This is different. Going into this 2022 NFL season and heading into training camp which finally has the players in pads, has a much different feel than in previous years. If we’re being honest with ourselves, the expectations are higher, as they should be. Chris Grier has upgraded the roster, especially on the offensive side, which was desperately needed. The offense was the weaker unit, and besides upgrading the offense, Grier managed to keep a pretty good defense intact. We also added a couple of pieces both in the draft and also in free agency this season that may pay dividends. Our first draft pick, in RD 3 was athletic ILB Channing Tindall. We already have veteran ILB Elandon Roberts who’s made plays for this defense and provides excellent run support. Where Tindall can be a difference maker is on passing downs in coverage and also as a blitzer. He can also be a sideline to sideline tackler, much like the guy right next to him at ILB, #55 Jerome Baker. We also added a nice veteran piece in OLB/DE Melvin Ingram. Ingram at 33 is well past his prime, and hasn’t played a full season since 2018, but he will be used sparingly which will make him more effective when he’s in there.
One of the biggest challenges this team faces is having a new Head Coach, Mike McDaniel implementing an entirely new system on offense, and getting it up to speed quickly. One thing McDaniel did well was bring in a lot of experience on his coaching staff. OC Frank Smith was the San Diego Chargers Running Game Coordinator. Darrell Bevell who is our QB Coach/Passing game Coordinator has been an NFL Offensive Coordinator since 2006 and has been interim Head Coach twice, once with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and once with the Detroit Lions. We have complete continuity on defense with Josh Boyer returning as Defensive Coordinator. We also have RB’s coach Eric Studesville returning now promoted to Associate HC and the much maligned OL Coach Lemuel JeanPierre. He will have a lot of help though with new OL Coach Matt Applebaum from Boston College. Wes Welker will be the WR Coach and in my opinion, it’s great to have a former player who really knows how to play the position, didn’t rely on talent alone, his dedication to running precise routes and understanding defenses was his biggest strength. There is no big ego here for McDaniel, he made assurances that he has capable people on his staff to get this team going in the right direction quickly.
So the summer heat is here, and in just a few weeks, the pads will come on, and at that point, we will have a glimpse of what this team looks like. July 30th begins training camp and then a couple of weeks later, August 13th is our first Preseason game, Saturday Night against the Buccaneers. Continuing the Pirate theme, we face off against the Las Vegas Raiders August 20th, and then the Preseason finale will be against the Philadelphia Eagles. Up until now, it’s been dreaming about what this offense might look like with all the firepower added, namely Tyreek Hill. Of course, Terron Armstead was just as important, maybe more important and Connor Williams as well. Still, it’s hard not to envision Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle on the field at the same time with TE Mike Gesicki and slot receiver Cedrick Wilson. On the other hand, McDaniel was the run game coordinator in SF and he loves to run the ball. We have a varied stable of running backs, a lot of speed and receiving ability. Raheem Mostert, Chase Edmonds, and then we brought in Sony Michel who is a guy that can carry the rock and take a little more wear and tear. We also have Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed who have done some nice things here, as well as potential power guys, ZaQuandre White (UDFA ’22) and Gerrid Doaks (D 7th RD ’21). I’d put our receiving corps against any teams. If Tua gets the protection he needs, it’s going to be fun. As training camp gets here, we just have to hope everyone stays healthy. Practice hard, learn the new offense, and STAY HEALTHY!!!