How are Alabama football rookies faring in NFL? Why Steelers have to tell Najee Harris to go home

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

Offseason practices and minicamps have wrapped up across the NFL.

Here’s a look at rumblings about each Alabama football rookie with training camp about a month away.  

QB Mac Jones, Patriots

Jones appears set to compete for a starting spot with incumbent Cam Newton.

ESPN’s Mike Reiss, who has covered the Patriots for nearly 25 years, wrote: “It seems safe to say there isn’t another rookie quarterback over the past 21 years who is as far along as Jones is in the system this fast.”

Jones went through drills second behind Newton during minicamp. The coaching staff tested the rookie to see how much of the load he could take, and Reiss said Jones appeared to have aced that part of the test.

Jones experienced growing pains, though. One day this spring, Jones had a three-play span in which he threw two interceptions, one off a floated throw and the other tipped at the line of scrimmage.

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RB Najee Harris, Steelers

Harris has worked so hard so far that the Steelers coaching staff has had to tell him to go home.  

Running backs coach Eddie Faulkner said Harris must learn how to take a deep breath.

“He has to learn how to give himself breaks,” Faulkner said on a Zoom call. “He works his butt off.” 

And he impresses teammates daily. Former Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick said on Safety Blitz with Rodney Harrison that Harris is challenging the defense.  

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WR Jaylen Waddle, Dolphins

Waddle and Tua Tagovailoa are back at it.

At one point during a two-minute drill, Tagovailoa hit Waddle on a crossing route that resulted in a 60-yard touchdown.

Waddle seems to still be dealing with the lingering effects from his ankle, injury, though. He walked with a limp at times when the media was present, according to the  Sun Sentinel.

WR DeVonta Smith, Eagles

Better than advertised might be the proper description if you ask Eagles coach Nick Sirianni about Smith’s performance so far.

“I just thought he showed excellent, excellent ability to change directions at the top of the route,” Sirianni said. “Even better than what I saw on tape, to be 100% honest with you.”

TE Miller Forristall, Titans

Forristall joins a tight end group that has more questions than answers, which means there’s an opportunity. Titans coach Mike Vrabel said they won’t make determinations about the position until training camp, according to The Tennessean’s Ben Arthur.

OT Alex Leatherwood, Raiders

Coach Jon Gruden said at minicamp they’re counting on Leatherwood to fill the right tackle spot.

“He’s very smart, very athletic, he’s long,” Gruden said. “He’s a talented player.”

OL Deonte Brown, Panthers

Brown has never lacked size at guard. The Panthers are working with him to make sure that’s an effective size.

Brown measured at 6-foot-3 ¼, 364 pounds at the Senior Bowl. Brown told Panthers.com he weighed in at 347 initially at rookie minicamp. Panthers coach Matt Rhule said they want him to be in the 330s but he might end up being a 340-pound guy.

“I don’t think he’s ever going to be a 310-pound guy,” Rhule said. “That’s just not who he is. He’s a big powerful man.”

OL Landon Dickerson, Eagles

Dickerson is still recovering from an ACL injury, but Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland spoke highly of him.

Stoutland said he knows Dickerson can do the important things: displace big guys up front, anchor and keep the pocket firm.

As for improvement …

“I want to see this guy accelerate his feet on contact,” Stoutland said. “When contact is made, I want to see his feet going.”

DL Christian Barmore, Patriots

Barmore is already proving he belongs in the NFL.

Mike Dussault of Patriots.com wrote Barmore “already looks like a handful for veteran NFL offensive linemen.”

Barmore’s quickest path to getting on the field appears to be through his ability to provide an interior rush.  

LB Dylan Moses, Jaguars

Moses might have to be patient in Jacksonville. He projects to play the same position as one of Jacksonville’s best defensive players, Myles Jack.

“Where Moses eventually could fit remains to be seen and figures to be a long-term issue,” Jaguars.com’s John Oehser wrote. “In the short-term, I’d see him as a special teams player and reserve. Stay tuned.”

DB Patrick Surtain II, Broncos

Cornerback Bryce Callahan called him a baller, per ESPN. Safety Justin Simmons said there’s no wasted movement.

“He’s the real deal,” linebacker Von Miller said, “And he’s a specimen.”

Contact Nick Kelly: nkelly@gannett.com, or follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly