These ephemeral football moments on sun-kissed summer nights are worth savoring, even if they will be obliterated and forgotten when real football starts. (Exactly one month away, people!) The six-catch performance by Pryor -- who featured as a dual-threat QB at Ohio State from 2008 to 2010 -- during the Browns' non-padded practice at Ohio Stadium means much less than the solid work he's done all camp at receiver. He's expected to be listed as a starter when the team's first depth chart drops.
Pryor is battling to be No. 2, at least until veteran Josh Gordon's suspension ends in Week 5. Rookie Corey Coleman has the top spot locked up. The first-round pick is one of our early camp winners for beating defenders and dropping jaws daily. He backed up his practices with three vertical catches for 129 yards in the Browns' team scrimmage on Friday. Coleman's seamless rookie transition from Baylor reminds us of a certain quarterback from the same school. In the case of newly named Browns starter Robert Griffin III, that rookie training camp hype carried over into his debut season with the Washington Redskins in 2012, when he won Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Here are some other winners and losers from the second week of camps:
Good week for ...
Dante Fowler, Jaguars defensive end: Last year's No. 3 overall pick checks off every superlative for a player antsy to prove his NFL worth. He has been "embarrassing" Jaguars linemen and has reportedly "rarely been blocked" in camp. He's going so fast that coaches had to ask him to slow down in practice because they feared he'd hurt another player. The torn ACL that ruined his rookie season is long forgotten.
It all crested Friday night in the team's scrimmage, which Fowler dominated. The Jaguars have desperately needed a pass rusher, and they may finally have one in Fowler. They also may have found help. Rookies Yannick Ngakoue (defensive end) and Sheldon Day (defensive tackle) have also opened eyes. Throw in the addition of free agent end Malik Jackson and a much-improved secondary, and this Jacksonville defense should take some dramatic leaps.
The second-year pro has lined up with the starters throughout camp and has impressed coaches and reporters. Coates has a higher ceiling than fellow receiver Markus Wheaton, who could return to the slot. Then again, unheralded second-year pro Eli Rogers is making a big push for snaps as a more traditional slot receiver. In short: The Steelers *still* might have a surplus of wideouts despite losing a top-20 receiver to a year-long suspension.
Returning stars:Broncos cornerback Aqib Talibreturned to practice Monday for the first time since sustaining a gunshot wound this offseason. Patriots receiver Julian Edelman, who had foot surgery in May, was back at practice earlier than expected, suiting up Sunday. Bills receiver Sammy Watkins, who broke a bone in his foot this offseason, passed his physical Monday. Browns cornerback Joe Haden (ankle) has been cleared to practice. Seahawks running back Thomas Rawls, who broke an ankle in December, passed his physical Sunday and is officially off the active/PUP list. (Rawls will share practice carries with a revived Christine Michael when Rawls returns.)
More than any buzzy practice players, the availability of key starters matters in August.
West is on his third team in three seasons, yet has upward mobility on this roster. Veteran Justin Forsett entered camp as a potential starter or a potential camp cut. Lorenzo Taliaferro is hurt. Trent Richardsonis gone. Buck Allen has had a quiet camp. The preseason is made for guys like West. He could inspire more surprising headlines before he's through.
In Denver, third-round pick Justin Simmons continues to impress on the way to playing time. Giants third-round pick Darian Thompson is being called the "clear-cut" top free safety option. A lot of teams went into this draft looking for specific hybrid traits from their safety selections and found them. First-round picks Karl Joseph in Oakland and Keanu Neal in Atlanta will add to a deluge of rookie safeties with big roles.
Shaping up as a value signing:
"We don't want to substitute," Christensen told reporters last week, via the Miami Herald. "We really need one guy to be a three-down back, stay in there for that drive."
We were skeptical about Foster's ability to return off a torn Achilles' tendon, but every practice report indicates he is running well. Ajayi was listed first on the unofficial depth chart the Dolphins released Monday, but Gase's words and Foster's performance resonates more. If he were to prove to be the load-carrying piece Christensen described, Foster's $1.5 million salary look like a bargain.
Not a good week for ...
The severity of inside linebacker Reggie Ragland's knee injury is still unconfirmed, but the initial indications are not pretty. The Bills signed two veterans to take his place: Brandon Spikes and David Hawthorne. Ragland's injury could hurt even more than first-round pick Shaq Lawson's shoulder surgery, because Ragland was set to play such an integral in the defense.
Buffalo has lot of top-shelf talent and a notable lack of depth on the roster, which can be blamed on the front office. Zach Brown is up next at inside linebacker. IK Enemkpali and undrafted rookie Eric Striker were lining up as starters at defensive end in the team's scrimmage. Even when good news arrives, bad news is soon to follow. Watkins -- as mentioned above -- Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williamsall passed physicals on Monday. But tackle Cordy Glenn was wearing a walking boot after an injury in Saturday's scrimmage, which Rex Ryan was forced to cut short because Buffalo didn't have enough players. (UPDATE: Glenn has a high ankle sprain that will likely keep him out for the preseason.) The best news could be the worst news here: It's only August.
This continues a trend from Dolphins practices throughout the week. Miami's deep group of pass rushers dominated the offensive line daily. Receiver DeVante Parker and running back Jay Ajayi are struggling to stay healthy again, and first-round pick Laremy Tunsil isn't working with the starters on the offensive line yet.
Like any camp stories, these updates have to be taken with a Himalayan mountain of salt. It could all be viewed as a positive for the team's defense. Just know coach Adam Gase doesn't see it that way.
Jay Cutler optimists: Everyone knows the loss of Gase -- whose last stop before becoming the head man in Miami was as the Bears' offensive coordinator -- stings in Chicago. The loss of promising starting center Hroniss Grasuto a torn ACL will slip more under the radar, but it depletes an already-thin Bears interior line without an obvious replacement. Cutler also has questions at receiver, where 2015 first-rounder Kevin White has looked raw picking up the offense after a rookie year lost to injury. This offense is built on a lot of "ifs."
Janis was listed as a third-team receiver on the team's initial depth chart behind Jared Abbrederis. A day rarely goes by without a report noting Janis' difficulty in camp. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote that Janis has put himself in a "deep hole" because of his lack of production in practice. With Ty Montgomery (ankle) also struggling to get back on the field, Aaron Rodgers' receiver depth doesn't look as strong as it did a month ago.
That's how training camp usually goes. One week blows up three months of storylines created to fill time before the real fun starts.