What to expect this upcoming NFL season

With the end of summer in sight, most students are not ready for the doldrums of fall. Some have yet to wear that new bathing suit. The ‘back-to- school’ ads are everywhere. The days are getting shorter. It is almost too much handle.

Despite the multiple disadvantages associated with the end of summer, many find solace in the fact that the NFL season is right around the corner. With the season kicking off on September 8th, here are this year’s top storylines:

The Return of Football to LA:

The Rams 21-year tenure in St. Louis came to an effective end on January 12th, 2016 after NFL owners approved the team’s relocation to Los Angeles. In true Hollywood form, the Rams first move was a blockbuster trade to acquire the number one pick from the Tennessee Titans.

In exchange for Tennessee’s top pick, the Rams traded away six picks including one first- (No.15) and two second-round selections (Nos. 43 and 45). Additionally, the Rams also received the Titans’ fourth- (No. 113) and sixth-round (No. 177) picks. The Rams went on to select Cal quarterback Jared Goff with the first pick.

In a sense, the Rams mortgaged the future of their franchise for a talented yet unproven quarterback. Suprising? Yes, however, what is a LA team if it doesn’t make blockbuster moves?

Saying Goodbye to Familiar Faces

 This past offseason, three future Hall-of-Famers announced they were hanging up their cleats for good. The retirement of Calvin Johnson, Marshawn Lynch and Peyton Manning left their respective teams with giant shoes to fill.

With the untimely retirement of Johnson, the Detroit Lions will have to move on without the best receiver in their franchise’s history. Since being drafted in 2007, Johnson led the league in receiving yards and touchdowns as well as 100-yard games, according to Fox Sports.

After choosing not to draft a receiver, the Lions signed multiple in the offseason including Marvin Jones, Anquan Boldin and Andre Caldwell. While there is no replacing Johnson, expect former No. 2 receiver Golden Tate to become quarterback Matt Stafford’s new favorite target.

Similar to Johnson, Lynch’s decision to retire took fans by surprise. Lynch undoubtedly left his mark on the game as one of the hardest players to tackle since the turn of the century. During his nine year career, Lynch ran for over 10,000 yards with 530 broken tackles, over a hundred more than Adrian Peterson, according to profootballfocus.com.

Despite losing such a great talent, the Seattle Seahawks have already found their replacement in Thomas Rawls. Before fracturing his ankle in Week 14, Rawls had rushed for 830 yards with 4 touchdowns while averaging 5.6 yards per carry, according espn.com.

Unlike Johnson and Lynch, fans welcomed the news of Manning’s retirement after a dismal final season. Although Manning’s last year was underwhelming, throwing for only 2,249 yards with 9 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, The Sheriff went out on top as the Broncos defense carried him to a Super Bowl 50 win.

Manning, who, according to pro-football-reference.com, threw for an NFL record 71,940 yards and 539 touchdowns during his 18 year career, will be missed in the Broncos locker room as they search for his replacement. After trading for Mark Sanchez in March of 2016, the Broncos selected Paxton Lynch of Memphis with their No. 26 pick in the first round. In addition to Sanchez and Lynch, the Broncos still have Trevor Siemian, a second year quarterback out of Northwestern.

The Panthers Look for Redemption

In a disappointing 24-10 Super Bowl 50 loss that was highlighted by the Broncos’ dominant defense, Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers have something to prove this upcoming season. With the return of receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who missed the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL, the Panthers’ already powerful offense just got even stronger.     

Despite Newton’s MVP 2015 season, there was still room improvement. Newton, who completed 18 of his 41 attempts for 265 yards with no touchdowns and one interception in their Super Bowl loss, is looking to refute the claim that he’s not passing a quarterback. According to nfl.com, Newton spent most of the offseason working on his footwork and decision-making with quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey.

Although the Panthers lost Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman to the Washington Redskins in the offseason, there defense is still as strong as ever. While Norman brought a sense of swagger to the Panthers’ secondary, his career high four interceptions were a result of the team’s exceptional defensive line and linebacker core

The Panthers’ defense, led by linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, were ranked sixth in total yards per game, according to nfl.com. The duo combined for 223 tackles, 6.5 sacks and 8 interceptions. Their 223 combined tackles accounted for over 20% of the team’s total, according to the Panthers website.

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Isaiah Smalls, II

Sports Editor

claude.smalls@morehouse.edu

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