AFC Stars of the Week: NFL offensive, defensive players that stood out in workouts



NFL teams enter their final days of on-field work of the offseason this week, with 15 of the AFC teams conducting their mandatory minicamps. New England, which had its minicamp last week, concludes offseason activities with their final OTAs this week.

Once teams conclude their work this week, players will scatter until the opening of training camps late next month.

This will also be the final week of our evaluation of stars of the week. Next week, we will identify offseason standouts for each team.

For this group of AFC “stars,” wide receivers once again highlight the list with five of the 16. On the offensive side of the ball, there are also three running backs and three quarterbacks. Defensively, there are two cornerbacks, two defensive ends and one safety.

Of the 16 players, four are rookies.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

RB Danny Woodhead: The veteran, who signed a three-year deal in the offseason, showed explosiveness throughout the most recent OTAs. He was also efficient catching the ball out of the back and moving up-field. Woodhead is expected to be a key piece of the offense this year because of that versatility. He is already showing those playmaking skills. Woodhead, 32, missed most of last season with San Diego after tearing his ACL in Week 2, but has appeared fully healthy in the Ravens’ OTAs. In 2015, Woodhead had 98 carries for 336 yards with three touchdowns. He also had 80 receptions for 755 yards and six touchdowns that year.

BUFFALO BILLS

CB Tre’Davious White: White has been getting plenty of reps with the first-team defense on the outside opposite starter Ronald Darby, and the first-round pick has acquitted himself fairly well. During Thursday’s practice, the only one that was open to the media, he nearly made three interceptions. Of course, the Bills’ limited wide receiver corps, and their scatter-arm quarterbacks, are helping White shine.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

CB KeiVarae Russell: He was claimed off waivers from the Kansas City Chiefs early last season and is trying to get a leg up in some hefty competition at that position. During Tuesday’s OTAs, Russell broke up a pass in the end zone from quarterback Andy Dalton to wide receiver Alex Erickson. Russell later tweeted: “OTAs have been so good & beneficial towards my growth as a player. Learning, making plays, making mistakes, and competing. DAILY!!!” Russell appeared in only five games for the Bengals last season.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

DE Myles Garrett: Garrett had a slow start in OTAs during the one practice each week the media was allowed to see. He was sidelined because of an injury, but he was on the field Tuesday and showed the quickness that intrigued scouts from every team prior to the draft. Garrett was able to keep his strength and conditioning up while sidelined. He was on the field observing when he could not practice, so he at least was getting mental reps. He is expected to participate fully during the three-day minicamp next week.

DENVER BRONCOS

QB Paxton Lynch: Lynch is still splitting repetitions with Trevor Siemian, but appears far more comfortable than he did during the first OTA and punctuated his work Monday with a deep touchdown strike to Demaryius Thomas. “He had a great day,” Broncos head coach Vance Joseph said.

HOUSTON TEXANS

QB Brandon Weeden: The Texans’ veteran backup quarterback has had a sharp spring, displaying touch and knowledge of the playbook. Entering his third season in Houston, Weeden has looked the best out of the Texans’ three quarterbacks. He’s not regarded as a candidate to start, though. Tom Savage has already been named the starter and rookie Deshaun Watson is the heir apparent.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

WR Chester Rogers: The second-year wide receiver from Grambling has started off the OTA workouts the same way that he wrapped his rookie season last fall. Rogers had a strong training camp last year, but then didn’t see much playing time until late in the year due to injuries at the position. He came on strong for the Colts in December and that development has continued. Rogers could end up edging out Phillip Dorsett as the team’s third or fourth receiver.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

DE Calais Campbell: The veteran defensive end has been exactly what the Jaguars were hoping for when they signed him to a free-agent contract in March from the Arizona Cardinals. Campbell has been a good influence on the Jaguars’ three young defensive ends – Dante Fowler Jr., Yannick Ngakoue and rookie Dawaune Smoot. Campbell has adapted to the Jaguars’ defensive scheme and is now leading by example. He’s made a good impression on some of the Jaguars’ veteran players.

“He served as a captain for Arizona for years,” 10-year veteran linebacker Paul Posluszny said. “He’s very vocal in that aspect of it, and he’s a great teammate. When you talk about getting him on the field … to have a guy like that set the edge of your defense who’s physical and athletic and can run and move … he’s a special player. That will be very important for us.”

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

WR Tyreek Hill: The loss of Jeremy Maclin from the Kansas City receiving corps places the spotlight firmly on Hill. The speedster emerged during his rookie season as a weapon in the run and pass game as well as special teams. Head coach Andy Reid indicated Hill gets the first opportunity to fill Maclin’s role in the starting rotation, and thus far the breakout star shows no indication of letting go of that position. The team continues to show a willingness to use Maclin as both a receiver and a runner out of the backfield.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

RB Branden Oliver: The Chargers’ top backup the last two years was eager to show during the workouts that he’s back from the Achilles’ tendon injury that sidelined him last season. Oliver is making the cuts and showing the burst that makes him a keen complement to Melvin Gordon. “He can be that power runner, but he can also run out on the perimeter,” head coach Anthony Lynn said. “What he does, which I don’t think a lot of people give him credit for, is he catches the ball really well.” The 5-foot-8, 208-pound Oliver has 49 catches for a touchdown and 383 yards to go along with his 191 rushes for 690 yards and three scores over the past two seasons.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

WR Drew Morgan: The undrafted rookie from Arkansas has seemed to catch everything thrown his way as a slot receiver. And now the Dolphins are trying him on punt returns, which might be his best way to make the 53-man roster. Of course, Morgan (6-foot, 193) has a long way to go before he can even begin thinking about making the final roster, but he’s turned heads with his route-running, sure hands and knack for getting open.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

WR Brandin Cooks: Landing in New England via trade from the Saints after consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns working with quarterback Drew Brees, the speedy playmaker already looks to be building a nice rapport with another future Hall of Famer in quarterback Tom Brady. Cooks showed the ability to get deep on the outside in minicamp practices as well as the catch-and-run big-play potential that makes him such a weapon. Cooks has fit in well in his first few months with the Patriots, where owner Robert Kraft has already compared his addition to what Randy Moss brought to the team in its 2007 16-0 regular season.

NEW YORK JETS

SS Jamal Adams: Adams already looks like the best thing that’s going to happen to the Jets in 2017. There will be place-holders all over the, well, place, but the presence of Adams should serve as a reminder the club has at least one player around whom it can build. Adams has impressed the Jets and onlookers alike with his coverage skills and burgeoning leadership abilities, two traits desperately needed in Florham Park.

OAKLAND RAIDERS

RB Marshawn Lynch: Lynch got his most extensive work on the field and his mere appearance through all three OTA weeks was more than he did in Seattle. Given the non-contact format of OTAs, Lynch’s mere presence as well as a play or two where he showed good burst is enough to heighten optimism that he can be a reasonable facsimile of what he was in Seattle.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

WR Martavis Bryant: Watching Bryant practice this spring, the Steelers don’t need to worry much about their star receiver being rusty after his year-long drug suspension. Bryant, who stands 6-foot-4, looks smooth running routes and has been a welcome addition in red-zone drills. The Steelers struggled at times with their red-zone offense last season, but if Bryant’s spring is any indication they’ll have much better odds next season.

TENNESSEE TITANS

QB Marcus Mariota: Mariota took a team snap – single not plural – from shotgun on Tuesday as he continues his rehab work from a broken right fibula and the surgery that it took to correct it. Mariota has been sharp in 7-on-7 work and shows no ill effects (he isn’t being hit, of course) in his throwing and even took off on one play to scramble, looking good while going about three-quarters speed in the 7-on-7 drill.



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