9 min read

33 Things on My Radar in 2022 NFL Preseason

Dolphins Draft Picks

The NFL season is just around the corner. Whether you’re a fantasy player or a sports bettor, the preseason is a time where you can update your stances on every team in the league. Heading into the Hall of Fame game, here are 33 things on my radar this preseason:

  1. The Arizona Cardinals cornerbacks’ group is an unproven unit filled with undrafted free agents and players still on their rookie deal. The Cardinals will need one or more of them to take a step forward to prevent this position group from becoming an exploitable weakness this season. Keep an eye on starters Byron Murphy Jr. and Marco Wilson as possible breakout candidates.
  2. How well Atlanta Falcons rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder performs this preseason could determine how much slack journeyman Marcus Mariota has if Atlanta struggles. I’m less bullish on Ridder than many, which is why I’ll be monitoring him closely this preseason.
  3. The Baltimore Ravens wide receiver group gets pretty thin after last year’s first round pick Rashod Bateman. Can Devin Duvernay or James Proche II (maybe even someone else) emerge as a factor in Baltimore’s passing attack.
  4. The Buffalo Bills have intriguing position battles at running back and slot receiver. However, I’ll be keeping my eyes on guard Rodger Saffold’s transition into this high-powered offense. Saffold entered camp on the non-football injury list after being involved in a car accident in late July, so the 34-year-old will get a slow start; but Saffold was a major factor for both the Rams and then the Titans for most of his career. If he can be that guy again, he could be a real difference maker for Buffalo in the trenches.
  5. Who do the Carolina Panthers start on opening day against Cleveland? Will it be last year’s starter Sam Darnold, or will the newly acquired Baker Mayfield get his shot at revenge against the team that traded him away?
  6. Nothing is more important for the Chicago Bears than the development of second-year quarterback Justin Fields. However, Chicago’s makeshift offensive line is what I’ll be focused on this preseason, as that unit could potentially stymie Fields’ progress.
  7. The Cincinnati Bengals and safety Jessie Bates III are in a contract tug of war that won’t be resolved until after the season. Bates has not yet signed his franchise tag and didn’t report to camp, which makes this a situation to monitor.
  8. The Cleveland Browns spotlight will be focused on Deshaun Watson’s six-game suspension. That said, I’ll be zeroing in on second-year linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah this preseason. He is already among the most dynamic off-ball linebackers in the NFL.
  9. The Dallas Cowboys have bled significant talent at multiple position groups this offseason, but their wide receiver group has taken multiple hits. After trading Amari Cooper to Cleveland, James Washington now joins Michael Gallup on the long-term injury report. Rookie Jalen Tolbert and/or veteran Noah Brown could be an early season factor in Dallas’ offense.
  10. Can the Denver Broncos back up newly acquired quarterback Russell Wilson with a top-ten caliber defense? Former fifth overall pick Bradley Chubb has missed 24 games over the last three seasons; that prospect is very possible if he can establish himself as a premium pass rusher.
  11. Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff will be supported by a strong offensive line and a deep skill group this season. That said, I will have my eyes on cornerback Jeff Okudah. Can he bounce back from missing nearly all of the 2021 season due to a ruptured Achilles? If he can, he’ll be a difference maker for an already intriguing Lions team.
  12. The Green Bay Packers offense needs to fill the 224 vacated targets left by Davante Adams and Marques Valdes-Scantling this season. Can young wide receivers Amari Rodgers, Romeo Doubs, or the currently sidelined Christian Watson push for a significant opening day role this preseason?
  13. The Houston Texans are going into opening day with second-year quarterback Davis Mills as their unchallenged option at the position. Wide receiver Nico Collins and tight end Brevin Jordan are two second-year players that caught my eye towards the end of last year. We already know that Brandin Cooks is a quality player, but it will be interesting to see how the rest of the Texans’ young offense trends this preseason.
  14. The Indianapolis Colts abandoned the Carson Wentz experiment after one year, which led them to acquiring future fringe Hall of Fame candidate Matt Ryan. Can one or more of wide receiver Parris Campbell, rookie Alec Pierce, or tight end Mo Alie-Cox emerge as a factor in the Colts passing attack alongside Michael Pittman?
  15. The Jacksonville Jaguars will benefit from much more stability this season. They are transitioning from the Urban Meyer debacle to Super Bowl-winning head coach Doug Pederson. That alone will greatly benefit quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who still has endless potential entering his second season.
  16. The Kansas City Chiefs offense won’t look the same without Tyreek Hill. His departure opens up opportunities for everyone in this offense. I’m most interested in the development of first-round picks, cornerback Trent McDuffie and EDGE George Karlaftis; I thought Kansas City crushed those selections.
  17. The Las Vegas Raiders are a talented team with a new coach and a significant amount of roster turnover. The Raiders defensive front is particularly interesting, as it’s a talented group with several new faces.
  18. The Los Angeles Chargers have put themselves in position to contend this season. How they handle their edge duo of Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack will be extremely intriguing. In the preseason, I’ll monitor if rookie running back Isaiah Spiller can emerge as Austin Ekeler’s main backup.
  19. The Los Angeles Rams retained Joseph Noteboom on a three-year, $40 million contract to replace retired left tackle Andrew Whitworth. Noteboom’s ability to help stabilize the Rams offensive line is among the more significant unknowns in the NFL this year.
  20. The Miami Dolphins have infused their offense with premium talent in wide receiver Tyreek Hill and left tackle Terron Armstead. They now have an improved offensive line with one of the most dangerous skill groups in the NFL. Last year Tua Tagovailoa played very conservatively in the preseason, potentially due to the state of Miami’s offensive line. This year, given Miami’s considerable talent influx and offensive-minded head coach I’m very interested to see if Tua is more assertive from the jump.
  21. Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. missed the entire 2021 season with a knee injury. I’ve liked Smith since he came out of Alabama, so I’m hoping that he looks like the player that he was before the injury. [NOTE: Smith underwent thumb surgery on August second.  While he is expected to be ready for week one, this is a concerning situation as he is now missing valuable training camp and preseason reps.]
  22. The New England Patriots have mysteriously yet to name an offensive coordinator. Seeing how this situation plays out throughout the preseason will be of great interest.
  23. New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston has an entirely different wide receiver group this year. The Saints upgraded significantly from having a below-average unit at the position. I’m curious to see if Winston leaves this preseason with a favorite among Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry, and rookie Chris Olave.
  24. The New York Giants have a number of new faces and position battles on their roster; among them includes an offensive line that could conceivably have four new starters this season. Seeing how this group gels, with a specific focus on blue chip offensive tackles Andrew Thomas and Evan Neal, will be at the top of my list when evaluating the Giants this preseason.
  25. The New York Jets have infused a lot of young talent into their roster over the past two offseasons. While that is encouraging, their 2022 season is about finding out if Zach Wilson is the answer at quarterback.
  26. Philadelphia Eagles newly-signed linebacker Haason Reddick is a versatile player who’s posted at least 11 sacks each of the last two seasons. I’ll be curious to see how the Eagles deploy Reddick, as they could potentially use him in multiple roles.
  27. Pittsburgh Steelers first-round pick Kenny Pickett is the future quarterback of the franchise. Though Mitch Trubisky will likely start Week 1, I will watch every snap Pickett takes this preseason.
  28. The San Francisco 49ers are officially entering the Trey Lance era. This makes Lance’s trials and tribulations one of the most significant stories of the preseason.
  29. Are the Seattle Seahawks going to enter the season with Geno Smith or Drew Lock at quarterback? We’ll find out this preseason.
  30. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed former Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks this offseason. Hicks will turn 33 years old this November and he’s missed 20 games over the last three seasons. He’s also been among the most disruptive interior defenders in the sport when he’s healthy. I doubt Hicks plays much this preseason, but I will look to see how he performs in practice.
  31. The Tennessee Titans are a physical, more old-school football team that has found consistent success during the Mike Vrabel era. Will the additions of wide receiver Robert Woods, tight end Austin Hooper, and first-round pick Treylon Burks give Ryan Tannehill enough firepower to keep up with the powerhouses in the AFC? It will be worth monitoring Burks’ development and if Tannehill leaves this preseason with a new favorite pass catcher.
  32. The Washington Commanders are indicating that their backfield will be a three-man committee of sorts between Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic, and rookie Brian Robinson. I’ll be keeping an eye on Robinson specifically this preseason, as I wasn’t crazy about him at Alabama.
  33. Generally speaking, the preseason is the time for back-of-the-roster players to make an impression. A situation like the Packers wide receiver group is open to that type of rise, where it would be far more difficult to crack the Bengals three-wide receiver sets. Apart from line play and young quarterbacks, I pay the most attention to very unsolved position groups to see if an unexpected upgrade emerges.