There are NFL milestones set every year that capture the attention of the football world and earn appreciation from both active and former players. As we look ahead to the 2022 NFL season, records will fall and historic clubs will be joined this fall.
It should come as no surprise that a passing-friendly league is changing the record books every year. Dan Marino threw for 5,084 yards in 1984 and everyone thought the record would never be touched again. Since the 2011 season, there have been 13 individual 5,000-yard campaigns, including two last year.
However, quarterbacks won’t be the only ones etching their name alongside some all-time greats. We’ll likely see history made on offense, defense and special teams with single moments that will warrant their own highlights and moments for appreciation.
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With that in mind, let’s examine five NFL milestones that could be reached in 2022.
Matt Ryan joins the exclusive 60,000-yard passing club
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Ryan is going to benefit from a change of scenery. Not only is he leaving behind the rebuilding Atlanta Falcons to join a playoff contender, he’s in a better system with a stronger supporting cast. Winning NFL MVP is certainly out of the question, but the 2022 NFL season can help shape Ryan’s legacy.
The Colts are the best team in the AFC South and there’s at least a shot this team competes for the Super Bowl if everything goes right. How far this team goes will certainly influence how Ryan is remembered when he retires and he will add one of the unique NFL milestones to his legacy.
Only seven quarterbacks in NFL history have eclipsed 60,000 career passing yards, including Dan Marino, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre. Sitting just 265 yards shy of the mark, we’ll likely see Ryan put his name in the exclusive company before Week 3.
Mike Evans joins Tim Brown in NFL record books
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans already holds the NFL record with eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to begin his career. It’s an accomplishment that on its own feels even more impressive than the eight consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns by all-time greats Marvin Harrison, Cris Carter and Torry Holt.
Evans is already part of an exclusive club made up of Hall of Famers, but there are even more feats to check off his list. If the Pro Bowl wideout eclipses 1,000 receiving yards this season – a practical guarantee with quarterback Tom Brady – he’ll tie Tim Brown with nine consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns. After that, he’ll only be one year shy of terry Jerry Rice’s all-time record (10).
Cordarrelle Patterson sets all time kickoff return touchdowns record
Everyone recognizes Devin Hester as one of the greatest return specialists in NFL history. He holds NFL records in career punt return touchdowns (14) and ranks third in all-time punt return yards (3,695). However, Atlanta Falcons running back Cordarelle Patterson might have a chance at one of the historic NFL milestones this year.
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A first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, Patterson’s career has certainly been unique. Across his first eight NFL seasons, Patterson averaged fewer than 400 scrimmage yards per year. Instead, everyone recognized him as a dangerous return man, with three seasons of 1,000-plus kickoff return yards.
Of course, the narrative shifted in 2021. Patterson came alive in Arthur Smith’s offense, setting career-highs in rushing yards (618), receiving yards (548) and total touchdowns (11). While he will still play a featured role on the offense this fall, Patterson also wants a shot at an all-time record.
He is tied with Josh Cribbs and Leon Washington for the most kickoff return touchdowns in NFL history (eight). It’s worth noting that Patterson attempted a career-low 18 kickoff returns last year, down from a career-high 35 in 2021. If the Falcons allow him to return 20-25 kicks, Patterson could set the record.
Aaron Donald storms into 100-sack club
Many already view Aaron Donald as the best defensive tackle in NFL history. While he certainly won’t finish his career as one of the all-time sack artists, the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and seven-time selection to the first-team All-Pro can add a milestone to his resume this year.
- Aaron Donald career stats: 226 quarterback hits, 150 tackles for loss, 98 sacks, 23 forced fumbles
Donald will likely record two sacks by Week 2, making him the 40th NFL player in recorded history to reach the 100-sack milestone. It’s an impressive feat in its own right, even if Donald isn’t the fastest to do it. What makes this unique is that he’ll join John Randle as the only primary defensive tackles officially credited with 100-plus sacks in their NFL career. Even the best defensive tackles in NFL history (Warren Sapp – 96.5 sacks, Bob Lilly – 95.5 sacks, Merlin Olsen – 91 sacks, “Mean” Joe Greene – 77.5 sacks) weren’t unofficially credited with the milestone.
Given the contract he signed this offseason, it’s clear that Donald won’t be hanging up his cleats anytime soon and that means he can just keep adding to his legacy as one of the best defensive linemen ever.
Tom Brady adds to historic NFL milestones
NFL milestones are synonymous with Tom Brady’s career. He holds practically every NFL passing record, both in the regular season and playoffs, ensuring he is recognized as the best quarterback ever. Naturally, he’s still not finished.
When Brady takes the field in Week 1, he instantly becomes the oldest starting quarterback in NFL history. It will surpass Steve Deberg (age 44) and tie Brady with Bobby Marshall for the oldest skill player to start an NFL game.
There’s zero reason to believe Father Time slows him down. From age 40-44, Brady threw for 22,938 passing yards with 168 touchdowns. Putting those numbers in perspective, it’s higher than the career totals from Marc Bulger (22,814), Staubach (22,700), Michael Vick (22,464), Sammy Baugh (21,886) and Jared Goff (21,416)
A 45-year-old quarterback with more than 100,000 career passing yards, 600-plus touchdowns and seven Super Bowl rings, breaking NFL milestones is simply what Brady does.