NFL players with most evidence in 2022 preseason – Bleacher Report | Hot Mobile Press

0 out of 5

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    The 2022 NFL preseason has officially begun following Thursday night’s Hall of Fame game.

    While the results of these games don’t count towards the leaderboard, there’s plenty of meaningful insight into the action ahead.

    Some of the key takeaways from these exhibition competitions and training camps involve players who have something to prove.

    Whether it’s because they’re engaged in competitive position battles, trying to prove they’re worthy of their draft spot, or are in a contract year where money is at stake, these players will use the preseason to prove their worth and gain the trust of your team.

    With that in mind, here are five players – listed alphabetically – with the most to prove in the 2022 preseason.

1 out of 5

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    The Baltimore Ravens’ receiving corps will look very different this year. With Marquise Brown – her reigning No. 1 option – being traded on draft night and veteran Sammy Watkins going free, the team will be looking to several young talents to shoulder the burden of passing.

    Rashod Bateman will fill the role vacated by Brown, but the pecking order behind the team’s 2021 first-round draft pick is still unclear.

    Devin Duvernay is one of the leading candidates to work as Baltimore’s No. 2 WR. The 24-year-old earned an All-Pro title as a returnee last year, but he has yet to break his teeth as an NFL receiver, as he only had 53 receptions for 473 yards and a couple of touchdowns over his first two pros seasons.

    That should change in 2022 after the Ravens decided not to make any major WR additions. Duvernay will compete with the likes of James Proche II, Tylan Wallace, Jaylon Moore and Binjimen Victor for goals behind Bateman and star tight end Mark Andrews.

    Due to a lack of proven talent among the WR2 candidates, Duvernay – a third-round pick in 2020 – has the inside lane to be the team’s third option in the passing game. He boasts staggering speed and quickness that allow him to burn through slower defenders, but he still needs to show he can win contested balls and run crisp routes.

    If Duvernay struggles, the Ravens could be in trouble. The club already deploy one of the most run-heavy offenses and could be forced to rely even more on ground play to succeed if they can’t find a steady wideout in support of Bateman and Andrews in preseason.

2 out of 5

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    Baker Mayfield has no more chance to show he can be a franchise quarterback in the NFL.

    After Mayfield fell out of favor with the Cleveland Browns, who showed a lack of confidence in the signal caller by trading Deshaun Watson, Mayfield languished on the list for months. The Carolina Panthers eventually emerged as trading partners, offering the disgruntled QB a chance to redeem his career with a change of scenery.

    However, Mayfield is not guaranteed a starting job with the Panthers. The organization gave up only a conditional Day 3 pick and is paying less than $5 million in salary last season for the 27-year-old’s deal.

    Given that Mayfield is enduring the worst campaign of his pro career – one in which he was badly injured but prevailed to the detriment of himself and the Browns. He’s also yet to beat Sam Darnold, an early pick from the class of 2018 who ended up in Carolina after bursting into flames with his original franchise.

    With Mayfield and Darnold fighting not only for a starting job but also for the right to reverse their respective careers, the Panthers could host the most bitter position battle of the preseason.

    Mayfield enjoyed slightly more individual success than Darnold in his first four years in the NFL. He’s just a season away from leading the Browns with an 11-5 record and their first playoff win since 1994.

    Darnold has yet to make it through the postseason, and his best performance was a 7-6 record as a starter with the New York Jets in 2019. The 25-year-old won just 4-7 last year – his first season with the Panthers – before he falls to the ground with a shoulder injury.

    If Mayfield can show in preseason that he’s returned to his 2020 form, he should lose the job with the Panthers. If not, Darnold will likely start the 2022 campaign as Carolina’s QB1.

3 out of 5

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    Bernhard Raimann was widely regarded as one of the top offensive tackle prospects in the 2022 class. Though many pundits believed the Central Michigan product would fall off the board on Day 1, he slipped until the third round before the Indianapolis Colts stopped his fall.

    One reason for Raimann’s drastic drop on draft day is his relatively raw skills. The Austrian native started his collegiate career as a tight end before switching to left tackle in 2020 and accumulating just six games of experience in an abridged season.

    While he made 12 starts on his way to the All-MAC First team last year, Raimann has yet to prove he’s ready to take on top-flight defenders. That could get tricky as veteran Matt Pryor is hungry to earn Indy’s winning start at the left tackle gig in a contract year.

    Pryor has worked with the first team throughout training camp despite being inexperienced at the position. SI.com’s Jake Arthur noted that the 2018 sixth-round pick caught just 172 of his 1,294 career offensive snaps in left tackle.

    While Pryor is currently high on the depth chart at LT, Raimann has reportedly impressed Colts Brass with his early progress as he trained at multiple offensive line positions.

    The 6’6″, 303-pound rookie has the physical tools to become a franchise left tackle on an offensive line that’s in dire need of a stalwart companion there. Indianapolis put Eric Fisher into the hoops last year with mixed results kicked but still didn’t find stability following Anthony Castonzo’s retirement after the 2020 season.

    If Raimann can put together a strong preseason and show he’s their future left tackle, the Colts can get him on the starting lineup as a rookie.

4 out of 5

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    The Cincinnati Bengals may have had a remarkable run to the Super Bowl, but the franchise still has some question marks at key positions when it comes to defending its AFC crown.

    One of the spots that has changed significantly compared to last year is Tight End. Cincinnati decided to let veteran CJ Uzomah freehand after seven years at the club.

    With the reigning TE1 out of the picture, Drew Sample will be under pressure to perform this season. The Bengals are clearly confident the fourth-year veteran will emerge as a top tight end after Uzomah’s departure.

    Sample has been an intriguing talent since being ranked 52nd overall in 2019. He showed streaks in his sophomore year when he hit a career-best 40 receptions for 349 yards, but he was retired on offense last year and only caught 11 passes for 81 yards.

    The Washington product’s offensive workload fell from 868 snaps in 2020 to just 459 last year, despite appearing in one more game in 2021.

    Sample, whose rookie contract expires after the upcoming season, is now getting his best chance to prove himself but the 26-year-old is yet to beat Hayden Hurst for snaps. Hurst, a first-round pick in 2018 who failed to live up to expectations for the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons, is also struggling to get his career on track.

    A scary training camp leg injury
    could set Sample back in his quest to be the starter — he was already working with the second-line offense before the injury — but there should be ample opportunity for Sample to put Hurst at the top of the depth chart preseason if he can stay healthy.

5 out of 5

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    Michael Thomas may have been almost unstoppable in 2019, but the New Orleans Saints’ superstar receiver was basically invisible after his record-breaking season.

    Thomas has appeared in just seven games since catching 149 receptions for 1,725 ​​yards and nine touchdowns in 2019, tallying just 345 offensive snaps in seven games in 2020 and missing all of last year while recovering from a nagging ankle injury.

    The Saints’ airstrike struggled without Thomas in the lineup – they had the league’s worst passing game in 2021 – but the club appear poised to turn the corner with or without the three-time Pro Bowler in the lineup.

    There are now plenty of mouths to feed in the Big Easy, competition that could ease Thomas’s workload if he’s not at his best.

    Not only did fellow Pro Bowler Jarvis Landry get picked up in free agency, but the Saints also landed valuable rookie Chris Olave with the number 11. They also have a firm grip on Taysom Hill as a pass catcher rather than flirting with the QB position .

    Jameis Winston, who gave up Elite efficiency numbers Last year, before a cruciate ligament rupture cut short his season, he returned on a two-year deal, ending New Orleans’ insecurity midway.

    Thomas turned 29 in March, and it’s far from certain that he’ll return to his All-Pro form even with a clean bill of health. He’s caught just 40 passes for 438 yards and zero touchdowns in 2020, and has a lot of rust to knock off after being sidelined for so long.

    At best, the wideout will be a massive upgrade for the Saints’ receiving corps. Ahead of the 2022 season, the team will be hoping he can demonstrate the skills that have made him one of the game’s greatest at his position, but Thomas has a long way to go to prove he still can this player is.

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