The 2022 NFL season is swiftly approaching. After an offseason full of blockbuster trades and game-changing signings, this upcoming year seems to be one of the most anticipated NFL seasons in recent memory.
But it is still summer, the season of NFL speculation, and big questions still loom in the air, such as, "Will Tua be able to take the next step and lead the Dolphins?" or "Aaron Rodgers has a sensible tattoo right?" or even "Wait... didn't Tom Brady retire?"
Unfortunately, these burning questions won't be answered for another few months, so in the meantime, we are going to be counting down the top five quarterbacks who need to step up in 2022.
Honorable Mention: Baker Mayfield
Baker Mayfield and the Browns were at a crossroads when Cleveland made the bold decision to trade for Deshaun Watson. Mayfield still had one more year left on his contract with the Browns, with almost $19 million guaranteed to him. The Browns traded for and signed Watson to a massive, fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million deal.
But with Watson still attached to 24 sexual assault cases, the Browns had a reason to keep Mayfield around.?? As the season crept closer, the question became, "If Mayfield is not dealt by the beginning of the 2022 season, and if Deshaun Watson receives a suspension, what happens?" However, we now have our answer, as Mayfield was sent to the Carolina Panthers for next to nothing. To add more intrigue, the Browns' Week 1 opponent? The Carolina Panthers.
With Carolina coming off a disappointing season between former New York Jets QB Sam Darnold and Cam Newton, Mayfield can easily take the starting gig in Charlotte. If this happens, it will be on Mayfield to step up, take the high road and prove to the NFL that he deserves a job and more importantly, that the Cleveland Browns made a mistake.
Other Honorable Mentions: Justin Fields of the Chicago Bears, Drew Lock of the Seattle Seahawks, Las Vegas Raiders QB Derek Carr, Arizona Cardinals signal-caller Kyler Murray, as well as former Colts QB and Eagles legend Carson Wentz.
Jameis Winston is one of the biggest question marks remaining this offseason. Fresh off an ACL injury that derailed a solid start to the 2021 season, Winston is looking to return to form as the primary signal-caller for the Saints. Winston looked as good as he has ever looked through the first seven games last season, leading the Saints to a 5-2 record while throwing for over 1,100 yards, 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions. (That's down from 30 in 2019, the last time he was a starting quarterback.)
If he can return to form, the future is bright for the former Heisman Trophy winner and Pro-Bowler. But with veteran Andy Dalton waiting in the wings, and a history of inconsistency, Winston will have to perform at a high level. If he wants to keep his starting job, Winston needs to prove to the Saints that last year's hot start wasn't a fluke and that he can lead the team for years.
Just two years removed from a Super Bowl appearance, Jared Goff was shipped out of sunny Los Angeles and away from the winning ways of the Rams in exchange for passer Matthew Stafford. The former Rams stud landed in frigid Detroit with a franchise that hasn't won a playoff game since 1991. Not ideal.
Also not ideal? The Los Angeles Rams winning a Super Bowl immediately after you leave.
The two-time Pro-Bowler had a mediocre 2021, throwing only 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions on the way to a 3-13-1 record and another year on the couch in the playoffs. The Lions did finish the year off with two wins over Arizona and Green Bay, though. Not to mention that momentum continued with two top 15 picks in the 2022 Draft (DE Aiden Hutchinson and WR Jameson Williams). Who knows? There might be a light at the end of the tunnel after all. But the question remains: Is Jared Goff the man who is going to lead them through that tunnel?
A solid quarterback class headlines the 2023 NFL Draft. If Goff can't step up this season and the Lions have yet another abysmal year, don't be surprised if Jared Goff is looking for a new job next summer.
Tua has had two less-than-stellar seasons with the Dolphins. He has not been able to stay on the field consistently, missing six games in 2020 and four in 2021. But even while he's been on the field, it has not been Alabama All-American Tua. Since entering the league, he has 15 interceptions to 27 touchdowns, and the Dolphins hold a 19-14 record during that stretch, thanks to solid defensive play (and a little bit of Fitzmagic).
There have been trade talks surrounding Tagovailoa since the 2021 offseason, and it is clear, especially after an aggressive 2022 offseason (an offseason that included signing quarterback Teddy Bridgewater), that the Dolphins aren't just trying to win games, they are trying to compete for Super Bowls. With the additions of Tyreek Hill, Terron Armstead, Melvin Ingram and a new head coach, the Dolphins are poised for a playoff run. But can Tua rise to the occasion, stay on the field and lead this team to the promised land? Only time will tell.
The Tennessee Titans sent a clear message to Ryan Tannehill on draft night this year by drafting Liberty star and dual-threat quarterback Malik Willis with the 86th pick. Willis, rumored to potentially be a top-10 pick, fell to the third round, opening the door for the seemingly dissatisfied Titans and prompting lots of Jimmy Garoppolo-Trey Lance style criticism from fans.
Tennessee finished tied for the best record in the AFC in 2021. Still, the Titans were promptly eliminated from the playoffs by Joe Burrow and the Cinderella Story that was the 2021 Cincinnati Bengals. In that game, Tannehill threw three interceptions, including one with 20 seconds left that set Cincinnati up for the game-winning field goal. Tannehill's success in Tennessee can be directly correlated to the fear that running back Derrick Henry strikes into the hearts of opponents.
A formidable decoy, Tannehill has made his money off of play-action, and, to be frank, Derrick Henry's health and talents. But, because of recent failure in the playoffs and an average passing year last year, Tannehill is on the hot seat. Derrick Henry isn't getting any younger, and the Tennessee Titans want to win now. Tannehill gets a chance this year to show that not only can he be more than the second option on offense, but he can lead a team to the Super Bowl. If he doesn't, there might be a new signal-caller in Nashville.
Daniel Jones is the player who needs to step up the most this season, and it's not even close. The Giants did not pick up his 5th-year option, basically sending Jones the message that if he doesn't throw touchdowns, cut back on turnovers, and win games in 2022, his time in New York is over. But that's not the end of it. If Daniel Jones does not have a significantly better season in 2022, he might not ever start another NFL game. Jones has played 37 games in the NFL since entering the league in 2019. During that stretch, Jones has 45 total touchdowns and 49 total turnovers to his name. The Giants are also 14-35 since drafting Jones. These are not starting NFL quarterback numbers.
Granted, throughout his entire NFL career, he has been "protected" by one of the worst offensive lines in the league, having been sacked a whopping 105 times over his last three seasons. But, with a new coaching staff, a revamped offensive line, a healthy Saquan Barkley and multiple weapons on the outside, Jones is finally being given the right tools to succeed. The question is, can Daniel Jones jump on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and take advantage of this "clean slate" he has been given? Or does he just not have what it takes to compete in the NFL?
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