Arizona Cardinals : Running Back
Gambling that oft-injured Beanie Wells will be able to carry the load at halfback could be a huge mistake. Arizona was banking on rookie Ryan Williams as his backup when they traded Tim Hightower a few weeks ago, but now Williams is lost for the season with a knee injury.
Larod Stephens-Howling and Alfonso Smith is what is left on the depth chart, not exactly what many NFL teams would want to play an entire season with. Stephens-Howling is a diminutive third down specialist, while Smith sat mostly on the Cardinals practice squad last year.
When Wells has been healthy, he has been a bit of a 2009 first round draft pick failure. He averaged just 3.4 yards per carry last year, and has started just twice in his career.
The Big Red needs at least one more running back in camp now, but they will have to wait until a quality back becomes available. Teams like the New Orleans Saints are loaded with experienced backs, so the Cards maybe should wait until the Saints start to trim their crowded backfield.
Atlanta Falcons : Wide Receiver
The Falcons are certainly set with their top three pass catchers, but depth beyond that is questionable and mostly unproven. Eric Weems is a Pro Bowl return specialist with 13 career receptions over three years, but Atlanta may prefer not to throw the tiny Weems too many passes to keep him healthy.
Kerry Meier, a fifth-round draft pick last year who spent his rookie season on injured reserve, might get the job. Yet the Falcons will rely on 2011 first round draft pick Julio Jones heavily, so there is a chance the Falcons would like one more veteran on the depth chart.
Roddy White is the top target in the passing attack for Atlanta, but the fourth receiver has an important role in the high powered Atlanta offense. Bran Finneran, who spent 11 seasons with the team until retiring after last year, caught 19 passes and three touchdowns in that role last season.
The New York Giants have 10 receivers with NFL experience in camp, so maybe the Falcons should keep an eye on the Jints when they start cutting players.
Baltimore Ravens : Defensive Back
Baltimore lost three key players to free agency, none bigger than strong safety Dawan Landry. Yet the other two, Josh Wilson and Fabian Washington, were starters at cornerback. Chris Carr is the only returning starter at cornerback.
Drafting Jimmy Smith in the first round helped, as will the return of veteran Domonique Foxworth. Foxworth missed 2010 because of an injury.
Getting steady veteran Bernard Pollard to compete with Tom Zbikowski at strong safety was a good move. Free safety is set with future Hall of Famer Ed Reed backed up by versatile Lardarius Webb and Haruki Nakamura.
Yet the looming question is if to continue with Cary Williams or look to get an upgrade. The 13 games he appeared last year was a career best for the third-year pro. 2010 practice squad member Danny Gorrer and 2011 fifth round draft pick Chykie Brown, the third Texas Longhorn cornerback drafted this year, are also vying for this key job.
Baltimore carried five cornerbacks last year, and all were needed in a pass-happy NFL. Brown might have an edge on the job, but getting a proven veteran to add depth would not be a bad move either.
Buffalo Bills : Wide Receiver
Trading top receiver Lee Evans was a move for the future, but he will be missed this year. If you look at the group of receivers in the Bills camp now, it is hard to be impressed.
Steve Johnson, who caught 82 of his 94 career receptions in 2010, broke out last year. The fourth-year pro is now the primary receiver who is expected to have Roscoe Parrish as his bookend.
Questions begin after the starters. Brad Smith is a former college quarterback who is versatile enough to line up at receiver or running back. Yet he has always been a complimentary player instead of relied upon heavily.
Buster Davis never lived up to expectations with the San Diego Chargers for four years after the Bolts wasted a first round pick on him. Phil Hubbard is a fourth-year pro with one career catch whose career highlight is getting in trouble with the law a few weeks ago. Felton Huggins has been with the Bills practice squad since 2007.
David Nelson is a tall receiver who had some impact last year after making the team as an undrafted free agent rookie. Donald Jones, also undrafted last year, had five starts and 18 receptions for the Bills. Marcus Easley, drafted in the fourth round last year, spent 2010 on injured reserve.
Local product Naaman Roosevelt, yet another undrafted rookie, had nine catches and a start. Kamar Aiken is an undrafted rookie the Bills signed this year. He is a big kid who was last seen sending veteran Denver Broncos safety David Bruton to the hospital after Bruton attemped to tackle him after a catch.
Not exactly an inspiring group of receivers, on paper, that will put fear into opponents. Buffalo was 28th in scoring last year, and they will be hard pressed not to duplicate that feat in 2011.
This team should take a long look at the waiver wire, because gambling that the current corps can carry the team to victory in 2011 could end up being a huge mistake.
Carolina Panthers : Defensive End
Carolina has eight defensive tackles in camp and six defensive ends. Depth behind projected starters Charles Johnson, who had 11.5 sacks and 62 tackles last year, and 2011 first round pick Everette Brown is questionable.
Greg Hardy is good enough to challenge Brown for the staring job. In limited play during his 2010 rookie year, he got 30 tackles, three sacks, and a safety.
Eric Norwood, an undersized player drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, gave Carolina three tackles last year. He is the only other veteran defensive end in camp behind the starters.
The Panthers had a difficult time trying to stop the run last year. Their starting safeties had to come up often to help and combined for 163 tackles last year. They drafted defensive tackle Terrell McClain in the third round of the 2011 draft to help out inside.
The team has pass rushers at defensive end, but checking the waiver wire for a veteran who is good at stopping the run would help.
Chicago Bears : Blockers
The 2011 free agent signing of Chris Spencer was a good move, but the Bears first preseason game showed that the offensive line could still be an issue like last year. Quarterback Jay Cutler's few plays were of him running for his life whenever he wanted to pass.
Robert Garza has been a Bear since 2005, and the team knows they can rely on him. After that, there are a lot of unknowns in the unit.
J'Marcus Webb was a 2010 seventh-round selection who ended up being a starter at left tackle because 2008 first-round draft pick Chris Williams had to move to guard after not panning out at the position. 2011 first-round pick Gabe Carimi is expected to start at right tackle.
Besides the versatile Edwin Williams, depth has questions. Lance Louis has been with the Bears since 2009 and has four starts in 16 games in his career. Frank Omiyale has been in the league since 2005, yet has appeared in just 43 games.
The rest of the group consists of practice squad players and undrafted free agents. Chicago should see if any serviceable offensive linemen get released to improve the overall quality of depth on this unit.
Injuries often happen in the trenches, making reserves key players here. Chris Williams has already missed 10 games in his three years, further making it necessary for the Bears to look at the waiver wire intently.
Cincinnati Bengals : Defensive Line
Losing starting quarterback Carson Palmer this year is a tough, but necessary, move for the Bengals. The team looked so out of kilter in their preseason games, pundits are already predicting a miserable season for the team.
Their defensive line is full of players sought after out of college, yet quite a few haven't done well in the pros. Players like Jason Shirley and Victor Adeyanju are mid-round draft picks who have spent the bulk of their careers on practice squads.
Frostee Rucker has given Cincinnati only 61 tackles since being a third-round selection in 2006. Clinton McDonald, a seventh-round pick in 2009, has two career tackles. Jonathan Fanene has given the Bengals just 79 tackles since being drafted in 2005.
Geno Atkins is slated to start at defensive tackle and had just 16 tackles during his 2010 rookie year. Pat Sims is challenging Atkins for the job, but Sims has not exactly been stout against the run always. Domata Peko is the other projected starter at defensive tackle
Defensive end might be the best area along the Bengals defensive line. Michael Johnson's starting job might be in jeopardy this year after Carlos Dunlap had 9.5 sacks in 12 games during his 2010 rookie year. Robert Geathers, who has started in five of his last six years, is the nephew of former pass rushing great Jumpy Geathers.
The inside, besides Peko, is a question mark for a team that was 26th in points allowed in 2010. Depth at every position is certainly an issue, in terms of proven quality guys.
As the Bengals move into 2011 without offensive stars Palmer and Chad Ochocinco for the first time since 2003. The defense needs to pick up the slack, but the questions all along the defensive line may prevent that. The Bengals need to be active when the waiver wire becomes filled with free agents.
Cleveland Browns : Quarterback
Colt McCoy has Cleveland exited because he is a very promising quarterback capable of leading the Browns far one day. His backup is veteran Seneca Wallace, who has starters experience.
Yet that is as far as it goes. Undrafted rookie Troy Weatherhead and journeyman Jarrett Brown are not the answer as the third quarterback.
While Brown fans prefer Wallace doesn't even play, because that would mean McCoy was healthy all year, history has shown many teams requiring the services three or more quarterbacks in a season. The Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers both used four quarterbacks last season, and several teams saw three quarterbacks in action.
There will be serviceable quarterbacks cut during training camp. Players better than Brown or Weatherhead. Cleveland needs to recognize history and upgrade this situation as soon as possible.
Dallas Cowboys : Trench Help
When you look on both sides of the Cowboys trenches, it is hard to be impressed. This has been the weakness of the team for a few years and it appears it will be yet again in 2011.
Dallas did draft 20-year old rookie Tyron Smith in the first round this year to start at right tackle, and the Cowboys have hopes for him. Phil Costa, who made the team as an undrafted free agent rookie last year, is slated to start at left guard with only four career NFL games on his resume.
Left tackle Doug Free, center Andre Gurode, and guard Kyle Kosier return as starters for an offensive line that had their running backs ground out just 1,443 yards and eight scores last season.
The reserves consist of undrafted free agent rookies, 2011 fourth round choice David Arkin, journeymen Montrae Holland and Jeremy Parnell, and Sam Young, who appeared in just two games during his 2010 rookie year.
It doesn't get a lot better on the other side of the ball for Dallas either. Besides nose tackle Jay Ratliff and defensive end Igor Olshansky, there defensive line is riddled with questions.
Marcus Spears is expected to start at defensive end, but he has not given Dallas much since they used a first-round pick on him in 2005. The reserves are even more questionable.
Jouneyman Kenyon Coleman returns to Dallas since leaving them after the 2006 season. He is the only known commodity on the Cowboys bench for the defensive line.
Clifton Geathers is the younger brother of Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Robert Geathers. Dallas is his fourth team since being drafted last year. He is battling Jason Hatcher, who has been on the Cowboys bench since 2006, for the right to back up Olishansky.
Nose tackle is even worse. Sean Lissemore, Josh Brent, and Jimmy Sadler-McQueen are all fairly inexperienced players trying to back up Ratliff. This area could be an issue if Ratliff gets hurt, though he has hasn't missed a game in each of his last three Pro Bowl seasons.
Dallas will get pushed around again if they do not get better players along the line. This will force them to rely too heavily on the pass like last year. There will be NFL-caliber linemen cut in training camp, so getting these types in a Cowboys uniform would most likely represent an upgrade that their respective positions.
Denver Broncos : Defensive Tackle
While ESPN and all non-journalists huddle around the locker of third-string quarterback Tim Tebow, Denver has more important issues to address.
The Broncos were excited when they signed free agent defensive tackle Ty Warren this year, but that recently changed because Warren suffered a triceps injury and many think he will not play this season.
Marcus Thomas, who lost his starting job in 2008, will now be challenging journeyman Kevin Vickerson now to start next to Broderick Bunkley on a team that ranked last in points allowed last year. Denver was also second to last in run defense in 2010.
Vickerson played well at times last season, so he is expected by many to start. After that, the interior of the Broncos defense is a huge question.
Journeyman DeMario Pressley joins former defensive end Ryan McBean with undrafted rookie free agents Mitch Unrein and Ronnell Brown as the only defensive tackles left on the roster.
Denver has a lot of pass rushing defensive ends not known for being stout against the run, so the run stopping abilities from the defensive tackle position becomes even more important. The Broncos definitely need more proven players at this position, so watching the waiver wire may be their best option right now.
Detroit Lions : Running Back
Losing 2011 second-round pick Mikel LeShore hurts an up and coming team some think has what it takes to reach the playoffs this season. Detroit lost seven games in 2010 by eight or less points, an experience that typically matures teams and makes them better the following season.
LeShore was expected to be the "Mr. Inside" to Jahvid Best's "Mr. Outside." Best had a nice rookie season in 2010 when healthy, which wasn't very frequent. It became quickly apparent that Best is best used in passing downs with 10 to 15 carries a game.
Now with the loss of the back expected to pick up the slack, Detroit is scrambling for a replacement. Maurice Morris is a 10-year back whose best days are long behind him, which can also be said for journeyman Mike Bell.
Aaron Brown and Jerome Harrison are like Best, small backs best used in the passing attack. All that is left in camp is Ian Johnson, who has bounced around on several practice squads since entering the NFL in 2009.
All that is out there now is guys like Lendale White, Clinton Portis, Tiki Barber, Brian Westbrook, and Laurence Maroney. White is a back who specializes in carries between the tackles, so he may be an upgrade over Morris and Bell.
Detroit might have to wait until the final cuts to see what is out there, because it is doubtful the current backs in their camp offer much relief for Best.
Green Bay Packers : Defensive End
It is hard to pick a position on a defending champion that is bringing back nearly everyone after winning it all with seemingly half the roster injured.
Losing Cullen Jenkins to free agency hurt, considering the Packers haven't really replaced him. They did draft Lawrence Guy in the seventh round of this years draft, as well as invite free agents Chris Donaldson and Elisha Joseph to camp.
Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson might be fine with the current group of defensive linemen and do nothing. But it is a group that, other than B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett, is comprised of young unproven players like Mike Neal, C.J. Wilson, and Jay Ross along with veteran journeyman Howard Green.
Houston Texans : Wide Receiver
After Andre Johnson, one of the best in the game, there is a big drop in talent at wide receiver for Houston. This will make the tight end a very key member of the passing attack.
Kevin Walter is a nice possession type who works best in the slot, he and Jacoby Jones both caught 51 passes in 2010. Yet both combined to average just over 11 yards per reception. While both are solid, they are best as complimentary players as opposed to starters.
Journeyman Devard Darling has six NFL years under his belt, but spent last year in the UFL. He has the ability to stretch the field, but consistency has always been his issue. The same can be said for Paul Williams, who also didn't play last year after four years with the Tennessee Titans.
Dorin Dickerson is a former collegiate tight end who was drafted in the seventh round last season. He spent 2010 on the practice squad as he makes the transition to wide receiver. The rest of the wide receivers unit is practice squad types and undrafted free agents.
There may not be superstar quality to hit the NFL waiver wire in the coming days, but there could be players who represent an upgrade over what the Texans have on their roster right now. Getting a solid receiver to bookend Johnson would help the team a lot.
Indianapolis Colts : Defensive Linemen
The Colts signed free agents Tommie Harris, Tyler Brayton, and Jammal Anderson to help their porous defensive line. They also selected defensive tackle Drake Nevis in the third round on the 2011 draft.
The returns have been less than promising so far in preseason. The run defense has given up 384 yards, 19 first downs, and three touchdowns in their first two games. This is cause for concern, even the casual fan tries to write it off as "just preseason."
The Colts seem to go as far as quarterback Peyton Manning takes them, but Manning will have difficulty if opponents run down his teams throats and control the clock each week. As great as the future Hall of Famer is, time of possession control typically wins games in the NFL.
Getting better players to stop the run is needed by Indianapolis. They have two undersized pass rushing defensive ends in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, yet neither is exactly stout against the run.
Colts general manager Bill Polian will need to watch the waiver wire and hope a run stuffing defensive lineman becomes available. If not, the Colts will suffer much of 2011 with their current group.
Jacksonville Jaguars : Linebacker
The Jags plunked down $45 million on oft-injured free agent middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, a tackling machine when healthy. They also signed Clint Session, who has played all 16 games just once in his four years.
Daryl Smith, drafted by the Jags in the second round of the 2004 draft, has the most tackles in team history. He has played every linebacker position for Jacksonville and seems to get better yearly. Smith is expected to start with Posluszny and Session.
After that, the questions begin with this unit. Important questions considering two of the starters have histories of not finishing seasons because of injury.
Russell Allen made the Jacksonville roster in 2009 as an undrafted rookie. He has nine starts, so the Jaguars feel comfortable with him backing up Posluszny.
Gerris Wilkerson is a veteran outside linebacker entering his sixth year. He earned a Super Bowl ring in 2007 and brings a winners attitude to the team.
He will compete with a pair of undrafted players who made the Jags roster last year in Jacob Cutera and Kyle Bosworth, the nephew of former NFL player Brian "The Boz" Bosworth, for the backup position.
Slade Norris has minimal NFL experience, having spent most of his two years in the NFL on practice squads. Aaron Morgan is the third undrafted linebacker who earned a spot on the Jacksonville roster last season. Promising Scott Lutrus and Michael Lockley are a pair of undrafted rookies also trying to make the team.
Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio played 12 years in the NFL as a linebacker. Mark Duffner, a former head coach of the University of Maryland, is his linebackers coach. The pair, along with defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, know what they are doing.
Yet a group of undrafted and unproven players backing up starters known to get hurt frequently does not look good on paper at least. Perhaps grabbing a linebacker or two, with sound NFL experience, off the waiver wire would help upgrade the Jacksonville linebackers unit.
Kansas City Chiefs : Quarterback
The story of Chiefs starting quarterback Matt Cassel is like straight from a movie. A career backup in college. he made the New England Patriots team in 2005 after being drafted in the seventh round. He got to back up future Hall of Famer Tom Brady with the Patriots as he learned his craft.
All of his schooling came to fruition in 2008, when he was thrust onto the field after Brady was hurt in the first game. Cassel won 10 games that year, forcing New England to place a franchise tag on him.
He was then traded to the Chiefs, and Cassel has won 14 games in his two seasons with the young and improving Chiefs. While he has yet to get hurt, the backups on Kansas City are far from being considered excellent.
Tyler Palko is fighting 2011 fifth-round draft pick Ricky Stanzi for the right to back Cassel up. Palko has just a little more experience, having bounced around on six different professional football teams since 2007.
Yet neither are what experts would consider ready to lead the team if Cassel goes down to injury. Kansas City may want to check that waiver wire for veteran quarterbacks cut in the next few weeks, if there will be any in a league that has very few good ones at the position despite all the rules that try to help the quarterback succeed.
Miami Dolphins : Wide Receiver
Miami has Brandon Marshall, who has had a drama-filled career in the NFL, and Davone Bess as their starting wide receivers. Third-year pro Brian Hartline, who started 12 games last year, also had a decent season in 2010.
It is an uncertain group after them. Journeymen like Patrick Carter and John Matthews are fighting second-year undrafted players like Roberto Wallace and Marlon Moore for roster spots.
Julius Pruitt is a practice squad player who also wants a job, as does undrafted free agent rookie Phillip Livas. Speedy Clyde Gates, who the Dolphins selected in the fourth round of the 2011 draft, is also in the mix.
The top three receivers are set in Miami, but the inexperience that follows has to be cause for concern. Miami want to snag a veteran off the waiver wire just in case one of their starters gets hurt.
Minnesota Vikings : Defensive Tackle
Losing run stuffer Pat Williams to retirement forced Minnesota to draft Christian Ballard. The Vikings have a huge contingent of players in camp after losing several key players from last season.
Not only did they bring in eight defensive ends, Minnesota has seven defensive tackles in camp. The only defensive tackle that is a known commodity is Pro Bowler Kevin Williams.
Letroy Guion was drafted by the Vikings in 2008, but it took until last year for him to contribute. Fred Evans has been a Viking five years and has 34 tackles. Minnesota is the seventh team Remi Ayodele has been on since 2006, but he did win a Super Bowl ring with the New Orleans Saints in 2009 and has been a starter the last two years after bouncing around the NFL.
Tremaine Johnson has spent the last two years on the Vikings practice squad. Colby Whitlock is an undrafted free agent rookie trying to stick.
Losing a Pro Bowler who clogged the middle of the defence since 2005 hurts, and getting a player with any semblance of those abilities is a daunting task. Ballard was a bit of a steal in the fourth round, since some draft pundits had him gone in the second round.
Ayodele is capable of starting for the Vikings, but it would not be a bad idea looking at the waiver wire for a proven veteran to flesh out the rotation on the depth chart.
New England Patriots : Outside Linebacker
It is hard to point out any kind of weakness on a team as loaded with talent as the Patriots, yet the outside linebacker position has typically been the spot of New England in many of the 11 years Bill Belichick has been their head coach.
Jermaine Cunningham was a second-round pick last year who collected just 34 tackles in his rookie year. After playing in just eight games in his first three years for two teams in the NFL, Rob Ninkovich has played in 31 for the Patriots since 2009. He started 10 games last year and is expected to start again this season.
The reserves are a potpourri of unknowns. Dane Fletcher gave the Pats a pair of sacks in the 13 games he appeared in during his 2010 rookie year after making the team as a undrafted free agent.
Eight-year veteran Niko Koutouvides is hoping to add quality depth, as is 2011 sixth-round draft pick Markell Carter. It is a young group that will be mentored by defensive coordinator, and former NFL linebacker, Pepper Johnson, Patrick Graham, and Belichick.
While Belichick may add a veteran to this unit from the waiver wire, he may be content with what he has now on his roster.
New Orleans Saints : Defensive Line
After watching the Houston Texans gain near 150 yards on the ground, while averaging about 10 yards per carry in the first half, the Saints newly acquired defensive linemen looked like last years group.
Aubrayo Franklin, Shaun Rogers, and Turk McBride were brought in as free agents, as was 2011 first-round draft pick Cameron Jordan. The Saints are hoping the performance against the Texans was a one time thing.
Journeymen Mitch King and Tom Johnson join unproven players like Junior Galette to try to help out. Fifth-year pro Jeff Charleston had the best year of his career in 2010 with the Saints.
Veteran defensive ends Alex Brown and Will Smith start, and the pair combined for 77 tackles and 7.5 sacks last season. Not exactly superb numbers from a pair that should be in their prime right now.
New Orleans has allowed 344 yards and three scores at an average of over 5.5 yards per carry during the preseason so far. Getting better is a must, and it may take getting a few guys off the waiver wire for them to do so.
New York Giants : Tight End
You'd think that losing Terrell Thomas, Brian Witherspoon, and Bruce Johnson for the year would have the G-Men looking for cornerbacks. You may be correct but the team has depth there. Aaron Ross and Corey Webster have starting experience.
Joe Burnett has NFL experience, and Brian Jackson has been on practice squads since 2009. Factor in 2011 top pick Prince Amukamara, the Jints look decent here if he returns soon from a foot injury.
But losing starting tight end Kevin Boss to free agency might hurt. Journeymen Daniel Coats and Bear Pascoe are known mostly for their blocking. Jake Ballard spent his 2010 rookie year on the practice squad as an undrafted free agent.
This possibly leaves the pass catching onus on Travis Beckum, who was a third-round selection by the Giants in 2009. Beckum has just 21 receptions so far in his career.
While the Giants are filled with excellent wide receivers on their roster, getting a tight end who can do even half the job Boss once did would help. New York thought they had that when they signed free agent Ben Patrick, but Patrick suddenly retired five days after joining the team.
Getting an upgrade for tight end or conerback off the waiver wire might be the way to go.
New York Jets : Wide Receiver
Getting free agents Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason were good moves, even if both are 34 and 37-years old respectively. Their experience should mesh well with Santonio Holmes in the receivers corps.
Yet there are questions after this trio. Third-year pro Patrick Turner has two career receptions, and fifth-year veteran Logan Payne has three.
The rest are rookies. Scotty McKnight was a seventh-round pick this year, and Jeremy Kerley was selected in the fifth round. Undrafted free agents Courtney Smith, Dan DePalma, and Michael Campbell are also trying to make the team.
If any of the veteran trio gets injured, the Jets could be in trouble if they decide to go with the unproven youngsters. Claiming a proven veteran off the waiver wire may be a wise move.
Oakland Raiders : Wide Receiver
The Raiders have a young group at wide receiver, so inconsistency has been prevalent with this group. Darrius Heyward-Bay has just 35 career receptions since being the seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft.
Louis Murphy, picked in the fourth round of the same draft, has 75 receptions. Chaz Schilens was drafted in 2008 and has 49 career catches. Shaun Bodiford, who has bounced around the league since 2006, has one career reception.
Derek Hagan has 64 receptions since joining the NFL in 2006. Chad Jackson, who also entered the league in 2006, has 14 career receptions. Nick Miller, now entering his third season with the Raiders, has three career receptions.
Jacoby Ford electrified the NFL in his 2010 rookie season by setting a Raiders team record with three touchdowns off kickoff returns. He also found time to catch 25 balls at an impressive 18.8 yards per catch average.
Raider wide receivers gave the team just 112 receptions in 2010, three less than both Andre Johnson and Roddy White had by themselves last year. This unit needs to step up in 2011 if Oakland wants to seriously compete for the AFC West title.
It is very rare a team gets a player off the waiver wire who can contribute a Pro Bowl performance with their new team, but Oakland could settle for a savvy veteran who knows how to get open running crisp routes. Newly hired offensive coordinator Al Saunders will have his hands full if the Raiders decide to go another season with a group of youngsters trying to learn on the fly.
Philadelphia Eagles : Linebacker
Vince Young put a target on the Eagles early by dubbing them the "Dream Team." The rest of the NFL had already seen the team load up their roster with top free agents, so Young's words provide them nothing but inspiration.
Yet this stacked team still has areas of concern. None are bigger than linebacker. The three linebackers Philadelphia plans to start has 132 career tackles combined.
Moise Fokou is the graybeard of the starters, having been selected in the seventh round of the 2009 draft. Jamar Cheney, who was selected in the seventh round of the 2010 draft, will bookend him at outside linebacker.
The starting middle linebacker with be rookie Casey Matthews, who comes from one of the NFL's most famous families. His grandfather Clay Matthew Sr. played offensive tackle in the 1950's. His dad, Clay Jr,, played 19 years as an NFL linebacker. His older brother, Clay Matthews III, is a Pro Bowl linebacker for the world champion Green Bay Packers.
If that wasn't enough legacy, his uncle is Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews. His cousin, Kevin Matthews, is being coached by Bruce as a center for the Tennessee Titans.
At 6'1" 231, Casey Matthews is not the prototypical size to play middle linebacker. Yet he has more than his expert family to learn from. Linebackers coach Mike Caldwell played 11 years in the NFL as a linebacker.
After this young trio, the backups are even more questionable. Akeem Jordan has been with the team since 2007 and has 178 career tackles. Rashad Jeanty has been in the NFL since 2006 and has 214 career tackles.
Keenan Clayton was drafted in the fourth round last year and had 11 tackles in the seven games he played in. Greg Lloyd Jr., the son of former Pro Bowl linebacker Greg Lloyd Sr., was picked in the seventh round of the 2011 draft. Brian Rolle was selected in the sixth round of this years draft.
This young unit is unknown by everyone but the Eagles coaching staff. The team may go with these kids, but it wouldn't be a bad move to snag any veteran linebackers who finds their way on the waiver wire.
Pittsburgh Steelers : Tight End
The Steelers are loaded with talent, so picking the tight end position in need of depth upgrade is reaching.
Heath Miller is the starter, as he has been his entire six seasons since drafted by Steelers in 2005. Veteran John Gilmore has played since 2002 because he is an excellent blocker.
After those two, Pittsburgh basically has H-Backs. David Johnson is used as a blocking fullback, as is Jamie McCoy. These two are vying to become the starting fullback.
Undrafted free agents Miguel Chavis, Vaughn Charlton, and Weslye Saunders are all trying to make the team. Saunders is an intriguing prospect.
He was rated a first-round talent by some with his 6'5" 267 frame and soft hands, then was told he would be ineligible for the draft because he violated team rules in college and did not play in 2010 after lying to the NCAA. He was reinstated later on, but went undrafted.
Yet Pittsburgh may want to take a look at any veteran tight ends on the waiver wire to add more quality depth.
Saint Louis Rams : Defensive Tackle
The young Rams are just about everyone's list as the next surprising team to make the playoffs in 2011. They have built a strong team in their rebuilding process over that last few years, and are just lacking in experience in some areas.
The one area that could use more proven bodies is at defensive tackle. Fred Robbins and Justin Bannon are a pair of wily veterans who should start this year. Darell Scott, entering his third year with the team, will try to back them up.
Gary Gibson, who started last year but gave the team just 18 tackles, returns. Daniel Muir has been in the NFL since 2007 and has 23 career tackles. Jermelle Cudjo had 13 tackles as an undrafted rookie last year.
Undrafted rookie John Henderson is the other defensive tackle in camp. Looking at the depth chart at this position, it is hard to get excited past the starters. The Rams may want to consider upgrading here by checking the waiver wire in the weeks to come.
San Diego Chargers : Running Back
Ryan Mathews had a tough 2010 rookie season, missing four games because of injury. The Bolts turned to fullback Mike Tolbert to carry the load, and he responded by leading the team in rushing and scoring 11 times.
San Diego lost Darren Sproles to free agency, so their best pass catching back left on the roster now may be Tolbert. Jacob Hester has given next to nothing since the Chargers reached on him in the third round of the 2008 draft.
Curtis Brinkley made the team as an undrafted rookie in 2009, but wasn't able to play until the next year after being shot by unknown assailants. He has just two career carries. Frank Summers was signed as a free agent, and he is a lot like Tolbert and Hester in that fullback who can play some halfback mold.
Jordan Todman slid to the sixth round of the 2011 draft, but the diminutive back is leading the team in rushing and receiving this preseason. Shawnbry McNeil, Dean Rogers, Brandon Sullivan, and Isaac Odim are all free agents trying to make the team.
If Mathews has another season interrupted by injuries this year, Tolbert will be the main rushing weapon. Yet there doesn't seem to be much behind him if he gets hurt. San Diego might want to watch the waiver wire to improve the quality of their reserves.
San Francisco 49ers : Defensive End
Signing veteran journeyman Josh McCown just barely took quarterback off this list here, but this is a weak position for the team because their starter is inconsistent and their rookie project will take several years to be ready.
After starting defensive end Justin Smith, who has made the Pro Bowl the last two seasons, the other end position has opened up. Isaac Sopoaga moves back to nose tackle to replace the departed Aubrayo Franklin after playing defensive end for the past three years.
Ray McDonald, who has mostly been a reserve since the Niners used a third-round pick on him in 2007, is expected to start. Will Tukuafu, Demarcus Dobbs, and Brian Bulke are all undrafted and unproven.
To say San Francisco is dreadfully thin at defensive end is a kind understatement. This team really needs to scour the waiver wire to upgrade the depth at this position.
Seattle Seahawks : Middle Linebacker
David Hawthorne moves back to middle linebacker after playing on the outside last year. The fourth-year pro, who made the team as an undrafted rookie, had 116 tackles and four interceptions playing in the middle during the 2009 season.
If he gets hurt, Seattle has two unknowns behind him. Rookie K.J. Wright, who was drafted in the fourth round, and Michael Johnson, who tried out for the team last year, are trying to backup Hawthorne.
It may be a good move for Seattle to get a proven player behind Hawthorne. Since Seattle was 21st in rushing yards allowed last season, this would be smart in case one of their better defenders season is cut short by injury.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers : Running Back
Losing reserve halfback Cadillac Williams may hurt more than expected. LeGarrette Blount resurrected his career last season by gaining 1,007 yards at a five yards per carry average. Earnest Graham, who was the teams feature back in 2007, has become a blocking fullback.
After those two, the questions begin. Kregg Lumpkin, who has been in the NFL since 2008, has two career carries. Allen Bradford was drafted in the sixth round this season and leads the Bucs in rushing this preseason. Yet he and Blount are averaging just two yards per carry so far.
Tampa Bay is gambling Blount is not a one-year wonder. If he is, there could be problems unless the Buccaneers grab a proven running back off the waiver wire to back him up.
Tennessee Titans : Outside Linebacker
Signing underrated free agent middle linebacker Barrett Ruud helps fill the huge hole the departed Stephen Tulloch left. But the outside linebackers of the Titans are a mix of experience and unknown youth.
Will Witherspoon enters his 11th season in the league. He is solid at every linebacker position, and has been a consistent tackler wherever he has played. He will have Akeem Ayers, the Titans second-round pick this year, bookending him.
Gerald McRath, Tim Shaw, Patrick Bailey, Rennie Curran, John Stokes, and Jonathan Cornell vie for the reserve jobs. McRath has started 12 games since being drafted in 2009 by Tennessee.
Shaw is on his fourth team since 2007 and is mostly a special teams contributor. Bailey has also contributed mainly on special teams since he joined the NFL in 2008, and has a Super Bowl ring. Curran was drafted in the third round by Tennessee last year, and collected just seven tackles all season.
Ayers is a raw prospect who left college a year early to join the NFL. McRath is a good backup for him in case the youngster isn't ready to start. Yet the rest of the reserves are an unknown commodity.
Tennessee may decide to go with Curran an the other main backup, but it isn't a bad idea to see if the waiver wire can produce more quality depth.
Washington Redskins : Inside Linebacker
London Fletcher appears ageless, but the 36-year old will have to retire eventually. Rocky McIntosh starts next to him, but some critics feel he is a better fit as an outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense.
The Redskins are using converted defensive ends as outside linebackers, so the middle linebackers ability to tackle sideline to sideline becomes even more crucial. The people who back up the starters here are questionable.
Perry Riley was drafted in the fourth round last year, and it appears he is being groomed to one day take over for Fletcher. Keyaron Fox and Horatio Blades are mostly noted for their special teams contributions. Evan McBride is an undrafted free agent rookie trying to make the team.
If an experienced middle linebacker hits the waiver wire, the Redskins should seriously consider signing him. Fletcher and McIntosh rarely get hurt, but having an emergency backup plan isn't a bad idea in case Riley isn't up to the job just yet.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Chris Johnson is the best running back in the NFL today, and has been the past few seasons. He has accomplished this respect despite having virtually no help on offense besides his blockers.
Now Johnson wants to get paid like he is amongst the best in the NFL. The problem is that he plays a position where the average career doesn't last even two years. Gambling that a running back reliant on his speed can keep up his current pace after 925 carries in his first three seasons seems a bad bet to some.
Yet Johnson, the 2009 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, has gone to the Pro Bowl all three years. His $12 million contract pales in comparison to the $40 million five-year deal Minnesota Vikings star halfback Adrian Peterson has.
Why Titans owner Bud Adams has allowed Johnson to miss so much training camp is bewildering. Adams is a maverick owner known for being aggressive to help his team win.
One of the original owners to kick-start the American Football League in 1960, Adams got the AFL front page headlines on most newspapers right away. He did this by taking on the established and powerful NFL.
Billy Cannon had just won the 1959 Heisman Trophy and was at the top of everyone's list as the most desired college football player in the 1960 draft. Pete Rozelle was still the general manager of the Los Angeles Rams, but was about to assume the duties of NFL commissioner for the next 30 years.
Rozelle made it no secret the Rams, who owned the first pick of the 1960 NFL Draft, was going to select Cannon. Adams decided to go a route few saw coming.
During the 1959 Sugar Bowl, Adams found his way along the sideline. When the game ended, he approached Cannon and got him to sign an AFL contact to play with Adam's Houston Oilers. The Oilers, now named the Titans after moving to Tennessee in 1997, would win the first two AFL titles.
Rozelle was not pleased with how Adams got Cannon on his team, so he threatened legal action. Adams took the NFL to court and won. But he was not done helping stabilize the AFL. Adams was crucial in helping a struggling New York Titans franchise, now named the Jets, stay in business.
These were critical moves that gave the AFL more power and eventually force the NFL to merge the two leagues. Adams vision is big reason the AFC is in existence today.
You'd think a man that aggressive would not lollygag about and let his best player twist in the wind. Especially since the team just hired a new head coach and got rid of a quarterback who was supposed to be a star there for years.
Adams certainly hasn't lost the fire in his gut at 88-years old, as was seen in 2009 when Adams gave the bird to Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson during the Titans 41-14 victory. Old friends who started the AFL together, the playful Adams was eventually fined $250,000 for his obscene gesture.
Yet not giving Johnson a contract worthy of his skills may be the more obscene gesture that Adams has given in years. Typically overly generous and loyal to his team, Adams is not doing himself any favors by dragging on this contact dispute.
Johnson is in Titans headquarters trying to get a contact done so he can play football again. While Adams might want some clauses in the contract he eventually offers, because of the tenuous life an NFL running back lives, he should allow Johnson the opportunity to play and earn a paycheck that is along the lines of Peterson's huge contract.
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Norm Willey passed away at the age of 83-years old in Newark, Delaware on August 18, 2011. While many young Philadelphia Eagles fans may know nothing about him, he is one of the greatest defensive players in franchise history.
He was drafted by the Eagles in the 13th round of the 1950 draft. He was the 170th player picked overall. Nicknamed "Wild Man" by his teammates, Willey was known for for his reckless abandon on the field.
After a exceptional career in both football and basketball in college, Willey was later inducted into the Marshall University Athletics Hall of Fame. He quickly earned a starting job for the Eagles and intercepted a pass in his rookie year, taking it 41-yards for a touchdown. He also had a career high four fumbles recovered that year.
Willey picked off the last pass of his career in 1952 and scored the last touchdown of his career off of a fumble recovery in 1954. But Willey did more than tackle opponents. He also caught 2 passes for 50 yards in 1954.
He was named to his first Pro Bowl and lone All-Pro team that year. Willey would then make his final Pro Bowl team in 1955.
He retired after the 1957 season at 30-years old. Though he left the Eagles, he stayed in the area and dedicated his life to teaching kids both on and off the gridiron.
Teaching physical education and football, as well as being a driving instructor, Willy had a tremendous impact on Pennsville, New Jersey. The the Norm Willey Boot trophy is awarded annually to the winner of the Pennsville-Pennsgrove football game.
Willey is one of the best pass rushers in the history of the Eagles, even if the record books cannot give him the respect he deserves. The NFL did not start recording the quarterback sack statistic officially until 1982. Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas had seven sacks in one game during the 1990 season, and this is called the NFL record.
"I guess I came along too soon," Willey once said."I'd get two or three a game, but no one kept count. If I played today, I'd be setting records and getting rich. Back then, no one paid attention to the defense."
Willey sacked New York Giants quarterback Charlie Conerly 17 times in one game during the 1952 season. A game that New York writers in that era said "Willey's the greatest defensive end we have ever seen, and probably the greatest we'll ever see."
Giants Hall of Fame halfback Frank Gifford once wrote that Willey was "very fast and we were very slow." Conerly left the field bleeding and limping, and Eagles coach Jim Trimble argued with the Giants chaplain, because the chaplain felt Conerly was abused too much.
Named the NFL Player of the Week for his monstrous day, Willey said the best moment was collecting $170 in incentive bonuses. Paid just $9,000 yearly, Willey was given $10 each time he hit the opposing quarterback.
It is a shame so many defensive statistics were overlooked for decades by the NFL, and it took until the 1980's for the league to start officially recognizing important ones like sacks and tackles. If Willey's day had been an official stat, it may sit along other notable accomplishments like Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak.
The "Wild Man" should be in the Eagles Ring of Honor. Not just for his Pro Bowls and incredible amount of sacks, but for what he did for the surrounding community for 60 years of his life.
Rest in Peace Norman Earle Willey.
Friday, August 19, 2011
Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison should consider nicknames like "Truth", "Nostradamus", or "The Thinker".
It has been the outspoken Harrison who has constantly railed against the NFL machine that Roger Goodell is the figurehead overseer of. He has said Goodell a "crook and a puppet", and also said that "I hate him and will never respect him.”
Pure gospel to any real football fan and any man who has played the game. Goodell gets praise for drawing a hard line on misbehavior, but he often crosses the line because his ego feels it subjugates the media and players. His minions whose only duty is to blindly follow any of his decisions to the letter.
Now Goodell has overstepped his job description again at the expense of Terrelle Pryor. Pryor, who wants to be a quarterback, is going to be involved in the 2011 NFL Supplemental Draft.
To say Goodell has destroyed Pryor's draft stock and potential earnings throughout his career could be construed as accurate by some observers. Pryor is being forced by Goodell to serve a five-game suspension for infractions incurred at college, not the NFL.
While Pryor broke NCAA rules that would have forced him to miss five games for the Ohio State Buckeyes this season, if he had stayed in college, Goodell decided that his league still held jurisdiction over this matter. As if NCAA football was nothing more than a minor league system owned by the NFL.
Pryor already was heading to the NFL with a lot of baggage, no matter how his agent Drew Rosenhaus tried to ignore it. Pryor is a big athlete, but it is highly doubtful he will ever play quarterback in the NFL with his questionable fundamentals and abilities.
His best position most likely lies elsewhere on the field. Wide receiver, tight end, and even linebacker has been the opinion of several experts who have followed him since he began play at Ohio State.
Knowing this, teams may take a chance on him as early as the fourth round of the draft. Not this first, as his agent keeps telling anyone who will listen. The reasons are not based on purported character flaws, but the lack of ability to play the quarterback position at the next level.
Even with all the rules the NFL has put into place since 1978 to make a quarterbacks job easier, Pryor's footwork, release point, arm strength, decision-making abilities, and overall field vision are just some mechanics that will take too many years to refine enough to see if he has what it takes.
Goodell acted like the hunter in this decision, but he could soon become the hunted if Pryor plays this right. Goodell's ego has unwittingly put the NFL in a dangerous position.
This is saying something for an entity so strong, they had their television blackout rule pass through the U.S. Senate, Congress, and White House in mere hours. Besides maybe a declaration of war, rarely has this occurred in the history of the United States.
One day you may hear Pryor say he was defamed by Goodell's ruling, which also affected his earning potential and overall confidence in himself. The kind of rhetoric you often hear in lawsuits throughout the planet. If he ever is deemed to have a case, Pryor could sue for many more millions of dollars than any player in the history of the NFL has ever made.
It could also teach Goodell and the NFL to stay within their boundaries. While a powerful league, they are supposed to represent professional football while colleges represent amateurs in all sports they play.
Goodell has now firmly placed himself in the cellar of the worst commissioner in NFL history, probably even surpassing Joe Carr. Carr was the second ever president of the NFL from 1921 to 1939, replacing Hall of Famer and Olympic hero Jim Thorpe, and had his own issues between amateurs and professionals.
While Carr was known for acting swiftly on teams using college players then, mainly because the college game was perceived as superior to the National Football League in that era, he is forever linked to one bad decision.
The Pottsville Maroons joined the NFL in 1925 and proceeded to win the NFL title. They then took on Notre Dame University in an exhibition game, because the Fighting Irish featured the "Four Horsemen". The purpose of the game was to bring credibility to the NFL.
After the Maroons told Carr of their intentions to play the game, discrepancies soon arose. Pottsville claimed they had Carr's blessing, while Carr said he gave the team three separate warnings not to play the game.
Pottsville won the game, which helped boost the popularity of the league. Carr, however, took away the Maroons NFL title and gave it to the Chicago Cardinals, a franchise that still proudly holds onto that trophy today. The Maroons folded in 1929.
Now Goodell's decision has replaced Carr's error in the scale of epic buffoonery of poor choices in NFL history. It comes as no shock to anyone who has followed the career of the son of a former United States Senator whose contacts with the league gave his kid a job in 1982.
While the NFL career of Terrelle Pryor might not amount to much on the gridiron, he could have a long lasting impact on the league itself. An impact brought on by the bloated ego of Roger Goodell.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Becoming the poster child for the current version of the "All-American Boy" almost never happened for the big kid with the goofy smile and "Aw shucks" attitude. His mom was ill while pregnant with him and doctors urged her to abort a child that could be stillborn.
Ignoring medical advice, she carried out a pregnancy that gave the media someone to talk about at every turn on the hype highway. Tim Tebow has more reasons for them to like him besides cheating death before even being born.
Home-schooled by a family with Christian beliefs, Tebow soon incurred some controversy as a home-schooled student when he played football for a nearby high school. Though he started out playing linebacker and tight end, he soon became Florida's Player of the Year twice and his legend began to grow by playing a game on a broken leg.
ESPN began following him at this time and even did a show featuring Tebow and labeled him "The Chosen One". A top recruit, he decided to attend the University of Florida.
The media kept following him, this time in greater numbers. Not only did they have Tebow confess he was a virgin, they printed and recorded the question and answer that had nothing to do with football. The purpose of the question was to add to the mystique that was often found on an ESPN broadcast somewhere seemingly daily.
All of this publicity came despite the fact he was a backup, something that would come about again in five years. Tebow played as a freshman, and even played a key role in helping the Gators win the 2006 National Championship.
He started from his sophomore year on and became the first home-schooled athlete to win the Heisman Trophy Award. Tebow was also the first underclassman ever to win the award.
Though he was never able to tie Archie Griffin's record of winning the Heisman twice, he did lead Florida to another championship in 2008 and won the Maxwell Award twice. Many media members would be so bold to call Tebow the greatest college football player ever.
Yet critics would say that he would never have success as a quarterback in the NFL. Tebow ran the position kind of like a mix of a throw-back player and fullback in college, opting to run over defenders and toss jump passes more often than any other contemporary quarterback.
The Denver Broncos did not care to listen to the critics. They traded up in the 2009 Draft to use the 25th overall selection to grab Tebow. While many in the media had been wondering incessantly throughout the draft why Tebow hadn't been drafted yet, critics expected him to keep falling to possibly even the third round.
Now a Bronco, the cameras keep a few feet away constantly recording every Tebow move. The most popular reserve in the NFL, his jersey was a hot-selling item that set records. It had been the top-selling jersey every month since he was drafted for many months.
While spotted in six games in the beginning of his career, the Broncos lost their starting quarterback and were forced to start Tebow for three games. He became the first quarterback in NFL history to run for a touchdown in each of his first three career starts.
While his passing numbers were far from gaudy, they were certainly better than the critics expected. The 82.1 quarterback rating he had as a rookie was impressive for a kid no one thought would ever be an effective professional quarterback.
Now in his second season, the hype highway has intensified with more bodies and pressure in the way. His name is mentioned constantly on television and the Internet is strewn with tons of articles discussing if this is the year Tebow begins his career as a starter.
The problem is that last years starter, Kyle Ortin, has outperformed Tebow in camp by a pretty wide margin. Tebow's fans will say practice is unimportant, that the play on the field during a game matters most.
In the Broncos first 2011 preseason game, Orton was not sharp in his few plays. Tebow was sharp with one incompletion against backup defenders on the Dallas Cowboys. Still, Tebow's head coach John Fox called the youngster a work in progress who made a few bad reads.
With his unconventional release and style of play, Tebow is a unique player. Some think his style best works as a spot player. One reporter compared Tebow to 1984 Heisman winner Doug Flutie.
Flutie, about eight inches shorter than Tebow, lasted 11 rounds before being drafted. After a season in the United States Football League, Flutie joined the NFL as the USFL folded.
He soon found himself on the field playing, but the results were not as hoped. Flutie then bolted for the Canadian Football League and became a star. He played in the CFL for eight years and won three titles. He was also named the CFL's Most Outstanding Player six times.
Flutie then returned to the NFL in 1998 and became a Pro Bowler. He played to the age of 43 and became the first NFL player in 65 years to convert a successful drop kick.
While a trip to the CFL is an unlikely route for Tebow, it may take some time before the Broncos are ready to let him lead the team. But his teammates will tell you Tebow displays a an obvious burning desire to win.
With his religious beliefs, humble attitude, and desire to fulfill his childhood dream to becoming a great NFL quarterback, the media has bought in full force. There have been stories of him quoted as saying his Broncos starting job was “grabbed back away” when Orton was not traded recently.
But the negative press rolls off his back like water on a duck, leaving him unscathed. Well
insulated with a huge fanbase, the loyalty of the press will stay persistent no matter how much of Tebow's 2011 season is spent on the bench.
It appears Tebow can do no wrong to a group of writers, which reminds some of Brett Favre. Favre, who retired last year after 20 years as a player, still gets brought up in stories for a possible return this year.
While Favre won one Super Bowl and set several records as a player, he also left the game with the most fumbles, times sacked, and interceptions thrown in an era of football where the NFL constantly bent the rule in a quarterbacks favor to ensure success.
Tebow hasn't thrown a teammate under the bus yet for holding out while being the highest paid player in team history like Favre did. Nor are there any reports of purported sexual harassment either.
Yet there are similarities that extend beyond the fact both men play quarterback. Favre also lived under the media microscope and was trumpeted as the greatest player ever innumerous times.
Favre could do no wrong himself, even if reports of wrong doing were running rampant. He was given a pass at every turn and ESPN dropped his name seemingly every ten minutes on all broadcasts for many years.
With him now away from the game, the mantle has been filled by the kid who has had a media shadow since he was 17-years old. Tebow handles the things well, but has also lamented the constant process of being interviewed repeatedly and practically daily.
He will be only 24-years old soon, but the target is set firmly on his back. Opponents have stated they will try to hit Tebow with all of their abilities. That pressure alone would buckle most, let alone the constant attention he receives from a large group of reporters following him.
While appearing bashful at being given the throne Favre reigned for so many years, Tebow appears to understand the perks that go with it. Whether all of this hype gets him on the field with a successful career remains to be seen, but the media will make sure we witness every second of it.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Redskins Quarterbacks Against The Pittsburgh Defense
Now that Donovan McNabb has been traded to the Minnesota Vikings, quarterback is a question mark for the Redskins. John Beck is the anointed starter who had a few starts in his 2007 rookie year and hasn't seen the field since.
Beck's 2011 training camp got off to a rough start, where he developed a sore throwing arm and had to be shut down a few days. Washington brought back veteran journeyman Rex Grossman, who gave up a defensive touchdown the first time he touched the ball last year. This did not stop him from recently declaring the Redskins would win the NFC East this year, where most pundits expect them to dwell at the bottom of the standings.
Pittsburgh is full of skilled defenders who have helped the team reach two of the last three Super Bowls. Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau, the innovator of the zone blitz, is 73-years young and has been a member of the NFL since 1959.
Called "Coach Dad" by his players, LeBeau is trusted and beloved by the Steelers defenders. He has a knack for putting players in the right positions to make plays, as well as unearth gems that other teams overlooked.
Whomever is behind center for the Redskins should expect a few blitzes and pressure while trying to unload the football. Beck will try to avoid meeting 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Troy Polamalu in every way for the limited snaps the Pro Bowl strong safety will play for the Steelers.
There are changes on both teams offensive lines that have each franchise headed in a youthful direction. Washington cut veteran center Casey Rabach and Pittsburgh released veteran tackle Max Starks.
Cameron Heyward, the son of the late Pro Bowl fullback Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, is Pittsburgh's first-round draft pick this year. He will get a good look to see how much he can push veterans Brett Keisal and Ziggy Hood at defensive end. Aaron Smith is a 35-year old defensive end who has been a Pro Bowler and Steelers defensive end for 13 seasons, but injuries have limited him to 11 games the past two years and he is now fighting to keep a job.
The Redskins have added veteran defensive linemen Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen, while drafting Jarvis Jenkins and Chris Nield. Lousy versus the run in 2010, Washington is trying to get better at that area this year. First round draft pick Ryan Kerrigan will get his first look as a linebacker after spending his collegiate career at defensive end, a similar move made by Redskins Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Orakpo in 2009.
Washington will have a few new faces on the offensive line, but new starting center Will Montgomery's first snaps will come against wily veteran nose tackle Casey Hampton. Marcus Gilbert and Kevin Williams are a pair of rookie blockers the Steelers plan to work hard to get their feet wet.
Redskins Many Wide Receivers Take On A Ton Of Steelers Defensive Backs
Pittsburgh has an idea of who will start in their defensive secondary this year, but improving the depth chart is their goal. They will have 15 defensive backs suited up for this game, possibly the only game some players will ever get into.
Washington has 11 wide receivers. Three were drafted and two veterans were signed as free agents. Yet the one layer who may be most under the microscope is fourth-year pro Malcolm Kelly. Kelly's best move since being drafted in the second round of the 2008 draft has been cashing an undeserved paycheck.
This could be the final games of his career, but Washington has hopes for the 6'4" Kelly because he is by far the biggest receiver on the team. The hope is that he can add a dimension to their attack, especially in the red zone.
Placekicker Shaun Suisham played for the Redskins from 2006 to 2009. He was replaced by Graham Gano after 12 games into 2009 despite the fact he had missed just three field goals. Gano missed eight field goals in 2010 and is now being challenged in camp by veteran Shayne Graham, who grew up in the same town as Redskins legend Gary Clark in Radford, Virginia.
Suisham played seven games for Pittsburgh last year after veteran Jeff Reed had an off year. Suisham missed just one kick in 15 attempts for the Steelers during their Super Bowl run. He is one of just three players in in NFL history to kick four field goals of 40 yards or longer in one game.
Washington Attempts To Find Their 2011 Running Backs
Drafting two halfbacks in 2011 is a sign Washington wants to improve this area. Trading for the versatile Tim Hightower hammers in that point even further.
While 2010 was a pleasant surprise by the effectiveness of Ryan Torain, he once again went down to injuries. He has been carrying the label of being injury-prone since college. Undrafted Keiland Williams was also a nice find in his rookie year, showing to be an effective receiver.
James Davis has had a disappointing NFL career since being drafted in 2009. He has also dealt with several injuries since college. Rookie Roy Helu is another halfback who struggled with injuries in college.
Rookie Evan Royster is the only Penn State running back with three 1,000+ yard seasons, a school that produced such legends as Hall of Famer Franco Harris, Lydell Mitchell, and 1973 Heisman Trophy winner John Cappelletti. He could be standing tall at the end if the competition goes down with injuries yet again.
While some expect Hightower to start this year, his reserves need to be settled. Williams has fullback experience, which improves his value. With the history of injuries most of the running backs in camp have, choosing the right reserves is both a gamble and critical to the success of the 2011 season.
Saturday, August 6, 2011
Now that the majority of signings have been done in the 2011 NFL free agent pool, let us review what has transpired.
Arizona was busy during the offseason by shedding former players and adding new ones. Kevin Kolb is now the starting quarterback, and many critics think he has a lot of potential to be very good.
Todd Heap is a savvy tight end who is Pro Bowl worthy when healthy. Chansi Stuckey is a veteran receiver who has a chance to add depth to an already quality receivers corp.
Vonnie Holliday and Nick Eason are veteran defensive linemen who add depth. Floyd Womack and Daryn Colledge are a pair of veteran guards who could start this year.
Jeff King is a blocking tight end who was an solid signing. Stewart Bradley was an up and coming middle linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles until injuries derailed his progress. If healthy, he could be a solid signing.
Richard Marshall is being counted on to replace Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at cornerback. Rodgers-Cromartie was traded for Kolb.
If Kolb steps in right away firing bullets, Arizona's offense could be as potent as it was under Kurt Warner a few years ago. They upgraded themselves in several areas, so do not be shocked if the Cardinals win the NFC West this year.
Ray Edwards was brought in to give the Falcons a pair of good pass rushing defensive ends. Ken Parrish appears to be the favorite to win the punting job so far.
It is obvious Atlanta likes their team. It has a good mix of veterans and youngsters who appear primed to duplicate their 2010 successes at the least. They kept the offensive line largely in tact by signing two of the three starters that were free agents.
With the NFC South now stronger than it has been in years. Atlanta will have to stay remarkably healthy to repeat as the champions of their division. The depth is good, making this a possible scenario.
Ozzie Newsome is one of the best general managers in the NFL, so it is hard to question why the team remained pretty inactive during the free agent frenzy. They lost a ton of players, including many starters, but they decided to stand pat with what they have.
James Hardy is a wide receiver trying to get his career finally going after a few miserable years in Buffalo. Hunter Cantwell is untested, but now the main backup to Joe Flacco at quarterback.
The Ravens are trying to rebuild an aging team while maintaining a squad that can compete in the AFC North. They have a few future Hall of Famers on defense to teach the youngsters, so it may be business as usual for the Ravens when it comes to winning often.
Tyler Thigpen was brought in to be a backup quarterback. Brad Smith is a former college quarterback who can play running back or wide receiver.
Nick Barnett is expected to start at middle linebacker. Lionel Dotson will try to add depth at the defensive line. Drayton Florence re-signed and should be back starting at cornerback.
Buffalo is young, but they did lose their starting strong safety and middle linebacker to free agency. While they will try to continue being a balanced team on offense, they lost a lot of tackles this offseason and the defense will now play under a magnifying glass.
Derek Anderson will be the veteran backup quarterback behind Cam Newton and Jimmy Clausen. Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olson are a pair of veteran tight ends who aren't great blockers, but are Pro Bowl caliber receivers.
Legedu Naanee has a good shot at starting at wide receiver. Omar Gaither adds depth at linebacker and Ron Edwards does the same at defensive tackle.
Sean Considine and Kevin Payne are veteran defensive backs trying to add depth. Kendric Burney was surprisingly undrafted, but the rookie cornerback could be a sleeper player worth watching. Ben Hartsock will try to be the blocking tight end the Panthers need.
With a new era with Newton as the top pick, along with a new coaching staff, the Panthers are surrounding their prized rookie with veterans who can help him progress. Since getting a wide receiver to compliment Steve Smith has often been an issue, Olsen and Shockey both might get a lot of balls thrown their way in 2011.
Chris Spencer will be the first Bears starting center since 1998 not named Olin Kruetz. Amobi Okoye will try to add depth at defensive tackle,while Vernon Gholston tries to shed his label of being a draft bust.
Marion Barber, Roy Williams, and Sam Hurd are all former Dallas Cowboys players. Chicago hopes Barber has enough tread left on his tires to be an effective reserve halfback. Williams and Hurd will try to upgrade the wide receivers unit.
Adam Podlesh is a strong-legged punter, while Matt Spaeth is a blocking tight end hoping to add depth in jumbo packages.
The Bears were a win away from a Super Bowl last year, so they didn't add a lot to an already solid defense. They hope the ex-Cowboys will play well enough for the team to make another strong run at the Super Bowl.
Cedric Benson being re-signed was critical for a team with questions at quarterback. Carson Palmer's reluctance to play with the Bengals has the team wondering what to do next at the position.
Bruce Gradkowsi was recently signed, and the veteran may start as rookie Andy Dalton sits on the bench and develops as the future starting quarterback.
Trading Chad Ochocinco means the team loses a productive receiver and a drama queen who causes headaches and division amongst their players.
Nate Clements is a veteran cornerback who is expected to start. Linebackers Manny Lawson, Brandon Johnson, and Thomas Howard will at least add depth.
Donte Whitner is expected to start at strong safety, while veteran Gibril Wilson hopes to back him up. Max Jean-Gilles might get a starting job at guard.
The Bengals smartly refuse to let a player hold them hostage, yet Carson's little brother Jordan was brought back to try to win the starting quarterback job. If they can get the older Palmer in uniform, the Bengals will be better off in 2011.
John Greco is a backup offensive lineman who might help. Brandon Jackson is a pass receiving halfback who hopes to help. Ramzee Robinson will try to add depth to a secondary that lost one of their starting cornerbacks to free agency.
The Browns are rebuilding through the draft. This youth movement will take time, but positive signs were seen in 2010.
Abram Elam is the only free agent Dallas has signed so far. He isn't much of a ball hawk, but he does well in run defense. He is a tough-minded player who has had three of his siblings shot to death.
Dallas decided to shed older players while building through the draft this year. It is a patient approach not seen from owner Jerry Jones in years, so it will be interesting to see what the final results are in 2011.
Brodrick Bunkley, Ty Warren, Derrick Harvey, and Jeremy Jarmon are all defensive linemen who were brought in to shore up a suspect run defense. Bunkley and Warren are expected to start.
Dante Rosario and Daniel Fells are good blocking tight ends who have some pass receiving ability. Rosario played last year under new Broncos head coach John Fox.
Willis McGahee is a veteran halfback expected to provide a key reserve role. David Anderson is a sure handed wide receiver who hopes to help.
Denver is under new management and there are many more changes expected. From the quarterback position especially. It might take some time for Fox to right this ship, but the talent is there.
Stephen Tulloch is a tackling machine who will help at linebacker. If Justin Durant can stay healthy and play to his abilities, the Lions will be very happy.
Eric Wright has a ton of ability at cornerback, but his 2010 season was bereft by injury. A fresh start was needed, so Detroit hopes he reverts back to being a solid player. Eric Coleman is a veteran safety who adds quality depth.
Rashied Davies and Maurice Stovall are veteran wide receivers who hope they can help.
Detroit are a lot of pundits sleeper team in 2011. If quarterback Matt Stafford can finally stay healthy, they could be a dangerous team. The defense was solid mostly last year, as eight of their losses in 2010 were eights points or less.
Green Bay Packers
The Pack has no free agent acquisitions, choosing to rely on their draft picks and players who helped them win Super Bowl XLV last season.
A.J. Hawk, Mason Crosby, James Jones, John Kuhn, Spencer Havner, Charlie Peprah, and Brett Swain were all re-signed by the team.
Johnathan Joseph, Danieal Manning, and Quintin Demps were brought in to help a defensive secondary that was lousy in 2010. Wade Phillips, now the defensive coordinator, has long been known for making bad defenses excellent.
T.J. Yates is an undrafted free agent rookie quarterback who has the ability to supplant Matt Leinart as the primary reserve. Lawrence Vickers is an excellent blocking fullback, while Brad Maynard is a veteran punter now on just his third team since 1997.
Attacking the secondary was needed, so give the Texans credit for doing so. Joseph is the best player of the three signed, but the entire trio should help this year. The signing of Phillips was huge, because he has long been considered one of the best defensive minds in the NFL.
If the defense responds to Phillips system right away, Houston's explosive offense could get this team finally to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
Tommie Harris and Jamaal Anderson are veteran defensive linemen who hope to finally play like many have hoped for. Harris has not been the same since he got injured in 2007, while Anderson has yet to do much in his career.
Ernie Sims has a lot of ability as a linebacker, but he has not always been stout versus the run. Al Afalava is a strong safety with starters experience. Dan Orlovsky and Nate Davis vie to backup Peyton Manning at quarterback.
Jacksonville got busy as soon as the players lockout ended. Paul Posluzny was brought in to start at middle linebacker, and the Jags are hoping he can finally stay healthy.
Dawan Landry, Drew Coleman, Courtney Greene, Tyrone Brackenridge, William Middleton, and David Jones are veteran defensive backs who have a good chance of helping the team. The underrated Landry should start at strong safety right away.
Jason Hill is a veteran wide receiver hoping to replace Mike Sims-Walker. Matt Turk is a veteran punter on his ninth team since 1993. Clint Session is a veteran linebacker hoping to add depth. Jason Spitz is a veteran guard who should add quality depth as well.
Jacksonville head coach Jack Del Rio is a former middle linebacker. He knew the back seven of his defense needed help, so he addressed it head on. Del Rio hopes the unit will be stout enough to allow the Jaguars win the AFC South this year.
Kansas City Chiefs
Steve Breaston is a solid wide receiver and return specialist. Leonard Pope is a tight end who specializes in run blocking. Le'Ron McClain is a versatile fullback who can carry the load if asked.
The Chiefs hit on a few key areas this offseason, which also shows how confident they are in their roster. They fully expect to win the AFC West while they continue to rebuild a young team that has a lot of upside.
Marc Columbo is a offensive tackle who should help. Reggie Bush is a good receiver and punt returner, but not a halfback who can carry the ball more than a few times per game.
Kevin Burnett and Jason Taylor are a pair of veteran linebackers hoping to add depth. Taylor returns to a Dolphins franchise where he was named to six Pro Bowls as a defensive end, as well as the 2006 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award and two AFC Defensive Player of the Year awards.
Matt Moore, Kevin O'Connell, and Pat Devlin will try to backup Chad Henne at quarterback.
Miami is now without Bill Parcells calling the shots, so the direction of the team has yet to be seen. It appears rookie halfback Daniel Thomas will now be the cowbell, with Ronnie Brown and possibly Ricky Williams gone.
The defense might have to carry the team this year, especially if Henne plays as poorly as he did in 2010.
Charlie Johnson should now start at left offensive tackle. Michael Jenkins could start at wide receiver after the Vikings lost Sidney Rice to free agency.
Donovan McNabb is expected to start at quarterback. Despite a terrible 2010 season, McNabb has stated he is years away from thinking of retiring.
If he can play like the five-time Pro Bowler he once was, the Vikings have enough explosive players on the roster to compete for a NFC North title.
New England Patriots
The Pats wisely brought back Pro Bowl offensive linemen Matt Light and Logan Mankins after Stephen Neal retired.
They gambled on defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and wide receiver Chad Ochocinco. Haynesworth is known as the guy who called himself a slave after signing a $100 million contract.
Ochocinco is a blowhard who craves attention. Office pools are being drawn up to bet on how soon he gets on Tom Brady's nerves with his antics.
If the two malignants play to their abilities, the rich in talent Patriots will be even more wealthy. Many pundits had already picked them to win their division before these signing. Signings that possibly get them to a Super Bowl.
New York Giants
Rocky Bernard is expected to add quality depth at defensive tackle, let alone possibly start. Veteran Stacey Andrews was brought back to provide a quality backup for an aging offensive line.
Michael Clayton will try to help a group of young and exciting wide receivers. Ben Patrick is a good receiver who should add depth at tight end.
The team is slowly sprucing off their aging parts while remaining competitive. General manager Jerry Reese is one of the best in the NFL, so the Jints winning ways should continue this year.
New York Jets
Plaxico Burress is a huge gamble. The Jets are hoping he has lost nothing after a two-year stint in jail. If he does, the Jets brass will look like geniuses. If he fails, with many critics questioning his staying in New York, it could be a debacle.
DuJuan Morgan and Ellis Lankster will try to add depth in the secondary. The Jets may not be done signing defensive players after having lost a few to free agency.
The last two years have seen the Jets a game away from reaching the Super Bowl. That is the dream the team obviously feels it can realize by keeping so many players from last seasons roster.
New Orleans Saints
Olin Kruetz is a veteran center who adds depth. George Foster and Alex Barron are offensive tackles a former first-round picks trying to revive their careers. Trumaine McBride and Fabian Washington are veteran cornerbacks who add depth.
Kory Hall should get some starts at fullback. Will Herring adds veteran depth at linebacker. Aubrayo Franklin, Turk McBride and Shaun Rogers are defensive tackles who will try to help the defensive line rotation.
Darren Sproles replaces Reggie Bush as the third-down running back. Sproles also may get plugged in as a return specialist on special teams, an area he has experience in.
The Saints didn't have to add much to their potent offense, but they smartly attacked the weaknesses on defense. Now better prepared to stop the run, New Orleans has high hopes of returning to the Super Bowl.
Kevin Boss was brought in to fill the hole at tight end. Justin Smiley, Stephon Heyer, Seth Wand, and Roy Schuening will try to help the Raiders much maligned offensive line.
Darryl Blacktock, is trying to revive a once promising career, something the Raiders have often had success in doing. Trent Edwards has started in his career, so he adds quality depth at quarterback.
Oakland can run the ball well, and they hope the influx of new blockers will allow them to mash their opponents. Their young receivers need to step up this year to add balance, but their drams of winning the AFC West this year may rest on a defense that lost the best cornerback in football to free agency.
Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will team up with Asante Samuel to give the Eagles the best cornerback unit in that franchises long history. Asomugha, the top free agent of 2011, is the jewel signing for the team.
Jason Babin, Anthony Hargrove, Derek Landri, and Cullen Jenkins were all brought in to shore up the run defense, an area that has been a shortcoming of the Eagles for years. If Jenkins can stay healthy, and Babin plays like last year, the Eagles pass rush could create havoc all year.
Johnnie Lee Higgins, who is very good on special teams, and Donald Lee are veterans who will try to make an explosive Philadelphia passing attack a little deadlier. Vince Young is expected to spend this year on the bench watching and learning.
Ronnie Brown is a oft-injured halfback who the Eagles hope can stay healthy enough to handle a few carries as a reserve. Veteran Jarrad Page will try to win the starting job at strong safety.
The Eagles had the best offseason in the NFL, one that could propel the franchise in winning their first title since 1960. Not only did they attack their weaknesses, they made strong areas even better and have good depth as well. Expectations should be high for this team in 2011.
The Steelers have eschewed signing players in the free agent market, preferring to sign their own guys. Lamarr Woodley, fresh off a six-year deal worth $61.5 million , Johnathan Scott, Willie Colon, Ike Taylor, and Shaun Suisham were all brought back.
Saint Louis Rams
Mike Sims-Walker was an excellent signing who should enjoy instantly becoming the top receiver of the Rams. Harvey Diehl is a Pro Bowl guard whose nasty streak now gives Saint Louis one of the best offensive lines in the NFC.
Al Harris and Quintin Mikell are veteran defensive backs who will add depth at the least. Brady Poppinga could find himself starting at outside linebacker this season, while Justin Bannan will add depth at defensive tackle.
Cadillac Williams and Jerious Norwood will back up Steven Jackson. Both are excellent receivers, but Williams should get more carries because Norwood has had a problem staying healthy.
This team has been growing up fast as they rebuild with excellent drafts. Head coach Steve Spagnuolo added many quality pieces to a team that almost won their division last year and could be a sleeper team in 2011
San Diego Chargers
Laurent Robinson will try to help add depth. Frank Summers is a fullback who is best at blocking and receiving. Takeo Spikes, Travis LeBoy, and Bob Sanders are veterans hoping to help a defense that was very good in 2010.
If Sanders can finally stay healthy and play like he once did, the Chargers have the capability of having one of the best secondaries in football. LeBoy is there to tr to bring a pass rush off the edge the team hasn't consistently had in a few years.
The Bolts did not splurge heavily in the 2011 free agent pool, but that is because they had one of the top offenses and defenses of the NFL last year. They are getting long in the tooth, so now is the time for them to win it all.
San Francisco 49ers
Braylon Edwards needs to show he is a top receiver now, because he has yet to consistently reach his potential. If he does, he could help Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree become a formidable unit. David Akers was an excellent signing and has been a steady kicker most of his career.
Carlos Rogers and Madieu Williams are veterans that could start at cornerback and free safety respectively. Blake Costanzo and Antwan Applewhite are veteran linebackers who add depth and excel on special teams.
Quarterback is still the primary puzzle for the Niners, but new head coach Jim Harbaugh seems to be ready to go with a promising rookie in Colin Kaepernick and 2005 first-round pick Alex Smith. This is despite the fact Smith has done little in his career thus far.
Kelly Jennings is needed to provide cornerback depth. Zach Miller and John Carlson gives Seattle one of the best tight end duos in the NFL. Veteran kicker Jeff Reed had a rough 2010, but Seattle hopes he reverts to his old form.
Jimmy Wilkerson, Jay Alford, and Alan Branch will add depth to the defensive line rotation. Tavaris Jackson might start at quarterback and have a familiar face to throw to in Sidney Rice. Robert Gallery is a solid guard that helps a Seahawks team that lost a few starters to free agency.
While a young team still, Seattle smartly added many solid veterans to their 2011 roster. They expect to win their division again with these additions.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Michael Koenin signed a six-year deal worth $19.5 million, a whopping amount for a average punter. Yet what Koenin does do well is kick the ball off.
He has 106 touchbacks in the last six seasons, which is a tremendous help to any defense. With the kickoff moving back to the 35-yard line, the Bucs expect Koenen to sail a large amount of kickoffs through the opponents endzones.
Matt Hasselbeck might start in 2011 as rookie Jake Locker learns. Daniel Graham is a veteran tight end who is excellent run blocking.
Barrett Ruud was a needed signing to help at middle linebacker. Shaun Smith will try to add depth at defensive line. Frank Walker and Jordan Babineaux are veteran defensive backs who add quality depth.
With a new coaching staff, the Titans are in flux. They are a good running team with an excellent offensive line, but the franchise is on the cusp of rebuilding behind Locker in the years ahead.
Redskins fans are undoubtedly happy to have a real general manager after the dismal Vinny Cerrato Era. Bruce Allen is building through the draft, yet adding good pieces to the roster without asking owner Dan Snyder to overpay.
Donte` Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney are veteran receivers the team hopes add depth to a team that plans to throw often. Kellen Clemens is a quarterback with starters experience, but he may spend this year at third string if John Beck plays as head coach Mike Shanahan hopes.
Josh Wilson and Oshiomogho Atogwe are expected to start at cornerback and free safety respectively. Tim Hightower has a very good chance at starting at halfback because he is a solid receiver and excels in the power running game. Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen are being counted on helping Washington shore up a porous run defense.
Allen could still get middle linebacker help, because 2010 starter Rocky McIntosh is still unsigned. Even with Jammal Brown re-signed, the Redskins still might bring in a few blockers to camp.