The 2021-22 NFL season has the potential to be the most fascinating in a decade


Jane Shiff

As the new NFL season begins, some names to look out for this year are Julio Jones who plays for the Titans, Josh Allen who plays for the Bills, and Christian McCaffrey who plays for the Panthers.

Max Berglind

The 2021-22 NFL regular season will kick off tonight with America’s Team in the Dallas Cowboys butting heads with the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The NFL season is drawing closer and closer, and an entertaining offseason of free-agent signings, compelling draft picks, and enthralling trades made for captivating narratives and headlines for even the casual NFL fan. 


Four Quarterbacks in the AFC East are 25 or younger 

The AFC East division has turned a new page at the quarterback position. All the starting quarterbacks in the division are age 25 or younger. 

Representing the reigning division champs and the Buffalo Bills is the fourth-year starting quarterback, Josh Allen. Allen, 25, is coming off a season where he finished second in MVP voting and led his Bills to the AFC Championship. A new addition, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, compliments Allen and has already bolstered receiving core with veteran wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Watch for Allen and the Bills to make an even more sizable jump than last year. 

Tua Tagovailoa was thrusted into the Miami Dolphins starting quarterback role six weeks into the 2020 season. In the nine games he started in, he went 6-3, and the Dolphins just missed the playoffs. Tagovailoa threw for 11 touchdowns and 1,814 yards with a 64.1 percent completion rate in those games. Tua also tacked on another three touchdowns and 109 yards via the ground. In April, the Dolphins picked up Tua’s former college teammate at Alabama, wide receiver; Jaylen Waddle, via the draft. Week one provides the 23 year-old Tua and the Dolphins matchup with another Alabama product at quarterback.

Rookie quarterback Mac Jones is in line to make his regular-season debut Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. Jones, age 23, was selected No. 15 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft this past April by the New England Patriots. Through the majority of the off-season, the thought was that Cam Newton would start week one. While making the final roster cuts, the Patriots decided to part ways with the 2015 MVP and roll with the rookie Jones as the quarterback going forward back on Aug. 31. The Patriots hope to bounce back to relevance after a tumultuous 7-9 season that ended their 17-year streak of 10 or more wins. The Patriots, however, did not leave Mac Jones completely empty-handed. The team agreed to terms with free-agent tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. They also added wide receivers Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor during free agency. The Patriots spent a record amount of money in free agency this offseason, and the odds are in their favor to bring a winning record and possibly a playoff spot to Foxborough. 

The New York Jets are the basement dwellers of the AFC East. However, they do have some promise from their 2021 draft selection at No. 2 overall. Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson aspires to flip the script in the Big Apple with a revamped offensive line and a brand new weapon in his arsenal. That new weapon is wide receiver Corey Davis, who the Jets brought in with a price tag of $37.5 million over three years. The signing of Davis provides a little reassurance for the 22 year old Wilson. 


Familiar faces on new teams 

The Atlanta Falcons recently parted ways with superstar wide receiver Julio Jones, as they dealt him to the Tennessee Titans in exchange for 2022 second round and 2023 fourth-round draft selections. The Falcons hit the reboot button with this move, as they build assets for the future and try to win now. 

The seven-time pro bowler is now going to line up alongside young phenom wide receiver A.J. Brown. The Titans can win through the passing game with Jones and Brown. They can also win through the running game with running back Derrick Henry. While the Titans’ defense is not up to par, their offense can compete with any other team in the league.

It seems so long ago, but a franchise quarterback will be playing for a new team after spending so long under the dry spell of the Detroit Lions. The Lions flipped Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for quarterback Jared Goff, first-round picks in 2022 and 2023, and a third-round pick in 2021 (which became cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu) back in late January (became official March 18). The Rams begin their quest to a Super Bowl title, vying for their first in over 20 years. Their offense boasts uber-consistent wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods; and speed demon wideouts; DeSean Jackson and Tutu Atwell. 

The Detroit Lions have started another rebuild. While Jared Goff and three high-value picks are nothing to scoff at, rebuilding is all they have done since the Barry Sanders days of the late 80s-early 90s. The few bright spots on the team are rookie offensive tackle Penei Sewell, third-year tight end TJ Hockenson, and second-year running back D’Andre Swift. The Lions have a future, and the rest of the NFL community is excited to see what they do with it.


Return of the McCaffrey 

Three players have ever reached the illustrious mark of 1,000 yards receiving and 1,000 yards rushing in a single season. Those include Roger Craig in 1985, Marshall Faulk in 1999, and Christian McCaffrey in 2019. Running back Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers did the near-impossible. Before last season, he signed a $64 million contract over four years, making him the highest-paid running back in the NFL at the time. Then, the injury bug hit him. Hard. RunCMC, as they say in Carolina, missed 13 games due to a complication of the ankle, shoulder, and thigh injuries in 2020. Team doctors in Carolina have said McCaffrey is good to go for the start of the regular season. With Sam Darnold now under center, and an improved offensive line, the sky is the limit for McCaffrey and what he can do this year. 

At last, NFL fans have Sundays filled with football until early February. Kick-off to the NFL season begins Thursday at 7:20 p.m. with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers taking on the Dallas Cowboys.