It's officially Subjective List SZN in the NFL.
A season that, basically, spans from the start of training camp through the end of OTAs the following year, is now truly in its offseason. Nothing is happening in the NFL. In a few weeks it will all ramp back up again.
Seems as good a time as any to take a look at each team in the NFL, as presently constructed, and try to find a player whom the season might hinge upon. And, more to the point, not to default to the quarterback or the kid they just selected in the first round as the player to keep the closest eye on ... Except in certain cases, well, it really is undoubtedly the quarterback and there is no counterargument (Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Houston). And in some cases that player is actually a coach (or, in the case of one team that seems to be perpetually too cute with its staffing, it's actually two coaches performing the same job).
Make sense? Yeah, probably not entirely. Perhaps it will when you get to the bottom.
WFT: Montez Sweat
This could be a top five defense. This should be a top five defense. If healthy, Chase Young is gonna be a Defensive MVP candidate. And if Sweat can be the Robert Mathis to Young's Dwight Freeney, then this team will be playing into January again.
Cowboys: Tyron Smith
They go as the offensive line goes, and the old and beat up offensive line goes as the stud left tackle goes. And Smith's neck has been a problem. Dak Prescott's return and any rebirth from Zeke stems from the OL being elite again. That is pretty iffy at this point.
Giants: Kenny Golladay
Was anyone else giving him close to $36M guaranteed as he lingered on the free agent market? Can he do enough, with others in the supporting cast, to prop up Daniel Jones? We'll find out with jobs on the line.
Eagles: Jalen Hurts
I was largely impressed by what he did under very adverse conditions a year ago as Carson Wentz went into brat mode after being benched. A modicum of health along the offensive line and from the RB position would give the young QB more of a boost. I'm bullish on his prospects.
Bills: Cole Beasley
Are the Bills gonna become the team at the vortex of this vax/anti-vax stuff? The roster is loaded and expectations are Super Bowl-high for good reason, but the healthiest teams tend to thrive in this league and a locker room divided of science and quackery sounds suboptimal.
Patriots: Trent Brown/Kyle Van Noy
Bill Belichick loves to bring back former stalwarts on the cheap after things went sideways elsewhere. If these two perform the way they did when last in New England, then the playoff odds will soar.
Dolphins: George Godsey/Eric Studesville
Too cute by half? Employing co-offensive coordinators is the best way to bring Tua along? Individually, both would carry big questions and together it could be double the trouble. Godsey was a problem in Houston.
Jets: Zach Wilson
When you draft a QB as high as they did, after blowing it with so many other top picks at that position, and taking him over more seasoned prospects, well, it tends to define your season and your franchise.
Bucs: Tom Brady
The GOAT tries to slay Father Time yet again. Normally, we would say this Disney plot is too ridiculous to be true, but this group might be even better this year with the transition/feeling-out process now behind it and a normal training camp ahead.
Saints: Michael Thomas
Will he remain a key cog for them? Is he eventually going to be dealt? Will his impact change with Jameis Winston at the helm?
Panthers: Christian McCaffrey
Could he produce 2,500-plus yards from scrimmage in a 17-game season? How will he respond to injury? Sam Darnold is going to need him to be in peak form.
Falcons: Kyle Pitts
This team thinks it can still contend, and he should get a heavy target-share after the Julio Jones salary dump. It won't be enough to offset a bad defense, but it could go a long way to determining how long Matt Ryan sticks around.
Colts: Carson Wentz
Was last year the beginning of the end of his days as a possible MVP candidate, or a blip of sorts? Is he another Band-Aid option for Indy post-Andrew Luck, or will he be there for his prime?
Titans: Julio Jones
They are going to have to score a lot of points to win, and he and A.J. Brown might form the best receiver tandem in the NFL if he can stay healthy.
Jaguars: Urban Meyer
Plenty of ominous signs already for a college coach used to unmitigated power over his players (subordinates), who must change his ways to succeed in the NFL. This will be a delicious sociological experiment if nothing else.
Texans: Deshaun Watson
No one could have seen his legal issues coming, and no one knows how this will end. Whether suspended or not, or traded, it's hard to see him back in Houston either way.
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Vikings: Irv Smith Jr.
Will the tight end have that true breakout season? Former second-rounder in position to be a vital contributor and security blanket for Kirk Cousins.
Packers: Aaron Rodgers
The premier soap opera in pro sports rages on. Will he report for camp? Can they get the band back together? Will Jordan Love be ready if Rodgers does stay away?
Bears: Justin Fields
How long will those in power wait to play their best quarterback? It's clear this won't be a fair fight at camp, and with jobs at stake at some point they turn it over to the rookie hoping he can keep them around. It's telegraphed for weeks.
Lions: Jeff Okudah
Does he emerge as a top corner in Year 2 and face of a defense that is -- yet again! -- in transition? He was part of the divide between former GM Bob Quinn and former coach Matt Patricia and, on a roster with little talent, Detroit's rebuild needs to have at least a few holdovers from the past.
Browns: Jadeveon Clowney
They get 12 games from him in the regular season and him at least quasi-healthy for the playoffs, with Myles Garrett on the other side, and Cleveland will be a tough out in the postseason.
Ravens: Bradley Bozeman
All the talk about receivers and that need, and you forget the team didn't have a center who could actually snap the ball regularly a year ago, leading to Lamar Jackson's season-ending concussion in the playoffs. Bozeman was a strong center at Alabama and if he solidifies the interior of the line as expected, the offense could make big gains.
Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger
Father Time is undefeated and he has been whipping up on this future Hall of Famer for a few years now. Would be quite the comeback if the QB can hold him off.
Bengals: Joe Burrow
How quickly will he play after surgery cut his rookie season off too soon? Will there be a lengthy process to get back to where he was? Will they protect him better and put him in better position to succeed?
Rams: Raheem Morris
This defense shocked the world under Brandon Staley a year ago. Can Morris pick up where he left off (despite losing some key parts of the secondary)? If so, this is a Super Bowl team because the offense looks loaded to me.
Seahawks: Duane Brown
Russell Wilson made it clear he is sick of running for his life in Seattle. They need to get the left tackle in the fold and protect their franchise QB, or else another tumultuous offseason may be looming.
49ers: Trent Williams
Kyle Shanahan drafted him way back when and loves him and he may be the top left tackle in the game, but injuries have been a constant and this team has had bad injury luck and they need Williams to get where they want to go.
Cardinals: Chandler Jones
Best pass rusher in franchise history being asked to play out a way under-market deal despite having plenty of money to throw at oft-injured J.J. Watt. Hmm. Wasn't around for minicamp. Could be a trade target. Big Year 3 for Kliff and Co. on that staff. Stay tuned.
Chiefs: Orlando Brown
Was excellent at left tackle for Baltimore for half a season replacing Ronnie Stanley, but that is a very different offense that throws far fewer times than Andy Reid does. I believe Brown will be excellent, but it's a small NFL sample size and upgrading the offensive line was priority 1, 2 and 3 for K.C. this offseason.
Broncos: Von Miller
Does he have another dominant season in him after the recent lost years? Can he bounce back from injury and set himself up for another payday in 2022? If so, Denver will be in the wild card hunt.
Raiders: Gus Bradley
He had a heck of a time getting a loaded Chargers defense to be what many thought it should become. Now he takes over a team that has one of the worst defensive rosters in the NFL. Yikes.
Chargers: Joey Bosa
Can he be a game-changer week in and week out in 2022? If so, I think this team can actually hang with the Chiefs and not let them just run away with the AFC West in November.