Let’s talk about five NFL players that are in a “Make or Break” year.

Kyler Murray

Kyler has already been paid, so this isn’t about his finances. He’s set for life in that area.

This is about Kyler Murray needing to play superhuman football in 2023 to keep the Cardinals from being in a position to use one of the two top-10 draft picks they’ll probably have in 2024 to replace him. 

And the problem for Kyler is that he won’t be ready to go until week 5, as he’s coming off a torn ACL. 

Murray has been at war with the organization that drafted him for years, whether it’s disagreeing with Steve Keim’s draft picks, dealing with the front office leaking things to Christ Mortensen about him, having the owner embarrass him with a film study clause in his contract, or the extremely contentious contract negotiations themselves- it’s always been something. 

Now he has a new coach, a new GM, and rumors are swirling, courtesy of Michael Lombardi, that the Cardinals would be fine to give him the year off to set themselves up to recoup some money via injury insurance and set themselves up for the Caleb Williams sweepstakes. 

The one person that can stop this from happening is Kyler Murray, but are fellow short kings Hollywood Brown and Rondale Moore enough on the outside to help Murray flip his organization’s plans? We will see. 

Chase Young

Let’s get this out of the way- Chase Young is not a bust. He was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and a Pro Bowler at 21 years old. 

He’s been injured. And unfortunately for Commanders fans, he’s still dealing with recovering from a stinger he got in the preseason. 

The Commanders already gave up the rights to his fifth year, so he’s literally in a Make of Break situation. 

People see running backs tear an ACL and come back fully healthy within 9-10 months, and expect it’s going to be the same for defensive linemen, but that’s not the case. A knee injury can end a defensive lineman’s career. Keith Millard went from NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1989 at age 27, to only appearing in 22 games for the rest of his career. Steve Emtman , the first overall pick in the 1992 NFL Draft, never started more than 9 games in a season and was out of the league by 27- mostly because of his knees. Remember Andre Wadsworth? If you don’t, it’s because the third overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft had a bad knee that had him out of the league for good by the end of his third year. 

I’m rooting for Chase Young, but you can’t prove your worth on the field if you can’t get on the field. 

Justin Fields

There’s no excuses for Fields this year. The Bears went out and got him DJ Moore, and I’ve said this a bunch, but if Moore was anywhere other than Charlotte the last couple years, we’d be talking about him the way we talk about Justin Jefferson or Tee Higgins. He’s that good. 

You have to be careful with Bears fans because they’ve been without a franchise QB for so long that their instinct is to be aggressively protective of Fields. I wish the offensive line in Chicago had that same instinct. 

Let’s just be objective for a second- his completion percentage is low. If Kyler Murray had Justin Fields’ completion percentage, there would have been no controversy about the study clause in his extension because there would have been no extension. 

Justin Fields’ sack percentage is off the charts, and it contributes to a high turnover rate. And one thing I like to say is sometimes a man’s strengths flow from the same place as his weaknesses. That being said, it’s incredible that an NFL QB rushed for almost 1,200 yards last year, but it also never should have happened, and it should never happen again!

But it might, because Fields’ offensive line outside of the center position is an average of around 24 years old, and came from schools like Southern Utah and University of Charlotte. Darnell Wright was picked last year at 10th overall and is starting right tackle for a man who is trying to get a $250+ million dollar extension. 

Justin Fields is out here running around on a tight rope, but at least the defenses in the division are as collectively bad as any in the entire NFL.

Mac Jones

Say what you want about Mac Jones, but you can’t ever call him a coward. The man went from following Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama, to stepping in for the greatest QB of all time in New England. He’s out there in the bright lights, with a world of pressure on his shoulders, screaming at his assistant coaches to let him throw the damn ball.

Mac Jones hasn’t been bad. He hasn’t been good, but he hasn’t been bad. There’s going to be a place for him in the NFL for a very long time. But is that place in New England, under Bill Belichick? The standard out there is winning- and the Patriots didn’t do that last year.

New England lost four one-score games, and Mac Jones only has one fourth quarter comeback in 31 career starts. He also only had one game last year where he threw three or more touchdowns, and it came in a game where he also turned the ball over three times.

Now we’re going to be measuring him against his old Alabama teammate, Aaron Rodgers, and Josh Allen in six division games this season, and if he clearly looks like the worst of the four in all six games, what motivation is there for New England to keep this going?

Baker Mayfield

Baker probably made enough money off of commercials alone to not need a big second contract, but I get the feeling this man is fueled by something other than money anyway. 

He wants to stick it to Cleveland. And Carolina. And Colin Cowherd. And Odell Beckham Jr’s dad. And the guy in the stands calling him a bum. And if he could go back to Oklahoma and plant the flag again, I’m sure he could do that too. 

But is Tampa Bay the right place for Baker’s revenge tour?

After Bruce Arians retired, the Bucs went from three-straight top-3 finishes in points scored, to 25th last year under Todd Bowles. And now Tampa brings in a QB that is 8-16 in his last 24 starts, with a 4:3 TD to INT ratio, who barely completes 60% of his passes and takes as many sacks as anyone not named Justin Fields.

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