The 2016 National Football League season is inching closer to kick-off, and teams are preparing for the long season. Only six weeks separates teams from the launch of the new campaign and after an offseason of moves, fans are closer to seeing the payoff.
Which NFL moves will have the greatest impact in 2016? Here are five that have the potential to make or break a successful season for their respective teams.
photo by: Erik Drost
Robert Griffin III, quarterback – Cleveland Browns
Robert Griffin III is attempting a comeback of sorts. The former Heisman Trophy winner was discarded in Washington after being the team’s starting quarterback for much of his time in the capitol. However, last season’s unfortunate concussion and Kirk Cousins’ resulting play saw the former No. 2 draft pick fall to third on the team’s quarterback depth chart. When the Browns opened camp, Griffin took a majority of the first team snaps and looked extremely energetic, according to reports. His two-year, $15 million contract won’t tie him down to the Browns for long, yet it is long enough for him to resurrect his career after last season with the Redskins. The Browns have made the playoffs just once since 1999, and last season won a total of three games. If Griffin lives up to his potential he can finally get the Browns back to the playoffs in 2016 and he should have an immediate positive impact on the team.
Brock Osweiler, quarterback – Houston Texans
The Houston Texans made the NFL playoffs a season ago with a changing cast of quarterbacks. This season it is expected that Brock Osweiler will be the team’s starter from the beginning. Osweiler is already one of the Texans’ top-sellers in merchandise since arriving, but he’ll need to prove he can do it on the field as well as at the merch table. In 2015, Osweiler started seven games for the Denver Broncos, completing 170 passes for a 62% success rate. Osweiler threw for a career record 10 touchdowns for the Broncos in 2015, but will need to do more in the Texans’ offense to shake off the team’s 30-0 playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last season.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, quarterback – New York Jets
There seems to be a trend with this list, as the top three most impactful players are all quarterbacks. Ryan Fitzpatrick joins the list after agreeing to a one-year contract with the Jets in the offseason. Although he was with the Jets in 2015, he was a free agent until the green half of New York showed him a guaranteed $12m contract. Despite being unable to lead the Jets to the playoffs last term, Fitzpatrick is the quarterback the Jets’ front office believes can get them back into Super Bowl contention. The team did finish 10-6 in 2015, second in the AFC East. His 31 touchdowns was a career high, although his 59.6% pass completion rate was his lowest in five seasons. Fitzpatrick has the tools, however, to take the Jets to the top of the east. He is getting excellent reviews in camp in terms of chemistry with his receivers. Expect another solid season from the Jets’ signal caller.
Kelechi Osemele, offensive guard – Oakland Raiders
After ranking near the bottom in rushing yards in the NFL in 2015, the Oakland Raiders decided to do something about it. Enter Kelechi Osemele, who the Raiders gave a $12m a season deal to in an effort to fix the problems with the run game. Latavius Murray and DeAndre Washington now have a 330-lb guard to run behind, and the holes he opens should get the Raiders running game in both the end zone and in the top half of the NFL’s rushing stats. With the AFC West up for grabs, the Raiders could make the playoffs for the first time since losing the Super Bowl in 2002.
Olivier Vernon, defensive end – New York Giants
The New York Giants have spent bucket loads of money to improve the team’s defense in 2016. At five-years and $85m, the Giants showed they weren’t joking about improving the team’s defense with Olivier Vernon’s signature. However, it takes more than just one man to improve the Giants’ defense that ranked last in 2015 in total yards given up per game with 420. The Giants also gave up the third most points during the NFL season (27.6). Vernon’s 7.5 sacks and 41 tackles from 2015 with the Dolphins should help the team greatly, but $85m is a lot of money. Vernon should improve the team from last year’s 6-10 record. Having enough impact to make the Giants a Super Bowl contender is another matter.