Dolphins vs Raiders Live: Every year, there comes a time in training camp where players grow tired of hitting their own teammates. The practice of teams coming together before a preseason game offers a chance to break up the monotony. Here are some of the training camp battles to watch during joint practices in August:
The Dolphins have invested heavily in the cornerback position in recent years. The Xavien Howard and Byron Jones contracts rank in the top 7 in regards to average annual value paid to a cornerback. Those two, combined with Nik Needham and former first-round selection Noah Igbinoghene, give Miami a formidable unit to challenge Tampa Bay.
In addition to the star power of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, the Buccaneers added underrated wide receiver Russell Gage and Julio Jones this offseason. The team also has Tyler Johnson, Breshad Perriman, Jaelon Darden and Scotty Miller in that loaded unit.
The Panthers’ roster is not as bad as public perception. They have a mixture of veteran experience and youthful flare along the defensive line with Brian Burns, Derrick Brown and Matt Ioannidis. Edge rusher Yetur Gross-Matos is entering the third year of his career, which is when most players start to hit their stride. They will have their hands full against an always well-coached New England offensive line.
First-round selection Cole Strange is the only newcomer to the Patriots offensive line after Shaq Mason was dealt to the Buccaneers. Veterans litter the roster with Isaiah Wynn, Mike Onwenu, Trent Brown and David Andrews all returning. They are a physical front that leans on opponent’s in the run game. New England rushed on 57% of their plays last season.
All anyone can talk about in the Bay Area has been the lockdown nature of free agent cornerback addition Charvarius Ward. He lines up opposite Emmanuel Moseley, who is also said to look good in camp. Deommodore Lenoir and Ambry Thomas looked promising at times last season. Darqueze Dennard and Jason Verrett (PUP list) give them more experience on the back end.
It feels as though onlookers have been waiting for Minnesota wide receiver Adam Thielen to have a season indicating the beginning of his downward trajectory but he has been consistent for the better part of six years. The Minnesota State product turns 32 later this month; less than a month after me. Between Thielen and I, we have compiled 464 receptions for nearly 6,000 yards and 49 touchdowns in the NFL. The Vikings also have one of the game’s best receivers in Justin Jefferson, as well as K.J. Osborn, Bisi Johnson and others.
Tampa Bay has been able to stave off attrition during the Tom Brady era. Despite rising salary cap charges, the team was able to retain Lavonte David and re-install him next to Devin White. Depth is limited but few teams have the luxury of starting two linebackers of White and David’s caliber. They meet a Tennessee team that declared its intent to continue running the football at a noteworthy rate this offseason by trading away wide receiver A.J. Brown.
For five consecutive years, Tennessee running back Derrick Henry received more and more carries. Many questioned whether he would ever suffer from the wear and tear that inevitably catches up to all running backs. After recording a career-high 378 carries in 2020, Henry was finally proven to be human by missing nine games last season. The weight of the offense will once again be on his shoulders this season but they did add Dontrell Hilliard — who did some good things in Cleveland — and rookie Hassan Haskins, who was picked in the fourth round, to lighten the load.
Each offseason, pundits speculate on the needs of head coach Brandon Staley’s Chargers and the franchise makes no attempt to disguise those needs. They needed offensive line reinforcements so they signed Corey Linsley, Matt Feiler and Bryan Bulaga, then drafted Rashawn Slater and Zion Johnson. They have needed cornerback help so they drafted Asante Samuel Jr. and then signed J.C. Jackson and Bryce Callahan. They needed to bolster the interior defensive line and add another pass rusher so they signed Austin Johnson, Sebastian Joseph-Day and Christian Covington, then traded for Khalil Mack. At no point did they get cute, they just checked boxes and put their roster in a position to contend for the AFC in 2022.
Between joint practices against Surtain and Jackson, Lamb should be well-tested entering the regular season.
Lions at Colts (Aug. 17-18)
Detroit’s offensive line against Indianapolis’ defensive line
There are concerns over the future at the quarterback position in the Motor City but the rest of the offense is in a healthy state. They boast good skill position talent with tight end T.J. Hockenson, running back D’Andre Swift and wide receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown, and rookie Jameson Williams (active/non-football injury). The talent has finally caught up to an offensive line that has Taylor Decker, Jonah Jackson, Frank Ragnow, Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Penei Sewell from left to right.
Indianapolis added well-traveled edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue to a defensive line that introduced first-round pick Kwity Paye a year ago. DeForest Buckner is the elder statesmen along that front with Grover Stewart also stuffing gaps. The team is eager to see what they can squeeze from a healthy Dayo Odeyingbo as well.
Amari Cooper is gone from the Cowboys and Michael Gallup is on the PUP list after sustaining a torn ACL in July. Offseason addition James Washington suffered a foot fracture that will cause him to miss roughly two months of action. Despite those grim realities, Dallas still has CeeDee Lamb and rookie Jalen Tolbert, who was a perfect fit to replace Cooper. Noah Brown and Simi Fehoko are a few others with tantalizing traits.
There is a lot of positive Broncos buzz surrounding second-year cornerback Pat Surtain II as a lockdown cornerback. K’Waun Williams is a feisty veteran that has made his living neutralizing opposing slot receivers. Ronald Darby adds some veteran experience to that unit as well. The individual matchup that is propping up this position battle, however, is obviously Lamb versus Surtain.