On Thursday, we find ourselves at an important juncture in the NFL's summer evaluation process. Players have been going at it in training camp for two weeks, giving coaches a glimpse of the kind of practice habits and skills they have. Beginning Thursday night for some teams and this weekend for the rest, we'll start getting an idea of how they function in games.
We've all heard stories of players who impress early in camp. Some continue that process through the preseason, and others fall off. So before things get confused by the upcoming transition, I want to pass along one rookie or newcomer who has caught my eye during each stop on CampTour'11. (And yes, I realize three of the four are receivers. I guess I spent a lot of time watching one-on-one drills.)
Player: Receiver Dane Sanzenbacher
Comment: I have no idea if the Bears will have roster space for a rookie free agent from Ohio State, and who knows how Sanzenbacher will perform in the preseason. But he sure looked comfortable in the slot position of offensive coordinator Mike Martz's offense during the time I was at Bears camp.
Player: Receiver Maurice Stovall
Comment: By all accounts, my choice here probably would have been tailback Mikel LeShoure had he not ruptured an Achilles tendon Monday. I realize Stovall has been in the NFL for five years, but at 6-foot-5 he is a big target who looked awfully difficult to stop during red zone drills that I watched. I'm not sure if the Lions can find a roster spot for him, especially after signing receiver/special-teams ace Rashied Davis, but Stovall seems intriguing.
Player: Receiver/returner Randall Cobb
Comment: I was at Packers camp pretty early, but already it was clear that Cobb had exceptional acceleration, aggressiveness and open-field running ability. Reports indicate he has continued to open eyes, and everyone is excited to see what -- and how much -- he can handle in the preseason.
Player: Safety Mistral Raymond
Comment: Raymond has some of the thinnest legs I've seen and has a steep learning curve, but he appears to be a lively personality and a strong competitor who could make things interesting for the Vikings. At least one safety position is wide open, and Raymond saw some first-team repetitions as recently as Wednesday.