8 p.m. ET (NBC) | Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium
The 2022 season begins Thursday night in Canton, Ohio, home to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the first NFL action of the year.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are embarking on a new journey under head coach Doug Pederson, who arrives in Duval County as the man chosen to put quarterback Trevor Lawrence back on the path to stardom and the Jaguars on the road to success. His tenure as Jacksonville’s coach begins just steps from football’s most hallowed halls.
The same goes for the Raiders, who are trying to build on last season’s surprise success amid much adversity. This time, they’ll take the field with a new coach of their own, longtime Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Because it’s the preseason, we won’t see a ton of the main characters in action on Thursday night. But for the first time since the confetti fell on the Los Angeles Rams in Inglewood, California, the NFL will get back to what it does best: entertaining audiences with America’s favorite sport.
Here are four things to look out for in the 2022 Hall of Fame game:
- Josh McDaniels visits his home. McDaniels is taking the first steps in his first head coaching job in more than a decade, and he comes with expectations typical of a team looking to make two straight playoff seasons. His journey begins in a place he knows well: Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, located right next to McDaniels’ alma mater, Canton McKinley High School. We can commit to a few references to this during game coverage, and since it’s a preseason game, the final result won’t matter much. What will be important, however, is his Raiders performance in game action. The pressure is slightly higher than a typical preseason game, and this will be the first test of how the Raiders program works under McDaniels. Raiders fans are hoping he does better than the last few weeks of his time in Denver.
- Canton becomes Luton Land. Lawrence is not playing in the Hall of Fame Game, and neither is his old Clemson friend, Travis Etienne. Without those key figures involved, the spotlight turns to backup quarterback Jake Luton, who will likely get a healthy share of reps Thursday night and should use the exposure to beat out Kyle Sloter for the third-back job by Lawrence and veteran CJ. Beathard. The same goes for running backs Ryquell Armstead and Snoop Conner, who should also see additional game action thanks to the absences of Etienne and James Robinson (who is still working his way back from a torn Achilles suffered late last season season). The preseason is often about competing at the lower levels of the depth chart, and the Jaguars’ reserves will certainly get their chance Thursday night.
- New faces, everywhere. We can list them in no particular order: Jaguars coach Doug Pederson, the Raiders prized Davante Adams and Chandler Jones, Jacksonville’s free agent play headlined by Brandon Scherff and Christian Kirk. Even if most don’t see much action (because, after all, it’s the start of the preseason), they’ll still be at home in their new colors. It’s the start of two new seasons for these teams with very different expectations, but both will take the field with the same goal: Start the preseason off on the right foot and build positive momentum. If nothing else, it will be a night for the football world to adjust to familiar figures in new themes.
- Football is finally back! The Hall of Fame Game is the unofficial start to the quest for a Lombardi Trophy for all 32 NFL teams. Although only two teams will play on Thursday night, the entire league will be watching and celebrating the first sign of the new season ahead. America (and the rest of the world) will enjoy the fact that after a fun but long offseason, there is fresh gridiron action. And for that, we can all be thankful. Let the pads pop, the footballs fly and whistle. Football is back.