As the 2020 NFL draft approaches and free agency slows to a trickle, the league’s offseason programs are right around the corner. If team activities are reduced or canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, it will have a far-reaching impact on rosters.
With five new head coaches on the sidelines and quarterbacks Tom Brady and Philip Rivers leading a parade of big-name players who have changed teams, many newcomers across the NFL will be itching to settle in with their new franchises.
A compressed offseason means less time for coaching staffs to teach new schemes and establish their culture, less time for players to study new playbooks, show the staff they have rebounded from offseason surgery or maybe dig their way out of the doghouse.
The NFL postponed offseason training activities indefinitely last month, so the NFL Nation reporters have pinpointed the players who might be hurt the most by this unprecedented offseason schedule.
ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN
CLE | DAL | DEN | DET | GB | HOU | IND
JAX | KC | LV | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN
NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF
SEA | TB | TEN | WSH
Wide receiver Stefon Diggs
Bills general manager Brandon Beane said he traded for Diggs because he believes the receiver could acclimate quickly to Buffalo’s offensive scheme. But knowledge of a scheme is one thing; chemistry with a new quarterback is another. Without an offseason to grow acquainted with each other, it could take Diggs and Josh Allen some time to build a connection — one the Bills are relying on as they look to make a deep playoff run in 2020. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Quarterback Josh Rosen
The Dolphins are almost certainly taking a quarterback in the first round of the draft, but no Dolphins player will be affected by a compressed offseason more than Rosen. Chan Gailey will be Rosen’s fourth NFL offensive coordinator as he heads into Year 3, and if he’s to remain a Dolphin, Rosen would benefit from as many reps as he can get in the new system. He’s also at a disadvantage against Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is very familiar with Gailey after having played for him with Buffalo and the New York Jets. Here’s a reminder that Rosen is 23 — younger than possible No. 1 draft pick Joe Burrow — but coming off two disastrous seasons to start his NFL career. He struggled to learn the complexities of previous Dolphins coordinator Chad O’Shea’s scheme in 2019, and it made many inside the organization think that Rosen isn’t the guy long-term. — Cameron Wolfe
Quarterback Jarrett Stidham
The 2019 fourth-round draft pick has risen to the top of the depth chart with Tom Brady signing with Tampa Bay, and the Patriots need as much time as possible to evaluate his growth from his rookie season to Year 2 — when players usually make their most significant leap. Stidham has already impressed veterans such as Devin McCourty with his poise and maturity, and the more chances he has to build on that with all his teammates will be important as New England transitions to a post-Brady world. Furthermore, while Stidham’s intelligence is well documented, he’ll also need time to acclimate to some of the expected changes in offensive scheme to accentuate some of his strengths (e.g., mobility). — Mike Reiss
Center Connor McGovern (and the entire offensive line)
This is a tough year to overhaul an offensive line, the unit that requires the most reps to build chemistry. The Jets could have three new starters: McGovern, left tackle George Fant and right guard Greg Van Roten. It could be four if they draft a tackle with the No. 11 pick. If there’s no offseason program, it’ll be a big challenge to get the newcomers up to speed with the playbook. The biggest burden will fall on McGovern, who, as the center, will be the “quarterback” of the line. — Rich Cimini
Rookie middle linebacker
The Ravens could be one of the teams least affected by a changed offseason, because they bring back both coordinators and all but three starters. The one spot where Baltimore could look for an inexperienced player to step up is in the middle of the defense. After Josh Bynes and Patrick Onwuasor left in free agency, the expectation is the Ravens will use a first-round pick on a middle linebacker if LSU’s Patrick Queen or Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray is there. If there is a reduced training camp, the Ravens might have to lean more heavily on L.J. Fort than a rookie at middle linebacker early in the regular season. — Jamison Hensley
Stephen A. Smith makes a case for why the Bengals shouldn’t draft Tua Tagovailoa over Joe Burrow with the first overall pick in the NFL draft.
Quarterback Joe Burrow?
For months, the LSU quarterback has been pegged as Cincinnati’s selection with the No. 1 overall pick. Assuming that happens, he will be hit hardest by the altered offseason programs because it will delay his acclimation to his new squad. Being a rookie in the NFL is already hard enough. That task becomes even more difficult without a full offseason. — Ben Baby
Quarterback Baker Mayfield
As he prepares to play for his fourth head coach and third offensive coordinator over the past three years, Mayfield is facing the challenge of learning yet another offense. Now he’ll have to do it without the benefit of a normal offseason, which should only increase the learning curve in what will be a pivotal third season in the NFL. — Jake Trotter
Quarterback Mason Rudolph
With Ben Roethlisberger still rehabbing his elbow, Rudolph was slated to get the majority of the first-team reps in the offseason programs. It’s not only a chance for him to show his progress after his own offseason surgery to repair his shoulder, but it would also be a chance for him to work with new QBs coach Matt Canada. The Steelers didn’t have a dedicated quarterbacks coach last season, and it showed when two young players had to take over for Roethlisberger. The organization has expressed confidence in Rudolph as the No. 2, and guidance from Canada would give Rudolph a chance to develop further and show more of his potential. — Brooke Pryor
Rookie wide receiver
Houston is expected to draft a receiver with one of its early picks — the Texans don’t have a first-round selection but have two in the second round — and whomever it is will be expected to replace a lot of the production the Texans would have received from three-time All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins. Houston wants Will Fuller to be its No. 1 receiver if he can stay healthy, which is already one significant question mark, and it wouldn’t help an incoming rookie with high expectations to have a shortened time to develop chemistry with quarterback Deshaun Watson. — Sarah Barshop
Mike Wells previews what a Philip Rivers and Frank Reich team looks like, but admits Rivers isn’t a long-term solution at QB, suggesting the Colts keep an eye out for Jalen Hurts in the upcoming draft.
Quarterback Philip Rivers
Rivers, the Colts’ new starting quarterback after signing a one-year, $25 million contract, already knows 80-85% of Frank Reich’s offense, according to the coach, but what he doesn’t have is continuity with his new teammates. Rivers needs to develop a relationship on and off the field with wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight end Jack Doyle and will be playing behind one of the NFL’s best offensive lines. The Colts will likely also add at least one receiver in the draft. The throwing aspect is key for Rivers, particularly after a season when he threw 20 interceptions, third most in the NFL. — Mike Wells
Quarterback Gardner Minshew
Really, any offensive player, because they’re all having to learn new coordinator Jay Gruden’s system, but it’s always imperative that the quarterback knows the system better than anybody. One of Minshew’s strengths is his football IQ. He learned three offenses while in college and picked up coach Mike Leach’s complicated system in a few months and led the nation in passing as a senior at Washington State. But offenses — and defenses — are more complex in the NFL, and the second-year player needs on-field time. — Michael DiRocco
Wide receiver Corey Davis
Almost every player on the Titans’ offense saw a spike when Ryan Tannehill took over at quarterback. That wasn’t the case for Davis, who, for whatever reason, was not able to connect with Tannehill even though he was getting open. Tannehill admitted to missing him at times. Passing camps, OTAs and minicamp would provide the ideal situation for Davis and Tannehill to work on developing a better connection. — Turron Davenport
Quarterback Drew Lock
And it’s no contest. Sure, Lock started the last five games of the season in 2019 and the Broncos went 4-1 in those games. But the Broncos have a new offensive coordinator (Pat Shurmur) and quarterbacks coach (Mike Shula), so Lock enters what would be his first full season as a starter with a new playbook, the prospect of very little offseason work at the team’s facility and possibly no OTAs or minicamps at all. He is working through the playbook remotely, but he will have to make much of his progress on his own. — Jeff Legwold
Defensive end Breeland Speaks
He missed all of last season after having surgery for a torn MCL and meniscus damage. Speaks did have the benefit of offseason practice and some of training camp, but could have used the instruction that this year’s offseason would have provided. — Adam Teicher
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said Tyrod Taylor is in the driver’s seat to win the starting job, but added that no final decision will be made until training camp. No offseason means that Taylor could have a leg up on any incoming rookie quarterback, who surely would suffer without the experience of an offseason program. However, regardless of whether it’s Taylor or a rookie who is named starter, it’s a less than ideal situation for a Chargers offense that is in search of an identity following Philip Rivers’ departure. — Lindsey Thiry
Quarterback Marcus Mariota
Yes, we realize he was signed to be Derek Carr’s backup. “First and foremost,” Mariota told KHON-TV, “this is Derek’s team, and I understand that.” But at $7.5 million guaranteed for 2020, much is expected out of a guy who is accustomed to being a starter. Especially with how much general manager Mike Mayock and coach Jon Gruden like Mariota and his skill set. So, with the complication and nuance of Gruden’s offense on the table, Mariota needs every rep possible, every face-to-face meeting allowable, to get himself up and running for a new team. Just in case. — Paul Gutierrez
Quarterback Dak Prescott
His status for the offseason program was unknown anyhow considering he was given the exclusive franchise tag, but any absence for any reason will affect how quickly Prescott and new coach Mike McCarthy can get on the same page. The good news is that the offense with coordinator Kellen Moore is largely staying the same, with some language tweaks brought in by McCarthy. Prescott will not have to learn new concepts, but how that will be relayed will change. Without an offseason to get together in person, that could impact how well the Cowboys play offensively whenever the season starts. — Todd Archer
Quarterback Daniel Jones
It’s really the entire offense. Jones just so happens to be the figurehead. The Giants have to learn a new offense under coordinator Jason Garrett. It will be one thing for Jones to get the playbook and put in the time in the classroom. Still, he’s a second-year quarterback digesting a new scheme. Not having any time on the field to apply what he’s learned will be costly. There really is no substitute for a quarterback who remains in the infant stages of his development. — Jordan Raanan
Safety Jalen Mills
The Eagles re-signed Mills this offseason with the intention of moving him to safety, where he’s expected to take over for Malcolm Jenkins. Mills knows Jim Schwartz’s scheme well but hasn’t played safety since college. Extended training at the position this offseason would greatly benefit both Mills and the defense overall. There could be some real growing pains if he has to just dive right in. — Tim McManus
Quarterback Dwayne Haskins
After learning a complicated West Coast system as a rookie, Haskins now must shift gears and learn a second offense in Year 2. And do it without the benefit of coaching for most, if not all, of the offseason. Haskins is trying to help himself by throwing passes based on the routes run by Carolina’s receivers over the past two years under Norv Turner to get a sense of the offense Turner’s son, Scott, will run in Washington. Haskins has watched film of the Panthers and is working with a quarterbacks coach who has familiarity with this system. He can always pick the brain of newly acquired Kyle Allen, who spent the past two years with Carolina. Haskins will enter camp as the starter, but it’ll take a lot of continued work to make sure he’s ready. — John Keim
Dan Orlovsky still believes in Mitchell Trubisky and hopes he rises up and remains Chicago’s franchise QB.
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky
Trubisky must show serious improvement to fend off veteran Nick Foles, whom the Bears owe $21 million in guarantees. How can Trubisky truly improve without a full offseason program? Good question. Trubisky’s uneven play last season forced Chicago to trade its fourth-round compensatory pick to Jacksonville for Foles, a former Super Bowl MVP who played under Bears coach Matt Nagy in Philadelphia and Kansas City. Chicago’s faith in Trubisky is clearly shaken. Not having an opportunity to work with teammates and coaches in the offseason will not help the former No. 2 overall pick get back in the organization’s good graces. — Jeff Dickerson
Right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai
The Lions’ new right tackle is going to be jumping into a full-time starting role for really the first time in his career at a position where meshing with your linemates is crucial. It’s unclear at this point who is going to be playing right guard, and the spring practice time — whether it’s next to a rotating group of veterans or a rookie Detroit drafts to potentially win the right-guard job — will be sorely missed in terms of continuity. Vaitai should be able to handle it after being asked to fill in for Philadelphia’s tackles over the years, but the added reps would benefit him greatly. Of course, any early draft picks would also fit into this question — particularly if Detroit takes cornerback Jeff Okudah in the first round. — Michael Rothstein
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers
No, Rodgers doesn’t need the physical reps. He’s done everything he ever needed to do 10 times over, but this was going to be an offseason of mental growth for him and second-year coach Matt LaFleur in order to take the offense to another level. Remember what GM Brian Gutekunst said shortly after the season: “Really excited to see what he can do in Year 2. I know Matt talks a lot about Matt Ryan and what he did in Year 2 [when LaFleur was his QBs coach]. Obviously Aaron has played at an elite level a long time. Seeing what [Rodgers] did in Year 1 with Matt, I’m just really excited where the offense and him can go.” — Rob Demovsky
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Rookie offensive linemen
The whole offensive line needs to improve, and a compressed offseason hurts the younger players — particularly the rookies Minnesota might draft — in their development and ability to make an impact in Year 1. Brian O’Neill and Garrett Bradbury struggled at times as rookies but were able to make important contributions thanks in part to the work they were able to do in May and June. Not having that time in an NFL weight-training program hurts rookie offensive linemen the most as they transition from college to the pros. An offseason workout program would also allow the Vikings to tinker with various moves on the O-line, like possibly trying Riley Reiff out on the interior, moving Pat Elflein from left guard to right guard and seeing what kind of role Dru Samia can handle. If the NFL goes directly from the draft to training camp, it’s possible the Vikings’ O-line won’t be able to experiment as much as it would have hoped for and will have to roll with whatever combination is the most ready in Week 1. — Courtney Cronin
Tight end Hayden Hurst
The Falcons acquired Hurst from Baltimore to replace two-time Pro Bowler Austin Hooper. One thing that really benefited Hooper was spending offseason time with quarterback Matt Ryan to develop chemistry. Hurst surely would benefit from any added time with Ryan, so seeing those reps taken away would be a setback. New Falcons running back Todd Gurley, like Hurst, has to adjust to a new offensive scheme, but limiting Gurley’s offseason reps with his left knee issues probably is a good thing. — Vaughn McClure
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
While the free-agent signee is familiar with what new offensive coordinator Joe Brady wants to do after spending a year with him in New Orleans, Bridgewater still has to adjust fully to this new system and to the new players around him, and vice versa. This offense is all about timing, and the time missed only delays getting that to the level Bridgewater & Co. need to be effective out of the gate. — David Newton
Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders
Sanders should be fine, regardless. He’s a savvy veteran who has made the Super Bowl with three different teams, and he didn’t miss a beat despite a midseason trade from the Broncos to the 49ers last year. Still, if you want to become a new go-to guy for quarterback Drew Brees, it would help to spend as much time as possible getting in sync with Brees and the Saints’ offense this summer. — Mike Triplett
Quarterback Tom Brady
Coach Bruce Arians said he sees some similarities between the Bucs’ and Patriots’ playbooks, but Brady will still need time to adjust to different personnel. “Julian Edelman runs certain routes and Chris Godwin runs certain routes and they’re very similar, but they are different people,” Arians said. “That part is going to be the harder part — getting them together. … As soon as it’s safe to do all that, I’m sure they’re going to do it on their own.” Arians added that he too has to get to know Brady, but they can do that collaboration electronically. — Jenna Laine
Matthew Berry explains why he believes DeAndre Hopkins will have more difficulties being targeted with the likes of Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk sharing the field with him.
Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins
His talent is without dispute, but learning Kliff Kingsbury’s scheme won’t be easy — just ask Larry Fitzgerald. Last season, Fitzgerald relied on quarterback Kyler Murray during OTAs and minicamps to learn the intricacies of the scheme. Without those practices or if they’re truncated, Hopkins will have to learn on the fly or take more of a “mental reps” approach. While the veteran will be able to make up for what he doesn’t know with ability, there’s a chance he’ll be behind the curve once the offense hits the ground running in Week 1. — Josh Weinfuss
Running back Darrell Henderson
Todd Gurley is gone and the Rams’ offense must find a way to win without him. The majority of Gurley’s load could fall on Henderson, a third-round pick in 2019 from Memphis. Last season, Henderson played in 13 games, but was on the field for only 13% of the offensive snaps, as he rushed for 147 yards on 39 carries. The second-year pro would undoubtedly benefit from an offseason program to further his development as he prepares to step into a feature-back role. — Lindsey Thiry
Rookie defensive tackles, wide receivers
To-be-determined early draft picks. The Niners have a lot of continuity with their roster and their coaching staff, bringing back all of their coordinators and most of the players from their NFC championship team. But they did lose star defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and veteran wideout Emmanuel Sanders. Neither has an obvious, accomplished replacement and the 49ers didn’t acquire any in free agency, which means they will have to do it in the draft. San Francisco owns the Nos. 13 and 31 picks in the first round, and whether those picks are made at receiver, defensive tackle or elsewhere, whoever comes in will be asked to contribute early. That’s a task that will be made more difficult in a condensed timeline, particularly for a receiver hoping to learn coach Kyle Shanahan’s intricate offensive system. — Nick Wagoner
Cornerback Quinton Dunbar
Along with having to learn a new defense, Dunbar will have to adjust to the Seahawks’ specific style of play at cornerback. The step-kick technique coach Pete Carroll has his cornerbacks use was especially difficult for Cary Williams to pick up in 2015. Some veteran cornerbacks have had less trouble, and Dunbar should have a head start as he said he has some experience already with the step kick. — Brady Henderson