cnotes Posts:24370 Followers:32
07/12/2013 07:14 PM

2013 NFL training camp preview: New York Jet

July 5, 2013 5:20 PM ET


The Jets were very often the butt of jokes in 2012. Can they become relevant again? The Jets were very often the butt of jokes in 2012. Can they become relevant again?

The bubble has appeared to burst in New York and Rex Ryan isn't talking about winning it all in 2013. According to Nick Mangold, Rex is still Rex behind closed doors with his team and the players appreciate his confidence in them. Things are changing for the Jets with GM Mike Tannenbaum and his personnel people out and a new front office led by John Idzik is in place. Ryan is probably on thin ice, but he will not coach scared for his job. No one is looking at the Jets as contenders but be careful and don't count them out. A few players have told me Mark Sanchez will not go away quietly and will fight to keep his job. As Mangold said, "He led us to the AFC Championship Game twice and everyone seems to forget it."

Key changes

The Jets were on their way to salary cap jail when John Idzik took over as GM, but after some though financial decisions they sit with close to $10 million in salary cap space. The biggest on-the-field change that potentially could happen is at quarterback with Sanchez battling rookie draft pick Geno Smith. There has been a steady flow of coaches out of the Jets organization over the past few years, and with Rex Ryan's job on the line, he enters 2013 with new coordinators on offense, defense and special teams. It's going to be tough for Ryan to tie this whole team together in time for the season.

Roster additions: The 2013 draft should put at least two starters in the lineup, CB Dee Milliner and DE Sheldon Richardson. Milliner replaces lock-down corner Darrelle Revis, who was traded to the Bucs. Tampa Bay is the opening game for the Jets, which should be very interesting. Veteran free-agent guards Willie Colon and Stephen Peterman bring much needed veteran help to the offensive line. If Colon can stay injury free the Jets will have a solid rush attack with newcomer Chris Ivory following Colon in the G-power game. Keep an eye on the recent addition at tight end, Kellen Winslow. He struggles to stay healthy but he is the best receiving tight end on the roster. On defense, Dawan Landry replaces LaRon Landry at safety and Josh Bush replaces Yeremiah Bell. They can't be considered upgrades at this point.

Roster departures: Revis is the biggest departure, but the Jets only had him for two games last year and still managed to be the No. 2 pass defense in the NFL. Tim Tebow is now a Patriot camp candidate, but he never did much for the Jets in 2012. If you go back and look at the starting lineup from December 2012 you will realize that 10 starters are no longer on the roster: Matt Slauson, Brandon Moore, Dustin Keller, Shon Greene, Sione Pouha, Mike DeVito, Bart Scott, Bryan Thomas, Bell and Landry. Basically, 50 percent of the starters are gone.

Staff changes: Three new coordinators with 11 new starters' sounds almost like an expansion franchise. Marty Mornhinweg takes over the offense and has a reputation for running the ball. Dennis Thurman takes over the defense and will be an extension of Rex Ryan's pressure 3-4 package. Ben Kotwica was promoted after the retirement of Mike Westoff.


Position battles

Quarterback is going to be a heavily contested battle and the media will be right in the middle of it. Sanchez is under the microscope, but will Geno Smith be ready to lead this team? At fullback, rookie Tommy Bohanon is a powerful lead blocker and he will compete with Lex Hilliard. On defense, Milliner will attempt to unseat Kyle Wilson for the corner job opposite Antonio Cromartie. The loser will be the nickel corner. The biggest experiment is moving Quinton Coples, a 4-3 defensive end drafted in the first round last year, to OLB. Calvin Pace was re-signed in case the project is a failure.


Bubble watch

A new GM and an old coach trying to keep his job. The GM wants to continue to get younger players on the field and the coach wants as much veteran experience as he can get. With the roster overhaul that has already taken place there isn't much left to do, but veterans like Winslow, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Antonio Garay, Greg McElroy, and Mike Goodson (legal issues) are always bubble players.


Unheard-of-guy to watch

Third-round offensive guard Brian Winters can play guard or tackle and he will find a way to get on the field as a rookie. Josh Bush and Antonio Allen were drafted last year in the sixth and seventh rounds and both could find their way on to the field by the start of the season. Garay sits behind Kenrick Ellis on the depth chart at nose tackle, though Ellis has four career starts, 16 tackles and no sacks. In the last three years Garay has 28 starts, 81 tackles and nine sacks.


Something to prove

Sanchez has won 4 of 6 playoff games, all on the road, with nine touchdown passes, three interceptions, four sacks and he's only 27 years old. But he is under constant attack. No one seems to care that he had a poor group of weapons and a shaky offensive line last year. Austin Howard is the starting right tackle and the film study says he can play, but he will have to hold off a few draft picks to keep his job. With Bart Scott no longer a member of the Jets, Demario Davis gets the call. Davis has three NFL starts where he did record 15 tackles.


Biggest concerns

Where is the pass rush? In 2012 the Jets 3-4 defense only generated 30 sacks and 12 1/2 of those were by players no longer on the team. The top 3-4 defenses get close to 20 sacks from their two outside linebackers and the pressure is on Coples and Antwan Barnes to generate bigger numbers than they have in the past or the Jets will find themselves blitzing too often in order to manufacture pass rush.

Last year the Jets scored 60 points in their last five games (12 per game) which tells you why they were the 30th ranked offense in the NFL. Don't be surprised if Sanchez is the starting QB to open the season and as soon as he throws his first interception the cries for Smith will be so loud that the rookie winds up on the field. There's a five-week stretch in the middle of the season when the Jets play Atlanta, Pittsburgh, New England, Cincinnati and New Orleans. I might wait until that part of the schedule is over before Geno Smith takes the field.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:24370 Followers:32
07/12/2013 07:16 PM

2013 NFL training camp preview: New England Patriots

July 5, 2013 4:57 PM ET


The Patriots enter camp tasked with smoothing over some significant roster changes. The Patriots enter camp tasked with smoothing over some significant roster changes.

The Patriots have dominated the AFC East for so many years it's hard to remember when any of the other teams really challenged them for the division crown. There is an undercurrent that they are closer to the pack now with the departures from the roster and some of the additions to their opponents, especially down in Miami. I'm not buying it as long as Tom Brady is under center. Brady will need his greatest year as a pro to overcome some of the issues surrounding the club, but as former Patriot Dan Koppen said to me, "You won't hear a word out of Tom or any excuses. He will meet the challenge."

Key changes

The addition of Tim Tebow isn't a reason to believe the Patriots are developing a secret package that would put Tom Brady on the sideline. A few years ago I asked owner Robert Kraft if the club had any interest in the Wildcat offense.

"We have no interest in anything that doesn't have Tom Brady on the field running the offense," Kraft responded.

The Patriots have assembled a solid group of running backs and there could be more emphasis on the ground attack. Over the past two seasons the Patriots have averaged 654 pass plays and they could be considering cutting that back to the 550 range. That equates to six less pass plays a game and I could see the run game getting the extra work. That would make sense, especially with the significant changes to the receiver position. But in the end Tom Brady will still be leading one of the top scoring offenses in the NFL.

On defense the Patriots were ranked 9th overall but 29th against the pass. New England was outstanding in creating turnovers with 20 interceptions and 21 fumble recoveries, which is more important than pass defense. Imagine giving Tom Brady 41 extra series in a season. As for shoring up the pass defense, it starts up front with a better pass rush and hopefully the linebackers play a bigger role in coverage and pressure.

Roster additions: Two key players on defense have to step up for the Pats: safety Adrian Wilson and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly. Wilson is thought of as a box safety better against the run than the pass and time will tell how he plays in space against teams trying to match up their vertical threat tight ends against him. Kelly has talent but has been labeled an underachiever at times. He should provide some inside push with Vince Wilfork to help collapse the pocket.

On offense the Patriots have overhauled the receiver position and expect big things from oft-injured Danny Amendola, rookie WR Aaron Dobson and veteran castoffs Michael Jenkins and Donald Jones. Amendola replaces Wes Welker but has only been active in 42 of his 64 games and has 196 receptions and 7 touchdowns in his career. Not one of these four wide receivers has ever been in a real game with Tom Brady or experienced Brady's no-huddle attack.

Roster departures: Gone are Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Aaron Hernandez, Donte' Stallworth, Deion Branch and Danny Woodhead. Last year as a group they caught 301 passes and 19 touchdowns. Tom Brady completed 401 passes last year and 75 percent of those receptions are not on the roster as well as 56% of the touchdowns. This group of missing receivers also moved the chains for a first down 179 times or 11 a game.

Staff changes: The Patriots return all key components to the staff with the offensive, defensive and special team coordinators still in Foxboro.


Position battles

Right cornerback: Second-year player Alfonzo Dennard is penciled in as the starter but veteran Kyle Arrington and rookie Logan Ryan will press to take the job. The top loser should be the nickel back.

Linebacker: The Patriots have invested heavily at linebacker over the past few years with Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower as former first-round picks and Brandon Spikes a second-round selection. Keep an eye on this year's Round 2 linebacker, Jamie Collins, trying to fight his way on to the field.

Running back: This will be interesting to watch as Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen should compete for most of the playing time, but the addition of LeGarrette Blount and Leon Washington make the situation very competitive.


New schemes

The Patriots are listed as a 4-3 defense, which they played last year as their base defense but they have a long history of being a 3-4. With the personnel on this roster right now Coach Bill Belichick could easily return to a 3-4 package. On the offensive side of the ball until the health status of tight end Rob Gronkowski is known they may have to be creative with their personnel groupings. Jake Ballard could get significant time at tight end or they could use more of a hybrid two-back system.


Bubble watch

Former 2010 second-round pick OLB/DE Jermaine Cunningham has fallen down the depth chart and is questionable to make the roster. Tim Tebow is no lock to make the team, especially with a non-guaranteed contract and the Patriots' recent history of keeping only two quarterbacks.


Unheard-of-guy to watch

Three guys that could play bigger roles this year include WR Donald Jones picked up from the Bills, WR/DB Julian Edelman, and center Ryan Wendell. Jones has as good a chance as any receiver to make an impression on Tom Brady. Edelman could see some of Woodhead's opportunities and might have more of Welker's skill sets than anyone on the roster. Wendell started all 16 games last year and no one knows the guy. Now with Hernandez gone and Gronkowski's health in question, the Patriots either trade or pick up tight end help or expect a lot more from Jake Ballard or Michael Hoomanawanui.


Biggest concerns

Inexperience at the receiver positions and the health of Gronkowski lead the list of concerns. Last year Tom Brady threw 13 touchdown passes to one interception in his six division games. Is that production still going to be there this season? How much emotional damage will the issues surrounding Hernandez inflict? What about the distractions they might cause?
Something to prove

Amendola has big shoes to fill replacing Welker, who year-in and year-out caught 100 balls. Michael Jenkins replaces Brandon Lloyd. Jenkins' best season as a pro was 53 receptions for the Falcons in 2007. Lloyd had 74 catches last year. Tim Tebow really has to open up to the idea of playing another position if he wants to stick with the Patriots. He's not better than backup QB Ryan Mallet and to make this team he may have to become a utility player.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:24370 Followers:32
07/12/2013 07:18 PM

2013 NFL training camp preview: Miami Dolphins

July 5, 2013 5:10 PM ET


As they enter camp, the Dolphins would do well to work on their pass defense. As they enter camp, the Dolphins would do well to work on their pass defense.

The Miami Dolphins were 7-9 last year and in many ways resembled the Dolphins of the last decade, a team in the middle of the pack and seemingly going nowhere. Don't bring that up to Dolphin fans this year as expectations are soaring with the development of QB Ryan Tannehill and all the offseason moves. The reality is that there's still lots of work to do for an offense and pass defense that were ranked 27th in the NFL last year.

Key changes

There were no key changes to the coaching staff, which is a good thing. Head coach Joe Philbin made a very favorable impression on me last year in his first year as a head coach as did his coordinators Mike Sherman and Kevin Coyle. Coyle's defense only gave up 18.6 points a game in the six division games. Unfortunately, the Miami offense only scored 18.1 points per division games.

The team decided to move on without the services of LT Jake Long, RB Reggie Bush, TE Anthony Fasano and slot receiver Davone Bess. Only time will tell if the offense benefits from the replacements for these players. Long played hurt last year but still rarely got any help blocking the key pass rusher on opposing teams. Bush, Bess and Fasano accounted for 2,388 yards of offense, 14 touchdowns and 99 first downs.

Roster additions: Wide receiver Mike Wallace was signed in the offseason for a five-year, $60 million deal with $30 million guaranteed. Wallace leads an overhaul of the roster that includes 8-9 new starters for the 2013 season. Seven new members to the roster include Wallace, CB Brent Grimes, linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler, offensive tackle Tyson Clabo, tight end Dustin Keller and first-round pick DE Dion Jordan.

Roster departures: Not everyone is convinced that dropping linebackers Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett for Ellerbe and Wheeler was that much of an upgrade, but the Dolphins got younger at the linebacker position and in the long run it may have been the right move. Dansby and Burnett were the top two defenders in tackles with 234 combined tackles, 3½ sacks and 14 passes defended. Ellerbe and Wheeler got $27 million guaranteed in their combined $51 million contracts and have a lot to live up to make the departures of Dansby and Burnett look like good football decisions.


Position battles

There will be competition at running back, fullback, the third wide receiver, defensive end and cornerback. RB Lamar Miller will be challenged for playing time by Daniel Thomas and rookie Mike Gillislee. The fullback battle will be between Jorvorskie Lane and Charles Clay. The third wide receiver has to replace Davone Bess' production in the slot with Brandon Giibson, Jeff Fuller, Armon Binns and maybe Marvin McNutt competing all summer. Dion Jordan is penciled in at defensive end but Jared Odrick will not go away quietly and may win the job on the early downs. Richard Marshall is penciled in at corner opposite Brent Grimes, but expect rookie Jamar Taylor to go after the starting spot and push Marshall to the nickel role.


Bubble watch

The Dolphins made the most of their big roster decisions in the offseason, but guys like CB Nolan Carroll, CB Dimitri Patterson, RB Daniel Thomas and maybe guard John Jerry will have to do well this summer or risk losing playing time or worse.


Biggest concern

The expectations are high, especially for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He only threw 12 touchdown passes last year. I think Tannehill will take the next big step in his development, but will he lead Miami to the playoffs? Secondly, will Brent Grimes return to 100 percent and lead this team to a better pass defense than the 27th ranked pass defense last year. Tom Brady has led the Patriots to six straight wins over the Dolphins with 11 touchdown passes while averaging 283 passing yards a game.
Something to prove

There is a lot of pressure on running back Lamar Miller to replace Reggie Bush. Can Miller get 1,000 yards rushing on 220 carries, scored six touchdowns, catch 38 balls and score two more times because that's what Bush averaged in his two seasons with the Dolphins. Offensive tackle Jonathan Martin is now a permanent fixture on the left side with Jake Long gone and he got mixed reviews last year when he had to go to the left side. Miami tried to re-sign Jake Long, which should tell you they were happy with Martin on the right side. Brian Hartline was moving along nicely in a quiet career until the Dolphins signed him to a five-year, $31 million deal with $12.5 guaranteed this spring. That's a lot of money for a guy with six touchdown receptions in four years.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:24370 Followers:32
07/15/2013 05:19 PM

2013 NFL training camp preview: Indianapolis Colts


The Colts saw great things from Andrew Luck last season. Now it's time for the next step. The Colts saw great things from Andrew Luck last season. Now it's time for the next step.

Last offseason, the Colts were fresh off a 2-14 season, Peyton Manning had just been released, and Andrew Luck was the new franchise quarterback. The front office and coaching staff were also dumped, the roster overhauled with young, unproven talent (save Reggie Wayne, who signed a modest deal to stay in Indianapolis), and a team with virtually no expectations won 11 games and made the playoffs.

Now that it appears Rome has been built in a day, the Colts hope to improve on their 2012 successes. But once you get past the 11-5 record and just how good Luck is -- and will be -- questions remain. According to FootballOutsiders.com's metrics, Indianapolis ranked 18th in the league in offense and 31st in defense.

Though Luck flourished in Bruce Arians' scheme, he was sacked 41 times. Arians is now the head coach in Arizona and Luck has been reunited with his college OC, Pep Hamilton.

But whomever's calling plays or whatever the scheme, the basic tenet of protecting the quarterback remains. Which is why general manager Ryan Grigson wasted little time signing former Lions first-round pick Gosder Cherilus and making him the starting right tackle. The team also used its second- and third-round picks in April's NFL Draft to take guard Hugh Thornton and center Khaled Holmes. The theme: Protect the face of the franchise.


Key changes

Veteran Matt Hasselbeck provides the Colts something they didn't have in 2011 -- a legitimate backup quarterback. Not only that, Hasselbeck seems to embrace his role as mentor (something he did with Jake Locker in Tennessee).

Wayne had 100 catches last season but the second-leading receiver, wide receiver Donnie Avery, is now with the Chiefs. The Colts hope second-year tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen become a bigger part of the passing game, but the team also signed former Raiders first-rounder Darrius Heyward-Bey in the hopes that getting out of Oakland will do for him what it did for Randy Moss when he was traded to the Patriots in 2007. (That's probably a tad optimistic, but even a fraction of Moss' production would be welcome.)

The defense -- which was supposed to improve under coach Chuck Pagano, the former Ravens defensive coordinator -- didn't look much different than the previous versions, at least in terms of production. The Colts moved to a 3-4 front last offseason, and that proved to be a lot to ask for defensive end lifer Dwight Freeney. He managed just five sacks and is now in San Diego. Grigson gave former Packers linebacker Erik Walden a four-year, $16 million contract this spring and he'll replace Freeney on the depth chart. Freeney's bookend, Robert Mathis, returns after racking up eight sacks in '12. The team also used its first-round pick on Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner, who is -- you guessed it -- currently transitioning to outside linebacker.

In the secondary, cornerback Jerraud Powers is gone (he's now with the Cardinals) and the Colts signed underrated Greg Toler (formerly of the Cardinals), whom CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco identified as one of the top under-the-radar free agents. The Colts gave former Jets safety LaRon Landry $24 million, which seems like a lot of money to devote to a player who struggles with injuries and man coverage. Still, the plan is that he'll become the defense's enforcer, something that was lacking a season ago.


Position battle

Nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin was signed this offseason and he'll compete with second-year player Josh Chapman for the starting gig. Franklin's a grizzled veteran, arriving in Indy after stints in Baltimore, San Francisco, New Orleans and most recently San Diego. He's also familiar with defensive coordinator Greg Manusky's scheme from their time together with the 49ers. Chapman, meanwhile, hasn't played a down since the Colts drafted him out of Alabama in 2012.


New scheme

Pep Hamilton replaces Bruce Arians as offensive coordinator, which means the team will transition to a West Coast-inspired scheme. (Though Hamilton prefers to call it a "No Coast offense" because, according to Hasselbeck, Hamilton says he doesn't "care what people have done in the past, we’re going to do whatever it takes.")

Hasselbeck added: "You can feel the footprint of Peyton Manning and that offense still in this playbook, stuff that they’ve done. Stuff that was good with Reggie Wayne. Stuff that was just good for the guys here, that’s worked with Clyde Christensen, the quarterbacks coach. Then there is a good element of the stuff that Bruce Arians had success with last year that worked with Andrew (Luck). Then there is the stuff that Pep did at Stanford with Jim Harbaugh and kind of what the 49ers are doing."


Bubble watch

The Colts signed running back Ahmad Bradshaw, which means Delone Carter could find himself on the wrong side of the final 53. Carter is fourth on the depth chart behind Bradshaw, Vick Ballard and Donald Brown.

Backup safety Joe Lefeged was arrested in late June on gun charges. Depending on how the legal process plays out, he could be looking for work in the coming weeks.


Unheard-of-guy to watch

Greg Toler was taken by the Cardinals in the fourth round of the 2009 draft. He arrived with few expectations, a former semi-pro player who shined at Division II St. Paul's (Va.) before getting drafted. By 2010, he was a starter but missed the 2011 season with an ACL injury. Here's how Pete Prisco described Toler in February:

"At 6-feet, 190 pounds, he is a capable man-cover player who is also a willing tackler. That's the one thing that surprised me on tape: His willingness to tackle. He throws his body around, but he's also more than capable of staying with good receivers. He can play press-man, off-man and he seems comfortable playing zone.

"For a team looking for a 28-year-old corner who would seem to have his best football in front of him, Toler would make a ton of sense."

Clearly, Grigson agreed.


Biggest concerns

With the upgrades to the offensive line and the expectation that Luck will be even better than he was as a rookie, the questions about the 2013 Colts start on defense. The hope is that the offseason additions of Franklin up front, Walden and Werner at linebacker, and Landry and Toler in the secondary will yield results in the form of fewer points and more sacks and turnovers. But even if this transition proves to be a multi-year process, Luck and Indy's offense has shown that they can carry the load.


Something to prove

Darrius Heyward-Bey had four forgettable years in Oakland where he was plagued by expectations, injuries and drops. In Indy, he'll learn from Reggie Wayne, have one of the league's best young quarterbacks throwing him passes, and do it all while playing for a stable franchise, something he never experienced with the Raiders.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:24370 Followers:32
07/15/2013 05:21 PM

2013 NFL training camp preview: Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars hope new additions like Luke Joeckel and Mohamed Massaquoi will help right the ship. The Jaguars hope new additions like Luke Joeckel and Mohamed Massaquoi will help right the ship.

Coach Mike Mularkey lasted one season in Jacksonville, going 2-14, the worst record in team history. Owner Shahid Khan wants to make the Jaguars relevant again and unlike some of his counterparts, he's happy to hire the football people to see that vision through. New general manager David Caldwell and new coach Gus Bradley have been tasked with revitalizing a franchise that came into the league in 1995 and then proceeded to make the playoffs four straight years from 1996-1999, including two AFC Championship Game appearances. In the 13 years since: Two trips to the playoffs and nine seasons of sub-.500 football.

One thing those early Jags teams had that the current version doesn't: A franchise quarterback. Jacksonville drafted Blaine Gabbert 10th overall in 2011 but the results have been mostly disappointing. Like his AFC South counterpart in Tennessee, Jake Locker, the 2013 season will be a make-or-break one for Gabbert.

To be fair, Gabbert had little help; the Jaguars were last in the league in scoring last season, managing 15.9 points per game. And according to FootballOutsiders.com's metrics, the unit was just as bad throwing the ball (28th) as it was at running it (27th). It didn't help that running back Maurice Jones-Drew was sidelined for the final 10 games with a foot injury, the wide receivers struggled to get open, or that the offensive line and Gabbert combined to allow 50 sacks.


Key changes

The Jaguars selected Luke Joeckel with the second overall pick in April's draft and he will begin the season at right tackle. The team cut ties with wide receiver Laurent Robinson after one disappointing season, but signed former Browns wideout Mohamed Massaquoi, who has plenty of big-play ability but was plagued by injuries during his four years in Cleveland.

The team added running back Justin Forsett while MJD recovers from his Lisfranc injury, and drafted jack-of-all-trades Denard Robinson in April. For an idea of how the Jaguars plan to use him, consider this: Robinson was listed on the team's official depth chart as OW, a nod to Robinson describing himself as an "offensive weapon" leading up to the draft. He attends meetings with the running backs, but the expectation is that he'll see time at wide receiver and returner, too. Caldwell has said previously that the plan is to get Robinson 10-15 touches a game.

On defense, linebacker Daryl Smith is now with the Ravens, although he missed all but two games last season with a groin injury. The unit added cornerbacks Alan Ball, formerly of Dallas, as well as veteran Marcus Trufant, the Seahawks' former first-round pick. The team also addressed the secondary through the draft. Second-rounder Jonathan Cyprien will be the starting strong safety, replacing Dawan Landry. Third-round cornerback Dwayne Gratz, who has drawn comparisons to 49ers CB Carlos Rogers, could also find himself in the starting lineup.

The addition of former Titans Sen'Derrick Marks allows the Jaguars to move Tyson Alualu from defensive tackle to defensive end, and Roy Miller arrives from Tampa Bay where he was known for his ability to wreak havoc for opposing interior offensive linemen.


Position battles

Former Bears outside linebacker Geno Hayes could line up next to Paul Posluszny and Russell Allen. But Hayes will have to battle second-year player Julian Stanford for that right. Stanford was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Wagner in 2012 with eye-dropping measurables (including a 4.51 40 time).

Ball signed with the Jaguars for the chance to start, after starting just three games in Dallas the past two seasons. With Derek Cox, Aaron Ross and Rashean Mathis no longer with the team, the path to the top of the depth chart is wide open. It appears that Gratz will be penciled in on one side while Ball and Trufant will compete for the other job. "I just wanted an opportunity,” Ball said in June. “There's a new system being built, and I think it's going to be special. I want to be a part of it."


New schemes

New offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch is installing a zone-blocking scheme. Fisch spent a year in Denver, where the scheme was popularized by offensive line coach Alex Gibbs and then-coach Mike Shanahan, who had a knack for turning any back into a 1,000-yard rusher.

Bradley, who was the defensive coordinator in Seattle before replacing Mularkey, will keep the Jaguars' 4-3 defensive front. “We'll have some basic philosophies that we're going to incorporate scheme-wise," Jags defensive coordinator Bob Babich told the team's website back in January. "There are going to be a lot of different things we'll look at. We're going to look to play fast, and we want to get better every day."
Bubble watch

Cornerback Mike Harris' roster spot appeared in doubt after the team drafted three cornerbacks in April. But Harris showed well during offseason workouts and is currently listed as the backup behind Gratz. Trufant could also be on the wrong side of the roster bubble should he struggle with injuries, something that has plagued him during his career. Center Brad Meester returns for his 14th season, but if Mike Brewster impresses in training camp, there's a slim chance the team could choose to cut ties with Meester.


Unheard-of-guy to watch

Ace Sanders or Dwayne Gratz, take your pick. Sanders is only 5-feet-7, 175 pounds, but he's an explosive returner. A year ago, the Jags used a third-round pick on punter Bryan Anger and took some flak for it. (At the time, we joked that if the argument for taking Anger was that he changed field position, there are other ways to do that: draft players that help the offense get first downs.) Or, in the case of Sanders, draft someone who can change field position and have the Jags' offense take the field immediately afterward.

Gratz, meanwhile, arrived in Jacksonville after an under-the-radar career in UConn, playing in Blidi Wreh-Wilson's shadow (Wilson was drafted in the third round by the Titans). He's a physical corner with good hands, and he could make an immediate impact next to another rookie, strong safety Jonathan Cyprien.


Biggest concern

Blaine Gabbert. The NFL is a passing league woefully short of quality passers. Gabbert enters his third season with some pedestrian numbers. In 25 career games, he has completed 53.8 percent of his passes for 3,876 yards, 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He has also been sacked 62 times. But it's not as bad as it looks, at least according to GM David Caldwell, who said that the Jaguars' research showed that when Gabbert had at least 2.6 seconds to throw he was in the top third of NFL quarterbacks. When he had less than 2.6 seconds to throw, the Jaguars' O-line gave up the third-most sacks in the league. The good news is that MJD will hopefully return to full health and lessen Gabbert's burden, wide receiver Justin Blackmon will be in his second season, and wide receiver Cecil Shorts will remain one of the NFL's great secrets.


Something to prove

In nine starts last season, Shorts caught 55 passes for 979 yards and seven touchdowns on one of the league's most inept offenses. The 2011 fourth-round pick out of Mount Union College had just two catches his rookie season, but unlike some players who arrive in the league with first-round pedigrees, Shorts has a chip on his shoulder.

"I want to be one of the elite receivers in this game," he told CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco in early June. "It's going to take a lot of work to get there. I know that."

Shorts has used the offseason to get stronger because having the world's best hands means little if he can't get off the line of scrimmage.

"When I watch film, guys like A.J. Green, Michael Crabtree, Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, they all explode off the ball," he said. "Getting off the jam and being able to shed is important. You have to be strong to hold your own. I feel stronger. I feel more explosive."

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:24370 Followers:32
07/15/2013 05:23 PM

2013 NFL training camp preview: Houston Texans

The Texans won the AFC South last season, amassing a 12-4 record. The Texans won the AFC South last season, amassing a 12-4 record.

A year after making the playoffs for the first time in team history, it has become habit-forming for the Texans. We've gone from wondering if coach Gary Kubiak is on the hot seat to celebrating back-to-back 10- and 12-win seasons, division titles, and postseason appearances. Next up: Getting to the Super Bowl.

Key changes

Despite losing key contributors to free agency -- DE/OLB Connor Barwin (Eagles), S Glover Quin (Lions), RB Justin Forsett (Jaguars), FB James Casey (Eagles), and WR Kevin Walter (Titans) among them -- the Texans remain one of the AFC's best teams. Their biggest need heading into the offseason was at wide receiver, finding someone to not only make things easier for Andre Johnson, but to also open things up for a running game that sputtered at times last season.

To that end, the Texans selected wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the first round. Entering the draft, the knock against Hopkins was that he wasn't a burner. But he doesn't need to be in Houston's precision West Coast scheme. His size (6-1, 215) and his ability to catch anything thrown in his direction fits exactly with the Texans' need, which explains why he'll enter training camp as a starter.

The offensive line has quietly developed into one of the best units in the league. That said, right tackle is a concern. Derek Newton, a seventh-round pick in 2011, started 14 games last year had offseason knee surgery. Brennan Williams, a third-round pick this spring, injured his knee in minicamp. That leaves veteran Ryan Harris and rookie David Quessenberry, although Kubiak expects everyone to be healthy for training camp.

On defense, Barwin will be replaced by outside linebackers Whitney Mercilus and Brooks Reed, former first- and second-round picks. There are concerns about depth, however; Bryan Braman was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2011, and Sam Montgomery and Trevardo Williams are rookies, though both have gobs of potential.

Brian Cushing, who returns at inside linebacker after suffering an ACL injury last season, solidifies the middle of this defense, and Tim Dobbins was re-signed this offseason to back him up.

While it would have been nice to keep Quin in the secondary, the Texans landed future Hall of Famer Ed Reed. The team also drafted Reed's eventual replacement, hard-hitting safety D.J. Swearinger in the second round of the April draft.


Position battles

Kubiak expects Derek Newton, the team's starting right tackle from a year ago, to be fully recovered from knee surgery by training camp. But if he's not, rookie Brennan Williams and veteran Ryan Harris could compete for the gig. Kubiak admitted that Brennan Williams, like most rookies, struggled in OTAs. Harris, meanwhile, started two games last season in Newton's absence.

The starters are pretty much set at other positions, and any position battles will likely be for backup roles. For example: Sam Montgomery and Trevardo Williams at outside linebacker, and which backup running back -- Ray Graham, Cierre Wood, or someone else -- will earn a roster spot.


New schemes

Kubiak brought the West Coast offense to Houston with him from Denver, where he served as Mike Shanahan's offensive coordinator, and the Texans have never had problems scoring points. On the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has solidified a once porous unit. The centerpiece remains defensive end J.J. Watt, one of the NFL's best players. But the hope is that Ed Reed will bring experience to a secondary that is young and talented. The plan, once Reed recovers from offseason hip surgery, is to use him in a center fielder role rather than have two high safeties, which was often the case with Quin and Danieal Manning.

“He's a great player, but he's also a great communicator,” Phillips said of Reed back in March. “Part of his great playing skill is he's able to help other guys by letting them know where he's gonna help 'em, how he's gonna help 'em. His experience in that area is beyond most players. It is like a coach on the field, except it's a player on the field that has great anticipation for what's gonna happen. He studies the game. He knows what's happening from each formation, those kind of things, and then he's able to communicate those things to where he's gonna help people. That's over and beyond what players can do, but he is over and beyond what most players are.”


Bubble watch

There shouldn't be many surprises as August gives way to September, at least near the top of the Texans' roster. Due to salary cap issues or production, the team let plenty of veterans walk during free agency and several -- Shaun Cody, Stanford Routt and Barrett Ruud -- are still looking for work.


Unheard-of-guy to watch

Jared Crick has gotten lost in the shadow of Watt and Antonio Smith, and understandably so. But the second-year defensive end out of Nebraska is poised for a big year. He'll be a rotational player in 2013 and if all goes well, he'll likely replace Smith, whose contract is set to expire after the season. The Houston Chronicle 's Lance Zierlein described Crick as a traditional 3-4 defensive end you might find on the Steelers. Houston's scheme requires ends to play more like defensive tackles, which means getting into the backfield. Crick may not excel as a penetrator compared to Watt or Smith, but he'll be be stout against the run.

Another name to watch: Trevardo Williams. He left UConn as the all-time sack leader but he arrived in the NFL as an undersized outside linebacker. A defensive end in college who relied on his speed to get to the quarterback, he'll have to learn the complexities of Wade Phillips' defense before he'll see the field. In the meantime, he'll learn by watching Brooks Reed and Whitney Mercilus.


Biggest concerns

Ed Reed's health. The team admitted that Reed's offseason hip surgery came as a surprise, and in May, Phillips admitted to being a "little concerned." While Reed will eventually end up in Canton, CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco isn't convinced the Texans are better off by signing him.

“The bottom line is does Ed Reed bring street cred, football cred? Yes, he does," Prisco said in late May. "He's won a Super Bowl, but so what? What's it matter? If you can't play, you can't play and I just don't think he was very good last year. Now I will say he was hurt and he didn't tackle.”

Prisco's words are bolstered by ProFootballFocus.com's numbers -- Reed graded out well below Grover Quin, who left the Texans in free agency.


Something to prove

Arian Foster. It seems silly to mention Foster here given that he led the league in rushing in 2010 and ran for over 1,400 yards last season. But his average yards per carry dropped from 4.9 in '10 to 4.1 in '12, a career low. Foster, who missed some offseason workouts with a strained calf, expects to be ready for training camp. He also expects to rebound in 2013. "I just want to bounce back. I didn't feel like I had the best season last year,” he told the team's website in May. “I set a lot of personal goals, a lot of things that I do. I just didn't feel like I was at my best, and it's gonna change this year.”

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:24370 Followers:32
07/15/2013 05:26 PM

2013 NFL training camp preview: Tennessee Titans

If the Titans will rise to the top of the AFC South, they must see improvement from key players. If the Titans will rise to the top of the AFC South, they must see improvement from key players.

The Tennessee Titans haven't made the playoffs since 2008. The following two seasons -- Jeff Fisher's last two with the club -- the Titans were 8-8 and 6-10. Mike Munchak was hired in 2011 and won a respectable nine games his first season. By 2012, the team had slipped to 6-10 and it's reasonable to think that Munchak won't be back in Tennessee in 2014 if things don't improve.


The organization still has questions about quarterback Jake Locker, the eighth-overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, but he will begin the season under center with a new cast of characters around him. The hope: Locker -- and by extension running back Chris Johnson and the rest of the offense -- will become much more consistent. Last season, this group averaged 20.6 points per game, which ranked 23rd in the league. It was equal-opportunity ineptitude. The passing game ranked 29th in efficiency, according to FootballOutsiders.com's metrics, while the running game was 26th.
Put another way: There's a lot of room for improvement.


Key changes

The Titans used their No. 10 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft to beef up the offensive line, taking Alabama right guard Chance Warmack, who will immediately move into the starting lineup. Andy Levitre, formerly of the Bills and signed this offseason, will play left guard, and former 49ers tight end Delanie Walker will replace Jared Cook (who signed with the Rams) at tight end.

Running back Shonn Greene was added to spell Johnson, and should nothing go as planned, Ryan Fitzpatrick would replace Locker after the organization opted not to re-sign veteran backup Matt Hasselbeck (now with the Colts).

The Titans also bolstered their wide receiver corps. A year after using a first-round pick on Kendall Wright (who led the team with 64 receptions as a rookie), they selected Tennessee's Justin Hunter in Round 2 this April. At 6-4, 195, there are questions about his consistency and physicality, but he can make an immediate impact in the red zone, a huge problem for this offense a season ago.

To bolster a defense that allowed a league-worst 29.4 points per game last season, the Titans signed safeties Bernard Pollard (formerly of the Ravens) and George Wilson (formerly of the Bills). Up front, Sammie Lee Hill was signed away from the Lions to play defensive tackle.

Draft picks CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, OLB Zaviar Gooden and DE Lavar Edwards will all use training camp to push for playing time. Quality depth is welcome on a defense where actually stopping people didn't appear to be a priority a season ago. Also brought on board to help: Gregg Williams, suspended for the 2012 season for his involvement in the Saints bounty scandal. He's officially listed as the senior assistant/defense, although Williams, who was Fisher’s defensive coordinator at one time, will be working closely with current defensive coordinator Jerry Gray.


Position battles

Wide receiver Nate Washington may be the grizzled veteran of the group, but he might not be atop the depth chart by the time the season starts. He'll face competition from a young group that includes Wright and Hunter. There are also questions about Kenny Britt and his otherworldly talent. The problem: The Titans never know which Britt will (or won't) show up.

At cornerback, Wreh-Wilson, a rangy athletic player from UConn, could push for playing time, although he had been working inside during minicamp.

Marc Mariani, who was lost for the 2012 season after breaking his leg in a preseason game, will have to fend off Darius Reynaud as the team's return specialist.


New schemes

So what's changing? Everything, to hear Wright tell it. When asked in June what was different about the Titans' offense, the second-year wideout said, "It's just a new playbook. There's nothing left over from last year."

Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, who replaced Chris Palmer during last season, has hinted at what the new-look scheme will look like. "We are going to be a run, play-action team first, but we're still going to drop back and throw the football."

This is good news for Chris Johnson, who insists every offseason that he wants more touches. And it could be good news for Locker, too; the offense won't be built around his ability to wing the ball all over the yard, but instead, his skills at managing an offense that features (a hopefully revitalized) CJ2K.


Bubble watch

With the addition of Hill and Antonio Johnson to beef up the defensive line, Karl Klug, who led the team in sacks in 2011, could be playing for his job.


Unheard-of-guy to watch

Blidi Wreh-Wilson may only be unheard of because he's a rookie who's been with the team since late April. But at 6-1, 195 pounds, he looks like an NFL cornerback. Whether he plays like one will be answered in the coming months but the Titans may have gotten a steal. Wilson, who was drafted in the third round, was considered a first- or second-round talent dating back to his senior season at UConn. He's a smart player who doesn't rely solely on this athleticism, and he can immediately match up with tight ends and bigger receivers.


Biggest concerns

While the defense was among the worst in the league in 2012, general manager Russ Webster spent the offseason stocking the roster with playmakers. The same holds for offense, too. The wild card to all this coming together: quarterback Jake Locker. It's officially his job to lose and it appears the entire organization has rallied behind him. But for the Titans to improve, Locker has to make better decisions. He completed just 56 percent of his passes last season, tossing 10 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. He was also sacked 25 times. The sack totals should decrease because of an improved offensive line and hopefully a more effective play-action running game. But ultimately, if Tennessee is going make the postseason, it'll come down to Locker.

Put another way: Three teams in 2012 qualified for the playoffs after going 6-10 the year before: the Colts, Redskins and Vikings. Two of those teams came into franchise quarterbacks, while the other had a stifling defense and the galaxy's best running back.


Something to prove

Chris Johnson is the reflexive answer here, but the reality is that CJ2K rushed for 1,243 yards last season, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. The bigger question heading into the season: Kenny Britt. Upside: He's avoided the legal issues that plagued him last offseason. Downside: He's never had more than 45 receptions in a season, and that came in 2012 when he also averaged a career-low 13.1 yards per catch. Britt's now entering the final year of his rookie deal and has endured three knee surgeries, including an ACL injury that limited him to just three games and 17 receptions in 2011.

"I'm going to be the receiver I was two years ago," Britt said in June, referring to the 2010 season when he had 42 receptions for 775 yards and nine touchdowns. "And I'm probably going to be even better than that because I've focused more on football than I ever have in my life the last few months."

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:24370 Followers:32
07/16/2013 11:45 PM

2013 NFL training camp preview: Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning brought new life to the Broncos in 2012, and now he has Wes Welker for a target. Peyton Manning brought new life to the Broncos in 2012, and now he has Wes Welker for a target.

Tim Who? Peyton Manning's re-emergence as an elite quarterback made Broncos fans forget all about 2011's miraculous run as Denver finished tied with the Falcons for the best record in the NFL at 13-3, closing out the year on a whopping 11-game winning streak.

Only some blown coverage of Jacoby Jones by Denver's secondary puts the kibosh on an otherwise outstanding season. The Broncos won't be satisfied with anything less than a Super Bowl in 2013 and after an impressive offseason it's tough to blame them.

The one blemish on John Elway's mark since that ill-fated night against the Ravens is the fax machine goof that resulted in Elvis Dumervil leaving for Baltimore. (Hey, guess who's coming to town in Week 1!) Clearly Denver would prefer having him on the roster instead of lining up against them.


Key changes

The additions Elway made were impressive. Snaring Wes Welker from the Patriots might be my favorite offseason move in the entire NFL, if only for the multiple levels of drama it presents. Welker might not put up numbers the way he did in New England, but he's a big upgrade over Brandon Stokley and gives Denver what might be the best wide receiver corps in the NFL with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker outside. The Broncos also landed Louis Vasquez from division rival San Diego; acquiring a Chargers offensive lineman isn't ideal, but Vasquez was the best player on a very bad offensive line.

Joel Dreessen makes the depth chart at tight end deeper and while the Broncos dumped Willis McGahee, they did boost the running back depth chart by selecting Montee Ball out of Wisconsin in the draft. Ball, Ronnie Hillman and Knowshon Moreno form an interesting group.

Defensively the Broncos clearly attacked the line: additions of Sylvester Williams via the draft and Terrance Knighton via free agency should do wonders to free up Denver's pass rushers and improve their ability at the point of attack. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on a one-year deal just seems like a fantastic investment with little chance of backfiring too badly.

The only coaching change the Broncos saw was the departure of Mike McCoy to the Chargers. Adam Gase, just 34 years old, will take his place and has promoted the idea of having the team "play as fast as possible." Gase, who is younger than his quarterback, will obviously have plenty of say in what goes on with the Broncos attack and I'd expect them to play up-tempo. That's what worked last year and it's what works with Manning under center. But Denver's more or less running what Manning wants them to, and there's nothing really wrong with that.


Position battles

The offense is more or less set. Dreessen and Jacob Tamme could battle for the No. 1 tight end spot, but Manning's been on record as saying that Tamme is the fulcrum of Denver's offense. (He uses the defense's positioning against Tamme to diagnose coverage) Hillman, Ball and Moreno are likely to battle for a while to see who gets the most carries -- my early money is on Hillman nabbing the job, with Ball coming on strong and eventually taking most of the carries. Despite his strong close to last season, Knowshon doesn't seem well-liked by this coaching staff.

The linebacking corps should see a battle in the middle -- Nate Irving, Joe Mays, Steven Johnson and Stewart Bradley are the best candidates for the mike gig.
Bubble watch

McGahee was the biggest name on the chopping block, and he's already been chopped. There are rumors the Broncos dumped him because of injuries, but it's still got to be a bit concerning to head into camp with the lack of experience they have at running back. John Fox won't be scared to carry a few running backs, but with Lance Ball, Moreno, Hillman and Montee Ball on board, we could see someone dumped here.


Unheard-of-guy to watch

The real story of Broncos middle linebacker Nate Irving dates back to his college days, when he overcame a slew of injuries suffered during a life-threatening car accident that cost him the 2009 season and managed to return back to the NC State lineup. Irving's going to get the first crack at winning the middle linebacker job in Denver, and I think you'll see him produce in a big way. Irving's a tackling machine with lateral speed and the ability to lay down devastating hits. Middle linebackers are becoming less and less important in today's passing game, but they're still necessary and Irving could provide a nice prototype for what the modern-day mike could look like. I expect a big year from him.


Biggest concerns

There's little to worry about on the offensive end, save for Manning remaining healthy for another season. And in that vein, it's worth wondering how well the group of Hillman/Ball/Moreno can pass protect for the Broncos quarterback. Running backs are almost more important for their pass-blocking ability in a Manning-run system than they are for their rushing ability. I like this group's ability to catch passes and run draws but there's some concern about the pass blocking at the NFL level.

Defensively, the loss of Dumervil could show up in a big way. Williams, Pot Roast, Derek Wolfe and Robert Ayers form an alright defensive line, but they're certainly not the most proven or studly group out there. Will the absence of Doom mean more double teams for Von Miller? Almost certainly the linebacker, who played at a DPOY level last year, will see more protection shifted his way without Dumervil on one side of the ball.

The secondary's going to be a big concern until they shake off the memories of the loss against Baltimore. Champ Bailey, Chris Harris, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Rahim Moore and Mike Adams can be a very effective group -- they weren't bad until late in the season when the lights were brightest. Seeing how they bounce back from the postseason will be fascinating.


Something to prove

Welker could fit here, what with the drama surrounding his departure from New England. But the secondary makes more sense, and, more specifically, Moore and Bailey. Moore made the critical error that allowed Joe Flacco and the Ravens to advance, while Bailey was exposed in the playoffs. I think both players are fine -- Bailey's age is certainly a factor but he was strong for most of 2012 -- but they're going to have the world watching when they line up against Baltimore's receivers to kick off 2013.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:24370 Followers:32
07/16/2013 11:47 PM

2013 NFL training camp preview: San Diego Chargers

Have the Chargers underachieved, or have they just struggled from losing key talent? Have the Chargers underachieved, or have they just struggled from losing key talent?

At long last, the Chargers underwent a regime change. A.J. Smith guided the ship well for many years and Norv Turner came close to pushing San Diego over the top, but ultimately the results of the last few years were nothing short of underwhelming. Enter Tom Telesco and Mike McCoy, a dynamic pairing of GM and coach that could flip the Chargers back to respectability in rather short fashion

But make no mistake: just because this is the Chargers, it doesn't mean the team is supremely laden with talent. For whatever reason, the stereotype of San Diego over the past few years generally involves the word "underachieving." The reality is, especially on offense, the talent left the building.


Key changes

Philip Rivers' decline has been the subject of much scrutiny over the last few years, but you don't have to look hard to figure out why the once elite quarterback struggled: veterans like Vincent Jackson, Darren Sproles, LaDainian Tomlinson, Michael Turner, Marcus McNeill, Louis Vasquez and Kris Dielman are all gone.

Core groups can't last forever, but Smith's inability to replenish the talent pool (hello Buster Davis, Ryan Mathews and Robert Meachem, to name a few) led to the evaporation of Rivers protection and weapons, save for Antonio Gates, who's aged the whole time as well.

Fortunately the new boss folk wisely invested in trying to help out Rivers, bringing in Max Starks from free agency and drafting D.J. Fluker out of Alabama in the first round. Whether Fluker ends up moving guard is irrelevant, because Rivers just needed help after a barely passable group managed to rank dead last in Football Outsiders Adjusted Sack Rate (it essentially gauges pass protection) during the 2012 season.

The Bolts also added a pair of potential stars in the second and third rounds. I'm on record as hating the Manti Te'o selection in the second, primarily because Terron Armstead and Menelik Watson were on the board. But the Notre Dame linebacker's drawing rave reviews from minicamp; while pre-padded practices are too early to decide whether someone can succeed, I'm willing to acquiesce that McCoy and Telesco are smart people and could end up being right. Time will tell.

The Keenan Allen selection in the third has me much more excited. With Danario Alexander, Gates, Malcom Floyd and Allen, Rivers could have a restocked shelf. Danny Woodhead could end up being a stupendous addition in the dump-off game and might see some starts if (when?) Mathews gets hurt. Ken Whisenhunt signing on as offensive coordinator won't be anything but good for Rivers' game either. If he and McCoy can't fix the former NC State standout, it might be time for the two groups to move on.

Defensively, the Chargers made some savvy moves too. The addition of Dwight Freeney was almost in direct response to the torn ACL suffered by Melvin Ingram in OTAs. Freeney can play in the 3-4 and the 4-3, and while he's older, he flashed plenty last year. If the Chargers are right about their moves on Freeney, Te'o, free-agent signee Jarrett Johnson and incumbent Donald Butler could form a nice linebacking corps. Derek Cox is a steal at cornerback ... if he can stay healthy. John Pagano sticking around should result in some nice continuity for this unit, but it's a group that needs to hit on acquisitions or it could be trouble.


Position battles

Wide receiver's pretty, um, wide open: if Vincent Brown gets healthy or Allen comes on strong or Meachem ever manages to do what the Chargers are paying him to do, they could challenge Floyd for one of the starting spots. DX should be locked as the No. 1 as long as he's healthy -- Alexander's play late last season was spectacular.

Offensive line could be interesting. If Jeromey Clary and Chad Rinehart are indeed the answer at guard, then it makes no sense to move Fluker. But his versatility could certainly help.

I'm sure the Chargers would love for Larry English to realize his potential and challenge someone on the defensive side of the ball, but it's a pretty good bet that he ends up becoming a backup again this season.


Scheme changes

As similar as things are on the defensive end with Pagano retained, they'll be completely different on the offensive end with McCoy and Whisenhunt running things. Whisenhunt has had great offenses in Pittsburgh and in Arizona before and McCoy made his name with his malleability in Denver, flipping effortlessly from Kyle Orton to Tim Tebow and then to Peyton Manning. Expect a concept-based passing offense in San Diego ( think Erhardt-Perkins but without the same complexity as the Patriots run) with a zone-read rushing attack.

McCoy's fortunate in that he'll once again fire up a new offensive scheme with a talented, cerebral, veteran quarterback already under center. Expect him to adjust to Rivers' strengths and weaknesses.

"Football's always football," McCoy said last May. "We laugh about that, because it's not that complicated. Every Monday, we call it 'Thievery Night,' you look at the touchdowns and explosive plays, see that stuff week-to-week, and see who's doing what, and take what you can. Football's still football. Everyone's running the same plays, and it's a matter of some running one concept more than another team is. It all boils down to the same thing."


Bubble watch

It's going to be fascinating to see how the Chargers handle three distinct groups: the receivers, the offensive line and the linebackers. With a major injury already occurring to Ingram, they obviously understand the importance of depth at that position, particularly in a 3-4, blitz-heavy defense. But how many roster spots will they really have once they try to create depth at receiver and offensive line, two positions that obviously are very much in flux for this roster. It seems crazy that Meachem wouldn't make the team (he will), but how much depth at wide receiver is worth sacrificing for depth at offensive line. All told the Chargers brought in nine (9!) new offensive lineman to try to revamp their biggest weakness from 2012: King Dunlap, Starks, Fluker, Chad Rinehart, Rich Ohrnberger, Colin Baxter, Brandyn Dombrowski, Michael Harris, Randy Richards and Nick Becton won't all stick around.

Properly managing the depth at these various positions will tell us a lot about how the Chargers really feel towards their new acquisitions.


Unheard-of-guy to watch

Who is Chad Rinehart, you ask? Great question. He's a converted guard with just 21 starts over the last four years (14 at guard the last two years for Buffalo) but he could be a big-time addition for the Chargers, who also brought along his former offensive line coach from the Bills in Joe D'Alessandris. If Rinehart can step in and start -- and the Chargers sure think he can -- and fill the hole created by the departure of Louis Vasquez, it'll be a monster addition for the Bolts.


Biggest concerns

The Chargers have addressed some issues this offseason by beefing up the offensive line and improving the weapons for Rivers. But those are still the two biggest concerns: healthy play from the offensive line and a semblance of pass protection in 2013 will drastically change the way that Rivers is able to play under center. With time in the pocket, he won't feel like he's forced to make a play happen and he's a good bet to cut down on the slew of turnovers that plagued him the last two years.


Something to prove

Two guys are a no-brainer here for me. There's obviously Rivers, who's coming off a pair of seasons in which he had a combined 59 turnovers. That is ... a lot. He needs this new coaching staff to get him back on track and convince folks that he can be an elite quarterback again, even at the age of 31. Rivers won't be a free agent until 2016 technically, but 2013 very much feels like a make-or-break year for him in San Diego. And Mathews, drafted to replace LdT, has never lived up to expectations. He's got two more years left on his rookie contract and it's not like Woodhead is going to straight-up replace him. But if Mathews can't step up his game and avoid injury as he has in the past few years, it's hard to imagine him lasting forever in San Diego either.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:24370 Followers:32
07/16/2013 11:49 PM

2013 NFL training camp preview: Kansas City Chiefs

Under new management: The Chiefs will look to regroup with coach Andy Reid and QB Alex Smith. Under new management: The Chiefs will look to regroup with coach Andy Reid and QB Alex Smith.

Few NFL organizations underwent a facelift the way the Chiefs did this offseason. Andy Reid wasn't unemployed long, getting the boot from Philadelphia and quickly landing in a favorable situation in KC, replacing Romeo Crennel and the last vestiges of an old coaching staff's regime (Crennel worked under Todd Haley, who was fired the year before).

The change was necessary. GM Scott Pioli had fallen out of favor with the fans and management after whiffing on Cassel as the savior under center. Crennel motivated as an interim in 2011, but flopped out last year. A team that some people -- no joke -- picked to win the AFC West was the worst team in football.

There wasn't any semblance of offense, aside from the frustration of not properly using Jamaal Charles. The Cassell-Brady Quinn rotation at quarterbacks was a train wreck that helped the Chiefs score more than 20 points just four teams all year. Blech.

The talent on the defensive side of the ball continues to impress (Justin Houston was a rare bright spot as he emerged last season), but Reid didn't take long to put his meaty fingerprints all over the organization.


Key changes

Pioli was shipped out of town and replaced by Reid's buddy John Dorsey. Incumbent Matt Cassel never stood a chance; he was given the boot and Reid made the bold move of trading for Alex Smith, whom he's apparently coveted since Smith was slinging passes in college at Utah. It sounds like Reid's got some read-option tricks on his sleeve; the idea of Jamaal Charles and Alex running out of the pistol is enticing regardless of how you feel about these new formations.

The defense got Smith'd up too, with Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith -- one of the more talented players in free agency -- coming to KC on a deal (three years, $16.5 million) that looks quite favorable for the Chiefs after a market never really formulated for cornerbacks. A secondary of Brandon Flowers, Smith, Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis looks pretty formidable at this stage. Don't sleep on the additions of Mike DeVito and Geoff Schwartz along the defensive and offensive lines, respectively.

Reid also managed to make a slew of moves that kept the Chiefs' surprisingly talented core (when you consider they won two games last year anyway) together. Dwayne Bowe was given a new contract before he could hit the open market, freeing up the franchise tag for left tackle Branden Albert.

And there was, of course, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. For the first time in his coaching career, Reid drafted an offensive lineman with a pick in the top 15. With Albert in camp, Fisher's a good bet to start on the right side of the line. Having a right tackle as the cornerstone of your first draft is weird, but it makes sense for this team's roster construction. Having an Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III sitting atop the draft would've been ideal, naturally. But in lieu of that, Reid's built a roster that can compete right away in a division that, while not up for grabs thanks to Peyton Manning, isn't as stout as some other spots.


Position battles

The Chiefs are so odd for a two-win team. They've got the majority of their starters locked down and have a talented roster built already. Smith's the starter at quarterback, obviously, but seeing how things shake out with his possible backups could be interesting. Chase Daniel received a hefty contract in free agency to be a backup, Ricky Stanzi just never gets a chance and Tyler Bray's one of the more perplexing draftees in the 2013 class.

Knile Davis is an absolute burner who claims he's faster than Charles. He won't steal the starting job but it wouldn't be stunning if Reid let him steal some carries.

Anthony Fasano was signed as a free agent despite the presence of Tony Moeaki and could certainly challenge for the starting job. Moeaki was impressive as a rookie in 2010 but hasn't been the same since suffering a major injury in his sophomore campaign.

The biggest question mark, by far, is at wide receiver. Bowe's the unquestioned No. 1 on this roster but things get dicey after the former LSU star, especially with KC letting another of Pioli's free-agent busts, Steve Breaston, walk. Jon Baldwin was a first-round pick and he's got the talent, but is he mature enough to handle that sort of roll? Reid hasn't sounded entirely confident. Dexter McCluster's the football version of a "'tweener," not really fitting as anything more than a slot receiver for this unit. How Reid uses him will be fun to watch, but he's not the best man to challenge for the No. 2 spot. That honor goes to Donnie Avery, who had a strong season with the Colts in 2012 before signing with KC this offseason. If Avery beats out Baldwin, it's bad news bears for the youngster.


New schemes

A whole new coaching staff means a whole new scheme and the Chiefs should welcome change in this instance. Say what you want about Reid's failings in Philly during the latter stages of his run there, but the man knows what he's doing on offense. Smith will be the triggerman for Reid's west-coast, high-volume passing game. The style of play should fit Smith, who's excellent at short and intermediate throws, can put up a high completion number to pair with a low interception digit. Smith's accuracy down the field should be a concern, but Bowe probably won't care since he's finally catching passes from the first real quarterback of his pro career. Charles could flourish in Reid's system, the same way that Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy did with the Eagles. He's a similar-style back who excels in the passing game. Fisher's presence doesn't just beef up the line, but it provides some insurance with Albert's wonky back and, most importantly, brings some athleticism to the line. He'll be superb in the screen game for Reid and the Chiefs.

Defensively, Reid's wisely sticking with the 3-4. Though he could've opted to change things up, KC's personnel fits that scheme to well to make it worth busting up the defense at this point in time. Half the guys in the front seven -- Tyson Jackson, Dontari Poe, Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali and Houston -- were big-time investments for that scheme. A switch now wouldn't be logical.


Bubble watch

Speaking of all those early-round picks, it's important to remember that new regime means no more loyalty for the old boss' picks. We saw that first hand this offseason as Reid let one of Pioli's previous early picks, Glenn Dorsey, bounce for San Francisco. Dorsey didn't work out well and it wasn't shocking to see him leave, but it's a reminder to guys like Jackson, Poe and anyone else who was previously locked in because of their draft status that


Unheard-of-guy to watch

Does Travis Kelce count here? More and more people are aware of third-round picks these days, and Kelce's off-field issues have drawn him some unwelcome notoriety. But on the field, he's a potential talent goldmine at a position where the Chiefs aren't completely set. Seriously, watch his highlights and you'll quickly understand exactly why Reid invested a third in this kid. His issues are personal stuff and injuries -- a year-long suspension and a hernia problem in 2012 sunk his stock. He can run block, make all the catches tight ends need to make, has a world of upside and can stretch the field while taking attention away from Bowe.


Biggest concerns

For everyone in this division, the biggest concern is having to play Peyton Manning twice -- the Broncos put everyone else in the AFC West at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to trying to win their division. Specifically to the Chiefs, however, the primary concern I see is Alex Smith continuing to resurrect his career and doing so away from the magical quarterback fixing umbrella that is Jim Harbaugh. Smith was headed straight for a non-Cantonized bust when Harbs took over in San Francisco, and the QB Whisperer's presence drastically changed the way Smith looked on the field. Andy Reid can get a lot out of quarterbacks, but assuming that Smith will magically solve the Chiefs issues at quarterback is a big leap of faith. They also need to find Smith weapons and doing so will obviously help him improve his game, but this season likely hinges on the performance of the former No. 1 overall pick, now on his second stop and umpteenth offensive coordinator.


Something to prove

Tyson Jackson and Dontari Poe aren't the same age but they do share many characteristics. Namely, they were drafted by Scott Pioli's regime and they haven't lived up to expectations quite yet. Poe's only played one year, of course, while Jackson is heading into his fifth season. Stepping up their game from "middling defensive lineman drafted in the top half of the first round during the NFL Draft" to "high draft picks worthy of being cornerstone pieces of defense" is critical for them if they want to hang around KC and justify their selections.

Smith fits here too, and it wouldn't be fair to not include Reid as well. He left Philadelphia somewhat in disgrace, with a magnificent run coming to a sputtering end. If he can flip the Chiefs around in quick fashion -- and I believe that he can -- it'll do wonders toward resorting his reputation as one of the top coaches in the league. And it'll do even more for Chiefs fans who've pined for success in recent years ... and never really got it.

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