The NFL has plenty of game-changing stars, but it’s ultimately still a team game.
Even the best players in the league need talent around them to make life easier.
A quarterback needs a functional offensive line and pass-catchers who can optimize the passing game. A running back needs to be in the right scheme with adequate blocking in front of him.
On defense, even the best pass-rushers can be neutralized if the offense only has to worry about them. A superstar can’t make up for a bad secondary. The list goes on.
Looking across the league, there are some really talented players who are going to have a hard time living up to their potential this season. Each of these players are going to be called upon to make an impact, but they aren’t exactly getting the help they need.
EDGE Brian Burns, Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers are putting a lot of eggs in the Brian Burns basket defensively in 2022.
The 24-year-old is coming off his first Pro Bowl season and has proven to be a reliable pass-rusher. It’s a good thing, too, because outside of Burns and Haason Reddick, the Panthers did not have much in the way of impact pass-rushers.
Burns is talented but he also benefitted from the presence of Reddick and defensive tackle Morgan Fox.
Fox may have only notched 1.5 sacks but, according to Next Gen Stats, he drew double teams at a similar rate as Chris Jones, Quinnen Williams and Ed Oliver. That allowed Burns and Reddick to rarely see extra attention.
Now, Burns is going to be the undisputed star of the defensive front. This offseason, Fox went to the Los Angeles Chargers while Reddick went to Philadelphia.
The Panthers are going to have to hope free agent Matt Ioannidis and Yetur Gross-Matos are able to blossom in 2022. Ioannidis, who played his first six seasons in Washington, is getting out of the shadow of Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen. Gross-Matos was a second-round pick by the Panthers in 2020 but has just six sacks in his first two seasons.
RB James Conner, Arizona Cardinals
Before the Arizona Cardinals handed out a five-year, $230.5 million contract to Kyler Murray, they inked James Conner to a three-year, $21 million deal.
It was a strong financial commitment to a running back who they paid just $1.3 million in 2021. He’ll certainly earn it if he’s able to put up good numbers within the Cardinals offense this year.
Conner’s reputation last season was helped by his ability to find the endzone. The 6’1″, 233-pound back scored 15 times on the ground and another three as a receiver.