Every NFL Team's Biggest Reason to Be Excited for 2020 Season

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistSeptember 7, 2020

Every NFL Team's Biggest Reason to Be Excited for 2020 Season

0 of 32

    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    The NFL offseason is over, cutdown day is in the rearview and the first game of the 2020 regular season is just a few days away. Hope is high for teams around the league, as everyone is undefeated and dreaming of a trip to Super Bowl LV.

    Of course, not every team has a legitimate shot of reaching the Super Bowl, or even the postseason—though the expanded 14-team playoffs will increase their chances. However, every fanbase has a reason to be excited about the coming season, be it the potential rise of a young star, the next stage of a major rebuild, a few shiny new roster additions—or yes, a realistic shot at the Lombardi Trophy.

    Here, we'll break down every team's biggest reason to be excited about the 2020 season.

Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray's Sophomore Campaign

1 of 32

    Cardinals QB Kyler Murray
    Cardinals QB Kyler MurrayMark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The Arizona Cardinals appear to have made the right choice by taking former Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray with the first pick in last year's draft.

    The 2018 Heisman winner started all 16 games as a rookie and racked up 3,722 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns, 544 rushing yards and four rushing scores. He helped Arizona to a 5-10-1 record—a 2.5-win improvement over 2018—and took home Offensive Rookie of the Year.

    Now, Cardinals fans will get to see what Murray can do for an encore.

    With another season under innovative head coach Kliff Kingsbury, Murray could be in store for the sort of second-year leap the league has recently seen from Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes. The addition of superstar wideout DeAndre Hopkins certainly won't hurt Murray's development, and the Arizona offense could prove to be one of the most exciting in the NFL.

Atlanta Falcons: The Todd Gurley Factor

2 of 32

    New Falcons RB Todd Gurley
    New Falcons RB Todd GurleyMark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    With Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley in the fold, the Atlanta Falcons have one of the league's most explosive passing attacks. The addition of running back Todd Gurley is going to bring some balance to the offense and take away opponents' ability to consistently drop eight guys into coverage.

    At the same time, the presence of Jones and Co. will make it virtually impossible for opponents to stack the box against Gurley. This will come into play often, as the Falcons plan to get plenty of use out of their new running back.

    "I think a minimum of 15 touches and a high of [25]," offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter told ESPN's Vaughn McClure.

    So long as Gurley remains healthy and effective, Atlanta could have one of the league's toughest offenses to stop in 2020.

Baltimore Ravens: The Offensive Possibilities

3 of 32

    Ravens QB Lamar Jackson
    Ravens QB Lamar JacksonGail Burton/Associated Press

    The Baltimore Ravens boasted one of the most thrilling offenses in recent memory last season—thanks in no small part to the heroics of quarterback Lamar Jackson. Not only did Jackson lead the NFL in touchdown passes with 36, but he also rushed for more than 1,200 yards and helped spark a 14-2 regular-season run.

    The possibilities of what Jackson and the Ravens offense can accomplish in 2020 are endless. Jackson will have another year of experience under his belt and speedy wideout Marquise Brown should be healthy. Baltimore also added former Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins to a rushing attack that was already the league's best last season. 

    "He's definitely going to have probably a significant role," head coach John Harbaugh said of Dobbins, per Ryan Mink of the team's official website.

    It won't come as a shock if Baltimore again has the league's top rushing attack and takes positive strides as a passing offense. That should be a scary thought for other teams hoping to contend in the AFC.

Buffalo Bills: A Closing Gap in the AFC East

4 of 32

    Bills QB Josh Allen
    Bills QB Josh AllenJames P. McCoy/Associated Press

    While the Buffalo Bills aren't the favorites in the AFC East just yet, they're narrowing the gap on the Tom Brady-less New England Patriots. According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Patriots have 20-1 odds to win the Super Bowl, while Buffalo is close behind at 25-1.

    The notion that New England no longer has a stranglehold on the division should excite Bills fans to no end.

    This young Buffalo squad, led by quarterback Josh Allen, is a contender. It's been to the playoffs in two of the last three seasons, and with the addition of No. 1 wideout Stefon Diggs, it should be poised to take another step forward in 2020.

    In the past, playoff potential hasn't always been enough for the Bills faithful because the Patriots have regularly been there to smack down expectations. New England is vulnerable, though, and Buffalo has a chance to stake its claim in the East.

Carolina Panthers: The Start of the Joe Brady-Teddy Bridgewater Era

5 of 32

    Panthers QB Teddy Bridgewater
    Panthers QB Teddy BridgewaterChris Carlson/Associated Press

    It's the start of a new era for the Carolina Panthers. While fans will remember the Cam Newton years fondly, it's time to turn the page to Teddy Bridgewater, new head coach Matt Rhule and new offensive coordinator Joe Brady.

    The tandem of Bridgewater and Brady should have fans particularly excited.

    Bridgewater is a former Pro Bowl quarterback who went 5-0 as a fill-in starter with the New Orleans Saints last season. Panthers fans know he can be a serviceable quarterback. And Brady just turned a serviceable Joe Burrow into a Heisman winner and LSU legend.

    In 2018, Burrow passed for 2,894 yards and 16 touchdowns. With Brady as his passing-game coordinator, Burrow threw for 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns this past season. While Bridgewater won't experience such a dramatic jump in 2020, it's not hard to envision the passing offense taking a significant step forward.

    Pairing an improved passing attack with running back Christian McCaffrey could be enough to turn Carolina into an offensive powerhouse.

Chicago Bears: Mitchell Trubisky's Last Stand

6 of 32

    Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky
    Bears QB Mitchell TrubiskyNam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    The Chicago Bears are going with Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback in 2020. This means that the much-maligned three-year starter is going to get one last shot to prove that he's franchise-quarterback material.

    While many Bears fans might not be thrilled about another year of Trubisky, things are different this time around. Trubisky had to hold off Nick Foles and actually win the job in training camp—and Foles is going to be waiting in the wings all season.

    Theoretically, this should push Trubisky to be a better quarterback. If it doesn't, Chicago will know it can move on. Either Trubisky is going to raise his level of play and prove that he belongs with Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford in the NFC North, or Chicago is going to pull the plug on the Trubisky experiment.

    Either way, Bears fans should be excited to find out Trubisky's fate in 2020.

Cincinnati Bengals: The Dawn of the Joe Burrow Era

7 of 32

    Bengals QB Joe Burrow
    Bengals QB Joe BurrowAaron Doster/Associated Press

    As previously mentioned, Joe Burrow had a season for the ages with LSU in 2019. While he might not have such a magical first year with the Cincinnati Bengals—at least as far as wins and losses are concerned—Burrow could get off to a good start production-wise.

    Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus recently stated that he believes that Burrow has the receivers "to be a top-10 QB this season."

    With weapons like A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross III and Tee Higgins at his disposal, Burrow could indeed have a statistically impressive rookie campaign. However, the important thing is that he has the potential to eventually be something the Bengals haven't had in decades: a quarterback capable of winning in the postseason.

    The sky is the limit for the reigning Heisman winner, and the Cincinnati faithful should be more than excited to see the Burrow era get underway.

Cleveland Browns: High Potential, Low Expectations

8 of 32

    Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski
    Browns head coach Kevin StefanskiTony Dejak/Associated Press

    This time last year, the Cleveland Browns were the most hyped team in the NFL. New additions like Odell Beckham Jr., Olivier Vernon and Kareem Hunt had Cleveland looking like a legit playoff contender. However, second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield, inexperienced head coach Freddie Kitchens and the rest of that Browns team crumpled under the weight of expectations.

    Cleveland went 6-10, fired Kitchens and general manager John Dorsey in the offseason and are looking at yet another restart under new head coach Kevin Stefanski.

    The expectations for the Browns have dissipated, and fans should be thrilled. 

    On paper, this is a better Cleveland team than last year's edition. Stefanski is an experienced play-caller who can help put Mayfield in favorable situations. Vernon, Hunt, Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb—those guys haven't gone anywhere. The Browns actually upgraded their offense by adding tight end Austin Hooper and tackles Jedrick Wills Jr. and Jack Conklin.

    Having a better foundation without the pressure of major expectations could be just what Cleveland needs to finally make it back to the playoffs.

Dallas Cowboys: A New Coach and a Fresh Start

9 of 32

    Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy
    Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthyLM Otero/Associated Press

    On paper, the Dallas Cowboys should be one of the best teams in the NFC. They have a borderline elite quarterback in Dak Prescott, an elite running back in Ezekiel Elliott, two 1,000-yard receivers and a defense that ranked ninth in yards allowed and 11th in scoring last season.

    Yet Dallas finished 2019 with a measly 8-8 record. Many fans—and probably to some degree owner Jerry Jones—viewed head coach Jason Garrett as the problem.

    Well, the Cowboys are about to get a look at just how good their team can be without Garrett. He was replaced by Super Bowl-winning head coach Mike McCarthy, who helped the Green Bay Packers reach the postseason in eight of his final 10 seasons with the franchise.

    Will McCarthy get Dallas to play up to its potential? Will he help turn Prescott into a quarterback the franchise cannot afford to let go? Will his alliance with holdover offensive coordinator Kellen Moore work? There are plenty of questions hanging over the coming season, and getting those answers should be exciting.

Denver Broncos: Drew Lock and the New-Look Offense

10 of 32

    Broncos QB Drew Lock
    Broncos QB Drew LockDavid Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock won a long-term crack at the starting job when he went 4-1 as a starter over the final five games of 2019. He's had the entire offseason to prepare as the team's signal-caller, and the Broncos should be excited to see what he can accomplish.

    However, it's not just Lock that should have Denver eager to see its offense in action. The Broncos added several new pieces to the passing attack, including first-round pick Jerry Jeudy, second-round pick KJ Hamler and free-agent running back Melvin Gordon III.

    With a budding No. 1 receiver in Courtland Sutton, a promising young tight end in Noah Fant and a 1,000-yard rusher in Phillip Lindsay already on the roster, Denver could have the sort of offense that can rival the Kansas City Chiefs' in the AFC West.

    At least, this is the dream scenario. Even if the Broncos offense isn't that good, it should still set the stage for Lock to have a fair bit of second-year success. For a franchise that's been searching for a quality quarterback ever since Peyton Manning limped out the door, that's big.

Detroit Lions: A Defense That Might Finally Resemble New England's

11 of 32

    Lions coach Matt Patricia
    Lions coach Matt PatriciaButch Dill/Associated Press

    When the Detroit Lions first hired Matt Patricia as head coach, fans were likely excited to see him bring sort of championship-caliber defenses that he oversaw with the New England Patriots. However, he's lacked the necessary personnel to field an elite defense, and the results have been disappointing because of it.

    In 2019, for example, the Lions ranked dead last in pass defense. That's not what a defensive head coach is supposed to bring to the table.

    However, this offseason has brought a few more key pieces to the puzzle, including former Patriots Jamie Collins and Duron Harmon. With 2015 Pro Bowler Desmond Trufant and rookie third overall pick Jeff Okudah in at cornerback, Patricia may now have the pieces needed to field the sort of multi-look, adaptable defense he ran in New England.

    At the very least, Detroit's defense should be better than it was in 2019 when it ranked 26th in points allowed. With a healthy Matthew Stafford running things on the other side of the ball, even a modest defensive improvement could be enough to make the Lions contenders in the NFC North.

Green Bay Packers: A Motivated Aaron Rodgers

12 of 32

    Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
    Packers QB Aaron RodgersMorry Gash/Associated Press

    Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers doesn't need motivation to be great. Green Bay provided him with some nonetheless when it traded up to take his eventual replacement, Jordan Love, in April's draft.

    "I'm scared of that dude this year," FS1's Joy Taylor said of Rodgers on The Herd. "He's going to be playing with the ultimate chip on his shoulder."

    Rodgers likely will be out to prove that Green Bay erred in drafting a quarterback when he has four years left on his contract. He'll also be out to prove to potential future employers that when the time comes, he's going to be the best free-agent quarterback to hit the open market since, well, maybe ever (assuming he's not traded before becoming a free agent).

    The fact that Rodgers will be playing with a healthy Davante Adams and a new-look three-headed rushing attack will also be cause for excitement. But Packers fans should be most stoked to see just how dangerous a ticked-off Aaron Rodgers can be.

Houston Texans: Life After DeAndre Hopkins

13 of 32

    Texans WR Brandin Cooks
    Texans WR Brandin CooksBrett Coomer/Associated Press

    While Houston Texans fans will likely miss the dominance of wideout DeAndre Hopkins, his departure opens the door for a refreshingly new offense.

    While recently extended quarterback Deshaun Watson was often asked to play hero ball with Hopkins in years past, he should have a deeper receiving corps in 2020—even if it isn't as talent-rich at the top.

    Brandin Cooks, Will Fuller V, Randall Cobb and Kenny Stills are all proven receivers, and as a collective, they should provide Watson with more opportunities to spread the ball around and to exploit mismatches. Meanwhile, the running back tandem of Duke Johnson and David Johnson—the latter acquired as part of the Hopkins trade—should provide Watson with arguably the best receiving backfield in the league.

    While Hopkins provided one of the most reliable targets in the NFL, Watson now has a true pick-you-poison receiving corps at his disposal. This could lead to Houston having the best version of Watson we've seen yet.

Indianapolis Colts: Philip Rivers and Frank Reich, Together Again

14 of 32

    Colts QB Philip Rivers
    Colts QB Philip RiversMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    Last season, the Indianapolis Colts managed to go 7-9 despite having the league's 30th-ranked passing offense. It's not a stretch to think that with a more potent passing attack, the Colts would have been in the postseason.

    Well, the addition of quarterback Philip Rivers should have fans pumped about the possibilities. Rivers is an eight-time Pro Bowler and a natural fit for Frank Reich's offense. The two previously spent time together with the Los Angeles Chargers.

    "It's literally like riding a bike," Reich said, per Andrew Walker of the team's official website. "We're laughing and joking about how it's just like we've not been together the whole time. A very quick re-acclimation to that."

    In 2013, when Reich was quarterbacks coach, Rivers led the league in completion percentage and was named to the Pro Bowl. That's the sort of upside at quarterback fans can dream about heading into Week 1.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence or Bust

15 of 32

    Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence
    Clemson QB Trevor LawrenceGerald Herbert/Associated Press

    OK, so it's not exactly Trevor Lawrence or bust for the Jacksonville Jaguars this season. Other top quarterbacks, such as Ohio State's Justin Fields and North Dakota State's Trey Lance, will also be in play if the Jaguars earn a high draft pick.

    Getting that high pick seems to be the goal for Jacksonville, though, which has traded away defensive stalwarts Yannick Ngakoue, A.J. Bouye and Ronnie Harrison this offseason. Of course, no one in the organization will admit to tanking.

    "Realistically, I know if we're tanking, coach [Doug] Marrone, [general manager] Dave [Caldwell] and me are probably going to be out of jobs," quarterback Gardner Minshew II said, per Garry Smits of the Florida Times-Union.

    Still, it appears that Jacksonville is headed toward a shot at a new franchise quarterback, possibly the first in the 2021 draft.

    Of course, if the Jaguars don't end up with a high draft pick, it probably means that Minshew has established himself as a quality NFL starter. Either way, the Jaguars should be turning the page to 2021 with an answer under center.

Kansas City Chiefs: The First Title Defense in 50 Years

16 of 32

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

    The last time the Chiefs were defending Super Bowl champions was in 1970. Chiefs fans should be thrilled with the fact that 50 years later, they're going to hear their team referred to as the defending champs once again.

    But the Chiefs faithful should be just as excited about the fact that Kansas City has a legitimate shot at repeating. The team reworked Sammy Watkins' contract while extended Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Chris Jones. The Chiefs may have even upgraded their offense by using a first-round draft pick on former LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

    The product on the field is going to be just as exhilarating as it has been over the last couple of seasons, but Kansas City gets the added bonus of now knowing that this is indeed a championship-caliber team.

Las Vegas Raiders: New City, New Offense

17 of 32

    Raiders WR Henry Ruggs III
    Raiders WR Henry Ruggs IIIJohn Locher/Associated Press

    The Raiders made their official move to Las Vegas in the offseason, which marks a new beginning for the franchise. That new beginning is likely to show up in the form of an offense that could be one of the AFC's best.

    Core players like Derek Carr, Hunter Renfrow, Darren Waller and Offensive Rookie of the Year runner-up Josh Jacobs will be back for 2020. However, the Raiders added to their offense by drafting receivers Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards while signing Nelson Agholor and veteran tight end Jason Witten.

    With a plethora of weapons at his disposal and an offensive line that allowed just 29 sacks in 2019, Carr could be a legitimate MVP candidate this season. Even if he isn't, he should get enough out of the passing game to complement Jacobs and to keep opposing defenses consistently off balance.

    The Raiders had the league's 11th-ranked offense in 2019 in terms of yardage, but they too often failed to cash in with touchdowns—they ranked 24th in scoring. That shouldn't be an issue this season.

Los Angeles Chargers: Setting the Stage for Justin Herbert

18 of 32

    Chargers QB Justin Herbert
    Chargers QB Justin HerbertJae C. Hong/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Chargers used the sixth pick in April's draft on former Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert. He isn't expected to begin the season as the starter, but he could take hold of the job at some point in 2020.

    "Right now, Tyrod Taylor is our starter," head coach Anthony Lynn told reporters. "Until someone steps up and shows that they can run this team, that's the way we're going into it. Tyrod Taylor is our starter."

    Even if Herbert doesn't take the starting job from Taylor early this season, fans are likely to get a look at him—and at what life after Philip Rivers will be like.

    There's a new-look backfield to evaluate with Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson leading the way. There's a defense that is going to feature Joey Bosa through at least 2025. There's plenty for Chargers fans to look forward to as the team moves away from the Rivers era. Of course, the start of the Herbert era is the thing they should look forward to the most.

Los Angeles Rams: It's Jared Goff's Team Now

19 of 32

    Rams QB Jared Goff
    Rams QB Jared GoffKyusung Gong/Associated Press

    Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff has had his fair share of ups and downs since being drafted No. 1 overall in 2016. However, he's rarely been asked to carry the offense by himself because L.A. has usually had running back Todd Gurley leading the charge.

    Gurley is gone, though, and Goff is going to be the true centerpiece of the offense for the first time in his career. It will be exciting to see if Goff is up to the challenge and if head coach Sean McVay can help him return to his best form.

    While Goff has twice been a Pro Bowler and has played in the Super Bowl, the jury is still out on whether he is an elite quarterback, a high-end game-manager or just an average starter who has benefited from a stellar supporting cast—one that has lost Gurley, Brandin Cooks, Roger Saffold, John Sullivan and others since appearing in Super Bowl LIII.

    For better or worse, the jury should have a verdict by the end of 2020.

Miami Dolphins: On the Other Side of the Rebuilding Process

20 of 32

    Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa
    Dolphins QB Tua TagovailoaJoel Auerbach/Associated Press

    Whether or not Miami Dolphins fans see rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in 2020, they should be excited about this roster. Miami tore things down last season and posted a 5-11 record en route to landing Tagovailoa. Now, the franchise is over the hump and on to the "building" portion of the rebuild.

    Sure, it may be another year of journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, but the Dolphins have started to compile quality talent.

    Wideout DeVante Parker emerged as an elite receiver last season, while Xavien Howard continues to be one of the top young corners in the game. This offseason, Miami added players like running back Jordan Howard, cornerback Byron Jones and linebacker Kyle Van Noy.

    A largely stripped-down roster fought hard for head coach Brian Flores in 2019 to notch those five wins. Now that Flores' squad is getting built back up, it might be playoff-bound in the not-too-distant future.

Minnesota Vikings: Kirk Cousins, Year 3

21 of 32

    Vikings QB Kirk Cousins
    Vikings QB Kirk CousinsChris O'Meara/Associated Press

    In his first season with the Minnesota Vikings, quarterback Kirk Cousins passed for 4,298 yards and 30 touchdowns but went just 8-7-1 as a starter. While his raw numbers weren't as impressive in 2019—he threw for 3,603 yards with 26 touchdowns and six picks—Cousins was more efficient, won 10 games, made the playoffs and was named to the Pro Bowl.

    If Cousins can take another positive step in his third season with the Vikings, Minnesota could emerge as a top contender in the NFC. There are reasons to believe that Cousins can take another step forward, which is likely why the Vikings were willing to extend his contract this offseason.

    While Cousins did lose offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski and wideout Stefon Diggs in the offseason, Minnesota promoted 2019 offensive adviser Gary Kubiak and drafted wideout Justin Jefferson. Most of Cousins' other offensive pieces are in place, and he should get another healthy season out of star running back Dalvin Cook.

    Cousins could be on the verge of cementing himself as the franchise's best quarterback since the 2009 edition of Brett Favre. That should excite fans and have them fired up for 2020 and beyond.

New England Patriots: Unleashing Cam Newton

22 of 32

    Patriots QB Cam Newton
    Patriots QB Cam NewtonMichael Dwyer/Associated Press

    The Tom Brady era has ended in New England, but that doesn't mean that the Patriots are destined to hit the basement of the AFC. While the team could indeed struggle without Brady—and the decision of players like Patrick Chung and Dont'a Hightower to opt out of the season won't help matters—the arrival of Cam Newton as the new offensive centerpiece is cause for excitement.

    Newton is a dynamic dual-threat quarterback who won't be Brady but can do things that Brady never could. He opens up a ton of possibilities for offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, and he's already won the respect of head coach Bill Belichick.

    "Nobody works harder than Cam does. He's here early, he stays late, and he works very hard," head coach Bill Belichick told SiriusXM NFL Radio. "... Cam's the type of player that works on things he's not as good at and really tries to improve on a daily basis, and that's something I really respect about him."

    Newton fits with the Patriots mentality, but his style of play should breathe some new life into the franchise. While New England might not be boringly great like it was with Brady under center, it could be thrillingly good with Newton running the show.

    However things unfold, it's going to be fun to follow.

New Orleans Saints: All-In for Super Bowl LV

23 of 32

    Saints QB Drew Brees
    Saints QB Drew BreesButch Dill/Associated Press

    While New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has two years remaining on his contract, there's a very real possibility that 2020 is his final season as a pro player. Brees has agreed to work for NBC Sports on a contract that will begin once he retires from playing in the NFL.

    With the end looming for Brees, the Saints have gone all-in on winning Super Bowl LV. They bolstered their secondary by bringing back Malcolm Jenkins and added a premier No. 2 receiver in Emanuel Sanders to complement Michael Thomas. They used a first-round pick on lineman Cesar Ruiz to help protect Brees and signed Jameis Winston as a backup in case Brees again goes down.

    All of the pieces are in place for the Saints to be one of the best teams, if not the best team in the NFC this season. New Orleans was 13-3 last season, and this year's squad might be even better.

    It's truly Super Bowl or bust for the Saints in 2020, and if that doesn't have fans excited, then little about the coming season is likely to do so.

New York Giants: Daniel Jones, Year 2

24 of 32

    Giants QB Daniel Jones
    Giants QB Daniel JonesJohn Minchillo/Associated Press

    While New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones was overshadowed by fellow rookie Kyler Murray last season, he did provide plenty of signs of hope for New York. The Duke product started 12 games and finished with 3,027 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

    Now, Giants fans will get a look at what Jones can be with a year under his belt and full offseason as the team's starting quarterback. A big second-year jump could be on the horizon.

    Jones has all the physical tools an NFL team could ask for, and he has a talented supporting cast. Guys like Saquon Barkley, Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton are going to make his job easier. Rookie offensive tackle and fourth overall pick Andrew Thomas could do the same.

    The stage has been set for Jones to be a successful NFL starter. It's up to him to go out and perform.

New York Jets: Hey, Sam Darnold Has Some Help!

25 of 32

    Jets QB Sam Darnold
    Jets QB Sam DarnoldAdam Hunger/Associated Press

    Unlike the Giants, the New York Jets did not do a great job initially of surrounding their young quarterback with talent. Sam Darnold lacked a reliable offensive line and a quality receiving corps during his first two years in the NFL, and the poor supporting cast led to a lot of inconsistent play from the USC product.

    However, the Jets finally spent an offseason building around Darnold, and it should have the fanbase eager to see what's next.

    In the draft, New York used its first two picks on left tackle Mekhi Becton and wideout Denzel Mims. In free agency, the team added right tackle George Fant, center Connor McGovern, running back Frank Gore and speedy wideout Breshad Perriman.

    If the Jets can get a bounce-back campaign from running back Le'Veon Bell this season, their offense might finally be...good. As a result, Darnold could be one of the biggest breakout players of the season.

Philadelphia Eagles: A Full Season of Miles Sanders

26 of 32

    Eagles RB Miles Sanders
    Eagles RB Miles SandersChris Szagola/Associated Press

    OK, so Philadelphia Eagles fans did see running back Miles Sanders for 16 games as a rookie. However, he spent much of the season splitting time with Jordan Howard and only started 11 contests. Yet he still finished with 1,327 combined rushing and receiving yards and six touchdowns.

    With Howard in Miami, Sanders is going to get a chance to shine as the team's every-down back—and it's not unrealistic to think that he can have an elite Christian McCaffrey- or Ezekiel Elliott-caliber season with that opportunity.

    While Sanders did deal with a lower-body injury during training camp, he appears to be on track to start in Week 1. According to Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Eagles kept only three running backs on the roster following Saturday's cuts.

    If the Eagles do have an elite running back in Sanders, pairing him with quarterback Carson Wentz is going to give the team one heck of an offensive core around which to build for the next several seasons.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Big Ben Is Back

27 of 32

    Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger
    Steelers QB Ben RoethlisbergerGene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Despite having a defense that ranked fifth in both points and yards allowed in 2019, the Pittsburgh Steelers finished with an underwhelming 8-8 record. This is because the quarterback tandem of Devlin Hodges and Mason Rudolph was insufficient—leading to the league's 31st-ranked passing attack and 30th-ranked offense.

    Fortunately, longtime starter and future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger is scheduled to return from last year's elbow injury and to again lead the offense. Theoretically, this should lead to a massive offensive improvement.

    The last time Big Ben was healthy for 16 games, he passed for 5,129 yards and 34 touchdowns. If he's even close to 100 percent, Pittsburgh's offense should be leaps and bounds better than it was a year ago.

    A better offense with one of the NFL's few true lockdown defenses? That sounds like the recipe for a Pittsburgh postseason return.

San Francisco 49ers: A Look at Jerick McKinnon at Long Last

28 of 32

    49ers RB Jerick McKinnon
    49ers RB Jerick McKinnonAssociated Press

    The San Francisco 49ers signed running back Jerick McKinnon as a free agent during the 2018 offseason. However, the prolific pass-catching back has yet to play in a regular-season game for San Francisco because of a series of injuries.

    However, the wait to see what McKinnon can do in Kyle Shanahan's offense appears to be over at long last.

    "I think he's going to add a tremendous amount to our offense," offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey said, per Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports Bay Area. "He's going to be able to be extremely versatile in the position he's in."

    San Francisco showcased one of the league's most versatile backfields en route to Super Bowl LIV last season. Adding a healthy McKinnon to a group that includes Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman should only make that backfield more dangerous in 2020.

Seattle Seahawks: DK the Dominant

29 of 32

    Seahawks WR DK Metcalf
    Seahawks WR DK MetcalfTed S. Warren/Associated Press

    The Seattle Seahawks have only missed the postseason once since quarterback Russell Wilson was drafted in 2012, and they have never had a losing season with him under center. So really, the fact that Wilson is once again healthy and ready to go should have the 12th Man pumped for the 2020 season.

    However, second-year receiver DK Metcalf should raise the excitement level exponentially. The former Mississippi standout has dominated in training camp this season and appears poised to give Wilson the type of No. 1 option he's never had as a pro.

    "DK Metcalf is only going to get better. Russell Wilson has been raving about him," NFL Network's Peter Schrager said on Good Morning Football. "... Guys, I love Chris Carson. I love Russell Wilson. This might be the year of DK Metcalf in Seattle."

    Watching Wilson and Metcalf combine to make opposing defenses look silly is going to be a ton of fun this season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tom Brady. Who Else?

30 of 32

    Buccaneers QB Tom Brady
    Buccaneers QB Tom BradyChris O'Meara/Associated Press

    If not for Jameis Winston's penchant for passing the ball to the wrong team—he had 30 interceptions—the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might have been a playoff team last season.

    They boasted the league's third-ranked scoring offense, first-ranked run defense and 15th-ranked total defense. They also had premier pass-catchers like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and the league's sack leader in Shaquil Barrett.

    On paper, the Buccaneers should be a contender with even an above-average starter at quarterback. However, Tampa didn't add a merely above-average signal-caller; it went out and signed six-time champion and three-time league MVP Tom Brady.

    The addition of Brady—and his favorite tight end, Rob Gronkowski—should significantly improve the efficiency of the Buccaneers offense. Whether that's enough to get them past the Saints in the NFC South remains to be seen, but watching Brady chuck balls to Evans, Godwin and Co. is going to be mighty exciting.

Tennessee Titans: Big Additions on Defense

31 of 32

    New Titans Edge Jadeveon Clowney
    New Titans Edge Jadeveon ClowneyChris Szagola/Associated Press

    The Tennessee Titans made it to the AFC title game last season thanks to the hard running of Derrick Henry and some savvy quarterback play by Ryan Tannehill. Both are back for 2020, and the Titans should see some improvements from last year's 21st-ranked defense.

    Tennessee drafted cornerback Kristian Fulton to help improve a pass defense that finished 24th in yards allowed last season. More recently, it signed pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney to a one-year deal, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

    As Rapoport pointed out, Clowney had his best statistical season in 2017 when Titans head coach Mike Vrabel was Houston's defensive coordinator.

    Combining an improved pass defense with an efficient ball-control offense should give the Titans a good chance of returning to the postseason in 2020.

Washington Football Team: A True Audition for Dwayne Haskins Jr.

32 of 32

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

    Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. made some rookie mistakes in 2019, but he also finished the season by showing some signs of growth. In his final two starts, he threw for 394 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions.

    Now, Washington fans are going to get a season-long look at Haskins as a starting quarterback. Head coach Ron Rivera recently named the Ohio State product as his starting quarterback for the regular season—and he compared him to former league MVP Cam Newton while doing so.

    "I made a commitment 10 years ago to another young quarterback and just told him, 'Hey, you know what, I'm choosing you because I believe in you.' That's really how I feel about Dwayne," Rivera said, per Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post.

    Either Rivera will be right and Haskins can be Washington's quarterback for the next decade-plus, or the team is going to get a crack at guys like Trevor Lawrence and Trey Lance in next year's draft. Either way, fans should be excited to find out.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.