It’s been a long offseason, but NFL football is back! That’s right, we’re talking training camp — which the New York Jets got underway with last week due to taking part in the Hall of Fame Game this preseason. Meanwhile the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, and New England Patriots held their first practices on Wednesday after going through physicals on Tuesday. Let’s look at some of the early takeaway from the beginning of camp.
For the Buffalo Bills, it was a welcome sight as safety Damar Hamlin took the field to a thunderous ovation. Everyone knows the close call that Hamlin had last season during the Monday Night Football game in Cincinnati. Thankfully everything seems to be good to go for Hamlin to work his way back onto the field — large due to his physical that didn’t present anything of concern.
The biggest story of the offseason centered around wide receiver Stefon Diggs and his being excused from the first practice of mandatory minicamp. A lot of people seemed to make the situation bigger than it was, but Diggs was on the field for the first day of training camp and even spoke to the media afterwards. Diggs just wanted to have a conversation about how last season ended, but it’s all water under the bridge as he looks forward to the upcoming season.
For the Jets, obviously the early talk of training camp has been about Aaron Rodgers fitting in with the offense. Initial practices shows Rodgers fitting in just fine and the offense already looking sharp. Specifically, Garrett Wilson has shown an immediate connection with Rodgers in the passing attack, and appears to be in line for a huge season. But what about the Jets’ defense? Even though the offense has been the topic du jour, the defense has battled and held its own. Cornerback Sauce Gardner already has an interception off Rodgers during practice.
Down in Miami, there’s a buzz about the team now that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is healthy after battling multiple concussions last season. Practice is where players can improve their craft. Luckily for Miami they have a set of high-caliber receivers lining up against high-caliber cornerbacks every day. On offense there is Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle who were the perfect combination last season. Going up against them in practice are cornerbacks Xavier Howard and new addition Jalen Ramsey who the team traded for during the offseason. With those four players pushing each other day in and day out, who knows how much more they can improve their craft.
As camp start for the Patriots an interesting battle could be at quarterback. Mac Jones is entering his third season in the league, fresh off a disappointing sophomore season after leading the team to the playoffs in his rookie year. Competing against him is Bailey Zappe who showed some flashes of productivity last year but didn’t show it consistently enough. In 11-on-11 work Jones was 4-of-7 with a sack, while Zappe was 3-of-8. It’s important to note that with it being the first day of practice, the team wasn’t practicing in pads. This is a big year for head coach Bill Belichick and the direction the franchise takes in the seasons ahead. A once overly confident fan base now impatiently waits for their team to replicate the same level of success it once had when a certain GOAT was behind center.