Each group within the NFC South should reply three questions earlier than the season begins: Is Baker Mayfield the Week 1 starter?

In one of many weirdest NFL offseasons in historical past, the NFC South helped placed on a present. Tom Brady retired to retire quickly, and Matt Ryan is now not with the Atlanta Falcons, with the franchise legend traded to the Indianapolis Colts. The Carolina Panthers commerce for Baker Mayfield, however then they do not, however then they do once more (possibly, form of?) and the New Orleans Saints are coming into their first season with out Sean Payton as head coach. The 2006 season (regardless of his Bountygate suspension in 2012) is when he and Drew Brees started their reign over the division.

Add to that the very fact Bruce Arians determined at hand the keys to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers teaching citadel to his defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, and it isn’t arduous to see how a lot upheaval has taken place in what is commonly one of the aggressive divisions. all soccer. However with such a giant change comes an equal or larger variety of questions, and whereas there are many questions, there are three for every group that stand out probably the most forward of 2022 NFL coaching camp.

Carolina Panthers

Is Baker Mayfield the Week 1 starter?

Logic says the Panthers did not commerce Mayfield with the thought of ​​having him sit behind former top-five decide Sam Darnold, particularly after Darnold’s failure in 2021. In spite of everything, buying and selling for Mayfield only a yr after buying and selling for Darnold sends a message to Darnold that he is not what you hoped he could be — possibly he is extra suited to a backup function. Nonetheless, the Panthers are publicly not shopping for into the thought of ​​Mayfield being the definitive Week 1 starter, positioning the commerce to create a stronger QB competitors that additionally contains … er … um. PJ Walker. I feel it is protected to say that we are able to all wager on Mayfield being thrown the keys earlier than the season begins.

Is Mayfield the reply of the longer term?

With him firmly within the driver’s seat, the onus is on Mayfield to show he is the whole lot Darnold is not: a former first-round decide who’s nonetheless definitely worth the worth of admission. He’ll get an early likelihood to not solely make waves, however trigger an entire storm, as his first opponent would be the identical Cleveland Browns who traded him to the Panthers in a blockbuster commerce (after which award). historic deal) to Deshaun Watson whereas Mayfield was nonetheless on the roster (ouch). The Week 1 matchup is “circled” on Mayfield’s calendar, and that tells you all it’s essential know in regards to the reply to the above query, however it does not but reveal whether or not Mayfield would be the way forward for Carolina’s franchise – one thing Matt Rhule desperately wants him to be.

Can Matt Rhule climb off the recent seat?

It was a couple of yr in the past after I named Rhule as a scorching seat candidate, and whereas some thought it was untimely, I clearly did not, and now that 2022 coaching camp is approaching, it is arduous to argue that he is heading into probably the most pivotal season of his tenure. . If Mayfield takes the reins because the starter in Carolina, it is going to mark Rhule’s third try in as many seasons to seek out and develop a franchise participant who has now made a big-money deal for Teddy Bridgewater and the aforementioned Darnold deal. Perhaps the third time’s the appeal for Rhule, and it might be higher as a result of he is 10-23 in his first two seasons with the membership, and whereas a few of that may be attributed to the lack of the oft-injured Christian McCaffrey, it won’t be sufficient to avoid wasting him in 2023 — if he unable to muster their first successful season in 2022.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Can Tom Brady do it once more?

I imply, let’s be actual right here for a second. That is Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr we’re speaking about. The identical one who helped flip the New England Patriots right into a dynasty earlier than leaving to affix the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win a Tremendous Bowl title in his first yr with the membership and regardless of the challenges of the raging COVID-19 pandemic. And sure, the identical one with seven Tremendous Bowl rings and 5 Tremendous Bowl MVP honors. Nonetheless, the query must be requested since Brady left this offseason (solely to give up) and is not dedicated in 2023 and past, and he is proven latest vulnerability in a January dwelling loss to the eventual champion Los Angeles Rams. Throw in a head teaching change and effectively, issues aren’t fairly what they had been in 2020.

Will Todd Bowles Rebuild His Model As NFL Head Coach?

Talking of a change at head coach, it is now Todd Bowles’ present after being thrown the keys by Bruce Arians, who has now moved into extra of a entrance workplace advisory function with the group. Bowles isn’t any stranger to successful as an NFL head coach and is revered as the most effective defensive ends within the sport, however his departure from the New York Jets tarnished his silver lining. place to wipe. Regardless of some modifications to the roster, the Bucs nonetheless have Brady and are nonetheless the favorites for the NFC South and probably extra, which naturally places much more strain on Bowles to ship in yr one since there is not any assure Brady will likely be round. For the 2nd yr.

Will Rob Gronkowski return on his phrase?

The obvious change to the Bucs roster is the present absence of future first-ballot Corridor of Fame tight finish Rob Gronkowski, the optimum phrase right here being “present.” The once-again-retired dynamo appears hell-bent on retirement this time round, and it appears to be like like even a name from Brady — his finest pal — will not get him again on the sector sooner or later. In fact, we have heard this story from Gronk earlier than, and certainly it was Brady who was capable of get him again into an NFL uniform after retiring from the Patriots. It is clear Brady believes one other reunion is a chance in 2022, and the Bucs have by no means closed the door on it, so it stays a narrative to observe till it occurs.

New Orleans Saints

Can Jameis Winston ship?

Barring the wildly unexpected, Drew Brees will not return to the Saints, however Winston has — after struggling a torn ACL in a breakout yr in New Orleans. The battle for Taysom Hill is over as Hill tries for 2021 QB1 at tight finish after a disappointing efficiency, and former fourth spherical decide Ian Ebook is nowhere near changing into a franchise QB. So it is Winston’s job to lose after signing a two-year deal this offseason, and head coach Dennis Allen is making an attempt to get off to a roaring begin within the first yr of the post-Sean Payton period, so he must play Winston. one of the best soccer of his NFL profession; and particularly if he needs to maintain Andy Dalton on the bench.

Is Michael Thomas nonetheless a power to be reckoned with?

What sort of Michael Thomas will the NFL see in 2022? Is it the record-setting All-Professional who completely owned the league in his prime, or the one making an attempt to shake off the rust after taking part in simply 5 video games over the past two seasons resulting from damage? Is it the one who’s totally purchased into the Saints or the one nonetheless carrying the grudge over the past two seasons with Sean Payton? Time will definitely inform, however the reality is that Winston’s success has so much to do with which model of Thomas returns to the courtroom in New Orleans. After two seasons now battling ankle points that usually rob receivers of their athleticism, the 29-year-old nonetheless has so much to show transferring ahead, and that is placing it mildly.

Will Dennis Allen get off to a scorching begin within the post-Payton period?

One of the revered minds within the Saints group, it was a smart move to succeed Allen Payton, as proven by the respect the gamers have for him and the way good his protection has been over time. That is to not say that transferring to a penthouse is simple, as a result of it is not. There are query marks about whether or not Winston might be what he is seen earlier than, whether or not Thomas remains to be an ace, and whether or not the Saints can put all of it collectively to take the division away from Brady and the Buccaneers. The previous has proven he can deal with the latter throughout the common season, however what issues most is what occurs between January and early February, and Brady needs to have the final chuckle on his new rivals.

Atlanta Falcons

Can they be aggressive in 2022?

This upcoming season marks the primary time the Falcons have been with out Matt Ryan as their franchise quarterback since he took over as a rookie in 2008, following one of the controversial and disappointing seasons in organizational historical past. Bobby Petrino makes headlines only one season after Michael Vick’s dogfighting revelation. Not solely did Ryan grow to be the league MVP for his profession, he additionally turned the longest-tenured quarterback in Falcons historical past, an Atlanta legend now set to go well with up for the Colts in 2022. And whereas it is debatable whether or not Ryan is, it is plain that his departure will create an enormous void at a very powerful place in soccer and propel the Falcons into what many consider is rebuilding mode.

Will Marcus Mariota lastly set up himself as an NFL starter?

The acquisition of Marcus Mariota appears to be like admirable up to now probably making them aggressive, however it’s additionally true that Mariota turned a backup for a purpose. The previous second general decide fell from grace at Tennessee after which served as Derek Carr’s backup in Las Vegas till now. It appears fairly arduous to see him equal or near what Ryan was/is. Time will inform if Mariota could make the Falcons aggressive in 2022 as a bridge to the longer term, or if that bridge will as an alternative collapse beneath the burden of a division owned by Tom Brady. Because it seems, Mayfield and Darnold aren’t the one former top-five picks determined to retool with a brand new group. The irony is that every one three at the moment are competing towards one another in some components of the identical division.

Can Drake London substitute Calvin Ridley immediately?

Whereas Ridley is topic to an indefinite suspension that may price him a minimum of your entire 2022 season, the Falcons appeared to the 2022 NFL Draft as a automobile to interchange his manufacturing. The choice to pick Drake London (USC) with the eight general decide instantly makes him a complementary piece to tight finish Kyle Pitts, who they used with the fourth general decide in 2021. It is a tandem the Falcons hope to place numbers on and , in doing so, assist Mariota make the Birds a viable problem within the NFC South this coming season. London is a former Pac-12 Offensive Participant of the 12 months (2021) and first-team All-Pac 12 expertise (2021), and the NFL has now seen that Pitts can take over video games on the skilled stage like he did with the Gators.

However in 2022, neither Ryan will hit, Mariota will, and it will not be the identical caliber of arm — which means there’s a variety of work to be executed in camp if that trio has any actual chemistry going ahead.

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