What We Learned: 8 Biggest Takeaways from NFL Rookie Camps

Rookie minicamps have wrapped up for all 32 NFL teams. Most teams opted to take the safe approach and not do too much on the field, especially after Jacksonville Jaguars No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler tore his ACL on the first day of minicamp in 2015.  

But the three-day camp is the first time teams see their draft picks and undrafted free agents in uniform with their new coaches. Here are some takeaways from around the league.

Rookie Minicamp Buzz

Panthers QB Situation 

Carolina Panthers coach Frank Reich told reporters veteran Andy Dalton would get the first-team reps when the entire team is together for OTAs. Reich stressed that the plan is for No.1 overall pick Bryce Young to take more reps than Dalton during the team’s workouts. 

The Panthers have not named any starters yet (don’t believe everything you read). The plan is to give Young every chance to be the Week 1 starter when Carolina opens up its season against the Atlanta Falcons.

Will Anderson, Houston Texans, Edge Rusher

Will Anderson Makes Minor Position Change

The Houston Texans will shift Will Anderson, the No. 3 overall pick, from a standup outside linebacker to a defensive end with his hand in the dirt. There was talk before the draft that Houston coveted Tyree Wilson instead of Anderson because Wilson had more experience with his hand on the ground. Still, the Texans believe Anderson can make the transition. 

“It’s not a huge position change for Will,” coach DeMeco Ryans said in a news conference. “Will will be an edge defender for us, and that’s what he did at Alabama. Mostly at Alabama, he was standing up; we’ll have him down in a three-point stance.”

Titans Using Skoronski at Guard, Tackle

Throughout the draft process, the talk was Peter Skoronski might be moved to guard because that’d be a better fit, given his short arms. 

“I’m working multiple positions, both inside and outside,” Skoronski told reporters. “Overall, I’m just trying to learn schematically. I think that helps me just to be able to change around positions and help the team wherever I’m playing.” 

The Tennessee Titans signed former Philadelphia Eagles LT Andre Dillard in free agency to a three-year, $29 million contract, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he gets the nod as the starting left tackle. That would mean Skoronski would start his career at left guard. 

“I wouldn’t have a problem working Peter at either guard or tackle spot, see where he progresses and see how he looks when everyone else gets here,” coach Mike Vrabel said.

Falcons Using Bijan Robinson Everywhere

The Falcons used the No. 8 overall pick on Bijan Robinson, a high selection on a position some think is devalued. But the Falcons do not view Robinson as just a running back. 

“He [Arthur Smith] uses me everywhere, from receiver to running back,” Robinson told reporters. “He lets me do my abilities and skill set the right way, whether it’s catching the ball, running routes, obviously running the football, blocking and doing it all.” 

Lions Compare Gibbs to Kamara

Before becoming the Detroit Lions coach, Dan Campbell was the assistant head coach for the New Orleans Saints and was a part of the coaching staff that drafted and developed Alvin Kamara.

Campbell told Chris Long on The Green Light Podcast the Lions see Jahmyr Gibbs as a player who could emulate Kamara’s role in New Orleans. Many people were shocked when the Lions used the No. 12 pick on Gibbs, but Detroit sees him as a player who could immediately make an impact for a team with high hopes in 2023. 

“Everybody is entitled to their opinion,” Gibbs told reporters when asked if the Lions reached to get him. “I really don’t care.”

Seahawks Playing It Safe With Top Picks

The Seattle Seahawks took the first cornerback and wide receiver in the draft when they selected Devon Witherspoon at No. 5 and Jaxon Smith-Njigba at No. 20. But the team didn’t let them do much on the field in minicamp because of hamstring injuries during the pre-draft process. 

“Both guys had hamstring issues in the offseason, so we just want to make sure we know where they are,” coach Pete Carroll told reporters. “We don’t want to go too far, too fast; there’s no reason at this point.”

Veteran Tryouts

One of the unique things about rookie minicamps is teams are allowed to invite veteran players in for tryouts. There were some good ones this year: Former Denver Broncos first-round OLB Shane Ray, who hasn’t played since 2018, tried out for the Buffalo Bills and eventually was signed to a one-year contract

Former Baltimore Ravens tight end Nick Boyle, who spent seven years in Baltimore and was arguably the best blocking tight end in the league, tried out for the rival Pittsburgh Steelers as a long-snapper. 

JJ Arcega-Whiteside got a tryout with the Falcons, and former Seahawks WR David Moore tried out for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ultimately signing a one-year deal.

XFL Players Get Their Chance

A successful spring football league significantly benefits players, and we’re seeing them reap the rewards. More than 60 XFL players were invited to NFL minicamps, and a handful already have signed with NFL teams, with more expected to get deals soon. 

Among the players to get deals so far: QB Ben Dinucci (Broncos), RB Jacques Patrick (Broncos), OT Jaryd Jones-Smith (Commanders), DL C.J. Brewer (Bucs), DL Jack Heflin (Saints), DL LaCale London (Falcons), DB Bryce Thompson (Dolphins), DB Luq Barcoo (Steelers).

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