Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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2024 NFL OTA updates: Bryce Young impressing Panthers teammates; 49ers star not present amid contract talks

The 2024 NFL offseason continues to roll along, as 31 teams have now begun OTAs. This is the first time we will see rookies practice with veterans, and maybe the last time we will get to see players like Tua Tagovailoa and Trevor Lawrence throw the pigskin around before they put pen to paper on what they hope will be lucrative, long-term extensions. That may also include Packers quarterback Jordan Love, who was present at the start of Green Bay’s OTA sessions. On top of waiting for possible extensions to come down, OTAs are a fascinating window to see some familiar faces in new uniforms after free agency, including new Ravens running back Derrick Henry. 

Football is back, so let’s go around the league and break down some notable moments, updates and highlights from OTAs. 

Lamar Jackson explains why he trimmed down

If you get a look at Lamar Jackson these days, you may notice that the defending NFL MVP is a bit slimmer. The Ravens QB previously noted that he’s down to 205 pounds, which is 10 pounds lighter than his playing weight last season. If you got back to the 2022 season when he played at 230 pounds, Jackson has gone down 25 pounds in total. 

“I’ll say it was important enough to be able to move around a little bit extra, that’s all,” Jackson told reporters Wednesday about the change in playing weight, via the official team website. “Just so I can be more agile and be able to move more.”

Michael Pittman Jr. leaves Colts OTAs with injury

Colts wideout Michael Pittman Jr. left Wednesday’s OTA session early after suffering a knee injury. After practice, coach Shane Steichen told reporters that Pittman bumped his knee and should be fine, per the Indy Star. The 26-year-old signed a three-year, $71.5 million contract extension earlier this offseason.

Aaron Rodgers makes no-look pass at Jets OTAs

It’s safe to say that Aaron Rodgers is starting to get into a groove. The Jets quarterback made a no-look pass to wideout Xavier Gibson during New York’s OTA session which the team posted on its official X account on Wednesday. Rodgers, who is coming back from a torn Achilles in Week 1 that erased his first season with the Jets, noted recently that the injury made him “a better teammate, a better person, and a better quarterback.”

Keaton Mitchell ‘on schedule’ in ACL recovery

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh told reporters on Wednesday that running back Keaton Mitchell is “on schedule” in his ACL recovery, per ESPN. Mitchell suffered the injury in Week 15 and is not expected to be back for training camp. In fact, Harbaugh noted that he won’t be back until sometime during the season and his return is not “right around the corner.”

Caleb Williams drops dime at Bears OTAs

The No. 1 overall pick is certainly flashing his potential with the Bears. On Wednesday, the official team X account posted a video of Williams rolling out to his left and making an off platform throw that fell perfectly into the arms of tight end Gerald Everett

Christian McCaffrey’s OTA absence not contract-related

The 49ers began OTAs without a number of key players, including running back Christian McCaffrey. While the likes of Brandon Aiyuk are not with the team due to their contract status, that is not the case here with McCaffrey, according to Pro Football Talk. McCaffrey is set to make a base salary of $11.8 million in 2024.

Bijan Robinson may be available for Falcons minicamp

As Atlanta goes through the initial phases of OTAs, they are currently without star running back Bijan Robinson, who is dealing with an ankle injury. Falcons head coach Raheem Morris told reporters on Tuesday, however, that he’s hopeful the second-year back will be available for mandatory minicamp.

“I’m hoping — really, really positive about it as well, too — veteran minicamp, we’ll get a chance to see something, some movements, things of that nature,” Morris said, via Pro Football Talk. “But he’s progressing well. He’s been out there. He’s in great spirits.

“He’s definitely learning the game above the neck. He’s the first person to want to talk about it, so you know that’s coming. But you can’t help but smile when you see Bijan. That’s just who he is, it’s what he is and I’ve got a lot of confidence that he’ll be ready to go for our veteran minicamp. That’ll get him a nice little break in between there, and when we get to training camp, I’d love to see him rolling.”

Micah Parsons to attend Week 2 of Cowboys OTAs

The Dallas pass rusher isn’t with the team as it begins OTAs, but told NFL Media that he plans to be there in the second week of the program, which begins next Wednesday. Parsons also said he’d be at Cowboys minicamp. He currently has two years remaining on his rookie contract after Dallas picked up his fifth-year option. 

Brandon Aiyuk not at OTAs amid contract talks

The offseason has been filled with speculation about Aiyuk’s future with the 49ers. With free agency and the NFL Draft in the rearview mirror, however, the star wideout is still on San Francisco’s roster. While he may still be employed by the Niners, Aiyuk is not with the organization as it opens up OTAs while he looks for a new contract. Aiyuk is set to make $14.124 million on his fifth-year option in 2024. 

Bryce Young getting rave reviews at Panthers OTAs

Bryce Young had a forgetful rookie season, but the former No. 1 overall pick is looking for a bounce-back campaign in his sophomore season. So far, it appears Young is making some quality steps in that direction judging by the comments made by his teammates. 

“He’s throwing the ball with confidence,” said tight end Tommy Tremble, via ESPN. “He’s not worried about a thousand things like last year. … So you can see that swag confidence. It’s exciting, man.”

“He’s a great quarterback,” added new wideout Diontae Johnson. “Accurate. Smart. He knows how to get his guys in position. Whenever we’re out there, you can always count on him to get us in the right spot and make sure everybody knows what they’re doing.”

Kyren Williams has foot injury

The Los Angeles Rams star running back has a foot issue, and won’t take part in the offseason program this spring, Sean McVay told reporters, via NFL Media. However, he should be back around training camp. Last season, Williams rushed for 1,144 yards and 12 touchdowns in just 12 games played. He became the first player to finish in the top three of rushing yards despite missing four or more games since Bull Karcis for the 1937 Pittsburgh Pirates. Williams also became the third Rams player in the Super Bowl era to lead the NFL in rushing yards per game with 95.3. 

Calvin Ridley looking fast

The Titans have a new offense that includes several new weapons. One of those weapons is former Jaguars wideout Calvin Ridley, who is viewed as one of the better route-runners in the league. You could see why on Tuesday. 

Tristan Wirfs not at OTAs

Two-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Tristan Wirfs of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did not report to OTAs, and does not plan to as of now, per ESPN. Why? Wirfs wants a long-term contract, and doesn’t want to risk injury. The two sides reportedly have not made progress on a new deal.

The Bucs took care of their own this offseason, giving new contracts to quarterback Baker Mayfield, wide receiver Mike Evans and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. We’ll see what happens with Wirfs. 

C.J. Stroud picking up right where he left off

The Houston Texans may have found a star in Stroud, who won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2023. The Ohio State product appears to have different handshakes with all of his running backs, and also fired a pretty nasty no-look pass to veteran Robert Woods on Tuesday.

QBs losing weight

We have some quarterbacks entering 2024 a bit lighter. According to The Athletic, Ravens quarterback and reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson is now down to 205 pounds, which is 25 pounds down from his 2022 weight, and 10 pounds less than his 2023 weight. So the 2024 Lamar could be the fastest Lamar we’ve ever seen. 

Per NFL Media, Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is down to 220 pounds, which is 10-15 pounds lighter than his 2023 playing weight. He wants to be more agile, and more prepared to handle pressure in the pocket from an escapability standpoint. 

Tee Higgins not eligible for OTAs

The Cincinnati Bengals kick off OTA workouts a week from Tuesday, and one player who’s not expected to be in attendance is Higgins. The wide receiver has not signed his franchise tender, according to ESPN, and is not expected to do so by next week. That makes him ineligible to report for organized team activities. 

Higgins is the one player who was franchise-tagged this offseason that has not signed a long-term extension. 

Bryce Young doing ‘fantastic’ in new offense

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft didn’t have a great first season. Young’s 2-14 record as starter ranked last in the league, as did his 5.5 yards per attempt and 73.7 passer rating. However, he may now have some stability with Dave Canales in charge.

On Monday, Canales told reporters that Young is really showing potential in Carolina’s new offense. 

“He’s doing fantastic with it,” Canales said, via ESPN. “So, for us the formations are pretty vanilla so we can just teach the concept we want out of each route, the depth, the footwork we want.

“As I expect him to do, he’s really mastered that part of it.”

Canales helped Geno Smith win Comeback Player of the Year in 2022, and helped Baker Mayfield have a career year in 2023. What will he do with Young?

Jerod Mayo and Drake Maye mic’d up

The New England Patriots are truly entering a new era in 2024 that includes a new head coach, new general manager and new quarterback. The Patriots gave us some insight into coach Mayo and Maye Monday, with a mic’d up video. 

Daniel Jones participates in 7-on-7 drills

The New York Giants passed on selecting a quarterback in the 2024 NFL Draft, and will give Jones another shot to prove he’s the future of the franchise. Jones injured his neck in Week 5 last year, then returned in Week 9 just to tear his ACL. On Monday, he took a step forward in his recovery and participated in 7-on-7 drills, according to the Giants’ official website. The hope is that Jones will be 100% ready for training camp in July. 

Jones signed a four-year, $160 million deal last offseason, and will make $82 million from 2023-24. 

Kirk Cousins ready to unlock Kyle Pitts

The Atlanta Falcons went out and paid Cousins to be their new franchise quarterback, and with a supporting cast that includes the likes of Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, Drake London and Kyle Pitts, maybe the Falcons could be a sneaky team in the NFC. 

Some are anticipating a big season from former No. 4 overall pick Pitts, who is now playing with the best quarterback he’s ever played with. Check out this catch he made on Monday. 

Aaron Rodgers throws TD to Garrett Wilson

Rodgers is back under center as the quarterback of the New York Jets after tearing his Achilles last September, and he’s looking pretty good out on the practice field. Imagine what a receiver like Wilson can do with a quarterback like Rodgers. More touchdowns to come in 2024. 

Justin Jefferson not present at OTAs

Minnesota Vikings star wideout Justin Jefferson is expected to break financial records when he signs his next contract, and he was not present at the start of OTAs this week, per ESPN. The 24-year-old pass-catcher skipped most of Minnesota’s voluntary offseason programming in 2023 before reporting to mandatory minicamp and training camp. We’ll see what happens this time around. 

Rashee Rice present at OTAs

Kansas City Chiefs wideout Rashee Rice is facing multiple charges related to a high-speed car crash plus a police investigation into an alleged nightclub assault, but he was reportedly present at OTAs on Monday. ESPN previously reported Rice is expected to receive a multi-game suspension due to his actions this offseason. As a rookie, the SMU product caught 79 passes for 938 yards and seven touchdowns while Kansas City won Super Bowl LVIII. 

Panthers respond to zero prime-time games

The Panthers were the only team in the NFL to receive zero prime-time games when the 2024 schedule was released last week. Quarterback Bryce Young was asked if getting no prime-time games was a slap in the face. 

“It’s out of our control …” Young said, via Steven Taranto. “If someone slights me or slights us, I don’t hold onto it.”

New Panthers head coach Dave Canales was also asked for his reaction to receiving zero prime-time games, saying, “You’ve got to earn it.”

Brian Thomas Jr. establishing chemistry with Lawrence

The Jacksonville Jaguars may have lost Calvin Ridley this offseason, but they gained a wideout with potential in Brian Thomas Jr. The LSU product led the FBS with 17 receiving touchdowns last season, and was selected by Jacksonville at No. 23 overall. 

Derrick Henry in his new threads

Tennessee Titans fans, look away. 

The Baltimore Ravens made a splash in free agency this offseason, signing running back Derrick Henry to a two-year deal to pair with Lamar Jackson. On Monday, he took the field with his new team, rocking the purple jersey.   

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