NFL training camps have begun: Predictions, position battles and players to watch for all 32 teams
Jul 24, 2022
Thirty-one NFL training camps open this week after the Las Vegas Raiders got an early start last week, and there is no shortage of compelling storylines across the league.
Whether the changes in personnel and coaching produce positive results or frustration will start to play out during camps.
NFL Nation reporters break down key storylines and predictions for all 32 teams.
Camp prediction: Rookie running back James Cook will be the star of Bills camp. While running back Devin Singletary is trending toward playing a lead role in the offense, Cook has the type of skill set as a pass-catcher to make a big impact on offense in 2022 — especially on third downs. He also had limited playing time at Georgia — 230 carries and 67 receptions over four years — which could be beneficial in keeping him fresh during a 17-game NFL season. Zack Moss, a third-round pick from the 2020 draft, will be a player to watch during camp because he needs to prove he deserves a role. With limited contact during camp and Cook’s abilities, he’ll stand out, which means good things for the Bills’ offense, no matter how many snaps he plays.
— Alaina Getzenberg
Camp prediction: Left tackle Austin Jackson will close training camp as a starter. Is it bold to predict a two-year starter and former first-round pick will start? Consider that Jackson struggled enough at left tackle last season that the Dolphins moved him to guard in Week 5. Many fans felt like the team should move on, but the new coaching staff believes he has untapped potential. The third-year pro will have to battle with Larnel Coleman, Liam Eichenberg and Michael Deiter for two open jobs on the offensive line, but he will flash that potential in a major way this summer.
— Marcel Louis-Jacques
Camp prediction: Rookie cornerback Jack Jones will be one of the standout performers in training camp, making a charge for a starting spot, as his sticky coverage and ball skills will show up with multiple interceptions. By the end of camp, no player will have more interceptions than Jones.
— Mike Reiss
Camp prediction: Receiver Denzel Mims will be traded before the regular season. Despite an encouraging offseason, the 2020 second-round pick is no better than fourth on the depth chart among outside receivers. Because he doesn’t play special teams, Mims doesn’t have game-day value unless he’s part of the receiver rotation. Right now, he’s not. He’d probably be the odd man out on game day, barring injuries. So the question becomes: Do the Jets stash him on the roster as insurance, which wouldn’t make him happy, or do they try to get something in a trade? They probably wouldn’t get much; the Patriots got a 2024 seventh-round pick for 2019 first rounder N’Keal Harry. Mims would bring back more than that because he has two years left on his rookie contract, but probably not much more. The Jets will talk him up this summer, hoping to raise his value.
— Rich Cimini
Camp prediction: The Ravens get out of training camp healthy. This is an extremely bold prediction considering last year was one of the team’s worst summers from an injury standpoint. From the start of camp to the start of the regular season, Baltimore had 13 key players sidelined for at least a week by either an injury or by testing positive for COVID-19. There was a 19-day stretch in which the Ravens had five players sustain season-ending injuries, including their top three running backs. Baltimore isn’t chalking it up to bad luck (although this team is due for a change of fortune). The Ravens are tweaking their practices by implementing more stretching during warm-ups and fewer reps during drills. It wouldn’t be surprising if quarterback Lamar Jackson and other star players sit out preseason games. The Ravens know this team can be a Super Bowl contender if it can avoid a run of injuries.
— Jamison Hensley
Camp prediction: Kwamie Lassiter II keeps making noise. The undrafted free agent wide receiver out of Kansas was one of the top risers during offseason workouts. He eventually worked his way into the top rotation and earned some reps with the first-team offense. This is a welcomed development for a Bengals team that has limited production outside of the starting trio of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. If Lassiter continues on this trajectory, he will make a strong case to make the team’s 53-man roster.
— Ben Baby
Camp prediction: The Browns will trade running back D’Ernest Johnson during training camp. Yes, Johnson is coming off a breakout season filling in for injured teammates Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and Johnson signed a one-year extension with the Browns during the offseason. But Cleveland also drafted another running back in Jerome Ford, a fifth-round selection out of Cincinnati, who flashed a versatile skill set during OTAs and minicamp. With second-year playmaker Demetric Felton also returning, the Browns will move Johnson to a more running back-needy team.
— Jake Trotter
Camp prediction: Kenny Pickett will finish camp as the Steelers’ No. 3 quarterback. Pickett, the Steelers’ first-round pick, took third-string reps throughout minicamp and OTAs, and with Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph in front of him, there’s a good chance he finishes training camp in the same place. With two other veteran quarterbacks on the roster, the Steelers aren’t rushing Pickett’s development. They can afford to be patient with the rookie and put him in a position to take over in the future by moving him along slowly and deliberately in his first year in the NFL. Trubisky has plenty of starting quarterback experience and is already emerging as a leader — plus his skill set matches offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s preference for pre-snap motion and quick throws. Rudolph looked steady in offseason training and was more consistent than Pickett.
— Brooke Pryor
Camp prediction: Safety Jalen Pitre will be a dynamic force during training camp. The Texans’ second-round pick out of Baylor showcased premier playmaking skills in college. In Pitre’s last season, he finished with 18.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 7 pass breakups and 3 forced fumbles. Some in the NFL compare Pitre to Tyrann Mathieu, Quandre Diggs and Budda Baker. Making plays on the football is Pitre’s forte, and that fits into coach Lovie Smith’s defense. Pitre’s versatility should give him the ability to roam in the box and play deep middle safety. Expect to see plenty of reports of the No. 37 overall pick being a disruptor heading into the season.
— D.J. Bien-Aime
Camp prediction: Third-round pick Bernhard Raimann from Central Michigan will emerge as the starter at left tackle. It’s hardly a guarantee, but that’s why this is considered a bold take. Though it’s a big ask for a rookie to start at such a critical spot, Raimann has the best combination of skills and size of the candidates to take on this role. Raimann, 6-foot-6 and 303 pounds, should expect stiff competition from veterans Matt Pryor, Dennis Kelly and recently signed Jason Spriggs. But given the way Raimann moves, he is well-equipped to handle the speed that will confront whoever wins the job on quarterback Matt Ryan‘s blind side.
— Stephen Holder
Camp prediction: The switch turns on for outside linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson, and he becomes a bigger part of the Jaguars’ plans. The 20th overall pick in 2020 has two sacks in 31 career games, and he’s pretty much the guy no one talks about on defense after the addition of linebackers Foyesade Oluokun, Travon Walker, Devin Lloyd and Chad Muma. Mike Caldwell’s defense keeps the offense guessing in terms of which players are coming after the quarterback, and Chaisson will make plays and be one of the surprise successes in camp. There’s even less depth at outside linebacker after Jordan Smith went down with a season-ending knee injury.
— Mike DiRocco
Camp prediction: Tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo will solidify a role as one of quarterback Ryan Tannehill‘s favorite pass-catchers. Okonkwo’s playmaking ability flashed during minicamp when he caught four touchdown passes in two days of red zone seven-on-seven work. The Titans’ coaching staff likes Okonkwo’s versatile skill set. Okonkwo’s 4.5-second time in the 40-yard dash was the fastest among tight ends at the scouting combine. His speed matches up favorably against linebackers and safeties, making him a viable threat in the passing game. At 6-foot-3, 238-pounds, he has drawn comparisons to former Titans tight end Jonnu Smith. Tannehill likes what he has seen from Okonkwo: “Just physically, to see his size, his strength, his speed, how he’s able to play through contact, he definitely gives us another weapon.”
— Turron Davenport
Camp prediction: Rookie pass-rusher Nik Bonitto, a second-round pick by the Broncos this past April, will show why some personnel executives in the league believe he was one of the biggest steals of the draft’s first two days. The Broncos plan for Randy Gregory and Bradley Chubb to be one of the league’s best pass-rush duos, but Bonitto’s work in training camp and the preseason will force defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero to get creative and find ways to get Bonitto on the field. During the team’s offseason program, Bonitto showed an explosive first step with an already mature variety of pass-rush moves. That is the recipe for a pass-rusher to contribute quickly.
— Jeff Legwold
Camp prediction: Trent McDuffie will leave training camp as the Chiefs’ emerging star in the secondary. The Chiefs asked a lot of McDuffie in offseason practice as he worked at both outside cornerback and in slot coverage. He handled it all well, leaving the Chiefs encouraged he could have a big rookie season. McDuffie looked more like a veteran as he was rarely caught out of position. The Chiefs need a big season from McDuffie after losing longtime starter Charvarius Ward in free agency. Another strong candidate for playing time at cornerback, Rashad Fenton, missed all of offseason practice while rehabbing from a shoulder procedure.
— Adam Teicher
Camp prediction: Dylan Parham, the first draft pick of this Raiders regime, will win a starting job on Las Vegas’ beleaguered and rebuilt offensive line. Left guard seems to be the landing spot for Parham, a third-round pick, even though John Simpson started all 17 games there last season. But the right side is in more flux, with 2021 first-rounder Alex Leatherwood perhaps moving from right guard to right tackle, and former starting right guard Denzelle Good returning from a torn ACL in his left knee.
— Paul Gutierrez
Camp prediction: Rookie running back Isaiah Spiller will prove himself a potential difference-maker on offense, earning more than just backup carries behind Austin Ekeler. The Chargers selected Spiller from Texas A&M with a fourth-round pick. Rookie running backs can often be slow to establish themselves in an offense at the pro level because of pass protection. However, that might not be the case for Spiller. “He’s an excellent pass protector,” coach Brandon Staley said, referencing Spiller’s time at Texas A&M. “Mentally, he was responsible for a lot there. He was a three-down back.” Pass protection, along with Spiller’s instincts as a runner and hands as a pass-catcher, will enable him to earn playing time early.
— Lindsey Thiry
Camp prediction: Sam Williams will claim the starting defensive end spot opposite DeMarcus Lawrence as Randy Gregory‘s replacement. The Cowboys’ second-round pick has all of the pass-rushing tools defensive coordinator Dan Quinn loves to work with — speed around the edge, the ability to bend, solid hands. Dorance Armstrong and Dante Fowler Jr. have more NFL know-how, and while being a “starter” can be overrated since Quinn likes to rotate his defensive linemen, Williams’ talent will get him on the field early. Look for him to come close to matching Gregory’s six sacks from 2022.
— Todd Archer
Camp prediction: The Giants’ defense will look really good this summer. Yep, a unit with major questions at three of the five starting spots in the secondary (including nickel cornerback) is going to dominate training camp. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale has some rushers in his aggressive scheme that will test a new-look offensive line and affect the quarterback. First-round pick Kayvon Thibodeaux will be back after missing the spring with a minor injury. His first step will be noticeable. With the Giants and quarterback Daniel Jones still working on timing in their new offense, it will be an advantage to the defense all summer long, just as it was in 2014 when Eli Manning was throwing interceptions left and right (often multiple per day) learning Ben McAdoo’s offense before having a strong season.
— Jordan Raanan
Camp prediction: Britain Covey makes the team. The 25-year-old undrafted rookie receiver out of Utah created some buzz this spring. At 5-foot-8, 170 pounds, he doesn’t exactly have a size advantage, but that didn’t stop him from wreaking havoc last year for the Utes, including on special teams as he returned two punts and a kickoff for touchdowns. Competition for roster spots should be fierce at receiver, with Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward and John Hightower among those vying to make the squad along with A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Zach Pascal and Quez Watkins. But the coaches like what they’ve seen out of Covey so far, and a strong summer could convince them to keep him around.
— Tim McManus
Camp prediction: Running back Antonio Gibson emerges as the most-talked-about offensive player in camp. There will be a lot of attention on quarterback Carson Wentz, so perhaps this should be the player most discussed after the new quarterback. It’s often hard for running backs to stand out in camp because there isn’t live tackling. But Gibson will emerge because of the work he put in this offseason, lowering his body fat from 18% to less than 12, he said, which should add more explosiveness. Gibson will remind everyone about his potential based on what he has done the previous six months.
— John Keim
Camp prediction: The Bears’ top draft pick, Kyler Gordon, will be better than advertised. No player will notch more interceptions in training camp than the cornerback from Washington. I’ll even take it a step further and project that Gordon will carry his momentum from training camp into the season and lead the Bears in interceptions, becoming the third rookie to achieve that feat in franchise history.
— Courtney Cronin
Camp prediction: No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson will live up to the hype. There’s obviously high expectations for the Plymouth, Michigan, native entering his first training camp, but throughout the offseason, the coaching staff and his teammates have been impressed with his work ethic and ability to adjust to the new surroundings. Hutchinson was an All-American at Michigan, but the Wolverines’ defense struggled on the national stage in the Orange Bowl against Georgia. Can he become an elite talent in the NFL ranks? Detroit could’ve gone in a number of different directions in a draft featuring several quality pass-rushers, but the feeling here is Hutchinson will meet — or exceed — expectations.
— Eric Woodyard
Camp prediction: Jordan Love excels. If it’s going to happen for the third-year quarterback, it should be now. Behind him are the COVID-19 year that wrecked his rookie offseason and training camp (he had no preseason game action), and his first NFL start — the disastrous loss at Kansas City. It was in Year 3 when Aaron Rodgers showed his potential, and there’s no excuse for Love not to follow suit — unless, of course, he’s not the answer to the question of who will succeed Rodgers. With Rodgers almost certain to sit out preseason games, as has been the case in recent years, this is another opportunity for Love.
— Rob Demovsky
Camp prediction: Rookie cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. will emerge as a starter. The Vikings have been raving about Booth since trading up to draft him in the second round, and he joins a position group that is ripe for newcomers. Strictly from a skill and playmaking perspective, Booth was among the best cornerbacks in the draft. His injury history pushed him into the second round, but he believes that surgery to repair a hernia in March has put him on the road to permanent recovery. If that’s the case, and he goes through training camp healthy, he’ll prove good enough to start opposite Patrick Peterson — or at the very least in the nickel package that the Vikings will use frequently.
— Kevin Seifert
Camp prediction: Tyler Allgeier wins at least part of the running back role. Now this might not be the boldest prediction in the world, but the rookie out of BYU is going to get every chance to win the early-down running back role — especially if Atlanta plans to keep using veteran Cordarrelle Patterson as a multifaceted offensive option. Allgeier will need work in pass protection, but his bruising, fall-forward, loving-contact running style will endear him to coach Arthur Smith and offensive coordinator Dave Ragone, making him a day one player for a young Falcons roster.
— Michael Rothstein
Camp prediction: Baker Mayfield won’t be the starting quarterback, at least initially. This might come as a shock to the 91.6% on my informal Twitter poll who predicted Mayfield would be the Week 1 starter. But Sam Darnold has an entire offseason learning Ben McAdoo’s system and the terminology to his advantage. Darnold is also healthy while Mayfield is about six months removed from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder. He’s on track to a full recovery, but that’s still an obstacle to overcome. Darnold has nothing to lose for the first time in his NFL career, so he has less pressure than the top pick of the 2018 draft.
— David Newton
Camp prediction: The Jameis Winston–Chris Olave duo will generate some buzz. Michael Thomas will still be the Saints’ No. 1 receiver when healthy — and all indications are that Thomas’ recovery is on track. But I also know how “buzz” works in training camp and the preseason, when it takes only a few big highlights to generate excitement. And Olave has the type of speed and big-play ability to catch some of those home run balls that Winston likes to throw. Olave, who was drafted with the 11th pick, might not have the same target volume as other rookies this year because he’s in a crowded group, but we should start to see glimpses of his future No. 1 ability like we did with Thomas in his rookie camp — when former coach Sean Payton famously suggested, “I don’t follow fantasy football, but, shoot, I’d try to have him.”
— Mike Triplett
Camp prediction: The Bucs will sign an outside linebacker before the start of the regular season. The Bucs have Pro Bowler Shaq Barrett while Joe Tryon-Shoyinka takes over for Jason Pierre-Paul, who remains unsigned, and Anthony Nelson will serve in a rotational capacity. But beyond those three, they’re thin and unproven with Cam Gill being the only player having regular-season game experience. The list of quarterbacks they’ll face this season is downright absurd. Carl Nassib, Anthony Barr and Ryan Kerrigan are among some intriguing names still available.
— Jenna Laine
Camp prediction: Kyler Murray shows up to camp with a leadership mentality and puts the Cardinals on his shoulders. Some of coach Kliff Kingsbury’s final words before the summer break were about his concern that Murray might not be at camp on Day 1 because of a contract squabble. With a new deal in place, he’ll show up as a quarterback ready to prove he’s worth the money. He still isn’t used to losing, and he finally has the teammate he’s wanted since 2018 in Marquise Brown. Murray will feel empowered with his contract and will start to show his leadership on the field and throughout the organization.
— Josh Weinfuss
Camp prediction: Tutu Atwell ends camp as the No. 3 receiver. Both quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Cooper Kupp pointed out Atwell’s improvement during the spring. Atwell, the Rams’ second-round pick in 2021, played 10 offensive snaps last season but had a role on special teams before injuring a shoulder and being placed on injured reserve in November. The Rams have a strong trio of Kupp, Allen Robinson II and Van Jefferson, but a strong camp from Atwell will give him a bigger opportunity entering the regular season.
— Sarah Barshop
Camp prediction: Rookie defensive end Drake Jackson wins the starting defensive end role opposite Nick Bosa. Jackson, a second-round pick this spring, impressed teammates and coaches alike during offseason practices. Samson Ebukam finished strong in 2021, but Jackson has the size and skill to play a bigger-than-expected role right away. One way or another, Jackson will carve out a significant role with a strong debut camp.
— Nick Wagoner
Camp prediction: Coby Bryant will be a Week 1 starter at cornerback. Seattle’s rookie corner has more than a famous name. He also has a ton of college experience (53 career games) and some serious ball skills (the best of any defender in this year’s draft, if you ask him). Those traits could make him more NFL-ready than most rookie corners drafted in the fourth round. It also helps that the position is wide open. Sidney Jones IV looks like a favorite to start at one of the spots, but no one is entrenched. Tre Flowers won a starting job at corner as a rookie in 2018 — even as a converted safety. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll isn’t afraid to trust young players at that position. For that matter, fifth-round rookie Tariq Woolen could factor into the competition along with Tre Brown and Artie Burns.
— Brady Henderson
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.