NFL backup point guards most likely to bloom in 2022 | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats & Rumors
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The NFL is constantly evolving. The constant shuffling of reps in the preseason and training camp helps franchises get an early glimpse of intriguing talent worth developing for a bigger role.
Front offices expect the top 100 picks to become contributors early in their careers. But most Day 3 picks, undrafted free agents, and free agents who sign one-year contracts don’t have the same path to playing time.
After sifting through training camp reports and watching some early pre-season action, we’ve identified six replacement playmakers who are most likely to flourish in a meaningful role in 2022. Some of those replacement playmakers are rookies making the most of their early opportunities, while a few others are simply taking off after several years in the league.
Let’s move on to six of the most impressive saves so far in training camp and preseason.
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How impressive was the fourth-round rookie from Georgia on his debut? In the Hall of Fame game against Jacksonville, White drove in for 52 yards on 11 carries. We didn’t even know if White would make the match as he missed the first two days of training camp with an undisclosed injury.
Nonetheless, a running backs controversy began earlier than expected for Las Vegas. Holder Josh Jacobs also performed well after surprisingly starting the first pre-season game. But with the way head coach Josh McDaniels has scoured running backs in New England and the fact that Jacobs is in a contract year, White’s performance stood out as a sign of what’s to come.
It will be impossible to deny White more playing time if he continues to average nearly five yards per run. The rookie plays with more power than Jacobs or Kenyan substitute Drake. It fits McDaniels’ wide-open running scheme perfectly thanks to its mix of size (6’1″, 220 pounds), power, and surprising explosiveness for its build.
It wouldn’t be shocking if the Raiders were more motivated to trade Jacobs or Drake if they can find a taker to open playing time for White.
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No rookie receiver in football has helped his stock in training camp more than Packers fourth-rounder Romeo Doubs. Doubs received rave reviews from quarterback Aaron Rodgers and head coach Matt LaFleur before putting on a strong outing in his preseason opener. He caught three passes for 45 yards, including a 33-yard crossfade touchdown.
It shouldn’t be too surprising to see the 6’2″, 204-pounder find early success. Despite falling on draft day, Doubs was a stellar vertical threat in college. Playing with an excellent deep passer at Carson Strong, Doubs drove in for 3,322 yards and 26 touchdowns on 225 career receptions.
Second-round pick Christian Watson was expected to earn a starting job, but he has knee issues that kept him out of practice. Now, it looks like Rodgers will still throw to a rookie receiver even with Watson out. Doubs continued to make the most of his opportunities with a fine line out and ability to get separation on defenders.
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There was little press or excitement when the Bills re-signed speedster Isaiah McKenzie in March. Despite producing five touchdowns as a slot threat and occasional running back in 2020, McKenzie saw his playing time plummet in 2021. The Bills brought him back on a modest deal, then seemingly signed his replacement to Jamison Crowder later in the offseason.
However, Buffalo’s decision to retain McKenzie has started to improve since the start of camp. The 27-year-old has received praise as a training camp star for his improvement. Quarterback Josh Allen praised his ability to make plays and make an impact in any phase of the game.
The Bills have a deep receiving room with 2021 sixth-rounder Isaiah Hodgins and 2022 fifth-rounder Khalil Shakir taking on veterans Tavon Austin and Jake Kumerow for a role behind Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis, McKenzie and Crowder.
McKenzie was in danger of falling sideways after the Bills lost offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to New York, but new offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey must have liked what he saw in McKenzie when he was quarterbacks coach under Daboll.
It remains to be seen if McKenzie will be more than a gimmicky weapon in 2022, but he’s certainly put in the work to earn a playtime boost.
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The Dallas Cowboys opted to reduce some of their reception room depth this offseason in an effort to redress their salary cap situation. So far, swapping Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson for Jalen Tolbert and James Washington hasn’t worked. Washington suffered a broken foot from Jones last week and could be out until October.
Also adding Michael Gallup’s own recovery from a torn ACL, the door is open for another rookie to emerge. Undrafted rookie Dennis Houston could start opposite Tolbert and CeeDee Lamb at kickoff. The former Western Illinois point guard quickly got into a battle to start with veteran Noah Brown.
Houston has untapped potential as the 6’2″, 205-pounder who ran a 4.49 40-yard sprint on his pro day and produced 90 receptions for 1,015 yards and six scores as a senior. The quarterback Dak Prescott is one of the most accurate passers in the league, and if Houston can open up regularly, there’s no reason to think Prescott won’t take advantage of the speed and size of the talented game leader.
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Much of the NFL has moved away from gigantic receivers who stand 6’5″ or taller. The emphasis on shorter passing has made more changeable receivers more desirable than contested catch kings who rely on their framework and their power. But ultimately, talent should eclipse archetype preferences.
Giants third-year wide receiver Collin Johnson could be on the verge of emerging in 2022. The 6’6″, 224-pounder posted impressive numbers in Texas before being drafted in the fifth round by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He finished his career with 188 receptions for 2,624 yards and 15 scores in four years.
Jacksonville cut it after catching 18 passes for 272 yards and two scores in 2020. Johnson played sparingly with New York last year and was only targeted 21 times, but came back to fight for a spot on the list.
Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard have again missed time with injuries, and Johnson appears to be seizing the opportunity to move up the depth chart.
His performance of seven catches and 82 yards in his preseason opener was encouraging. After that unit was ravaged by injuries last year and saw inconsistent play from Kenny Golladay, Johnson provides a similar vertical skill set that can be an insurance policy. If Golladay disappoints again or if several projected contributors miss a lot of time, Johnson is already proving to be a good candidate for 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 slated 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 rushing touchdowns.
Already in his first game of the preseason, Ford showed this same home run ability. He pulled off an impressive 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 that Hunt has asked for a new contract or a trade, the Browns could afford to move the veteran for an asset and simply replace him with Ford.