Falling to 2-6 after losing to Denver is the nail in the coffin for the 2021 season. There have been a number of areas on this team that have lead to disappointment. I’m going to focus purely on the field at the moment as I’m not trying to ignore the Snyder/email issues or coaching problems.
Offensive Line: The line has been a solid-good unit in 2021 but comes with a few major questions in 2022. Cosmi looks to be a long term answer at RT. Roullier’s injury might complicate the center spot. Flowers has been a quality guard. The staff has decisions to make on Leno, Scherff, and Lucas most notably. Leno seems to be an easy decision to retain him on a multi year deal. Scherffs price tag is too high for a guard and Lucas likely looks for a starting gig.
The staff has invested draft capital each year in the oline and I expect that to continue. Depth is so critical on the line and taking players in the mid rounds is a good strategy. I predict the oline looks like Leno, Flowers, Roullier, Schweitzer and Cosmi with some new names as depth.
Running backs: Gibson, Mckissic and Patterson have been a solid group. I think Ron will do what he can to retain Mckissic in free agency. I don’t expect much to change here other than possibly adding a later round draft pick for depth or a PS spot. Gibson needs to develop more to maximize this position.
Tight End: Thomas is signed to an extension and has been a good player. The staff is invested in Bates and Reyes for the future. This position needs an explosive receiving weapon. The hope is that can be Reyes but they lack that option currently. I think they can stand pat at this position going into next year but wouldn’t mind adding some competition.
Receivers: Terry is WR1 but has shown he needs supporting weapons around him. I liked the Samuel signing and think he’ll be a good weapon when he’s on the field. Dyami needs to be more consistent to keep his WR3 role. I like Milne and Sims but adding another weapon would improve depth and the explosiveness of the offense. This should come via the mid rounds of the draft as there’s going to be a lot of money tied up between Terry and Samuel.
Quarterbacks: Sad that Fitz never got his shot but everyone knew this was a 1 year marriage. Heinicke is a fine backup who has real physical limitations. Allen is a solid QB3 but nothing more. This position needs to be priority 1,2,3,4, and 5 this off-season. I believe the staff would prefer a veteran QB. We don’t have the draft capital or the desirability to get a Rodgers, Wilson, or Watson. That leaves guys like Jimmy G, Ryan, or Carr as potential vets. Trading for one of those guys feels fruitless. Carr is the only one who moves the needle in my opinion.
The draft needs to be the solution to the perpetual QB problem. Who is that guy, I don’t know yet. But this current team is bad enough to earn a top 10 pick. I personally like Scott Turners offense even if there have been red zone issues. His system calls for a QB who can process quickly and get the ball out accurately, a QB who can push the ball down the field, and who has escapability. Corrall to me is the guy who fits that description best. Willis is a true project. Pickett reminds me of Daniel Jones from a tools perspective but holds the ball so long. My resolution is to sign Fitz or a vet to take pressure off of that future rookie QB to start immediately.
Defensive Line: Young, Sweat, and Allen are the future of this group. Payne seems like the odd man out. Settle and Ioannidis are both free agents and I think retaining 1 of them will be tough. This group needs to play better but should still be a strength going forward. Finding quality depth will be the challenge with this group. I like the gambles on guys late but the depth on the edge needs to improve.
Linebacker: This is a tough group to assess. Collins is the best linebacker at this point but I think he’s a cap casualty. Davis and Holcomb have the speed to combine as a quality unit. The play has been poor across the board. I think this is where we see some money spent in free agency to add a quality veteran. I’d love someone like Vander Esch to pair with the current group. The depth need to be improved as well.
Safety: Same thing just a different year. Curl is a good player and really effective in the slot and around the line of scrimmage. This defense desperately needs another quality safety and improved depth. Getting a guy like Jordan Battle from Bama, Nick Cross from MD, or Jaquan Brisker from PSU in the 2nd/3rd round would give the team a player who can be a true center fielder but also versatile enough to play all over. This position needs to be a priority via draft and free agency.
Corner: Talk about the most disappointing position group so far. Fuller has put good film on tape and I expect him to be here next year. His versatility is an asset. St Juste looks to be a solid contributor on the outside. I don’t know what to make of Jackson. I don’t think his deal is movable but I’m not sure I buy the scheme transition as his issue either. This is another position that needs a talent upgrade and significant depth improvements. The draft will be top heavy with 6 very good corners. The staff needs to get creative in fixing this position group as there is a ton of money tied up in Jackson/Fuller and the top draft picks likely need to go elsewhere like QB.
Special Teams: Way is a beast. Cheeseman hasn’t been noticeable in the regular season which is a good thing. Let’s hope we can stumble upon a quality kicking option as I don’t expect Blewitt to be on the roster in Week 9. I’d love to see Rivera give Jake Verity from the Ravens practice squad a chance.
Overall the QB spot is going to dictate this teams future and next years outlook. While this years draft isn’t as sexy as the group last year, there are still guys with quality tools and resumes to pick from. Ron & Co need to be aggressive in getting that guy otherwise we’ll find ourselves here again next year.