Packers QB Jordan Love tops list of players who must shine at OTAs, minicamps

2023-05-26 12:44:55

As the NFL calendar hits the months of May and June, players are strapping up their helmets to participate in OTAs and minicamps. Although workouts in T-shirts and shorts are vastly different from the intense practice sessions with the pads clacking, the organized workouts allow players and coaches to experiment with various techniques and schemes to prepare for the season.

With player development viewed as the primary goal of each team throughout the summer, it is the perfect time to look at the players who must shine in OTAs and minicamps over the next month. Here are the players to watch:

Jordan LoveQB, Green Bay Packers

After Love patiently waited for his turn to supplant Aaron Rodgers as the Packers’ franchise quarterback, the football world will have a chance to see if he was worth the wait. Although the fourth-year pro has steadily improved throughout his tenure, the standard is high for quarterback play in Green Bay after watching gold-jacket guys (Brett Favre and Rodgers) thrive at the position over the past 30 years.

As the skeptics question whether Love can play up to the standard in Titletown, the first-time starter can build his confidence with solid performances throughout OTAs and minicamp sessions. Considering how timing, rhythm and momentum can spark sensational play at the position, the work done by Love in June and July can lead to success in the regular season.

Travon Walkeredge, Jacksonville Jaguars

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 draft is expected to create more disruption in his sophomore season. Walker has flashed impressive strength, power and explosiveness at the point of attack, but the Jaguars need the second-year pro to evolve into a sack master to elevate a defense that needs more frontline production to catapult the Jaguars into title contention.

Considering the offensive potential of Trevor Lawrence & Co., Walker should have plenty of chances to get after the passer in favorable pass rush situations. If the former first-rounder displays any growth as a sack artist, the Jaguars defense should make the jump needed to complement a high-powered offense with Super Bowl potential.

Tony Pollard and Ronald JonesRBs, Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys’ running game is the key to an offense that routinely overwhelms opponents with body shots and knockout blows. Despite the declining production of Ezekiel Elliott at the end of his tenure, the veteran gave the Cowboys an old-school identity with his rugged running style. Without the two-time rushing champ in the huddle to set the tone, the Cowboys could become a “soft” offense that lacks the power and pop to close games out.

Although OTA practices are non-contact workouts, the team will get a feel for whether Pollard and Jones possess the grittiness to do the dirty work needed to help the offense retain its blue-collar identity in 2023.

Skip Bayless: Cowboys will win NFC East, reach NFC Championship Game

Skip Bayless: Cowboys will win NFC East, reach NFC Championship Game

I’m DeanLB, Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles will enter the 2023 season hoping to make a return trip to the Super Bowl on the strength of a dynamic defense that pummeled opposing quarterbacks into submission last year. Although the disruptive front returns nearly intact, the changing of the guard at linebacker could impact the performance of the unit.

After spending 2022 serving as an apprentice to T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White, Dean gets to run the show as the designated defensive playcaller of a new scheme. Given the responsibility to serve as the eyes and ears of new defensive coordinator Sean Desai on the field, the second-year pro must show his coaches that he can run the show like a wily vet.

Sam HowellQB, Washington Commanders

Perhaps Ron Rivera knows something that we do not regarding the potential of the former fifth-round pick poised to step into the QB1 role for the Commanders. Despite having only one career start, Howell has been handed the keys to the franchise in a make-or-break year in D.C. The North Carolina product flashed some management skills in his debut (11-for-19 for 169 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT), but playing winning football as an inexperienced starter will require new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy to create a quarterback-friendly system with easy concepts and high-percentage throws.

If Howell can show his teammates and coaches that he can consistently string together completions, the young quarterback can command more respect as the anointed squad leader in must-win mode.

Bucky Brooks is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. He regularly appears on “Speak For Yourself” and also breaks down the game for NFL Network and as a cohost of the “Moving the Sticks” podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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