Sweat and Young were noticeably absent during OTAs this year. As Ron Rivera noted in his press conference before today's practice, that portion of the offseason is voluntary, so both were within their rights to work out on their own time to prepare for the 2023 season.
What's more important is that both players are here now, and Rivera is happy to see them in the building and suited up.
"Just expect them to come in and just fit right in, assimilate to what we're doing," Rivera said. "Understand that we've changed some things. We've changed the way we do things, we changed our process and I'm excited to see them as they as they work."
So how did both of them look today? Well, let's dive into that and some other observations from today's practice.
-- Let's start out with Young. Rivera said he wanted to see the defensive end "pick up where he left off," and Young did exactly that. Although the next three days are technically the "minicamp" portion of the offseason, there's not much difference in terms of contact and on-field activity. But Young was a full participant today and looked disruptive and explosive. He looked crisp during individual drills, and he rushed the pass effectively during the blitz period of practice. Rivera said Young would "absolutely" be in the starting lineup, and sure enough, he was out there with Sweat, Jonathan Allen and *Daron Payne. *
There's still plenty of work to be done between now and the regular season, but Young looks the part. That's all we can ask at this point in the year, when fully padded practices and the season are months away.
-- Much of what was said of Young can be said of Sweat. He didn't have an injury history like Young for people to ask questions about, but reporters were still curious to see how he would perform. To not much surprise, Sweat looked as productive as ever during team drills. He and Payne executed stunts to perfection during blitz drills. On one play, that allowed Sweat to get free and would have possibly gotten a sack on Sam Howell had the drill been at full speed.
-- One more note on the defensive line: Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp was at practice today and provided some tips to Allen and his teammates throughout the day. Sapp was in Ashburn, Virginia, last year to help instruct the defensive line, and it's never a bad thing to get some advice from one of the best defensive linemen in NFL history.
-- Here are a couple of thoughts on the receivers during individual drills today: Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel and Zion Bowens all showed good footwork working on sideline catches today with all three managing to keep both feet in bounds before securing the catch.
-- The usual suspects looked impressive during 11-on-11, 7-on-7 and blitz drills today, but one person who stood out more than others was veteran Marcus Kemp, who had back-to-back catches to cap off the first series with the starters. On one play, he left Emmanuel Forbes running in the other direction as he made the catch before heading out of bounds.
-- There were a couple of nice grabs from the backups and third-string players today. John Bates palmed a pass from Jacoby Brissett with one-hand before securing it and turning up field. Meanwhile, Mitchell Tinsley laid out for a pass from Jake Fromm, resulting in a decent gain downfield.
-- Howell looked solid for the majority of practice, completing 15-of-24 passes in 11-on-11, 7-on-7 and blitz drills. The only rough spot came around the middle practice, when he was 1-of-5 with an interception. It was an impressive play by Khaleke Hudson, who managed to corral the ball away from the receiver before running down the sideline. And for those who missed Young's energy cheering on his teammates, he was among the loudest of the defensive players cheering Hudson on after the pick.