Schwartz: Ten Big Ideas – Hawkeye NFL Storylines Edition

September 13, 2020

Written by David Schwartz

Hawkeye Nation

After a nibble last Thursday night, the NFL begins in full today. About two dozen Hawkeyes made an NFL roster, which at least gives us something football-related to follow this fall. Here are 10 NFL storylines involving Hawkeyes:

1. Will the Chargers sign or trade Desmond King?

This chatter has been going on now for months. If they trade King, one of the best cornerbacks in the league and an all-time Hawkeye great, it will be because he’s too expensive—not because he isn’t any good. He already has two first-team honors to his name (at two different positions) through his first three seasons.

2. Will Noah Fant become a star? Iowa has already placed one superstar tight end in the NFL (see No. 4 below), but it’s pretty clear NFL fans think Fant, in his second year with the Broncos, has similar potential. Fant’s biggest obstacle might be the Broncos’ quarterback situation. One NFL outlet listed Broncos QB Drew Lock as the worst among all NFL starters. 

3. Can Lamar Jackson repeat as the NFL’s most valuable player? Wait, what does this have to do with the Hawkeyes? Everything. Jackson might have played at Louisville, but until now he’s never spent a full NFL season without former Iowa offensive lineman Marshall Yanda, who retired last March following yet another Pro Bowl season.

4. Which island will George Kittle buy? One of the two best tight ends in the NFL (it’s either him or Travis Kelce) got paid last month. And by paid, we mean he got PAID. That’s a good thing for any NFL player, who on average have the shortest careers of any professional athlete in the United States. Watching Kittle run after a catch is one of the most beautiful things to watch in the NFL.

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5. How much will Tristan Wirfs contribute as a rookie? The offensive lineman will likely be one of the starters in front of new Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady. The Bucs by all accounts love Wirfs, but their window with Brady is two years max, which means Wirfs will have to prove quickly he deserves to be the starter now.

6. How will Bryan Bulaga’s body adjust to warm weather? Bulaga, a former Hawkeye offensive lineman, played high school ball in northern Illinois, college at Iowa, and spent his first 10 seasons in Green Bay. This past offseason he became a member of the Los Angeles Chargers, making it the first time in his career that all his November and December home games could be played in what would be summer-like weather in the Midwest.

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7. How much of A.J. Epenesa will we see this season? The preseason buzz on Epenesa is all over the place. One report suggests he’ll be a star, another that he’s buried on the depth chart, yet another that he’s so versatile he could play all four positions along the defensive line. Epenesa’s will be an interesting case to watch this season.

8. Will Adrian Clayborn play forever? (We hope so.) With Yanda retired, Clayborn, entering his 10th season, is one of the most senior Hawkeyes in the NFL. Two years ago he earned a Super Bowl ring while with the Patriots. Now he’s entering his first season with the Browns, and if he can somehow manage to earn his second ring this year, in Cleveland, he’ll be part of one of the biggest stories in sports of the last few decades.

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9. Will T.J. Hockenson be 100 percent healthy? The tight end got off to a decent start last season as a rookie, averaging 11.5 yards per catch before suffering an ankle injury last November. Hockenson told reporters last month that the ankle still wasn’t completely healed. If he can get back up to speed, he can join an offense projected to put up big numbers in 2020.

10. Micah Hyde: Indispensable veteran. Now entering his eighth season, Hyde has become one of the leading voices in the Buffalo locker room. NFL folks have high expectations for the Bills, which means vets like Hyde, who has 16 interceptions and more than 400 career tackles, will have to lead the way.

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