2023 Is A MAKE OR BREAK Year For THESE 5 NFL Players

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.

Deion Sanders May Have Made Believers Of Some, But Colorado Has A Lot To Improve On

We need to talk about Deion Sanders.

After the Buffs shocked the world on Saturday, knocking off a TCU team that is fresh off an appearance in the national championship, and came into the game a three-touchdown favorite, the narrative became about Deion Sanders’ receipts. 

To be fair to coach Prime, he did announce that he’s been keeping receipts all along, but that man started waving them around the moment he had his first opportunity. 

In the postgame press conference, Deion Sanders called out long-time ESPN reporter Ed Werder, who grew up in Colorado, and has been based out of Dallas since Deion was a Cowboy. Prime repeatedly asked Werder “do you believe now?” When Werder said “who said I didn’t believe” and “in what?,” Deion cut him off and said “next question.”

What was Deion referring to? It’s likely that Coach Prime was upset that Ed Werder referred to him as a “celebrity coach” in a tweet.

Worse things have certainly been said, but Deion needed to make someone an example in the moment, and Ed Werder was in the wrong place at the right time. 

Look, if you’re a coach, and you want to take reasonable suspicion and portray it to your own team as hate in order to motivate them-  do what you gotta do. Kirby Smart does it, and he knows damn well that nobody with two functioning brain cells to rub together doubts Georgia. 

There has to be a difference between people thinking that Colorado might not IMMEDIATELY revert back to the incredible run they had from 1989-1996, and the people that think Deion Sanders is incapable of winning AT ALL on the highest level. 

But how Deion Sanders chooses to motivate his players doesn’t change the fact that this 2023 Colorado team still has a long way to go to get to the mountaintop. 

They went 1-0 last week. But guess what? So did the other 11 teams they share a conference with. 

You didn’t see Chip Kelly out here reminding people that LA Times reporter Ben Bolch said he should be fired

There’s nothing wrong with Deion’s energy- it was a big moment and the eyes on the nation were on his players- he’d have been insane not to take advantage of that… but that’s not the energy that’s going to get them through a Pac-12 season with Bo Nix, Caleb Williams, and Utah’s running game all waiting for their shot at a defense that gave up over 500 yards when fully healthy.

So let’s be reasonable. Let’s take stock of what Colorado has, and what they don’t have. 

First, Shedeur Sanders destroyed Colorado’s single game passing record in his first start. If you didn’t believe in that young man, and to be honest I saw more doubt thrown his way than Deion’s, then you definitely need to repent and believe. 510 yards on 38 completions, with no picks? Four touchdowns?  When the team needed Shedeur the most, on a third-and-16 with CU down four, he made a play. He’s legit.

Second, Travis Hunter is a unicorn. 120+ snaps. Over 100 yards receiving. I was told this kid has a first round grade as a defensive back AND a receiver. There have only ever been a handful of players like him. He should be mentioned in the same breath as Chris Gamble, Charles Woodson, and even Deion himself. 

Third, did Deion set the tone for belief, situational awareness, and composure in a big moment? Absolutely, you either have the ability to prepare a team to succeed, or you don’t, and Deion not only showed the ability to do that, he also showed his brilliance in luring Sean Lewis away from being Kent State’s head coach to run his offense. And getting a team with 87 players that were somewhere else last season to be able to play together? That’s special. 

HOWEVER, it’s a long season. The defense is suspect. They gave up over 7 yards a carry against TCU. The run game is suspect. They had 28 carries for 90 yards. They forced two turnovers, but didn’t have a single tackle or sack in the backfield.

If seeing is believing, what we saw was a doubly one-dimensional team Both as an offense, AND ON OFFENSE. The Pac-12 has had plenty of those. It’s the reason Sonny Dykes is at TCU and not Cal. It’s the reason Mike Leach never won a Pac-12 title. It’s the reason people are suspicious of Lincoln Riley and Kalen DeBoer both last year and this year.

Colorado is thin up front on both sides of the line, and the depth everywhere else isn’t exactly where Deion wants it to be. 

But what Colorado lacks in power and depth, they’re currently making up for in the one thing more priceless and precious than almost anything else in the world of college football- Colorado has hope. 

If Deion Sanders can keep that hope afloat with a positive showing against Nebraska, who isn’t going to want to play for him? Because it’s not the belief of the media that Deion Sanders needs… Ed Werder joining the Colorado church choir does nothing for the program. 

The people Deion Sanders needs to believe are the ones that throw, catch, run, block and tackle. Once he has their belief, that’s when you’ll see the Buffaloes back in the promised land. 

Let that sink in.

Will The Indianapolis Colts Give Anthony Richardson The Same Freedom They Gave Manning and Luck?

We need to talk about Anthony Richardson and the Indianapolis Colts. 

Everyone is talking about the San Antonio Spurs when it comes to lottery luck and the opportunity to draft franchise changing generational players, but what about the Colts? 

Peyton Manning was the first overall pick in 1998, won more MVP’s than anyone in NFL history, and brought Indy a Super Bowl. 

Andrew Luck was the first overall pick in 2012, set the NFL rookie record for passing yards, and made four pro bowl and an AFC championship game before his body ultimately broke down. 

And now they’ve got fourth overall pick Anthony Richardson, who many believe has all the same tools as Andrew Luck, despite not statistically proving that at the collegiate level. 

In 1998, the Colts tossed Peyton Manning the keys and never looked back. In 2012 they did the same with Andrew Luck. 

They have no reason not to do the same with Anthony Richardson.

But will they?

Peyton Manning threw the ball 35 times per game as a rookie, leading to 28 interceptions, a rookie record that stands to this day. 

Andrew Luck threw the ball 39 times per game as a rookie, and while the Colts won 11 games as opposed to the 3 games Peyton Manning won as a rookie, Luck still produced an AFC-leading 18-interceptions.

That’s the freedom I want for Anthony Richardson. The ability to match or exceed the 36 pass attempts per game that the 4-win Colts had last year so that a player that desperately needs the reps can figure things out for himself without having to worry about whether he’s going to get replaced.

And since this is the organization that has done this twice before, there’s no reason not to grant him that freedom and confidence. 

I’m just not sure they will. 

Whether it’s that the NFL has become such a win-now league, or that Jim Irsay flirted, jokingly or not, with the idea of drafting Will Levis in addition to Anthony Richardson, or even the other, very obvious difference between Richardson and the two other quarterback on this list- it seems as if the odds are stacked against Richardson being given that same level of freedom.

But what could it hurt?

Even Josh Allen, who paved the way for Richardson to be such a high pick with his physical gifts far outweighing his college production, took the occasional brea from trucking linebackers to toss the pigskin 30 times a game as a rookie. And it was rarely pretty- but look at him now.

For the Colts, and the rest of the country, to know if Anthony Richardson has what it takes to justify his draft slot, we’re going to need to see him cook. 

Let’s hope the Colts let him have complete control of the kitchen.