Eventful Offseason Providing a Highly Anticipated Season

Steven Moore, Assistant Editor

From trades and signings, to under-dog draft picks, all 32 teams in the National Football League were highly competitive and strategic when making moves this year. Coming off the most odd football season in the history of the league, managers and players are excited to proceed this year in a more normal fashion. Players are provided a normal pre-season and a longer training camp, which allows them to work hard while recovering in an appropriate and safe manner before the challenging 17 week season.

There have been many exciting notes for teams across the league. In Dallas, the Cowboys had a tough break last year dealing with the injuries of several key offensive lineman, as well as their franchise quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott had been out since week four of the regular season in 2020, due to a gruesome compound leg fracture he suffered in a game against the New York Giants. Post surgery, Prescott had gone through multiple physical therapy programs which ultimately helped him regain full muscle strength and heal the bone structure in his leg. He will now be back out on the field in the 2021-2022 season for the Cowboys, and that healthy offense is going to look more dangerous than it ever has.

Transferring over to New York, the Giants suffered the loss of their star running back Saquon Barkley for the second straight year. Barkley tore it up during his college days at Penn State University, boosting his draft stock early in his career. He would be the Giants third overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft. Junior Mark Longo states, “Barkley has the potential to be a top 3 back in the league if he stays healthy.” He rehabbed after his mid-year surgery in 2020, due to an ACL injury he suffered in a game against the Chicago Bears, which is a very physical defense every year. Once Barkley gets back to his full snap count in this offense, the production will be there for the Giants. For the Giants, the backfield was primarily led by Wayne Gallman last year in replacement of Barkley. It was however a running back by committee, giving several different players their opportunity to shine. It only showed how necessary Barkley is in their offense and how much more of a threat the Giants are with him manning the backfield.

Another interesting move this offseason was Carolina’s acquisition of quarterback Sam Darnold. Darnold was selected third overall in the 2018 NFL draft by the New York Jets, a known career killer. Although Darnold’s first two seasons with the Jets did not pan out as management had hoped, there were many bright spots in his game that stood out to organizations across the league. Sophomore Maria Buezo-Lopez states, “I used to be a fan of Darnold’s at USC and his talent is underestimated because of the offense he’s in.” The offensive scheme coach Adam Gase had for the Jets in 2019 was not effective in any way. They had weapons that were not utilized because of how limited Darnold was. The move to Carolina could be a career saving opportunity for Darnold. Head coach Matt Rhule provides Darnold a lot more freedom to be the playmaker that he is capable of being. Not only can he get it done in the air, he is just as effective with his legs. He is sneaky when scrambling, racking up seven rushing touchdowns in two seasons at USC. With players like DJ Moore and Robby Anderson to throw to, Darnold should be on everyone’s watch list this year, as he makes the Panthers a real threat in the NFC South.

Additionally, the Arizona Cardinals decided to part ways with their running back Kenyan Drake as his contract was up at the end of the 2020 season. Drake was quickly acquired by the Las Vegas Raiders, as most teams in the NFL see the value Drake brings to an offense. He is a sure handed pass catcher, smart runner, and an all around athlete. Senior Michael Moore says, “Drake has been my favorite player ever since his Alabama days. There’s an electric energy he brings to a team that I will always appreciate.” Las Vegas already has their established RB1 in Josh Jacobs, but having that 1-2 punch with Jacobs and Drake is lethal. This tandem will be utilized very schematically by head coach Jon Gruden. Drake will get majority of the pass catching work while Jacobs will continue to get the carries on the ground (assuming he can stay healthy). Drake finished the 2020 season with 955 rushing yards on 239 attempts, and by collecting 10 touchdowns. He is an overlooked back in the league with a lot of underrated skill that will be shown in Vegas. The Raiders could potentially make a run to the Super Bowl this year assuming quarterback Derrick Carr can live up to the expectations. He has weapons such as Bryan Edwards, Henry Ruggs III, Hunter Renfroe, and most importantly, tight end Darren Waller. If the defense can play their part, look for the Raiders to be a dark horse team in the AFC.

One of the more intriguing stories this year will be the Washington Football Team. Key players this year in the Football Team’s offense will be third year wideout Terry McLaurin, second year running back Antonio Gibson and star defensive end Chase Young. Freshman Nate Long states, “Terry McLaurin is my favorite player in the NFL. He is a versatile receiver with contested catch ability like no other.” The Ohio State product showed out last year in his sophomore season by racking up 1,118 yards receiving on 87 receptions, with four touchdowns. However, McLaurin’s quarterback situation has been shaky ever since he got drafted to Washington. There has been a constant rotation after quarterback Alex Smith suffered the compound leg fracture a couple seasons ago. McLaurin has shown that he is a quarterback-proof wideout and he is productive regardless of who is throwing to him. This year, it will be Taylor Henicke as Ryan Fitzpatrick suffered an early hip injury in week two. Henicke showed glimpses of stardom in the playoffs last year in round one against Tampa Bay, as he almost upset the Bucs. This team will be a really interesting story this year, and I am excited to see how McLaurin and the rest of this offense does.

These are just a couple of notable moves made in the NFL offseason. Fans around the league are ecstatic for the season to get going. Stadiums will finally be at full capacity, schedules are normalized and football is finally back to normal.