The Biggest Concern for Every NFL Team Before the Season Begins

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJuly 27, 2020

The Biggest Concern for Every NFL Team Before the Season Begins

0 of 32

    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    Just over a month remains before the start of the 2020 NFL regular season. With training camps opening around the league and the bulk of free agency wrapped, teams are in their final stretches of preseason preparation.

    Ideally, teams have addressed most of their major questions by this point in the offseason. However, no matter how consistent or successful a franchise might be, no one has all the answers.

    Whether it's uncertainty at a key position, a problem with a critical offensive or defensive category, the unknown of a new front office or the weight of established expectations, every team has at least one reason for concern.

    Here, we'll examine the biggest concern for each NFL team heading into training camp. Some of these issues are more glaring than others, but each has the potential to derail a team's 2020 campaign—and while some could be solved in camp, others will linger into Week 1.

Arizona Cardinals: The League's 31st-Ranked Pass Defense

1 of 32

    Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson
    Cardinals CB Patrick PetersonMarcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    For the Arizona Cardinals, the 2020 season will be all about developing quarterback Kyler Murray. This is why the Cardinals traded for wideout DeAndre Hopkins in the offseason and tagged versatile running back Kenyon Drake.

    However, Arizona isn't going to be successful if it cannot stabilize last year's 31st-ranked pass defense. This will arguably be the team's biggest challenge in training camp. Strengthening the secondary and bolstering the pass rush—the Cardinals had just 40 sacks last season despite getting 19 from Chandler Jones—will arguably be the team's biggest challenges in camp.

    Incorporating first-round pick and linebacker-safety hybrid Isaiah Simmons into the defense should help some. However, if the Cardinals cannot improve their pass defense, they'll have little hope of contending in the NFC West.

Atlanta Falcons: Uncertainty at Tight End

2 of 32

    New Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst
    New Falcons tight end Hayden HurstNick Wass/Associated Press

    While Austin Hooper was never the centerpiece of the Atlanta Falcons passing attack—they do have Julio Jones, after all—he was an important complementary piece.

    Over the last two seasons, Hooper racked up 146 receptions for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns. Hooper also left in free agency, leaving the Falcons with a sizable hole in their offense.

    To replace Hooper, Atlanta traded for 2018 first-round pick Hayden Hurst, a risk-reward move that could truly fall on either side of the proverbial coin. Hurst is a bit of a draft bust who has only caught 43 passes for 512 yards and three scores in his two pro seasons. However, he does possess enough upside that the Baltimore Ravens felt a 2018 first-round pick was warranted.

    This creates uncertainty at a position that has had a Pro Bowl presence over the last two years, which has to be a concern for Atlanta heading into camp.

Baltimore Ravens: Following Up Lamar Jackson's MVP Campaign

3 of 32

    Ravens QB Lamar Jackson
    Ravens QB Lamar JacksonPatrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Lamar Jackson critics seem to hold on to the belief that opposing defenses will eventually "catch up" to the Ravens' dual-threat wunderkind. That didn't happen in 2019, as Jackson threw and rushed his way to a 14-2 record and unanimous MVP honors.

    This doesn't mean Baltimore shouldn't be concerned that defenses will figure out how to slow Jackson—possibly by being overly physical with Jackson the runner. This could be why the Ravens are—at least publicly—planning to use him less as a ground threat.

    "I doubt if I'm going to be carrying the ball a lot going on in the future," Jackson told reporters. "We've got dynamic running backs. We're going to have even more receivers."

    Of course, changing up the offense around Jackson presents its own obstacles. So too does the pressure of following up an MVP campaign. Jackson isn't taking anyone by surprise this season, and Baltimore must be concerned with how having a target on his back affects him in 2020.

Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen's Consistency

4 of 32

    Bills QB Josh Allen
    Bills QB Josh AllenMichael Wyke/Associated Press

    The Buffalo Bills traded for a potential No. 1 receiver in Stefon Diggs this offseason. This means that third-year quarterback Josh Allen has few excuses if he struggles to find consistency as a passer in 2020. That consistency is the biggest concern facing Buffalo's offense.

    Allen is dangerous as a dual-threat quarterback, and he was good enough to help the Bills reach the postseason last year. However, despite having an immense amount of arm talent, he has yet to blossom into a reliable signal-caller.

    For his career, Allen has completed 56.3 percent of his passes for 5,163 yards with 30 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. In the playoffs against the Houston Texans, Allen completed just 24 of 46 attempts for 264 yards with no touchdowns.

    While the Bills have a strong enough running game and defense to push for the playoffs again, they need more balance on offense—and more reliability form Allen—to be considered true contenders.

Carolina Panthers: Teddy Bridgewater the Franchise QB

5 of 32

    New Panthers QB Teddy Bridgewater
    New Panthers QB Teddy BridgewaterButch Dill/Associated Press

    The Carolina Panthers parted with longtime starter Cam Newton this offseason and then traded 2019 starter Kyle Allen. They then signed journeyman Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year, $63 million deal, giving the Minnesota Vikings' 2014 first-round pick another shot to be a franchise quarterback.

    While the Panthers are clearly confident in Bridgewater's ability to be a full-time starter, they should also be leery of leaving themselves with few other options. Yes, Bridgewater played well in his five starts with the New Orleans Saints last season—New Orleans went 5-0 during that stretch—but he hasn't been a full-time starter since the 2015 season.

    Reuniting with former Saints assistant and new Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady should help Bridgewater adapt to his new system. However, he'll still have to prove that he can be more than an above-average starter for a handful of games—which is what he was with a championship-caliber roster in New Orleans.

    The departures of Newton and Allen mean that Carolina will have to turn to second-year man Will Grier if Bridgewater struggles.

Chicago Bears: Uncertainty at Quarterback

6 of 32

    New Bears QB Nick Foles
    New Bears QB Nick FolesJohn Raoux/Associated Press

    Who will be the Chicago Bears starting quarterback in 2020? This is a question without an answer, and it's one whose answer potentially puts the Bears in a no-win situation.

    The 2020 season is shaping up to be the final audition for 2017 first-round pick Mitchell Trubisky. However, Trubisky isn't even guaranteed to get that audition. Chicago traded for Nick Foles, who will compete in camp to be the Bears starter.

    If Trubisky keeps the starting job and struggles, fans are going to call for the Super Bowl MVP to take the reins. If Foles wins the gig and keeps it, Chicago could go through the season without ever getting another glimpse at Trubisky.

    The only way the Bears come out as winners here is if the competition yields enough competency at quarterback for Chicago to be a playoff contender.

Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow's NFL Readiness

7 of 32

    New Bengals QB Joe Burrow
    New Bengals QB Joe BurrowCharlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    The Cincinnati Bengals all but announced rookie No. 1 pick Joe Burrow as the team's Week 1 starter when they cut Andy Dalton earlier this offseason. While the Bengals have every right to be confident in the reigning Heisman winner and national champion, the team has to have some doubts about his ability to make a quick jump to NFL play.

    With no preseason on tap, Burrow's first NFL pass is going to be, well, his first NFL pass.

    If Burrow appears NFL-ready in camp, great. However, if he appears at all unprepared to lead the offense in Week 1, it could spell disaster.

    Cincinnati's only real alternative will be second-year man Ryan Finley. Going with Burrow is the preferred option. However, this is still a 2-14 squad, and throwing Burrow to the wolves before he is fully prepared could lead to the sort of growing pains and frustrations that have hampered plenty of promising quarterbacks in the past.

Cleveland Browns: New Staff, No Preseason

8 of 32

    New Browns coach Kevin Stefanski
    New Browns coach Kevin StefanskiMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    While the Cleveland Browns don't face the challenge of starting a quarterback who has never taken a live rep, the lack of a preseason is still a huge hurdle for them. Cleveland has a new coaching staff led by Kevin Stefanski and a lot of work to do before Week 1.

    In fact, Stefanski hasn't even decided whether he or offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt will call plays this season.

    "That really remains to be seen," Stefanski said, per's Mary Kay Cabot. "I'd like to get everybody back in the building, get out there practicing and get together before we make that decision. That decision will be made before September 13, I promise you that."

    This is extremely concerning, especially considering that a lack of offensive chemistry was the Browns' biggest problem in 2019.

Dallas Cowboys: Dak Prescott's Uncertain Future

9 of 32

    Cowboys QB Dak Prescott
    Cowboys QB Dak PrescottRon Jenkins/Associated Press

    While Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott did sign his franchise-tag tender, he didn't agree to a long-term deal before the July 15 deadline passed. This means Dallas faces the prospect of losing its quarterback again next spring.

    This creates the potential for contract drama that hangs like a cloud over the Cowboys' 2020 season.

    Prescott's situation will be heavily scrutinized by the Cowboys, Prescott's camp and members of the media with every touchdown pass, clutch performance, interception or failed late-game drive. His demeanor will be scrutinized by those who wonder if Prescott really wants to remain a Cowboy—which an unnamed former Cowboys coach believes is not the case.

    "At this point, no, I don't think so," the unnamed coach said, according to G-Bag Nation's Bryan Broaddus in an interview with 105.3 The Fan. "However, he won't say it or show it."

    The uncertainly surrounding his future could serve as a major distraction for Prescott and his teammates as the season progresses.

Denver Broncos: Melding a New-Look Offense

10 of 32

    New Broncos WR Jerry Jeudy
    New Broncos WR Jerry JeudyMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    The Denver Broncos are going full speed ahead with second-year quarterback Drew Lock. That's the right call for a franchise that is still searching for Peyton Manning's replacement. However, Denver now faces the challenge of putting several new pieces around Lock at once.

    Denver used its first two draft picks on wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler after having already signed running back Melvin Gordon III to a two-year, $16 million deal. While these new pieces raise the talent level around Lock, it's going to take time to integrate them into the offense.

    With no preseason on the horizon, that integration will have to take place exclusively in training camp.

    Chemistry is vital for a young quarterback, and if the Broncos cannot establish it in camp, Lock could find himself in an unfavorable position when the live rounds start firing in Week 1.

Detroit Lions: Multiple Hot Seats

11 of 32

    Lions head coach Matt Patricia
    Lions head coach Matt PatriciaDuane Burleson/Associated Press

    Realistically, the Detroit Lions face the possibility of the 2020 season blowing up in their collective faces. Multiple members of the organization—including coach Matt Patricia, general manager Bob Quinn and quarterback Matthew Stafford—could be staring down make-or-break campaigns.

    Patricia and Quinn are on the hot seat for obvious reasons. The Lions haven't been consistently competitive under either, and the defense—ranked dead last against the pass in 2019—has been particularly disappointing under supposed defensive guru Patricia.

    For Stafford, things hinge a bit more on his health—he missed eight games in 2019—and his relationship with the team. There were rumors that the Lions put Stafford on the trade block before the draft, but according to NFL Network's Michael Silver, it's rumored that Stafford was the one who wanted to be dealt. 

    If the season gets off to a slow start, Patricia and/or Quinn could be out the door. A poor season could also lead Detroit to seek a fresh start at quarterback.

Green Bay Packers: The Relationship with Aaron Rodgers

12 of 32

    Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
    Packers QB Aaron RodgersMatt York/Associated Press

    The Green Bay Packers have a future Hall of Famer in quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is under contract through the 2023 season. However, they also traded up in Round 1 of this year's draft to select Rodgers' potential successor in Jordan Love.

    Green Bay used its next two draft picks on running back AJ Dillon and H-back Josiah Deguara. This suggests the Packers could be looking to transition to the sort of run-first offense head coach Matt LaFleur ran with the Tennessee Titans—and possibly away from Rodgers in the not-too-distant future. For a player who has long been the centerpiece of the offense, this could be a major problem.

    Friction between Rodgers, the Packers and/or LaFleur should be a real concern heading into the regular season.

    "It does make me wonder now what their relationship will be like," former Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk told NBC Sports' Peter King regarding Rodgers and LaFleur.

    If turmoil does exist, it could throw off Green Bay's offensive chemistry and the Packers' hunt for another Super Bowl appearance.

Houston Texans: Replacing DeAndre Hopkins

13 of 32

    Texans WR Will Fuller
    Texans WR Will FullerMarcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has established himself as one of the league's best young signal-callers. The former Clemson star has been to two Pro Bowls in three seasons and helped the Texans advance to the second round of the playoffs in 2019.

    However, Watson hasn't had to carry the offense without all-world receiver DeAndre Hopkins. This season, he will.

    Hopkins is one of the most reliable pass-catchers in the NFL and arguably the game's most dominant wideout. He was traded to Arizona, though, and replacing him won't be easy. Houston's current collection of receivers—including Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb and the returning Will Fuller and Kenny Stills—is loaded with complementary guys and not a true No. 1 type.

    Watson is talented enough that the Texans offense can still be functional, but Houston has to be concerned with finding him a new go-to target who can be counted on in critical situations.

Indianapolis Colts: The Potential for a Slow Start from Philip Rivers

14 of 32

    New Colts  QB Philip Rivers
    New Colts QB Philip RiversCharlie Riedel/Associated Press

    The Indianapolis Colts are not looking at a very wide window with quarterback Philip Rivers. Indy signed the 38-year-old gunslinger to a one-year deal, and he may not stick around much longer than that.

    "I can say for certain that if I'm playing, it's a two-year maximum," Rivers said in February, per Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times.

    If the Colts are hoping to make a postseason run with Rivers under center, it may have to happen this year, and a slow start could render that nearly impossible. The AFC South returns two playoff teams in Houston and Tennessee.

    And a slow start for Rivers is a very real possibility. He's with a new franchise for the first time in his career and will be working with an unconventional offseason and without the added preparation that preseason reps can provide.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Potential Minshew Mediocrity

15 of 32

    Jaguars QB Gardner Minshew II
    Jaguars QB Gardner Minshew IIStephen B. Morton/Associated Press

    When the Jacksonville Jaguars traded Nick Foles earlier this offseason, it meant second-year quarterback Gardner Minshew II will have a full season to audition to be the franchise's long-term starter.

    The former Washington State star showed enough promise as a rookie to deserve this opportunity—he passed for 3,271 yards and 21 touchdowns with just six interceptions—but he wasn't dominant enough to make this move more than a gamble.

    This is a big gamble for Jacksonville because Minshew could prove not to be franchise-quarterback material but still play well enough to keep them out of position to draft a top quarterback prospect like Trevor Lawrence or Trey Lance in next year's draft.

    While either the playoffs or a top-five draft selection could be desirable for the Jaguars, a 7-9 or 8-8 record is arguably the one thing that Jacksonville should hope to avoid.

Kansas City Chiefs: The Pressure of Being Champs

16 of 32

    Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes
    Chiefs QB Patrick MahomesOrlin Wagner/Associated Press

    The Kansas City Chiefs are defending Super Bowl champions. While the pressure of being the champ is a good problem to have, it's problematic nonetheless. The Chiefs are going to get the best shot of every opponent on their schedule, and they're going to be under the microscope every step of the way.

    Big-money expectations for quarterback Patrick Mahomes and defensive tackle Chris Jones will only add to the scrutiny the team faces in 2020—and for those players, on an individual level.

    This isn't to say that the Chiefs can't handle the pressure and expectations of being champions and repeat as kings of the NFL mountain. However, it's worth noting the last team to repeat as Super Bowl champions was the 2004 New England Patriots.

Las Vegas Raiders: An Underwhelming Pass Rush

17 of 32

    Raiders EDGE Maxx Crosby
    Raiders EDGE Maxx CrosbyAssociated Press

    If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. This is a tired cliche, but it's a relevant one for the Las Vegas Raiders. If they hope to reign as AFC West champions, they're going to have to knock the Chiefs from the top of the division.

    This likely means that Las Vegas will have to also figure out how to slow Patrick Mahomes, a task that will prove difficult if the Raiders cannot improve on last year's pass rush.

    The Raiders amassed just 32 sacks as a team in 2019, with 10 of those coming from rookie Maxx Crosby. Fellow rookie and fourth overall draft pick Clelin Ferrell was responsible for a disappointing 4.5 sacks alongside him.

    Las Vegas did little to address the pass rush this offseason, aside from signing Carl Nassib—though signing a player like Jadeveon Clowney or Everson Griffen before the regular season remains an option.

Los Angeles Chargers: Tyrod Taylor's Reliability

18 of 32

    Chargers QB Tyrod Taylor
    Chargers QB Tyrod TaylorKelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Chargers took former Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert with the sixth overall pick in April's draft. Unlike the Bengals, though, the Chargers are not expected to start Herbert early in the season. Instead, they'll rely on journeyman Tyrod Taylor.

    While Taylor has 47 career starts on his resume—including one in the postseason—the Chargers should still be a bit worried about his ability to be a reliable starter for a full 16-game slate.

    Taylor was inconsistent enough with the Bills that they decided to dump him shortly after he helped end their playoff drought in 2017. He lasted just three games as the Browns starter before an injury opened the door for Baker Mayfield.

    Ideally, Taylor will play well enough for the Chargers to push toward the postseason while keeping the relatively raw Herbert on the bench. If he doesn't, Los Angeles is likely looking at a lost season and the prospect of starting Herbert before he is ready.

Los Angeles Rams: An Unproven Rushing Attack

19 of 32

    Rams Rookie RB Cam Akers
    Rams Rookie RB Cam AkersCharlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    From the day he was drafted 10th overall in 2015, running back Todd Gurley had been the centerpiece of the Los Angeles Rams offense. However, the Rams released that centerpiece earlier this offseason, and Gurley signed with the Falcons.

    This leaves Los Angeles with a major question mark in its offense. With Gurley gone, the Rams' options are limited to longtime backup Malcolm Brown, second-year man Darrell Henderson and rookie second-round pick Cam Akers. Each of them is unproven as an NFL starter.

    While Akers, who rushed for 1,144 yards and 14 touchdowns last season at Florida State, could be starting material, the fact remains that the Rams don't have a clear successor to Gurley. This means quarterback Jared Goff could be asked to carry the offense for the first time in his pro career.

Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa's Health

20 of 32

    Dolphins rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa
    Dolphins rookie QB Tua TagovailoaCharlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    For the Miami Dolphins, no concern should be bigger this season than the health of rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The fifth overall pick in the draft has franchise-quarterback potential, but he also suffered a dislocated and fractured hip less than one year ago. Putting him under center with an underwhelming roster could easily open him up to reinjury.

    This is why it would make sense for the Dolphins to begin the season with journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. The problem is Tagovailoa may show enough talent in camp that the Dolphins are eager to get him on the field.

    "According to every coach I've spoken to, it's a foregone conclusion that he will beat out veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick and start Week 1 against the Patriots on Sept. 13," Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman wrote in May.

    The Dolphins have to be careful with how they proceed here. While Tagovailoa may give Miami its best chance to win, his first live reps will come in Week 1 if he wins the starting job in camp.

Minnesota Vikings: Dalvin Cook's Contract

21 of 32

    Vikings RB Dalvin Cook
    Vikings RB Dalvin CookSteve Luciano/Associated Press

    Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is coming off a Pro Bowl season and figures to be one of the team's biggest offensive assets in 2020—especially now that Stefon Diggs is in Buffalo. However, Cook could also hold out without a new contract.

    "He's out," a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter. "Without a reasonable extension, he will not be showing up for camp or beyond."

    Though head coach Mike Zimmer recently stated he expects Cook to show up for training camp, Cook's agent has disputed that claim.

    "Dalvin has not spoken to him in regards to reporting to camp," agent Zac Hiller said, per Schefter. "We are unsure why this was said."

    Minnesota must first be concerned with getting Cook into camp and onto the Week 1 playing field. Sans an extension, the Vikings also have to be concerned about how Cook's contract status could affect him and the locker room during the regular season.

New England Patriots: The Quarterback Position

22 of 32

    New Patriots QB Cam Newton
    New Patriots QB Cam NewtonMike McCarn/Associated Press

    Who will start at quarterback? This is a big question for any NFL franchise. It's a massive one for a Patriots team looking to replace first-ballot Hall of Famer Tom Brady.

    For the first time since Brady suffered a torn ACL in 2008, the Patriots don't know who their starting quarterback will be—though they have at least limited their options to second-year man Jarrett Stidham, journeyman Brian Hoyer and free-agent addition Cam Newton.

    Newton is the only proven franchise quarterback in the bunch, but he's also coming off two injury-plagued seasons and entering a brand-new offensive system. Stidham is an intriguing option as a 2019 fourth-round pick. Hoyer is a placeholder at best, but the frequent Brady backup may be best suited to run the full offense by Week 1.

    The Patriots have a lot to sort out at quarterback between now and the end of camp. Putting the wrong option on the field early could be enough to end a streak of consecutive New England playoff appearances that was last interrupted when Brady suffered that aforementioned ACL tear in 2008.

New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees' Age

23 of 32

    Saints QB Drew Brees
    Saints QB Drew BreesSteve Luciano/Associated Press

    As previously mentioned, the Saints went 5-0 with Teddy Bridgewater under center in 2019. This helped New Orleans navigate Drew Brees' thumb injury and win the NFC South. With Bridgewater now gone, the Saints should be extra concerned about Brees' health and durability at age 41.

    If Brees suffers another injury or falls off the dreaded cliff a la 2015 Peyton Manning, New Orleans will be forced to turn to either utility man Taysom Hill or offseason addition Jameis Winston.

    With 70 starts under his belt, Winston would seem like the logical stopgap option. However, he hasn't had much experience in Sean Payton's offense and is notoriously a turnover machine. Hill has spent the last three years in Payton's offense but hasn't been a starter since his 2016 season with BYU.

    Ideally, Brees will make it through the season healthy and in peak form, but this isn't an outcome the Saints can take for granted.

New York Giants: Daniel Jones' Protection/Pocket Awareness

24 of 32

    Giants QB Daniel Jones
    Giants QB Daniel JonesVera Nieuwenhuis/Associated Press

    For the New York Giants, nothing will be more important in 2020 than protecting and developing second-year quarterback Daniel Jones. To some degree, the Giants need to protect Jones from himself.

    While the Duke product flashed plenty as a rookie in 2019, he also showed a penchant for coughing up the football. Jones had 18 fumbles in 13 games. He lost 11 of them. Improving Jones' ball security and pocket awareness has to be the top priority heading into the regular season.

    Of course, better pass protection should make Jones' development easier, and this could involve some shuffling along the offensive line. Jones was sacked 38 times, and 11 of those were given up by left tackle Nate Solder, according to Pro Football Focus.

    The Giants drafted former Georgia tackle Andrew Thomas fourth overall this past April, and he should be given every opportunity to beat out Solder for the blindside job.

New York Jets: Adam Gase's Job Security

25 of 32

    Jets head coach Adam Gase
    Jets head coach Adam GaseMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    Though he has only been on the job for one season, New York Jets head coach Adam Gase could already be on the hot seat. The Jets went 7-9 in Gase's first season, and there have been questions about the coach's ability to lead his players.

    "I don't feel like he's the right leader for this organization to reach the Promised Land," new Seattle Seahawks safety Jamal Adams said of Gase, per Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. "As a leader, what really bothers me is that he doesn't have a relationship with everybody in the building."

    Adams was traded just days after his interview with Mehta was published.

    While Adams may be an outlier in his opinion of Gase, the fact remains that the supposed offensive guru has proved very little aside from his time with Peyton Manning—who some might argue didn't need any offensive input at all. Gase is 30-34 as a head coach with New York and Miami and could be on his way out with a poor start to the season.

    Gase's job security, or lack thereof, could be a distraction and a big concern for the Jets moving forward.

Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz's Ability to Protect Himself

26 of 32

    Eagles QB Carson Wentz
    Eagles QB Carson WentzJulio Cortez/Associated Press

    At times, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz has looked to be on the precipice of being an elite signal-caller. At other times, however, he's more closely resembled an average quarterback with a discouraging injury history.

    While Wentz may regain the Pro Bowl form he had in 2017, his injury concerns are very real and aren't going anywhere. He has twice missed the playoffs because of injuries and left last year's Wild Card Game with a concussion.

    While it's easy to say Wentz's injuries are a bit fluky, the reality is that he needs to do a better job of protecting himself. His tendencies to hold on to the ball and absorb shots—both in and out of the pocket—have to concern the Eagles. They likely played a role in Philadelphia's decision to take Jalen Hurts in Round 2 of the 2020 draft, though the Eagles also plan to utilize Hurts as a gadget player.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger's Health

27 of 32

    Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger
    Steelers QB Ben RoethlisbergerAdam Hunger/Associated Press

    While the Pittsburgh Steelers aren't going to admit it, their payoff hopes could hinge almost entirely on Ben Roethlisberger's ability to rebound from last year's elbow injury. If Roethlisberger cannot stay healthy or return to Pro Bowl form, the Steelers will be forced to rely on the likes of Mason Rudolph, Devlin Hodges and Paxton Lynch.

    Hodges and Rudolph proved last season that they're unlikely to carry Pittsburgh into the postseason. Despite having the fifth-ranked defense in 2019—both in points and yards allowed—the Steelers finished just 8-8.

    Poor quarterback play and the league's 30th-ranked offense in yardage played a large role in Pittsburgh missing the playoffs.

    Roethlisberger's health should be the Steelers' single biggest concern heading into the regular season.

San Francisco 49ers: A Super Bowl Hangover

28 of 32

    49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo
    49ers QB Jimmy GaroppoloPatrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Super Bowl hangovers are real, and the San Francisco 49ers have to be concerned with how one could impact their 2020 campaign.

    The 49ers were roughly a quarter away from claiming the biggest prize in team sports before they collapsed against the Chiefs. That fact is likely to weigh heavily on the 49ers throughout the season. History suggests that overcoming the distraction could be a bit of a problem. During the Super Bowl era, only eight teams have gotten back to the championship game the year after losing it. Three of those teams were the 1991-93 Bills.

    Only three teams have gotten back to the Super Bowl the year after a loss and won.

    The confidence of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo could also be an issue after the 49ers kicked the tires on Tom Brady in free agency. While the 49ers have publicly backed Garoppolo, they also largely took the ball out of his hands during the 2019 postseason—Garoppolo passed just 37 times in three games, while Raheem Mostert had 53 carries by himself.

Seattle Seahawks: The Lack of a Consistent Pass Rush

29 of 32

    Former Seahawks EDGE Jadeveon Clowney
    Former Seahawks EDGE Jadeveon ClowneyAssociated Press

    While trading for Jamal Adams will bolster the Seahawks defense, it does little to address a pass rush that produced just 28 sacks as a unit in 2019. In fact, Seattle did little to address this issue at all during the offseason.

    Seattle parted with pass-rushers Jadeveon Clowney and Ezekiel Ansah. The only investments the Seahawks made in the pass rush were bringing back former Seahawk Bruce Irvin and adding Tennessee edge-defender Darrell Taylor in Round 2 of April's draft. Irvin and Taylor are largely replacements for Clowney and Ansah and aren't going to suddenly produce an elite pass rush.

    Bringing back Clowney was an option, but as ESPN's Jeremy Fowler recently pointed out, the addition of Adams likely erases that possibility—the cap complications of signing Clowney and extending Adams would be significant.

    Instead, the Seahawks will need to improve their pass rush through competition and scheming in camp. Otherwise, their biggest defensive weakness from a year ago will be back.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tom Brady's Learning Curve

30 of 32

    New Buccaneers QB Tom Brady
    New Buccaneers QB Tom BradyCharles Krupa/Associated Press

    You might have heard that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers added six-time champ Tom Brady at quarterback this offseason. The oddsmakers in Las Vegas certainly did, as the Buccaneers have 11-1 odds to win the Super Bowl, according to Caesars.

    For the Buccaneers to actually be title contenders, they're going to have to get a strong season out of the soon-to-be 43-year-old Brady. This means he'll have to absorb and flourish in a brand-new offense with a primarily virtual offseason and no preseason.

    Ideally, head coach Bruce Arians will mold his offense around Brady rather than force the aging signal-caller to memorize his entire playbook. Even if he does, Brady will face a fairly steep learning curve.

    With games against the rival Saints and Panthers to open the season, Brady will not have the benefit of a grace period.

Tennessee Titans: Expectations for Ryan Tannehill

31 of 32

    Titans QB Ryan Tannehill
    Titans QB Ryan TannehillJohn Raoux/Associated Press

    The Titans managed to get quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Derrick Henry both signed to long-term extensions this offseason. That takes care of one of the team's biggest pre-training-camp concerns. Now, the Titans have to contend with the expectations that come with a quarterback who leads his team on a playoff run.

    Tennessee took a flier on the former Dolphins project last offseason, inserted him in the lineup after Marcus Mariota struggled and got a wonderful season of game management out of him—Tannehill finished with an impressive 117.5 passer rating.

    However, Tannehill was the recipient of a four-year, $118 million deal and will now be expected to perform more like a franchise quarterback than a game manager. More importantly, opposing defenses will gear up to stop Henry, as the Chiefs did in the AFC title game, meaning Tannehill will have to perform at his 2019 Pro Bowl level if the Titans hope to make a deep postseason push.

Washington Football Team: Uncertainty at Quarterback

32 of 32

    Washington QB Dwayne Haskins Jr.
    Washington QB Dwayne Haskins Jr.Associated Press

    When former Panthers head coach Ron Rivera took over the Washington Football Team, he inherited 2019 first-round pick Dwayne Haskins Jr. at quarterback. However, Rivera brought with him his former quarterbacks coach, Scott Turner, as offensive coordinator and 2019 Panthers starter Kyle Allen at quarterback.

    Based on his knowledge of Turner's offense, Allen will have a crack at the starting job.

    "If we were told, 'Hey, you've got two weeks to go,' I would feel very comfortable with Kyle," Rivera said, per Jenny Vrentas of

    The problem is Washington doesn't have a clear-cut starter and will likely have controversy at the position throughout 2020. Haskins was drafted to be the future of the franchise, and fans are going to want to see him if Allen gets the starting nod and struggles.

    Conversely, fans will want to see Allen if Haskins struggles, as he did early in his rookie campaign.


    *All contract information via Spotrac.