fast, but he is a really technically sound receiver," cornerback Marcus Peters said of Hill. "He is just a little dude, but he is in a big man's body. He is one of the best receivers in our league right now."
- Jaguars players have openly talked about making a playoff push this season, with defensive lineman Malik Jackson boasting "we're going to win the Super Bowl." That feels insane, although Jacksonville's talent on defense is juicy. Optimism is tempered by Bortles, the fourth-year quarterback who flatlined in 2016. Coach Doug Marrone acknowledged he was "concerned" after watching Bortles toss a whopping five picks during Saturday's practice. On Monday, Bortles turned it around, completing 14 straight passes at one stage and refusing to turn the ball over. It's a start.
- The Jets are widely viewed as a disaster heading into the season, but hope abounds at the back end of Gang Green's defense, where rookie safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye have thrived. "I can't speak for other people's safeties on their team. But for rookie safeties, from the average that I've been around, they're a lot farther along," coach Todd Bowles said of his two backstops. Bowles isn't one to gush over players, so this praise carries weight for a team desperately in need of some good news.
- With Doug Martin facing a three-game suspension to start the season, Bucs general manager Jason Licht told ESPN the team will lean on a committee to fill the void with Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims, Peyton Barber and Jeremy McNichols. Licht went on to say Martin might not have a starting job when he returns from his punishment -- a statement we're simply not buying.
- As veteran players return to work, training camp historically generates at least one surprise retirement. That came Monday morning with Branden Albert's decision to walk away from the NFL after nine seasons. Albert had been working as Jacksonville's starting left tackle following an offseason trade from Miami. His late-summer decision to bolt leaves second-round pick Cam Robinson as the favorite to take over the role. Meanwhile, Jacksonville will recoup the 2018 seventh-round draft pick they sent to Miami in their offseason swap for Albert.
- Could Mike Williams miss the entire season? Chargers coach Anthony Lynn suggested the first-round receiver could be lost for the year because of his lingering back injury. "I'm hopeful that it's not [season-ending], but who knows?" Lynn said, via ESPN.com. "It could be. I don't know." Los Angeles has plenty of depth in the passing game, but losing Williams for the year would serve as another reminder that no team in football has uglier luck when it comes to injuries.