cnotes Posts:25009 Followers:33
On 07/07/2013 06:27 PM in NFL

Cnotes 2013 NFL Team Preview Of Each Division !

2013 NFL training camp preview: Seattle Seahawks

July 3, 2013 12:50 PM ET



In 2012, the Seahawks went 11-5 and seem poised to build on that momentum this year. In 2012, the Seahawks went 11-5 and seem poised to build on that momentum this year.

Some people will tell you there's only one team in the NFC capable of beating San Francisco, and it's not Atlanta. It's the Seattle Seahawks.

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They buried the 49ers late last year and were on target to meet them in the conference championship game -- until, that is, Atlanta got in the way.

The Falcons are loaded this season, but so is Seattle ... if, that is, Russell Wilson continues to play as he did as a rookie. There's no reason he shouldn't. As the season wore on last year the Seahawks turned more of their offense over to him ... and he responded.

So has his ballclub. The Seahawks made big offseason moves to close the gap between them and San Francisco and to make sure that this time neither Atlanta nor the 49ers keep them from getting to the top.
Key changes

Roster additions: WR Percy Harvin, QB Tarvaris Jackson, De Cliff Avril, DE Michael Bennett, QB Brady Quinn, DT Tony McDaniel, CB Antoine Winfield.

Roster subtractions: QB Matt Flynn, WR Deon Butler, DT Alan Branch, LB Leroy Hill, WR Ben Obomanu, CB Marcus Trufant, KR Leon Washington, DT Jason Jones..

Staff changes: When defensive coordinator Gus Bradley left to become head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Seahawks wasted no time reaching out to Dan Quinn, defensive coordinator for the University of Florida. Quinn's defenses finished in the Top 10 nationally in his only two years there and were a reason Florida was in the mix for the national championship game through the last weekend of the regular season. Not only did the Gators rank second in fewest touchdown passes allowed; they surrendered an average of 2.98 yards per rush -- sixth best in the nation. That's good, but this is better: Quinn has a familiarity with the Seahawks and what coach Pete Carroll wants. He was an assistant here before leaving to take the Florida job.

One of Quinn's first moves was to hire Travis Jones, former assistant defensive line coach at New Orleans, as his defensive line coach. Jones replaces Todd Wash, who left for Jacksonville to join Gus Bradley.


Position battles

Brady Quinn is the backup to Russell Wilson, right? Not so fast. The Seahawks moved a little too quickly to bring back Tarvaris Jackson after the completion of their mandatory mini-camp, and that should tell you something: Yep, they want competition at the position, and Jackson's history in

Seattle should make him the favorite.

Right guard should be a showdown between John Moffitt and J.R. Sweezy. Moffitt has been the starter here, so you'd think he has the edge. But he also has a history of injuries, which opened the door for Sweezy, a converted defensive lineman who, at times, rotated with Moffitt last season. Sweezy started the last few games last season and was solid. He's young, and the Seahawks like his fitness level and effort, which means they like him, period. He gains the early edge.

Outside linebacker Bruce Irvin moves to the strong side, where he competes with Malcolm Smith, while K.J. Wright moves from the strong side to the weak. Anyway, Irvin will be on the field for third downs, so that doesn't change. What could is his overall time on the field, but that should be determined by his face-off with Smith.


New scheme

Quinn takes over one of the league's premier defenses, and, as long as Carroll is in charge, there should be no big changes. First of all, Quinn has been here before. He was Seattle's defensive line coach 2009-10. Second, it's Carroll's defense, with his coordinators running it. If there is a difference it might be that Quinn blitzes more than his predecessor, Gus Bradley. He was more conservative, preferring to play coverage, while Quinn seems more likely to gamble.


Bubble watch

You can start with fullback Michael Robinson. The Seahawks spent a sixth-round pick on Spencer Ware and are trying him at fullback -- which is your first clue. With Robinson scheduled to pull down $2.5 million this year, Seattle might look to replace him. Guard Paul McQuistan is another possibility. He's due to make $3.3 million, and while he's penciled in as the starting left guard all plans are on hold until the Seahawks how comfortable they feel with James Carpenter after he missed time last season with a knee injury.


Unheard-of-guy to watch

Take your pick: Luke Willson or Sean McGrath. They're both backup tight ends, and they're front and center now that Anthony McCoy -- the previous No. 2 -- is out with a torn Achilles. McGrath is the more intriguing of the two. He's an undrafted rookie free agent who made it on the active roster late last year and looked good in OTAs.


Biggest concerns

Frankly, it's not so much Bruce Irvin's four-game suspension for PEDs that's the issue; it's whether he can play strong-side linebacker. It's a gamble, and Carroll knows it. He also knows that the suspension will affect the learning curve. "But that preseason will be hugely important for him," he said. No kidding. Concern going to be Aaron Curry part II.

Backup tight end Anthony McCoy is lost for the season, which means rookie Luke Willson and second-year pro Sean McGrath audition for a seat behind starter Zach Miller. Carroll said he liked the progress of McGrath, mentioning him as one player who "jumps out" at mini-camp, but that was June. Stay tuned.


Something to prove

Make it defensive lineman Red Bryant. The Seahawks re-signed him last year to a big contract, then he went out and struggled. No one is sure why, but they are sure that plantar fasciitis probably had something to do with. Bryant tried to play through the painful injury but lacked his usual explosiveness. That, in turn, had an impact on the Seahawks' run defense, which fell off the second half of the season.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:25009 Followers:33
07/07/2013 06:31 PM

2013 NFL training camp preview: St. Louis Rams

July 2, 2013 12:17 PM ET


The Rams finished 2012 with a 7-8-1 record, third in the NFC West. The Rams finished 2012 with a 7-8-1 record, third in the NFC West.


The St. Louis Rams are supposed to be a year away from challenging Seattle and San Francisco in the NFC West, but don't be surprised if the timetable changes.

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Of course, a lot that depends on the development of quarterback Sam Bradford, and he's the beneficiary of key offseason moves that delivered him playmakers the club has been missing since ... well, since the days of "The Greatest Show on Turf."

These Rams aren't the Greatest Show Anywhere, but they're good enough that they had the division's best record a year ago and didn't lose to San Francisco. These Rams are better, which means these Rams could start squeezing the top a year ahead of schedule.

Don't be surprised if they do.
Key changes

Roster additions: TE Jared Cook; T Jake Long; S Matt Giordano.

Roster departures: RB Steve Jackson; WR Danny Amendola; T Wayne Hunter; S Quintin Mikell; DL Trevor Laws; LB Rocky McIntosh; G Robert Turner; WR Steve Smith; S Craig Dahl; WR Brandon Gibson.

Staff changes: Tim Walton becomes the new defensive coordinator. Walton, whom Jeff Fisher tried to hire a year before, comes in from Detroit -- which is perfect because it means the Jim Schwartz/Jeff Fisher/Tennessee connection remains intact. The team last year played without a coordinator after Gregg Williams was suspended in Bountygate, but Williams' son, linebackers coach Blake Williams, stepped in to serve as De facto coordinator. When he was fired after the season, the Rams first appeared to be in line to hire Rob Ryan, but that didn't work out and this did -- with Walton making the jump from secondary coach to coordinator.


Position battles

The departure of Steven Jackson means running back is wide open, with three inexperienced vets and one rookie competing for jobs. Daryl Richardson is the favorite, mostly because he's the only guy with a resume. As Jackson's understudy last season, he ran for 475 yards, averaged 4.8 yards per carry and demonstrated big-play capability. Isaiah Pead could push him, and the Rams would like that. But he was a huge disappointment as a rookie, with only 10 carries. That's not what the Rams were expecting from their second-round pick, nor is this: Pead must serve a one-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Nevertheless, look for him to compete with rookie Zac Stacy and journeyman Terrance Ganaway for carries in what could be a crowded, running-back-by-committee approach.

Undrafted rookie Bennie Cunningham is the longshot here, but let's be real: Given the makeup, anything's possible. The same goes for left guard where the Rams don't have an incumbent. Chris Williams, the former first-round draft pick of Chicago, is the favorite, but he could get squeezed by Shelley Smith, claimed off waivers from Houston. If neither works out, look for rookie Barrett Jones to get in the mix. I know, he's a center, but the guy can play guard -- and he may, once he recovers from his Lisfranc injury.

There's no incumbent at safety, either, where Quintin Mikell and Craig Dahl are both gone. Darian Stewart should man one position, but the guy barely played a year ago because of injuries and was in Fisher's doghouse. Then, of course, he was a starter in 2011. Rookie T.J. McDonald -- the son of former NFL star Tim McDonald -- will be in the mix, but so will free- agent acquisition Matt Giordano.


New schemes

The Rams have the same playbook, same terminology and same coordinator on offense. Nevertheless, expect them to shake things up. For the first time in years they have playmakers to surround quarterback Sam Bradford, and with so much speed and quickness there they should spread the field more, operate more out of the shotgun and try the no-huddle -- all of which Bradford does best. In short, St. Louis wants to be more explosive, and they have the people to get there. I know it's contrary to what Fisher has done with his teams, but there is so much speed here -- even including tight end Jared Cook -- that it makes sense to take advantage of what they have.

Even though there's a new coordinator on defense, don't look for much to change. It's basically the Tennessee Titans' defense Fisher brought with him, with input from former Tennessee assistants Dave McGinnis and Chuck Cecil. The Rams return seven linemen to a defense that tied for the league lead in sacks, so there's no need to fool with formulas. If there's a change, it's a small one, with the Rams going to left and right outside linebackers instead of weakside and strongside backers. They're undersized and aggressive at the positions, with Jo-Lonn Dunbar and rookie Alec Ogletree at their best when playing in space. Which means ... uh-huh, that pressure should be applied by a familiar source: The front four.


Bubble watch

The Rams don't have a lot of depth, so there's really no one of consequence in danger of getting cut.


Unheard-of-guy to watch

Safety Rodney McLeod. Undrafted a year ago, he looked good in spring workouts and could be a factor if Stewart is hurt again. In fact, some believe the undersized safety will be a key contributor and could wind up starting -- again, depending on what happens with Stewart.


Biggest concerns

Depth is one issue. There just isn't much of it. Then there's the offensive line. It's either feast or famine with these guys. If the five starters stay healthy, the Rams could have one of the league's best units -- with Jake Long, Harvey Dahl, Scott Wells and Rodger Saffold protecting Bradford. One problem: None of them played 16 games last year. The Rams are expecting a lot from their offensive line, but there's danger with age -- and of the Rams' three players 30 or older, two are on the offensive line.

The concern at running back isn't so much that there's not much experience; it's that there's not much experience picking up blitzes. If there's one thing overlooked about Steven Jackson's game it's how effective he was on blitz-pickups. Most of the backs the Rams audition are smaller than Jackson, and no one can be certain how effective they'll be in the passing game -- not so much as receivers but as blockers.


Something to prove

It has to be Sam Bradford. He's in his fourth year, and it's not exactly make-or-break time. But it is time for him to move to the next level. With the additions the Rams made on offense, some of the excuses for his inconsistent play are gone. If nothing else, this could be a defining year for Bradford, with the quarterback returning the same coordinator and outfitted with valuable outside weapons for the first time in his pro career.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:25009 Followers:33
07/07/2013 06:34 PM

2013 NFL training camp preview: Arizona Cardinal

July 3, 2013 1:11 PM ET


New head coach Bruce Arians will get to work trying to reverse the Cardinals' recent fortunes. New head coach Bruce Arians will get to work trying to reverse the Cardinals' recent fortunes.

The Arizona Cardinals think they finally found the quarterback they've been missing since Kurt Warner, and that's great. But this isn't: They still have to survive in the NFC West.

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Arizona is the consensus last-place choice in a division dominated by two playoff teams and a St. Louis club ready for takeoff.

It's not that the Cards don't have talent. They just added Carson Palmer to play catch with Larry Fitzgerald. It's that they don't have enough of it.

Maybe that's why hiring coach Bruce Arians made so much sense. He did the improbable a year ago, helping to turn a 2-14 Indianapolis doormat into an 11-5 miracle under extreme circumstances, and he'll have to perform magic here. Arizona is not a bad football team. It's just good enough to push the top of this division.
Key changes

Roster additions: QB Carson Palmer, RB Rashard Mendenhall, LB Karlos Dansby, S Yeremiah Bell, CB Antoine Cason, LB Lorenzo Alexander, DT Frostee Rucker, DE Matt Shaughnessy, QB Drew Stanton, CB Javier Arenas.

Roster departures: QB Kevin Kolb, CB Greg Toler, RB Beanie Wells, WR Early Doucet, S Adrian Wilson, CB William Gay, RB LaRod Stephens-Howling, LB Paris Lenon, LB Quentin Groves, DT Nick Eason, DE Vonnie Holliday, QB John Skelton, FB Anthony Sherman, S Kerry Rhodes.

Staff changes: Let's start at the top. Steve Keim replaces Rod Graves as the team's GM and made an immediate impact by acing the draft -- starting with the choice of guard Jonathan Cooper. Now let's work our way down. The head coach is new, with Bruce Arians replacing Ken Whisenhunt, and his entire staff is new, with a couple of exceptions. Freddie Kitchens moves from coaching tight ends to coaching quarterbacks, and Ryan Slowik, who coached outside linebackers a year ago, takes over the defensive backs. Otherwise, it's an entirely new crew, with the exception of the strength-and-conditioning group, though it's not entirely young. Included are 77-year old Tom Pratt and 74-year-old Tom Moore, both assistant coaches.


Position battles

Jerraud Powers was signed to take over as Patrick Peterson's partner at cornerback, but he'll have competition from Antoine Cason. The Cards made the offseason play for Powers first, so it figures that he probably has the inside track. Plus, they signed Cason to only a one-year deal. But Powers has a hard time avoiding injuries, and Cason is determined. This one bears watching.

The inside linebacker position is unsettled because of a four-game suspension to Daryl Washington. The Cards signed Karlos Dansby to play there while Washington is gone, which is great. But what happens when Washington returns? They'll have a decision to make. They already have Jasper Brinkley at one inside spot, and he's not going anywhere. The question is: How does this all come together when Washington returns?


New schemes

The Cards talk about getting more physical within the division, but let's be honest: With Arians in charge, they're bound to throw more -- more specifically, throw more downfield. Not only do they believe they have the people in Palmer, Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd to put a vertical game together, but they believe they have the pass protection to do it, too -- especially after the second-half performance of Bobby Massie last season. What they don't have is a fullback, and no surprise there. Arians didn't have one in Indianapolis, either, which tells you a little about how much Arizona might run. So that's one change. Floyd's promotion to the first team is one change, with Arians hopeful he makes more and better use of him. Then there's the tight end. The plan is to incorporate that position more in the passing attack, with the Cards high on Rob Housler. With Housler's talents, it makes sense.

Defensively, they will stay with the 3-4, but new coordinator Todd Bowles likes to play a scheme that more closely resembles a Wade Phillips production than what the Cards ran last season. Under former coordinator Ray Horton, the front three was asked to play two-gap, read-and-react football. Bowles wants to cut them loose more and get to the backfield, though for the last few days of spring practices, players were in all-out blitzes and attacking off angles as they did under Horton. Skeptics are right to question how a changed defense worked. It was the only thing that went right for the Cards last season. Nevertheless, Bowles is hoping his scheme makes Darnell Dockett a factor again, and that's a huge issue. He faded last season, and the Cards faded with him. Now, they're hoping he finds himself and emerges as something close to what Houston has in J.J. Watt.


Bubble watch

The Cards weren't happy with defensive tackle Dan Williams when he gained weight in the offseason. But he's since lost it and vows to report to training camp at 315 pounds. Still, that doesn't change things. He could be in for a challenge. The Cards picked up Frostee Rucker as insurance at the position, and second-year pro David Carter -- a grinder who can play nose tackle or defensive end -- could be in the mix. Bottom line: It's time for Williams to respond with a decent year.

Darnell Dockett's not on the bubble, but he is under the microscope. He's coming off a horrible year, one where -- after the first month -- he had no impact. Dockett turned 32 this year, so there's that obvious question: Was it the scheme, or is he starting to lose it? We won't have long to find out.


Unheard-of-guy to watch

Tight end Rob Housler. He's someone who can run and catch, much like, say, Rob Gronkowski in New England. He has unusual speed for the position, which should create matchup problems for opponents, but he still needs to work on his blocking.


Biggest concerns

Let's start with the offensive line. When you allow a league-high 58 sacks that's something a new coach will want to fix -- which is why the Cards used their first pick on Cooper. Nevertheless, tackle Bobby Massie made a remarkable recovery last season, producing a stellar second-half after a forgettable first, and Levi Brown returns after a season off because of injury. So the Cards could have the pieces up front to help produce respectable passing game, but please don't pass the word to cynics. They've heard it before.

Then there's the Cardinals' rushing attack. It almost always was among the league's bottom feeders, finishing dead last in 2012. They've talked about developing a power running game, but they're shaky at the position. Rashard Mendenhall is the lead back, but he's coming off of an injury-plagued season, and Ryan Williams spent most of his two years in the league on the sidelines recovering from something. Maybe rookies Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington can help out, but I don't blame Arizona fans if they're skeptical.

The passing attack should be improved if only because Palmer is a huge leap forward from what the Cards rolled out a year ago, but depth at wide receiver should be a concern. Beyond Fitzgerald, Floyd and Andre Roberts there's not much.
Something to prove

This one's easy. It's Palmer. Critics say he's finished, and the Raiders all but admitted it by giving the guy away. So it's up to him to prove he can do what he hasn't the past three years -- namely, win and become part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Of course, Dockett deserves mention here, too, but the Cards go nowhere if Palmer isn't fixed. So that's where you start.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:25009 Followers:33
07/07/2013 06:36 PM

2013 NFL training camp preview: San Francisco 49ers

July 2, 2013 4:55 PM ET


The defending NFC champion 49ers regroup with the goal of getting back to the Super Bowl. The defending NFC champion 49ers regroup with the goal of getting back to the Super Bowl.

The San Francisco 49ers aren't just one of the best teams in the NFC. They're one of the best teams anywhere.

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In two years under Jim Harbaugh, they've been to two conference championship games, one Super Bowl and were within five yards of a sixth Lombardi Trophy. They have a raft of talent, a coach who can't lose and a reason for wanting to be just a little bit better.

They believe they were the best team a year ago.

Of course, they're going to have to prove it all over again -- only this time with Colin Kaepernick as their starter entering camp, without Michael Crabtree and with a defense that no longer is a slam-dunk to stonewall anyone.
Key changes

Roster additions: G Adam Snyder; CB Nnamdi Asomugha; WR Anquan Boldin; S Craig Dahl; DT Glenn Dorsey; PK Phil Dawson; QB Colt McCoy; LB Dan Skuta.

Roster departures: S Dashon Goldson; TE Delanie Walker; QB Alex Smith; DT Isaac Sopoaga; DT Ricky Jean Francois; WR Randy Moss; PK David Akers; LB Tavares Gooden; LB Clark Haggans.

Staff changes: Former head coach and defensive coordinator Eric Mangini joins the 49ers as an offensive consultant, and I know what you're thinking: Huh? Well, the move makes sense. Mangini's job is to study opposing defenses, pass the information on to offensive assistants and tell them how and where those defenses are vulnerable. My guess: If this works, you'll see others making similar hires.


Position battles

With the departure of Dashon Goldson, there's a Help Wanted sign at starting safety. Rookie Eric Reid is the favorite to win the job, mostly because the 49ers traded up to draft him -- and they would like nothing better. But first things first, and first he must beat out veteran Craig Dahl.

The loss of Michael Crabtree means there's a void at wide receiver, with Anquan Boldin the most likely to move in there. Boldin is by far the 49ers' best receiver now. With his expected move to this position, the question is: Who becomes the other wideout? The 49ers would like it to be A.J. Jenkins, but he's a work in progress.

Then there's the defensive line, where the 49ers lost veteran tackles Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean Francois. The obvious question: Who replaces them? The most logical response is Ian Williams -- mostly because he has the size to do it. If for some reason he doesn't make it, the 49ers' next option may be newcomer Glenn Dorsey, but he's undersized for the position, as Kansas City found out.


New schemes

It's possible the 49ers may go more to the read-option and Pistol than they did last year, if for no other reason than this: They suit the talents of Kaepernick. OK, so that's a good reason. It's not a lock, but it does make sense. Kaepernick is the focal point of the offense, and the 49ers won't put him in uncomfortable situations or schemes.


Bubble watch

Asomugha may be back in the Bay Area, where he starred with the Raiders, but there's no guarantee he makes the team. Still, the guy looked good in practices, and the 49ers got him on the cheap after he bombed out in Philadelphia. Running back Anthony Dixon, who seems to be on the bubble every year, is another possibility ... but he probably makes it again primarily because draft pick Marcus Lattimore won't be ready for some time. Nevertheless, if Jewel Hampton or a fullback emerges, Dixon could leave. It's not likely, but it is possible. Linebacker Parys Haralson, who took a pay cut in the offseason, is another possibility, mostly because the 49ers have a glut of young pass rushers. Cam Johnson is beginning to make an impact, and the 49ers have high hopes for rookie Corey Lemonier. Haralson is solid, and he's a veteran -- so the 49ers know what they have. That should help, though the 49ers like the potential they have in their young players.


Unheard-of-guy to watch

Wide receiver Ricardo Lockette is buried on the depth chart, but the guy has talent. He's fast, tying for the third fastest time at the 2011 NFL combine and winning the Division II 200-meter sprint at Fort Valley State (2008), and he's big, checking in at 6-2, 211 pounds. So he's everything you want physically. Plus, he roomed with Kaepernick, so the two know each other well. He and A.J. Jenkins are guys to watch at wide receiver. If Jenkins doesn't wash out, the 49ers could look to Lockette as their downfield threat. But first he must learn the offense and be more consistent catching the football.


Biggest concerns

Finding a replacement for Michael Crabtree. Crabtree was Colin Kaepernick's favorite receiver, with Kaepernick targeting him 94 times in his 10 starts. Well, now he's gone for at least six months, and he takes with him 85 catches, 1105 yards and nine TDs ... as well as one security blanket for his quarterback. The auditions for a successor have begun, with Anquan Boldin, A.J. Jenkins and Quinton Patton first in line, and tight end Vernon Davis not too far removed. Yes, that Vernon Davis . He worked out with wide receivers during the 49ers' June mini-camp, and he and Kaepernick seemed to find a connection they'd been missing during most of last season.

There's also a question about the defense and where it goes next. The 49ers were one of the league's best through the first 14 games of last year. Then Justin Smith and Aldon Smith were hurt, and the defense sprung leaks -- suddenly allowing almost twice as many points per game. The secondary is older, just lost Goldson and still has Carlos Rogers as a nickel back -- most of which isn't good. They have new faces on the defensive line, too, and people wonder how they fit in with the vets. Mostly, they wonder how good this defense is. The consensus seems to be it's not the unit we watched most of last year and that there's a shift from defense to offense with the 49ers. If so, it wouldn't be the first time.
Something to prove

There are cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver, and then there's incoming safety Eric Reid. But the guy with the most to prove is wide receiver A.J. Jenkins. The 49ers spent a first-round draft pick on him a year ago, and he didn’t do squat. Now that Crabtree is sidelined an estimated six months, there's an opportunity for Jenkins to prove the 49ers were right to take him. So will he? More important, can he? It would make this season easier on Kaepernick and offensive coordinator Greg Roman.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:25009 Followers:33
07/08/2013 04:52 PM

2013 NFL training camp preview: Baltimore Ravens

July 5, 2013 4:37 PM ET


The Ravens are the only team in the NFL to reach the postseason each of the past five years. Coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco are flawless in that regard thus far through their careers.

Surely the time will come when they are watching at home come January, and as camp begins everyone is now shooting for the reigning champs. The bar has been raised, again, and with Flacco now the second-highest paid player in the history of the game, all eyes will remain on him as the practices begin. A year ago the Ravens were dealing with the Achilles tear by Terrell Suggs and looming questions about the age and health of the roster.

Their veteran purge has largely silenced that talk and the expectation is that a healthy Suggs begins taking over the vocal leadership reigns with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed among those gone.

Key changes

The exodus of talent from Baltimore was one of the NFL’s primary early offseason storylines. Two future Hall of Famers departed: linebacker Ray Lewis retired, while safety Ed Reed left for Houston as a free agent. Veteran center Matt Birk, a natural leader, also retired, esteemed veteran receiver Anquan Boldin was dealt to San Francisco for a late draft pick and young defensive starters Paul Kruger, Cary Williams and Dannell Ellerbe left for greener pastures as well, as free agents. Special teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo, the vocal leader of that group, is gone, too. Hard hitting safety Bernard Pollard was let go to save more cap room and fullback Vonta Leach is also gone. Um, am I missing anyone? That sounds like all the significant departures.

The Ravens were soon to offset much of this with signings of their own, however.

Versatile defensive linemen Chris Canty and Marcus Spears were signed in the second wave of free agency, at a value price. Patience was a virtue for them, and it served them well. The Ravens won the derby to land pass rusher Elvis Dumervil once Denver lost his rights over a fax snafu, filling a major void. Baltimore retains the rights to “retired” linebacker Rolando McClain, who they signed as a free agent after his release by Oakland. Safety Michael Huff was snapped up on the cheap as well, to help with coverage at the safety position. They also waited until deep into free agency to re-sign free agent tackle Bryant McKinnie, a key part of their late Super Bowl run, and addressed vacancies at safety (Matt Elam) and inside linebacker (Arthur Brown) in the top rounds of the draft.

On the staff side, Baltimore made its biggest change late in the 2012 regular season, when Jim Caldwell replaced Cam Cameron as play caller. Caldwell received the offensive coordinator title following the Super Bowl win, and Juan Castillo, former longtime offensive line coach and also a defensive coordinator with Philadelphia, came on as a consultant for the playoffs as well. Expect him to have an even greater hand in putting together blocking schemes and protections. Castillo worked with Ravens head coach John Harbaugh in Philadelphia, as did former defensive coordinator and head coach Steve Spagnuolo, who joins the staff as a defensive consultant. An already strong staff is even that much more experienced and varied, now.

Position battles

This roster is fairly set. It remains to be seen who emerges as the No. 2 receiver with Boldin gone, though team sources believe pass-catching tight end Dennis Pitta is ready to be a dominant presence in the slot and is also able to be split out wide. Depth receivers Tandon Doss, David Reed and Deonte Thompson were given a run with the starters during OTAs while receiver Jacoby Jones was on Dancing With the Stars, and perhaps one of them emerge as well. At various times all have generated a buzz, but nothing has carried over to actual games yet.

The Ravens drafted versatile fullback/H-back Kyle Juszczyk, who could end up filling a blocking and pass-catching role. And at center, second-year man Gino Gradkowski comes into camp as the favorite, but the Ravens acquired A.Q. Shipley from the Colts and he is expected to make a push there as well. If McClain comes back, things could get interesting at inside linebacker as well, with Brown and Jameel McClain, coming off a neck issue, also in that mix.

New schemes

Caldwell had the offense open up under his hand last year, and expect that to continue to be the case. Quarterback Joe Flacco has had more of a voice in audibles and game planning, and threw more passes down the seams and utilizing the middle of the field. There was more of an emphasis on spread formations and this offense wants to speed up things at the line of scrimmage.

Defensively, Spagnuolo can be very exotic and aggressive with his blitz concepts, and the Ravens got back to more of that attacking mindset with Dean Pees as the defensive coordinator last year. The renewed depth across the defensive line will allow for plenty of shuffling and creativity and could result in edge player Courtney Upshaw shifting inside some, too.

Bubble watch

Baltimore pretty much ended any mystery about its roster by parting with the last of their aging, higher-priced veterans with the release of Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach last month. Jah Reid is a player worth watching in camp. Drafted to be a right tackle of the future he might not even crack this roster as a swing tackle depending on how healthy and productive he is in camp. The Ravens don't miss on too many kids in the first three rounds, but Reid and defensive tackle Terrence Cody could face an uphill climb to avoid the turk.

Unheard-of-guy to watch

It wasn't that long ago that many on the Ravens' coaching staff were very high on receiver David Reed. He was seen as a potential special teams difference maker, and the heir apparent to Derrick Mason as a possession receiver. Since then, he's flamed out as a return man with fumbling issues and struggled with injuries and for playing time. But at a time when the team was cutting players all over the place, Reed got $2 million to stay. Seems to me he will get a good chance to move up the receiver pecking order with Boldin gone. This looks like his last stand and I wouldn't be shocked if he takes advantage of it.

Biggest concern

The reigning Super Bowl champs appear to be much better defensively from the middling unit that didn't live up to the franchise norm in 2012. But saying that, much will depend on how top corner Lardarius Webb returns from another knee surgery, with the secondary almost totally overturned. Sorting out the linebackers, post-Ray Lewis, will be a major chore and replacing Boldin's production will be key.

Most of all though, the Ravens must find harmony and leadership in the locker room given the kind of players, and people, who have departed. New voices must emerge. And avoiding the typical pitfalls that follow great success -- complacency, ego -- will go a long way toward dictating the type of season they follow their Lombardi with.

Something to prove

The Ravens won a Super Bowl with Terrell Suggs being a shell of his normal self. It was amazing that he came back at all after his Achilles tear last spring. Now, he needs to return in peak shape and ready to be the kind of force he was in 2011 as Defensive Player of the Year. Similarly, Haloti Ngata was paid just a few years ago as one of the elite defensive linemen in the game, but his production has waned with injuries taking a toll. Renewed depth should result in better matchups for Ngata and he, too, has the potential to be Defensive Player of the Year at his best.

With so many veterans gone, the focus and expectations will be even higher for this duo, and the way they bounce back from off years could determine the team's fate. If they do get back to their best, this defense could be infinitely more disruptive than it was a year ago.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:25009 Followers:33
07/08/2013 04:56 PM

2013 NFL training camp preview: Pittsburgh Steelers

July 5, 2013 3:44 PM ET

In Pittsburgh, fans start camp talking about adding rings to that second hand and seeking a seventh Lombardi. But just getting back to the playoffs would be a start. The front office has had its hands tied by cap and budgetary issues, and old age is catching up with them, on defense in particular.

The focus will remain on the offensive line, as an injury to Ben Roethlisberger derailed a promising 2012 campaign. Projected starting right tackle Mike Adams is trying to race back from a recent stabbing, and while Mike Wallace's holdout is no longer the distraction it was a year ago, his departure as a free agent, and how he will be replaced, will dominate summer chatter.

This team could still put up scary offensive numbers, but will the defense be able to bury opponents with the avalanche of sacks and turnovers that defined this defense in its prime? It's time for a host of 2010-2012 draft picks to step up and begin filling a void, as the former fixtures of Dick LeBeau's defense continue to depart, retire or slow down.


Key changes

The Steelers' roster is in transition. An era is ending there, particularly on defense, with James Harrison and Casey Hampton gone, Troy Polamalu likely a year away from the same. The Steelers lost top skill players in receiver Mike Wallace and running back Rashard Mendenhall to free agency, with Pittsburgh trying to get its salary cap back on track and tight on cap space. Longtime offensive linemen Max Starks and Willie Colon left as well. The onus is on kids from recent draft classes to emerge, while longtime backup quarterbacks Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich are also gone.

Pittsburgh is never going to be all that active in free agency, and this year they displayed extreme caution. The stagnant cap tied their hands and they were bargain shopping. Plaxico Burress returns to try to bolster the receiving group and be an option in red zone situations. LaRod Stephens-Howling enters the running back mix as a free agent. Bruce Gradkowski comes in to serve under Ben Roethlisberger. And the Steelers matched the one-year offer sheet from New England to receiver Emmanuel Sanders, which can't be overlooked, either.

The staff is largely intact, with one key change being Danny Smith coming over from Washington as special teams coach. The Steelers had tried to hire him in the past, and the Redskins had always blocked, but Smith is now back in his hometown. His upbeat, relentless approach to practice should add life to their return units and bring a renewed energy as well. Mike Tomlin has wanted to hire him for a long time.


Position battles

Running back is screaming out for someone to step up and become the featured guy. Jonathan Dwyer earned more playing time as the season went on and can be a wrecking ball, and Isaac Redman returns on an RFA tender as well. The Steelers really like draft pick Le'Veon Bell out of Michigan State, and it wouldn't surprise if the rookie ended up with a hefty dose of carries before the season plays out. That process starts in earnest in camp.

With Wallace gone, and Sanders and Antonio Brown in line for even more work, the Steelers need a new slot presence to emerge. Jerricho Cotchery is the obvious candidate, but rookie draft pick Markus Wheaton has the body to serve that role as well.

It's also time for things to shake out at linebacker. Draft pick Jarvis Jones, taken in the first round, is seen by many as the natural replacement for Harrison, but he'll have to prove it. The pedigree of Pittsburgh linebackers goes back forever, and there is usually a learning curve. Jason Worilds is in that mix, and, frankly, he flashed enough early on that some thought he'd be ready to take over at right outside linebacker, but that's far from a certainty now. Veteran Larry Foote is back, though the team hopes more youngsters emerge, like Stevenson Sylvester.


New schemes

You know what you are going to get from Hall of Fame coordinator Dick LeBeau on defense. He's back for at least one more season, though at this point he could stick around five more years and no one would be surprised. He is truly ageless.

Todd Haley is back for his second season as offensive coordinator and expect to see more use of the tight end and quick-hitting passes on offense. Losing Wallace takes away a real longball threat and Wallace didn't find his way in the offense much in 2012. The interpersonal dynamics between Haley and Roethlisberger will be dissected on a weekly basis, too.


Bubble watch

At this stage of his career, Burress is by no means assured of a roster spot, even with a need at receiver. Tomlin is a fan of his, however, which helps. For a guy who couldn't find work a year ago, he should be plenty motivated and it will be interesting to see how many reps he gets early on. And can warrior Brett Keisel maintain and have his body hold up through the rigors of another season, given all the abuse he has absorbed over the years?


Unheard-of-guy to watch

Cortez Allen made some big strides last season when forced into a key role in the secondary and stands poised to get plenty of action this season as well, opposite Ike Taylor. Spreading out the Steelers and getting after their corners is a tact many clubs will take, especially if the pass rush is not as vaunted as in years past. Allen, from The Citadel of all places, is in line to begin making a name for himself if he can continue the progression he began to show last year.


Biggest concerns

For years people have been talking about the age of this team, particularly on defense. And while a transition is afoot, expect to hear plenty more. What some forget, however, is how well this team ended up finishing in overall defense again, in 2012. Can they keep it up?

The Steelers desperately need a handful of recent draft picks along the defensive line, like Cam Heyward, Ziggy Hood and Al Woods, to step up to maintain the level of defensive excellence Steelers' fans are accustomed to.

The offensive line remains a work in progress as well, and the stabbing of projected starting right tackle Mike Adams was unfortunate to say the least. He was starting to really adapt to his switch to the right side and the goal was to get as many reps as possible this spring. Will Adams be ready to go at the start of camp, as expected? Solidifying the tackle spots and also keeping guard David DeCastro healthy is another key.

And will the loss of Wallace limit the scope of this offense, one that -- even without him -- has the potential to be explosive?


Something to prove

Polamalu is the highest-paid safety in the league but hasn't been the same since signing his last contract extension. Merely staying healthy would be a big step. It's hard to put a first-ballot Hall of Famer in this category, but at this stage of his career he will have to improve if he wants to be around in 2014. This is Pittsburgh, after all, and they embrace change no matter how popular the player is when the time comes.

LaMarr Woodley hasn't been able to sustain his top pass rushing form, either, and he needs a bounce-back year, too. For some stretches, he looks like the best pass rusher in the NFL, but doesn't flash nearly as much during other portions of the season. With Harrison gone, they need sustained pressure from Woodley.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:25009 Followers:33
07/08/2013 04:58 PM

2013 NFL training camp preview: Cincinnati Bengals

July 5, 2013 3:08 PM ET


The Bengals went 10-6 and snared a wild card berth in 2012. Will the momentum continue? The Bengals went 10-6 and snared a wild card berth in 2012. Will the momentum continue?

Have the Bengals truly changed their culture and broken with their past? Are the sins of past teams no longer cast upon them? Are they now, truly, a franchise that can compete for a spot in the postseason on a yearly basis?

This upstart group proved many people wrong by getting back to the playoffs in 2012 and continuing their growth on field and off. The former bad boys brought in by owner Mike Brown had largely stayed out of trouble (Adam Jones' recent incident notwithstanding). They seemed like a maturing unit capable of dealing with, and sustaining, success.

Having a drama-free camp would only help matters, as would managing to get a contract extension done with a defensive lineman or two. With many of the team's best young players in line for a payday in the next 6-12 months, sending a message to the locker room, the fanbase, and the rest of the NFL about the Bengals' intent to remain viable would be imperative.


Key changes

The Bengals have finally reached a point were continuity is the norm. After beefing up the scouting department and putting together strong drafts, they have a quality roster, much of it still young, cheap talent. Coach Marvin Lewis received a contract extension before last season and they've reached the playoffs two years straight, and managed to maintain coordinators Mike Zimmer and Jay Gruden, despite them having some head coaching interest.

They're never going to splurge in free agency as long as Mike Brown is in charge, but they did slap the franchise tag on Michael Johnson to prevent him from leaving, and waited out a lethargic market for Andre Smith before re-signing the right tackle. They took a shot on longtime Steeler James Harrison, who could add a situation pass rush to an already potent front seven, and brought in tight end Alex Smith. Otherwise their moves were decidedly low key, bringing in Josh Johnson and John Skelton to compete for a backup quarterback spot.

And they also managed not to lose much, besides longtime fullback Brian Leonard. they re-signed depth corners like Adam Jones and Terrence Newman and kept linebacker Rey Maualuga as well. The biggest move could be the drafting of tight end Tyler Eifert in the first round.

But for the most part, you're getting last year's team, plus some draft picks, and a few value free agents. And given the steps this franchise has made in recent years, that's hardly a bad thing for Bengals fans.


Position battles

Josh Johnson was brought into the league in Tampa on Gruden's staff, so I would give him the leg up over Skelton coming into camp to back up Andy Dalton. Johnson has elite athleticism and Skelton was pretty much awful in Arizona last season, albeit behind the worst offensive line in the NFL and without any aid from a run game. The jockeying for spots behind Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green will be more closely watched. Mohamed Sanu is trying to come back from an injury that ended his rookie season early, with Marvin Jones, Brandon Tate and Andrew Hawkins among those trying to push for playing time.

In the secondary, Dre Kirkpatrick pretty much had a lost rookie season due to injury. Can he stake a claim to the corner spot opposite Leon Hall, or will a veteran like Newman or Jones hold him off? Kirkpatrick was a first-round pick in 2012, and expectations are high for him to break through.

And most notably, who carries the rock for this team this season? The Bengals absolutely love rookie running back Giovani Bernard, and I would not be surprised to see him get a good long look at displacing veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis (who finally started actually fumbling the football last season) this summer.


New schemes

You can expect more of what you've come to know from this outfit, except that pressure will continue to mount for Dalton to take more ownership of the offense and the huddle and have his voice in Gruden's attack. Pedestrian performances, tepid at best, in the postseason two years in a row have the microscope on the offensive side of the ball, and with the drafting of Eifert look for more spread formations and two tight end sets from Gruden this year.

Zimmer, long one of the best defensive coordinators in the game, will just keep on doing what he does, only with some new toys to add to the mix like Harrison and second-round pick Margus Hunt.


Bubble watch

Harrison was signed to a decidedly team-friendly deal, and given his age and a body that has been succumbing to all the years of punishment, I suspect he gets abundant rest in camp to try to navigate him through a long season. His back issues have been chronic and there are concerns with his knees as well.

Can he really be a starter and play major reps for this team? No doubt he's crazy motivated to do so, and to try to show the Steelers he can still do it. The reality is the money he left on the table from Pittsburgh's reduced offer to him is coin he'll likely never see again, and getting through the preseason close to full health may be enough of a chore.


Biggest concerns

Does this team have the mindset to shed its past and become a playoff force? That's all that matters now.

Finding leadership come January and getting it done -- quite possibly on the road, given the makeup of the AFC North -- will define their season, and instilling that psyche in camp will be a big part of what Lewis is selling to his group. Harrison's arrival likely has something to do with that -- he only orchestrated one of the signature plays in Super Bowl history -- and the offense must find a way to match the defense's consistency.

Are there enough secondary cogs around Green? Will Dalton step up? Can they go running back by committee, or is there a feature guy on this roster right now?

On paper, the defense is stacked, but getting something off the edge in the pass rush from Harrison or Hunt to complement Carlos Dunlap and Johnson will be key as well, and the search for those options begins in July.


Something to prove

The Bengals have a few, starting with Dalton. They need him to make the kind of postseason progress Joe Flacco did with Baltimore, or something at least in that direction, because merely getting to the playoffs is not enough. After this season Dalton can renegotiate his deal -- having played three full seasons under this new CBA -- and these questions will loom over everything the franchise does in 2013.

Is Dalton the guy to lead this team for the next decade? Or is he a functional system guy? He's had flashes of brilliance in the regular season, but is not being judged on the biggest of stages.

The drafting of Eifert could signal that the time for change is drawing near for tight end Jermaine Gresham, who was just drafted in the first round himself in 2010. Even in a two tight end set, there are only so many balls to go around. And with so many Bengals in line for fat new contracts in the coming years, will there be enough money for Gresham here? His production this season will go a long way toward deciding that.

Maualuga has yet to develop as expected as well, playing out his rookie deal and returning to Cincy on more of a bargain rate. This is a prove-it year for him as well.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:25009 Followers:33
07/08/2013 05:00 PM

2013 NFL training camp preview: Cleveland Browns

July 5, 2013 3:29 PM ET


With Norv Turner running the offense, could the Browns finally break into contention? With Norv Turner running the offense, could the Browns finally break into contention?

It's been a long time since the Browns entered a training camp free of concern or distractions and this one is no different. As the weeks go on, more troubling reports have surfaced about the conduct of executives at Pilot Flying J, the company run by new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, and the financial state of affairs at that company. Haslam's non-football doings, his liquidity and any wrongdoing on his part in regard to Pilot Flying J will trump, say, embattled quarterback Brandon Weeden having a good day at camp.

Browns fans always have something to fret over, and as the investigation unfolds and more findings and eventual charges and penalties come out, more questions will be asked of Haslam, and the NFL for that matter. What seemed like the dawn of a bright new era in Cleveland is now much more murky during Haslam's first full training camp in charge.


Key changes

The Browns cleaned out much of the building this offseason, overhauling the business operations, front office and coaching staff, with Joe Banner now running the show. And the clean-up job is quickly extending to the roster as well. It will take more than one offseason, but expect a continued influx of talent as the squad is remade.

Banner and GM Mike Lombardi knew that with this program so bad for so long, they would have to dig deep financially to get free agents to come to Cleveland and they did just that, looking within the division to nab young pass rusher Paul Kruger from Baltimore for $8 million a season. He will be counted on to provide immediate impact and work with guys like D'Qwell Jackson to keep quarterbacks under duress.

Of course it all starts at quarterback and this regime came in with low expectations for incumbent starter Brandon Weeden. To that end, they signed free agent quarterbacks Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer, and I would not be surprised at all to see either, or both, of them to end up with more starts that Weeden by the end of the season.

The Browns traded for possession receiver Davone Bess. Still in need of weapons, acquired back Dion Lewis for linebacker Emmanuel Acho, and also added free agent tight end Kellen Davis, linebacker Quentin Groves, and receiver David Nelson. They're hoping for big things from defensive lineman Desmond Bryant as well and believe they have a monster pass rusher on the way in first-round pick Barkevious Mingo.

As for key departures, Josh Cribbs was a record-setting return man for the team but has slowed in recent years and was battling injuries as well. Veteran linebacker Scott Fujita, a team leader, was forced to retire due to a neck condition, and linebacker Chris Gocong was released. Backup Colt McCoy, who lacked arm strength and never seemed like a good fit given the geographic realities of Cleveland, was dealt to the 49ers. Former top kicker Phil Dawson is gone, as are defensive linemen Frostee Rucker and tight end Ben Watson.

The biggest changes though are at head coach, with Rob Chudzinski in place, and new coordinators in Norv Turner and Ray Horton, giving the team very strong men with ample experience running both sides of the ball. And with a completely new set of eyes evaluating talent, including personnel man Ray Farmer, there is as much sel- scouting going on, sorting out this perennially last-place roster, as there is piecing through every other roster in the league looking for new parts.


Position battles

Position battles don't come any bigger than a quarterback competition, but we'll have one here as the preseason plays out. Weeden will need to show a quick grasp of this system and avoid the kind of mistakes that plagued him as 2012 rolled on. Lombardi has long had a feeling that Hoyer could be a diamond in the rough. He has many of the attributes he looks for in a quarterback. Campbell has a big arm and has been plagued by bad luck as much as anything else.

Does anyone emerge as anything close to a No. 1 receiver from this bunch? Josh Gordon and Greg Little have shown flashes, but neither is polished or seemingly ready to be a consistent go-to guy. The guard positions are up in the air a bit as well. Shawn Lauvao and Jason Pinkston will battle at left guard, while John Greco and Jarrod Shaw are part of the group vying for the right guard spot.

With Trent Richardson's health already an issue, as he enters just his second year, the battle between running backs like Montario Hardesty and Lewis will be interesting as well, with plenty of snaps up for grabs early in camp to see who gets the jump on being the backup/occasional starter, given Richardson's status.


New schemes

The Browns are totally changing their identity on both sides of the ball.

Turner may be the best playcaller in the NFL. He is a quarterback guru, and his entire focus is on the offense now without having to coach the entire team. That will free Chudzinski up to handle macro issues. The Browns offense has nowhere to go but up. Campbell throws a helluva a deep ball, which Turner loves, and could lead to him grabbing this job. The Browns have to find ways to stretch teams out, and I suspect Richardson's touches will be monitored more closely by Turner as well.

This team, while still lacking playmakers, won't be as predictable offensively any longer.

On defense, Horton's 3-4 hybrid scheme is much more aggressive than what the Browns ran under Dick Jauron. Expect much more pre-snap movement and varied looks. He will bring pressure from all over, and that should only aid a secondary with question marks outside of stud corner Joe Haden.


Bubble watch

Weeden was a first-round pick just a year ago, but he might not be long for Cleveland. If Campbell and Hoyer take off quickly, perhaps Weeden could be trade bait. He will be the most talked about Brown during camp, by far. He certainly is fighting for his job. The Browns did most of their purging already early in the offseason, trying to bring in younger bodies to fight for depth spots.


Unheard-of-guy to watch

Mitchell Schwartz enters his second year as a starting right tackle in Cleveland, but like many recent picks of the former regime, he will be watched very closely. The Browns couldn't upgrade at every spot in the offseason, but nailing down bookend tackles will be imperative when you look at the edge rushers division foes Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati have to offer, And Schwartz had his share of difficulty in his rookie campaign.


Biggest concerns

Anytime your first-year owner has his business raided by the feds, on multiple occasions, it's never ideal. There are worries about how far the probe into Jimmy Haslam's truck stop company could go to eventually impacting the cash flow of the Browns, and whether or not his tenure at the helm could ultimately be cut short because of it.

It's not something the front office is concerning itself with -- they have enough work to do just trying to turn around the lagging franchise -- but the timing, for Haslam, could hardly be worse.

Cleveland still lacks talent on offense and, besides its center and left tackle -- both studs -- you have to wonder about the rest of the offensive line. With so much youth on that side of the ball, you'd prefer a veteran line anchoring things down, but again, this rebuild will take time. And if you have three quarterbacks, well, you know how that saying goes. It all starts and ends there, and the true quarterback of the future for the Browns likely is not on the roster that will open camp.

The Browns added bite to an already sound defense, which was huge, and loaded up on 2014 draft picks, which should be a better crop of players to add to what they are developing here. But taking immediate leaps forward playing in this loaded division won't be easy.


Something to prove

Josh Gordon was taken with a second-round supplemental pick a year ago, and while he displays moments of brilliance, he has a ways to go to become a true threat in this league. He is very raw after missing considerable time in college and while speedy, needs to learn the position and harness his ability. There were concerns about his maturity and off field habits coming out of Baylor as well. He will need to take a positive step forward in all regards, much like fellow enigmatic young receiver Little, to avoid receiver becoming a focal point of the organization come next offseason.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:25009 Followers:33
07/11/2013 01:18 AM

2013 NFL training camp preview: Examining the new coordinators


July 10, 2013 12:43 pm ET



I asked a former NFL head coach how many new offensive and defensive coordinators there are in the NFL this season. He stopped, thought about it, laughed a little, and said 12 to 15.

Sorry, wrong answer.

There are 15 new offensive coordinators and 12 new defensive coordinators.

On top of that, at least five teams hired senior consultants who should have a major impact on his new team.

Throw in the eight new head coaches trying to turn around programs and there are 40 men in new positions. That's not even counting the new special-teams coaches.

There is zero stability in this league; it's no wonder players are struggling learning systems. Systems change all the time. The best advice I got from a coach was to develop a universal system so players and coaches can move around the league and be ready to play.

The nuts and bolts of any program rest in the hands of the coordinators. With 27 new coordinators plus five key consultants, there are changes all over the NFL.

Let's put this another way: There are 62 offensive and defensive coordinators in the NFL. The 2013 season will see 43.5 percent of play callers on both sides of the ball change. In reality, it's more like 50 percent when you factor in consultants like Tom Moore and Gregg Williams.
It's going to be a big challenge with the limited practice time. As one new coordinator said, "We have a challenge ahead of us about what our players can do, how much of our playbook will be effective, and how much we have to modify the plan as we go."

Below, I look at the new coordinators, the ripple effect their schemes will have on the team, the players who will fit well in the new packages, which players could struggle to play well, and some expectations for success.

Arizona Cardinals

Bruce Arians is the new head coach. That means he will be the biggest influence on the offense, even though Harold Goodwin was named the offensive coordinator and veteran Tom Moore is on the staff. Moore has been around Peyton Manning for years and knows how to win with the passing game. Arians is well known as a passing coach from his days with Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck. Early reports say all the coaches are excited about what they see from Carson Palmer and his arm. I expect 35-plus pass plays a game.

The biggest beneficiary of the new offensive staff will be Larry Fitzgerald, whose production has been hurt by poor quarterback play. The offensive line is still a big issue, so using a seven-step drop will be risky.

Rashard Mendenhall was with Arians in Pittsburgh and will be given the opportunity to get 18-20 touches a game. Moore has been involved in a lot of wide-stretch run plays, which will be a part of the offense if Mendenhall demonstrates he can function in that scheme as well as he has on the inside run game. One thing is clear: The run game will come off the passing game.

As for the defense, Todd Bowles takes over for Ray Horton, who moved on to Cleveland. The defense will continue to be a 3-4 package, but reports say it is a simple version and the players feel they will play faster.

Don't be surprised to see some 4-3 concepts. Darnell Dockett was frustrated with the defense last year and will get a chance to resume his old production in this scheme. Reports from players on the Cardinals seems to indicate Patrick Peterson will get more opportunities to match up with premier receivers in man-to-man looks.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens have kept the staff that won the Super Bowl intact and added former NFL head coach and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Spags likes to use zone pressure, and when you consider who Baltimore has lost on defense (Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe) the team might have to get creative with pressure calls.

Adding Spagnuolo when defensive coordinator Dean Pees is still on the staff could be a delicate situation, but Spags will go slowly and figure out his role as the season goes on. This team has the man corners to take chances in the front seven. Knowing the Ravens like we do, they will not sit back and play a read-and-react scheme.

Buffalo Bills

Doug Marrone is the new head coach and has an excellent background in offensive-line play and is influenced by his time in New Orleans. The Saints offense featured plenty of inside seam routes, so I expect a lot of it in the new Buffalo offense.
Meet new Bills head coach Doug Marrone

Previous stops: Syracuse Orange, Saints, Jets, Titans, Georgia Bulldogs
Doug Marrone

Makeovers are nothing new to Doug Marrone. In New Orleans, the Saints were a doormat before Sean Payton arrived in 2006, bringing Marrone with him. The same was true at Syracuse before he turned the Orange around. Buffalo hasn't been to the playoffs since 1999. That's right in Marrone's wheelhouse.

He's a tireless teacher. He's a good manager, able to oversee all phases of the game. He knows how to tap into players. He's adept at using all his weapons -- as he proved in New Orleans -- as well as building successful offensive lines (he coached the Jets' offensive line 2002-05). Best of all, he seems to know how to instill confidence in players whose clubs have a history of losing -- something that will come in handy in Buffalo.

By Clark Judge

Tight end Scott Chandler and rookie wide receiver Robert Woods should see significant opportunities in the "Saint" looks. The play calling will be handled by Nate Hackett, who has a West Coast background because of his father, Paul Hackett.

Don't be surprised to see the Bills experiment in the pistol offense, especially if EJ Manuel wins the quarterback job. Manuel hasn't done much in this area during his college career but neither did Russell Wilson before joining the Seahawks.

The Bills have been tightlipped this spring about their offense, but one opposing coach expects plenty of no-huddle and hurry-up offense. Keep an eye on the offensive line to see if they can handle the up-tempo pace.

As for the defense, Mike Pettine comes over from the Jets with a reputation for pressure calls and lots of man-to-man coverage calls. The front seven will be labeled a hybrid package as they toggle between 4-3 and 3-4 looks.

Pettine will have his 4-2 package ready to play against the three-wide receiver packages and won't be afraid to play it all game long. There will be added pressure on corner Leodis McKelvin if Pettine wants to play the same amount of man coverage and blitz as much as he used to with the Jets. McKelvin could be on an island for close to 50 percent of the snaps, and quarterbacks like Tom Brady will target him.

Mario Williams could be the key to how flexible the Bills defense will eventually be. Will Williams stand up and drop occasionally? Will he be a "joker" or a pure pass rusher?

Carolina Panthers

The only real change in Carolina is at offensive coordinator, where Mike Shula takes over for Rob Chudzinski, who became the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. The concepts will not change very much but it sounds like Shula trimmed back the play-calling language to make things easier for Cam Newton to up-tempo the offense.

The Panthers got away from their power-run game in the past few years, but there are expectations to feature it again and take some of the run game away from Newton in the open field. Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams and rookie Kenjon Barner should benefit from the re-emphasis on the run game.

Newton has a solid relationship with Shula and the chemistry should be fine. In fact, Newton told me this spring he is excited about the direction the offense is headed. If the run game is truly established, then the vertical passing attack will be available, and Newton throws an exceptional deep ball.

All eyes should be on wide receiver Brandon LaFell, who will get opportunities with Steve Smith on the other side. Last year, LaFell was targeted 76 times with 44 receptions at 15.4 per catch, but had only six receptions over 25 yards. The big-play receptions should go up under Shula.

Chicago Bears

Marc Trestman is the new head coach and has a good reputation as a play caller with an emphasis on the passing game. His new offensive coordinator, Aaron Kromer, has an offensive-line background and brings the concepts of the Saints passing attack with him, which means expect plenty of inside seam routes.

There will be big expectations for tight end Martellus Bennett to play the Jimmy Graham role. Kromer and Trestman worked together in Oakland and have been influenced by Jon Gruden's offensive philosophy. The run game will not be ignored, but Matt Forte should really flourish in the run/pass checks at the line.

The Bears probably want to pick up the pace-of-play execution. Signing LT Jermon Bushrod helps the line but there is still a big challenge up front.

Jay Cutler should be the biggest beneficiary of the Trestman/Kromer offense, which is perfect timing for the quarterback, who is in his contract year. Cutler will have no excuses, because these offensive coaches will feature his arm and give him quick-pass concepts to avoid sacks and picks.

The defense is now under the direction of Mel Tucker, who comes from Jacksonville and is known as a 4-3 coach, which fits the Bears personnel. Tucker needs the line to be a better pass-rushing unit and avoid blitzing.

To get former first-round pick Shea McClellin on the field in non-pass rush situations, Tucker might use some 3-4 looks that could help the defense create some confusion. Keep an eye on how much man coverage Tucker uses compared to the previous staff, which could stress the corners.

Cleveland Browns

The previous staff did the right thing last year in playing as many rookies as possible. Rob Chudzinski now inherits a fairly talented young team.
Norv Turner's track record
Team Offense Rank:
Pre-Turner Offense Rank:
With Turner
Dallas Cowboys 28th (1990) 9th (1991)
Washington Redskins 26th (1993) 17th (1994)
San Diego Chargers 28th (2000) 11th (2001)
Miami Dolphins 21st (2001) 15th (2002)
Oakland Raiders 25th (2003) 17th (2004)
San Francisco 49ers 30th (2005) 26th (2006)
Full Story: Browns should see offensive turnaround under Norv Turner

As solid as Chudzinski is on offense, it appears offensive coordinator Norv Turner will design and call the offense.There will be a solid run game employing all the blocking schemes with execution -- and not a lot of plays -- being the backbone of the package.

Trent Richardson will get 20-plus touches a game in this offense as long as he's healthy, but Turner will be looking for as many deep shots off the run as he can get. Wide receiver Josh Gordon could have a big year in this offense when he gets back from his suspension. Tight end Jordan Cameron is going to get a chance to catch a lot of passes.

Brandon Weeden saw a lot of his passes get blocked last season; Chudzinski and Turner are going to have to figure out how to reduce that number. Turner will use plenty of shotgun and fast passes to get Weeden in a rhythm. Weeden might be the luckiest young quarterback in the league, getting Norv Turner as his mentor.

On defense, Ray Horton takes control, and that means pressure 3-4. He has to simplify the defense and make it easier to understand if he wants solid execution early in the season. Some Cardinals players complained Horton's system was difficult to grasp when he coached at Arizona, but most of that falls on the players, not the coaches.

It will be interesting to see how Horton employs Paul Kruger, Jabaal Sheard and rookie Barkevious Mingo. I could see Horton developing a hybrid defense to get them all on the field by possibly using a two-man defensive line.

Dallas Cowboys

All eyes are on Dallas, where head coach Jason Garrett gave up play-calling duties (or was forced to give up) and handed them over to offensive line coach Bill Callahan. Is Callahan running the Garrett offense, which was pretty effective last year, or is he bringing his own flavor to the package?

The Cowboys need to fix their first-down run game, which was the least-used in the NFL last year. Callahan will surely try and balance up the run/pass ratio, which means DeMarco Murray needs to stay healthy.

It's probable the Cowboys will use a heavy dose of two-tight-end packages with a check-with-me run game, which could take some pressure off the offensive line. How much freedom Tony Romo will have at the line of scrimmage will be an interesting dimension to monitor in the Callahan offense.

The bigger change in Dallas will be the defense. Gone is Rob Ryan and his 3-4 pressure scheme and in comes Monte Kiffin and his 4-3 Tampa 2. Don't be surprised to see a lot less Tampa 2 and a lot more man coverage.

Kiffin has studied what the Seahawks are doing with their 4-3, which has 3-4 principles and lots of man to man. Jason Hatcher could be used in the Red Bryant role at times, so while everyone thinks it's all one-gap penetration up front (like it was when Kiffin had Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice), it might change.

This can be a good defense for Jay Ratliff if he stays healthy at his age, and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli will push DeMarcus Ware to new heights in pass rushing. I think this defense is the perfect fit for linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter. No longer will the offensive guards get a clean shot on them like they did in the 3-4 front, and they should both be much more effective run-and-hit guys.

Denver Broncos

The only change in Denver is Adam Gase replacing Mike McCoy as offensive coordinator. McCoy is now San Diego's head coach. Gase is the son-in-law of Saints coach Joe Vitt and now has the privilege of watching Peyton Manning run this offense.

Peyton is in full control of everything from the play calling to the scout-team looks. Gase will do lots of research work to help Manning prepare. Expect Manning to lean on his coordinator between series to make sure the protections are right and to help adjust things they didn't see before.

A friend of mine who worked with Manning a few years ago says, "It's amazing to coach this guy, and he makes you a better coach." Gase is on the verge of a real opportunity.

Indianapolis Colts

Pep Hamilton takes over for Bruce Arians, who ran the Colts offense last year with rookie Andrew Luck like he was coaching Peyton Manning or Ben Roethlisberger.

Things will not change much under Hamilton, who worked with Luck at Stanford and has a background in the NFL. Hamilton has seven years of NFL experience and loves to throw the ball. In 2009, he coached Jay Cutler with the Bears when the quarterback threw 555 passes and completed a franchise-record 336. The year before? Hamilton coached Kyle Orton to the fifth-highest completion rate in Bears history.


Andrew Luck was involved in 668 pass plays last year. That might come down slightly to grow the running game, but Luck will throw over 550 passes this year.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Gus Bradley left Seattle's great defense to take on the challenge of rebuilding this franchise. He will focus on the defense, which will have the Seahawks' traits, but he doesn't have the secondary players to use the exact Seahawks blueprint in Year 1. His defensive coordinator, Bob Babich, comes from the Lovie Smith/Monte Kiffin 4-3 defense.
Meet news Jags OC Jedd Fisch

Previous stops: Texans, Ravens, Broncos, Seahawks, Miami Hurricanes
Jedd Fisch

Jedd Fisch's return to the professional ranks is a well-deserved step forward for the 37-year-old, adding another stop to his nine years of experience as an NFL assistant. Fisch coached on staffs under Dom Capers, Brian Billick, Mike Shanahan and Pete Carroll during stops in Houston, Baltimore, Denver and Seattle. Although he never played football, Fisch cut his teeth as a graduate assistant for Steve Spurrier's Florida teams in 1999 and 2000.

In his first season as the offensive coordinator at the University of Miami, Fisch was able to establish his pro-style offensive scheme behind 1,200-yard running back Lamar Miller, now with the Miami Dolphins, and quarterback Jacory Harris. Miller's ground game, frequently inside/outside zone run plays, set up play action opportunities of Harris, who often faced simple high-low reads after the play-action fake. After three-years of accuracy issues, Harris recorded career high numbers for completion percentage (65.0%) and touchdown-interception ratio (20-9).

Extraordinary athletes, like ACC Rookie of the Year Duke Johnson, helped Fisch's cause at Miami, but you can see how the schemes might translate to the next level. Fisch used similar concepts with multiple personnel groups to keep the defense guessing, and capitalized when the the defense guessed wrong.

But while the pro-style offense appeared NFL-ready in the ACC, Fisch will ultimately be judged on whether the Jags can execute those concepts in the AFC.

By Chip Patterson

The Jags are going to have to play more zone looks to protect the secondary and might employ more zone pressures if the front four can't generate a rush. The Jags notched only 20 sacks last year and need Jason Babin to return to his old form.

On offense, little known Jedd Fisch takes over an offense with quarterback questions. Fisch has a West Coast background with influences from the Mike Shanahan system, and comes to Jacksonville directly from the University of Miami. Call his system whatever you want, but it's all about Maurice Jones-Drew running the ball and a quick-slant passing game where the QB can exploit the defense if it overplays the run game.

Former Jaguars coaches have told me Chad Henne should be the starter, so let's see what Fisch does with Blaine Gabbert.

Kansas City Chiefs

A complete turnover in coaching with Andy Reid taking over the program. Reid loves to throw the ball and is intrigued by the football smarts of his new quarterback Alex Smith. Reid has to see how much of what Smith understands in the classroom can transfer to the field. Smith has been at his best keeping his throws per game under 30. Reid usually averages more than 35 pass plays a game.

Doug Pederson is the offensive coordinator and will play more of a support role to Reid. The Chiefs hired Brad Childress as a special-projects coordinator, which means he will have an influence on the offense. If Jamaal Charles can stay healthy, he will get lots of touches in this offense, much like Brian Westbrook had in Philadelphia. In 2007, Westbrook rushed for 1,333 yards and caught 90 passes.

The Chiefs will roll through lots of personnel groups during a game and Dexter McCluster shows signs of being a an effective slot receiver in the Reid system. Jason Avant played that role in Philadelphia. I don't see TE Tony Moeaki being a featured player in this system with Anthony Fasano and rookie Travis Kelce on the roster.

New defensive coordinator Bob Sutton will keep the 3-4 defense, but I expect a lot more blitzing and zone-pressure calls. Sutton is coming to Kansas City from Rex Ryan's pressure defense with the Jets. That system called for a lot of safety blitzing, which could raise sack numbers for a guy like Eric Berry.

New Orleans Saints

Sean Payton is back but the defensive coordinator from last year isn't in New Orleans. Nothing much will change on offense, but I do expect more emphasis on running the ball.

On defense, there are radical changes with Rob Ryan taking over and converting the front to a 3-4. One coach said Ryan's 3-4 is really a 4-3 under scheme, but time will tell how much true 3-4 stuff we see in New Orleans. Ryan brought linebacker Victor Butler with him from Dallas but he is already lost to injury, placing a lot of pressure on Martez Wilson to be a rush OLB.

Two rookies should benefit from the new defense. Nose tackle John Jenkins will play a big role over the center clogging up the middle and safety Kenny Vaccaro could wind up with as many sacks as some of the linebackers.

Ryan's scheme can be complicated at times, and with this high-powered offense, he doesn't need to take as many chances. I am still unsure how former DE Will Smith and LB Jonathan Vilma will fit in the new scheme. Keep an eye on Saints cornerbacks Keenan Lewis and Jabarri Greer; they might be asked to play more man coverage than they have in the past.

New York Jets

Following the exodus after the 2012 season that included the coordinators and the GM, it feels like the only man left standing is head coach Rex Ryan.
Meet new Jets OC Marty Mornhinweg

Previous stops: Eagles, Lions, 49ers, Packers
Marty Mornhinweg (USATSI)

Marty Mornhinweg stakes his reputation on his teaching, play-calling and knowledge of the West Coast passing game. In San Francisco, he helped coach Steve Young to one of his most productive years ever in 1998, with Young throwing for a league-high 36 touchdown passes -- nearly twice his output from the previous season. Then he helped make former CFL star Jeff Garcia into a four-time Pro Bowl quarterback, with Garcia leading the 49ers back to the playoffs after a two-year hiatus.

His role in Philadelphia wasn't much different, where he rebuilt Michael Vick after his return to the NFL and made Kevin Kolb into such an attractive quarterback that Arizona was willing to gamble on the guy as its starter. Mornhinweg's offenses stress success with high-percentage passes -- short and intermediate attempts -- though he's not afraid to take the deep shot if he has a qualified quarterback.

By Clark Judge

His new offensive coordinator is Marty Mornhinweg and he has a reputation to run the ball. That sounds like a good thing considering Mark Sanchez has struggled in the past two seasons. Chris Ivory is the new running back, acquired in a trade from the Saints, and will benefit from the new scheme. Former Steelers guard Willie Colon should lead a power-run scheme if he can stay healthy.

When it comes to throwing the ball, Mornhinweg comes from the West Coast system; short, accurate passing with an emphasis on run-after-the-catch is what the coach will demand. Sanchez knows this style, but has struggled without good weapons. Stephen Hill and Santonio Holmes will get opportunities in this scheme.

On defense, Dennis Thurman takes over, but everyone knows it's still a Rex Ryan production. Pressure calls and pressure illusions from a 3-4 look is the core of this defense. The Jets need more pass rush; rookie Sheldon Richardson should help but the safeties are a question mark, in my opinion. Teams that spread the Jets out and isolate Landry or Bush will cause problems for Thurman's secondary.

Oakland Raiders

A change at offensive coordinator is nothing new here. It seems like every year, someone gets a chance to make this offense work. Now it's Greg Olsen's chance.

Look for the zone scheme to take a back seat to a man-power scheme. It is all predicated on Darren McFadden staying healthy. Olsen's biggest challenge is at quarterback. Matt Flynn's style fits Greg Olsen, but if he's ineffective, the staff has to consider Terrelle Pryor or rookie Tyler Wilson.

Philadelphia Eagles

The most intrigue surrounding any club's coaching staff is in the City of Brotherly Love. Chip Kelly makes the big jump from college with no personnel experience in the NFL. From what I have gathered, new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is installing his West Coast offense, so it appears there will be a blend of the Oregon offense and the more conventional NFL offense.

Michael Vick should benefit from the Kelly offense, but Nic Foles or Matt Barkley might get chances with the Shurmur package.

Talking to a few of the Eagles offensive linemen has led me to believe this will be an up-tempo offense no matter which package is being featured. Some say Vick struggles with the no-huddle, but all reports I got out of Philadelphia indicate the coaches like Vick's up-tempo no-huddle offense.

The run game will be different than most NFL teams, and LeSean McCoy might come out of the blocks with solid numbers in September.

Billy Davis takes over the defense, which will be advertised as a 3-4 but the post-snap look might be a different story. One opposing offensive coordinator said: "We will treat Philly like a 4-3 defense with a lot of one-gap penetration players." That might be the reason DeMeco Ryans will succeed in this 3-4, unlike his days with the Texans, who traded him because he was viewed as a 4-3 linebacker.

Davis spent time with Dick LeBeau in Pittsburgh and has many pressure calls if he needs them. Davis is going to have to figure out if his secondary can hold up in man-coverage calls and this should be a point of interest all summer. Teams that use the 3-4 hope to get 20 sacks from their outside linebackers, but it seems to be a stretch to expect that from Connor Barwin and Trent Cole. Cole is new at standing up as a linebacker and Barwin had three sacks in 16 starts last year.

San Diego Chargers

Mike McCoy takes over as head coach and is best known for building a creative way to use Tim Tebow in 2011 when the Broncos made a playoff run. That experience doesn't apply to Philip Rivers in San Diego, but his one year with Peyton Manning in 2012 does.

Former Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt is the offensive coordinator and play caller. He went to a Super Bowl with Kurt Warner and knows how to get the most out of a pure pocket passer like Rivers. Whisenhunt's biggest challenge will be protecting Rivers, who was sacked 49 times last year. Rivers keeps his interceptions to a minimum (15 in 2012) but he's at his best with the vertical seam-route game, and that calls for good protection.

Whisenhunt has health issues to manage. Running back Ryan Mathews has missed 10 games in his first three years in the NFL and had one rushing touchdown last year. Whisenhunt and McCoy will work to develop a run game, but for now, it looks like the offense will feature 35-40 pass attempts per game.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers are very aggressive at retaining their coaches with solid contract offers when other teams try to hire them away. Stability is important in San Francisco, so there is little change.
Meet new 49ers assistant Eric Mangini

Previous stops: 49ers, Browns, Jets, Patriots, Ravens
Eric Mangini (USATSI)

Eric Mangini is what the 49ers call an offensive consultant, but that's a little misleading. While it's the offense he works with, it's opponents' defenses he studies. Mangini is expected to serve as something like an advance scout, dissecting upcoming opponents and telling offensive assistants -- as well as coach Jim Harbaugh -- everything they need to know about their tendencies, their strengths, their shortcomings and how and where they can be attacked.

It's a smart move. Mangini was successful as a DC in New England and oversaw a defense in Cleveland that, in his last year as head coach there, shut down then-defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans and New England in successive weeks. But he's no stranger to offenses, having worked on that side of the ball his first two seasons in the NFL.

By Clark Judge

Chicago Bears

This year, the club added former head coach Eric Mangini to the staff. It appears the plan is to have him work with the offense, even though his area of expertise is defense. In my opinion, this is a brilliant move -- putting a guy that thinks defense in the room with the offensive staff. He will constantly look at the 49ers offense from the perspective of defending it, and offer advice about what the team should be preparing for each week. More teams should do things like this if they want to fully prepare.

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle had to replace defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who left to become the head coach in Jacksonville. Dan Quinn, a former defensive line coach under Pete Carroll in 2010, gets the promotion. Quinn spent the previous two seasons as the defensive coordinator of the University of Florida. He gets the chance to guide a defense constructed by head coach Pete Carroll. Nothing will change under Quinn with the package, which will feature a bit of a hybrid front and lots of man to man in the secondary.

The key to the front seven is DE/DT Red Bryant, whom Quinn coached a few years ago. Quinn's biggest job might be finding or developing a third linebacker to play the "Will" spot.

St. Louis Rams

Last year, the issues surrounding then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams really led to a defense coached by committee. Jeff Fisher was more involved than he needed to be and Dave McGinnis handled a lot of the day-to-day work. Now Tim Walton comes over from Detroit.

Walton was the secondary coach in a system that was similar to the Rams' scheme.
Walton will have little (if any) problems blending into the culture in St. Louis, because many of the things being done in Detroit were an extension of things Fisher did in Tennessee. Walton has much better cornerbacks to work with in St. Louis than he had in Detroit. That means more man coverage and pressure calls if he needs them. Don't be surprised to see a decent amount of corner blitzing, too.

The front four in St. Louis is a fast-emerging group that can get to the passer without help. Last year, the Rams had 52 sacks from 14 different players -- the front four had 39 of those sacks.

Walton's biggest challenge will come from trying to develop his safeties into solid players who can handle matchup issues. T.J. McDonald is a rookie and Darian Stewart didn't start a game last year. If Walton has to protect his safeties, it will limit some of the creative scheme ideas he might have for this defense.

Tennessee Titans

Technically, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is not new, but he took over for Chris Palmer midway through last season, and this is his first offseason to build his offensive package. Loggains has been a quarterbacks coach for most of his pro career after starting out as a scout for the Cowboys.

The offense will still be based on Chris Johnson and the run game. Loggains has to figure out how to get Johnson in the end zone more. In the past two years, Johnson has touched the ball 631 times but scored only 10 touchdowns. One touchdown every 63 touches is not going to win a lot of games.

The biggest winner in the decision to turn the offense over to Loggains might be QB Jake Locker. Loggains' system is less complicated and the offensive line will be solid with the additions of guards Andy Levitre and rookie Chance Warmack. Locker will get time to throw play-action off the Johnson run game.

Some believe the Titans are going to be a big, two-tight-end team, but I see them as a three-wide receiver team. Loggains knows the deepest position on this roster is at wide receiver.

On defense, Jerry Gray is still the coordinator, but Gregg Williams will have a dominating presence. Williams holds players accountable, believes in lots of pressure calls, loves to corner blitz, and will sit any player who makes mental errors.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:25009 Followers:33
07/12/2013 07:11 PM

2013 NFL training camp preview: Buffalo Bill

July 5, 2013 5:34 PM ET



The Bills will be a vastly different team than the one that finished 6-10 in 2012. The Bills will be a vastly different team than the one that finished 6-10 in 2012.

The Buffalo Bills are brand new from top to bottom. There's a new GM, head coach, coordinators and two new quarterbacks. The only thing that remains from the past decade is the fan frustration. Since 2000 the Bills are 82-126 with no postseason appearances. Against their three division opponents in the same 13 seasons they are 25-53. They are just 3-23 against New England during that stretch compared to more respectable records against Miami (12-14) and the New York Jets (10-16). There's a lot of work to be done to get back to the glory days. Last year the Bills went 0-6 vs. playoff teams and gave up an average of 38 points in those games. None of that matters now because head coach Doug Marrone only cares about the future and he believes the Bills can make the playoffs.

Key changes

The quarterback position is the KEY change on the roster. Gone is Ryan Fitzpatrick and in his place is a battle between Kevin Kolb and rookie first-round pick EJ Manuel. Fitzpatrick was the fall guy for the Bills woes but he did throw 24 touchdowns to just 16 interceptions last year. Kolb has never thrown more than nine TDs in a season and only has 28 in his 21 career starts. Manuel, of course, has never thrown a pass in the NFL. When it comes to getting rid of the ball to avoid a sack time will tell if Kolb is better than Fitzpatrick. Last year Fitzpatrick was sacked 1:18 attempts with Andy Levitre at guard. Kolb or Manuel will not have Levitre, who left in free agency, and Kolb has been sacked 1:11 attempts throughout his career.

Roster additions: Manny Lawson (OLB) comes over from the Bengals and will start at ROLB. Alan Branch comes from the Seahawks and will push to be in the defensive tackle rotation. Kiko Alonso, a second-round pick in the draft, is penciled in to start at right inside linebacker. Some felt Alonzo was a fourth- or fifth-round pick but former GM Buddy Nix and present GM Doug Whaley convinced me that Alonzo has what it takes to earn a starting spot. Keep an eye on him when Tom Brady goes no huddle.

Roster departures: The biggest departure was offensive guard Andy Levitre. Levitre was the Bills best offensive lineman and right now he is being replaced by former Dallas Cowboy Sam Young, who was claimed on a waiver back on September 2011. It can be tough for a guy who is 6-foot-7 to play guard, so keep your eye on this situation. The only guy on the roster with legitimate starting experience on the inside of an offensive line that is not starting is Doug Legursky. Legursky has 17 starts over the past three seasons as a Steeler. As for the other departures, safety George Wilson and linebackers Kelvin Sheppard and Nick Barnett are off the roster. Barnett, Wilson and Sheppard were the top three tacklers on the Bills last year combining for 287 tackles and four sacks.

Staff changes: Doug Whaley is the new GM and he will bring his Pittsburgh Steelers roots to western New York. The team will eventually take on the traits of the Steelers when it comes to physical players, toughness and a multiple-look defensive package. Doug Marrone is the new head coach and even though he was only 25-25 as the head coach of Syracuse his experience under Sean Payton in New Orleans will be the foundation for the offense. New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is known for his aggressive pressure defenses which were developed under Rex Ryan.


Position battles

The quarterback battle will be well documented and sooner or later EJ Manuel has to take the field for the Bills. The next intriguing battle will be at wide receiver with T.J. Graham trying to hold off Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin, two of Marrone's draft picks this past spring. Keep an eye on the kicking battle as Rian Lindell battles rookie sixth-round pick Dustin Hopkins. Hopkins has a long leg and Lindell is 36 years old.


New schemes

The Bills look like a 4-3 defense when you think about defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, but you can expect a lot of 3-4 looks and pressure calls from the secondary. On offense, if EJ Manuel wins the job there could be some variations of the pistol offense even though Manuel was a drop-back passer in college. I watched Manuel at the Senior Bowl and he moves well enough to build a package much like Seattle did with Russell Wilson.


Bubble watch

Buffalo has just under 20 million of salary cap space and with very little pressure to cut for money reasons there should be true battles for positions. Guys that may be question marks during the summer include Brad Smith (WR), Alex Carrington (DE), and kicker Rian Lindell. Actually, Buffalo has the cap space to acquire a few veterans or make a trade or two as camp goes on.


Unheard-of-guy to watch

Undrafted wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers has first-round talent with off-the-field issues. If he walks the straight and narrow he could make this team. The Bills swapped out linebacker Kelvin Sheppard for Colts bust Jerry Hughes. Hughes has a real opportunity in Buffalo backing up Mark Anderson. Keep an eye on rookie safety Duke Williams who will battle Da'Norris Searcy for the strong safety job.


Biggest concern

How will Doug Marrone use his 'honeymoon' first year of his tenure as Bills head coach? The Bills open at home against the Patriots, a team they are 3-23 against since 2000. Do they play older veterans who may not be the future? Or do they play all the young players to build a foundation? This year, besides the Patriots, the Bills also play Baltimore, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Atlanta and the Bengals.
Something to prove

In some ways the Bills have gone backward, not forward, with the loss of an experienced GM and head coach as well as an experienced QB, OG and safety. But changes had to be made, and if EJ Manuel offers hope to the organization and fans, then the team is on the way back. There's a lot of pressure on this organization to turn things around.

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Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs: