10 NFL players with most to prove in training camp
Before long, all 32 NFL teams will officially be reporting to training camp in preparation for the 2017 regular season. It will be the beginning of a quest for Super Bowl LII, and everyone should legitimately feel like they have a chance.
That extends to the players — both rookies and veterans — who will be trying to earn a job or secure a starting position.
It’s easy to point out highly-drafted rookies or fringe players who need to perform well in training camp, but what about players of prominence? Whether they’re coming off injury, switching positions, or just looking to rebound from a poor 2016 season, here are 10 players with the most to prove in training camp.
10. Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills
After three injury-prone seasons, the Buffalo Bills opted not to pick up Sammy Watkins’ fifth-year option. That undoubtedly came as an unexpected blow to the talented youngster, but the reasons why are obvious.
The Bills have to be kicking themselves over selecting Watkins ahead of Odell Beckham Jr. in the 2014 NFL Draft, but what’s done is done. Now it becomes a prove-it year for Watkins, who would not only like to prove to the Bills they made the correct choice, but show the rest of the NFL he could be a worthwhile investment in 2018.
There’s no denying Watkins’ talent. Anyone who lays eyes on him can see the athleticism and skill he possesses, but after missing 11 games in three seasons, there are legitimate injury concerns.
Even on the field, there have been lapses in Watkins’ play. Needless to say, he needs to come out strong in both training camp and the preseason, and then carry that over into the regular season.
9. Ereck Flowers, OT, New York Giants
The New York Giants went into the offseason acknowledging that it might be time to move Ereck Flowers from left tackle to right tackle in an effort to strengthen their offensive line. Ultimately, that did not happen.
Instead, sans the free agent addition of D.J. Fluker, the Giants chose to stand pat and move forward with their 2015 first-round pick.
Despite that vote of confidence, there’s a strong chance that Flowers is on a short leash. He has not developed into the kind of player the Giants had hoped to see. At times, he has gotten quarterback Eli Manning into a mess of trouble. Should those sorts of issues persist throughout training camp, the Giants may be forced to make a move.
The good news? Flowers has reportedly been in East Rutherford training all offseason and will report leaner and quicker than he was a season ago.
8. Dante Fowler Jr., DE, Jacksonville Jaguars
After being drafted in the first-round (No. 3 overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft, Dante Fowler Jr. was expected to come in and change the defensive dynamic for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Two seasons later, that has not happened. In fact, it hasn’t even come close to happening.
On his very first day of mini-camp, Fowler suffered a torn ACL that would keep him out his entire rookie season. And while he would make his debut in 2016, he didn’t erupt on the scene like many had hoped, recording 32 tackles (23 solo), four sacks and five passes defensed.
While it was a positive sign for the Jaguars to see Fowler on the field, he wasn’t nearly as productive as they had hoped. And with such a substantial overall investment still riding on his potential success, Fowler needs to prove he’s taking a significant step forward in training camp. Things may be heading in the right direction though, as Fowler said last month he is expecting to make the leap this season.
7. Mike Glennon, QB, Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears shocked the football world when they signed quarterback Mike Glennon to a three-year, $45 million deal to take over for Jay Cutler. Then they shocked the world again when they selected quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in the first-round of the NFL Draft.
At the time, Glennon reportedly felt “cheated on,” but has since embraced his rookie teammate and the competition he brings.
That competition is going to be paramount come training camp because only one of these quarterback is going to receive the Week 1 nod, and it would be a crushing blow for Glennon if it’s not him.
The Bears have invested heavily in each player, but the ideal situation would be Glennon winning the job outright, allowing Trubisky to sit back and learn for a year or two. Of course, that’s easier said than done, and there’s a whole lot of pressure on Glennon entertaining training camp. It’s obvious he has a lot to prove.
6. Breshad Perriman, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Breshad Perriman was selected in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft with the belief that he’d become a true No. 1 receiver for the Baltimore Ravens. Two years later, that has not happened.
Due in large part to a series of injuries, Perriman has not been able to develop into the sort of talent Baltimore initially expected. But with Steve Smith now retired and Perriman healthier than he’s been in years, there’s a belief that Perriman and quarterback Joe Flacco can finally develop solid on-field chemistry.
Flacco certainly is speaking positively about his wideout:
Flacco on Perriman: "listen, you can just see the confidence in his eyes."
— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiecsun) June 13, 2017
The Ravens clearly have faith in the two adding chemistry. The team did not select a receiver in the NFL Draft, implying they intended to give Perriman every possible chance to become the star of the show.
But that’s not to say Perriman has an unlimited opportunity. There are other players on the roster the Ravens believe in — including the recently signed Jeremy Maclin — so the one-time No. 23 overall pick must hit the ground running in training camp. The team is relying heavily on him and he’s got to prove their patience has been worthwhile.