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Derek Henry | Andy Lyons / Getty Images
Each season, the return of injured stars is one of the most anticipated parts of the NFL’s inaugural week.
Full-backs Christian McCaffrey and Derek Henry lead the group in 2022. Quarterback James Winston and wide receivers Chris Goodwin and Michael Thomas are among other famous talents returning to the field.
But will these players ever regain their former form?
Players have missed at least eight matches in 2021 or are coming back from a serious injury that kept them out of action most of the time outside the season.
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James Winston looked a different player in 2021.
During his time as a rookie for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — and even in college in Florida — he was a productive headstrong quarterback. Winston averaged 3,947.4 yards, 24.2 touchdowns and 17.6 interceptions in his five seasons with Tampa.
Last year, he threw only three picks in 161 attempts. Winston helped the New Orleans Saints start 4-2, throwing 1,114 yards and 13 touchdowns in a reasonably efficient fashion. But in the seventh inning, a left ACL rupture ended his season.
Longtime Saints coach and offensive caller Sean Payton has retired, so there is justifiable concern on the surface about what happens next. But the crime is in the hands of the almighty coordinator Pete Carmichael. He has held this role since 2009 and has occasionally been the primary communicator.
It’s not controversial to say Payton represented a major exit, but what the Saints lost on the headset they made atonement with first-round receiver Chris Olaf and hiring free agent Jarvis Landry.
Winston won’t be a pro player, but he’s a strong QB1 player and should avoid the risky passing game and keep New Orleans in the playoff race.
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Should we expect Christian McCaffrey to take on a massive workload and push the Carolina Panthers into the post-season? No, because this is an unfair expectation.
However, it was one of the NFL’s most prolific appearances. McCaffrey crowned the 1,000-yard mark as a runner and receiver in 2019, the latest healthy season of his career. He missed 13 games in 2020 and 10 competitions last season due to various injuries.
Can a Stanford product be a star again? no doubt.
This season, the Panthers have significantly modernized their offensive line. Carolina added quarterback Bradley Bozeman and right-back Austin Corbett in free agency, using a first-round pick on left-hand tackle Ikem Ekwonu.
McCaffrey, as long as he is healthy, will be a player of enormous value – and a fantasy football star.
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After leading the NFL in the carriers, arenas and touchdowns in both 2019 and 2020, Derek Henry was heading in that direction until a foot injury put him off the field in 2021.
On the bright side, Henry recovered from Jones broke Just in time to appear in the postseason against the Cincinnati Bengals. In that contest, though, he only crowded 62 yards in 20 buggies. Tennessee dropped the game 19-16.
This season, the Titans had to replace left guard Rodger Savold and right tackle David Kessenberry. Neither of them were superstars, but they were respected supporters.
Henry likely won’t flirt another season with 2,000 yards, but his size is unmatched in the league today. His absence in 2021 made it clear that quarterback Ryan Tanehill needs a productive running game to succeed, so Tennessee will continue to count on Henry.
Although it seems wise to temper expectations for the Titans in general, Henry should be a great player again.
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During the first four seasons of his career, Michael Thomas averaged 117.5 catches for 1,378.0 yards. He peaked in 2019, setting an NFL record with 149 receptions and winning Offensive Player of the Year.
Since then, he’s been going through a tough time. An ankle injury limited him to appearing seven times in 2020, and Thomas missed the entire 2021 campaign after undergoing ankle surgery and dealing with a setback in his recovery.
Thomas has a trance, high bar to meet.
Now, don’t make the mistake of selling for thinking it won’t be effective. Thomas still has to be Winston’s main receiver, and a 1,000-yard season is a reasonable upscale expectation.
But a drop in his target stake is to be expected, especially now that Drew Brees hasn’t thrown the ball. Additionally, New Orleans became a more running offense without a Hall of Famer last season. Probably the most productive version of Thomas in the past.
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Late in the 2021 season, Chris Goodwin suffered an ACL injury that caused him to miss the playoffs. It’s a playtime decision for the first week, but – in theory – that suggests he’ll be close to full health soon.
It’s hard not to like his look.
Although ACL injuries are serious, there is a long history of elite players recovering just fine. The arrivals of Russell Gage and Julio Jones will post goals elsewhere, but Rob Gronkowski’s retirement leaves a void in the middle of the field – which is exactly where Godwin thrives on this Tom Brady-led offense.
He should threaten the third 1,000-yard season of his career, even if he slows down early in the fall.
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With the 2020 regular season coming to a close, the Green Bay Packers were a strong Super Bowl contender. However, an ACL injury stopped General David Bakhtiari at the worst possible moment. Then he missed the whole year 2021 and underwent else surgery This is offseason.
In short, the past 21 months have been a brutal stretch of the All-Pro’s left-handed tackle.
If you prefer a glass half full, well, Bakhtiari is optimistic.
“I can skip the season,” he Recently, reporters. “It’ll be fine. You just have to run while you play.”
Hey, no one knows the infection status better than the people involved. There is a real possibility that this prediction will sound foolish. But that’s not exactly the world’s most inspiring statement, despite the ability of the Bakhtiari elite when he’s healthy.
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When the Chicago Bears traded for Khalil Mac in 2018, the initial results were very positive. But with the team’s refusal—especially the attack—the Chicago top edge hacker’s value waned.
Enter Los Angeles Chargers.
The franchise is trying to take full advantage of Justin Herbert’s financial flexibility rookie deal Provides, adding Mac via Commerce and Cornback JC Jackson’s signature. They are joining a defense that already includes hardened Joey Bossa and Salameh Derwin James.
Mac is an interesting projection. If you’re expecting another Defensive Player of the Year type campaign, that’s probably a lot. However, he made six sacks in just seven games in an uninspiring defense of Chicago last season, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt to play against Bossa.
Provided the forecast is a first-rate year as it compiled in 2019, Mac still enjoys this upside.