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#pounditFriday, March 5, 2021

Eight NFL players making noise in training camp

Sam Darnold

While we are only a game into the NFL preseason, we have seen enough of training camp and game action to know who’s really starting to make an impression on coaches and teammates. A lot of the players are rookies, but some veterans and post-hype players are standing out as well. These players are standing in terms of how they’ve done in games, how they’ve looked in practice, and even how they interact with their teammates.

Here’s a look at eight NFL players making some noise early on in training camp.

Saquon Barkley, RB, Giants

Everyone expected Barkley to be great, and he certainly has been. All you need to do is watch his first preseason carry and you’ll see the skill he brings to the table. Barkley appears to have energized Giants camp; he looked very impressive in his first preseason game, and they’re putting a lot of responsibility on his shoulders considering he’s a rookie. He looks ready to handle it all.

Antonio Callaway, WR, Browns

Callaway’s off-field troubles have manifested themselves again during the preseason, but coach Hue Jackson has decided to go with an odd brand of discipline — making him play as much as possible. That’ll end up helping him more than anything else, but perhaps that’s the point. He’s looked solid in camp and impressed in his preseason debut, with three catches for 87 yards and a touchdown. He may end up a regular contributor to the team’s offense. That talent is why the Browns are willing to stick with him.

Sam Darnold, QB, Jets

Darnold went from a late arrival in camp to the probable Jets’ starting quarterback very quickly, in spite of the fact that he faced pretty stiff competition. He went 13-for-18 for 96 yards and a touchdown in his preseason debut, and the Jets are so impressed that they’re letting him have the bulk of the practice reps. It all looks like a prelude to grabbing the Jets’ starting job in Week 1 despite being a rookie.

Donte Jackson, CB, Panthers

A second-round pick in this year’s draft, Jackson already looks like a strong contender to start in the Carolina secondary. Coach Ron Rivera has effusively praised him and he’s impressed during practices, including picking off Cam Newton. The Panthers likely weren’t expecting the rookie to separate himself so quickly, but that’s just what he’s done.

Kerryon Johnson, RB, Lions

The running back position has been a huge problem for the Lions dating back years, but they’ll be hoping that Johnson solves a lot of their problems. He was the standout player in their preseason opener against Oakland, with seven carries for 34 yards to go with 33 receiving yards. That didn’t even count a 57-yard dash that was wiped out by a penalty. The former Auburn back is a player to watch going forward.

Chad Kelly, QB, Broncos

Paxton Lynch’s faltering form has been Kelly’s gain, as the second-year pro has established himself as Case Keenum’s backup, at least for the moment. It’s largely on the back of an outstanding performance in the preseason opener, where he went 14-of-21 for 177 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Maybe he’s not the long-term answer for anyone, but he’s put himself firmly on the radar.

Cooper Kupp, WR, Rams

Kupp had a tremendous rookie season, and word is he’s been “unstoppable” in preseason camp. He and quarterback Jared Goff have apparently forged quite a connection. That’s bad news for NFC West rivals, as Kupp already led the Rams with 869 receiving yards last season and looks poised to take another step forward this year.

Jarvis Landry, WR, Browns

Landry’s influence goes above and beyond what he’s been able to accomplish on the field. That doesn’t diminish his impact there — by all accounts, Landry has been a favorite target of quarterback Tyrod Taylor and looks poised for a big season, sounding quite happy with his role in the offense. He’s also been a leader off-the-field and went viral for one of his fiery speeches. The Browns could very much use attitude like this, not to mention his on-field production.

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