NFL News & Analysis

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

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-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 team's strengths and weaknesses after a busy offseason.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

Biggest Strength: Offensive Weapons

Trading away Amari Cooper is a big blow to this group, but they had so much depth that it remains the team’s strength. When you look beyond wide receiver, Dallas has an extensive array of weapons. Tight end Dalton Schultz had a breakout season, earning above average PFF grades in every facet of play. The team expects to get Tony Pollard more involved in other areas this season while finding ever more creative ways to avoid sending Ezekiel Elliott to the bench. Rookie Jalen Tolbert has a skill set that could let him really surprise people early in his NFL career, and the expectation is that there is much more to come from CeeDee Lamb as the team’s true alpha receiver. 

Biggest Weakness: Interior Defensive Line

On defense, the Cowboys still have a glaring weakness up the middle. Recent additions to the unit haven’t really worked out, with players like Neville Gallimore and Osa Odighizuwa needing a big leap forward to progress beyond flashes of ability and into the realm of true game-changing forces. Until that happens, the interior will remain a weak point to a defense making real strides.

New York Giants

Biggest Strength: Offensive Weapons

Seems hard to believe given the last couple of seasons, but the Giants do have a great group of receivers on paper. Injuries have largely been responsible for the group not being on the field at the same time and enjoying success, but the disastrous play of the offensive line also had a knock-on effect that rendered the entire passing game toothless.

Kenny Golladay was a disappointment in Year 1 with the Giants, but he has still caught 57.4% of all contested targets thrown his way during his career and has an outstanding drop rate of 6.0%. Kadarius Toney’s position may be in question, but he showed special game-changing skills as a rookie. Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and Wan’Dale Robinson make this a very talented group. 

Biggest Weakness: Secondary

Getting rid of James Bradberry for financial reasons has left this secondary looking very vulnerable on paper. Adoree’ Jackson is the only proven corner and he has an extensive injury history.

Philadelphia Eagles

Biggest Strength: Offensive Line

The Eagles used a massive number of offensive linemen last season. Thanks in part to resting starters at the end of the year, 15 different linemen saw snaps. When healthy, Philadelphia’s offensive line is one of the best in the league, and they have an unusual amount of depth thanks to the experience they have been able to spread around. Former rugby player Jordan Mailata has become one of the game’s best at left tackle after only taking up the game in 2018. Mailata allowed 20 pressures in 14 games last season. Adding A.J. Brown to the offense comes close to turning a weakness into the biggest strength on the team, but it sits just below their offensive line.

Biggest Weakness: Linebacker

On paper, linebacker remains a weak link on this roster, but that could be transformed immediately if rookie Nakobe Dean plays in the NFL the way he did in college. Dean reportedly slipped in the draft due to medical concerns that the Eagles apparently don’t share with the rest of the league. Dean was the best-graded player last season on one of the best defenses in college football history and a true leader on the field. If the Eagles get that player, this unit becomes formidable. 

Washington Commanders

Biggest Strength: Defensive Line

Even with depth being chipped away with the losses of Tim Settle and Matt Ioannidis in free agency, Washington’s defensive front remains the strength of this team. The likes of Jonathan Allen, DaRon Payne and Chase Young ensure the defensive line has plenty of players that will cause problems for opposing offenses, particularly if Young can take a step forward in his development. Washington was top-seven last season in pressure rate and did it with an underwhelming season from Young.

Biggest Weakness: Linebacker

Jamin Davis needs to take a big step forward in his development after struggling as a rookie on his way to an overall PFF grade of 46.8. Davis has the athletic profile of a star at the position, but you could see the processing time during his rookie season. Transitioning to the NFL as a linebacker has become extremely difficult in today’s game, and how far he goes in Year 2 is an unknown. 

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons

Biggest Strength: Cornerback

The Falcons finally pushed reset on a roster that had been heading inevitably in that direction for a while, and though their draft was excellent, it means there aren’t a lot of areas of strength as the team tears things down in order to rebuild from a solid foundation. A.J. Terrell was a revelation at corner last season, allowing 43.9% of passes thrown his way to be caught for a passer rating of 47.5. Casey Hayward showed he still had some gas in the tank and that gives the Falcons an imposing cornerback duo heading into the season.

Biggest Weakness: Pass Rush

Their weaknesses are extensive, but pass-rush is arguably the biggest issue. For years, this has been Grady Jarrett by himself, but Jarrett had a PFF pass-rush grade of 67.2 and notched just 38 pressures last season. Their primary edge rushers are a rookie and a reclamation project in Lorenzo Carter who has never had a PFF pass-rushing grade above 62.0

Carolina Panthers

Biggest Strength: Wide Receiver

There was excitement last offseason about what we could see from Sam Darnold in a new environment, and even though that excitement was misplaced, the logic was sound in part. The group of receivers the Panthers have on the roster is genuinely impressive. D.J. Moore has been remarkably consistent to begin his NFL career, averaging 1.99 yards per route run over four seasons. Robby Anderson is coming off an ugly season, but the year before we saw what he could do within this offense, and there is still plenty of excitement about Terrace Marshall as he enters his second season. If Carolina can get solid offensive line play and anything working at quarterback, the receivers are there to make noise.

Biggest Weakness: Quarterback

This one is obvious — the Sam Darnold experiment was a disaster, and the only thing the team could manage to address it this offseason was drafting Matt Corral in the third round to compete. Corral’s college offense featured an RPO on over 40% of snaps last season compared to an NFL average of around 10%. There’s still a chance Baker Mayfield is added before camp, but this remains a huge weak link.

New Orleans Saints

Biggest Strength: Secondary

Losing Marcus Williams is a blow to any unit, but the Saints doubled down in replacing him initially with Marcus Maye and then adding Tyrann Mathieu once the free agency dust began to settle. With Marshawn Lattimore and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, the Saints have four-fifths of a very good secondary with plenty of competition for the fifth spot. Paulson Adebo flashed ability as a rookie, with four pass breakups to go along with three picks, and he has competition from the likes of Bradley Roby in case he doesn’t improve. New Orleans also has a formidable defensive line, but the secondary is the biggest strength on the roster.

Biggest Weakness: Offensive Line

The Saints aren’t long removed from having one of the best offensive lines in the league, but the unit has been steadily eroded in recent seasons, with additions brought in to stop the rot failing to produce. Terron Armstead left this offseason, leaving them with just Ryan Ramczyk as a proven top-quality lineman. Rookie Trevor Penning will try and replace Armstead, but the interior trio each had a PFF grade below 65.0 last season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Biggest Strength: Quarterback

It turns out that adding Tom Brady to a reasonable roster is the difference between battling a .500 record and being true Super Bowl contenders each season. Brady is 45 years old and still finished the regular season in 2021 with the best PFF grade in the NFL (92.0). He was top-10 in big-time throw rate (5.6%) and second in turnover-worthy play rate (1.9%). This may be his final season, but Brady is still the biggest strength of this roster, though his receivers are a close second.

Biggest Weakness: Tight End (pending Gronk unretirement)

It’s entirely plausible that as soon as the grind of training camp is over, Brady puts in a phone call to Gronk and he’s back in the starting lineup. But until that point, the tight end situation is much weaker than previous seasons. Cameron Brate has propelled from the No. 3 spot to the starter, and while he has shown ability in the past, his PFF grade was just 57.0 last season while averaging a career-low 0.77 yards per route run.

NFC North

Chicago Bears

Biggest Strength: Running Back

The Bears have one of the weakest rosters in the NFL as they embark on new general manager Ryan Poles’ rebuilding project. There isn’t much in the way of strengths, but their backfield has some real playmakers. David Montgomery may have averaged only 3.8 yards per carry last season, but 2.5 of that came after contact. He has broken 139 tackles in three seasons. Khalil Herbert had an extremely good PFF rushing grade of 84.4 in his rookie season, averaging 2.8 yards after contact. The offensive line might not let them shine, but Chicago’s running backs are strengths of this roster.

Biggest Weakness: Everything Else

Chicago's issue: Pretty much everything else on the roster is a weakness. You could make an argument for individual players, but position groups as a whole are a mess. The Bears ranked No. 30 on PFF’s roster rankings, and that doesn’t bode well for the prospects of Justin Fields in his sophomore season.

Detroit Lions

Biggest Strength: Offensive Line

Detroit’s rebuild clearly followed the “build in the trenches” philosophy, and the offensive line is significantly further ahead than its defensive counterpart. The team finished last season ranked 13th on PFF’s O-line rankings, and that’s without Frank Ragnow, one of the best centers in the game. With Ragnow back in place and continued growth from Jonah Jackson at guard and Penei Sewell at tackle, the Lions could quickly have one of the best offensive lines in the game. 

Biggest Weakness: Secondary

Detroit’s secondary is an example of how damaging it can be when a top draft pick fails to perform as expected. Jeffrey Okudah was the No. 3 overall pick in 2020 but has allowed a passer rating of 121.8 when targeted so far in his career, and he also suffered a ruptured Achilles. The rest of the Lions cornerbacks are a collection of young and largely underperforming players, with none yet consistently able to go toe-to-toe with the game’s best receivers.

Green Bay Packers

Biggest Strength: Secondary

Green Bay was without Jaire Alexander for much of last season, and that propelled Eric Stokes into a much bigger role than was likely planned. He allowed 51% of passes thrown his way to be caught and showed some real sticky coverage that could have him primed for greatness in 2022. Rasul Douglas returns after a career year, giving Green Bay three legit corners to go along with one of the best safety duos in the league. 

Biggest Weakness: Wide Receiver

The last time (and only time) Aaron Rodgers went into a season without a clear No. 1 receiver was 2015 when Jordy Nelson tore his ACL in preseason. That year produced the worst PFF grade of Rodgers’ career, over 15 grading points lower than the seasons either side of it. With Davante Adams traded away, Green Bay needs somebody to emerge as that No. 1 target. Allen Lazard likely begins the year with the bulk of the targets, but Sammy Watkins has the more natural skill set for the role, and Christian Watson is the rookie hope.

Minnesota Vikings

Biggest Strength: Wide Receiver

Justin Jefferson may already be the game’s best receiver and now expects to be featured in an offense that is far less run-focused than his first two years in the league. Only Davante Adams and Deebo Samuel have gained more yards per route run than Jefferson since he entered the NFL. Adam Thielen is one of the best receivers in the league against press coverage thanks to his releases off the line and route running. K.J. Osborn quietly emerged as a nice third receiver for this offense last year.

Biggest Weakness: Interior Offensive Line

Minnesota’s offensive line has had a lot of work and the tackles now look to be in a good place, but the interior still looks like a weakness on paper. Ezra Cleveland has been solid as a run blocker at guard but has yet to finish a season with a PFF pass-blocking grade above 55.5, while Garrett Bradbury has averaged 27 pressures and almost seven penalties a season at center. Right guard has been a revolving door in recent seasons and is still there to be won by anybody showing quality play.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals

Biggest Strength: Offensive Weapons

Even with DeAndre Hopkins serving a suspension to start the season and Christian Kirk departing in the offseason, the Cardinals still have a lot of offensive firepower. A.J. Green isn’t anything like the player he once was, but that decade of savvy means he is still very good against zone coverage. Marquise Brown hasn’t dominated in Baltimore but now teams up with his college quarterback in Kyler Murray and will be the focus of a much more pass-happy offense initially. It’s also one of the best tight end groups in the league with Zach Ertz, Maxx Williams and now rookie Trey McBride.

Biggest Weakness: Cornerback

The one caveat to this is that the cornerback room seemed like a major weakness on paper heading into last season and really didn’t play like it for most of the year. Their best corner is Byron Murphy, who struggled outside before reviving his fortunes as a slot player. Last season, Murphy’s PFF grade was 59.7 and he allowed 66.3% of passes thrown his way to be caught. 

Los Angeles Rams

Biggest Strength: Quarterback

Matthew Stafford proved the Rams right with one playoff run that ended in a championship. The Rams offense was dramatically better with him under center all year even though Stafford’s throw-by-throw performance wasn’t a huge departure from his Lions baseline. What changed was the playoff run. Only Josh Allen had a better PFF grade in the playoffs than Stafford, who had four more big-time throws (11) than anybody else. He unlocked the full capability of this offense under Sean McVay.

Biggest Weakness: Depth

The “stars and scrubs” approach to the Rams roster construction will always leave this issue. They have a good team, with almost all areas at least average, but their depth in most of them looks paper thin, and injuries concentrated in any one area could cause major problems. This is a feature of the strategy they employ, and the team has been consistently one of the healthiest teams in football in recent years.

San Francisco 49ers

Biggest Strength: Pass Rush

Nick Bosa is obviously the star of the group, but the 49ers have real depth when it comes to pass rush. Arik Armstead is a force with some position flexibility who has averaged 50 pressures over the last three seasons. Injuries have left Dee Ford barely featuring for the team and certainly not providing the rush they expected him to, but rookie Drake Jackson may be able to fill that role. Jackson has the best bend and textbook edge pressure of any pass-rusher in this draft.

Biggest Weakness: Interior Offensive Line

Kyle Shanahan’s offensive scheme flatters a lot of positions on the football field, and it makes an offensive line look better than it really is. The 49ers have seen some turnover and attrition to a very good unit, and all of a sudden the interior is looking a little flimsy. Laken Tomlinson signed for big free agent money with the Jets, leaving the team with no starter on the interior who posted a PFF grade higher than 60.0 last season.

Seattle Seahawks

Biggest Strength: Wide Receiver

Seattle’s roster is not in good shape, but D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett remain one of the best receiver duos in the league, and there are some intriguing players behind them in Dee Eskridge and Bo Melton. Throwing the ball Lockett’s way has resulted in a passer rating of 124.8 in his NFL career, while Metcalf is one of the game’s most devastating weapons against man coverage.

Biggest Weakness: Everything Else

When you take Russell Wilson off the Seahawks roster, you realize just how bad the situation had become and what the team required of him to drag them to the playoffs every season. The departure of Bobby Wagner removes yet another quality player from the group, leaving Seattle with one of the worst rosters in the league and one of the worst quarterback situations to go along with it. 

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