The 2022 NFL preseason kicked off Thursday night with the annual Hall of Fame Game. While second-year Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence didn't see the field, he will be a player to follow throughout preseason and regular-season action.
He isn't the only second-year quarterback fans will be monitoring in 2022. He was one of five signal-callers taken in the first round last April and, along with Houston Texans third-round pick Davis Mills, one of six projected starters entering their second seasons.
Year 2 is a big one for quarterbacks for a couple of reasons. As we've seen with Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen, young signal-callers aren't guaranteed the long grace period they once were. This isn't necessarily a make-or-break season for Lawrence and Co., but they'll have a lot to prove.
The second campaign is also when some take a significant jump. We saw it last year with Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert. There's a reasonable chance that at least one second-year quarterback will become a breakout star this season. There's also a chance that one or more of them flop.
How do we see these six starters panning out in 2022? That's what we're here to examine. We'll dive into each signal-caller's situation and set realistic expectations based on factors like past performance, upside, supporting cast, coaching and any relevant recent buzz.
The players are listed in alphabetical order.
Justin Fields, Chicago Bears
Justin Fields is the latest first-round pick to get a crack at solidifying the Chicago Bears' quarterback situation. Chicago moved on from Mitchell Trubisky last offseason and secured the Ohio State product at No. 11 overall.
Fields' rookie campaign didn't go so great. Saddled with an underwhelming supporting cast, a bad offensive line and some questionable coaching by Matt Nagy, he stumbled to a 2-8 record as a starter. He finished with 1,870 passing yards, seven touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a 73.2 passer rating.
The good news for Bears fans is that Fields has a new head coach in Matt Eberflus and a new offensive coordinator in Luke Getsy. The latter comes from the Green Bay Packers, where he served as Aaron Rodgers' quarterbacks coach and passing-game coordinator.
The change in coaching and Fields' Year 2 progression should have the 23-year-old better prepared than a year ago.
"I think we're progressing every day," Fields said, per Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times.
But the Bears didn't do much to improve Fields' supporting cast. They added the likes of Velus Jones Jr., Byron Pringle and N'Keal Harry while losing former No. 1 receiver Allen Robinson.
They also did little to improve last year's disaster of an offensive line. Fields was sacked 36 times and was under pressure on 27.3 percent of his dropbacks. Hopefully, Chicago will continue to utilize Fields' scrambling ability (420 yards, two touchdowns last season) to keep defenses honest.
Fields has a ton of physical upside and should see the field better than he did as a rookie. However, the other pieces aren't in place for him to take a massive statistical jump. Wins will also be tough to come by.
Stat Projections: 204 completions, 347 attempts, 2,370 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 99 carries, 575 rushing yards, 4 rushing touchdowns
Mac Jones, New England Patriots
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones was on the other end of the rookie spectrum. He had an impressive Pro Bowl campaign while helping lead the team to the postseason.
The 15th pick in the 2021 draft finished his inaugural campaign with 3,801 yards, 22 touchdowns and a 92.5 quarterback rating.
On paper, his supporting cast will be just as good if not better than it was last season.
New England added wideout DeVante Parker and rookie Tyquan Thornton and used a first-round pick on Cole Strange to help replace traded guard Shaq Mason. Weapons like wideout Jakobi Meyers, tight end Hunter Henry and running back Damien Harris are back as well.
The one real question mark is the Patriots' approach to replacing offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who left to become head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. McDaniels put together a terrific plan for the passer in 2021. Things haven't gone as smoothly under head coach Bill Belichick and senior offensive advisor Matt Patricia in training camp.
"We have a lot of room to grow here," Jones said, per AJ Nelson of Boston.com. "… Our offensive line is doing a good job, we just have to get on the same page."