Ranking The 5 Worst NFL Rosters Entering 2022 Season

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksFeatured Columnist IVJune 16, 2022

Ranking The 5 Worst NFL Rosters Entering 2022 Season

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    SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 2: Davis Mills #10 of the Houston Texans rolls our during the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on January 2, 2022 in Santa Clara, California. The 49ers defeated the Texans 23-7. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
    Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

    At this time of year, every NFL team professes the same goal: Winning the Super Bowl.

    The reality, however, is that while teams like the Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills have the sort of talented, loaded rosters that could get them to Glendale next February, others have no shot at the playoffs, let alone a championship.

    Some teams just aren't very good.

    What makes those rosters bad can vary from team to team, but the league's worst rosters share some similarities. All have deficiencies at the game's most important position (that would be quarterback if you just started watching the NFL). Most have bottom-10 offensive lines in front of those below-average signal-callers. Many also struggle rushing the passer and covering opposing receivers.

    Just one significant deficiency at one of those premium positions can derail the chase for a Super Bowl. But when those deficiencies add up, spot after spot, you get one of the five worst rosters in all of the NFL—and inclusion on a list no one wants to be on.

5. Carolina Panthers

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    TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 9: Carolina Panthers Quarterback Sam Darnold (14) looks for an open receiver during the regular season game between the Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on January 9, 2022 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    QB: Sam Darnold

    RB: Christian McCaffrey

    WR: DJ Moore, Robby Anderson, Terrace Marshall Jr.

    TE: Tommy Tremble

    OL: Ikem Ekwonu (LT), Pat Elflein (LG), Bradley Bozeman (C), Austin Corbett (RG), Taylor Moton (RT)

    DL: Yetur Gross-Matos (DE), Derrick Brown (DT), Matt Ioannidis (DT), Brian Burns (DE)

    LB: Shaq Thompson, Damien Wilson, Cory Littleton

    CB: Donte Jackson, Jaycee Horn

    S: Jeremy Chinn, Xavier Woods

    To be fair, it's not all doom and gloom where the roster for the Carolina Panthers is concerned.

    When he's healthy, Christian McCaffrey is one of the most dangerous running backs in the NFL. Wide receiver DJ Moore has eclipsed 1,100 receiving yards in each of the past three seasons.

    Edge-rusher Brian Burns is a talented youngster with nine sacks each of the past two years. If cornerback Jaycee Horn can rebound from an injury-plagued rookie season, a Carolina pass defense that ranked fourth in the NFL last year in yards allowed could be even better.

    And yet, the Panthers were a five-win, last-place team in 2021, and expectations aren't much higher in 2022.

    That "when healthy" caveat for McCaffrey is a massive one. He has played in just 10 games the past two years. With McCaffrey out last year, any semblance of offensive balance went out the window—Carolina was 20th in the league in rushing last year, which put immense pressure on Sam Darnold to move the ball through the air behind the NFC's worst offensive line in 2021 according to Pro Football Focus.

    "Immense pressure" and "Sam Darnold" worked out as well as you'd think. Darnold finished his first year in Carolina 28th in the league in passing yards, 30th in completion percentage, and 31st in passer rating and QBR. Those struggles are also partly due to a cadre of pass-catchers that thins quickly behind Moore, especially if Robby Anderson were to follow through on his threat to retire.

    On defense, the loss of Haason Reddick means that Yetur Gross-Matos will be counted on to play a larger role after amassing just six sacks over his first two seasons combined. The team was also 18th against the run and 21st in points allowed.

    The Panthers have the best roster of any team on this list, but the areas where the Panthers do have holes (quarterback, offensive and defensive lines) are season-killers.

4. Seattle Seahawks

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    INGLEWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 21: Geno Smith #7 of the Seattle Seahawks warms up before the game against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on December 19, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
    Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

    QB: Geno Smith/Drew Lock

    RB: Rashaad Penny

    WR: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Freddie Swain

    TE: Noah Fant

    OL: Charles Cross (LT), Damien Lewis (LG), Kyle Fuller (C), Gabe Jackson (RG), Jake Curhan (RT)

    DL: Darrell Taylor (DE), Shelby Harris (DT), Poona Ford (DT), Uchenna Nwosu (DE)

    LB: Jordyn Brooks, Cody Barton, Joel Iyiegbuniwe

    CB: Tre Brown, Sidney Jones IV

    S: Quandre Diggs, Jamal Adams

    Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

    For the better part of a decade, starting with the arrival of Russell Wilson in 2012, the Seahawks were one of the league's most successful teams. As recently as 2020, the Seahawks were a 12-win team that captured the NFC West.

    Now, however, Wilson is gone. So is the team's last vestige of its vaunted "Legion of Boom" defense after linebacker Bobby Wagner was released. What's left is a deeply flawed roster.

    Yes, the Seahawks have an excellent one-two punch at wide receiver in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. Seattle also possesses a solid duo at the back of the defense in safeties Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams. Pairing rookie Kenneth Walker III with Rashaad Penny should afford the team a capable pair of running backs. Outside that, every position group on the roster is below average—at best.

    Whether it's Geno Smith's noodle arm or Drew Lock's inaccuracy and penchant for turnovers, the Seahawks probably have the worst quarterback situation in the entire NFL. The arrival of rookie tackle Charles Cross will help the team's beleaguered offensive line, but he's not going to instantly and single-handedly reverse the struggles of a unit that PFF ranked 25th in the league a year ago.

    The problems aren't confined to the offense. The Seahawks were 23rd in the league in 2021 with 34 sacks, and it's hard to see where that pass-rush will find any kind of marked improvement given that no one in the starting lineup had seven sacks last season. That lack of a pass rush could be an even bigger problem given Seattle's issues at cornerback after D.J. Reed bolted for the Jets in free agency.

    For a fan base as used to success as the "12s," this is shaping up to be really long season.

3. Chicago Bears

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    LAKE FOREST, IL - JUNE 08: Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) looks on during the the Chicago Bears OTA Offseason Workouts on June 08, 2022 at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    QB: Justin Fields

    RB: David Montgomery

    WR: Darnell Mooney, Byron Pringle, Velus Jones Jr.

    TE: Cole Kmet

    OL: Teven Jenkins (LT), Cody Whitehair (LG), Lucas Patrick (C), Dakota Dozier (RG), Larry Borom (RT)

    DL: Robert Quinn (DE), Justin Jones (DT), Khyiris Tonga (DT), Al-Quadin Muhammad (DE)

    LB: Roquan Smith, Nicholas Morrow, Matthew Adams

    CB: Jaylon Johnson, Duke Shelley

    S: Eddie Jackson, Jaquan Brisker

    It has been a while since the Chicago Bears had any kind of postseason success. And given the sad state of the Bears roster, it will likely be a while before they do again.

    Last year, the Bears scored the sixth-fewest points per game in the NFL and gained the ninth-fewest yards per contest. Part of those struggles can be tied to the shaky play of quarterback Justin Fields. The rookie completed 58.9 percent of his passes, threw just seven touchdowns across 12 games (and 10 starts), tossed 10 interceptions and posted a passer rating of just 73.2.

    The problem is that Fields isn't being put in a position to succeed. Per Pro Football Focus, Chicago's offensive line ranked 22nd in the NFL last year, allowing a staggering 58 sacks.

    Outside of running back David Montgomery, the Bears are preciously short on impact weapons on offense—wide receiver Darnell Mooney and tight Cole Kmet have shown potential, but neither is a star quite yet.

    It isn't just the offense that's an issue. The Bears are switching to a 4-3 base front in 2022 under new head coach Matt Eberflus, but there aren't many difference-makers on that side of the ball either. The Bears have an excellent off-ball linebacker in Roquan Smith, an All-Pro safety in Eddie Jackson and an accomplished 32-year-old edge-rusher in veteran Robert Quinn. Once you get past that pair, though, the questions start adding up quickly.

    That's especially true at cornerback, where the team's top player is third-year pro Jaylon Johnson, who has allowed a passer rating of over 100 in both seasons.

2. Houston Texans

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    SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 02: Brandin Cooks #13 of the Houston Texans catches the ball in the second quarter of the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on January 02, 2022 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
    Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

    QB: Davis Mills

    RB: Marlon Mack

    WR: Brandin Cooks, Nico Collins, John Metchie III

    TE: Brevin Jordan

    OL: Laremy Tunsil (LT), Kenyon Green (LG), Justin Britt (C), A.J. Cann (RG), Tytus Howard (RT)

    DL: Rasheem Green (DE), Ross Blacklock (DT), Maliek Collins (DT), Jonathan Greenard (DE)

    LB: Kamu Grugier-Hill, Christian Kirksey, Neville Hewitt

    CB: Derek Stingley Jr., Steven Nelson

    S: Eric Murray, Terrence Brooks

    The good news for the Houston Texans is that because of the Deshaun Watson trade, Houston will possess an extra first-round pick in both 2023 and 2024.

    The bad news is that the Texans most assuredly need them since there isn't a more talent-deficient roster in the AFC.

    Offensively, young quarterback Davis Mills was actually better than expected last season, but he still wasn't especially good—Mills was 26th in the league in passing yards, 25th in passing scores, 21st in passer rating and 27th in QBR.

    In Mills' defense, he was paddling upstream much of the season. No team in the NFL had a more anemic rushing game in 2021, and the players brought in to bolster it (Marlon Mack and rookie Dameon Pierce) aren't a sure bet. Alabama wide receiver John Metchie III was drafted to give Brandin Cooks some help at wide receiver, but Metchie is rehabbing a torn ACL suffered in last year's SEC Championship Game.

    Mills' protection didn't do him any favors, either—PFF ranked Houston's offensive line as the fourth-worst in the National Football League.

    Only the New York Jets were worse defensively than the Texans in terms of yards allowed, and only five teams surrendered more points per game. The defense isn't without talent in players like edge-rusher Jonathan Greenard, linebacker Christian Kirksey and rookie cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., but that unit has a long way to go to be even average.

1. Atlanta Falcons

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    ATLANTA, GA  DECEMBER 26:  Atlanta running back Cordarrelle Patterson (84) returns a kick-off during the NFL game between the Detroit Lions and the Atlanta Falcons on December 26th, 2021 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA.  (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    QB: Marcus Mariota/Desmond Ridder

    RB: Cordarrelle Patterson

    WR: Drake London, Olamide Zaccheaus, Bryan Edwards

    TE: Kyle Pitts

    OL: Jake Matthews (LT), Jalen Mayfield (LG), Matt Hennessy (C), Chris Lindstrom (RG), Kaleb McGary (RT)

    DL: Grady Jarrett (DE), Ta'Quon Graham (NT), Nick Thurman (DE)

    LB: Arnold Ebiketie, Deion Jones, Rashaan Evans, Lorenzo Carter

    CB: A.J. Terrell, Casey Hayward

    S: Erik Harris, Dean Marlowe

    The Atlanta Falcons sent a clear message with the trade that sent Matt Ryan to Indianapolis. The team is starting over—rebuilding from the ground up.

    And that rebuild could take a while.

    The offense will be led either by a veteran who hasn't started an NFL game since 2019 (Marcus Mariota) or a player whose next NFL start will be his first (third-round rookie Desmond Ridder).

    The team's ostensible lead running back (Cordarrelle Patterson) is a 31-year-old kick returner. With wide receiver Calvin Ridley suspended for at least the entire 2022 season, the team has second-year tight end Kyle Pitts, rookie Drake London and nothing else. The Falcons also have one of the worst offensive lines in the league per the rankings at Pro Football Focus—Atlanta checked in 27th last year and will roll out a line in 2022 that isn't markedly better.

    Go to the defensive side of the ball, and things get even worse. The Falcons were 26th in total defense a year ago, tied for 29th in scoring defense and dead last in the league with just 18 sacks—fewer than T.J. Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Robert Quinn of the Chicago Bears had by themselves.

    It's hard to imagine that defense will be substantially better in 2022. The addition of veteran cornerback Casey Hayward was a good get for the secondary, but Atlanta's pass rush remains an absolute mess. The Falcons' most talented pass-rusher is second-round rookie Arnold Ebiketie, and it's hardly rare for first-year edge-rushers to struggle acclimating to the pros.

    In winning seven games last year, the Falcons actually punched well above their talent level. The odds they will repeat that record are much lower than the odds that the team will head into the 2023 NFL draft with the first overall pick.