We are five practices into Training Camp 2022 and the biggest takeaway is the defense is ahead of the offense. That should be expected with most of the starting defense in their 3rd year in Jack Del Rio’s defense while Scott Turner has his 3rd different starting QB in a training camp. It is noticeable that the defense has tried to be the aggressor after generally underperforming last season. That is not to say the offense has not been, they have had some good moments, but overall the defense has been leading early on. When asked about that Coach Rivera noted that the defense is doing some game planning while the offense is working more on concepts than on attacking a defense. Here are some notable things I’ve observed so far:
- Top Unit- I’d say that it would be a tie between the defensive line and the secondary. The best player on the defensive line has been Montez Sweat who looks relaxed and energized and has been taking Samuel Cosmi to the woodshed. Sweat and the rest of the defensive line has been getting consistent pressure in the backfield and wreaking havoc on the offense. When the offensive line has blocked the defensive line, the defensive secondary has been knocking passes down and interrupting routes. Kendall Fuller has had an amazing camp and has been physical and deflecting passes all over the field. The starting group has played well while Christian Holmes and Percy Butler and fast and strong with the second unit. Those two are definitely ones to watch for the future.
- Worst Unit- Conversely the unit that is struggling the most is the offensive line. Part of that is because at times they have been missing three of the five starters ( Chase Rouiller who is now back off the IR, Trai Turner who aggravated a groin, and Tyler Larsen on IR) so there have been some missing pieces. Add in a new quarterback and that can lend its self to some concerns. The run blocking has been pretty solid so that is a good sign. On paper this line has a lot of depth so like last year the line should improve with the more work they do against the defensive line.
- Rookie Class- Jahan Dotson is getting all of the attention but the rest of the rookie class has been making their marks as well. Phidarian Mathis hasn’t flashed much but has been where he is supposed to be. Brian Robinson has been getting a lot of first team work and he is a pretty complete back, honestly it will be hard to keep him off the field. Cole Turner has been getting a lot of first team reps as the team really likes him as a receiver and he has shown this skill. The seventh rounders Christian Holmes and Percy Butler are good and both certainly will make the 53 man roster.
- Carson Wentz- Carson Wentz has had an up and down camp this first week. Wentz has shown the skills and tools that they expected from him, his size and his arm strength. The offensive play of camp was his deep ball to Dotson when the defense sent an all out blitz. Wentz question marks have shown up as well with holding the ball too long and trying to fit some throws in where he should. This is the acclimation period so this is time to get these things worked out.
- QB #2- In a lesser known battle rookie Sam Howell is trying to unseat Taylor Heinicke as the backup to Carson Wentz. Heinicke’s advantage is the knowledge of the offense and when to use his feet, conversely his limitations are his arm and his accuracy. Sam Howell’s advantage is his arm strength but is limitations are his knowledge of this offense and when to use his feet. In a dream world this would not matter because Wentz would play all 17 games but that is not reality, Right now it’s Heinicke’s spot to lose.
- PUP- The PUP list is getting smaller with Chase Roullier coming off on Friday. Tyler Larsen is probably next closest to coming off. Logan Thomas and Chase Young will take longer and I expect both of them to start the season on the PUP or IR. The team will not rush either one back as they see them both as important franchise players.