2022 NFL Preview: Aaron Rodgers, Ezekiel Elliott included in 10 brewing controversies
It's not like the juicy headlines around the NFL end when the regular season starts.
The NFL is the most-watched and most-scrutinized league in American sports. Everything is a big deal. That's how we know that over the next few months, there will be controversial stories. There always are.
Here's our crack at predicting which 10 controversies we'll be talking more about during the regular season:
Will Cowboys be patient with Ezekiel Elliott?
Jerry Jones has unwavering support for Elliott, and maybe you would too if you invested $90 million over six years on a player. But Elliott has been declining each season he has been in the NFL. Maybe it was Elliott playing through a partially torn PCL, but backup Tony Pollard looked better last season. If the Cowboys start slow and Elliott still doesn't look like he has his explosiveness back, would Mike McCarthy consider benching the $90 million running back? Would Jones let him?
Aaron Rodgers vs. his receivers
Aaron Rodgers already called out his receivers, and that was just in the middle of training camp. He's not going to let it slide if the mistakes continue into the season. If the mostly unproven receivers don't step up to replace Davante Adams, Rodgers isn't going to be patient. We already know that. It seems like a safe bet that we haven't heard the last from Rodgers on this issue.
Gardner Minshew II for Jalen Hurts?
The Philadelphia Eagles have one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league. That's good, but it also opens up potential controversy. The Eagles should have high hopes for this season. Jalen Hurts is up and down as a passer, and Philadelphia is hoping the addition of receiver A.J. Brown helps him. If it doesn't, would the Eagles consider a QB change? Thankfully that market is calm and wouldn't overreact to a slow start by Hurts and the Eagles.
Jimmy Garoppolo still around
The San Francisco 49ers have won a lot of games with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback. They didn't trade him in the offseason and then restructured his deal, which means Trey Lance will be looking over his shoulder all season (unless the 49ers find a trade partner and Garoppolo waives his no-trade clause). Lance is talented and the team publicly committed to him. However, he's no sure thing. If he struggles, Kyle Shanahan might get an itch.
Jessie Bates III didn't get his extension
Bates is one of the best safeties in the NFL and was a big part of the Cincinnati Bengals' Super Bowl run last season. He got the franchise tag in the offseason and it seemed like he'd get an extension. It never happened. Bates didn't sign his tender until late August and it's safe to say he wasn't totally happy.
"I’m not sure why I’m not paid yet," Bates said upon his return.
Bates could use the lack of an extension as motivation and have a great season. But it can work both ways. We might hear more about his dissatisfaction as the season goes on.
Daniel Jones benched for Tyrod Taylor?
The New York Giants have a new regime. Daniel Jones is on the last year of his rookie contract, after the team declined the fifth-year option. The Giants don't have anything invested in Jones aside from him beginning the season as the starter. When they signed Taylor, a solid veteran, they downplayed that it had anything to do with Jones. We'll see what happens if Jones doesn't fit right away in new coach Brian Daboll's offense.
Pete Carroll without Russell Wilson
Carroll has had a heck of a run with the Seattle Seahawks. Practically all of the success came with Russell Wilson at quarterback. How will fans react if the Seahawks bottom out in the first season after trading Wilson? It's not like Geno Smith is going to carry the franchise. Carroll and the Seahawks do things in unconventional ways, and that's OK when you have a future Hall of Fame quarterback. The weird philosophies might not look so good without Wilson around to bail the team out.
Mitchell Trubisky or Kenny Pickett?
The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the few teams that starts the season with a quarterback controversy. Mitchell Trubisky has been operating as the starter and did well in the preseason. The problem is first-round pick Kenny Pickett might have been a touch better in the preseason, albeit against mostly backups. Even the slightest slip by Trubisky will lead to calls for Pickett to start.
Ryan Tannehill looking over his shoulder
Maybe Tannehill is under no danger of losing his starting spot this season. He has been pretty good for the Tennessee Titans. However, if the Titans take a step back and Tannehill struggles with top receiver A.J. Brown off to Philadelphia, the franchise could look at the future. Malik Willis is an exciting rookie who was inconsistent in the preseason but made some big plays. Tannehill is 34 years old. It's a situation worth watching.
Can Patriots' playcallers figure it out?
The New England Patriots are really stretching the theory that Bill Belichick can figure anything out. The Patriots didn't go the conventional route replacing offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, instead relying on some combination of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, neither of which has been an offensive coordinator. There were many negative reports about the offense in training camp. The preseason did not look good. It's hard to even figure out what comes next if the offense is a debacle in the first quarter of the season.