NFL News & Analysis

Strengths and weaknesses of every AFC team entering 2022 NFL training camp

Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon (left) and wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (center) and wide receiver Tee Higgins (85) celebrate a touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs during the third quarter of the AFC Championship Game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

We are into the month of July, which means training camps are only weeks away from opening for all 32 NFL teams, and real football is ever so close to a return.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the lay of the land and analyze each AFC team's strengths and weaknesses after a busy offseason. (Find all 32 NFC teams' strengths and weaknesses here.)

AFC East

Buffalo Bills

Biggest Strength: Quarterback

The Buffalo Bills have the No. 1 roster in the NFL as we head toward the season, and there are a lot of strengths across the board. Their true power lies in the absence of any real weakness, but it’s clear that Josh Allen is the catalyst to multiply the effect of everything else. Allen had the best PFF grade of any quarterback in the playoffs last season, and has now had back-to-back seasons with a mark of 90.0-plus. Allen has become one of the best quarterbacks in the game and the hardest to stop.

Biggest Weakness: Offensive Line

As mentioned, Buffalo’s roster really doesn’t have a serious weakness, so to find an issue we have to project something of a worst-case scenario. The offensive line ranked 20th on PFF’s rankings from a month ago, which is more than good enough for them to be contenders. But if the unit caught the bad end of variance, it could also easily emerge as a problem over the course of the season.

Miami Dolphins

Biggest Strength: Offensive Weapons

In one move, Miami created one of the most interesting groups of playmakers in the entire league. They added Tyreek Hill to an offense featuring the closest analog to Tyreek Hill in the NFL (Jaylen Waddle). With Mike Gesicki retained on the franchise tag and Cedric Wilson added in free agency, suddenly Miami has all kinds of playmakers to try and incorporate into one offense. 

Biggest Weakness: Offensive Line

The Dolphins made huge strides in improving the offensive line this offseason — adding Terron Armstead and Connor Williams — but they were coming from a point of historical ineptitude. Last season, Miami’s line gave up a league-leading 235 pressures, seven more than Cincinnati’s line did even including their Super Bowl run. The unit should be improved in 2022 but has enough weak links remaining that it could still be problematic. Without a passable line, it’s tough to fairly evaluate Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback.

New England Patriots

Biggest Strength: Offensive Line

In contrast to Miami, New England has one of the best offensive lines in the league. Even after trading away Shaq Mason, the unit should be at worst four capable starters and a question mark (rookie Cole Strange). No line allowed fewer pressures than the Patriots in 2021 (125), and it gives them an excellent platform to succeed on offense. With some added weapons, we should see what Mac Jones is capable of in Year 2.

Biggest Weakness: Cornerback

In quick succession, the Patriots got rid of Stephon Gilmore and his heir apparent J.C. Jackson, but it’s the lack of real quality replacements that leaves this group where it is. Rookie Marcus Jones is an exciting prospect, but at 5-foot-8 and 174 pounds he has a battle on his hands to prove he can be anything more than a slot option in the NFL. Outside of Jones, Jalen Mills allowed a passer rating of 114.6 last season and Terrance Mitchell's was 104.7. 

New York Jets

Biggest Strength: Offensive Line

The Jets have made real strides in improving their roster, but generally the improvements have been spread out across the roster. Their biggest strength might now be their offensive line, where a lot of resources have been allocated. They ranked 13th in PFF’s O-line rankings a few weeks ago, and few units in the league can boast the kind of depth they have on paper. Between this line and new receivers to play with, the platform is there for Zach Wilson success in 2022.

Biggest Weakness: Linebacker

C.J. Mosley was a big-money acquisition in 2019, but he just saw his first extensive play for New York in 2021 after an injury and 2020 opt-out. Last season he earned a career-worst 42.0 PFF grade. Mosley doesn’t look like he has the kind of linebacker range required in Robert Saleh’s defenses, having allowed a passer rating of 116.3 last year, and there is little in the way of impact players alongside him in that group.

AFC South

Houston Texans 

Biggest Strength: Pass Rush

The Texans have one of the worst rosters in the NFL. They have been treading water institutionally since Deshaun Watson’s initial accusations appeared until they were able to trade him away to Cleveland, and the rebuilding project from Nick Caserio has only just begun. They do have some impressive pass-rushers, however. Jerry Hughes is still a lock for around 50 pressures in a season despite his advanced years, and Jonathan Greenard earned an impressive PFF grade of 82.9 in limited snaps last season. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Mario Addison are both capable of pressure in limited roles as well, giving the Texans a real platoon of capable edge rushers

Biggest Weakness: Linebacker

Most areas on the Texans roster are weaknesses, but perhaps the biggest is at linebacker, where the average grade of the three primary projected players last season was 48.0. Kamu Grugier-Hill allowed 82.8% of passes thrown his way to be caught for a passer rating of 113.9, and Christian Kirksey allowed a passer rating of 120.0 despite getting six pass breakups. Things were even worse against the run, with none of their top linebackers earning a PFF grade above 50.0.

Indianapolis Colts

Biggest Strength: Running Backs

Jonathan Taylor is a beast, but behind him on the depth chart is also Nyheim Hines, Phillip Lindsay and even Ty’Son Williams. Taylor obviously led the league in rushing yards last season, but he also showed an ability to maximize the yards that his blocking creates. He gained 1,272 yards after contact, broke 66 tackles and had 23 breakaway runs of 15 or more yards, four more than any other back. He racked up more than 200 yards more than any other back on those breakaway runs. 

Biggest Weakness: Wide Receiver

It’s tough to find a unit where the Colts are in bad shape, which explains why they are quite a popular team in preseason predictions. You could focus on cornerback, but in limited snaps last season Stephon Gilmore showed he still has gas in the tank, particularly in man coverage. They have Michael Pittman Jr. at wide receiver, but that's not enough until we see what rookie Alec Pierce can bring to the table, particularly with Matt Ryan on the back nine of his career. 

Jacksonville Jaguars

Biggest Strength: Running Backs

Travis Etienne missing his entire rookie season has resulted in a lot of “out of sight, out of mind,” but Etienne has the athletic profile to be a game-breaker in the NFL. Whatever cross-training he was doing before injury as a wide receiver can only have helped his potential to make an impact on an offense that also boasts James Robinson in the backfield. This is a duo that could form a phenomenal one-two punch, particularly if the passing game can improve in Year 2 of Trevor Lawrence.

Biggest Weakness: Everything Else

There are some good players on Jacksonville’s roster, but they are spread out, leaving few position groups in any real position of strength. This is a team that found its way to the No. 1 pick in the draft for a reason, and though most areas are merely below average rather than outright bad, it’s tough to distinguish which are the weakest.

Tennessee Titans

Biggest Strength: Safety

The Titans have arguably the best safety duo in the league, or are certainly one of the contenders for that accolade. Kevin Byard is as good as any safety in the league, which may lead to people overlooking Amani Hooker, who earned an 85.9 PFF grade last season. The Titans had two of the top three safety grades in the league in 2021, with the duo combining for 10 pass breakups, three forced fumbles and 43 defensive stops.

Biggest Weakness: Edge Rusher

Another team where it’s tough to find any real, glaring areas of weakness, the Titans have a few position groups that are a player or two away from being complete. Their edge rushers are perhaps the most interesting because they have spent big money in both Bud Dupree and Harold Landry, but neither player has lived up to that elite money. Dupree has one career season with a PFF pass-rushing grade above 61.2, and Landry generates plenty of pressure, but not nearly enough of it is decisive, impactful pressure. His pass-rushing grades last season were incredibly consistent, and consistently below average despite totaling 70 pressures.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

Biggest Strength: Quarterbacks

Lamar Jackson is unique, but Baltimore has done well to find a solid backup in Tyler Huntley who can emulate some of what makes Jackson special. Lamar’s unique skill set allows Baltimore to craft an offense unlike the rest of the league, and it’s difficult to overstate how big of an edge that gives the team on a weekly basis or the knock-on impact it has in putting other players (like offensive linemen) in an “easier” situation. 

Biggest Weakness: Wide Receiver

Trading away Marquise Brown was smart roster management given the contract he will be chasing as well as the offense they run in Baltimore, but it does put everything on the shoulders of Rashod Bateman as he enters his second season. Bateman averaged just 1.26 yards per route run as a rookie, and he is by far the team’s best option at the position. Even with this style of offense, receiver could become problematic as the year wears on.

Cincinnati Bengals

Biggest Strength: Wide Receivers

Ja’Marr Chase took the NFL by storm as a rookie and is already as good as any receiver in football. Even if he doesn’t improve in his second year, he forms the backbone of a dominant group. Tee Higgins may not quite have a true No. 1 skill set, but he is one of the most consistent secondary options in the league, while Tyler Boyd is an excellent slot option. Both Chase and Higgins averaged over 2.1 yards per route run last season, and all three receivers generated a passer rating of over 100.0 when targeted.

Biggest Weakness: Tight End

C.J. Uzomah was an important part of Cincinnati’s season in 2021, and with his free agent departure this offseason, it’s tough to be as convinced by the combination of Drew Sample and Hayden Hurst. Sample has never gained more than 16 first downs in a season, and though Hurst has real athletic talent, he has now been kicked to the curb by two different teams in his NFL career. Hurst earned a career-low PFF grade in his most recent season in Atlanta with just 1.0 yard per route run.

Cleveland Browns

Biggest Strength: Running Backs

Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are arguably the best running back duo in the league, and when injuries struck last season the Browns stumbled into D’Ernest Johnson, who averaged 3.5 yards after contact on 100 attempts. Nobody’s backfield can come close to what Cleveland has under contract, and they’re all working from behind a good offensive line to help them maximize their impact.

Biggest Weakness: Interior Defensive Line

Jordan Elliott has yet to show the kind of play we saw from him in college, leaving Cleveland with little in the way of proven impact players in the middle of their defensive line. Taven Bryan is a former first-round pick but has just 60 pressures in four seasons in Jacksonville and is very much a reclamation project at this point in his career. Rookie Perrion Winfrey will likely have opportunity for significant playing time if he can show any signs of life, but he was a fourth-round pick in 2022.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Biggest Strength: Receivers

Few teams have shown the kind of consistent success in drafting receivers as the Pittsburgh Steelers. So it makes sense that reports suggest they don’t want to pay Diontae Johnson over $20 million a year — they have a consistent track record of replacing receivers and developing young players without huge investment. The additions of George Pickens and Calvin Austin III in the draft may allow them to let Johnson walk in a year’s time without concern, and in the meantime they all get to play in the same offense, along with Chase Claypool and also Pat Freiermuth at tight end.

Biggest Weakness: Quarterback

Pittsburgh’s biggest weakness isn’t quarterback just because of the standard of Mitchell Trubisky or rookie Kenny Pickett, but also because of the style of both players and what it means for the rest of the offense. Ben Roethlisberger had the league’s fastest average time to throw in 2021 (2.26 seconds) by some margin. That hid a lot of issues along the offensive line. Kenny Pickett was over 3.2 seconds in college, and Trubisky also exists closer to the longer end of the spectrum. That will stress the pass protection a lot more than it was a year ago and could make the entire offense look a lot worse.

AFC West

Denver Broncos

Biggest Strength: Offensive Weapons

So much of the excitement surrounding Russell Wilson joining the Broncos is because the receivers already in place are just waiting for a passer that can get them the football. Jerry Jeudy, Cortland Sutton, K.J. Hamler and Tim Patrick aren’t just a good group of receivers, but they have a diverse and complete skill set that can win at all levels of the field. Noah Fant departed in the Wilson trade, but Albert Okwuegbunam is waiting in the wings to assume that role. He had a PFF grade of 91.3 last season against man coverage compared to Fant’s 79.4.

Biggest Weakness: Pass Rush

Bradley Chubb hasn’t become the player he was expected to be, partly due to significant injuries, so Denver’s pass largely rests on the shoulders of new acquisition Randy Gregory. Gregory has been in the league since 2015, but his own issues (largely suspension-related) have meant he has played just 1,580 career snaps, around half of which have been high-quality. They are the most recent snaps, but that’s a very small sample size to rely on given the Broncos need for a consistent, elite pass-rusher. Gregory has never had more than 47 pressures in a season in a league where the best edge rushers clear 80.

Kansas City Chiefs

Biggest Strength: Offensive Line

Obviously Patrick Mahomes is the strength of this team. Tying him down to a decade-long contract means the Chiefs are perennial contenders, but it feels wrong to ignore just how good of an offensive line they have assembled in front of him. Creed Humphrey was the best-graded center in the NFL as a rookie, with Trey Smith proving to be a steal as a sixth-round pick. Orlando Brown Jr. and Joe Thuney each played well in their first season with the team, making the biggest question mark of the unit right tackle Lucas Niang, whose play was solid across 524 snaps last year.

Biggest Weakness: Edge Rushers

The Chiefs will be hoping this changes with the addition of George Karlaftis in the draft, but the trade for Frank Clark has been disastrous and left them with almost nothing in terms of pressure coming off the edge. Clark hasn’t had a PFF pass-rushing grade above 64.3 since being traded to Kansas City after never falling below that mark in four seasons with Seattle. Melvin Ingram exceeded every Chiefs edge rusher except Clark in pressures last season, and he didn’t arrive on the team until Week 9. Chris Jones was arguably their best edge rusher, and he's a 310-pound interior lineman.

Las Vegas Raiders

Biggest Strength: Receivers

What a difference one player can make. With no true No. 1 receiver, last year’s Raiders offense was missing a critical element. After the trade for Davante Adams in the offseason, the group suddenly looks among the best in the league. Adams has been the best receiver in the league over the last few seasons, gaining more yards per route run than anybody else over the last two years. He gets to team up with his college quarterback and take attention away from Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller elsewhere in the lineup.

Biggest Weakness: Offensive Line

The big question is whether the Raiders offensive line will be good enough to let Derek Carr take advantage of all of that receiving weaponry. Last year’s top rookie, Alex Leatherwood, was disastrous at right tackle before playing merely poorly at guard after a position switch. He ended the season with a PFF pass-blocking grade of 31.3, having given up eight sacks, 67 pressures and 16 penalties. The line has only really one quality starter (Kolton Miller at left tackle), with the other four positions potential problem spots.

Los Angeles Chargers

Biggest Strength: Edge Rushers

Joey Bosa is one of the best edge defenders in football, and the Chargers were able to pair him with another of the best in Khalil Mack this offseason. Bosa had 68 pressures and a pass-rushing grade of 90.3 in 2021, while Mack battled his way through injury in Chicago. Prior to 2021, Mack had an overall PFF grade of 90.0 or better in five of the last six years. Each player is an elite run defender on top of what they can do rushing the passer, giving the Chargers elite edge defense, not just elite edge rush.

Biggest Weakness: Interior Defensive Line

As good as the edge defenders are, the biggest issue the Chargers have may still be right up the middle in between those edge defenders. They added bodies to improve a disastrous situation there a year ago, but none of those players earned even an average PFF grade in the 2021. The good news is that the impact of Bosa and Mack on the edge will certainly impact the performance of the interior players, and Sebastian Joseph-Day in particular has better play on his resume in 2020.

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