Biggest Storylines Heading into Training Campby Mason Thompson July 3, 2022 0 comments
If you miss football, we get it. We all do but don’t fret! We are almost there! Training camps start this month, and with that starting, you can almost smell football. The first football game, though a preseason game, is taking place just a little over a month away as the Jacksonville Jaguars will face off against the Las Vegas Raiders in the Hall of Fame game. Even though it’s the offseason, there is still plenty to talk about as we head into the start of training camp.
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The Changing NFC East… Again
It is well documented that the NFC East hasn’t had a repeat division winner since the Philadelphia Eagles won four-straight division titles from 2001-2004. Since 2004, the Dallas Cowboys and Eagles have won the division 11 of the 17 division titles, with the Cowboys getting the slight edge with six titles to Philadelphia’s five. Meanwhile, the New York Giants and Washington Commanders have split the remaining six titles with three apiece. The Cowboys won last year’s division title but had an intriguing offseason.
That starts with two major departures in one of the league’s most high-powered offenses. Dallas traded Amari Cooper and a sixth-round selection to the Cleveland Browns for a fifth-round pick. Dallas received astonishing low value considering some of the contracts handed out in free agency. Along with trading Cooper, the Cowboys also released La’el Collins, who made his way to the Cincinnati Bengals. Other losses include Randy Gregory to the Denver Broncos and Cedrick Wilson and Connor Williams to the Miami Dolphins.
The draft seemed to be a bit underwhelming, according to Dallas fans. Tyler Smith was the selection with the 24th pick. Smith will likely start at left guard while transitioning to one of the tackle spots in the future with Tyron Smith aging and Terence Steele slated as the new right tackle. Thankfully, the Cowboys took Jalen Tolbert in the third round to make up for their lost receiver production.
Perhaps the team with the most exciting offseason was the Eagles. The first year under Nick Sirianni was a success, considering the Eagles made the playoffs when most expected them to finish towards the bottom of the league. Philadelphia started their draft moves by trading one of their firsts in the draft for a second in the 2023 class from New Orleans. In free agency, most of Philadelphia’s moves were to fix the defense. They signed Haason Reddick, Kyzir White, and recently James Bradberry and Jaquiski Tartt to shore up the secondary. Philadelphia also re-signed Fletcher Cox and Derek Barnett along the front of their defense.
Continuing to improve the front of the defense, the Eagles traded up to select Jordan Davis in the draft. The massive Georgia defender will team up with Cox to make an already fierce defensive line even better. Then, after selecting Devonta Smith in the first round last year, the Eagles traded the 18th selection to the Tennessee Titans for A.J. Brown. The duo of Brown and Smith with tight end Dallas Goedert should be more than enough to see if Jalen Hurts is the franchise quarterback.
The Commanders are the team nobody is talking about in the NFC East. With a new quarterback under center in Carson Wentz, Washington is hoping he can turn back into the man that was torching them just a few years back. Washington lost potentially their best player as Brandon Scherff went to Jacksonville in a heavily priced free agent signing. Fortunately for the Commanders, they swapped Scherff for Andrew Norwell while saving a large amount of money in the process.
With the 16th pick in the draft, Washington snagged Penn State receiver Jahan Dotson to pair with Terry McLaurin, who was extended earlier this week. Another intriguing pick happened on day three as the Commanders selected Sam Howell. The North Carolina signal-caller will likely compete for the backup role with Taylor Heinicke, but if Wentz struggles for Washington, fans could be clamoring for Howell by the middle of the season.
New York Giants
The biggest news for the Giants is a massive overhaul of their staff. Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll make their way to the Giants from the Buffalo Bills in hopes of bringing the same success from Buffalo to New York. The big focal point for the new staff was overhauling the offensive line, which they did by signing Mark Glowinski and Jon Feliciano in free agency and selecting Evan Neal with the seventh pick in the draft. Along with Neal, the Giants took Kayvon Thibodeaux to pair with last year’s second-round selection, Azeez Ojulari, to pressure opposing quarterbacks.
Unfortunately, New York lost several pieces in free agency, including Austin Johnson, Lorenzo Carter, and Bradberry. For this season to be a success, Daniel Jones needs to prove something to the new staff, who declined his fifth-year option during the offseason. If Jones struggles, Tyrod Taylor, who signed during the offseason, will be right on his heels to start if the struggles are too much.
Overall, the division is still as confusing as it has been recently. Dallas lost a few pieces offensively along the offensive line and is now relying on CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup with Cooper in Cleveland. Washington is in a tier of its own in the division with a solid roster all-around, but most of their success will rely on what version of Wentz they get. The potential favorite now sits with the Eagles and their re-tooled receiving room and dominant defensive front, while the new regime in New York looks to stay afloat in their first season.
Green Bay’s Weaponry, or Lack Thereof
Even with Davante Adams on the squad, the Packers needed receiver help. So when Green Bay shipped Adams to the Raiders for first, and second-round draft picks, many were left wondering which receiver the Packers would take or trade up for in the first round of the NFL Draft. The answer; none. After the only addition via free agency was Sammy Watkins, the Packers loaded up on defense on night one before moving both of their second-round selections to the top of the second round to take North Dakota State’s, Christian Watson. Along with Watson, Green Bay drafted Romeo Doubs and Samori Toure on day three. All three have a chance to make an impact this year.
At tight end, the Packers surprisingly stood pat during the offseason. With Robert Tonyan still recovering from injury, this thrusts the likes of Josiah Deguara and Tyler Davis into bigger roles, with Marcedes Lewis in his typical role as blocking tight end. It is unsure whether Tonyan will be ready for the season, which may make the Packers keep one more receiver than they typically do, and with Juwann Winfree impressing in OTA’s yet again, it could be him. Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and Amari Rodgers are the holdovers from last year, but Green Bay could rely more upon the ground game with Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon this season.
Does Green Bay sign a free agent?
With the likes of Odell Beckham, Julio Jones, and Will Fuller still in free agency and available for pickings, it is a bit odd that Green Bay hasn’t kicked the tires on one of them, namely Jones. While he isn’t the same player he once was, Jones has said he wants to go to a contender, and Green Bay is just that. If the Packers don’t sign somebody in the next few weeks, look for them to kick the tires on Beckham ahead of their likely playoff run.
The rollercoaster of Quarterback Movement
The NFL landscape changed this offseason with an astronomical amount of movement at the quarterback position. Wentz was traded from the Indianapolis Colts to the Washington Commanders. As a result, the Indianapolis Colts traded for Matt Ryan after the Atlanta Falcons were in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes. As a result of losing out on those sweepstakes, Arthur Smith found a familiar friend in Marcus Mariota to serve as the incumbent starter. The Seahawks parted ways with Russell Wilson, getting a massive trade package in return, including multiple first-round selections and Drew Lock. Finally, the Houston Texans parted ways with Watson, shipping him to the Cleveland Browns for an astronomical trade value, causing an issue with another quarterback on the roster, which we’ll get to later.
Are you still here? That was just the trades. That doesn’t include the likes of Mitchell Trubisky being signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers and competing for a starting job after backing up Josh Allen in Buffalo for the last few seasons. After also missing out on Watson, New Orleans settled for Jameis Winston again after an impressive start to the 2021 campaign. Though not as big, the signing of Taylor in New York and Teddy Bridgewater in Miami have put pressure on the struggling quarterbacks with new coaching staffs behind them. That doesn’t include the quarterbacks selected in the draft, either.
Who Gets New Contracts
In the last few weeks, David Njoku and McLaurin have put pen to paper on their new deals. The big trio remaining to get new deals this offseason are Deebo Samuel, Kyler Murray, and Lamar Jackson. Samuel had asked for a trade a few short months back, but it seems as though those rumors have cooled down heading into training camp. Murray made noise when his agent went out of his way to make a Twitter post explaining their stance, while Jackson has been the adult in the room, saying he would like to play football this season before focusing on a contract extension.
Arizona was strapped for money this offseason resulting in multiple veterans leaving the team, including star pass-rusher Chandler Jones. With a new but old friend in Marquise Brown in the building, it seems as though things are trending in the right direction in contract talks. Samuel’s contract seems to be trending in the right direction, and with the recent McLaurin extension, the Samuel extension seems to be right on the doorstep.
The big question mark of the three is Jackson, who’s said he isn’t worried about contract talks at the moment. He has said that he and the organization have had talks but seems more focused on the upcoming season than anything else right now. With that said, it would be very surprising to see Jackson hold out during camp and if he and the organization got into a fight like the Cardinals and Murray.
Second Year Quarterbacks
Last year saw five quarterbacks go in the first round, and while Trey Lance didn’t start very often, he showed enough to warrant the 49ers to have a difficult decision ahead of them. Along with those five, Davis Mills showed enough promise in Houston for them to hand him the starting job in 2022. While each of the top quarterbacks had their ups and downs, nothing compared to Trevor Lawrence, who has a whole new coaching staff and weaponry around him. Along with Lawrence, Justin Fields and Mills have new head coaches at the helm.
Zach Wilson and Mac Jones will likely be battling with the rest of their rosters to have a shot at one of the wild card spots in the AFC. While Jones had limited upside, he was by far the most pro-ready quarterback in the class, and that showed as he led the Patriots to a playoff berth during his rookie campaign. Wilson struggled to start the season, but when he returned from injury, he seemed like a different quarterback. With more weapons at his disposal, expect Wilson to improve mightily in 2022. Unfortunately, the opposite can be said for Fields, who lost Allen Robinson during the offseason, and the offensive line in Chicago will likely struggle. The real question is Lance, which we will turn to now.
What Happens to Baker and Jimmy G?
The biggest dominoes still left to fall in the quarterback carousel are these two. There have been rumors recently about Baker Mayfield heading to the Carolina Panthers or Seattle Seahawks while we are seemingly waiting for confirmation on Jimmy Garoppolo‘s health in San Francisco. It may seem obvious for the 49ers to keep the quarterback that had them in the NFC Championship Game, but with the front office giving up so much draft capital to get Lance, something has to give.
What Happens to Jimmy?
Unfortunately for the former starting quarterback, Garoppolo appears to be on his way out once he regains his health. The organization seems ready to turn to Lance, and while that may come with growing pains, it is what they signed up for. The real question is, where does he go? Carolina and Seattle are options with their interest in Mayfield, so if Seattle elects to trade for the former Brown, it would be easy to assume that Garoppolo goes to Carolina.
If worse comes to worst and the 49ers can’t find a trade partner by training camp, they could wait until the preseason when there are likely to be injuries to team’s quarterback situations. While it may be a bad idea to move on from the starter, it is the best option for the NFC contenders.
Carolina or Seattle for Baker?
Between the two, it is obvious which team is the better fit for the disgruntled quarterback. That is Seattle. Even though the Seahawks have both Lock and Geno Smith, Mayfield would immediately align as the starter. Seattle has a better offense than Carolina, although not by much. The weapons in Seattle seem set, but the offensive line still needs work. The big factor is the scheme. Carolina hired Ben McAdoo, who has Sam Darnold, and Matt Corral, who perfectly complements the scheme he likes to run. If the Panthers were to trade for Mayfield, they would have an even more jumbled mess in their quarterback room than they did last year.
With all that said, it will be another exciting year in the NFL. The AFC West alone seems like a conference on its own, and all four teams have a chance to fight for the playoffs. The winner of the AFC last year, the Cincinnati Bengals, could miss the playoffs after having their best season in recent memory, all thanks to the Baltimore Ravens finally being healthy. The NFC is a lot less exciting than the AFC, but there are still plenty of storylines to follow, with the NFC East, Green Bay’s receiving situation and the NFC West being exciting once again. We are excited to say that it is football season once again.
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