Biggest Questions That Still Need to Be Answered in Final Week of 2022 NFL Preseason

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxCorrespondent IAugust 23, 2022

Biggest Questions That Still Need to Be Answered in Final Week of 2022 NFL Preseason

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    Will we see Packers QB Aaron Rodgers at all this preseason? (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

    Through two weeks of preseason action, there have been both expected developments and surprises across the NFL.

    We haven't seen Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the field yet. That's no shock given the fact that the reigning MVP told ESPN's Rob Demovsky earlier this month doesn't see much value in making a brief exhibition appearance.

    But we have seen Washington Commanders rookie running back Brian Robinson unexpectedly start over 1,000-yard rusher Antonio Gibson in Week 2.

    While the beginning of the preseason has left plenty of impressions, it's also left several questions unanswered. Maybe they'll be answered this week as teams put the finishing touches on their 2022 rosters.

    Who will be Rodgers' new No. 1 receiver in Green Bay? Is Gibson's time as a lead back over? What the heck are the San Francisco 49ers going to do with Jimmy Garoppolo? Below we'll examine these questions and more.

Who Will Be Aaron Rodgers' New Top Target in 2022?

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    Romeo Doubs has impressed this preseason. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

    The Packers likely have no concerns about Rodgers' ability to be ready for Week 1. The 14-year starter has won back-to-back MVP awards and is still in his playing prime at 38. The concern may be with finding his new top target.

    Green Bay traded standout receiver Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders in the offseason. It added Sammy Watkins and rookie second-round pick Christian Watson to a receiving corps that already included Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard. However, no wideout on the roster has been a true No. 1 option at the pro level before.

    Watson has the potential to be a top target. He is a 6'5" pass-catcher who averaged 18.6 yards per reception with North Dakota State last season. However, he has been out following knee surgery and is only getting back to team drills this week.

    Arguably the biggest standout of the Packers' preseason thus far has been rookie fourth-round pick Romeo Doubs, who wasn't in the spotlight heading into camp. Through two games, he has caught six passes for 69 yards and two touchdowns.

    But Doubs has also shown a penchant for drops, with two of them in each game, according to ESPN's Rob Demovsky.

    Do the Packers have a true top option on their roster? Does Rodgers have a receiver he can trust? If—and it's a big if—Rodgers and the Green Bay starters see action in the preseason finale against the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday, we might start to get answers.

Who Will Be Seattle's Week 1 Starter?

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    Will Geno Smith start in Week 1 for Seattle? (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

    Rodgers is a future Hall of Famer. The Seattle Seahawks had their own future Hall of Fame quarterback in Russell Wilson, but they traded him to the Denver Broncos this offseason.

    Seattle will likely start either Geno Smith or Drew Lock—acquired from Denver in the Wilson trade—at home in Week 1 against the Broncos. However, there is no clear leader in the competition.

    The position battle was complicated in Week 2 when Lock was forced to miss the start with COVID-19.

    "So I still need to see him play and need to see him fit in with our guys and all of that," head coach Pete Carroll said, per ESPN's Brady Henderson. "He's done really well until now. That opportunity was going to be a big one."

    Smith finished 10-of-18 for 112 yards against the Chicago Bears in Week 2, but the Seahawks were shut out in the first half.

    We'll likely see Lock in extensive action in the preseason finale against the Dallas Cowboys on Friday. Seattle probably won't name a starter before then.

    "I'll talk to you more about it later in the week, or I won't. I'm not sure," Carroll said, per John Boyle of the team's official website.

    The Seahawks are unlikely to be serious playoff contenders now that Wilson is gone, and they may already be eyeing the 2023 quarterback draft class. However, someone will have to be under center this season. Will it be Smith or Lock in Week 1?

Will Jameis Winston Be Ready for Week 1?

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    Will the Saints have QB Jameis Winston in Week 1? (Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

    While the Seahawks may not be contenders in 2022, the New Orleans Saints have a reasonable shot at the playoffs. This is a team that went 9-8 a year ago despite having a lackluster receiving group and losing starting quarterback Jameis Winston to a torn ACL after only seven games.

    With Michael Thomas back in the picture at receiver—and with Jarvis Landry and rookie first-round pick Chris Olave also in the mix—New Orleans' 32nd-ranked passing attack could take a big step forward.

    Two big questions hang over the Saints heading into their preseason finale Friday against the Los Angeles Chargers.

    Will Sean Payton's decision to step down as head coach in the offseason negatively impact the team? Dennis Allen was promoted from the defensive coordinator spot to replace him, while Pete Carmichael Jr. remains the offensive coordinator. So there is some continuity.

    The second question is whether Winston will be back on the field for Week 1. He played well before the injury in 2021, finishing with 14 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 102.8 passer rating. However, his recovery hit a setback when he suffered a foot sprain on August 8.

    Winston came back to practice last week but has yet to return to team drills.

    "I'm hopeful we'll begin to get him into team work this week and see where he's at," Allen said, per ESPN's Katherine Terrell.

    New Orleans has a solid backup option in journeyman Andy Dalton. However, the 28-year-old Winston is still young enough to be a long-term answer at quarterback. First, though, he'll have to get back on the playing field. Ideally, that will happen within the next two weeks.

Has Kenny Pickett Done Enough to Start for the Steelers?

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    Rookie QB Kenny Pickett has impressed this preseason. (Justin Berl/Getty Images)

    The Pittsburgh Steelers lost longtime starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to retirement this offseason. However, they have no interest in making 2022 a rebuilding year.

    "To me, this organization is the gold standard of gold standards," assistant general manager Andy Weidl said, per Mark Maske of the Washington Post. "....The goal here is to win number seven. And it's important."

    The question is whether Mitchell Trubisky or rookie first-round pick Kenny Pickett gives Pittsburgh its best chance to win now. Trubisky, who has a 29-21 record as a starter, has long felt like the obvious option. He can serve as a quality game manager while the Steelers groom Pickett to be the future face of the franchise.

    However, Pickett has impressed enough during the preseason that it's fair to wonder if waiting is the right call. Through two preseason games, the University of Pittsburgh product has thrown for 171 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.

    Head coach Mike Tomlin isn't going to make the call based on a pair of preseason outings, though.

    "We'll address depth-chart-related things over the next couple of days as we zero in on our next opportunity," he told reporters.

    It's worth noting that Trubisky and third-stringer Mason Rudolph have also performed well this preseason. Collectively, Pittsburgh's quarterbacks have completed 54 of 73 attempts for six touchdowns and no interceptions.

    The question remains, though: Has the future of the franchise shown enough to be the starter now? That may be determined in the preseason finale Sunday against the Detroit Lions.

Is Brian Robinson the New Lead Back in Washington?

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    Has Brian Robinson shown enough to claim the starting job in Washington? (Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

    While the Washington Commanders only won seven games last season, there's a chance that they'll return to NFC East contention in 2022. They won the division two years ago and added quarterback Carson Wentz this offseason.

    A strong running game would undoubtedly help. That ground attack may not be led by Antonio Gibson, who has started over the last two campaigns.

    As noted earlier, rookie Brian Robinson got the start in Week 2 of the exhibition slate. This came after Gibson fumbled in the preseason opener against Carolina and spent part of the week working on special teams.

    "He's approaching it as a professional," special teams coordinator Nate Kaczor said of Gibson, per Peter Hailey of NBC Sports Washington.

    While Gibson did play special teams in college at Memphis, he had never done so as a pro before his fumble against the Panthers. The change could be the sign of a new role for Gibson and an indication that Robinson is already headed toward the starting job.

    This will be meaningful if Washington is able to regain relevance in its division. However, it may be more intriguing to fantasy managers who wonder whether there is a trustworthy back in Washington. Receiving back J.D. McKissic, who suffered a groin injury last week, will presumably also be in the mix.

    We may get some answers about Washington's plans at the position during Saturday's exhibition against the Baltimore Ravens.

Will Treylon Burks Be in a Position to Help the Titans Early in 2022?

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    We haven't seen a lot from Titans rookie WR Treylon Burks yet. (Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Tennessee Titans first-round pick Treylon Burks is expected to be the team's new No. 1 wide receiver following the offseason trade of A.J. Brown.

    However, the Arkansas product missed much of the offseason program, including all of minicamp, because of asthma and conditioning issues. It wasn't a new issue for Burks.

    "I'm assuming he didn't go in there in great shape," Sam Pittman, the head coach for the Razorbacks, told 104.5 The Zone in July (h/t Mike Moraitis of Titans Wire). "It's the same way when he was a sophomore. He wasn't in good shape; he couldn't last practice and all. And it's not that he just quit, he just couldn't do it anymore."

    While Burks was back for the start of training camp, he hasn't shown much on the preseason playing field. He's had one carry and one catch for a total of eight yards. His one reception came on four targets.

    Yet head coach Mike Vrabel has seen some positives.

    "I was really encouraged by some of the things, especially without the football trying to block," Vrabel said, per Ben Arthur of The Tennessean. "There were times that he was open, whether that be for a catch-and-run, and there were some other times that we'd like to see a better route."

    After missing so much of the offseason, can Burks be a noteworthy contributor early in 2022? Tennessee is otherwise built to make a deep postseason run. This is a question that will linger if Burks cannot show more in the preseason finale Saturday against the Arizona Cardinals.

Will the Ravens Meet Lamar Jackson's Week 1 Contract Deadline?

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    Ravens QB Lamar Jackson is in the final year of his rookie contract. (Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

    While we're not going to get this answer on the preseason playing field, it's worth wondering if Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson will sign a contract extension within the next two weeks.

    Jackson, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal, has set a Week 1 deadline for negotiations. After that, he'll be focused on the season and will put off contract talks until 2023.

    "We're coming up to it," Jackson said in a press conference. "It's coming up. The season's coming up. We're going to be good for the season."

    Baltimore appears to have a reasonable offer on the table.

    According to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, the Ravens have offered Jackson a bigger contract than the five-year, $230 million extension that Arizona gave Kyler Murray this offseason. Deshaun Watson's five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed deal has reportedly complicated negotiations, though.

    As we recently noted, Jackson's deal could dramatically change the quarterback market. If he insists on getting the fully guaranteed treatment, that could become the norm moving forward. If he is willing to accept anything less, then Watson's contract will likely become an outlier, just as Kirk Cousins' fully guaranteed contract in 2018 did.

    We should see Jackson in 2022 with or without a new deal, but plenty of parties—including quarterbacks eligible for extensions next year such as Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert—will want to know if he'll get a new contract before Week 1 and what sort of deal it will be.

Will the 49ers Find a Taker for Jimmy Garoppolo?

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    Keeping Jimmy Garoppolo on the 2022 roster doesn't make financial sense for the 49ers. (Icon Sportswire)

    The Ravens will be happy to have Jackson on the roster this season. San Francisco insists that it feels the same way about 2021 starter Jimmy Garoppolo.

    "We're happy to keep Jimmy. We're happy to have him on the roster. And if that's the case, then that's the case," 49ers CEO Jed York told Tim Kawakami of The Athletic.

    Is anyone really buying it? The team is moving forward with 2021 first-round pick Trey Lance as its starting quarterback. It also has Nate Sudfeld on the roster and little apparent use for Garoppolo.

    "When the other 89 men on the San Francisco roster are practicing outside, Garoppolo is usually inside, or on his way home," Peter King of Pro Football Talk wrote last week. "I heard he does not have a playbook, does not attend quarterback or team meetings and barely knows new quarterbacks coach Brian Griese."

    This feels like a ploy by York to drum up some trade interest, with the insinuation being that interested teams better make an offer because the 49ers won't outright release Jimmy G.

    However, actually carrying Garoppolo on the roster would be problematic. He's set to carry a cap hit of roughly $27 million, with only $2 million of that in dead money. The 49ers, meanwhile, have less than $1 million in cap space. While the team would prefer to get something back in a trade, there's plenty of value in cutting Garoppolo, which would save more than $25 million off the cap.

    The question is whether San Francisco is willing to keep Garoppolo as an in-season trade chip. Theoretically, his value will increase if a contender loses its starter during the regular season.

    The other question is whether a team will make an offer in order to jump the market or whether every potentially interested team will call San Francisco's bluff. We should have at least some clarity on Garoppolo's future by the August 30 cutdown deadline.


    *Cap and contract information via Spotrac.

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