As teams across the NFL’s open minicamp and ramp up preparations for the new season, the league’s head coaches will each face persistent questions about the pressing issues on their respective rosters.
No team in the NFL is without its flaws or holes and every team will have roster or contract problems to resolve as they head toward training camp and preseason.
For some, the resolution, positive or otherwise, will only come once their regular season kicks off in September. Other offseason sagas or positional battles could conclude in the coming weeks and months before the final 53-man rosters are finalized.
But what is the top burning issue for each NFL team? Here we run through the questions the 32 squads will hope can be answered positively as the season draws ever closer.
Question: When will Lamar show up?
Lamar Jackson made light of his decision to skip Ravens OTAs, insisting he will eventually turn up at the team facility.
The overriding question is when? John Harbaugh, per NFL.com, expects Jackson to be at minicamp and the sooner he is in the building the better for the Ravens.
The 2019 MVP’s presence would help him build chemistry with a group of pass-catchers now minus Marquise Brown and, more crucially for Baltimore’s long-term future, potentially facilitate progress towards a lucrative contract for Jackson.
Question: Will defensive additions be enough?
Another offseason for the Bills spent trying to get over a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. The Divisional Round loss last season was substantially more devastating than the AFC Championship Game defeat a year earlier, but the root cause was the same.
The Bills could not stop Patrick Mahomes when it mattered most and made offseason moves to address that problem. Von Miller’s arrival was the headline move while the Bills also invested a first-round pick in a cornerback in Kaiir Elam.
A defense that led the NFL in Football Outsiders DVOA last season appears stronger than in 2021. A Week 6 clash with the Chiefs will give an idea of whether Mahomes remains the Bills’ kryptonite.
Question: Could Jessie Bates III be traded?
The Bengals attacked their weakness on the offensive line this offseason to set Joe Burrow up for further success in 2022. Cincinnati also made what looks an increasingly prudent move in spending a first-round pick on safety Daxton Hill.
Hill could be under more pressure than he perhaps anticipated if the Bengals cannot satiate Bates, who has previously been reported as having no intention of signing or playing under his franchise tag.
Cincinnati will surely want to keep Bates around. Still, after a superb performance in last season’s playoffs, they could get a decent return for him on the trade market. If there is no sign of an end to the stand-off, might we see a break up few would have thought possible earlier this year?
Question: Will Deshaun Watson move backfire?
The Browns have other issues, the center position for one, but it’s impossible to ignore the elephant in the room.
With accusations mounting against Deshaun Watson, the decision to trade the farm for him looks worse and worse for the Browns. In the context of the appalling episode, the specter of a suspension from playing games is trivial.
Yet it will be a major concern for the Browns, who may have to start the season with Jacoby Brissett under center. If Brissett isn’t up to the task, they could end up behind the 8-ball early in the year in a tough AFC North.
Question: Can Russ adapt?
The acquisition of Russell Wilson is regarded as a quick route back to contention for the Broncos.
Despite their impressive roster, it may not be that simple. Head coach Nathaniel Hackett’s most recent stop in Green Bay saw him work under Matt LaFleur running a Shanahan-style offense.
Seattle tried hiring a coordinator from the same tree in Shane Waldron and the results in his first year were not pretty. Wilson, aside from suffering an injury that effectively doomed the Seahawks, did not mesh with Waldron, failing to curb his ‘hero-ball’ tendencies. If Wilson is to lead Denver back to the top, he may need to learn to press the easy button provided to him by the scheme more often.
Question: Is Davis Mills the answer?
Eyebrows were raised when the Texans drafted Mills in the third round last year but a promising rookie year has plenty wondering if he could prove a viable NFL starter for Houston.
The Texans are a long way from contention, but this is undoubtedly a better team than they had last year. As such, the 2022 season is Mills’ audition to prove the Texans might not need to draft a quarterback in 2023.
Question: Who emerges as WR2?
The Colts are hoping Matt Ryan can help them wrest the AFC South away from the Tennessee Titans. To do so, they will likely need another receiver to emerge alongside Michael Pittman Jr.
They drafted Alec Pierce with a view to him doing so and Parris Campbell is looking to finally put the injuries behind him and produce. The onus is on at least one of that duo to step up for the Colts to make a return to the postseason.
Question: Does Lawrence have enough support?
The Jags splurged in free agency to give Trevor Lawrence more weapons and yet their receiving group still looks mediocre. It will be up to Christian Kirk and Zay Jones to prove they are worthy of their contracts.
Lawrence will have the benefit of a solid offensive line and two talented running backs in James Robinson and Travis Etienne. Doug Pederson’s influence as head coach should also help, still, it’s highly debatable whether the Jags have enough to inspire Lawrence to a year-two leap.
Kansas City Chiefs
Question: Will Hill’s departure make a difference?
The Chiefs’ offense is destined to look different in 2022 following the blockbuster trade of Tyreek Hill, but will it be worse?
Kansas City is putting its faith in the mix of Patrick Mahomes, a strong offensive line, and a receiving corps that is arguably deeper following the additions of Juju Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Skyy Moore. That group, along with tight end Travis Kelce, should be well-equipped to attack the plethora of two-high coverages they faced in 2021. If that proves the case and Mahomes is Mahomes, the impact of Hill’s exit may be minimal.
Las Vegas Raiders
Question: Can Carr and Adams regain their rapport?
Derek Carr and Davante Adams are about to realize their dream of playing in the NFL together after forming a potent combination in college at Fresno State.
The Raiders have other issues such as an unconvincing O-Line and sub-par linebackers. However, no division is more quarterback-driven than the AFC West. It is likely to be Carr’s ability to reprise his connection with Adams that will determine if the Raiders can contend.
Los Angeles Chargers
Question: Who plays right tackle?
Justin Herbert is one of the favorites to win MVP in 2022. For that to happen, he will need continually solid protection from an offensive line that was the fifth-best in the NFL by Football Outsiders Adjusted Sack Rate allowed last season.
The glaring problem area up front is at right tackle. Storm Norton and Trey Pipkins look set to compete for that spot. Though with Pipkins making just two starts last year and Norton struggling across 15, neither represents a convincing option. The Chargers’ ability to identify a player with whom they are comfortable could partially dictate the ceiling of Herbert and the offense.
Question: Can Tagovailoa throw the deep ball?
Video footage of Tua Tagovailoa connecting with Tyreek Hill went viral for the wrong reasons. Indeed, that underthrown ball only heightened chatter about Tagovailoa’s supposed inability to throw deep.
Given the Dolphins’ heavy investment in the run game, Miami’s success won’t be solely reliant on Tagovailoa going downfield. Indeed, Miami will likely also use the speed of Hill to stretch defenses horizontally. Still, you don’t acquire Hill and then limit what he does best. If Tagovailoa cannot harness Hill’s downfield playmaking ability, this could be his final year as Miami’s starter.
New England Patriots
Question: Will Belichick’s coaching gamble pay off?
Questioning Bill Belichick has rarely ended well, but his decision not to name an offensive play-caller to this point has attracted significant scrutiny.
It is still unclear whether Matt Patricia or Joe Judge will call the plays. Neither seems a good candidate to get the best out of Mac Jones in year two, but Belichick has seen unconventional decisions pay dividends in the past. Will that be the case with what appears a huge gamble with his young quarterback?
New York Jets
Question: Can Zach Wilson live up to expectations?
The Jets have received widespread praise for their offseason, which has seen them vastly improve Zach Wilson’s supporting cast.
Robert Saleh’s team looks markedly better on both sides of the ball with Wilson boasting a strengthened offensive line and a wealth of pass-catching talent to utilize. Serious questions will be asked if a quarterback who was last in Expected Points Added per play in 2021 cannot take a step forward.
Question: Trubisky or Pickett?
Both of the Steelers’ major questions concern their offense. How will an O-Line that is mediocre at best hold up and which quarterback will be playing behind it?
It is the latter issue that will dominate the build-up to the 2022 season for Pittsburgh. Kenny Pickett was viewed by many as the most pro-ready quarterback in this year’s draft class. For the Steelers to spend the 20th overall pick on him only to start Mitchell Trubisky would be a huge contradiction of that assessment.
Head coach Mike Tomlin is unlikely to care about outside thoughts of what he eventually decides. However, with the Steelers’ roster otherwise ready to compete for the playoffs, the choice he comes to will define their season.
Question: How long can Tannehill hold off Willis?
The Titans certainly won’t have had any thoughts of starting Malik Willis when they drafted him in the third round. Yet, for many, his selection will have started the clock on Ryan Tannehill’s time as the Titans’ starting quarterback.
Tannehill’s three-interception performance in Tennessee’s playoff loss to the Bengals served to raise doubts about how long he should remain under center. Without the services of A.J. Brown in 2022, calls to transition and reload the team around Willis will quickly grow if Tannehill struggles in this campaign.
Question: Does Murray deal get done?
Kyler Murray did attend Cardinals OTAs, though he was not present for every practice, suggesting his relationship with the team is in a better place than it has been previously during a tempestuous contract saga.
With Murray seemingly happy to be in the building, ensuring he remains content is the priority for Arizona.
Murray was second in the NFL in Completion Percentage Over Expected last season, per NextGen Stats. While injury issues have seen successive Cardinals seasons fizzle out, signing him to the contract he deserves is Arizona’s best path to legitimate contention in the NFC.
Question: Can Mariota revive his career?
Nobody expects much from the Falcons in 2022. This is a team rebuilding for the future, but they have the offensive talent to make a revival for new quarterback Marcus Mariota seem plausible.
Kyle Pitts and Drake London offer the former second overall pick two mammoth and dynamic pass-catching options while Bryan Edwards, Olamide Zaccheaus and Cordarrelle Patterson can all be big-play threats. Reunited with former Titans OC Arthur Smith, could Mariota rebrand himself as a legitimate NFL starter?
Question: Who is playing quarterback?
It really is that simple for Carolina. The Panthers enter year three of the Matt Rhule era without a definitive answer at quarterback. They find themselves in a dreadful position, and the writing will be on the wall for Rhule if it doesn’t change.
Are they really going to give the keys back to Sam Darnold? Perhaps Matt Corral could surprise and win the job after the Panthers traded into round three to get him.
There is still the Baker Mayfield possibility, but will Rhule and GM Scott Fitterer be allowed to trade more capital for a quarterback when both could be gone at the end of the year? They need to come up with a successful plan under center, or there will almost certainly be an exodus in 2023.
Question: Can Justin Fields overcome a lack of talent?
The Bears have done next to nothing to support the quarterback the organization traded up for in 2021, focusing their offseason efforts largely on defense.
It has left Fields with an offensive supporting cast among the worst in the NFL and the Bears will likely be staring at another year in the cellar unless he can elevate that group.
Fields faces a tall order to do so. Should he fail, it will be interesting to see if Ryan Poles is willing to stick with a quarterback he did not draft when the 2023 class looks deep at the position.
Question: Is Mike McCarthy on the hotseat?
The stakes will be extremely high for Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy after their one-and-done playoff exit last season.
Though his opening season was ruined by Dak Prescott’s ankle injury, McCarthy has yet to deliver a playoff win entering his third season. High-profile departures including Amari Cooper, Randy Gregory and La’El Collins have left this roster arguably in a worse state than in 2021. Still, if McCarthy again fails to deliver postseason success, his case for a fourth year could be a tough one to make.
Question: When will Jameson Williams see playing time?
Though they aren’t expected to get anywhere close to making the playoffs, there is no shortage of hype around the Lions after a very encouraging first season under Dan Campbell.
The Lions are still several players away from contention, but they have acquired intriguing pieces, none more so than Williams. The former Alabama speedster tore his ACL in the National Championship Game and has yet to practice for Detroit.
It’s unclear whether he’ll be ready to make an impact by Week 1 but, when Williams does see the field, we could get an idea of how high the ceiling may be for a Lions offense once Jared Goff is no longer the quarterback.
Green Bay Packers
Question: How will receiver room shake out?
Putting faith in Aaron Rodgers and an increasingly stacked defense is a sound strategy for a Packers team that will be expected to cruise to another NFC North title.
However, Rodgers’ pass-catching options are the worst he has had for some time following the trade of Davante Adams. With second-round pick Christian Watson reportedly having endured struggles with drops in OTAs, it is fair to have a degree of concern about Green Bay’s wide receivers.
The Packers do have external options. Odell Beckham Jr. and Julio Jones remain on the open market and the decisions Green Bay makes in either adding an outside free agent or trusting the development of their young receivers will be a fascinating storyline to follow for a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Los Angeles Rams
Question: Can O-Line hold up?
On the surface it’s tough to find too many obvious problems for the Rams, who will head into their Super Bowl defense with Aaron Donald and Cooper Kupp’s futures secured.
While the defensive side of the trenches is a strength for Los Angeles, their offensive line is a cause for concern.
The Rams have put their faith in Joe Noteboom to step up and fill the void left by the retired Andrew Whitworth. On the inside, rookie Logan Bruss or Bobby Evans will step in for the departed Austin Corbett. Struggles on the O-Line could sink a roster that is otherwise readymade for another run at the title, making it critical that the changes at tackle and on the interior work out.
Question: Can the defense bounce back?
One of the most jarring aspects of Mike Zimmer’s final season with the Vikings is that his calling card became a problem. The Vikings defense was 19th in Football Outsiders weighted DVOA last season while only three teams gave up more yards per rush than Minnesota’s 4.68.
Minnesota invested heavily to try to fix their defensive problems. The Vikings made a major signing in pass rusher Za’Darius Smith and drafted safety Lewis Cine and corner Andrew Booth Jr. to improve the secondary. They also hired the widely respected Ed Donatell to coordinate a defense that already had plenty of talent in the likes of Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks and Harrison Smith.
The Vikings have a roster capable of challenging for the playoffs. Donatell and the new defensive additions will have a massive bearing on whether they do so.
New Orleans Saints
Question: Does Jameis have enough?
Though there are doubts over Dennis Allen’s ability to succeed taking over from Sean Payton, the Saints go into 2022 with one of the best all-round supporting casts in the league.
New Orleans’ defense ranked third in DVOA last season while the offense is stacked with skill-position talent including Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry.
The offensive line will be tasked with bouncing back after a down year in 2021 and rookie left tackle Trevor Penning must quickly make the leap. However, their fortunes essentially come down to Jameis Winston and whether he can stay healthy and make the most of an excellent situation for a quarterback.
Should he fail to do so, the Saints may be on the hunt for a franchise signal-caller in 2023.
New York Giants
Question: Is this Daniel Jones’ last year?
Jones is entering the final year of his rookie contract with the Giants after they declined his fifth-year option.
Such a move is usually a death knell for a quarterback, but could Jones prove an exception?
The Giants are not short on pass-catching talent and improved the trenches in the offseason while hiring a talented offensive mind in Brian Daboll as head coach. Daboll, of course, has experience working with a quarterback who throws an impressive deep ball and can make plays with his legs.
Jones is a long way from being Josh Allen, but could Daboll harness enough out of the former sixth overall pick to convince the Giants to keep him around?
Question: Will back seven doom the defense?
It would be easy to continue the quarterback theme here ahead of what is a make-or-break year for Jalen Hurts.
Yet for all the pressure on Hurts, his play will be immaterial if the defense cannot deliver, and there is still a significant question about the back seven.
Nakobe Dean was a steal in the third round but there will be doubts about him staying healthy after his draft slide. Behind him and his fellow linebackers, the safety pairing of Marcus Epps and Anthony Harris offers little to inspire.
The Eagles must get better play from a unit that was 25th in pass defense DVOA last year. A stacked defensive line will play its part. However, in the secondary, it may well have to be a case of the cornerbacks elevating a sub-par safety group.
San Francisco 49ers
Question: Will a Deebo deal get done?
There was an apparent positive step for the 49ers’ hopes of signing Deebo Samuel to a long-term extension on Tuesday when the All-Pro receiver appeared at mandatory minicamp.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan, per NBC Sports Bay Area, insisted his relationship with Samuel has always been good. The chance for him to spend in-person time with Samuel could break the impasse with San Francisco’s most important offensive player.
The Niners refused to indulge Samuel’s trade request and now must resolve the issues that led to it. Samuel will be crucial to Trey Lance’s success in 2022 and beyond and the Niners need a resolution to a saga that has dominated their offseason.
Question: How will DK drama turn out?
In contrast to Samuel, DK Metcalf was not at minicamp as the Seattle Seahawks began their mandatory portion of the offseason.
Talks between the Seahawks and Metcalf have yet to result in a long-term contract. Metcalf’s rookie deal expires after the 2022 season.
The Seahawks reportedly consider this an “unexcused absence” for Metcalf. All this suggests there is plenty of work to do for Seattle to find common ground with arguably their biggest remaining star.
Seattle is clearly in rebuild mode after trading Russell Wilson. Metcalf is a key building block for the franchise as the Seahawks start that process and they must ensure the drama ends with him happy to remain in Seattle long term.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Question: Is Todd Bowles up to the task?
Things turned sour for Bowles in a hurry in his last head coaching job with the New York Jets after a promising start.
Bowles was in a difficult situation with the Jets. That is not the case here. Bowles, promoted from defensive coordinator, will be able to retain focus on one of the better units in the NFL while Tom Brady runs a loaded offense with a coordinator with whom he has great chemistry in Byron Leftwich.
Everything is set up for Bowles to thrive after succeeding Bruce Arians. It’s up to him to prove he can lead a Super Bowl-ready roster deep into the postseason.
Question: Can Wentz play mistake-free?
Catapulted into the starting role after Ryan Fitzpatrick’s injury in Week 1, Taylor Heinicke threw 15 interceptions last season, tied for the third-most in the NFL.
He was tied with Justin Herbert and Josh Allen but they each threw considerably more touchdowns than Heinicke’s 20.
Washington needed a quarterback who can play efficient football and not make mistakes and for some reason settled on Carson Wentz.
Wentz threw only seven picks last year but imploded for the Colts when it mattered most in Week 18. The challenge for Ron Rivera and his staff is to harness that composed play for all of 2022 to help a roster that has the talent to be a threat to compete in the NFC East. It’s a tall order that could define Rivera’s tenure with the Commanders.