How many of the NFL’s receiving leaders in 2020 do you think would be considered as “surprises” to be on that list?
Rookie Justin Jefferson definitely qualifies, gaining 1,400 yards in his first season with the Minnesota Vikings.
Of the 18 players who had at least 1,000 receiving yards, those are the only two I think truly come closer to qualifying, and even then, Anderson nearly had 1,000 yards with the Jets once and Jefferson was a first round pick.
Digging through the 20 receivers who had between 800-999 yards, I think you could add Cole Beasley, Diontae Johnson, Tee Higgins, Nelson Agholor, and Chase Claypool to the “surprises” list, but all of them also entered last season with resumes that don’t make their campaigns all that shocking.
Perhaps the first name that may have come “out of nowhere” was Russell Gage of the Atlanta Falcons, a former sixth round pick who caught 72 passes for 786 yards even though he played in a crowded field of weapons.
So when daydreaming while reading training camp reports, keep in mind that an August “stand out” might turn into a September through December “role player” or “stashed commodity” or “practice squad member.” It’s extremely difficult to make an NFL roster as is, so making an NFL roster and then becoming a star — well, if there were too many stars, there wouldn’t be any stars at all.
But Elijah Moore might be a star.
The only chance the LA Rams would have had to draft Moore this year would have been to trade up from where they were sitting at 57, and that in itself would have been near-impossible. The Rams had already traded their 2022 and 2023 first round picks to acquire Matthew Stafford, so moving up from 57 to the very top of the second round would have cost the team at least multiple seconds, thirds, and other things that they can’t afford to part with right now.
So we can safely move on from any notion that LA could have, should have, or would have had the opportunity to draft Elijah Moore. I’m just a fan of great football players and every report since the day he stepped onto an NFL field has been that Moore is going to be a great football player.
Corey Davis on Elijah Moore:— Jets Videos (@snyjets) July 28, 2021
"He doesn't really seem like a rookie, he's out there leading the guys. I can't wait to see what he does for us" pic.twitter.com/zCEktVsUS7
Not only is he drawing comparisons to Odell Beckham, Jr. already, but Moore — the 34th overall pick of the draft by the New York Jets — could be this year’s closest version to what Jefferson did in 2020. Even Beckham himself said “He’s the one” on Instagram:
OBJ with high praise for Elijah Moore: pic.twitter.com/qYynaxBiNv— JUN (@jetupnationcrew) August 3, 2021
Not Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith, or Jaylen Waddle. Nothing against any of them, but I’ve been reading training camp reports from all 32 teams and have gotten good enough at wading through “campspeak” and there’s nobody close to the praise that Moore is getting so far.
There’s excitement building around Jets camp in ways we haven’t seen in years. Not only is Moore playing like a rookie who should have been drafted at least a couple dozen spots earlier, but second overall pick QB Zach Wilson, 14th overall pick G Alijah Vera-Tucker, and fourth round RB Michael Carter have all stood out as players who are ready to contribute — in a positive way — immediately.
One thing you will notice around these training camp reports is that an imbalanced number of the players who “stand out” are wide receivers. This could be that from the sidelines of practice, it’s hard to evaluate much of anything other than who is catching passes, making highlights, or working with the starters. There are a lot of talented wide receivers though, even including the ones who are relegated to practice squad duties, so the majority of names you’ll read “standing out” in practice won’t have dramatic impacts in the NFL.
Don’t just take my word for it — read the list of the top 40 players in receiving yards and compare it to my training camp notes from 2020. That’s a Venn diagram where the circles touch about as much as an air hug from a mild acquaintance.
However, some of them are going to be stars. One of those stars could be Elijah Moore.
Now as to the Rams and their potential “Elijah Moore” in training camp? Nobody is standing out to that degree yet, but pads just entered the game on Tuesday and Sean McVay is great about keeping his best secrets to himself. Just because they aren’t named here, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t names coming in the future.
On Monday, I posted a list of nearly 40 players around the NFL (including five Rams) who have stood out at training camp so far.
Today, an even longer list of players who have stood out at camp, specifically early this week on Monday and Tuesday. Here’s some updates from all 32 NFL training camps this week:
Justin Fields vs Andy Dalton to start vs Rams in Week 1
- Bears: There wasn’t much news about Justin Fields in the first week, but he was said to have his best practice on Monday. That doesn’t mean he will start in Week 1 though, as Andy Dalton has drawn nothing but praise from coaches and teammates and isn’t expected to let go of that job during training camp.
Expect Dalton to start against LA in Week 1, barring injury.
- Eagles: RB Miles Sanders is expected to catch more passes in 2021. Sanders was kind of a liability in the passing game in 2020. Fourth round rookie CB Zech McPhearson has been “all over the ball” in camp.
- Bengals: S Jessie Bates probably hasn’t even seen his best days yet. The future all-pro safety stripped Ja’Marr Chase on Monday.
Jared Goff won’t Jared Loft in camp yet
Lions: There’s been talk during the first week of camp that Jared Goff is not taking enough deep shots in practice. Goff commented on the matter on Monday:
“Yea, we’ll see. I’m just taking what they’re giving us right now. The defense is doing a pretty good job. We’re getting guys open underneath, so just taking what they give us,” Goff said. “When those shots down the field are there, I hope to take them.”
Head coach Dan Campbell attested to Goff’s desire to throw the deep ball, which should aid in alleviating concerns.
“I think for him, there are certain things that he really likes, and he does really well,” he said. “He loves progressions. He loves progression reads. He loves throwing it downfield, he really does.”
It kind of sounds like the Goff of 2019-2020 is still the Goff of 2021, but it’s only been one week of training camp.
Cardinals receiver drawing comparison to former Rams receiving star
- Cardinals: There are two rookie wide receivers who I think have made more noise than any other rookie wide receivers this year. One is Elijah Moore and the other is Rondale Moore, Arizona’s second round pick. Moore has been compared to former Rams receiver Brandin Cooks:
Veteran A.J. Green has reportedly looked really good too, so the Cardinals might actually have two players to complement DeAndre Hopkins. As far as Larry Fitzgerald, nothing has changed from the last eight months and he’s neither retired nor decided to return to the Cards. If Arizona looks like a contender in a few weeks, maybe that’s what will motivate him to return, but should he get a job at this point?
Alvin Kamara challenging a Marshall Faulk “record” this season
Saints: Alvin Kamara is one season shy of tying Marshall Faulk’s record of (and this is very specific) five seasons with 700 rushing yards and 80 receptions to start his career. Said Faulk of Kamara:
“Let’s be honest,” Faulk says by phone. “Unless you rush for 2,000 yards, they ain’t talking about running backs much. But the way the game is being played now, you have to be able to play all three downs, and he does that.”
Former Rams TE Gerald Everett finding a challenger for his targets?
Seahawks: TE Colby Parkinson is 6’7 and he’s standing out in Seattle’s camp after having missed most of his rookie season in 2020. The Seahawks have Will Dissly and Gerald Everett slotted for the top two tight end roles but really whoever ends up as Russell Wilson’s favorite target remains undecided.
Robert Quinn admits he had a terrible year
The former Rams pass rusher has been up and down throughout his whole career but his failure to live up to a $70 million contract in 2020 must feel like the lowest of the lows. He said as much this week.
“I’ll be honest: Just a terrible year for me, personally,” Quinn said. “No excuses, you can’t change it. So I’ll leave that where it’s at and move on to 2021.”
The writer of that piece starts off by quoting, “you ain’t seen nothing like the Mighty Quinn,” but actually we’ve seen this Quinn quite often. The former first round pick followed up his 19.5-sack campaign in 2013 with 19.5 sacks over the next three years combined, missing 15 games from 2015-2016. He played one more year with the Rams, then one with the Miami Dolphins, then emerged with the Cowboys in 2019 to have 11.5 sacks and 22 QB hits. But Quinn had just two sacks and six QB hits over 15 games with the Chicago Bears last season.
That’s 15 games with Khalil Mack as the guy on the other side.
Quinn obviously wants to improve this year, but it’s unclear how exactly he plans to do that or why he didn’t have a positive mindset last year after signing a $70 million contract.
“I’m gonna look forward to this year and come in with a better, positive mindset, a little more energetic, happy mindset, and try to give the Bears and my teammates and everyone the best version of myself as a person and player, and hopefully they get what they’re looking for,” he said.
It brings up an important question: how many players are entering each season with a negative mindset?
Not everyone is ready to say that Trey Lance is ready
Some media members were quick to jump aboard the trey-n after one positive practice on Saturday.
Today was the type of practice that makes you wonder if we’ll start seeing Trey Lance get reps with the first team next week. Reporters won’t hear from Kyle Shanahan until after Monday’s practice. Pads come on for the first time Tuesday. #49ers— Chris Biderman (@ChrisBiderman) July 31, 2021
Lance also solid throwing from pocket, ripping some completions over the middle to TE Ross Dwelley, WR Deebo Samuel and WR Trent Sherfield. Biggest mistake came on a fumbled handoff exchange, though credit to DE Arden Key for blowing that play up, forcing and recovering fumble.— Nick Wagoner (@nwagoner) July 31, 2021
But Kyle Posey at Niners Nation warns against overrating practice stats and that much of Lance’s positive work came through the running game.
The narrative out of Saturday’s practice was that Lance had arrived, and he’s the guy. Not so fast. It took Lance a while to get going, and the majority of his good plays were thanks to Lance’s legs.
Lance’s first pass attempt was a deep ball to Richie James, who had a step on Ken Webster. Lance failed to keep the pass in bounds. James caught it but was out of bounds. You have to give your receiver a chance. That was a touchdown. Correct read. Inaccurate pass.
Lance had two other completions where the receivers bailed him out on throws that were behind him. On one, where Aiyuk somehow scored, it was a deep crossing route, and the throw slowed down Aiyuk so much that it worked against the defender.
The Rams don’t face the 49ers until Week 10 however so whoever wins the job out of training camp, it may not be the same player who is starting in two months.
Play of the day so far: Sam Ehlinger scrambles to his left to evade pressure, throws back across his body and finds Mike Strachan on a deep post. Probably 50-yard gain. #Colts— George Bremer (@gmbremer) July 30, 2021
Sean Mannion is signing with the Seahawks
Speaking of backup quarterbacks, former St. Louis third rounder Sean Mannion is signing with Seattle, according to Adam Schefter.
Former Rams and Vikings QB Sean Mannion is signing with the Seahawks, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 1, 2021
Mannion is 45-of-74 for 384 yards, with no touchdowns and three interceptions since being drafted six years ago. He has spent the last two years backing up Cousins in Minnesota, and before that he had spent four years with the Rams. The final two of those years were during the Sean McVay era, so that means he had two years with current Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron.
Not a lot of NFL writers will tell you this but I will: That’s too many words for Sean Mannion, but he’s got “QB privilege.”
Not to be confused with “first round privilege” and “funny name privilege.”
Here are 40 more players who stood out in training camp around the NFL on Monday:
- CB Nate Hobbs, Raiders (Source)
- WR Jalen Hurd, 49ers (Source)
- TE Ross Dwelley, 49ers (Source)
- LB Raekwon McMillan, Patriots (Source)
- WR Omar Bayless, Panthers (Source)
- CB Ken Crawley, Saints (Source)
- G Alijah Vera-Tucker, Jets (Source)
- CB A.J. Green, Browns (Source)
- DE Gregory Rosseau, Bills (Source)
- DE Carlos Basham, Bills (Source)
- TE David Njoku, Browns (Source)
- LB Mykal Walker, Falcons (Source)
- G Jonah Jackson, Lions (Source)
- OL Jaylon Moore, 49ers (Source)
- OL Jalen Mayfield, Falcons (Source)
- OL Drew Dalman, Falcons (Source)
- WR Dyami Brown, WFT (Source)
- CB Deommodore Lenoir, 49ers (Source)
- WR Juwann Winfree, Packers (Source)
- WR Victor Bolden, Lions (Source)
- TE Zach Gentry, Steelers (Source)
- OT Rayshawn Slater, Chargers (Source)
- LB Kemoko Turay, Colts (Source)
- S Chris Jackson, Titans (Source)
- CB A.J. Terrell, Falcons (Source)
- DE Josh Sweat, Eagles (Source)
- TE Tyree Jackson, Eagles (Source)
- WR CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys (Source)
- CB Zech McPhearson, Eagles (Source)
- WR David Sills, Giants (Source)
- LB Azeez Ojulari, Giants (Source)
- S Marquise Blair, Seahawks (Source)
- OT Korey Cunningham, Patriots (Source)
- LB Andrew Dowell, Saints (Source)
- CB Kristian Fulton, Titans (Source)
- DB Mark Webb, Chargers (Source)
- WR Nico Collins, Texans (Source)
- WR Austin Trammell, Falcons (Source)
- S Trevon Diggs, Cowboys (Source)
- OLB Odafe Oweh, Ravens (Source)
- Hating Tim Tebow is hack.
It should also be known that hating Tim Tebow is hack. You shouldn’t be a hack. Do better than making a 10-years-ago joke about Tim Tebow. If the rest of the world hasn’t moved on from stale Tebow hate and humor, then maybe it’s just me and a few other comedy snobs, but I know deep down that we’re all ready for a different take on Tim Tebow than the obvious one.
- Hating Nickelback is hack.
Multiple Nickelback songs blasting from the Cowboys' weight room, which carries into the media area. This psychological warfare will not be tolerated.— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) July 31, 2021
The top billboard hits in 1982 were songs like “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John, “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor, and “Ebony and Ivory” by Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney. As a person who was born in 1982, I can tell you that those songs already felt super dated to me in the year 2002. When the 80s and 90s passed, clearly references to Olivia Newton-John and “the Rocky song” were extremely old by then and they seem absolutely Yestercentury by today’s standards.
I say that to say that “How You Remind Me” was released in 2002 and it’s been pretty much just as much time between Nickelback’s relevance to now as it was from Wonder to 2002.
Nobody even really knows why they say that “Nickelback sucks.” It’s because people were told that they were allowed to say that Nickelback sucks. “Nobody gets mad at you if you trash Nickelback, so when you need to make a musical reference the butt of joke, go with Nickelback.” These are often the same people who absolutely helped make “How You Remind Me” the number one hit of 2002 and Billboard’s number 36 song “of all-time.” Does Nickelback suck, or are they just, one of those bands in that genre of music?
Have you heard the three Nickelback songs that everybody has heard and decided to make a judgment call — or is Nickelback just another band like 3 Doors Down or Matchbox Twenty or Creed and nobody will quite “get” a reference to 3 Doors Down “sucking”?
And you, the reader, might have a great gift for deciphering musical talent and a great argument for why Nickelback “does indeed suck” (I’m not defending Nickelback, so much as I am fighting a cause to stop repetitive jokes, whether it be by NFL teams or Twitter) as compared to those other bands, but I’m not talking about you. You could be right. I’m talking about the jokesters.
Nickelback is actually still quite relevant in their circles, from what I understand, but as a popular reference, they’re as old as Rocky.
(A person should never pre-plan a mic drop. The whole point of the mic drop is that you’ve just destroyed someone out of nowhere and while the crowd is stunned, you leave because you’ve got nothing else to say. You don’t sit there the whole time during your speech with the thought, “Alright, I’m gonna drop the mic. I’m gonna drop the mic. I’m gonna say the Browns are gonna win the Super Bowl, then drop the mic. There, I dropped it. Yes. Okay, I’m walking away now. Oh shit, I was supposed to announce a draft pick. Drats. I was really excited about announcing a draft pick. It might have been a really good one too. Shoots! Well, at least I dropped the mic.” You don’t do that.)
Come back next time to find out else you can’t do anymore.