Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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Biggest question facing each team following 2024 NFL Draft: Do Steelers start Justin Fields or Russell Wilson?

With the NFL Draft coming to a close last week, the last major pillar of offseason roster building has concluded. That means the players who currently make up the rosters across the league are roughly going to be the ones who we see in Week 1. Over the last few months between free agency and the draft, clubs have been able to address key needs, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still some major questions as we enter the down period on the NFL calendar. 

Below, we’re going to comb through each team in the league and identify one major question that still looms over every franchise. These questions can range from a more macro view down to specific battles on the depth chart. 

Arizona Cardinals

How quickly can Kyler Murray and Marvin Harrison Jr. build chemistry?

The Arizona Cardinals needed a blue-chip pass catcher this offseason and secured one by drafting Marvin Harrison Jr. with the No. 4 pick in the draft. The Ohio State product is lauded as a possible second coming of Larry Fitzgerald, but if the Cardinals are going to have any hope of competing for a playoff spot in 2024 he’ll need to get out to a hot start. With that in mind, the chemistry between Harrison and his new quarterback, Kyler Murray, is the key area of focus throughout the summer. If they can get on the same page before Week 1, it could set the stage for an eye-popping rookie season for the wideout. 

Atlanta Falcons

Will the Cousins/Penix saga ruin their season?

The biggest shocker from the 2024 NFL Draft came with the Atlanta Falcons drafting Michael Penix Jr. with the No. 8 pick after they had just given Kirk Cousins a monster contract in free agency. Cousins was said to be blindsided by the pick and it begs the question if this situation devolves into something that could turn their season sideways, especially if Cousins (who is coming off a torn Achilles) doesn’t get off to the strongest start. 

Baltimore Ravens

Can the offensive line hold up?

Baltimore’s offensive line is a major question mark heading into the season. While the club did trade Morgan Moses, they did draft Roger Rosengarten in the second round to replace him at right tackle. Really, it’s the interior of the line at both guard positions that still needs to be sorted out. The Ravens didn’t take a guard in the draft, so it appears it’ll be a competition between the likes of Ben Cleveland, Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu and Andrew Vorhees among others. 

Buffalo Bills

Is Keon Coleman ready for a massive target share?

Buffalo’s wide receiver room got turned on its head this offseason with the team losing Gabe Davis in free agency and then trading away Stefon Diggs. That leaves 241 targets from a year ago abandoned. Tight end Dalton Kincaid could factor into that equation, but he did see 91 targets during his rookie year already, so there isn’t much more he can realistically take on. So, that does thrust the Bills top draft pick Keon Coleman into a heavy workload out of the shoot. 

Carolina Panthers

Will Bryce Young rebound in Year 2?

Carolina did a nice job this offseason setting Bryce Young up for a rebound campaign in Year 2. They invested in the offensive line in free agency, traded for Diontae Johnson and drafted weapons Xavier Legette and Jonathon Brooks. They also hired Dave Canales as the head coach, who is fresh off a stellar season as Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator. Now, it’s a matter of Young putting all those pieces together to build a foundation for a lengthy career in Carolina. 

Chicago Bears

Can the Bears make a playoff push?

Chicago has its franchise quarterback in Caleb Williams and did a strong job before his selection to build a competitive roster around him. Williams has the weapons and the defense to make the Bears a respectable outfit in 2024 and it’s not out of the question for this team to make a push for the playoffs so long as the No. 1 pick lives up to the hype. 

Cincinnati Bengals

What happens with Tee Higgins and Trey Hendrickson?

It’s a bit underrated how tumultuous the Bengals offseason has been. Cincinnati has not one, but two high-profile players requesting trades in Tee Higgins and Trey Hendrickson. Both are looking for new contracts and it’ll be fascinating to see if the team decides to cut bait with them via trade this summer or if they’ll try to smooth things over before Week 1.

Cleveland Browns

Can Deshaun Watson elevate the Browns?

We are entering Year 3 of the Deshaun Watson era in Cleveland and the quarterback has yet to live up to his fully guaranteed $230 million contract. Injuries derailed him in 2023, but even despite Watson going down, the Browns were talented enough to start five different quarterbacks and still make the playoffs. If Joe Flacco can succeed in this offseason to the point where they can reach the postseason, it stands to wonder what Watson is capable of, and if he can rekindle his talent from his days in Houston. 

Dallas Cowboys

Is Mike McCarthy going to get fired?

The major question in Dallas throughout this coming season is going to surround the job status of head coach Mike McCarthy. Jerry Jones is allowing McCarthy to enter into a lame-duck year with his contract running out at the end of the season, which sets the stage for a possible in-season firing if the Cowboys were to get off to a bad start. 

Denver Broncos

Who is going to start at QB?

Is it No. 12 overall pick Bo Nix who gets the nod in Week 1? Or is it Jarrett Stidham, Zach Wilson or Ben DiNucci? The most likely answer to that is Nix because of his draft status, but if the 24-year-old rookie isn’t ready, that could make this crowded QB situation murky. 

Detroit Lions

When will the Lions extend Jared Goff?

This feels like more “when” than “if’ as Goff and the Lions reportedly have mutual interest in signing an extension. Goff is entering the final year of his deal and getting an extension done can get Detroit focused on what could prove to be a special season in 2024. 

Green Bay Packers

Can Jordan Love keep up his second-half play from last season?

The Packers have somehow threaded the QB needle once again as Jordan Love proved to be a legit starting quarterback for them in their first season post-Aaron Rodgers. Love had Green Bay on the brink of an NFC Championship appearance and was fantastic down the stretch of the regular season. In his final eight regular-season games, Love completed 70% of his passes and had a 112.7 passer rating to go along with 18 passing touchdowns and just one interception. If that’s who he is, Love is an MVP candidate. 

Houston Texans

Can Houston add a defensive tackle before Week 1?

The Texans did lose Sheldon Rankins and Maliek Collins this offseason, which leaves a hole at defensive tackle. While it drafted a couple of prospects late on Day 3, Houston could stand to add another big body to inject into the interior of the defensive line between now and Week 1. Currently, Denico Autry, Foley Fatukasi Tim Settle and Khalil Davis make up the position group.

Indianapolis Colts

Is there enough backfield depth?

When healthy, Jonathan Taylor is arguably the best running back in the NFL. However, the veteran has been unable to play a full season in either of the past two years, including just 10 games played in 2023. Quarterback Anthony Richardson will factor into Indianapolis’ rushing attack this season, but the depth behind Taylor in the backfield is a bit thin after losing Zack Moss in free agency. Evan Hull, Trey Sermon, Tyler Goodson and Zavier Scott currently fill out the depth chart behind Taylor.

Jacksonville Jaguars

When will the Jaguars extend Trevor Lawrence?

The Jaguars have already picked up the fifth-year option on Trevor Lawrence, so the quarterback isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. That said, he is extension-eligible and now is typically the time when teams get these deals done. Lawrence already admitted earlier this offseason that “it would be nice” to get it done.

Kansas City Chiefs

Who replaces L’Jarius Sneed?

Kansas City is still basking in the glory of back-to-back Super Bowls and did an overall strong job at addressing some key needs this offseason. However, the Chiefs did trade away L’Jarius Sneed to the Titans, which created a hole in the secondary. It remains to be seen how exactly the club plans to replace Sneed on the boundary and which players on the roster could step up into that starting role. 

Las Vegas Raiders

Who is QB1?

The Raiders were on the outside looking in on the quarterback run in the NFL Draft. Now, head coach Antonio Pierce is faced with either starting free agent signee Gardner Minshew or Aidan O’Connell in 2024. While neither doesn’t exactly project to have a high ceiling, getting that sorted out is key. 

Los Angeles Chargers

Do the Chargers have enough at receiver?

It’s been quite the offseason for the Chargers. While head coach Jim Harbaugh came in, pass catchers like Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler all departed. In all, that’s 250 targets from a season ago that are now gone (and Williams only played in three games). That completely shakes up the pass-catching room for L.A., specifically at receiver. Right now, Quentin Johnston, Joshua Palmer and Ladd McConkey make up the group for Justin Herbert

Los Angeles Rams

How does L.A. replace Aaron Donald’s production?

There is no replacing a generational talent like Aaron Donald, but the Rams do need to try and cushion the blow of his retirement. The club drafted edge rusher Jared Verse and defensive Braden Fiske in the first two rounds of the draft, so they could be leaning heavily on this pair of rookies to help fill a monumental hole in their defense. 

Miami Dolphins

When will Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips be ready to play?

The Dolphins were demolished by injuries last season, specifically off the edge with both Chubb and Phillips going down. Now, it begs the question of when both of these stars will be ready to get back onto the field. Chubb tore his ACL in Week 17, while Phillips suffered an Achilles injury in Week 12. Those are both late-season injuries, so it’ll be worth monitoring their statuses when training camp opens up. The club did draft Chop Robinson in the first round last week, but not having either of them in the fold for a good portion of the year would be a significant blow.

Minnesota Vikings

Is J.J. McCarthy ready to start on Day 1?

Minnesota didn’t need to leap into the top five and was still able to come out of the NFL Draft with J.J. McCarthy. With him as the clear future at the position for the Vikings, now the question turns to whether or not the Michigan product is capable of taking on the starting role as soon as Week 1. The team does have Sam Darnold as a veteran option if they decide to take a more conservative approach with McCarthy. 

New England Patriots

Who is New England’s left tackle?

While we could ask the same question we did with Minnesota as it relates to Drake Maye, the more pressing issue for the Patriots is at left tackle. At the moment, there’s no clear answer for the blindside tackle. New England did draft Caedan Wallace and signed Chukwuma Okorafor in free agency, giving them options. Jerod Mayo could also maybe look at switching Mike Onwenu from right to left tackle. No matter how it ends up shaking out, the Patriots need to get that position situated before inserting Maye as the starter. 

New Orleans Saints

Does Ryan Ramczyk play again?

Ryan Ramczyk continues to struggle with injuries and this latest knee surgery does seem to be taking a toll on the right tackle. Back in March, head coach Dennis Allen admitted that Ramczyk “just isn’t quite where I was probably hoping he’d be,” which begs the question of whether or not he suites up for the organization again. New Orleans did draft offensive tackle Taliese Fuaga in the first round.

New York Giants

Is Daniel Jones on a short leash?

The Giants had an opportunity to take either J.J. McCarthy or Michael Penix Jr. with the No. 6 overall pick in the draft and decided to take LSU wideout Malik Nabers instead. While you could take that as a sign that they are sticking by Daniel Jones for at least one more season, there was enough smoke surrounding the team looking to move up for Drake Maye that doesn’t exactly make Jones’ position as the team’s starter concrete. New York signed Drew Lock in free agency earlier this offseason and reports note that he will have an opportunity to compete for the starting job. 

New York Jets

Who starts at offensive tackle?

The offense line was a massive problem for the Jets last season and they corrected that this offseason by signing Tyron Smith in free agency and acquiring Morgan Moses in a trade with the Ravens. While that seemed to fix the problem for 2024, New York doubled down at tackle in the NFL Draft by taking Penn State’s Olu Fashanu at No. 11 overall. Now, it’ll be up to Robert Saleh to figure out a pecking order for these three tackles duking it out for two starting spots. 

Philadelphia Eagles

Can the rookie defensive backs start out of the gate?

The Eagles were able to address their key need for help in the secondary by drafting corners Quinyon Mitchell (first round) and Cooper DeJean (second). Both Darius Slay and James Bradberry are both long in the tooth and Bradberry specifically is coming off a down year in 2023, so that could put the Eagles in a situation where they are asking their young corners to contribute on Day 1. 

Pittsburgh Steelers

Justin Fields or Russell Wilson?

Maybe the biggest question in the NFL at the moment. Pittsburgh signed Russell Wilson to a one-year deal after the Broncos cut bait with him and it appeared like he’d be their starter for 2024. However, the Steelers then swung a trade with the Bears for Justin Fields, setting the stage for a fascinating competition between the two of them later this summer. 

San Francisco 49ers

Do the 49ers trade a wide receiver before Week 1?

There was a lot of talk during the NFL Draft that the 49ers could look to trade either Brandon Aiyuk or Deebo Samuel. No blockbuster trade came out of the weekend surrounding these star pass catchers, but it’ll be curious to see if any team tries to pry them out of the Bay Area before Week 1.

Seattle Seahawks

How does the linebacker position shake out?

Seattle lost both Jordyn Brooks and Bobby Wagner in free agency, which does leave a noticeable hole in new head coach Mike Macdonald’s defense. Seattle did draft UTEP linebacker Tyrice Knight in the fourth round, so he could prove to be an option alongside Jerome Baker and Tyrel Dodson. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Does the offense dip without Dave Canales?

Tampa Bay is going on its third offensive coordinator in as many seasons after Dave Canales jumped for the Panthers’ head-coaching job earlier this offseason. Canales was credited for the Bucs strong play on offense last year and the resurgence of veteran Baker Mayfield. While new OC Liam Coen comes to Tampa with a background working under Sean McVay in Los Angeles, it’ll be interesting to see how this offense is impacted by Canales’ departure.

Tennessee Titans

Is Will Levis ready to be full-time starter?

Tennessee did a fantastic job surrounding Levis with talent this offseason, bringing in the likes of Calvin Ridley and Tony Pollard. The Titans also solidified the offensive line by taking JC Latham in the first round of the draft. So, the pieces are in place for Levis to have a successful season in Year 2 as he steps into being the full-time starter. The question remains if he’s up to the challenge.

Washington Commanders

Who starts at left tackle?

The Commanders have their franchise quarterback in Jayden Daniels, but it remains a bit of a mystery as to who’ll protect his blind side. Washington drafted Brandon Coleman in the third round of the draft, but if he’s not ready to assume the starting role on Day 1 it’s possible the team may have to turn to veteran Cornelius Lucas, who has started in 31 of his 62 games played for the Commanders over his tenure.

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