Breakout Players from all 32 NFL Teams

via ESPN.com

So long, organized team activities and mandatory minicamps. Hello, NFL offseason. Players across the league broke for the summer on Thursday and will be away from their teams until training camps start in late July.

The biggest story from camps was about who wasn’t there — Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Donald, Le’Veon Bell and more stars opted to be away from their teams for most of the summer. For now, though, let’s focus on who was there.

We asked our NFL Nation reporters to pick an under-the-radar player — someone who opened eyes during workouts this offseason — to remember for every team:

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


NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys

Defensive tackle Jihad Ward

The Cowboys acquired Ward during the draft from the Raiders for wide receiver Ryan Switzer. A former second-round pick, Ward was a major disappointment for two seasons in Oakland, picking up one sack in 21 career games. The Cowboys were high on Ward coming into the 2016 draft because they coached him at the Senior Bowl. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli saw something in Ward that made him think he could be a valuable part of a rotation. It is difficult to judge line play in OTAs because players are not in pads, but Ward has shown the movement Marinelli likes, along with the right attitude. With Maliek Collins recovering from foot surgery and David Irving not practicing, Ward got a lot of work with the first team in the spring and has a chance to be a contributor during the season if he shows the same performance in training camp. — Todd Archer

New York Giants

Center Jon Halapio

It’s a name that most non-Giants die-hards would not even recognize. When Halapio has re-signed as an exclusive rights free agent this offseason, it was expected he would be a backup lineman. Instead, he has emerged as the first-team center with an extremely strong spring. Halapio finished last season well and it has carried over into summer workouts. His size, work ethic, and physicality have caught the Giants’ attention. — Jordan Raanan

Philadelphia Eagles

Cornerback De’Vante Bausby

The former undrafted free agent out of Pittsburg State has unexpectedly emerged as a candidate for the slot corner role vacated by Patrick Robinson, who signed with the Saints this offseason. Bausby has the physical traits — he’s 6-foot-2, 190 pounds and ran a wind-aided 4.22-second 40-yard dash at his pro day — but has played for three teams in as many years, appearing in just four games. The move from outside to nickel corner appears to be suiting Bausby well, however, as he has made some plays and opened some eyes while working with the first unit this spring. — Tim McManus

Washington Redskins

Wide receiver Trey Quinn

The current Mr. Irrelevant looks like he could one day be, well, relevant. Quinn has shown quickness out of his breaks and strong hands. He is best as a slot receiver, but the Redskins have Jamison Crowder in front of him. They’re hoping Quinn can learn other spots, too, but he’s best inside. “He’s a quiet assassin, and he just goes out there and is very detailed in his routes,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “Very quarterback-friendly target.” — John Keim


NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears

Wide receiver Kevin White

The seventh overall pick of the 2015 draft, White has played in only five career regular-season games because of an assortment of injuries, and the Bears earlier this offseason declined the fifth-year option on his contract. But White stayed healthy throughout Chicago’s offseason program, where he looked better than expected running routes in coach Matt Nagy’s West Coast offense. White still has to prove he can stay on the field for an entire season, but the Bears appear willing to give him one more chance. — Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions

Wide receiver Teo Redding

The undrafted rookie free agent from Bowling Green is no lock to make the roster, but he consistently has come up with big catches during minicamp practices and showed some flashes on special teams as well. While the Lions are set at the top of the receiver rotation, an undrafted free agent or two usually have a shot at a roster spot. There’s a lot that can happen between now and September, but if Detroit keeps five receivers, Redding is putting himself in position to have a real chance to compete for a place on the roster. — Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers

Running back Ty Montgomery

Just when you thought Montgomery might be phased out of the Packers’ offensive plans after the emergence last season of Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones, it looks like the converted receiver will get one more shot at a significant role in the offense. He has been a mainstay on the field in certain key packages — including the no-huddle and two-minute drills — during offseason practices. Coach Mike McCarthy admitted this offseason that he’ll probably favor a running-back-by-committee approach — at least until one back proves himself to be head and shoulders above the others — and at this point, there’s a decent chance Montgomery could still head that committee. — Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings

Wide receiver Laquon Treadwell

After a disappointing start to his NFL career in which he totaled 20 catches for 200 yards in two seasons, things appear to be looking up for the Vikings’ 2016 first-rounder. Treadwell spent spring workouts running with the first-team offense, a welcome sign for many who are hoping the 6-foot-2 receiver can finally turn the corner in his third season. It’s still too early to predict whether Treadwell will win the No. 3 receiver job, but the strides he has made this offseason on the field and personally — he has admitted to working smarter — are an important sign of growth. — Courtney Cronin


NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons

Tight end Eric Saubert

The 2017 fifth-round pick has done a nice job catching the ball so far this offseason. Granted, he’s not going up against the first-team defense, but Saubert will earn notice from the coaches if he continues to catch the ball along with carving a niche on special teams. Saubert played only 31 offensive snaps last season, with 10 coming in Week 17. — Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers

Safety Da’Norris Searcy

Searcy was available after losing his starting job in Tennessee last season, and he flew under the radar among Carolina’s offseason signings. But Searcy is slimmer and more fluid after a diet that, in his words, includes fewer Coronas. He has emerged as the front-runner to start opposite strong safety Mike Adams a position the Panthers didn’t address in the draft after releasing Kurt Coleman. “I watch him and Mike together, and I’ll tell you what, it’s like two old heads who have been together for awhile,” coach Ron Rivera said. — David Newton

New Orleans Saints

Defensive lineman Mitchell Loewen

This is cheating a little bit, since the undrafted third-year pro from Arkansas was actually one of the Saints’ sneaky surprises last summer, earning a spot on the 53-man roster before he went on injured reserve with an ankle injury suffered in Week 2. But once again, Loewen shouldn’t be overlooked. Even though the team isn’t practicing in pads yet, he has flashed a few times during OTAs and minicamp with would-be sacks and tackles for loss. And the 6-foot-5, 275-pounder has the versatility to play both tackle and end, which is one of the things the Saints liked about him a year ago. — Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Linebacker Adarius Taylor

Kendell Beckwith is recovering from ankle surgery after a car accident this offseason, and Taylor (formerly Glanton — he changed his name in April), has stepped in not just at Beckwith’s strongside linebacker position, but all three linebacker spots. What’s amazing about that is that Taylor suffered a fractured tibia and fibula in his left leg in December of last year. “When you go back and look at the injury Adarius had, it’s somewhat of a medical miracle that he’s out here practicing full speed,” coach Dirk Koetter said. “I’d say Adarius has really stepped up so far and is doing everything he can to help.” On the first day of minicamp, Taylor forced a Cameron Brate fumble during red zone drills. — Jenna Laine


NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals

Defensive end Benson Mayowa

Mayowa was signed as a free agent in April to be an insurance policy for the injured Markus Golden, who’s recovering from a torn ACL. All Mayowa has done is impressed through consistent play during OTAs and minicamp. He might find himself in a battle for playing time depending on how well Golden recovers from his injury. If Golden isn’t ready for a full load by Week 1, Mayowa might be able to get playing time early in the season opposite Chandler Jones.Josh Weinfuss

Los Angeles Rams

Linebacker Cory Littleton

A former undrafted free agent in 2016, Littleton took the place this offseason of former team captain Alec Ogletree at inside linebacker. Littleton demonstrated to the staff in limited playing time in 2017 that he had the ability to be a playmaker. Coach Sean McVay said Littleton “immediately stepped in” during the offseason program and that he has done a “great job communicating” in a position that requires a leader. — Lindsey Thiry

San Francisco 49ers

Wide receiver Kendrick Bourne

Unfazed by the addition of drafted rookie receivers Dante Pettis and Richie James, Bourne has been one of the most consistent pass-catchers for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the offseason program. Bourne made the team as an undrafted free agent last year and finished with 16 catches for 257 yards. The knock on him has been that he doesn’t have great speed, but he has looked a bit faster in the spring. Garoppolo recently called Bourne “deceptively fast” while noting that he also “has some wiggle to him.” Although Marquise Goodwin and Pierre Garcon aren’t in danger of losing their starting spots, Bourne looks like a player who has a chance to not only win a roster spot again but potentially push for an expanded role in 2018. — Nick Wagoner

Seattle Seahawks

Running back Chris Carson

Even though Carson began last season as the starter, he should qualify as under the radar because of what has happened since then — a leg/ankle injury that ended his rookie season a month in, and the Seahawks spending their first-round pick on another running back, Rashaad Penny. Carson has been the most impressive of any running back this summer, and general manager John Schneider has said that at times Carson looks like the best player on the field. After adding 10 pounds of muscle, Carson was the first name that coach Pete Carroll mentioned when asked which player impressed him the most in terms of the shape he was in when he reported back for offseason work. It’ll make for an interesting battle for the starting job. — Brady Henderson


AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills

Quarterback Nathan Peterman

The 2017 fifth-round pick was an afterthought at best and a laughingstock at worst after his five-interception performance against the Chargers last season, but Peterman should be considered a serious contender for the starting job in Buffalo. He has rotated daily with AJ McCarron to lead the first-team offense, with rookie Josh Allen starting in minicamp to see periodic time with that group. Peterman has looked sharp, including Tuesday at minicamp, when he completed 10 of 13 passes in 11-on-11 drills and ended practice with a touchdown. — Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins

Wide receiver Albert Wilson

The Dolphins signed Wilson to a three-year, $24 million contract this offseason and believe he can be effective in a variety of alignments in the offense. According to The Miami Herald, Dolphins receivers coach Ben Johnson said during minicamp of Wilson: “It’s been impressive to me to see him come in, pick up this system and learn these fundamentals that he wasn’t really doing the same thing in Kansas City. He’s really done a nice job the past two weeks.” — Mike Rodak

New England Patriots

Cornerback J.C. Jackson

The undrafted free agent from Maryland, who was wearing No. 65 (Bill Belichick has yet to give permanent numbers to rookies), received significant repetitions opposite Stephon Gilmore with what would be considered the team’s top defense. That’s the spot previously occupied by Malcolm Butler, and Jackson seemed to account well for himself with multiple pass breakups. Veterans Eric Rowe and Jason McCourty are expected to compete for that job, along with first-year player Ryan Lewis, who spent last year on the practice squad and whose physical approach at the line of scrimmage is notable. As for Jackson, he was viewed by some draft analysts as a mid-round pick based on his talent, but significant off-field issues early in his college career might have contributed to him going undrafted. — Mike Reiss

New York Jets

Wide receiver Chad Hansen

After a nondescript rookie season in which he caught only nine passes in 321 offensive snaps, Hansen is one of the most improved players on the team. He looks stronger and faster than last year. The former fourth-round pick from Cal isn’t thinking as much, allowing him to be more fluid. With a good preseason, he will play his way into a prominent role. — Rich Cimini


AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens

Wide receiver Chris Moore

While most of the attention has been on the additions to the passing game, Moore is showing staying power by making some of the best catches in offseason practices. He still sits behind Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead on the depth chart, but he has created a niche as a downfield threat and kickoff returner. A fourth-round pick in 2016, Moore believes he has improved his route running and his feel for coverages. — Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

Wide receiver John Ross

This shouldn’t be a surprise, as Ross was a first-round pick just last year. But after a year of injuries, disappointments and a total of only 15 offensive snaps, it’s a fair question to wonder if Ross will live up to the hype of being the No. 9 overall pick. Ross is now healthy and able to fully participate in OTAs and minicamp, and he was able to show off a variety of routes at different lengths. He’s got a long way to go, but it’s a big first step. — Katherine Terrell

Cleveland Browns

Cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun

Boddy-Calhoun is the last man standing for the Browns, the only corner not jettisoned from a winless team. Pro Football Focus raved about his play in 2017, and he’s now working at safety as well as corner. The Browns added four corners in the offseason via trade or the draft, but Boddy-Calhoun is doing all he can to earn a spot. — Pat McManamon

Pittsburgh Steelers

Linebacker Tyler Matakevich

Throughout OTAs, Matakevich assumed the starting inside linebacker job opposite Vince Williams. The free agent signing of Jon Bostic hasn’t fazed Matakevich, who is holding him off in an attempt to replace Ryan Shazier. The former seventh-round pick doesn’t have great speed, but he has the instincts for the position and plays with an edge. He has shown that this offseason. — Jeremy Fowler


AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans

Wide receiver Keke Coutee

The rookie fourth-round pick might be the Texans’ answer in the slot. It’s early, but Coutee has stood out among the young receiving corps, impressing DeAndre Hopkins with his improvement since the start of OTAs. The Texans have tried to start 2016 third-round pick Braxton Miller in the slot for two seasons, but Coutee could win the job during training camp. — Sarah Barshop

Indianapolis Colts

Cornerback Kenny Moore

It seemed like it would be a foregone conclusion that Pierre Desir and Quincy Wilson had the inside track on the starting cornerback jobs. Moore, however, proved during offseason workouts and at minicamp that he deserves to be in the mix for a starting job. He went from being primarily a special teams player to starting five games as a rookie because of injury problems. He used that playing time to his advantage because the Colts like his physicality and his ability to play on the outside and in the slot. Moore has even been learning to play safety. — Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars

Wide receiver Rashad Greene

The Jaguars’ fifth-round pick in 2015 made a splash as a punt returner as a rookie but played in only eight games the past two seasons (none in 2017) because of injuries He’s the forgotten guy when everyone talks about the receivers and was going to have to be very impressive in the spring and at camp to have a shot at making the top six. He has done the first part because he has been the most consistent and best receiver during OTAs and at mandatory minicamp. He has lined up outside and in the slot and has consistently gotten open. — Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans

Cornerback LeShaun Sims

Sims is the quietest guy in the locker room — a role that has earned him the nickname “Mouse” — but he has played like a lion this offseason. He has routinely locked up receivers with his length and strength. The 2016 fifth-round pick has a number of pass breakups and made an acrobatic interception in minicamp that was called back by penalty. The Titans upgraded their cornerback group by adding Malcolm Butler, which will likely push Sims to the No. 4 CB role. But Sims’ play so far this offseason backs up the Titans claim that they can field one of the NFL’s deepest and best secondaries. — Cameron Wolfe


AFC WEST

Denver Broncos

Wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton

The Broncos have high expectations for the rookie fourth-round pick, who finished his career at Penn State as the school’s all-time leader in receptions, especially because they saw his work up close at the Senior Bowl. And Hamilton just might have been the most proficient route runner on the draft. He showed that in the team’s on-field work this summer. He was physical, strong to the ball, showed consistently reliable hands, and his routes were spot on. Hamilton is going to play plenty — or at least he should — in the season to come along with fellow rookie wide receiver Courtland Sutton. — Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs

Offensive lineman Ryan Hunter

The Chiefs have given the undrafted rookie a look in their starting lineup at left guard during offseason practice. That the Chiefs are already seeing how much Hunter can handle speaks well for his chance of making the team and eventually contributing even more. — Adam Teicher

Los Angeles Chargers

Wide receiver Artavis Scott

A teammate of 2017 first-round pick Mike Williams at Clemson, Scott went undrafted last year and spent the entire season on the Bolts’ practice squad. Well, it looks like Scott was paying attention because he made several splashes plays during offseason work and has a chance to compete for a job as a returner this season. Scott finished his college career as Clemson’s all-time reception leader with 245 catches for 2,480 receiving yards and 20 total touchdowns. — Eric D. Williams

Oakland Raiders

Defensive tackle Maurice Hurst

Sure, Hurst was ranked by Pro Football Focus as the No. 3 overall prospect in the 2018 draft, but a heart condition that got him sent home from the combine scared off enough teams that the first-round talent fell to the Raiders in the fifth round. Hurst has been more than a pleasant surprise for Oakland in that he is running with the first-team defense in its 4-3 base at left defensive tackle (last year’s starter, Eddie Vanderdoes, is rehabbing from a torn ACL) and has starred in the offseason. Beating All-Pro Kelechi Osemele when he flipped sides not only opened the eyes of the coaches but also got the attention of Osemele, who gave the rookie the, ahem, business. — Paul Gutierrez

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