This stretch of the NFL offseason is always the time of the year when I have to remind myself the headlines from the field don’t really matter that much.
The tweets and clicks are like clockwork — I fall into the trap each May and June.
I find myself making too much out of NFL headlines that are really just not that important or interesting. I’m not ripping on the system in place. We all have to get through it. I’m just tired of everyone acting like this is serious business. It’s not.
Unless there’s a contract dispute or extension, a rare roster battle this time of year, a new coach handling a franchise QB, or a significant injury to a top player, following the media live tweets of a receiver running a cone drill or listening to a coach ramble on about a Wednesday practice is not a factor that should be used to judge your favorite team right now.
Matt Ryan looked great in 7-on-7 work today.
Good. He should look great in these workouts.
Derrick Henry is a monster. He’s big!
Cool. Heard it last year.
Joe Burrow said he hasn’t thought much about his second contract.
I even love Joe Cool when he lies to me.
Zach Wilson’s focus is in the ‘right spot’ during minicamp.
Do we really think OC Mike LaFleur would tell us if Wilson’s focus wasn’t meeting his minicamp standard?
Head coaches and team assistants rarely say anything of significance about what’s happening at these practices. It does happen, but not often enough. I’d argue they’re asked basically the same questions they were asked last year, give or take a few details that have changed via the offseason.
The answers from coaches, though, likely pair well with any May or June transcript from [Insert Year Here]. By now, anyone from Bill Belichick to Nathaniel Hackett should be able to recite “Who Stood Out Today” or “Biggest Challenge Facing Us” as if they are Lin-Manuel Miranda writing a new soundtrack to the NFL offseason.
Here are a handful of real quotes from head coaches around the league. There’s a chance you won’t be able to tell if they answered within the last two weeks or at the exact same point in the offseason of 2021.
— On preparing the rookies for break before training camp:
“We will have conversations within the next couple of weeks. I’ll be in here just watching them and seeing how they do. Now is not the time to go to the Bahamas and take long vacations.”
— Points of emphasis for his group:
“We’re getting back to the basics. Working on fundamentals and technique and trying to get better from there. It’s basically getting better at the little things.“
— On evaluating different positions on offense and defense for special teams:
“Can they see the ball? Can they tackle? Can they make cuts on kickoff return? Can they catch punts? We will sit down with every rookie and say [if you can’t start on offense or defense] you need to make a role on special teams and this is how you do it.”
— On making sure the message is on constant improvement:
“No matter how many years you go, you’re always going to be developing and getting better. For us, the guys are having fun, the guys are getting after it and they’re competing, which is the most important thing. When it comes to understanding the systems and understanding the reasons why we’re doing the plays, all those things will always grow every day. They’re all doing a fine job and they’re all working so hard. I appreciate that from all of them.”
– On if the players have bought in:
“I’ve seen a really good jump this offseason compared to previous offseasons, especially the first year, of just the buy-in. …There were some really good clips throughout this whole camp of it coming together and making it look the way it should.”
— On a player’s recovery from last season’s injury:
“He looks good. It was good to see him yesterday, saw him just briefly. We had a staff function, so just able to dap it up, give him a big hug and ask him about his child.”
Those questions — I can only hope — are warranted, given what has been observed and how a particular offseason has gone to this point. Some, I’m sure, are just floated out to get some sound on tape for a newscast or to meet a web post quota. That happens too. Coaches hate it. But their answers? Whether from 2020 or 2022, they’re virtually the same, minus the Zoom feed.
Mandatory minicamp has long been about most of the veterans and all of the rookies going through glorified walkthroughs. It’s really hard NOT to look good in practice, as long as the player shows up in shape.
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Quarterbacks are throwing to receivers who are defended by little more than air. If defended, one side usually knows to let the other side “win the ball” in an effort to get a certain look on tape or to ensure all players stay on their feet and stay healthy. Health is the top concern.
Also, a three-day mandatory practice week is normally just two days, as coaches typically opt to skip the final day of minicamp for a separate team-building exercise like TopGolf.
In Jacksonville, Doug Pederson sent some of his veterans home because they had worked hard during May OTAs. He didn’t even expect them to attend the workshop.
Watch out, Washington Commanders. The Jacksonville Jaguars practiced their asses off at voluntary OTAs.
My advice: don’t put the hype into the on-field headlines this time of year.
By the time Week 1 rolls around — and even by the start of training camp — it’s highly unlikely we will reference anything your favorite team did during these last two weeks of minicamp.
Follow the real stories through reporters you trust, like OutKick NFL writer Armando Salguero. He’s one of the lucky ones who is around a coach in Miami who is willing to put some thought into his answers. At least sometimes.
For now, I think Mike McDaniel is the most interesting storyline we’re not talking enough about, and will post my thoughts about it next week. Until then, enjoy OutKick 360 and OutKick.com. And crank up the Thursday Night Mowing League.