Training camp is right around the corner, and NFL teams are finishing out their rosters. As we approach the season, each team still has unanswered questions.
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Murray seemed to be in a social media battle with his employer early in the offseason after an unceremonious exit in the playoffs. The Cardinals clearly tried to appease him by acquiring former college teammate Marquise Brown on draft day, but there will be questions until Murray signs long term.
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The Falcons brought in Mariota, and the former Titans starter is being reunited with Arthur Smith, his former coordinator. It’s a good opportunity for Mariota despite the lack of weapons in Atlanta, but he will also have to hold off third-round pick Desmond Ridder.
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The Ravens made a surprise move after last season when they moved on from defensive coordinator Don Martindale and hired Mike Macdonald away from Michigan. Macdonald has a lot to work with, including new safeties in Marcus Williams and rookie Kyle Hamilton. After the defense regressed to 19th in points allowed last season, Macdonald will try to show an immediate difference.
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The Bills suffered another heartbreaking playoff defeat, with poor defense at the end of regulation in Kansas City and losing the coin toss in overtime. Buffalo showed a championship-caliber team, and have improved it on paper during the offseason with the addition of Von Miller. Could this be Buffalo’s year?
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The addition of Sam Darnold last offseason didn’t work out, and his salary handicapped the team in their attempt to add something better. The Panthers drafted Matt Corral in the third round, but the high expectations in Matt Rhule‘s third year could prevent the team from turning to a rookie. Either way, the quarterback play needs to be much better than it was last season.
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Chicago Bears: Is the team setting Justin Fields up to fail?
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It’s become a cliche for teams with young quarterbacks to build offensive talent around them, but the Bears seemingly took a different route in the offseason. Chicago replaced Allen Robinson with the likes of Byron Pringle and rookie Velus Jones, and the offensive line lost talent. This doesn’t appear to be a situation where Fields can ascend.
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The Bengals were the surprise team of 2021, advancing to the Super Bowl with great play from Joe Burrow and a resurgent defense. Of course, NFL history shows that teams making a big jump like Cincinnati did last year usually take a step back the following year. Cincinnati has the talent to prevent that scenario, but they are also in a highly competitive AFC North division.
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The Browns shocked the football world when they acquired Watson for a bevy of draft picks. Heading into the summer, his status for the season is still up in the air with possible disciplinary action from the NFL. Cleveland’s chances in 2022 could rest with commissioner Roger Goodell.
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McCarthy’s clock management was called into question when the Cowboys were ousted from the playoffs last year, and he’s also faced heavy criticism at other points during his tenure in Dallas. Owner Jerry Jones opted to keep McCarthy in place, though there is rampant speculation McCarthy is only keeping the seat warm for Sean Payton in 2023. The Cowboys will likely have to show more success this year for McCarthy to stick around.
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Denver Broncos: Can Russell Wilson vault the team back to the playoffs?
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Denver has been in search of a quarterback since Peyton Manning retired in 2015. They’ve now missed the playoffs in six consecutive years and had five straight losing seasons. It looks like the team has found their answer at the position after trading for Russell Wilson, though his injury issues and struggles in Seattle last year do add some concern of regression.
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Detroit Lions: Will the new defensive players make a difference?
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Much of the focus is on Jared Goff and the offense, but the Lions aren’t going anywhere until their defense is fixed. The unit was dead last in points allowed in 2020 and improved only one spot last year. The Lions hope to make a leap forward with the addition of second overall draft choice Aidan Hutchinson and the return of cornerback Jeff Okudah from injury.
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Green Bay Packers: Can Aaron Rodgers maintain his play without Davante Adams?
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The Packers were able to keep Rodgers around, but top weapons Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling went elsewhere. The only major veteran addition at wideout was oft-injured Sammy Watkins, though draftees Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs add more options. Rodgers could still have the biggest challenge of his career without his favorite receiving options.
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Houston Texans: Is Davis Mills the long-term starting quarterback?
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Houston clearly liked what they saw from Mills late last season, and are handing him the keys this season as the unquestioned starter. Extending Brandin Cooks and drafting John Metchie is a further investment in Mills, though it’s still unclear if he’s the answer for the team beyond this season.
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The Colts’ failure to make the playoffs last season was sorely disappointing and cost Carson Wentz his job. Indy enters 2022 with another strong roster, and has replaced Wentz with Matt Ryan. The veteran seemed a step slower in Atlanta last year, but the team is hoping his stability will get the team back to the postseason.
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Jacksonville’s recent futility is almost unmatched in NFL history, with only one winning season in the last 14 years and the No. 1 overall draft choice in back-to-back years. The hiring of Doug Pederson does provide the organization with an experienced Super Bowl winner, but he could have his work cut out for him developing Trevor Lawrence and the rest of the roster.
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The Chiefs shocked the football world when they traded Tyreek Hill last season, but they were able to revamp the wide receiver room with JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and rookie Skyy Moore. They join Mecole Hardman to make a speedy a capable group, but it remains to be seen who Patrick Mahomes will turn to as his top wide receiver target.
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The Raiders started the offseason by hiring offensive mastermind Josh McDaniels, but they weren’t finished. Perhaps the team’s biggest splash was the acquisition of superstar wide receiver Davante Adams, joining Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow to give Derek Carr elite weapons. Vegas has a lot to do to catch up to the offenses of the Chiefs and Chargers in the AFC West, but they could be capable.
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Justin Herbert has established himself as one of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL during his first two seasons, but he’s yet to sniff the playoffs. The Chargers came up just short last season, but they might be able to make the jump this season and overtake the Chiefs in the AFC West after another strong offseason.
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Repeat championships happen so rarely in modern sports, and that’s especially the case in the NFL. The Patriots were the last team to pull off the feat in 2003-2004. The Rams are hoping they can win back-to-back Super Bowls, as they return a talented core led by Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and Aaron Donald. The losses of Andrew Whitworth, Robert Woods, Odell Beckham, and Von Miller will make it a bit more difficult.
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Miami Dolphins: Can the new weapons turn Tua Tagovailoa into an elite quarterback?
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Tua Tagovailoa has been inconsistent in his first two NFL seasons between injuries and shaky play. Miami is giving him the resources to take a giant leap forward, hiring 49ers offensive assistant Mike McDaniel to lead the team and sparking the offense with Chase Edmonds, Cedrick Wilson, and Tyreek Hill. The Dolphins also improved the offensive line substantially with the addition of left tackle Terron Armstead. There are no excuses for Tagovailoa not to make significant progress.
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Mike Zimmer‘s undoing in Minnesota was the deterioration of the defense, ranking in the bottom 10 in points allowed over the last two seasons. The Vikings needed an injection of energy this offseason, which they could receive from a new coaching staff and additions like Za’Darius Smith, Jordan Hicks, Lewis Cine, and Andrew Booth Jr.
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Since the departure of Josh McDaniels, the Patriots have curiously held off naming an offensive coordinator. There have been rumors the team would turn to assistants Matt Patricia or Joe Judge, odd fits considering their lack of experience leading an offense. Even the possibility of Bill Belichick calling plays has been suggested. It doesn’t sound like a great situation for Mac Jones, but Belichick’s track record should give him the benefit of the doubt.
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After losing Drew Brees last offseason, the Saints lost head coach Sean Payton this offseason. There have also been some big changes in the locker room, with the Saints adding Jarvis Landry, Chris Olave, Marcus Maye, and Tyrann Mathieu. The team looks competitive on paper, but promoted head coach Dennis Allen has big shoes to fill.
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The Giants have done a disservice to Jones during his career, with a merry-go-round of offensive coordinators and poor leadership at the top. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Jones has struggled in his three NFL seasons, just 12-25 as a starter, but that doesn’t mind he has a lot of leeway left with the new coaching staff led by Brian Daboll. New York fans expect results soon, and Jones needs to show significant progress in Year 4 to keep his job.
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The second overall pick in last year’s draft, Wilson looked lost in 13 games last season. The Jets failed to make any big-ticket additions to his repertoire this offseason, though first-round pick Garrett Wilson should help. Either way, Wilson needs to show improvement from what often appeared to be a deer in the headlights last season.
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Philadelphia made great strides during the second half of last season with head coach Nick Sirianni adjusting to a run-heavy scheme that better fit Jalen Hurts. There could be more balance this year after the team acquired superstar wide receiver A.J. Brown from Tennessee. Joining DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert, and a host of talented running backs, the Eagles have everything they need if Hurts continues his development.
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The Steelers had a giant void at quarterback following the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger. Mitchell Trubisky was signed early in the offseason, but it looks like first-round pick Kenny Pickett is the favorite to start the majority of games in 2022. With an elite defense and talented receivers, the Steelers have what they need to make the new quarterback transition easier.
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The 49ers traded too much draft capital for Lance to not to make him their starter soon. Yet, Lance struggled during his brief looks last season, and the 49ers have yet to trade Jimmy Garoppolo following offseason surgery. It’s assumed the team will turn to Lance, but that’s not a foregone conclusion until the team does something with Garoppolo.
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The Seahawks face quarterback questions heading into the season for the first time since they installed Russell Wilson in 2012. As it stands now, the Seahawks are set to have a competition between Drew Lock and Geno Smith, though there remains a possibility the team could add a new name like Baker Mayfield.
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The Bucs got quite a scare this offseason when Tom Brady retired, only to return soon after his announcement. Bruce Arians, Rob Gronkowski, Ali Marpet, and several key defensive players are gone, but Tampa Bay still returns a talented roster. Still, Brady can’t keep up his elite level of play forever, as he continues to defy the odds heading into his age 45 season.
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Tennessee has been one of the most run-heavy offenses in the league over the last few seasons with Derrick Henry in the backfield, but his injury issues are a concern for the heavy usage. The Titans traded A.J. Brown, replacing him with Robert Woods and rookie Treylon Burks. The loss of Brown will put pressure on Ryan Tannehill, Henry, and the rest of the offense to pick up the slack.
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Wentz is now on his third team in three years after getting run out of Philadelphia and Indianapolis. Washington seems happy to have him after their recent quarterback issues, but the addition also demonstrates the team’s desperation after their struggles. Wentz has plenty of weapons on his new squad, but will likely need to make the playoffs this year for the criticism to stop.