NFL

NFL AM: NFC Training Camp Headlines

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Join us as we take a few stops around training camps of NFC teams.

New York Giants- “Down Goes Beckham.”

The New York Giants organization received quite a scare over the weekend when Pro Bowl wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. became tangled up and subsequently stepped on by new Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins.

Although he was spiked and blood was drawn, Beckham is okay.

Assuming everyone stays healthy, Eli Manning will have perhaps the best complement of weapons in his 13-year career, as he has Beckham, rookie Sterling Shephard, Victor Cruz and Dwayne Harris, along with a backfield of Rashad Jennings, Orleans Darkwa, Andre Williams, Shane Vereen and Bobby Rainey.

“I’m excited about the receiving corps,” Manning said after the team’s first practice of training camp. “Obviously Odell (Beckham) has proven that he’s a play maker, has a tremendous work ethic and does everything right. With Sterling, you know, he still has a lot to learn, but you see the potential, see the play-making ability. We’ve just got to get to work, it’s all a matter of what we can do over the next month or so of practices, preseason games, and take advantage of every opportunity. It was great to see Victor out there running routes and hopefully he can continue to gain more confidence in his ability and his health and get back out there. It’s been a while since he’s played football, so it’s good to get him out there practicing. We have a lot of weapons, a lot of weapons. It’s just a matter of ‘Can, we stay healthy, can we pick up things fast enough, and make plays’.”

San Francisco 49ers- “No Chip-Nick reunion anytime soon.”

The San Francisco have one of the most interesting quarterback situations in the NFL.  That is if interesting meant terrible.

New 49ers head coach Chip Kelly has to choose between the erratic, yet physically gifted Colin Kaepernick and the well-groomed Blaine Gabbert.  It would appear as if neither of these options are good for many more than a handful of victories this season.

Enter to the free agent market former Eagles and Rams quarterback Nick Foles, who was granted his release from L.A. just one year after the Rams traded Sam Bradford for him.  2015 was a disaster for Foles, playing behind a poor offensive line and unproven pass catchers, leading to his eventual benching.

With Foles on the market, reuniting with Kelly, where he had his best season as a pro, seems like a logical destination.

Not according to the new 49ers head coach.

“I’m a big fan of Nick, but right now, our eggs are in Kap and Blaine’s basket,” Kelly said on KNBR 680-AM, via the San Jose Mercury News. “We’re going to see what those guys can do and we’re very confident in both those guys. That’s really got nothing to do with Nick, but it’s got a lot to do with Blaine and Kap in giving them an ample shot at being the quarterback. If you have three guys in the mix, it gets really diluted and now you’re not going to get enough reps for anybody to make a determination on who the quarterback should be.”

Although the reunion makes certain sense, Kelly is the guy who traded Foles away.  We think a few more weeks of seeing Kaepernick one-hop passes and Gabbert crawl on the ground like a turtle could have Kelly reminiscing about a return with the former Arizona Wildcat.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers- “Rookies helping rebuild the defense.”

During the 2015 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers attempted to set the foundation for their offense with the selection of quarterback Jameis Winston (No. 1 overall), followed by offensive tackle Donovan Smith and offensive guard Ali Marpet in the second round.

The results were pretty immediate as the team went from the 30th ranking in total offense in 2014 to fifth-overall in 2015.

“I left a lot of plays on the field in the red zone in the passing game last year,” Winston said on NFL Network. “I definitely have to get better at that. You never arrive but you get better. I have a great supporting cast to help me out.”

Winston expects even more improvement in Dirk Koetter’s system.

“Being in an offense for a second year makes things more simple for me,” the former Florida State national champion and Heisman Trophy winner said. “I was blessed with a great running back and a great supporting cast. It will be so much fun going into Year 2 with those guys and to show how good are chemistry really is.”

Now that the team has it’s offense in place for 2016, it’s time to work on the other side of the ball. The Bucs finished 26th in the league in scoring defense last year, allowing 26.1 points per game. This prompted general manager Jason Licht to select defense with the team’s first two picks in April’s Draft, as well as four of the first six selections.

The team’s first round pick, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, a Tampa native, saw his first padded action over the weekend.

“It was good, it was real smooth,” Hargreaves said when asked about putting the pads on for the first time as a pro. “Obviously there’s a lot of work that needs to be done, but we’re getting the hang of things.”

The Bucs are breaking him in somewhat slowly as they have him competing in the slot.

“It’s going well. It’s kind of just like playing corner, you’re just inside,” the former Florida Gators first-round pick explained. “You’ve still got your basic coverages, but just something I’ve got to get used to and something I gotta get good at.”

The Bucs could potentially be very good at the cornerback position this season as they signed free agent standout Brent Grimes, along with 2015’s big free agent signing Alterraun Verner.  Add in Hargreaves and former second-round draft pick Jonathan Banks and it’s difficult to find any team in the NFL with more talent at the position.

It’s nice to have a secondary that can cover, but anyone will tell you that it’s even more important to have a pass rush that makes it easier on said secondary.  Tampa feels that they sufficiently addressed that by signing free agent defensive lineman Robert Ayers and drafting edge rusher Noah Spence in the second round of April’s Draft.

Spence was asked about the big adjustments from playing at Eastern Kentucky to the NFL.

“I don’t think it’s that hard or anything, it was just learning the plays at first. Now I’ve pretty much got them down pat,” Spence said confidently. “As they come to us you just study them. That was really the biggest thing for me, getting all the plays.”

He doesn’t claim to be at full speed just yet.

“I’m getting there – I’m still trying to get to my full speed because I’m still thinking a little bit when I come off and everything like that. Once I get everything fully down I can go full speed,” Spence said.

Spence was lightning quick off the ball at the Reese’s Senior Bowl back in January and that elevated his stock from a potential mid-round selection all the way to Round 2.  If the team can get anything out of him to go along with proven vets like Gerald McCoy and Robert Ayers, this Bucs defense could improve significantly as the offense did a season ago.


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.