Once upon a time an NFL head coach called me Captain Negative.
He called me this because whenever we spoke or I asked questions they were often about concerns I had — and he almost certainly had, but didn’t wish to admit — about his team.
Funny thing about those exchanges is, after a while of seeing many of my concerns show themselves on the field, I started telling this coach that I was actually Captain Positive.
Because I was positive he had problems.
Based on that, I’m looking around the NFL landscape now, mere days before the kickoff to the 2022 regular-season, and I see teams I have concerns about. They’re not my issues, I’m going to the Super Bowl in February for, like, the 30th time.
So I’m good.
But their issues might keep these teams from being at that game, too. That’s why I want to share those concerns now so we can all be accountable as the season unfolds.
With that, allow me to share some of my 2022 Captain Negative concerns:
Buffalo: When Tre’Davious White went on IR last season someone I really trust told me the Bills could overcome the loss because coach Sean McDermott’s system didn’t ask the corners to do as much as other systems. That was fine against middling QBs. But when the Bills faced elite QBs, they got lit up. White is on PUP to start this season and will miss at least the first four games. That includes games against Matt Stafford on Thursday and Lamar Jackson in three weeks. The Bills also face Joe Burrow, Aaron Rodgers and Mahomes later in the season. If White is back full-go, then fine. Otherwise, I’m concerned.
Miami: You saw those cool clips from the Dolphins social media account of Tua Tagovailoa throwing deep TD passes to Tyreek Hill, right? Did you notice that none of those came against Cover 2? Defensive coordinators around the NFL used Cover 2 last year against the Chiefs to keep Mahomes from connecting deep with Hill and it worked for a good portion of the season. The Chiefs eventually figured out a work-around but there was much frustration in KC until then. Will that frustration happen in Miami when speedsters Hill and Jaylen Waddle have to catch all their passes underneath? Because if that happens, I’m concerned.
New England: The offense has been abysmal since the start of training camp. And there are good reasons: they lost offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, a couple of offensive assistants, switched up the system some, are having former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia call the offense, and I legit doubt the Patriots scare anyone with their outside receivers. So I’m concerned whether quarterback Mac Jones, solid as a rookie, will be any better this year.
Cleveland: Jacoby Brissett is the starting quarterback for the first 11 games while Deshaun Watson serves his suspension. Brissett has proven the past two years he holds the ball too long, he’s too deliberate in his delivery, and because he hates turnovers – he doesn’t often test defenses with more aggressive throws. If that Brissett shows up for the Browns, I’m concerned.
Baltimore: It’s not about the contract with Lamar Jackson, in my opinion. He’s going to play with great motivation if he gets a record contract or not. Because if he gets it, he’ll want to earn it and if he doesn’t, he’ll want to prove he deserves it. It’s about the injury factor with him. The Ravens proved last year they are perhaps more than any team in the league utterly lost without their starting quarterback, going 1-4 without him. If Jackson’s not healthy this year, I’m concerned.
Denver: The Broncos upgraded at quarterback with the trade that brought Russell Wilson from Seattle. But upgrade is relative. Wilson will be better than Drew Lock or whoever else has been starting in Denver the past half-decade. But watch the tape of 2021 Wilson compared to 2018, ’19 and even ’20 Wilson and it’s clear he’s not quite as elusive, not quite as accurate, especially on the run, and not quite as durable. All are by-products of being hit perhaps as much as any NFL quarterback while playing behind leaky offensive lines. So does the decline continue or does a better line and supporting cast in Denver turn back the clock? It’s a question I’m concerned about.
Philadelphia: No excuses for Jalen Hurts this year because general manager Howie Roseman upgraded the talent to Super Bowl contention levels all around Hurts. That’s a rough situation to operate in, so I’m concerned for Hurts.
Green Bay: Aaron Rodgers, 39 in December, keeps talking about retirement and seeing the end of the line. Well, unless his frontline receivers, including Sammy Watkins and Allen Lazard, stay healthy, he’s going to be baby-sitting rookie receivers Romeo Doubs, Christian Watkins and Samori Toure. And Rodgers not having the feel and patience of a babysitter is a concern to me.
Tampa Bay: The starting left guard, starting right guard, and starting center are all new this year. Tom Brady, 45, is not the same amazing player when he feels pressure up the middle. The combination of those two things is a concern to me.
San Francisco. Trey Lance is a developmental quarterback starting for an otherwise Super Bowl-ready team. Developmental quarterbacks are capable of exciting highs and depressing lows and the fact Super Bowl-ready veterans aren’t often patient with such players is a concern to me.
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