With 99 days until NFL season, here are 99 people who will shape it



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There are 99 days until the start of the NFL season. That’s Jersey’s number, 99, and his return from the injury that cost him all but three games in 2016 is one of the big stories to watch in 2017. That makes him one of our 99 people who will shape the 2017 NFL season.

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Who are the other 98? We’re glad you asked. We have passers, runners and receivers. We have owners, officials and broadcasters. We have rookies and vets and coaches all over the age and career spectrum.

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Stars returning from injuries1. J.J. Watt Jersey Jersey, DE, Houston Texans Jersey. Watt played just 149 snaps in 2016. He still has more sacks than anyone in the league the past three years.

where to buy nfl jerseys cheap 2. A.J. Green Jersey Jersey, WR, Cincinnati Bengals Jersey. Before Green got hurt last season, the issue was insufficient help in the offense. With first-round pick John Ross Jersey and, ideally, a healthy Jersey in the fold, a healthy Green could elevate the Bengals’ offense to new heights.

nfl wholesale 3. Justin Houston Jersey Jersey, LB, Kansas City Chiefs Jersey. He had 22 sacks in 2014. He has played in only 16 games since.

4. Luke Kuechly Jersey Jersey, LB, Carolina Panthers Jersey. After his teary exit from his final game of 2016, Kuechly will be watched as closely for concussion symptoms as any player in the league in 2017.

There are 99 days until the NFL regular season begins, and everyone’s chasing Bill Belichick and the Patriots — again. ESPN IllustrationCulture-changers5. Wade Phillips, defensive coordinator, Los Angeles Rams Jersey. He is 39 years older than Sean McVay, the head coach who just hired him, but Phillips’ track record as a high-impact coordinator is unquestioned. Aaron Donald Jersey Jersey, Trumaine Johnson Jersey Jersey & Co. should be better just for Phillips’ presence and take a lot of pressure off young Jared Goff Jersey and the offense.

6. Gregg Williams, defensive coordinator, Cleveland Browns Jersey. The remaking of the Browns is in full swing, and their new coordinator won’t go easy on the young guys around whom they’re building it. Between Williams and head coach Hue Jackson, no one will question the intensity of the Cleveland coaching staff.

7. Kyle Shanahan, coach, San Francisco 49ers Jersey. Yes, he still needs to find his long-term answer at quarterback. But a six-year deal buys him lots of time, and it’s encouraging to see Shanahan, known as an offensive-minded coach, so interested in building up the defensive side of the ball first.

8. Sean McDermott, coach, Buffalo Bills Jersey. Having amassed a stunning amount of power in a short period of time, Buffalo’s new head coach has overseen the post-draft removal of former GM Doug Whaley and the hiring of several new front-office figures who will try to end the league’s longest playoff drought.

9. Tom Coughlin, executive VP of football operations, Jacksonville Jaguars Jersey. The clocks in the Jaguars’ building are once again set five minutes fast, and Coughlin will attempt to shape the franchise as he sees fit. The question for him and new coach Doug Marrone to try to answer this year: Is Blake Bortles Jersey Jersey the answer? Jacksonville didn’t draft his replacement, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Coughlin is sold on him as the long-term answer. People in the building say Bortles has to prove himself to the new regime.

Players in a contract year10. Julian Edelman Jersey Jersey, WR, New England Patriots Jersey. Everybody wants to talk about Malcolm Butler Jersey Jersey’s contract situation, but Edelman has caught more than 90 passes in three of the past four seasons and is making $4.5 million in the final year of his deal. Is he destined for the Wes Welker treatment or for a long-term contract in New England?

11. Kirk Cousins Jersey, QB, Washington. Cousins seems content to go year to year on the franchise tag, and at these prices, why wouldn’t he be? But franchising him again next year would cost the team $34 million, and if he doesn’t sign by the July 15 deadline, his 2018 free agency will loom over Washington, Cleveland and San Francisco — at least.

12. Sam Bradford Jersey, QB, Minnesota Vikings Jersey. No one knows what the deal is with Jersey’s long-term health and development, or whether the Vikings can protect Bradford better than they did last season. Depending on those factors, among others, Bradford could be on the move again next March.

13. Melvin Ingram Jersey, OLB, Los Angeles Chargers Jersey. Ingram is another franchise player who faces a July 15 deadline to sign a new deal or play out the season and test free agency. He has 18.5 sacks the past two years but is already 28.

The Colts have made defense a priority this offseason, but Andrew Luck Jersey Jersey’s still the guy on which they rely. Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesStars who need some help14. Andrew Luck Jersey Jersey, QB, Indianapolis Colts Jersey. Luck rebounded from multiple injuries to post career highs in completion percentage, yards per attempt and Total QBR in 2016. The Colts need to keep building up their offensive line and their defense if they’re to get the most out of his prime.

15. Cam Newton Jersey Jersey, QB, Carolina Panthers Jersey. The 2015 MVP wasn’t blameless for Carolina’s 2016 flop — his 52.9 completion percentage was plain inexcusable — but the story of the year was how badly Newton was beaten up, and now he’s coming off shoulder surgery. Can new additions Christian McCaffrey Jersey and Matt Kalil Jersey Jersey Jersey help Carolina preserve Cam better?

16. Tyrod Taylor Jersey Jersey, QB, Buffalo Bills Jersey. He ranks seventh in Total QBR and fourth in touchdown-to-interception ratio the past two seasons. That’s without Sammy Watkins Jersey Jersey in the regular lineup and with LeSean McCoy Jersey Jersey missing five games. The line should hold up, but Taylor needs more weapons around him consistently if we’re to find out how good he really can be.

17. Jersey, WR, Houston Texans Jersey. He had 100-yard receiving games from four quarterbacks in 2015, but not even he could withstand the damage done by the Brock Osweiler Jersey era in Houston. Can Hopkins develop a consistent connection with Tom Savage Jersey Jersey and/or rookie Deshaun Watson Jersey? Can he get that contract extension he deserves? Look for talks to heat up on a long-term deal as the season gets closer, but Hopkins will want something at the top of the market.

18. Todd Gurley Jersey, RB, Los Angeles Rams Jersey. Gurley’s 1.59 yards before first contact in 2016 ranked 41st in the NFL. He had no room to run. The Rams hope the installation of a zone scheme under Sean McVay and the additions of veteran offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth Jersey Jersey Jersey and John Sullivan Jersey will help.

Offensive MVP race19. Aaron Rodgers Jersey Jersey, QB, Green Bay Packers Jersey. Jersey’s touchdown-to-interception ratio over the past five years is 3.98, second-best in the NFL over that time and far better than the guy in third place, Russell Wilson Jersey, at 2.82. Rodgers’ ratio is 5.25.

20. Antonio Brown Jersey, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers Jersey. No, I don’t believe a receiver really could win MVP. Yes, I believe Brown should get more consideration than he does. He’s the only player who has caught more than 400 passes since 2013, and he has caught 481.

21. David Johnson Jersey Jersey, RB, Arizona Cardinals Jersey. Johnson led the NFL with 373 touches, 20 scrimmage touchdowns and 2,118 scrimmage yards in 2016. No one was a bigger part of his team’s offense.

22. Ezekiel Elliott Jersey, RB, Dallas Cowboys Jersey. Elliott led the NFL in rushing by 322 yards as a rookie. And yeah, the offensive line played a role, but only the Dolphins’ Jay Ajayi Jersey Jersey had more rushing yards after contact than Elliott’s 632.

23. Julio Jones Jersey Jersey, WR, Atlanta Falcons Jersey. Again, no, I don’t believe a receiver really could win MVP. But it’s hard to watch the Falcons and not come away thinking Jones is the biggest difference-maker they have. Only Antonio Brown Jersey and DeAndre Hopkins Jersey Jersey have been targeted more the past two years. No one has more receiving yards.

24. Le’Veon Bell Jersey, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers Jersey. Bell has played 47 regular-season games in his four-year career and ranks fifth in total scrimmage yards during that time. Everyone in the top four has played at least 59 games.

25. Matt Ryan Jersey Jersey, QB, Atlanta Falcons Jersey. The reigning MVP, Ryan last season completed 69.9 percent of his passes, which was third-best in the league, but he led the league in yards per attempt by more than a full yard — 9.26 to Tom Brady Jersey Jersey’s 8.23.

26. Matthew Stafford Jersey Jersey, QB, Detroit Lions Jersey. Stafford should be the highest-paid quarterback in the league by the end of the summer.

Von Miller Jersey Jersey had 13.5 sacks and three forced fumbles last season. Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY SportsDefensive MVP race27. Aaron Donald Jersey Jersey, DT, Los Angeles Rams Jersey. Only nine players have more than Donald’s 28 sacks the past three seasons, and all nine of them play on the edge. So do the eight players who follow Donald on that list. No one else dominates from the interior of the defensive line the way Donald does right now.

28. Khalil Mack Jersey, DE, Oakland Raiders Jersey. He has 26 sacks the past two seasons and added five forced fumbles and an interception in 2016. Oakland is a legitimate Super Bowl contender in part because it has a game-wrecking edge rusher.

29. Von Miller Jersey Jersey, OLB, Denver Broncos Jersey. Oh yeah, this guy. Since Miller’s rookie year, only J.J. Watt Jersey Jersey has more disrupted dropbacks (sacks plus interceptions plus batted passes plus passes defensed) in the regular season than Miller’s 84.5. Miller has a Super Bowl MVP trophy, too, and he’s still only 28.

30. Ndamukong Suh Jersey, DT, Miami Dolphins Jersey. At 30, Suh is still the anchor of a defensive line that’s the strength of last season’s surprise playoff party crasher.

31. Jadeveon Clowney Jersey Jersey, DE, Houston Texans Jersey. When the Texans drafted Clowney, they imagined how much he’d help J.J. Watt Jersey Jersey on the other side of the line. After Clowney established himself as one of the best run-stopping defensive ends in the league in 2016, the Texans now think about how Watt’s return will help him.

32. Joey Bosa Jersey, DE, Los Angeles Chargers Jersey. Guys such as Dwight Freeney Jersey, Julius Peppers Jersey Jersey, Terrell Suggs Jersey Jersey, Von Miller Jersey Jersey and Jersey populate the short list of players who collected at least 10 sacks as a rookie. Bosa had 10.5 last season, and he got a late start.

Off-field game-changers33. Roger Goodell, commissioner, NFL. So far, Goodell has managed to avoid a major offseason crisis or controversy. Can his image with fans and players ever be repaired?

34. Jerry Jones, owner, Dallas Cowboys Jersey. He has already spoken up about marijuana. He has been in the middle of all the franchise relocation decisions. Jones remains as powerful an owner as any in the league and will be central to off-field issues as they arise this year.

35. DeMaurice Smith, executive director, NFLPA. Smith has relished the role of combative union leader since he got the job in 2009. He’ll be front and center as the league approaches players about extending the CBA this summer and if those talks continue into the season.

36. Eugene Monroe Jersey Jersey, former NFL offensive lineman. Monroe is a vocal advocate of medicinal marijuana and the need for the NFL to embrace it as a potential pain-relief solution. Marijuana will continue to be a major issue for the league, and Monroe wants to help move the discussion in a productive direction.

37. Al Riveron, senior director of officiating, NFL. Riveron takes over for Dean Blandino, who was all set up to be the league’s top face and voice on replay and officiating controversies. The way y’all love to obsess about officiating, does this guy know what he’s in for?

38. Beth Mowins, play-by-play broadcaster, ESPN. Mowins will be the first woman to handle play-by-play for an NFL game broadcast since 1987 when she broadcasts the Sept. 11 Monday Night Football game between the Chargers and Broncos on ESPN.

DeSean Jackson Jersey has five career 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Cliff Welch/Icon SportswireImmediate-impact signings39. Alshon Jeffery Jersey Jersey Jersey, WR, Philadelphia Eagles Jersey. showed good signs as a rookie quarterback, but there’s only so much you can show when your second-best wide receiver is Nelson Agholor Jersey or Dorial Green-Beckham Jersey. Jeffery, if healthy, offers a big, reliable outside presence the Eagles lacked last season.

40. DeSean Jackson Jersey, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jersey. The deep ball is what has been missing from Jameis Winston Jersey’s game so far. Jackson’s downfield speed should open options all over the field for Winston wholesale nfl jersey in his third year.

41. , RB, Oakland Raiders Jersey. A member of the Raiders’ coaching staff said Lynch would bring “venom” to a running back corps that’s otherwise made up of young guys.

What now for the reigning champs?42. Bill Belichick, coach, New England Patriots Jersey. Belichick is clearly still at the top of his game, and he attacked this offseason like a coach determined to win several more titles before it’s all over.

43. Tom Brady Jersey Jersey, QB, New England Patriots Jersey. Brady could have been in the “How Much Longer?” category, and certainly in the “Offensive MVP Race.” As long as he’s in the league, he will shape every season in some way. How many more titles can he deliver in New England?

44. Josh McDaniels, offensive coordinator, New England Patriots Jersey. McDaniels entered January as a hot head coach candidate, but he believes the job he has now is better than a few of the head coach jobs he might be able to get. New England will continue to benefit from his career patience.

45. Rob Gronkowski Jersey Jersey, tight end, New England Patriots Jersey. Once thought to be the most indispensable non-Brady Patriot, Gronk returns from injury after the team got along just fine without him. His new deal is heavy on 2017 incentives but leaves him eminently cuttable next offseason if the health remains a concern.

Next wave of QB stars46. Derek Carr Jersey, Oakland Raiders Jersey. Only Ben Roethlisberger Jersey was better after the third quarter last season than Carr, who had a 113.5 passer rating to go with 10 touchdowns and one interception on drives that began in the fourth quarter or overtime.

47. Jameis Winston Jersey, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jersey. Winston’s Total QBR when pressured the past two seasons is 67.6, easily the best in the league over that time. Jay Cutler Jersey Jersey was second at 59.9, followed by at 58.4.

48. Marcus Mariota Jersey, Tennessee Titans Jersey. His yards, touchdowns and Total QBR all went up in 2016. So did his games played, from 12 to 15. Health is worth watching here, but if he has it, Mariota appears to be on his way.

49. Jimmy Garoppolo Jersey Jersey, New England Patriots Jersey. Tom Brady Jersey Jersey would have to get hurt (or, I guess, suspended) for Garoppolo to play. But that New England held so tightly to Garoppolo this offseason means it isn’t ruled him out as a large part of its future.

Blake Bortles Jersey Jersey has thrown 51 interceptions in his three NFL seasons. Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesHot-seat watch50. Bill O’Brien, coach, Houston Texans Jersey. Two straight division titles, yeah, but both at 9-7 in a weak AFC South. More important, O’Brien hasn’t established a real answer at quarterback, which was supposed to be his thing. Maybe Deshaun Watson Jersey can bring a breath of fresh air and stability.

51. Trevor Siemian Jersey Jersey, QB, Denver Broncos Jersey. If Siemian can protect the ball, he showed last season the Broncos can succeed with him. But Paxton Lynch Jersey was a first-round pick, and the coaching staff in Denver is new. Hard to believe Lynch won’t get a shot at some point.

52. Marvin Lewis, coach, Cincinnati Bengals Jersey. Lewis heads into the final season of his contract without an extension. He is part of the fabric in Cincinnati and is more vital to the workings of the team than many realize. But another down season could have ownership thinking about a change.

53-54. John Fox, coach; Mike Glennon Jersey Jersey, QB, Chicago Bears Jersey. Under Fox, the Bears are 9-23 the past two seasons, and the roster doesn’t look primed for a rebound. And if you think a rookie quarterback keeps you safe because it’s bad to change coaches in or after his first year, ask Ken Whisenhunt, Lovie Smith and Jeff Fisher how that worked out for them. Word out of Chicago is that Glennon gets this year as the starting QB unless he gets hurt or just can’t play. But Mitchell Trubisky Jersey was the No. 2 pick in the draft, and Glennon will have to be pretty special to keep fan pressure off Fox to make a change.

55. Chuck Pagano, coach, Indianapolis Colts Jersey. Two straight 8-8 seasons after three straight 11-5 seasons, a new GM is in the mix and the clock is ticking its way through Andrew Luck Jersey Jersey’s prime. Pagano would do well to take that AFC South back from the Texans if he wants to hang around much longer.

56. Blake Bortles Jersey Jersey, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars Jersey. Yes, they picked up his 2018 option, but that’s only guaranteed against injury, and there’s a new coach and head-football honcho in town in Jacksonville. Bortles is at square one with Doug Marrone and Tom Coughlin, who could move on if Bortles repeats his 49.2 Total QBR season of a year ago.

How much longer will they play?57. Ben Roethlisberger Jersey, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers Jersey. Big Ben just turned 35 and admits he considered retiring this offseason. The Steelers are loaded on offense and could make a Super Bowl run. You wonder whether that would make it more or less likely that Roethlisberger walks away a year from now.

58. Earl Thomas, S, Seattle Seahawks Jersey. The heart and soul of this great defense mused publicly about retirement after his season-ending injury late in 2016. At age 28, Thomas would seem to have plenty left, but he’ll be up for a contract extension after this season, and it’s fair to consider whether he and/or Seattle would move on. The Seahawks could save $8.5 million on their 2018 cap if they do, and they drafted three safeties, including Colorado’s Tedric Thompson Jersey, who could be Thomas’ long-term replacement.

59. Eli Manning Jersey Jersey, QB, New York Giants Jersey. Manning’s 51.8 Total QBR in 2016 was one of the lowest of his career, and he’s 36. He has not indicated that he has considered hanging it up, but the guaranteed money on his contract runs out after this season, and another down season could get the Giants thinking about what comes next.

60-62. Bruce Arians, coach; Larry Fitzgerald Jersey Jersey, WR; Carson Palmer Jersey Jersey, QB, Arizona Cardinals Jersey. Arians turns 65 in October and has weathered a couple of health issues the past couple of years. Fitzgerald will turn 34 right before the season and has yet to say whether it will be his last. Palmer was an MVP candidate two years ago, but the only numbers of his that didn’t drop in 2016 were interceptions and age. He turns 38 in December, and it’s not out of the question this could be his last season.

63-64. Drew Brees Jersey Jersey, QB; Jersey, RB, New Orleans Saints Jersey. There’s one year left on his contract and no obvious indicator of an imminent turnaround for a team that has finished 7-9 the past three seasons. Brees probably can stay as long as he likes, but how long will that be? History doesn’t offer much hope to 32-year-old running backs like Peterson. And it doesn’t help that he goes to New Orleans as the No. 2 or 3 running back option on a passing offense.

65. Philip Rivers Jersey, QB, Los Angeles Chargers Jersey. No one has thrown more interceptions the past three years than Rivers’ 52, and he turns 36 in December.

Injuries to keep an eye on66. Jersey, C, Miami Dolphins Jersey. Pouncey played in only five games in 2016 because of hip injuries, but he says he has healed up. Ryan Tannehill Jersey Jersey and Jay Ajayi Jersey Jersey hope so.

67. Sammy Watkins Jersey Jersey, WR, Buffalo Bills Jersey. He has missed 11 games the past two seasons because of various injuries and is being held out of practices right now while he recovers from foot surgery.

Free-agent signal-caller Colin Kaepernick Jersey visited the Seahawks but is still available. Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY SportsLightning rods68. Colin Kaepernick Jersey, QB, free agent. Kaepernick had a better Total QBR than Ryan Tannehill Jersey Jersey, Cam Newton Jersey Jersey, Carson Wentz Jersey and Eli Manning Jersey Jersey last season. Yet he can’t get a job.

69. Josh Norman Jersey Jersey, CB, Washington. Spouting mid-May lunacy about blood and suspensions to come is one thing, but why did he have to drag poor D.J. Swearinger Jersey Jersey into the whole thing?

70. Odell Beckham Jersey Jr Jersey., WR, New York Giants Jersey. All around the league last week, players skipped voluntary OTAs. Who did you hear about the most? Such is the life of Odell.

71-72. Richard Sherman Jersey, CB; Russell Wilson Jersey, QB, Seattle Seahawks Jersey. After an offseason in which his team publicly admitted to talking about trading him, Sherman will be watched closely for signs of discontent. He doesn’t usually keep them hidden. Publicly, Wilson causes no one any trouble. But it seems clear at this point he’s a lightning rod in his own locker room. Wils