With the NFL now here, the team at Ninety-Nine Yards have been tasked with answering some of the unanswered questions ahead of the new NFL season.
Our writers start with answering a big question about their own teams before tackling some of the big talking points from across the league.
Is Jalen Hurts the Eagles new franchise quarterback or merely a stop gap?
Hurts will be given every opportunity to prove he’s the face of the franchise in Philly. With a healthy again offensive line, Miles Sanders and a more run orientated scheme to take off the pressure. Perhaps the biggest boost will be Heisman trophy winner Devonta Smith. Hurts has all the intangibles and if he can improve his accuracy a la Josh Allen he has ever chance of being a star.
If not, we’ll then there’s always Minshew Mania.JONATHAN CUMBLETON – PHILADELPHIA EAGLES FAN
Does the Vikings defence get back to their best?
The most welcome news for the Vikings this off season is the return of All Pro defensive end Danielle Hunter, who missed all of last season with a neck injury. Assuming he can get back to somewhere near his best, the Vikings have a real difference maker back to lead their defensive front. We’re less than two years removed from Hunter becoming the youngest player to reach 50 sacks in NFL history, so there’s no denying his talent level.
The addition of veteran presence in Patrick Peterson should help an otherwise young and inexperienced defensive back core, and the return of Michael Pierce (who opted out of last season due to COVID-19) will feel like a new signing. The resigning of long time Viking Everson Griffen (likely to play a reduced role) should also provide a boost. Look for the Vikings to bounce back defensively this season.DALE JONES – MINNESOTA VIKINGS FAN
Does Daniel Jones take the step forward he needs to in 2021?
For Jones to succeed he needs time in the pocket to assist in his decision-making when passing to a decent looking receiver group. He also needs a solid run game to keep the opposing D honest and a creative play caller. What does he have? An o-line that still resembles Swiss cheese, question marks over Saquon Barkley’s return after injury, and Jason Garrett. The odds are not in Jones’ favour right now!MARK JEFFREY – NEW YORK GIANTS FAN
How close are the Cowboys to being contenders?
A healthy Cowboys are an average defence away from being contenders. They set franchise records, the bad type, on defence last year. Giving up 6183 yards (10th most) and 473 points (5th most). Changing from a 4-3 to a hybrid Mike Nolan 3-4/4-3 was always going to cause issues . Especially on a shortened, pandemic affected offseason like last year. In steps former Falcons head coach Dan Quinn into the mix as defensive coordinator. Throw in a hand of defensive vets, including former first round pick Malik Hooker and 8 defensive draft picks this spring. The Cowboys can expect an improved defense.
Offensively they should be a top 5 offense. Dak Prescott finally got his big pay day and theoretically looks worth every cent. If, big if, they can stay healthy. Prescott was the headline injury last season but it was other offensive injuries that caused their season to crash. Both starting tackles missed time; right tackle Laél Collins missed the entire season and all-pro left Tackle Tyron Smith only played in two games. If they can stay healthy it’ll give the Cowboys a good shot at being one of the most prolific offences in the league, easily.BRYAN DICKIE – DALLAS COWBOYS FAN
How does the Falcons offence look without Julio Jones?
The move away from Julio Jones has felt inevitable for the Falcons due to salary cap issues. The question will be does Kyle Pitts fill the void. The #4 overall pick will certainly add a different element to the Falcons offence who have been missing a quality pass catching option at tight end. Add Kyle Pitts to a young but quality receiving core that includes Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage and the Falcons have the ability to put up points. Scoring points has never been the problem, it’s conceding them that has.OWAIN JONES – ATLANTA FALCONS FAN
MORE UNANSWERED QUESTIONS
Are the Patriots contenders again?
The Patriots have one of the better offensive lines in football and will need it if they’re to contend again. Rookie Mac Jones will learn on the job without the big name stars of yester year. Perhaps Agholor and the upgraded TE position can do enough.
On defence, Matthew Judon, defensive lineman Davon Godchaux, defensive back Jalen Mills will bolster last years unit, along with the return of Covid opt out Dont’a Hightower.
Personally, I think it’s a year or two too early for New England.JONATHAN CUMBLETON
How do the Rams look with the acquisition of Matthew Stafford?
For a few seasons now it seemed that the missing piece for the Rams was a truly top level Quarterback – a need they seem to have addressed with the acquisition of Matthew Stafford. He may have spent his career with an under performing Lions side in Detroit, but make no mistake; Stafford has the talent to push these Rams on.
They’re in a division that seems tough every year, but with so many exciting playmakers on both sides of the ball (Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, Cooper Kupp & Robert Woods to name a few), look for them to be making the playoffs this year as a minimum.DALE JONES
How quickly do we see the rookie QBs take to the field?
Ink in Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Mac Jones for week 1 onwards. Expect the 49ers to start with Jimmy G at least until their week 6 bye but Trey Lance may well get sprinkled in given Kyle Shanahan’s creative play calling and Garoppolo’s injury record. The clamour for Justin Fields over Andy Dalton will be loud in Chicago. Dalton will start in September but if he doesn’t impress then Fields could be the starter by week 4 against Detroit.MARK JEFFREY
Can anyone catch the Chiefs in the AFC West?
The Chiefs were well beaten in the Super Bowl. With both tackles out the Bucs managed to put their superstar QB under unprecedented pressure. The Chiefs failed to score a touchdown and for the first time in a few years, serious questions were asked about the potency of Mahomes and the Chiefs offence behind a struggling O line. Next thing we know they’ve re-tooled their offensive line; trading for Orlando Brown, signing free agent Joe Thuney and drafting Creed Humphrey. Mahomes can rest easy knowing he shouldn’t, health permitting, face anything like the onslaught he got from the Bucs in February.
Strengthening their main weakness isn’t the main reason the Chiefs should continue to own the AFC West. Their divisional counterparts haven’t made the leap to join them in the upper echelons of the NFL power rankings.
The Chargers have changed head coach and can be hopeful of a good 2021 with sophomore QB Justin Herbert. The Broncos added stud corner Patrick Surtain in the first round of the draft to an already loaded defensive backfield, but lack a star QB to take them to the next level. The Raiders are still trying to win by going against the grain recruitment wise, more questionable draft picks and roster moves. God knows if their Gruden gamble will ever come good.
The Chiefs have won the last 5 AFC West titles, this year should be no different.BRYAN DICKIE
Who are the 2021 Chicago Bears?
You are familiar with the story, struggling franchise picks up its shiny new franchise quarterback in a bid to change their fortunes, but what can we expect this year seeing them start with all that potential on the bench in favour of Andy Dalton. Its true the Bears are unlikely to be up there competing with the cream of the NFC, let alone the Packers and Vikings in their own division. So I would argue that they are doing the right thing.
We all know the story of David Carr getting killed in Houston, and so with rookie tackle Tevin Jenkins injured for some time, protection for the new quarterback in Chicago seems light, what’s the use in sending Fields out so soon, much wiser to give him some time to acclimatize. I have no doubt that after a few loses the fans will be screaming his name and he will get put in, but I urge caution for Bears fans as the team creates its new identity.DUNCAN TERRY
How competitive can the Colts be with the signing of Carson Wentz?
There are so many question marks for the Indianapolis Colts. They have a good offensive line when healthy. The defence should be good and they will be able to run the ball with Jonathan Taylor looking a good pick up. But it will all come down to how well Carson Wentz plays.
The issue is can Wentz stay healthy? His injuries include a rib fracture in 2016, an ACL & LCL tear in 2017, a back vertebral fracture in 2018, concussions in 2020 and a Pedal foot injury this off season.
On top of the injuries Wentz comes off a disastrous 2020 season. With that exhaustive injury list, Wentz may not even be the same player he once was. He will need to return to anything close to his best to elevate this Colts team.OWAIN JONES
Do you have any unanswered questions you would like us to answer? Let us know over on Twitter @NinetynineYards
IMAGE CREDIT: KNOWYOURTEAM.COM