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Breakout Players AFC Reviewed

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Tua Tagovailoa

Before the season started, I wrote a list of breakout candidates for each NFL team. Some ended up having big seasons, others were injured, and some were not ready yet. Here’s a recap of the breakout candidates and how their season turned out.

  • BAL: Patrick Queen; Queen didn’t have the season that was expected of him this year. It wasn’t entirely his fault, as the Ravens had major injuries all over the field last year. Queen’s solo tackles and tackles went sightly up, while everything else went down. Queen is still a talented player and part of the Ravens’ plans at linebacker. Hopefully, next year is when he truly breakouts.
  • BUF: Ed Oliver; Oliver had a lot of expectations heading into the season and made an impact on Buffalo’s defense. His tackles, tackles for loss, QB hits, and sacks all went up from the previous year. His play helped the Bills win the AFC East for a second straight year. Oliver took a big step this year and should be better in 2022.
  • CIN: Tee Higgins; Higgins became the perfect robin to Ja’Marr Chase’s batman. Both he and Chase had over 1000 yards on the season. Higgins finished with 74 catches and six touchdowns on the year. He and Chase will be a force on the Bengals offense for the next few years.
  • CLE: Jedrick Wills; 2021 was a rough year for the Browns. The team finished 8-9, and quarterback Baker Mayfield was playing hurt for half of the season. Wills also got hurt during the season and missed four games due to an ankle He was called for four penalties, allowed five sacks, and finished with a Pro Football Focus grade of 65.9. Hopefully, a healthy season will allow him to become the pro bowl tackle the Browns are hoping he grows into.
  • DEN: Jerry Jeudy; Jeudy also missed time with an injury. He suffered an ankleinjury in week one and missed the next seven games. In the ten games he played, Jeudy caught 38 passes for 467 yards. With a full offseason to get 100%, Jeudy should be expected to break out in 2022.
  • HOU: Ross Blacklock; The reason Blacklock was the choice for the Texans was that they didn’t anyone that stood out on the roster besides him. With the rough season, the Texans had it would have been tough for anyone to have a breakout season. Blacklock played in 15 games starting two of them and finished with 22 tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss, and six QB hits. All of his stats went up from the previous season, and Blacklock could take a bigger role in the Texans’ defense next year.
  • IND: Michael Pittman Jr.; Pittman took a step forward in becoming the Colts’ number one receiver for years to come. He finished the season with 88 catches, 1082 yards, and six touchdowns. He also started all 17 games for the team this year. With TY Hilton a free agent and considering retirement, Pittman might need to take another step next year and become a leader for the Colts.
  • JAX: CJ Henderson; The Jaguars were a complete mess this year, and Henderson was affected by it. Henderson, along with a fifth-round pick, was traded to the Panthers for Dan Arnold and a third-round pick. Between the two teams, he played in 12 games, starting seven of them, and finished with 39 tackles and two passes defended. With a full offseason to get more comfortable with the Panthers’ defense, he and Jaycee Horn could make a nice duo.
  • KC: Clyde Edwards-Helaire; Edwards-Helaire was another player that was affected by injury this year. He only played in ten games and finished with 517 yards on 119 carries and four touchdowns. He added another 19 catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Edwards-Helaire has talent, but he has to stay healthy.
  • LVR: Henry Ruggs; Early on it looked like Ruggs was on his way to a breakout season. In seven games, he had 24 catches for 469 yards and two touchdowns. That all changed after Ruggs was arrested for a DUI that killed a woman. He was cut by the Raiders soon after and will most likely never play again in the NFL.
  • LAC: Kenneth Murray; Murray was expected to take the next step after a great rookie season. That didn’t happen as he missed six games after rolling his already hurt ankle in practice. In 11 games, Murray finished with 31 tackles and two tackles for loss. Expect him fully healthy and ready to break out in 2022.
  • MIA: Tua Tagovailoa; The good news for Tagovailoa is that he finished the season with a winning record as the starter and almost got Miami into the playoffs after a 1-7 start. The bad news is he didn’t have the statistical season many were hoping for. Tagovailoa did complete 67.8% of his passes and raised his touchdowns from 11 to 16. However, he also doubled his interceptions, five to ten, and only had 6.8 yards per attempt. Now with a new head coach coming, Tua will have to improve big time next year, or he will not be in the Dolphins’ plans come this time next year.
  • NE: Isaiah Wynn; Wynn’s fifth-year option was picked up the last offseason, so the Patriots were banking on him putting it all together this year. He started 15 of 16 games played, missing one game, gave up six sacks, called for nine penalties, and finished with a Pro Football Focus grade of 5. Wynn became a solid starter for the Patriots this year and helped them get back into the playoffs. Looks like picking up the fifth-year option was the right move.
  • NYJ: Alijah Vera-Tucker; I had called Vera-Tucker a pro-bowl rookie when I wrote the breakout candidates story. I was wrong on that part, however, he did start in all 16 games he played in, missing one game. Vera-Tucker only gave up two sacks all year, was called for five penalties, and finished with a Pro Football Focus grade of 2. Going into this offseason more will be expected of him in his second year.
  • PIT: Chase Claypool; Claypool finished with solid numbers as he had 59 catches for 860 yards and two touchdowns. However, the lasting image from  this was his ill-advised celebration late in a game against the Vikings that cost the Steelers time in a loss. If he continues to improve and make smarter decisions, Claypool should be fine next year.
  • TEN: Anthony Firkser; Firkser was a little of a surprise pick here. After the departure of Jonnu Smith in free agency, he was thought to be the guy to take his spot this year. That didn’t happen as Firkser started one game being the backup to Geoff Swaim. Firkser had slightly better stats than Swaim, finishing with 34 catches for 291 yards and two touchdowns. Swaim finished with 31 catches for 210 yards and three touchdowns. While Firkser didn’t have the season I thought he could have had, he still was a key contributor to the Titans’ offense.

I started watching sports when I was 7 years old and saw my first football game. From that day on I have loved sports, especially football.

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