Sports

One unanswered question facing each NFL team in 2021

No NFL team is perfect, and with a little more than three months until Week 1, questions remain for all 32 franchises. These are the most pressing questions for each team as we approach June.

 

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Arizona has reason for excitement after adding former Texans star J.J. Watt. He joins Chandler Jones, who played only five games last year due to injury, and flashy pass rusher Markus Golden. Each player in that trio has produced huge sack numbers in the past, but they combined for only 10.5 sacks last season. Their performance could determine the success of the defense in 2021.

 

Atlanta Falcons: What will happen with Julio Jones?

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With major cap issues, Julio Jones continues to be mentioned in trade rumors for the Falcons. The team has an embarrassment of riches after drafting Kyle Pitts to join Jones and Calvin Ridley, but the team might be best served to sell high on the oft-injured Jones and address other areas.

 

Baltimore Ravens: Can Lamar Jackson find playoff success?

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Jackson finally won his first playoff game last year, but Baltimore’s performance in the postseason was still a disappointment. The 2019 MVP has played some of the worst games of his career in the playoffs, but the team added more receivers this offseason to help. Baltimore remains a top contender in the AFC, but the questions about Jackson’s performance in the playoffs will continue until he has success.

 

Buffalo Bills: Was Josh Allen's breakout season real?

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Allen played at an MVP level in his third season, leading the Bills to the AFC Championship. Reworked mechanics and the addition of Stefon Diggs led to a far more accurate quarterback, but players with sudden breakouts like Allen do tend to regress in their follow-up season. Allen will try to build on last year and lead Buffalo to even greater heights in 2021.

 

Carolina Panthers: Is Sam Darnold the answer at quarterback?

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The Panthers weren’t happy with Teddy Bridgewater‘s production last year and opted to acquire Darnold instead of drafting a quarterback. Darnold’s play during his NFL career has been inconsistent, and the Panthers might need to address quarterback for the third consecutive year if he doesn’t improve in 2021.

 

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Chicago Bears: Can the Bears compete with rookie Justin Fields?

Chicago Bears: Can the Bears compete with rookie Justin Fields?

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While head coach Matt Nagy has said that Andy Dalton is the starter, it’s clear Fields will be starting under center sooner than later. The former Ohio State star provides reason for Bears fans to be excited, but his supporting cast isn’t great. Nagy and company might need to make the playoffs in 2021 to keep their jobs, and it remains to be seen if Fields is capable.

 

Cincinnati Bengals: Can the offensive line protect Joe Burrow?

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The Bengals received criticism for drafting wideout Ja’Marr Chase over tackle Penei Sewell in the first round, especially with Burrow returning from a torn ACL. Cincinnati did add Riley Reiff at right tackle in the offseason, but the recent performance of the offensive line has been worrisome.

 

Cleveland Browns: Will the revamped secondary produce?

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Cleveland had problems in the secondary for much of last year but addressed that area of the additions of John Johnson, Troy Hill, first-rounder Greg Newsome, and the return of Grant Delpit from injury. Suddenly, the Browns have one of the deeper secondaries in the league, but they need the group to mesh quickly to reach their potential.

 

Dallas Cowboys: Will the defense improve?

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Dallas was in a series of track meets early in the year before Dak Prescott suffered a season-ending injury, with the defense going from 11th in 2019 to 28th in points allowed last season. The Cowboys had major issues at all three levels and drafted eight defensive players to help address their problems. The young players could make a difference, but Dallas also needs veterans like Demarcus Lawrence and Jaylon Smith to play better.

 

Denver Broncos: Who will start at quarterback?

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The Broncos added Teddy Bridgewater to compete with Drew Lock in training camp, but there are still rumors of Denver’s viability for acquiring Aaron Rodgers. Denver remains an obvious landing spot for Rodgers with a talented roster and major need. 

 

Detroit Lions: Is Jared Goff the long-term quarterback?

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The Lions could be looking at a tough 2021 after sitting mostly quiet in the offseason. The addition of Goff for Matthew Stafford looks like a clear downgrade at quarterback, and Goff doesn’t have much to work with after the Lions moved on from Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones. Goff does still have a chance to prove he can be the future in Detroit.

 

Green Bay Packers: Can the team make Aaron Rodgers happy?

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Rodgers’ displeasure with Green Bay’s front office came out just before the draft, and there are still questions about his future with the Packers. At this point, it doesn’t look like a trade has any momentum, but Rodgers could press the issue as training camp gets closer. The team’s success in 2021 will almost certainly be determined by the outcome.

 

Houston Texans: What is Deshaun Watson's future?

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The offseason has been a nightmare for Houston, who had little cap room or draft capital already, and were also facing Deshaun Watson‘s trade demands before his off-field issues came to light. Regardless, Watson’s status in Houston for 2021 doesn’t look promising.

 

Indianapolis Colts: Can Carson Wentz turn around his career?

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Wentz nearly won the NFL MVP with Philadelphia in 2017, but his career has gone downhill since then due to injuries and poor play. He looked lost with the Eagles last year but has a better offensive line and situation in Indy this season.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars: Was Urban Meyer the right hire?

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Meyer has made the jump to the NFL after time off from coaching, but he’s already faced major controversy this offseason with the hiring and resignation of strength coach Chris Doyle along with the signing of Tim Tebow. While Meyer’s college experience would seem to be a great fit for a rebuilding team, the early signs should make fans uneasy.

 

Kansas City Chiefs: Has the offensive line been fixed?

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Patrick Mahomes suffered two injuries during the playoffs and was running for his life in the Super Bowl behind a banged-up offensive line. The Chiefs completely revamped their offensive line during the offseason to fix the problem, and could potentially have no starters at all five spots. Additions Orlando Brown, Joe Thuney, Kyle Long, and Creed Humphrey look great on paper, but only time will tell if the new faces make a difference.

 

Las Vegas Raiders: Will Gus Bradley fix the defense?

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The Raiders defense has been consistently bad recently and allowed the third-most points in the league last season. To fix the problem, Las Vegas added Gus Bradley and signed Yannick Ngakoue, along with a host of other moves. 

 

Los Angeles Chargers: Can Brandon Staley make the Chargers contenders?

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The Chargers received criticism for hiring a defensive-minded head coach with young quarterback Justin Herbert developing. Based on last season’s results, LA needs even more help on the defensive side of the ball than offense, and Staley made a miraculous difference as the Rams defensive coordinator last season. The team is hoping he can do the same as the Chargers head coach.

 

Los Angeles Rams: Was Matthew Stafford the missing piece?

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Sean McVay seemed to have a falling out with Jared Goff as the Rams offense floundered over the last two seasons. Stafford has a better track record and more impressive physical tools, but the talent around him also isn’t quite what it was when the Rams made the Super Bowl three years ago. There’s pressure on Stafford and McVay to get the offense back on track.

 

Miami Dolphins: Will Tua Tagovailoa make a sophomore leap?

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Tagovailoa struggled in his rookie season, and Miami’s offense was clearly better with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. Miami still gave Tagovailoa the reins this season and has added more talent with the additions of Will Fuller and Jaylen Waddle. The Dolphins can compete for a playoff spot if Tagovailoa takes a step forward.

 

Minnesota Vikings: Can Mike Zimmer fix the defense?

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The Minnesota defense has been their calling card since Zimmer was hired in 2014, ranking in the top 11 in points allowed each season until 2020. The team’s offseason personnel losses and injuries were too much to overcome, but the Vikings now have Danielle Hunter returning from injury and the additions of Patrick Peterson, Xavier Woods, and Mackensie Alexander in the secondary. The defensive results could determine whether Zimmer returns for 2022.

 

New England Patriots: Does Cam Newton has anything left?

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Newton struggled last season after returning from COVID-19, but the Patriots still brought him back for this season. The former NFL MVP is still on notice after the team drafted Mac Jones in the first round, but additional weapons like Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Hunter Henry, and Jonnu Smith should help.

 

New Orleans Saints: Who will start at quarterback?

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The Saints won’t be the same without Drew Brees under center and are set to turn to either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill as the starter this season. Hill got most of the work when Brees was injured last year, but the offense is certainly more explosive with Winston’s arm. The starter will be a storyline for most of training camp.

 

New York Giants: Can the Giants win with Daniel Jones?

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Jones has shown flashes in his first two seasons, but he’s also been a turnover machine for the Giants, leading the league in fumbles in consecutive years. The Giants added a bevy of weapons to help Jones this offseason, including Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, and Kyle Rudolph, so it will be a make-or-break year for Jones.

 

New York Jets: Is Zach Wilson the right quarterback?

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The Jets made the controversial decision to trade Sam Darnold and draft Wilson second overall this offseason. Wilson showed flashy play at BYU, but it’s still up for debate whether he was the right choice for the team. New York has given Wilson a better shot by addressing their offensive line and signing Corey Davis.

 

Philadelphia Eagles: Is Jalen Hurts an NFL starter?

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The Eagles turned to Hurts late last season, and seem to be all-in on him as the starting quarterback in 2021. That includes a new head coach in Nick Sirianni and first-round wideout DeVonta Smith, but Hurts will still have to play better than he did in his rookie season if the Eagles are to compete.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers: Can Ben Roethlisberger turn around his play?

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Coming off major elbow surgery, Ben Roethlisberger‘s play was inconsistent in 2020. Pittsburgh suffered a late-season slide and embarrassing playoff loss that coincided with some shaky play from Big Ben, and there were questions about whether the team would even bring him back. The Steelers have seemingly given it one more run with Roethlisberger in 2021, but desperately need him to play better.

 

San Francisco 49ers: Is Trey Lance the right quarterback?

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The 49ers traded up to the third overall pick in the draft to select Lance despite still having Jimmy Garoppolo on the roster. Garoppolo is expected to remain the starter at the beginning of 2021, but Lance could replace him if he impresses. With inexperience in college and the transition from North Dakota State to the NFL, it’s not a sure thing that Lance will ever be what the 49ers hope.

 

Seattle Seahawks: Can the offensive line protect Russell Wilson?

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Wilson expressed his displeasure with the Seahawks offensive line after last season, and the team helped him by adding guard Gabe Jackson. It’s still not clear if that will be enough to give Wilson the time he needs in the pocket, but fans are hoping so after the offense stagnated late last season.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Can the team repeat?

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The Bucs followed a similar formula after their Super Bowl victory that the Chiefs did last season, bringing back nearly their entire roster with the hope of a repeat championship. Tampa Bay faces many questions, including how long Tom Brady can play at an elite level as he enters his age 44 season, but the Bucs have to be considered the favorites in the NFC entering the year.

 

Tennessee Titans: Will the revamped secondary help?

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Tennessee allowed the fourth-most passing yards in the league last season, with majors struggles from their secondary. The team has addressed those issues by adding two new starting cornerbacks, including first-round pick Caleb Farley while adding pass rush help.

 

Washington Football Team: Was Ryan Fitzpatrick the missing piece?

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Washington had a vanilla offense last year but still managed to make the playoffs due in large part to their excellent defense. With an NFC East that’s likely to be better, Washington needs more production from their offense, and are hoping that 38-year-old quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick can make the difference. He’s a journeyman with significant starting experience, but Fitzpatrick has only one winning season as a full-time starter.


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