Friday training camp preview for all 32 NFL teams

NFL Nation reporters assess the top storylines to watch Friday for every team.

NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West
AFC East | AFC North| AFC South | AFC West

NFC EAST

As the Cowboys slow play their approach for a backup quarterback, rookie fourth-round pick Dak Prescott will take the second-team snaps when Tony Romo is available and the first-team snaps when the veteran sits. The Cowboys like how Prescott has developed since joining the team, especially coming from a spread offense. He needs to become more accurate with his throws and make faster decisions, but coach Jason Garrett has praised Prescott’s presence and poise so far. It’s doubtful the Cowboys will go into the season with the rookie as Romo’s top backup, but the Cowboys are pleased with his development. — Todd Archer

Rookie Sterling Shepard continues to be the star of Giants training camp. Day after day he’s making play after play. The second-round pick made several big catches downfield on Thursday. Already he’s becoming a favorite of quarterback Eli Manning. It’s possible we could get to see Shepard, Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz work together on Friday. Beckham is inching close to a return following a leg injury suffered on Sunday. — Jordan Raanan

Injuries are suddenly an issue for the Eagles as next week’s preseason opener approaches. Left tackle Jason Peters (quad) and safety Malcolm Jenkins (hamstring) went down during Thursday’s practice. Guard Brandon Brooks (hamstring) and running back Ryan Mathews (ankle) were hurt before practices began. That leaves the Eagles with four starters injured; none appears to be major, but the team is still shorthanded. — Phil Sheridan

Redskins running back Matt Jones didn’t practice Thursday because of a sore knee, but he said he’s fine and that his legs just needed rest. Though the Redskins haven’t done any live hitting, making it tough to get a feel for the backs, they have been pleased with Jones’ improvement. He has been much better at knowing angles to take on runs, but a big test this preseason will be his pad level through the hole and his ability to hold onto the ball. — John Keim

NFC NORTH

The story at Bears’ camp continues to be wide receiver Alshon Jeffery‘s minor hamstring injury, which kept him off the practice field Thursday. Jeffery’s recent history — he missed seven games in 2015 with calf, groin, hamstring and shoulder problems — makes the development newsworthy, even though coach John Fox downplayed the severity of Jeffery’s latest setback. The Bears have only three practices left in Bourbonnais (they have a workout scheduled at Soldier Field on Saturday), meaning there is a chance Jeffery won’t see more time there. The situation is worth monitoring. The Bears want to be extra cautious here. The last thing they need is for Jeffery’s hamstring to linger. — Jeff Dickerson

The Lions’ defensive line has been one of the most impressive units in camp thus far, particularly since the group continues to make plays even though it can’t take guys to the ground. While that might change Saturday during the team’s mock game at Ford Field, a bunch of players on the first and second unit have consistently made plays in individual drills and team periods. The player the Lions need a jump from, though, is Devin Taylor. He has shown he can make big plays and will have a larger role this season as a starter. “The last eight games of the season, six games, he made a ton of plays for us and showed up a significant number of times,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “Hopefully we can keep him on the same trajectory.” — Michael Rothstein

The Packers will not practice on Friday. Instead, they’ll have what coach Mike McCarthy calls their STAA Program (Soft Tissue Activation and Application), which consists of massages, yoga and other preventative maintenance designed to reduce the frequency of muscle-pull injuries. Instituted in 2014, it has been a Friday staple during the regular season ever since — and McCarthy might want to take part, too, given how he and other Packers staffers will be hustling to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday evening. McCarthy said the Packers will have their normal Saturday in-season practice before flying to Cleveland, where they’ll land around 4:30 p.m. McCarthy, general manager Ted Thompson, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and others will then bus from Cleveland to Canton to see Brett Favre’s induction ceremony. “I just found out that’s a little longer ride than I anticipated,” McCarthy said of the 60-mile trek. — Jason Wilde

The Vikings continue their annual hunt to find a safety who can play next to Harrison Smith. Andrew Sendejo has gotten the first look there, but Mike Zimmer said the Vikings will take a longer look at Michael Griffin. If the Vikings find a safety that can play center field, as Zimmer put it, they can do more with Smith in their defense. — Ben Goessling

NFC SOUTH

Now that veteran pass-rusher Dwight Freeney has officially joined the Falcons, the question is, how many snaps will he play when the regular season begins? Falcons coach Dan Quinn said it will depend on the opponent and situation, of course. The 36-year-old Freeney is ready for whatever. “I love the game and I love to play,” Freeney said. “I’m one of those guys you’re going to have to pull me off the field. … So if it’s 18 snaps, then it’s 18 snaps. If it’s 30 snaps, it’s 30 snaps. If it’s 45, 50, they’re going to have to get me an IV, but I’ll still go out there and then still play.” — Vaughn McClure

Keep an eye on defensive back Bene’ Benwikere to see where he lines up when the Panthers hold their FanFest practice at Bank of America in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Friday. Coach Ron Rivera penciled Benwikere in as a starting every-down corner during the offseason, but Benwikere began camp on PUP as he continued to rehab the fractured ankle he suffered late last season. Benwikere returned to the field Wednesday, but he has spent most of his time working at nickel where he played most of the past two years. He actually worked with the third team at nickel a few times. — David Newton

The Saints had a couple of physical, full-contact team periods in Thursday’s practice, something coach Sean Payton said will continue to pop up in the coming days. Payton said that’s one of the things the team wanted to do this year instead of just saving up for a full scrimmage. They also have joint practices scheduled with two different teams in the next two weeks (Patriots and Texans) as Payton has tried to ramp up the competition and toughness in practices. Rookie running back Daniel Lasco and second-year defensive tackle Tyeler Davison are among those who have stood out in the physical drills so far. — Mike Triplett

No, Bucs backup quarterback Mike Glennon wasn’t traded, although his absence from practice Wednesday sparked quite a frenzy. He and his wife Jessica on Tuesday night welcomed their first child, a baby boy named Brady. In other news, coach Dirk Koetter has grown tired of answering questions about Cameron Brate getting first-team reps over Austin Seferian-Jenkins at tight end. If he had his way, Koetter said there would be no open practices so he “wouldn’t have to answer questions like this every day.” As far as the tight ends, he said, “Right now, Cam is playing better than Austin. End of story, as far as I’m concerned. What does Austin have to do? Play better.” — Jenna Laine

NFC WEST

Thursday was the first time the Cardinals practiced this camp after having a day off and, by all accounts, the practice picked up steam as it progressed. Coach Bruce Arians kept a close eye on Thursday’s proceedings, as did some of the players, because, as linebacker Alex Okafor put it: “There’s no time for that if we want to win the Super Bowl. There’s no time for bad practices, especially after an off day.” — Josh Weinfuss

The Rams had Thursday off after a late practice Wednesday, and a couple of rookies started to show chemistry. No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff and wide receiver Michael Thomas, a sixth-round selection, connected for completion after completion including a few touchdowns. While neither has cracked the starting lineup yet, the pair gives the Rams a glimmer of offensive hope for the future. — ESPN.com staff

The 49ers continue to monitor the quarterback competition between Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert. Kaepernick finally pushed the ball down the field in Thursday’s practice, hitting Torrey Smith for a long touchdown. It could be a sign that he’s feeling more comfortable in Chip Kelly’s offense. Offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins echoed Kelly’s sentiment that the quarterback competition will go on for awhile with preseason games being key. “The competition’s kind of really just getting started,” Modkins said. “I’ve seen Kap from afar for a long time. He’s a good player and I think he’s right on track. I think both those guys are really competing. They’re both doing a good job, so we’ll just kind of see how it goes and we’ll probably know more once the live bullets start going in preseason.” — Nick Wagoner

The battles between the guys up front have been fun to watch every day. “The initial messaging, the defensive line and the offensive line have come out to go after it,” coach Pete Carroll said. “They’re getting after it. We need to be a physical, tough football team to play the style that we’ve always played. We have to recapture that when you come back to camp, and we’re off to a really good start.” Carroll threw Michael Bennett out of practice after a skirmish Thursday. And the coaches have been pleased with the way rookie offensive lineman Germain Ifedi has stood his ground. This will be an area to watch throughout the remainder of camp. — Sheil Kapadia

AFC EAST

The Bills will wrap up their week of practice with a morning session Friday followed by an intrasquad scrimmage Saturday evening. With some live tackling possible, the scrimmage will be the first true opportunity to gauge where the running game and run defense stand. Running backs LeSean McCoy and Reggie Bush figure to each get a few carries, while defensively, how rookies Adolphus Washington and Reggie Ragland perform will be stories. — Mike Rodak

The Dolphins’ defense continues to be ahead of the offense by winning most practices, but coaches say it’s too early to be concerned. Offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said the offense is making a lot of “deposits” at once to push the limits. It may look ugly at times now, but Christensen believes the group will click and find their rhythm in time for the regular season. — James Walker

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has declined interviews through the first seven practices of training camp, but perhaps Friday will break the streak. Brady has yet to speak publicly to reporters about his decision to not pursue further legal action in his Deflategate appeal. As for practice itself, Brady has been the last player to depart each of the last two workouts as he’s been putting in overtime. Among his activities: working with resistance bands, holding planks and doing push-ups. — Mike Reiss

With Matt Forte (hamstring) expected to miss the first preseason game, and Khiry Robinson (leg) still on the PUP list, the running-back reps will be divided among Bilal Powell, Dominique Williams and rookie Romar Morris. It’s a tricky situation because the Jets have to be careful not to overwork Powell in practice. The others are bubble players, so it doesn’t matter. The Jets say they’re not concerned about Forte — yet. — Rich Cimini

AFC NORTH

Ravens backup quarterback Ryan Mallett continues to struggle in camp. His biggest problem has been accuracy. He’s throwing behind receivers and over their heads. This puts even more pressure on the Ravens to make sure Joe Flacco is ready for the season opener. Flacco has looked excellent despite coming off season-ending knee surgery. It’ll be interesting to see how much action Flacco sees in the preseason. The Ravens could play it safe, sitting Flacco in the preseason opener and playing him sparingly in the second one. The focus has to be getting Flacco to the regular-season opener as healthy as possible. — Jamison Hensley

It’s all about patience in Bengals camp these days as Cincinnati waits for several key players to get back from injuries. One important defender, linebacker Vontaze Burfict, already is easing back into the mix after coming off the non-football injury list Thursday. That wasn’t the only good news from the day. Tight end Tyler Eifert began rehab on a side field as he looks to come back from a May ankle surgery. Coach Marvin Lewis also believes injured players Darqueze Dennard (ankle) and Tyler Kroft (knee) won’t miss any regular-season time. As the Bengals prepare for a simulated game Saturday, their luck may be changing. — Coley Harvey

Friday will be an important night for quarterback Robert Griffin III, as coach Hue Jackson has a live scrimmage scheduled at the team’s practice facility. The scrimmage will provide the first glimpse into Griffin’s development in Jackson’s offense. Two other players of note: wide receiver Corey Coleman, who has looked very good in practice, and running back Isaiah Crowell, who looks quick and aggressive in the new run-game system. — Pat McManamon

The Steelers are not messing around with rookie cornerback Artie Burns. They are testing the first-round pick at every turn. They match him up with Antonio Brown early and often in practices, and Burns has struggled much of the time. Most corners would in that situation. Brown got Burns on a double move at the goal line. Burns’ issue, however, is more about experience than competitiveness. Burns responded well with an interception in one-on-ones, sniffing out an underneath route with ease. — Jeremy Fowler

AFC SOUTH

Is former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney turning a corner? After struggling with injuries in his first two years in the league, Clowney received good reviews from his coach on Thursday. “Clowney’s been out here every day practicing hard,” Bill O’Brien said. “He’s getting better every day.” Clowney, who has just 4.5 career sacks, has had a healthy offseason for the first time in his short career. — ESPN.com staff

Colts center Ryan Kelly on Thursday missed his third straight practice with a left shoulder strain. Coach Chuck Pagano will address Kelly’s status Friday, but it would be surprising if the first-round pick out of Alabama played in Sunday’s preseason opener against the Packers after missing so many days of practice. This is the first setback Kelly has had after taking just about every snap with the first unit during offseason workouts and the first portion of training camp. Jonotthan Harrison has been working with the first unit at center in Kelly’s absence. Harrison has started 19 games over the past two seasons. — Mike Wells

The Jaguars will hold their first scrimmage on Friday, but it might not include two key members of the offensive line. Center Brandon Linder is nursing a groin injury and Kelvin Beachum, who is fighting for the starting spot at left tackle with Luke Joeckel, sat out the last two practices. The Jaguars say Beachum had knee soreness Wednesday and got an additional day off Thursday. They are being very careful with Beachum, who is coming off a torn ACL, because he’s the favorite to be the left tackle. — Mike DiRocco

Jeremiah Poutasi said he got a little work in one team period as the first-team left guard. Quinton Spain has been the starter. Coach Mike Mularkey said Spain has been more hot than cold but that his bad plays have been doozies. “When he’s had his mistakes, they’ve been pretty significant,” Mularkey said. “I mean they stand out. Not getting out on some screens, not covering up guys.” Other candidates — Poutasi, Brian Schwenke, Andy Gallik and Sebastian Tretola — may start to get rotated in sometime soon. — Paul Kuharsky

AFC WEST

Broncos coach Gary Kubiak has hinted at it before, but Thursday he finally made it official. In the search for the team’s starting quarterback, how things go in the preseason games will have a big impact on who is gets the job. Kubiak is testing each quarterback’s knowledge and the ability to get the team in and out of the huddle. He also wants to see how they handle things at the line of scrimmage. But Kubiak put aside any thought that the team would pick a starter without seeing the three — Mark Sanchez, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch — handle the business of a game. So, that could mean the Broncos don’t name a starter for another two weeks or so. — Jeff Legwold

The Chiefs expect new quarterback Nick Foles at practice for the first time on Friday. Foles might need a refresher course, but he should be familiar with Andy Reid’s offensive system. He played for Reid with the Eagles for one season (2012), and Reid has a well-deserved reputation for helping quarterbacks resurrect their careers. — Adam Teicher

First-round draft pick Karl Joseph, who tore the ACL in his right knee last fall at West Virginia and missed Oakland’s offseason training program while rehabbing the injury, sat out Thursday’s padded practice for undisclosed reasons. The strong safety had practiced every day prior to Thursday and spent much of the day working with a trainer in the team’s weight room. — Paul Gutierrez

After three days of fully padded practices, the Chargers will hit the field in just helmets and jerseys on Friday as they get ready for Saturday’s FanFest at Qualcomm Stadium, the team’s annual controlled scrimmage. Chargers coach Mike McCoy praised the play of the receivers and defensive backs on Thursday. “We’ll be in shells tomorrow, so I wanted to make sure that I pushed them today, and have a championship level of play for an extended time today,” he said. — Eric D. Williams

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