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The NFL is definitely evolving. The constant shuffling of reps in the preseason and training camp helps franchises get yourself a quick look into intriguing talent worth developing for a more impressive role.
Front offices expect top-100 picks to become contributors early within their careers. But most Day 3 picks, undrafted free agents and free agents who sign one-year deals don’t possess exactly the same pathway to playing time.
After scouring training camp reports and watching a few of the early preseason action, we’ve identified six backup playmakers that are probably to blossom right into a meaningful role in 2022. A few of these backups are rookies taking advantage of their early opportunities, while several others are simply just coming into their very own after many years in the league.
Let’s jump into six of the very most impressive backups so far in training camp and preseason.
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Precisely how impressive was the fourth-round rookie from Georgia in his debut? Through the Hall of Fame Game against Jacksonville, White produced 52 yards on 11 carries. We weren’t even sure if White would take part in the overall game since he previously missed the initial two days of training camp having an undisclosed injury.
Nevertheless, a running back controversy started sooner than expected for NEVADA. Incumbent Josh Jacobs also performed well after surprisingly starting the initial preseason game. But with just how head coach Josh McDaniels cycled through running backs in New England and the truth that Jacobs is in a contract year, White’s performance stood out as an indicator of what’s ahead.
Denying White more playing time will undoubtedly be impossible if he continues to average nearly five yards per carry. The rookie plays with an increase of power than either Jacobs or backup Kenyan Drake. He fits McDaniels’ gap rushing scheme perfectly because of his mixture of size (6’1″, 220 pounds), power and surprising explosiveness for his build.
It wouldn’t be shocking if the Raiders were more motivated to trade either Jacobs or Drake should they will get a taker to open playing time for White.
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No rookie receiver in football has helped his stock more in training camp than Packers fourth-rounder Romeo Doubs. Doubs has earned rave reviews from both quarterback Aaron Rodgers and head coach Matt LaFleur before submiting a good outing in his first preseason game. He caught three passes for 45 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown on a slot fade.
It must not be an excessive amount of a surprise to start to see the 6’2″, 204-pounder finding early success. Though he fell on draft day, Doubs was a stellar vertical threat in college. Using a fantastic deep passer in Carson Strong, Doubs produced 3,322 yards and 26 touchdowns on 225 career receptions.
Second-round pick Christian Watson was likely to win a starting job, but he’s handled knee conditions that have kept him out of practice. Now, it seems Rodgers it’s still throwing to a rookie receiver despite having Watson out. Doubs has continued to help make the the majority of his opportunities because of great burst off the line and capability to get separation on defenders.
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There is little press or excitement once the Bills re-signed speedster Isaiah McKenzie in March. Despite producing five touchdowns as a slot threat and occasional ball-carrier in 2020, McKenzie saw his playing time dip in 2021. The Bills brought him back on a modest deal, then seemingly signed his replacement in Jamison Crowder later in the offseason.
Buffalo’s decision to retain McKenzie has began to look better since camp began, however. The 27-year-old has been showered with praise as a training camp star for his improvement. Quarterback Josh Allen praised his capability to make plays and make a direct effect in virtually any phase of the overall game.
The Bills have a deep receiver room with 2021 sixth-rounder Isaiah Hodgins and 2022 fifth-rounder Khalil Shakir battling veterans Tavon Austin and Jake Kumerow for a job behind Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis, McKenzie and Crowder.
McKenzie was vulnerable to falling aside following the Bills lost offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to NY, but new offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey must’ve liked what he saw in McKenzie when he was the quarterbacks coach under Daboll.
It remains to be observed whether McKenzie could be more when compared to a gadget weapon in 2022, but he’s certainly devote the task to earn a rise in playing time.
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The Dallas Cowboys opted to trim a few of their receiving room depth this offseason to be able to straighten their salary-cap situation. So far, swapping out Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson for Jalen Tolbert and James Washington hasn’t exercised. Washington suffered a Jones fracture in his foot the other day and may be out through October.
Also adding in Michael Gallup’s own recovery from the torn ACL, the entranceway is open for another rookie to emerge. Undrafted rookie Dennis Houston could possibly be starting across from Tolbert and CeeDee Lamb come opening kickoff. The former Western Illinois playmaker has quickly entered a battle to begin with veteran Noah Brown.
Houston has untapped potential as a 6’2″, 205-pounder who ran a 4.49 40-yard dash at his pro day and produced 90 receptions for 1,015 yards and six scores as a senior. Quarterback Dak Prescott is among the most accurate passers in the league, and when Houston will get open consistently, there is no reason to believe Prescott won’t make use of the talented playmaker’s speed and size.
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A lot of the NFL has moved from featuring gigantic receivers who stand 6’5″ or taller. The focus on shorter passes has made shiftier receivers more desirable compared to the contested-catch kings who depend on their frame and power. But eventually talent should overshadow archetype preferences.
Third-year Giants receiver Collin Johnson may be going to emerge in 2022. The 6’6″, 224-pounder posted impressive numbers at Texas before being drafted in the fifth-round by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He finished his career with 188 receptions for just two 2,624 yards and 15 scores over four years.
Jacksonville cut him after he caught 18 passes for 272 yards and two scores in 2020. Johnson played sparingly with NY this past year and was only targeted 21 times, but he returned to fight for a roster spot.
Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard have again missed time with injuries, and Johnson is apparently clutching the chance to go up on the depth chart.
His seven-catch, 82-yard performance in his first preseason game was encouraging. Following this unit was ravaged by injuries this past year and saw inconsistent play from Kenny Golladay, Johnson offers a similar vertical expertise which can be insurance coverage. If Golladay again disappoints or several projected contributors miss significant time, Johnson has already been proving to become a easily fit into Brian Daboll’s offense.
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The Browns have the deepest backfield in the NFL. Already with two star-caliber rushers in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, the team also got 534 yards and three scores on 100 carries from backup D’Ernest Johnson in 2021 when Chubb and Hunt were injured.
General manager Andrew Berry didn’t stop there. With Hunt and Johnson set to be free agents next offseason, he drafted former Cincinnati Bearcats star Jerome Ford in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL draft. Ford was an explosive presence in college, finishing 2021 with 1,319 yards and 19 touchdowns on the floor.
Already in his first preseason game, Ford showed that same home-run ability. He cheated an extraordinary 41-yard run and added a touchdown. Ford also caught four of five targets for 45 yards and an athletic touchdown reception.
With ESPN reporting Hunt has requested a fresh contract or perhaps a trade, the Browns could afford to go the veteran for a secured asset and replace him with Ford.