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What We Learned from 'Back Together Weekend' Sunday

For the third year in a row, all 32 NFL teams kicked off training camp by holding practices with club-led fan events, and NFL Network, NFL+ and provided complete coverage through Back Together Weekend on Saturday and Sunday. Eric Edholm provided his takeaways below from Sunday's camp offerings.

1) Tua feels healthier, confident after injury-filled 2022. For those who paid attention, the Tua Tagovailoa-led Miami Dolphins were a dangerous offense last season. The problem? Tagovailoa wasn't always leading the team, missing four games in 2022, along with Miami's playoff loss in Buffalo.

It's possible to talk Tua without talking injuries, which have followed him back to his college days at Alabama. But it has been a few recent injuries -- most notably, his concussions -- which have raised the question of whether Tagovailoa can make it through a full season.

Those health questions, however, do not exist in Tua's own mind.

"I believe my confidence level is 100 percent," Tagovailoa told NFL Network's Scott Hanson on NFL+ on Sunday. "I think that I've done all that I could this offseason to prepare, to train for things that could happen, could come up during the season. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. As much as you prepare, there's freak accidents that could still happen and things like that. So, I will tell you I feel 100 percent, I feel very confident knowing that my preparation this offseason is gonna help me going into this season as far as injuries are concerned."

One way Tagoviloa has attempted to prevent head injuries has been by taking jiu-jitsu classes this offseason. In fact, Tagovailoa said the Dolphins have even adopted some jiu-jitsu throughout camp.

"What it entails is basically teaching you how to fall," Tagovailoa said. "There's correct ways to fall just like there's correct ways to throw a ball, just like there's correct ways to do anything you're trying to learn. That's basically what it was.

"Outside of that, learning your body position, understanding your body more, sort of getting more flexible. You got to stretch a lot -- did some yoga as well this offseason. So, I would say, outside of all that, (it's) just been (about) really preparing my body for whatever the season is going to entail for us to stay healthy."

The Dolphins signed Mike White this offseason to upgrade the backup QB spot. But if all goes well, Tagovailoa hopes to remain healthy and start every game in a season for the first time since his sophomore year at Alabama in 2018. He believes Mike McDaniel's offense -- which ranked second in yards per play, even with Tagovailoa missing almost a fourth of the season -- can be even better this year.

"I think we can be really dangerous," Tagovailoa said. "I say that because this is the second year we're here as an offense together -- not learning a different playbook, understanding where these guys are going to be, them understanding where they need to be.

"Also, the communication is taken to another level because of the comfortability of us knowing the offense. I would say it's those guys getting each other open and those guys getting everyone else open, and then also with the run game and the pass game marrying up with each other."

2) Jalen Hurts talks body fat, turning the page on Super Bowl loss. On the surface, not much has changed for Jalen Hurts following a whirlwind offseason that saw him land a massive contract extension following the Eagles' loss in Super Bowl LVII.

But as Hurts explained Sunday to NFL Network's Jamie Erdahl and Mike Garafolo on NFL+, he's made some subtle changes to his body that he hopes yield even better long-term results. The fourth-year quarterback might weigh the same as he did last year but that doesn't mean things haven't changed with his conditioning.

"I'm around the same weight, weighing around 222 (pounds) every day when I step on the scale," Hurt said. "The difference is the 7.1 percent body fat."

Hurts explained that he didn't set out to have a major body transformation this offseason. It just sort of happened in conjunction within his preseason training.

"I think (it can be attributed to) conditioning and running and just pushing myself in those areas, and I always find ways to clear up my diet," Hurts explained. "I think there's a time in the offseason to really focus on that and then maintain it throughout the year."

Hurts also interestingly suggested his leaner frame is also part of his figuring out how best to preserve himself and prepare for each season ahead.

"You know, I'm still a young guy, still a young guy trying to figure out my way and learn what it is I want to do and what my process is, so that's a journey in itself," he said.

The Eagles are on their own journey as a team, with Hurts and head coach Nick Sirianni leading the way. Losing to the Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII remains a bitter pill whose aftertaste likely remains. Hurts spoke about how Sirianni's focus and intensity in camp has helped them turn the page on the past and focus on the season to come.

"I think after that game, I said, 'You either win or you learn,' and I think people look at failures or things like that as a negative thing, but it's about how you respond to it," Hurts said. "So there's a sense of urgency around here, and as a leader, you've got to have that sense of urgency, display those characteristics day in and day out, and I think he's doing a great job as a coach of doing that and trying to be intentional.

"I remember after all of the hype last year and the offseason we had coming into this year, everybody asked those same questions, and it's not about any of that. It's about what we desire and the effort we put in every day. Controlling the things we can, keeping the main thing the main thing every day, and attacking it."

3) Playbook isn't issue for rookie in battle to win Texans' QB1 job. The Houston Texans have not named a starting quarterback to date. But based on the heavy first-team usage of C.J. Stroud, it feels like the rookie will have every chance to win the job outright from the start.

Battling with Stroud for that spot, Davis Mills has started 26 games in his two NFL seasons. He led the league in interceptions last season with 15, and the Texans have only won five of his starts. That Houston used the No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft on Stroud also lowers Mills' margin for error.

They also have a new coaching staff in place. Head coach DeMeco Ryans is still keeping his trump card -- Who will start Week 1? -- under wraps for now, but he hasn't held back in his early praise of Stroud.

"C.J., the thing that's just impressed me the most is his dedication to being the best he can possibly be," Ryans said. "He puts the work in not only when he's here ... but what you see about C.J., the work in preparation that he does when he's not here, he's a true football junkie, he loves football, always watching football, always asking for extra cut-ups from our coaches, so I'm just impressed with the mental part of him and how much he loves the game of football."

Ryans said that has allowed Stroud to make strides from OTAs to now. Ryans pointed out that young quarterbacks can sometimes struggle mastering the playbook, confidently uttering the play calls and getting in and out of the huddle in a timely fashion.

"With college players now, a lot of it is everybody's looking to the sideline and they see a signal or picture and that's their play," Ryans said. "But here, we're asking them to operate from a huddle, which is new, get in and make play calls, which -- play calls can be long, there's a lot of different terminology there you have to learn. 

"So that, you just have to start off right, getting the command of the play call and getting the command of the huddle. Seeing him grow in that area has been really good. With the playbook, it hasn't been an issue. He knows his reads, his progressions, where he needs to go, he's making the proper decisions with the ball, so the playbook's not an issue at all."

4) Darren Waller carving out major role in Giants' offense. Sunday's training camp session was a reprise of what the Giants have seen early and often so far in previous practices: Waller making his impact felt in a big way.

The Giants landed Waller in a trade this offseason to help give a spark to an offense that lacked big-play ability and was a bit too field-goal dependent a year ago. So far, he appears to be doing just that.

While Waller was seen whipping first-round CB Deonte Banks in a one-on-one red-zone drill during the NFL+ cut-in to Giants practice, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero explained how New York views the Pro Bowler's role this season.

"On a team that you can argue doesn't have a true No. 1 wide receiver, they kind of do now," Pelissero said. "He just happens to be listed as a tight end."

That's the allure of the 6-foot-6, 245-pound Waller, who isn't known as an in-line blocker but has the length, strength and movement skills to add a new dimension to the Giants' offense. Health is a concern, as Waller has missed time each of the past two seasons, but in 2019 and 2020, we saw what a full-strength Waller can do when he was one of the Raiders' biggest difference makers.

Waller's impressive early start has been a welcome development. The Giants added a lot of bodies at wide receiver this offseason, but the position has been a bit thin with Sterling Shepard, Jamison Crowder, Cole Beasley and Wan’Dale Robinson all missing time to injury early in camp.

Giants head coach Brian Daboll teased Sunday that the team is giving Waller some different looks than he's received in the past.

"Just (using him on) different routes," Daboll said. "He's run a lot of different routes in his career, he's had a lot of different coaches. You can only run so many routes. I think there's (been) good give and take of how you run them, nuances to them. Body language for Daniel (Jones) to read him. We'll keep on grinding away at that."

NFL Network's Shaun O'Hara added a tantalizing bone for Giants fans to gnaw on until the preseason begins.

"He's been Daniel Jones' favorite target already in training camp," O'Hara said.

All signs point to a big role, one way or another, for the Giants' new tight end.

5) Dalton Kincaid enjoying eye-opening start to camp. No pads have been adorned to this point, but it's hard not to watch the Bills' young tight end Dalton Kincaid and be impressed with the way the rookie moves. He's smooth and fluid running routes in passing drills and looks like he's catching the ball very naturally.

Thankfully, his quarterback, Josh Allen, appears to agree. He told NFL Network's Michael Robinson on NFL+ that the rookie has opened some eyes with his ability, although he pumped the brakes on predicting first-year greatness.

"Yeah, he does such a great job of separating, and he's … going against some dudes now," Allen said on Sunday. "He's going against Micah Hyde and sometimes Tre White, and sometimes Taron Johnson in the slot."

Allen also suggested that those veterans have won their share of battles against the first-round pick, too, in the early going.

"He's getting baptized by fire right now," Allen said, "but I think he's doing a really good job. He understands his playbook. He's really smart."

Tight end is a notoriously slow-developing position, but the Bills have a great luxury with another tight end, Dawson Knox, who is established in his role and signed long-term. They have the ability to carve out a nice, streamlined role for Kincaid's receiving ability -- if he proves worthy in the coming days and months.

Allen seems to love the two-TE potential this Bills offense has, even if it's something that develops more gradually over time.

"(Kincaid) and Dawson are talking constantly, making sure that they're on the same page," Allen said. "Because I think they can complement each other so well, with Dawson and what he can do on some smaller guys using his size and speed, and then Dalton using the kind of shiftiness.

"So fitting him into our scheme, that's yet to be seen, and we're going to figure that out as the season goes along, but you can't help but be excited by what he brings to the table."

6) HOF Game plans for Jets, Browns come into focus. With Aaron Rodgers stealing the spotlight in Jets camp, it's easy to forget that there's another first-round quarterback there worth checking in on.

Zach Wilson has not lived up to expectations as the former No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but the Jets didn't just dump him to the highest bidder in the offseason. They brought him back, and Wilson seemingly embraced the idea of having Rodgers as a mentor. If there's a bright side to Wilson's setback, it's that he should get a chance to play quite a bit in August.

Rodgers, who hasn't played in the preseason since a brief appearance in 2018, will not see the field during Thursday's Hall of Fame Game against the Cleveland Browns. Jets head coach Robert Saleh also indicated that other starters such as wide receiver Garrett Wilson, who sustained a low-ankle sprain in Thursday's practice, and cornerback Sauce Gardner will not play.

Instead, Wilson is expected to start against the Browns, but he's not the only intriguing Jets player who will be watched closely in the game.

Former first-round offensive tackle Mekhi Becton, whose weight has become a subject of consternation the past few years, is expected to play. Becton reportedly showed up to camp in terrific shape, and he could play a big role this season for the Jets if he's healthy. The offensive tackle spot is one that felt like a concern entering camp.

The Jets are also expected to play 2023 first-rounder Will McDonald, who got off to a slow start in camp with a leg contusion. The injury luckily wasn't serious, and McDonald has since returned to practice. The pick felt like a surprise at the time, but the Jets believe McDonald can help add another layer of pass-rush talent.

Meanwhile, the Browns aren't likely to give starting QB Deshaun Watson extensive time -- if any -- against the Jets. Head coach Kevin Stefanski hasn't laid out the plan for Watson just yet, but he said another quarterback is expected to see "quite a bit" of time in the game.

Intriguing fifth-round QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, one of four signal-callers in Browns camp competing for jobs, is that guy. Thompson-Robinson is in a battle with Joshua Dobbs and Kellen Mond for the spots on the depth chart behind Watson.

"Yeah, I think (Thompson-Robinson has) had some good reps," Stefanski said Sunday. "I've been really pleased with that entire group. DTR is going to get to play quite a bit in this game, so we're just trying to get him ready to go as a rookie. So I think each one of his reps, he's taken advantage of them."

The Browns' biggest goal this season is getting Watson back on track after six uneven games with Cleveland a year ago. But they also know they need to solidify the position on the whole after losing 11-game starter Jacoby Brissett to Washington in free agency.

It's not clear whether the Browns will keep two or three quarterbacks on the initial 53-man roster, and they will have four preseason games to help make that decision.

Thompson-Robinson receiving extensive looks in the preseason opener isn't an indication that he's in the catbird seat for a roster spot. But it's a great opportunity for DTR, who had a strong college career at UCLA, to display his running and throwing ability in the first live-game action of the preseason.

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