Robert Saleh and Zach Wilson have a lot to prove entering their second year
After one of the wildest offseasons in NFL history, the 2022 season is finally upon us. As children head back to school and adults bemoan their return to labor, 32 teams once again prepare for a battle of guts, brains, brawn, and attrition to reach the pinnacle of sports euphoria.
For the New York Jets, this offseason has been a bit of a roller coaster. The glow of an underrated free agency period and widely lauded draft have largely faded away into the concerns of injuries at key positions. The Jets roster received an infusion of talent but is still beset by questions that could cripple the 2022 season.
Any optimism in the building is fueled by the prudence of general manager Joe Douglas and the culture brought by head coach Robert Saleh. The players appear to be bought in. However, the national media certainly isn’t. Vegas odds have the Jets line at 5.5 wins, and NFL.com joined in with 5.6 wins (and a 3.9-win floor).
Meanwhile, the fan base has mixed feelings.
On one hand, many acknowledge that this is the most talented roster the Jets have had since 2015. Still, with a tough schedule and questions at the quarterback position (magnified by the recent news that Zach Wilson will miss at least the first three games), it is hard to believe that the infusion of talent will translate to victories.
Joe Douglas said that this team needs to be playing meaningful games in December. This season may not be about the playoffs, but it is certainly about staying competitive and developing the potential in the young players.
Without further ado, here are the preview and predictions for the 2022 NY Jets and NFL season, brought to you by Jets X-Factor.
Roster and depth chart
Last year, it was all about the youth. This season, it’s still all about the youth, with a few notable exceptions.
Duane Brown, at 37 years old, is the oldest player on the team—at one of the key positions on the roster. Following Mekhi Becton’s season-ending kneecap fracture, the Jets brought Brown in (at a significantly higher price than they had previously hoped, when he visited as a potential swing tackle) to stabilize the left side of the offensive line and protect the quarterback’s blind side.
The signing moved George Fant back to right tackle, a position where he has never approached the success he had last season on the left side. Now that it appears Brown is likely headed to IR—as he’s already been ruled out for Week 1—Fant is headed back to left tackle.
Joe Flacco returns to start at least the first three games due to Wilson’s knee injury. Having a veteran backup who can both mentor the young quarterback and step in capably when necessary is huge. The team did not have that to begin last season, Mike White’s flash-in-the-pan success notwithstanding.
Meanwhile, the list of key players on the team in their first or second seasons is quite long. Besides the keynote in Wilson, integral pieces like Breece Hall, Michael Carter, Elijah Moore, Garrett Wilson, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Jermaine Johnson, Sauce Gardner, and Michael Carter II are all first- or second-year players who will either start or receive a large backup snap count.
That does not include Tony Adams, the undrafted free agent who surprised many by nabbing a roster spot at safety, or Jamien Sherwood, whom the Jets appear to view as a possible future replacement for C.J. Mosley. Brandin Echols and Micheal Clemons figure to be contributing backups.
- Breece Hall
- Garrett Wilson
- C.J. Uzomah
- Tyler Conklin
- Lawrence Cager
- Jeremy Ruckert
- Duane Brown
- Laken Tomlinson
- Nate Herbig
- Max Mitchell
- Jermaine Johnson
- Jacob Martin
- Micheal Clemons
- Solomon Thomas
- Kwon Alexander
- Marcell Harris
- D.J. Reed
- Sauce Gardner
- Jordan Whitehead
- Tony Adams
- Greg Zuerlein
- Tevin Coleman
- La’Mical Perine
- Austin Walter
- Jamison Crowder
- Keelan Cole
- D.J. Montgomery
- Vyncint Smith
- Ryan Griffin
- Tyler Kroft
- Daniel Brown
- Trevon Wesco
- Laurent Duvernay-Tardif
- Morgan Moses
- Isaiah Williams
- Chuma Edoga
- Greg Van Roten
- Shaq Lawson
- Jabari Zuniga
- Tim Ward
- Ronald Blair
- Kyle Phillips
- Folurunso Fatukasi
- Jarrad Davis
- Del’Shawn Phillips
- Blake Cashman
- Rachad Wildgoose
- Javin White
- Elijah Riley
- Lamar Jackson
- Javelin Guidry
- Isaiah Dunn
- Marcus Maye
- Jason Pinnock
- Kai Nacua
- Adrian Colbert
- Jarrod Wilson
- QB (3): Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco, Mike White
- RB (3): Michael Carter, Breece Hall, Ty Johnson
- WR (6): Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, Braxton Berrios (KR/PR), Garrett Wilson, Jeff Smith, Denzel Mims
- TE (4): C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Conklin, Lawrence Cager, Jeremy Ruckert
- LT (2): Duane Brown, Conor McDermott
- LG (2): Laken Tomlinson, Dan Feeney
- C (1): Connor McGovern (Feeney)
- RG (2): Alijah Vera-Tucker, Nate Herbig
- RT (2): George Fant, Max Mitchell
- EDGE (6): Carl Lawson, John Franklin-Myers, Jermaine Johnson, Jacob Martin, Bryce Huff, Micheal Clemons
- IDL (5): Quinnen Williams, Solomon Thomas, Sheldon Rankins, Nathan Shepherd, Vinny Curry (IR)
- LB (5): C.J. Mosley, Kwon Alexander, Quincy Williams, Jamien Sherwood, Marcell Harris
- CB (6): D.J. Reed, Sauce Gardner, Michael Carter II, Bryce Hall, Brandin Echols, Justin Hardee
- S (4): Lamarcus Joyner, Jordan Whitehead, Ashtyn Davis, Tony Adams
Special Teams (3)
- K: Greg Zuerlein
- P: Braden Mann
- LS: Thomas Hennessy
- Head coach: Robert Saleh
- Offensive coordinator: Mike LaFleur
- Defensive coordinator: Jeff Ulbrich
- Special teams coordinator: Brant Boyer
Roster notes and comments
- It appears that Mike White’s job is safe for the near future, as Zach Wilson will be out until at least Week 4.
- The tackle depth is thin behind Duane Brown and George Fant. The Jets better hope that the pair remain healthy this season. Both players did not practice today.
- Denzel Mims appears slated to remain with Gang Green. The Jets apparently shopped him for a fourth-round pick, but there were (unsurprisingly) no takers.
- Although the Jets ask their tight ends to block, there is a chance that Lawrence Cager will be active in the early going at the expense of Jeremy Ruckert. Ruckert still has a ways to go as a blocker, and the team may prefer Cager’s speed and offensive upside in the early weeks of the season.
- The Jets appear set on keeping John Franklin-Myers on the edge and sliding him inside on passing downs. That clears more playing time for Solomon Thomas (the second starting DT), Sheldon Rankins, and Nathan Shepherd. Micheal Clemons will also see time inside.
- Ty Johnson’s roster spot means that Breece Hall will most likely be the team’s third-down back. Hall is far better than both Johnson and Michael Carter in pass blocking, although he has room to improve in that area.
- It remains to be seen who will be the Jets’ backup slot corner. Michael Carter played quite capably in that area last year, but Javelin Guidry’s release leaves no obvious backup candidate. Brandin Echols and Tony Adams are both options.
Jets 2022 season predictions
- vs. Baltimore Ravens: Loss (0-1)
- at Cleveland Browns: Win (1-1)
- vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Loss (1-2)
- at Pittsburgh Steelers: Loss (1-3)
- vs. Miami Dolphins: Win (2-3)
- at Green Bay Packers: Loss (2-4)
- at Denver Broncos: Loss (2-5)
- vs. New England Patriots: Win (3-5)
- vs. Buffalo Bills: Loss (3-6)
- at New England Patriots: Loss (3-7)
- vs. Chicago Bears: Win (4-7)
- at Minnesota Vikings: Loss (4-8)
- at Buffalo Bills: Loss (4-9)
- vs. Detroit Lions: Win (5-9)
- vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: Win (6-9)
- at Seattle Seahawks: Win (7-9)
- at Miami Dolphins: Loss (7-10)
Final Record: 7-10
Jets X-Factor Staff 2022 season predictions
|Robby Sabo||Michael Nania||Andrew Golden||Rivka Boord||Vitor Paiva||Joe Blewett|
|AFC East finish||2||3||3||4||2||3|
|AFC playoff seed||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||7||N/A|
|Playoff record (team to knock them off)||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||0-1 (Kansas City Chiefs, Wild Card)||N/A|
|Team MVP||Sauce Gardner||Elijah Moore||Carl Lawson||Elijah Moore||Carl Lawson||Quinnen Williams|
|Offensive Player of the Year||Alijah Vera-Tucker||Elijah Moore||Elijah Moore||Elijah Moore||Elijah Moore||Elijah Moore|
|Defensive Player of the Year||Sauce Gardner||Quinnen Williams||Carl Lawson||Carl Lawson||Quinnen Williams||Quinnen Williams|
|Rookie of the Year||Sauce Gardner||Breece Hall||Sauce Gardner||Sauce Gardner||Breece Hall||Sauce Gardner|
|Coach of the Year||Tony Oden (Defensive assistant - cornerbacks)||Tony Oden||Aaron Whitecotton (defensive line coach)||Tony Oden||John Benton (offensive line coach/run game coordinator)/Mike LaFleur (offensive coordinator)||Tony Oden|
|Most surprising player||Jamien Sherwood||Michael Carter II||Jordan Whitehead||Micheal Clemons||Kwon Alexander||Tyler Conklin|
|Most disappointing player||C.J. Mosley||Laken Tomlinson||Lamarcus Joyner||Quincy Williams||C.J. Uzomah||Lamarcus Joyner|
|NFL rank - offensive yards||18||19||18||18||14||17|
|NFL rank - defensive yards||8||20||15||20||21||20|
|NFL rank - offensive points||16||16||16||19||13||16|
|NFL rank - defensive points||13||14||13||19||15||18|
|NFL rank - offensive DVOA||16||18||17||19||11||17|
|NFL rank - defensive DVOA||10||14||14||16||16||19|
|NFL rank - special teams DVOA||11||12||5||8||3||10|
|2023 first-round pick slot||18||15||12||10||22||13|
|Pro Bowlers||Alijah Vera-Tucker, Sauce Gardner||Quinnen Williams, Elijah Moore||Carl Lawson, Elijah Moore, Sauce Gardner||Laken Tomlinson, Carl Lawson||Alijah Vera-Tucker, Quinnen Williams||Elijah Moore|
|All-Pros||Sauce Gardner||N/A||Braxton Berrios (KR)||N/A||Alijah Vera-Tucker||N/A|
|Zach Wilson's stat line (max 14 games - completion %, yards, TD, INT)||58%, 1,575 yards, 8 TD, 6 INT||63.8%, 3,090 yards, 21 TD, 12 INT||62.7%, 3,128 yards, 22 TD, 11 INT||63%, 3,200 yards, 19 TD, 11 INT||60%, 2,800 yards, 20 TD, 10 INT||64%, 18 TDs, 10 INTs|
|Rushing yards leader||Breece Hall||Breece Hall||Breece Hall||Breece Hall||Breece Hall||Breece Hall|
|Receiving yards leader||Elijah Moore||Elijah Moore||Elijah Moore||Elijah Moore||Elijah Moore||Elijah Moore|
|Receptions leader||Elijah Moore||Elijah Moore||Elijah Moore||Tyler Conklin||Tyler Conklin||Elijah Moore|
|Sacks leader||Jacob Martin||Carl Lawson||Carl Lawson||Carl Lawson||Carl Lawson||Carl Lawson|
|Tackles leader||Jamien Sherwood||C.J. Mosley||C.J. Mosley||C.J. Mosley||Kwon Alexander||C.J. Mosley|
|Interceptions leader||Tony Adams||D.J. Reed||Sauce Gardner||D.J. Reed||Jordan Whitehead||D.J. Reed|
- If you follow my articles closely, you may notice that my prediction for the Jets sacks leader changed. That’s because the team has clearly committed to using Franklin-Myers primarily on the edge. My original prediction of 10 sacks was with the assumption that they would keep him primarily inside and move him out on running downs.
- Elijah Moore is a clear favorite among Jets X-Factor writers. We believe in the film, which shows the ability to get open all over the field, strong hands, and elite ability after the catch. The only reasons that he is not a Pro Bowl pick across the board are the many mouths to feed in the Jets’ receiving corps and the uncertainty at the quarterback position, which may limit Moore’s total numbers.
- There is a lot of belief in Sauce Gardner’s immediate contributions, as well. Tony Oden is a popular pick for the team’s top coach because of the expectation that Gardner will join D.J. Reed in a strong one-two cornerback duo, with Michael Carter II capably manning the nickel. Rookie cornerbacks tend to struggle, but Patrick Surtain II’s rookie season shows that a corner can excel out of the gate. The fact that Sauce was not targeted once on 24 coverage snaps in preseason (due to sticky coverage, not just better options elsewhere) further raised expectations for the 6-foot-3, freakishly built corner.
- Although predictions for Zach Wilson’s numbers vary somewhat, they are mostly conservative in the yards-per-game category. Although the average might increase slightly once Wilson misses games against the Ravens’ and Browns’ defenses, expectations are tempered after some lofty predictions for Year 1 that did not come to pass. Wilson will need to limit his mistakes and make enough consistent throws to keep the Jets competitive.
- Although the Jets list Michael Carter as the starting running back, it will surprise no one that every one of our analysts picked Breece Hall to lead the team in rushing yards.
- There is widespread optimism about Carl Lawson’s return from injury. The edge rusher was one of the tops in the NFL in pressuring the quarterback over his first four seasons in the league. We expect his disruption to continue.
- Notably missing from the Rookie of the Year predictions are both Garrett Wilson and Jermaine Johnson. Part of that comes from having three first-round picks and four in the Top 40. However, this comes in large part because neither pick is a starter on the depth chart right now. Wilson is expected to earn more playing time, but he’s officially listed as Elijah Moore’s backup, and Braxton Berrios has his hooks in the starting slot position. Meanwhile, Johnson has a lot of competition at edge and has a ways to go towards becoming a solid pass rusher. His run-stopping prowess should earn him playing time out of the gate, but it will be hard for him to crack the lineup on passing downs with the likes of Carl Lawson, Jacob Martin, and Bryce Huff coming off the edge.
- Zach Wilson and the Jets prove to not quite be where they need to be if they want to compete for a Super Bowl, but nonetheless, they each take sizable leaps forward and play competitive, respectable football for 18 weeks, setting the stage for a leap into legitimate contention in 2023. — Michael Nania
- The Jets make the playoffs for the first time since 2010, led by a very strong ground game. Zach Wilson will play average football and the defense will be able to force turnovers despite allowing a good amount of yards. Overall, It will be a great year for the Jets, as Robert Saleh will get coach of the year recognition. — Vitor Paiva
- The loss of Zach Wilson for the first few games will sting, as the Jets will drop the first three games in his absence and the fourth following a rusty return to action. Though the team will come alive with an upset victory over Miami in Week 5, it will be too little, too late to resurrect the team’s hopes of playing meaningful December football. An easier second-half schedule will help the Jets reach seven victories, but overall, it will be a letdown season. On a positive note, Sauce Gardner and Breece Hall will battle for their respective Rookie of the Year awards, and Elijah Moore will become a true star receiver. — Rivka Boord
Keys to the 2022 season
- All about the development of the quarterback: Obviously, it will start with Zach Wilson. Will he be back by Week 4? Saleh said that’s the earliest he’ll return. How will he look when he does come back? The early preseason returns were discouraging, and Wilson has a tendency to start slowly, both in games and in his beginning action as a quarterback. This season is really about determining if Wilson can be the franchise quarterback for this team. Add durability to the list of concerns after the uber-talented signal-caller underachieved in Year 1.
- Ability to run the football and control the clock: The Jets ran only 36% of the time last season. That was not their plan. This year, that number needs to be far closer to 50% if the Jets want to win. It doesn’t mean sticking to the run when it’s not working, but establishing the run and controlling the time of possession. This will open easier throws for Zach Wilson and take the pressure off of him. It will also keep opposing offenses off the field.
- Rookies looking like future cornerstones: Breece Hall and Sauce Gardner are the two most prominent ones, but Garrett Wilson was drafted to be an eventual No. 1-caliber receiver, and Jermaine Johnson is meant to be an edge rusher of the future. Meanwhile, Jeremy Ruckert and Max Mitchell may not contribute out of the gate, but this is a developmental year for both of them. Micheal Clemons, at age 25, has the chance to be a surprisingly impactful rookie. This class must shine as a whole for the team to have any chance to compete, both this year and beyond.
- Defensive cohesion and scheme: Much ado has been made about the vanilla Cover-3 scheme run by Jeff Ulbrich and his overly predictable defense. The combination of his play-calling and the Jets’ discipline on defense will determine whether this group can keep the Jets in games. For as much as the defense wants to attack, they will need to worry about containment and responsibilities against some of the elite running teams that they play.
- Cornerback excellence and interceptions: This team is heavily relying on D.J. Reed and Sauce Gardner to play at a top level from Day 1. That’s quite some pressure on the rookie, but Reed played like a Top 10 corner in the league last season, though his performance flew under the radar. Meanwhile, Bryce Hall was relegated to backup duty primarily because of his lack of ball-hawking skills; this secondary must be more opportunistic and help the Jets’ defense off the field.
Other Jets storylines to keep an eye on
- Offensive line performance: The Jets’ starting five have taken just 21 snaps together as a unit. Between Mekhi Becton’s injury, Duane Brown’s late arrival, and Brown and Fant nursing ailments, there is little continuity on this line. Though three of the five starters from last season return, two of them are playing new positions. The run-blocking in the preseason was lackluster, though the pass-blocking held up pretty well. With hungry defenses like the Ravens, Browns, and Steelers on tap early, it’s critical for the line to stay healthy and gel quickly. Perhaps Wilson’s injury will keep him out of the worst of the struggles in that area, but the statuesque Joe Flacco could be in for some rough games.
- Linebacker and safety: Long known as two of the weakest positions on this roster, the veteran presence at both begs the question about both the current and future state of each. That’s where Jamien Sherwood and Tony Adams may come in. The Jets liked Sherwood enough to give him the mic in his helmet when Mosley missed time last season. This season may be an audition for Sherwood to potentially replace Mosley as the Mike linebacker next year. Meanwhile, Adams was a surprise 53-man roster addition, but Joe Blewett liked what he saw from the undrafted free agent. His versatility is one of his biggest assets, as Adams can play both safety positions and slot corner in a pinch. If either or both of these players can develop into legitimate contributors, that will be a huge boon for Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas.
- Will the Jets finally surpass 40 sacks? The Jets have not done so since 2014, but this bunch has the best shot to do it. Carl Lawson is healthy. John Franklin-Myers and Quinnen Williams put up decent sack totals last season. Jacob Martin, Bryce Huff, Jermaine Johnson, Solomon Thomas, and Sheldon Rankins can bring some heat. With a suspect run defense and middle of the field, getting after the QB will be one of the key ways this defense will succeed. Defensive line usage became a hot topic at one point this season when defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said that no lineman would get more than 30-35 snaps. Saleh backtracked on that, but it remains to be seen exactly how the Jets will deploy their weapons on the line.
NFL league-wide predictions
|Robby Sabo||Michael Nania||Rivka Boord||Vitor Paiva|
|AFC East winner (record)||Bills (11-6)||Bills (13-4)||Bills (13-4)||Bills (14-3)|
|AFC North winner (record)||Ravens (12-5)||Bengals (12-5)||Ravens (12-5)||Bengals (12-5)|
|AFC South winner (record)||Colts (10-7)||Colts (9-8)||Colts (10-7)||Colts (11-6)|
|AFC West winner (record)||Chargers (13-4)||Chargers (12-5)||Chiefs (12-5)||Chiefs (13-4)|
|AFC Wild Card 1 (record)||Broncos (11-6)||Chiefs (11-6)||Chargers (12-5)||Chargers (11-6)|
|AFC Wild Card 2 (record)||Bengals (9-8)||Broncos (10-7)||Bengals (11-6)||Steelers (10-7)|
|AFC Wild Card 3 (record)||Raiders (9-8)||Ravens (10-7)||Raiders (10-7)||Jets (10-7)|
|NFC East winner (record)||Cowboys (10-7)||Eagles (12-5)||Eagles (11-6)||Eagles (12-5)|
|NFC North winner (record)||Packers (10-7)||Vikings (11-6)||Packers (12-5)||Packers (11-6)|
|NFC South winner (record)||Buccaneers (13-4)||Saints (11-6)||Buccaneers (11-6)||Saints (12-5)|
|NFC West winner (record)||Rams (12-5)||49ers (13-4)||Rams (10-7)||49ers (12-5)|
|NFC Wild Card 1 (record)||49ers (10-7)||Packers (10-7)||Saints (11-6)||Rams (12-5)|
|NFC Wild Card 2 (record)||Saints (9-8)||Buccaneers (10-7)||49ers (10-7)||Buccaneers (11-6)|
|NFC Wild Card 3 (record)||Vikings (9-8)||Cardinals (9-8)||Vikings (10-7)||Cowboys (11-6)|
|AFC Champion (runner up)||Chargers (Broncos)||Bills (Chargers)||Chargers (Bills)||Bills|
|NFC Champion (runner up)||Buccaneers (49ers)||Eagles (49ers)||Eagles (Saints)||Buccaneers|
|Super Bowl Champion (runner up)||Chargers (Buccaneers)||Bills (Eagles)||Chargers (Eagles)||Bills (Buccaneers)|
|Super Bowl MVP||Justin Herbert||Josh Allen||Justin Herbert||Josh Allen|
|NFL MVP||Justin Herbert||Josh Allen||Justin Herbert||Tom Brady|
|Offensive Player of the Year||Ja'Marr Chase||Austin Ekeler||Justin Jefferson||Ja'Marr Chase|
|Defensive Player of the Year||Micah Parsons||Micah Parsons||Myles Garrett||Minkah Fitzpatrick|
|Offensive Rookie of the Year||Tyler Allgeier (RB, ATL)||Breece Hall||Treylon Burks||Breece Hall|
|Defensive Rookie of the Year||Sauce Gardner||Aidan Hutchinson||Jordan Davis||Aidan Hutchinson|
|Comeback Player of the Year||Jameis Winston||Michael Thomas||Jameis Winston||Carson Wentz|
|Coach of the Year||Brandon Staley, Chargers||Brandon Staley||Kevin O'Connell, Vikings||Robert Saleh|
|No. 1 overall pick, 2023||Seahawks||Bears||Bears||Bears|
|No. 2 overall pick, 2023||Texans||Falcons||Falcons||Texans|
|No. 3 overall pick, 2023||Lions||Seahawks||Giants||Giants|
|No. 4 overall pick, 2023||Jaguars||Titans||Texans||Jaguars|
|No. 5 overall pick, 2023||Commanders||Texans||Seahawks||Seahawks|
- The Bills and Chargers are popular preseason Super Bowl picks, and it appears that our analysts think the same way. The NFC Super Bowl contender does not have a consensus, though, which is not surprising given the questions facing almost every team in the conference.
- There isn’t necessarily a consensus about the AFC West beyond the Chargers making the playoffs. Still, most of us have three teams coming out of the division, which should bring some of the best quarterback competition we’ve ever seen.
- There is a possibility of many of the AFC teams canceling each other out, bringing records down more than you’d expect for such strong rosters.
- The Eagles are a sneaky team. Two of us have them losing the Super Bowl. They killed the draft and made a couple of great trades, all while maintaining a strong draft position for next season. If Jalen Hurts is not the answer this season, the Eagles will most likely move heaven and earth to secure his successor.
- We seem to believe in the Saints and Jameis Winston. He played well before his season-ending injury last year. It bears remembering that Sean Payton, one of the most creative offensive play-callers in the NFL, is no longer their coach. This will be a test of New Orleans’s mettle.
- Many of us still have the 49ers playing well despite the rookie quarterback. Take a look at the situation Trey Lance is walking into vs. those of most of the Class of 2021 QBs. Still, Mac Jones might have been a safer pick to bring this team to the promised land.
- We agree on who most of the worst teams are going to be—and none of us picked the Jets, even though most of the media seem to. The Seahawks, Texans, Bears, and Jaguars make it often, although you’d think that the strength of the AFC will push down the records of its worst teams.
- This will be a fun season of NFL football, especially in the AFC. The competition hasn’t been this good in many years, and Tom Brady isn’t even in the conference to interfere.
- Justin Herbert and Josh Allen are popular MVP picks. Allen, Herbert, Joe Burrow, and Patrick Mahomes will keep the AFC interesting for years to come.
Some top NFL storylines we’re following
Trouble in Foxborough?
Could this be the year that the Patriots finally plummet? Reports out of Patriots camp indicated that Mac Jones looks lost, the offense is in chaos after switching from the long-used gap-blocking scheme to a zone scheme, and Joe Judge and Matt Patricia do not know how to call an NFL offense.
Still, the legend of The Hoodie lives on. 2020 notwithstanding, Belichick seems to be the great equalizer. Even on defense, the team is perilously thin at cornerback. Having the bottom fall out on New England would certainly ease the Jets’ path to respectability in 2022, but the resigned “HC of the NYJ” always makes it his business to stick it to his former team.
Since the Jets play the Browns in Week 2, this is of interest close to home.
The Browns have a stacked roster, especially on defense. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt still form a lethal one-two punch at running back. Myles Garrett and Jadaveon Clowney are a game-wrecking duo when both are healthy. Denzel Ward leads the defensive back group.
But with Jacoby Brissett at the helm instead of Deshaun Watson, it will be difficult to keep pace in the loaded AFC North. If Brissett can keep the Browns in it, though, this team can be a Super Bowl contender. That assumes, of course, that Watson completes the treatment mandated as part of his settlement with the NFL.
How will top QBs perform without their Hall of Fame WRs?
Aaron Rodgers lost Davante Adams, and Patrick Mahomes lost Tyreek Hill. How will that affect each quarterback? Neither team acquired nearly the level of talent to replace their No. 1s.
Still, Kansas City did a better job filling the void with more solid talent overall. After Rodgers chewed out his receivers during camp, it’s fair to wonder what the Packers’ offense will look like, even with their back-to-back MVP quarterback. We’ve seen Rodgers get stuck in the past when he does not have elite-level receiver talent.
Meanwhile, this is new territory for Mahomes, who looked human last season more often than ever before. History tells us that teams who lose top receiver talent suffer more than the team who acquired the player gains. It will be interesting to follow that storyline throughout the season, particularly since Tyreek won’t let us forget it.
Year 2 QB performances
With no rookie quarterbacks manning the top signal-caller spot out of the gate, the spotlight remains on the 2021 class. Trevor Lawrence, Trey Lance, Justin Fields, Mac Jones, and Davis Mills will start Week 1, while Zach Wilson’s injury will keep him out until at least Week 4.
Lance is making his first appearance as a starter on a team that has Super Bowl aspirations. Will Jones advance or regress in Year 2? How will Lawrence, Fields, and Wilson respond to the adversity of their poor rookie campaigns? Is Mills the answer in Houston? All of these will dominate the headlines as the NFL season progresses.
Quarterbacks on their last legs
Speaking of quarterbacks, several of them have their last chance this season, for very different reasons. Tom Brady’s unretirement appears to have created a rift with his wife, and it’s likely that this is the GOAT’s last hurrah. Matt Ryan has a new chance to prove himself on a good team, but if he continues to decline, he may not have a starting job next season.
Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, meanwhile, are playing for their starting jobs in the NFL. Both teams stacked the deck for them to truly determine whether they’re the answer, and they have everything to prove this season.
Baker Mayfield is looking for a second chance in Carolina, but if it goes as poorly as 2021, he may also skate on thin ice. Geno Smith has his best opportunity to start in years, albeit with nearly as poor of a roster as he had with the Jets. Jameis Winston has one last opportunity to prove to the Saints that he can be Drew Brees’s successor.
There are quarterback storylines all over the league.