The pads are thudding. The sprinklers are sprinkling. There is a training camp here. And with that, we look at the 10 most important figures for the 2022 NFL season, in no particular order.
1) Trey Lance, quarterback, San Francisco 49ers
It’s Lance time in San Francisco. Everyone loves the idea of a young quarterback watching and learning the game from the sidelines, taking his time, honing his craft away from the spotlight and pressure. But, at some point, it’s time.
The Niners are embracing the uncertainty. Lance was drafted to solve specific schematic measurements that Jimmy Garoppolo could not. Garoppolo was part of a team that came within a drive of the Super Bowl and back to the NFC championship game. But his faults were constantly exposed. Lance may not be as consistent as Garoppolo, but he raises the team’s ceiling.
No team in the league has as wide a range of results as the Niners in 2022. Today at the start of August, you could convince yourself they’ll win it all, thanks to the merger of Kyle Shanahan’s reworked offense, his stacked defensive line, reshaped secondary and Lance. It is so desirable that they have won six games: That Lance is not ready; that the defensive line goes back to the middle. The most deciding factor between the two: the new starting quarterback.
2) Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner
There are two critical things higher than Goodell going into the season. He will serve as the main appeal of Deshaun Watson’s upcoming appeal. The commissioner, or his designee, has the ability to appeal any decision by the league’s newly appointed disciplinary officer, who handed down a six-game suspension on Monday.
Then there is the small matter of Daniel Snyder and the Washington Commanders. Snyder, the league’s most forgotten owner, continues to drag Washington’s franchises and the league into his own swamps. Snyder answered questions under oath last Thursday to the House oversight committee. The congressional committee continues to investigate the Washington franchise and allegations that Snyder presided over a toxic workplace culture.
Other owners are reportedly upset with Snyder’s actions, possibly enough to push him out of the league. Snyder has a reputation for litigation, which has served as a shield for himself and the franchise throughout its turbulent run. But as the allegations mount — including that he gifted a series of phony books to his teammates — Goodell may be forced to take action to try to remove the owner.
3) Patrick Mahomes, quarterback, Kansas City Chiefs
A second-half meltdown in the AFC championship game cost the Chiefs a shot at a second title last season. Now Kansas City has a new look: Tyreek Hill and Tyrann Mathieu, the team’s recent stalwarts, are out. Hill was a once-in-a-lifetime field-clamper who made life easier for his linebacker and the pass catchers next to him. He added the whole offense to the understanding that there was no insurmountable deficiency.
Mahomes will need to bond immediately with his new supporting cast to lead another postseason push. He had a blessed life early in his career – the ideal coach, the franchise and the support staff. The Chiefs’ roster remains one of the most talented in the league, but it’s now up to Mahomes to raise the level of those around him.
4) Sean McVay, head coach, LA Rams
McVay is trying to become the first coach to lead a team to back-to-back Super Bowl titles since Bill Belichick in 2003-04. He will also be the highest paid coach in the league, with reports suggesting his new contract will outpace Belichick’s.
But while the Rams want to tie McVay down long-term, whispers continue that McVay would be willing to leave the Rams — whether for another job or television work — which have been cap sins in recent years. start to catch up with the team.
5) Dr. Alex Steinforth, NFL Germany
The NFL has introduced a new phase of its international expansion. While there has previously been a heavy focus on London (with a nod to games in Canada and Mexico), the series is now going global. The NFL awarded Exclusive International Home Market Areas to 18 teams across 26 markets in eight countries. As the NFL takes its streaming rights under its umbrella, they are focusing on getting as many eyes as possible on games, regardless of location. Eyeballs are eyeballs; a dollar is a dollar.
The next frontier: Germany. For the first time, the NFL is bringing a regular season game to Munich. More than three million people joined the queue for tickets to the Bucs-Seahawks game in November. Demand for tickets to the first match and the prospect of future matches in various German markets – Frankfurt, Düsseldorf – will almost certainly lead to a second match in 2023 in the coming years.
6) Aaron Rodgers, quarterback, Green Bay Packers
The Packers were finally able to end the Aaron Rodgers saga during the season. Rodgers signed a massive three-year, $151m deal. Does that mean Rodgers will play all three years? Who knows? Does it mean he is happy? Pfft.
What we know: Rodgers’ new deal made it difficult for the Packers to improve in the offseason. The team was able to find enough money behind the couch to keep most of his heart intact. But the cap crunch meant Green Bay had to say goodbye to valuable contributors. Biggest loss: Davante Adams, a one-man offense masquerading as a receiver.
The Packers are still one of the most talented teams in the NFL, but it’s hard to point to more than one area where they’ve improved this season. Rodgers is still at the peak of his powers as he seeks a third straight MVP award, but he has proven that he cannot carry a team to a single championship.
7) Jerry Jones, owner, Dallas Cowboys
Jones is already talking about the heat of the position of head coach. Mike McCarthy is in no trouble, he says. But Jones does you have options, he would note. Jones will help determine whether the Cowboys can make a serious championship push – which could mean an in-season change from McCarthy to one of his ready-to-go coordinators.
As one of the league’s powerhouses, Jones will be heavily involved in any decision regarding Daniel Snyder’s ownership of the Chiefs and allowing the Walton family’s takeover of the Broncos.
8) Josh McDaniels, head coach, Las Vegas Raiders
Drop the Raiders into any other division in the NFL and they would be a definite contender. More often than not, they preferred the preseason. Plop them in the AFC West, though, and you’re looking at a team that could possibly finish first or last.
In his second stint as a head coach, McDaniels has joined a team with perhaps the best skill group anywhere in football. In Adams, he has the game’s leading receiver. In Darren Waller, he has one of the top tight ends. In Hunter Renfrow, the duo has an overqualified third banana. Locking Derek Carr into a new contract gives the Raiders a guarantee at quarterback – and a quarterback that continues to improve.
The Raiders should be well The other AFC West teams look more complete. McDaniels and co. they will likely be forced to play the role of spoilers: stop the Chargers’ momentum; making life uncomfortable for Mahomes and the Taoiseach; ending the Walton-Wilson-Hackett era in Denver.
9) Ken Dorsey, offensive coordinator, Buffalo Bills
There is no obvious fault with the Bills. They have the deepest and most talented roster in the NFL. They have an elite quarterback. They have dramatists all over the field. They have a good offensive line. Their defenses are loaded. Their secondary features the best safety tandem in the league. They are deep in the corner. The only credible cause for concern: Moving from Brian Daboll as offensive coordinator to Ken Dorsey. Daboll ran a separate system with Allen. And while Dorsey will likely look to replicate that success, it’s possible (though unlikely) that there could be some initial hiccups.
10) Tom Brady, quarterback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Brady’s retirement was the dominant story of the season. One trip to Salford, and Brady decided he wasn’t quite ready to quit this whole football thing after all. Whether they are or not this His final season, before he takes a lucrative job with FOX, remains to be seen. He is still in top form, even at 44 years of age. At this point, another MVP-caliber season is more expected than projected. And with reinforcements along the offense – on the line and at the skill positions – the Bucs enter the year as neck-and-neck favorites with the Rams to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.