Early standouts, rookies turning heads and updates on key position battles

20) The Panthers aren’t handing No. 6 overall pick Ikem Ekwonu a starting job. Second-year pro Brady Christensen has outplayed him in pass protection, according to Joe Person of The Athletic, although Ekwonu at left tackle with Christensen at left guard is still the setup that makes the most sense.

21) A slimmed-down Mekhi Becton practicing every day while transitioning to right tackle was a huge win for the Jets for a few weeks. Then he was seen with a knee brace on Friday and left practice Monday with an apparent leg issue. (Just before publishing, Jets coach Robert Saleh said “it doesn’t seem like a big deal.”) Becton could be the X-factor for the entire offense, and right tackle is a natural fit for the mauler.

The Jets had veteran free agent Duane Brown at their facility Saturday and are discussing a possible contract with him. My guess is that Brown would only sign to start.

22) The Ravens need a receiver or two to step up this season. In camp thus far, it’s been James Proche, for Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic. Proche and Devin Duvernay are the top candidates to start opposite Rashod Bateman. A late-camp veteran addition can’t be ruled out.

23) Tampa Bay swapped in Shaq Mason for free-agent departure Alex Cappa at right guard, but that’s not the only change to the Bucs’ interior offensive line. Robert Hainsey has taken over at center following Ryan Jensen’s injury, while there is a four-way battle at left guard. According to Pewter Report, Aaron Stinnie was essentially benched after blocking Bucs defensive lineman Logan Hall into Jensen, causing the Pro Bowl pivot’s injury.

24) Another interesting early development in Bucs practices: Safety Antoine Winfield Jr. has replaced Sean Murphy-Bunting as the team’s slot defender.

25) Drew Lock started the Seahawks’ scrimmage hitting his first 10 passes on two touchdown drives, according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. Lock reportedly outplayed Geno Smith throughout the scrimmage, mostly against Seattle’s starting defense. Geno was solid, if unspectacular, which is similar to most of his camp reviews of him. I thought Lock would get more first-team reps going forward, but it didn’t happen Sunday.

26) If the season started today, the top three Cowboys wideouts would likely be CeeDee Lamb, rookie Jalen Tolbert and Noah Brown. An undrafted rookie named Dennis Houston has been getting some time with the ones!

27) The Falcons have benched guard Jalen Mayfield in practices in favor of veteran Elijah Wilkinson. Mayfield, a third-round pick last year, struggled badly as a rookie.

28) While the Cardinals are taking 2021 first-round pick Zaven Collins off the field on passing downs and talking about his learning curve, they are creating a new “star” position for Isaiah Simmons. The whole idea of ​​Simmons and Collins playing next to each other at inside linebacker appears canceled, with the team confident in Simmons ‘versatile star power while doubtful of Collins’ progress.

29) Philadelphia’s defensive line is so deep that stalwart pass rusher Brandon Graham is lining up with the backups – and he doesn’t seem to mind one bit, saying he is excited to be the best role player he can be.

30) Eagles coach Nick Sirianni noted that 2020 first-round pick Jalen Reagor is just “battling for a spot” on the team. He might just get it. According to Bo Wulf of The Athletic, Reagor is enjoying his most consistent camp of him.

31) Kellen Mond was talked up as potential competition for Kirk Cousins ​​a year ago in Minnesota. Now there’s talk he’s not a lock to make the team.

32) Jonas Griffith appears all but locked in to Denver’s second linebacker spot next to Josey Jewell. Griffith has reportedly even taken some snaps as the lone linebacker on the field in certain formations.

33) Through practices and Sunday’s intersquad scrimmage, it looks pretty clear Joshua Palmer is the Chargers’ third receiver. Jalen Guyton is slated to be a deep-threat No. 4. Meanwhile, the battle to back up running back Austin Ekeler appears wide open between Larry Rountree, Joshua Kelley and rookie Isaiah Spiller.

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