Last week, we began covering quarterbacks under the most pressure to succeed in the upcoming NFL season. Like the AFC, teams in the NFC have made no shortage of moves to build around their signal callers. However, some have faired better in their approaches than others.
Many quarterbacks will be seeing the 2023 campaign as their make-or-break season. As the preseason rages on, we will get closer and closer to seeing who has what it takes to start in this league.
Here are four NFC field generals who have to leave it all on the field in 2023.
Quarterbacks in the NFC Under the Most Pressure
Kirk Cousins: Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings are in arguably the best position to take the NFC North division again. With 2022 Offensive Player of the Year, Justin Jefferson, and Pro-Bowl tight end, T.J. Hockenson around, Kirk Cousins has a base to rekindle the Vikings’ explosive offensive in the upcoming campaign. Not to mention Minnesota drafted USC (and formerly University of Pittsburgh) wideout, Jordan Addison, to increase the number of weapons.
But expectations for Cousins are now higher than ever. The Vikings ended their 2022 season 13-4 and with the NFC North pendent. In addition, this was Minnesota’s first season under head coach, Kevin O’Connell. But their playoff run ended in the Wild Card round at the hands of the New York Giants. This failure to defend their turf showed that Minnesota was in no way invincible.
Both Cousins and O’Connell need to make necessary adjustments in order to avoid repeating the postseason disappointments that have lingered over the franchise. Cousins needs to cut down on the costly mistakes and help push this squad into a deeper playoff run, and hopefully, a shot at the Lombardi Trophy.
Derek Carr: New Orleans Saints
The multi-time Pro Bowl selection will be calling New Orleans home after nine years with the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders. On a four-year, $150 Million contract, Carr will most likely start under center in the first game of the regular season. Luckily, Carr will not be flying blind in a new environment; he will be reuniting with two familiar faces to help get him prepared.
First, current Saints head coach, Dennis Allen, was Carr’s head coach with Oakland from 2012-2014 before becoming the defensive coordinator for New Orleans from 2015-2021. Second, the Saints brought in former Super Bowl-winning head coach, Jon Gruden, as a consultant. He was Carr’s head coach with the Raiders from 2018-2021.
As for Carr, he now plays in a dismal NFC South Division, so the excuses for not bringing victory to the Big Easy will not fly. He now has playmakers like Michael Thomas, Chris Olave, Alvin Kamara, Jamaal Williams, and returning Saints tight end, Jimmy Graham. Carr must strike while the iron is hot and lead the Saints to at least take the division title back.
Daniel Jones: New York Giants
The dual-threat signal-caller has had a rough go in his time in the big leagues. From Giants fans deafeningly booing when the New York Giants selected him in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft to leading the league in fumbles twice, the first three seasons of Daniel Jones’ career were brutal.
But in 2022, a turnaround was on its way. With only the first year under head coach, Brian Daboll, Jones posted career highs in passing yards (3,205), pass completion percentage (67.2%), and passer rating (92.5). In addition, the Giants finished their 2022 campaign with a record of 9-7-1. Then, they proceeded to upset the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings on the road in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs.
Settling on last season’s good fortune will not be enough. Luckily, Jones will had a reinforced arsenal at his disposal. Acquiring veterans like Jamison Crowder, Darren Waller, and Cole Beasley, will provide leadership for a young core of playmakers. Now, Jones has to put his foot down and prove why he deserves that four-year, $160 Million extension with the G-Men.
Geno Smith: Seattle Seahawks
Prior to the 2022 season, the Seattle Seahawks shook the NFL world when they agreed to trade their future Hall of Fame quarterback, Russell Wilson, to the Denver Broncos. It seems that a rebuild was underway for Seattle. But backup quarterback, Geno Smith, did not get that memo.
After nine years of being a journeyman, Smith broke out and put the league on notice. His career year included the following:
2022 Pro-Bowl Selection (1st in his career)
League Leader in completion percentage (69.8)
2022 Comeback Player of the Year
Career high in passing yards in a season (4,282)
Career high in passing touchdowns in a season (30)
Following a surprise trip to the playoffs, the Seahawks organization has started their “rebuilding process” on the right foot. For his efforts, Smith re-signed with Seattle on a three-year, $75 Million deal.
Now Seattle has to build on this new momentum into 2023. Having D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and running back, Kenneth Walker III will be beneficial for Smith. Not to mention, the Seattle Seahawks just drafted Ohio State standout, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, to further bolster the wide receiver core.
2023 must be Smith’s time to step up and bring the Seahawks back to Super Bowl contention.