The NFL’s 5 Biggest Disappointments Early in 2022 Season
0 of 5
We aren’t even a month into the 2022 NFL season, but already
there are several players and coaches who are standing out from the crowd.
While some of these talents are drawing attention for good
reasons, several stick out in a negative way as a result of poor play or decision-making
that is hurting their respective teams.
There is still time to turn things around during this lengthy
17-game campaign, but changes need to be in the pipeline soon or a lost season
could be unavoidable.
With that in mind, here are the five biggest disappointments
to start the 2022 season.
Matt Ryan, QB, Indianapolis Colts
1 of 5
Matt Ryan #2 of the Indianapolis Colts passes the ball during the second half against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on September 18, 2022 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images)
The Indianapolis Colts shook things up after coming up
painfully short of a postseason appearance last year. The club jettisoned incumbent
starting quarterback Carson Wentz and swung a trade to bring in Matt Ryan, a
move the Colts hoped would get them back into contention.
With the first fortnight of the 2022 season behind us, it
seems like Indianapolis may have been better off sticking with Wentz.
Ryan started his Colts career by throwing a whopping 50
passes against the Houston Texans. He only connected on 32 of those attempts,
however, generating 352 yards and one touchdown while also throwing an
interception and losing a fumble in the contest.
The 37-year-old showed some flashes of the talent that made
him a four-time Pro Bowler while leading a furious comeback from a 20-3
fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime and ultimately end the game in a tie, but things looked much worse in Week 2.
Ryan couldn’t get anything going against the Jacksonville
Jaguars defense, completing just 16 of his 30 passes for 195 yards. He failed
to lead a single scoring drive in what finished as a disheartening 24-0 Colts
loss while tossing three picks and taking five sacks in one of the worst performances
of his 15-year career.
The veteran signal-caller told reporters that his performance is
unacceptable but believes things will turn around starting in Week 3 against
the Kansas City Chiefs:
“There’s no doubt about it, we have to get it corrected. Our
performance hasn’t been good enough the first couple of weeks and we know that.
I also think we have a tough group of guys, a proud group of guys that are all
introspective and thinking about what they can do to help us play better as a
It will take a vintage Matty Ice showing to get the Colts in
the win column against a foe as strong as the 2-0 Chiefs, the type of
performance Ryan has yet to muster since leaving the Atlanta Falcons.
Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams
2 of 5
Los Angeles Rams Running Back Cam Akers (3) leaps for extra yardage at the end of a run during an NFL game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Los Angeles Rams on September 18, 2022, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Cam Akers was one of the Los Angeles Rams’ better stories during their Super Bowl run last year. While the second-year back was hoping to build on a promising rookie season in 2020, he went down during training camp with a torn Achilles.
Instead of missing the entire year, Akers miraculously worked his way back in time for the season finale. Although he didn’t dominate during the team’s playoff run the way he did during his rookie campaign—a memorable two-game stretch in which he tallied 221 yards and two scores on 46 carries—he was able to get back on the field and contribute to a championship.
The 23-year-old hasn’t looked quite the same since his devastating injury, unfortunately. After averaging a meager 2.57 yards per attempt in four playoff matchups last season, a healthier Akers has thus far failed to show improvement in 2022.
He was barely seen in the NFL Kickoff Game, logging a mere 12 snaps during a disappointing 31-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills. He rushed just three times—generating zero yards—and wasn’t targeted once as a receiver.
Head coach Sean McVay blamed
this lack of usage on the game’s rhythm and worked to get Akers more involved
in Week 2. Despite seeing his snap count more than double and his totes quintuple, the Florida State product wasn’t much of a factor in L.A.’s win
over the Atlanta Falcons.
Akers had a pedestrian 44 yards on 15 carries and added just
18 yards on two receptions in the matchup.
It’s looking like Darrell Henderson Jr., the other back in
this platoon, will continue being a major factor for the Rams this year.
Henderson has out-snapped
Akers in each game thus far, seeing the field for 69 percent of Los Angeles’ offensive plays versus a mere 30 percent for his backfield mate.
Unless Akers has a breakout game and takes control of this
backfield soon, he’ll be one of the bigger disappointments at the running back position
Darnell Mooney, WR, Chicago Bears
3 of 5
Darnell Mooney #11 of the Chicago Bears warms up prior to a preseason game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 27, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)
Darnell Mooney was one of the few bright spots during the
Chicago Bears’ trying 2021 campaign. He established himself as the team’s top
wideout—greatly outperforming incumbent WR1 Allen Robinson II—and started building a rapport with rookie quarterback Justin Fields.
After racking up 45 catches and 605 yards over the final eight games of 2021, Mooney appeared to be in line for an incredible 2022 season.
Fields had his first full offseason preparing as the team’s starter and got in plenty of work with Mooney during training camp, Robinson had departed in free agency, and no high-end replacement pass-catchers were brought in to take targets away from the up-and-coming receiver.
Despite the advantages, Mooney hasn’t been able to capitalize
at all. In fact, through two games, it’d be easy to argue that no wideout has
had a more disappointing start to their season.
The 24-year-old has garnered a meager five targets, catching
just two of them for a total of four yards.
To put that in perspective, at this point last year, Mooney already
had 11 catches for 92 yards on 15 targets. He never had a single game in 2021 with
fewer yards than he’s tallied over the first two weeks of this season.
Poor weather is partially at fault—the opener was played in
a monsoon at Soldier Field, and the Lambeau Field conditions were wet the
following week—and the Chicago passing game has been nothing short of
atrocious across the board.
The team is averaging the fewest yards in the league overall
at 216 per game, with its 76.5 passing yards per game largely responsible
for this. That average isn’t even half of what the No. 31-ranked squad has been
generating through the air.
Mooney will get a chance to bounce back against the Houston
Texans in Week 3. If he can’t get it going against a defense that has given up
270.5 yards per game through the air this year, the Bears will have some major issues
to sort out.
Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons
4 of 5
Kyle Pitts #8 of the Atlanta Falcons warms up prior to the game against the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 11, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Kyle Pitts became the highest-drafted tight end in league
history last year when the Atlanta Falcons took him at No. 4 overall. He rewarded
the organization’s faith with a promising rookie year, as his 1,026 receiving
yards represented the second-most ever for a first-year player at a position in which it is historically difficult to have immediate success.
Instead of taking another step forward in 2022, it’s looking
like Pitts is hitting a sophomore slump. Two games into the campaign, the
21-year-old has caught just four of his 10 targets and generated a total of 38
Pitts has been held to 19 receiving yards in each of the
first two weeks, a lowly mark that he surpassed in all but two games during his
While the transition from Matt Ryan to Marcus Mariota as Atlanta’s
starting signal-caller was likely to bring some growing pains, Pitts was expected to be Mariota’s
safety valve as he adjusted to the new system. First-year wideout Drake London
has instead been the go-to option in the passing attack, soaking up 19 total
London has been far more efficient than Pitts with his looks
as well, going off for 160 yards and a score on 13 catches.
Given that the Falcons have lost both of their games by a
combined five points, a stronger showing from Pitts out of the gate could have
had Atlanta sitting at 2-0 instead of its current 0-2 record.
Head coach Arthur Smith doesn’t seem concerned about
Pitts’ performance, telling reporters the tight end has “been targeted as the primary [receiver] plenty, but that
doesn’t necessarily mean the ball’s going to go there.”
Smith also believes that the “ball will find” Pitts more, resulting in Atlanta victories—a prediction that the team desperately needs
to come to fruition if it is going to have a shot (albeit a long shot) at a playoff berth.
Nathaniel Hackett, Head Coach, Denver Broncos
5 of 5
Head coach Nathaniel Hackett of the Denver Broncos looks on before the game against the Houston Texans at Empower Field At Mile High on September 18, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
The Denver Broncos were supposed to be among the league’s
most improved teams in 2022.
By trading for Russell Wilson, the organization finally found
the franchise quarterback it had coveted since Peyton Manning’s retirement six
years ago. The Broncos also made a change at head coach, hiring Nathaniel
Hackett to replace an ineffective Vic Fangio.
Big things were expected from the new coach and quarterback,
but thus far, the tandem has not been in sync. The offense has looked inconsistent
at best through two weeks and is averaging a concerning 16 points per game in
that span, 3.7 fewer points than a tepid 2021 Broncos attack led by
quarterback Teddy Bridgewater put up per contest.
to blame his head coach for his own middling output—the nine-time Pro Bowler
has completed a career-low 58.9 percent of his passes for 559 yards and
two scores against one interception and five sacks—but it’s hard not to see that the team’s performances are a reflection of Hackett’s
The former Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator is
overseeing an undisciplined team that has made a myriad of mistakes over the
first two games. There have been penalties for false starts and delays of game,
wasted timeouts and head-scratching calls in crunch time.
Hackett’s most glaring issue was his indecision with the
game on the line in the season opener. With all three timeouts in his pocket
and down a point to the Seattle Seahawks, the coach wasted 40 seconds of
precious clock time before sending Brandon McManus out to try an improbable
64-yard field goal attempt that predictably missed.
That same indecisiveness reared its head late in the third quarter in Week 2 with the Broncos trailing, and
although it didn’t cost them the game this time, it still resulted in a delay-of-game penalty on 4th-and-2 from the Houston Texans’ 36-yard line. Instead of
taking the still-makable 58-yard attempt in the Mile High air, Hackett sent
out the punt team this time around.
The Broncos need to get things cleaned up—especially in the
red zone, where they have failed to score a touchdown on all five goal-to-go drives and fumbled twice at the 1-yard line—ahead of a critical Week 3 matchup with
the San Francisco 49ers.
If Hackett and the offense don’t show growth and
decisiveness quickly, Denver could squander away its Super Bowl hopes early in the year.