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Time To Step It Up: Five NFL Quarterbacks That Need To Improve Next Season

Russell Wilson - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

With the 2022 NFL season now in the books, the NFL's 32 teams are now turning their attention to the 2023 campaign.

While all organizations are currently busy preparing for free agency and the NFL draft, many squads' 2023 fortunes will be tied directly to the quarterback position and how well their signal callers perform in the upcoming season.

As savvy football fans know, quarterback play can make or break a franchise. Let's take a look at five NFL quarterbacks that need to step up their play in 2023. Can these players improve their production next season after disappointing 2022 campaigns?

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#1. Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos

2022 Stats: 15 Games, 84.42 Passer Rating, 3,524 Passing Yards, 16 TDs, 11 INTs

To say Russell Wilson's first year with the Denver Broncos was a disappointment would be a massive understatement. In his maiden campaign in the Mile High City, Wilson logged career single-season lows in completion percentage (60.5%), passing TDs (16), and passer rating (84.42).

The Broncos gave up the farm to acquire Wilson, sending two first-round draft picks, two second-round draft picks, and three players to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for the star quarterback. To make matters even worse, Denver committed $161 million in guaranteed money to Wilson before he'd even played a snap for the franchise.

The return on their offseason investment was putrid, as Denver finished 2022 with a miserable 5-12 record, an effort that resulted in the firing of first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett and opened Wilson up to tons of criticism. Despite last season's failures, the Broncos are doubling down on Wilson and their current roster. The organization recently signed former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton to a massive contract in an effort to turn the team - and Wilson - around.

While it is easy to attribute Wilson's 2022 struggles to being in a new system with a rookie head coach that appeared to be completely in over his head, he'll have no such excuses with Payton - a legendary offensive guru - at the helm in 2023.


#2. Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins

2022 Stats: 13 Games, 105.5 Passer Rating, 3,548 Passing Yards, 25 TDs, 8 INTs

Ok, maybe improve isn't the correct word to use here with Tua Tagovailoa, as the 2022 campaign was unquestionably his best season as a pro. Tua posted career highs in passing yards (3,548), passing TDs (25), passer rating (105.5), and yards per attempt (8.9).

Despite the obvious leap in his production in his third season with the Miami Dolphins, 2022 was far from a resounding success, as Tagovailoa struggled to stay on the field for Miami, something that's been a recurring theme during his time in South Beach.

The 24-year-old appeared in just 13 games last season while suffering two scary concussions before Christmas. Tagovailoa has never appeared in more than 13 games in a single season in his career and has failed to erase questions about his durability that date back to his collegiate days at the University of Alabama when he battled multiple injuries throughout his two seasons as 'Bama's starter and was eventually sidelined for the remainder of his college career with a serious hip injury.

While it feels unfair to label a player as injury-prone, Tua's fortunes with his health haven't improved during his time in the NFL. He suffered a thumb injury during his rookie campaign while battling for playing time and eventually started just eight games. The issues continued into 2021, as appeared in just 13 games thanks to time spent on IR with fractured ribs and additional missed time due to a finger fracture on his throwing hand.

With the Dolphins organization making "win now" type moves to acquire talented players such as Tyreek Hill and Bradley Chubb - and the fact that a decision is looming on Tagovailoa's future with the franchise as his rookie contract winds down - the talented but often-injured QB must prove that he has the ability to stay on the field in a safe manner for an entire year for a Dolphins team that appears to be on the rise.


#3. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals

2022 Stats: 11 Games, 87.21 Passer Rating, 2,368 Passing Yards, 14 TDs, 7 INTs

After inking a whopping five-year, $230.5 million deal in October of 2022, Kyler Murray proceeded to have the worst season of his young career. To be fair, Murray's season ended prematurely due to a torn ACL suffered in December. However, the 25-year-old had looked listless prior to the devastating injury and was on pace for career lows in basically every statistical category.

Despite the sizable investment the Arizona Cardinals made in the former number-one pick ahead of the 2022 season, many outside critics have questioned the dynamic play-caller's level of dedication and preparation at the professional level. Those questions seemed well warranted in 2022, as Murray often clashed with Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury and was largely ineffective when on the field. The Cardinals finished with a 3-8 record in the 11 games that Murray started last year.

With their star QB finishing the season on IR, Arizona fired Kingsbury after their disappointing 2022 campaign. Murray is expected to miss the start of the 2023 season as he recovers from the ACL tear, but he will get a fresh start with new Arizona head coach Jonathan Gannon, who served as the Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator last year.

The defensive-minded Gannon's relationship with Murray will likely be the defining component of his tenure with the Cardinals and Murray's ability to bounce back from a rocky 2022 campaign will be a pivotal milestone in his progression as a true franchise quarterback.


#4. Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns

2022 Stats: 6 Games, 79.09 Passer Rating, 1,102 Passing Yards, 7 TDs, 5 INTs

We're strictly focusing on Deshaun Watson's on-field performance here, though it is impossible to ignore the impact his off-the-field issues have had on his career. After 700 days since his last NFL appearance for the Houston Texans, Watson finally returned to the field for the Cleveland Browns in 2022. The rust was apparent.

Appearing in the final six games of the regular season, Watson and the Browns managed just a 3-3 record, while the former superstar was a far cry from the version last seen in Houston. The 27-year-old looked understandably rusty during his time down the stretch en route to throwing nearly as many INTs (five) as TDs (seven).

Averaging a career-worst 6.5 yards per pass attempt, Watson completed passes at just a 58.2% clip - another mark that was a career-low for the former Clemson Tiger. He consistently struggled with timing and rhythm while trying to get re-acclimated to the speed of the game.

Now that Watson has officially knocked the rust off with some live-game action in the regular season, he and the Browns will turn their attention to the 2023 campaign, when the much-maligned QB will experience an ordinary training camp and preseason schedule ahead of his first full season at the helm of this Cleveland offense. With a staggering $230 million in guaranteed money invested in Watson, the Browns, and their loyal fans hope to see more out of him in 2023 than last season.


#5. Derek Carr, New Orleans Saints

2022 Stats: 15 Games, 86.26 Passer Rating, 3,522 Passing Yards, 24 TDs, 14 INTs

Derek Carr is a classic example of a good-but-not-great quarterback that has been mired in mediocrity throughout his career. After spending the first nine years of his career with the Las Vegas Raiders, the organization decided it had seen enough and benched Carr for the final two games of the 2022 regular season.

Despite bringing in Carr's college teammate and NFL superstar wide receiver Davante Adams ahead of the 2022 campaign, as well as new head coach and offensive guru Josh McDaniels, Carr's baseline output remained in line with his career averages. In other words, mediocre at best.

The veteran only topped 300 passing yards in two of his 15 appearances last year. His 14 INTs were tied with his previous career high, while his 86.26 passer rating was his lowest since his rookie season.

Now set to hit free agency after parting ways with the only franchise he's ever played for, Carr reportedly wants $35 million per year wherever he signs. The team that eventually pays it will need to put a great supporting cast around the quarterback that only reached the playoffs twice in his nine seasons with the Raiders and failed to take advantage of Las Vegas' efforts to revamp their organization last year.

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