NFL players set to fail in 2022 | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats & Rumors
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AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
The NFL has plenty of game-changing stars, but ultimately it’s always a team game.
Even the best players in the league need talent around them to make life easier.
A quarterback needs a functional offensive line and passers who can optimize the passing game. A running back must be in the correct pattern with adequate blocking in front of him.
In defense, even the best pass-rushers can be neutralized if the offense has only to worry about it. A superstar can’t make up for a bad secondary. The list continues.
Looking across the league, there are some really talented players who are going to struggle to fulfill their potential this season. Each of these players is going to be called upon to make an impact, but they’re not getting exactly the help they need.
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The Carolina Panthers are putting a lot of eggs in Brian Burns’ basket defensively in 2022.
The 24-year-old just finished his first Pro Bowl season and has proven to be a reliable passing thrower. It’s a good thing too, because outside of Burns and Haason Reddick, the Panthers didn’t have much of an impact.
Burns is talented but he also benefited from the presence of Reddick and defensive tackle Morgan Fox.
Fox may have only scored 1.5 sacks but, according to Next Generation Stats, he drew double teams at a rate similar to that of Chris Jones, Quinnen Williams and Ed Oliver. This allowed Burns and Reddick to rarely see extra attention.
Now Burns is going to be the undisputed star on the defensive front. This offseason, Fox went to the Los Angeles Chargers while Reddick went to Philadelphia.
The Panthers will have to hope that free agent Matt Ioannidis and Yetur Gross-Matos can flourish in 2022. Ioannidis, who played his first six seasons in Washington, is stepping out of the shadow of Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen. Gross-Matos was a second-round pick by the Panthers in 2020, but has just six sacks in his first two seasons.
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Before the Arizona Cardinals handed Kyler Murray a five-year, $230.5 million contract, they signed James Conner to a three-year, $21 million contract.
It was a solid financial commitment to a running back that they only paid $1.3 million in 2021. He’ll definitely earn it if he’s able to make some good numbers inside the Los Angeles offense. Cardinals this year.
Conner’s reputation last season was helped by his ability to find the end zone. The 6’1″, 233-pound guard has scored 15 times on the ground and three more as a receiver.
But when you take the score away, he was one of the least effective rushers in the league. It wasn’t necessarily his fault, though, as he was stuck behind an offensive line that wasn’t doing him any favors.
Conner averaged just 1.6 meters before contact in 2021. Only Mark Ingram had a lower number. He was a major contributor to Conner averaging just 3.7 yards per carry.
The Cardinals haven’t really done much to improve in this area. Their only free agent acquisition on the offensive line was Will Hernandez, who posted a 55.9 PFF rating with the Giants last season.
Not only that, but they watched Chase Edmonds walk in free agency, giving Conner even more carries behind a shoddy offensive line.
Conner will earn his money the hard way in 2022.
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AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
The good news for the Chicago Bears is that former head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace are no longer in charge.
The bad news is that the rebuilding project of new head coach Matt Eberflus and new general manager Ryan Poles has Justin Fields working with a potentially worse supporting cast than last year.
Fields’ rookie season had its share of ups and downs. The team went 2-8 in his 10 starts and he threw 10 interceptions on seven touchdowns while seeing the pressure on 27.3% of his comebacks.
Protection and weapons are essential for any quarterback, but they are paramount for a young quarterback trying to prove himself.
It’s hard to say the Bears’ supporting cast has improved. The offensive line was ranked 31st in the PFF preseason standings. They will rely on Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom to make big improvements in their second season at right and left tackle, respectively.
Jenkins had a 5.2 blown block percentage, which was 10th worst among linemen with at least 100 snaps, according to Sports Info Solutions. Borom wasn’t much better at 4.0%.
At receiver, the Bears traded Allen Robinson II and Damiere Byrd for Byron Pringle, N’Keal Harry, Tajae Sharpe and third-round draft pick Velus Jones. Robinson struggled to fit into Nagy’s plans last season, but he averaged 79 catches for 935 yards and five touchdowns over the past three seasons.
That would be a career high in every category for any of their new passers.
The Bears are asking Fields to make big improvements, but it’s a big ask with the supporting cast he’s been given.
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Grady Jarrett is coming off his most statistically disappointing season since his rookie year. Given his situation in Atlanta, it should come as no surprise that he will again struggle to make a box-scoring impact in 2022.
After back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons as one of the league’s most disruptive inside defensemen, he had just one sack and three tackles for a loss in 2021.
It’s no coincidence that the Falcons had the worst rushing percentage in the league at just 16.7%. The entire defense managed just 18 sacks and 58 tackles for loss.
Without much of an outside threat, Jarrett saw double teams on more than 60% of his snaps, per Next Generation Stats.
The Falcons have made some moves on defense, but this is shaping up to be another season of offenses that plot Jarrett out of the game.
The Falcons added a pair of rushers this offseason by signing Lorenzo Carter and drafting Arnold Ebiketie in the second round.
Both have long-term potential, but they still have a lot to prove. Carter never had more than five sacks in a campaign during his four seasons with the New York Giants. Ebiketie will have the usual difficulties of a rookie learning to play in the league.
Translation: It’s going to be another long year for Jarrett.
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The blockbuster summer trade that sent Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos was a win-win for just about everyone involved.
The Broncos have a quarterback who can really elevate their young and talented offense. The Seahawks got a good crop of picks as well as a few players to start a rebuild.
There were definitely losers, though, and DK Metcalf was the biggest of them.
Metcalf, one of the most physically imposing receivers in the game, passes from Wilson throwing passes to him watching Drew Lock and Geno Smith battle it out for the starting quarterback position. Regardless of who wins the job, Metcalf will miss having a quarterback of Wilson’s caliber.
He got a little taste of what life will be like without Wilson last season. With Wilson out of the lineup for three games, Smith threw the ball to him. According to NumberFire, he’s averaging six targets, 4.7 catches and 65.7 yards per game in those contests.
Extrapolating that rate for 17 games, Metcalf would have 80 catches for 1,117 yards. It would be one of his best statistical seasons to date. But this kind of efficiency is not sustainable. His career catch rate is 60.3%.
The quantity and quality of Metcalf’s targets are both about to drop, which is going to make it difficult for him to take the next step as a receiver.
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The Houston Texans seem determined to give Davis Mills a chance to prove he’s the quarterback of the future.
They just don’t give him a great chance of succeeding.
Mills certainly deserved his chance. He was third in yards (2,664), second in touchdowns (16) and third in passer rating (88.8) among rookie quarterbacks without much of a supporting cast last season.
He will be expected to carry an even more unproven group around him this season. Brandin Cooks is a proven deep threat, but Mills’ reliable options are slim outside of the 28-year-old.
Nico Collins is a breakout candidate, but he caught just 55 percent of his targets last season for 446 yards and a touchdown. Second-round draft pick John Metchie III has just recovered from a torn ACL he suffered in the SEC Championship game.
Mills’ lack of receiving options is compounded by a running game that looks like the worst in the league.
Rex Burkhead led all Houston rushers with 427 yards last season. He is now joined by Marlon Mack, Dameon Pearce and Royce Freeman.
Mack played just six games last season after coming back from an Achilles tear he suffered in 2020. Pearce is a rookie with potential as a tough runner between tackles, and Freeman has averaged 2 .6 yards per carry for the Texans last year.
It’s yet another position that looks to be in bad shape unless the Texans get a surprise season from a young player.