cnotes Posts:25787 Followers:33
On 07/21/2012 03:55 PM in NFL

Previewing The 2012 NFL Teams !

Playoffs Or Bust For 2012 Dallas Cowboys

What’s going on with the Dallas Cowboys?

More specifically, what’s going on with Jerry Jones?

Maybe the famously quick-triggered Cowboy supremo is just mellowing with age. After all, even George Steinbrenner pulled his finger off the eject button later in his years as the owner of the New York Yankees.

Still, a younger Jerry Jones probably wouldn’t have stood for Dallas continuing to fumble around and blow chances at playoff berths. While it still might be a bit quick to pull the rug from under head coach Jason Garrett, on the job for only a year-and-a-half, Jerry was still expecting more than what we received a year ago, when the Cowboys missed the playoffs for a second straight year, succumbing meekly in the finale against the Giants to scuttle playoff hopes once and for all.

When the dust cleared, Dallas was only 8-8, losing four of its last five games. In the old days, that would have caused Jones to consider jumping off Reunion Tower, much less consider making coaching changes.

Garrett, however, has long been a Jones favorite and seems to have a longer honeymoon than what Cowboys coaches are used to receiving in the Jones era. Jerry famously didn’t give much rope to the likes of Chan Gailey or Dave Campo, and moved out Barry Switzer just two years after the Cowboys won Super Bowl XXX over the Steelers. Jones did, however, stick with Garrett predecessor Wade Phillips a bit longer (3½ seasons) than most envisioned.

Garrett aside, we are also a bit surprised that Jerry continues to ride with QB Tony Romo, who has won only one playoff game in six years as the starter. While Romo cannot shoulder the entire blame for the continuing underachievement, at least by Dallas standards), he has also proved as ineffective in "winning the big ones" as Don Meredith was once labeled in Big D.

There was talk that Jerry might make a run at Peyton Manning in the offseason, but that never materialized. With other pickings relatively slim in the free-agent QB market, all Jones did in the offseason to upgrade at the position was add ex-Bears, Broncos and Chiefs QB Kyle Orton as veteran cover behind Romo.

NFC East sources, however, are insistent that neither Garrett nor Romo have any more mulligans to use on their scorecards with Jones. Another playoff-less year in Big D likely results in major housecleaning in the offseason.

And, in truth, Romo cannot take full blame for another playoff miss in 2011, as his stats were among the best of his career. With 31 TD passes and only 10 picks, Romo performed beyond the call of duty for much of the season, especially with injuries hampering his receiving corps for much of the year. Not to mention himself, playing through a painful fractured rib and punctured lung.

Now, all Romo has to prove is that he can win some big games, which in Dallas has always been the litmus test of QBs and separated Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman from Meredith, Craig Morton, Danny White, Gary Hogeboom and others.

Jones thinks that 2nd-year RB DeMarco Murray is about to explode upon the scene after gaining 887 YR in an abbreviated rookie season, perhaps providing the best all-around threat in the Dallas backfield since the days of Emmitt Smith. Home run threat and ex-Arkansas star – those sorts are always dear to former Razorback Jerry J – Felix Jones is still in the mix, and could flourish in his preferred change-of-pace role.

The offensive line remains solid, strengthened by the FA addition of versatile Mackenzy Bernadeau (who can play guard or center) from the Panthers.

Jones also expects 3rd-year WR Dez Bryant to become a dominator this fall after hinting at such a year ago when catching 63 passes for nine TDs. As long as wideout comrade Miles Austin stays healthy, Romo has his secondary-distorting targets, while TE Jason Witten (who has led Cowboy receivers for the past six seasons) remains a state-of-the-art underneath target.

Most of the questions for the Cowboys are on the defensive side, where last season’s lockout prevented the platoon from having time to digest new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s 3-4 schemes, which were more complicated than the version used previously by Wade Phillips. Jones correspondingly went for defense with his first four picks in the draft.

The top selection, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, remained unsigned into late July, though most expect him to be in camp before long. As the top cover corner in the draft, Claiborne figures to break into the lineup sooner rather than later.

The recurring headache for the Dallas "D" in recent years has been at free safety, where a revolving door of DBs have tried and failed in recent years. Ken Hamlin, Alan Ball and Abe Elam have all underperformed the last three years, and Jones is getting worried about the latest candidate, FA addition Brodney Pool, who hardly impressed in OTA get-togethers during the spring. There are thoughts that 4th-round pick Matt Johnson, from Big Sky Eastern Washington, could even challenge for a starting role if Pool can’t deliver. Jones also added ex-Chief CB Brandon Carr in free agency.

If the Cowboys can shore up their secondary (and getting Claiborne and Pool to contribute will be key), the "D" might even flourish, with plenty of other playmakers in the mix. DeMarcus Ware is off another All-Pro season when he recorded 19½ sacks, ranking second in the league. On the other side, however, Jones might be running out of patience with Anthony Spencer and his $8.8 million salary. Another rookie, Wake Forest LB Kyle Wilbur, is expected to push Spencer in training camp.

Jones, Ryan and Garrett are also very high on another rookie, Boise State DE Tyrone Crawford, a third-round pick who is expected to compete for snaps right away and could team with holdover Kenyon Coleman as a forceful DE combo.

Dallas backers are also hoping for some pointspread improvement this season, as the Cowboys have sunken to a 10-20-2 spread mark the past two years. Room for improvement, to be sure.

Summary: Expectations are always high in Dallas, which makes 2012 a crucial campaign for Garrett and Romo, who are sooner or later going to have to start making the playoffs and winning once they get there to keep Jerry Jones happy. The NFC East remains an inhospitable neighborhood, but the pieces seem to be in place for a playoff run. If not, get ready for a very busy offseason in Big D.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:25787 Followers:33
07/21/2012 03:57 PM

Future Is Now For Lovie Smith And Bears

Following is the next in our early, 'pre-preseason' NFL team previews as we take a look at the Chicago Bears.

Jay Cutler’s critics have been keeping rather quiet in the offseason. Anyone who has watched the Bears without 'Midway Jay' the past two years would suddenly have a new-found appreciation for the ex-Vanderbilt gunslinger for something other than actress Kristin Cavallari, Cutler’s fiancé.

Indeed, Chicago’s season went up in flames last fall when Cutler was sidelined by a thumb injury in a late-season win over the Chargers. The Bears, who in late November seemed at least ticketed for NFC wild card duties, lost five straight after Cutler went down, dropping from postseason consideration until winning a meaningless finale at Minnesota.

Still, Cutler’s injury wasn’t enough of an excuse for GM Jerry Angelo to keep his job. After 13 years, Angelo is out and former Bears scout Phil Emery is in as the new GM.

Head coach Lovie Smith survived the purge after 2011, but it can be assumed that his head is on the chopping block, too, unless the Bears get back to the postseason. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz left town after last season as well, replaced by former Vikings head coach Mike Tice.

Good news for Lovie and Tice is that Emery was able to restock the Bears’ offensive arsenal in the offseason. On the surface, adding tempestuous WR Brandon Marshall from the Dolphins might seem a dangerous gamble. But Marshall and Cutler had great rapport from their brief time together in Denver, and if Marshall behaves himself, the Bears have their first big-time wideout in the Cutler era. South Carolina draftee Alshon Jeffery could also make an immediate impact in what might be a much-upgraded Bears receiving corps.

Also, adding ex-Redskin and Raider starting QB Jason Campbell provides a much better relief option than Caleb Hanie should Cutler go down again in the fall.

Emery also added backfield cover for workhorse RB Matt Forte with punishing ex-Raider Michael Bush, who provides a nice change-of-pace and should limit the wear-and-tear on Forte.

Tice’s “vertical power game” will also feature fewer five-and-seven step drops that made Cutler too much of a target in the Martz offense. With an emphasis on shorter drops and quicker releases (all well within Cutler’s comfort range), 'Midway Jay' ought to receive less of a beating, at least in theory, than the past two years in the Martz offense.

The Tice offense is also seen as a better fit for an offensive line that likely enters the fall in something of an adjustment phase. Keeping RT Gabe Carimi, perhaps Chicago’s best lineman, healthy after he missed all but two games due to a knee injury last fall, will be key.

Meanwhile, Lovie’s defense still has an aging look about it, but that collection of 30-year-old + types on the stop unit proved they had some gas left in their tanks a year ago. a rebuilding stage. Oldsters DE Julius Peppers, LBs Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs plus CB Charles Tillman, all on the other side of 30, qualified for the Pro Bowl last season.

What defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is looking for, however, is an improved pass rush to take some of the pressure off of frequent double-teams on Peppers, whose motor is still running. It is hoped that first-round Boise State DE Shea McClellin, who could emerge as a hybrid DE/LB type, can improve the push from the edges.

As usual, the Bears look solid on special teams, with kick returner extraordinaire Devin Hester still in the fold, and PK Robbie Gould continuing as one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history. Moreover, punter Adam Podlesh set a franchise record for net punting average (40.4) in his first season with the Bears a year ago.

Summing Up: The Packers remain an elusive target in the NFC North, and the Lions have emerged as a playoff-quality entry, so the Bears are not going to have an easy time of it within their division. The dominoes have to fall right for Chicago to make it back to the playoffs; keeping Cutler healthy and a veteran-laced defense at the same level it was a year ago will likely determine if the Bears are postseason-bound. Or if Lovie Smith indeed returns for another go on the sidelines next season. Indeed, the future is now at Solider Field.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:25787 Followers:33
07/21/2012 03:59 PM

Cleveland Browns Face Uphill Battle In 2012

These haven’t been the same Cleveland Browns our fathers knew. Paul Brown, Otto Graham, Jim Brown...all relics of a long-ago era by the shores of Lake Erie.

Can it really be 48 years since the Brownies won their last title? (Technically, the old franchise did win a Super Bowl after it became the Baltimore Ravens, but the Cleveland part of NFL history has been title-less since 1964.) We recall that last title well, when Frank Ryan and Gary Collins teamed up for three TD passes, Jim Brown rumbled to soften the Baltimore defense, and the secondary, led by CB Bernie Parrish, succeeded in popping Johnny Unitas’ receivers as they came off the line of scrimmage, consistently knocking them off stride.

That ‘64 Browns team has risen to mythical stature, the last Cleveland-based team to win a sports championship. Used to kicks in the gut, the local fan base had to endure more angst in June when local son LeBron James, who abandoned the NBA Cavaliers two years ago, won an NBA title with the Miami Heat.

So, unless the Indians make an unlikely run to the World Series, Cleveland’s title drought should continue through the winter, because we don’t think the Browns are ready to recall Blanton Collier’s ‘64 title winners.

Since their resurrection in 1999, the Brownies have rarely caused much of a stir. Even their one playoff sojourn since, a Wild Card appearance under Butch Davis in 2002, ended with a bitter loss to the Steelers.

Cleveland will be trying to reinvent itself once again this fall after the latest disappointment, a 4-12 finish a year ago in head coach Pat Shurmur’s first trip around the track. But Browns Stadium isn’t Thistledown, and Cleveland likely remains a maiden this fall in a loaded AFC North featuring the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals, playoff teams all a year ago and against whom the Brownies were winless in six tries.

Team prexy Mike Holmgren, in his fourth year on the job, needs to see some positive results soon, but hasn’t resorted to any quick-fix tactics through free agency. Patiently building through the draft alongside GM Tom Heckert, Cleveland has plotted its course for the future. Whether it is the right course remains to be seen.

The latest Browns transformation began in the offseason, when veteran coach Brad Childress was named as the new offensive coordinator, although Shurmur is likely to continue his involvement in the play-calling aspect. But who pilots Childress' version of the West Coast remains a question mark after Oklahoma State rookie Brandon Weeden (who will be 29 in October) was selected with a second first-round pick in the April’s NFL Draft to compete with holdover Colt McCoy, the ex-Texas Longhorn whose first two years as a pro have been mostly a struggle.

Weeden was part of a draft-day narrative that understandably focused upon offense after the Cleveland strike force remained on the tarmac for much of last fall. The Browns didn’t exceed 20 points in any game after a 27-19 Week 2 win at Peyton Manning-less Indianapolis (in fact, they scored as much as 20 points just once thereafter), and finished ranked a lowly 28th in total offense (289 ypg) and 30th in scoring (13.6 ppg).

Thus, the selections of Weeden and Alabama RB Trent Richardson with an earlier first-round pick were understandable.

Indeed, it is around Richardson whom Childress would like to build the new-look Cleveland attack, and an indicator that the Browns are not likely to be pass crazy in their new offense. Richardson will be looking to improve a sluggish infantry that recorded a puny four rushing TDs all of last season and allowed bruising FB Peyton Hillis to walk (he’s now a Chief) in the offseason.

As for Weeden, he’s regarded as the favorite to beat out holdover McCoy for the starting QB job. Childress is said to prefer Weeden’s stronger arm and accuracy to those of McCoy, although we’ll see how that pans out once the games begin to count in September.

The coaching staff believes that Weeden’s arm will make better receivers out of the likes of holdovers Mohamed Massaquoi and Greg Little, who have yet to flash the big-play potential each seemed to ooze as collegians. Baylor rookie Josh Gordon, picked in the supplemental draft, looms as an intriguing wild card.

Childress will also be looking to goose the production of his tight ends, an integral component in the West Coast. Second-year Jordan Cameron will be given the opportunity to unseat veteran Ben Watson, entering his ninth year.

The building blocks along the OL have been put in place over the past few years, with LT Joe Thomas already having blossomed into a Pro Bowl regular. But the parts have remained greater than the sum, and the front office continued the offensive upgrade into the second round of the draft when nabbing Cal’s NFL-ready RT Mitchell Schwartz, who will likely be plugged into the starting lineup.

Still, the offense is likely relying upon a rookie QB (Weeden) to detonate the new-look attack. We wouldn’t be holding our breath for any quick transformation.

Defense, however, is another story, and the Brownies stayed close in several games because of their stop unit, which ranked a very respectable fifth in scoring (just 307 points allowed) and second in pass defense under coordinator Dick Jauron.

On the other hand, Cleveland was soft vs. the run last season (ranking 30th), so what mild stabs Holmgren and Heckert made in the free agent market were focused on the defensive front, where ex-Bengals DE Frostee Rucker and ex-Eagles DT Juqua Parker were added. Marcus Benard, who led the team in sacks in 2010 but missed last year after a motorcycle accident, returns to the mix.

The linebacking corps took an offseason blow when OLB Scott Fujita was suspended for the first three games due to his involvement in the Saints’ "Bounty-gate" scandal from 2009. D’Qwell Jackson led Cleveland in tackles last year and likely does so again, although Jauron will be hoping for more pass-rush pressure from this crew after the DL had to account for most of last season’s sacks.

The strength of the platoon remains in the secondary, where CB Joe Haden is so good that he is automatically assigned to the opposition’s best receiver each week. Getting back strong safety T.J. Ward, who missed the last six games of 2011 with a foot injury, will be a plus.

Those solid pass defense numbers from last season will be challenged by a 2012 slate that features a few more top-level throwers (including both Manning brothers, Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin II) than the Browns saw in 2011.

Trend-wise, note the recent "under" pattern in Browns games (14-6-1 since late in the 2010 campaign), reflecting the offensive problems.

Summary: The AFC North is one tough neighborhood, and any breakthrough from the Browns will require bypassing at least one from among the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals. That doesn’t appear likely with the offense in another rebuild mode and probably forced to rely upon a rookie QB. Jauron’s "D" keeps Cleveland competitive most weeks, but we’re looking at another losing season by the shores of Lake Erie...and 1964 looking further back in the rear-view mirror.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:25787 Followers:33
07/21/2012 04:00 PM

Denver Broncos Set For Manning Era To Begin

John Elway considered it a gift from heaven.

Peyton Manning, interested in becoming a Denver Bronco?

The series of dominoes that had to fall in the right order to get Manning to the doorstep of the Broncos remains a story unto itself. For team prexy Elway, however, it offered him a chance to escape the Tim Tebow dilemma without too much collateral damage.

Though “Tim Terrific” was a revelation in the unorthodox manner in which he rejuvenated the Broncos last season, Elway was always a reluctant passenger on the Tebow bandwagon despite being well aware of Tebow’s wild popularity in the Rockies and throughout Bronco Nation. If he were to extricate himself from Tebow mania, he had to do nothing short of replacing the ex-Florida Heisman winner with a Hall of Fame caliber QB.

Enter Peyton Manning, and the rest of the storyline in spring was written. Manning, after his release from the Colts, embarked upon a brief courtship period with a handful of before signing with the Broncos in late March. Elway subsequently packaged Tebow in a trade to the Jets. All of a sudden, Tebow Mania was extinguished in the Rockies, but replaced by Manning Mania and a likely better chance for the Broncos to make a deeper run in the playoffs than the surprise charge to final eight authored by Tebow and friends last season.

Of course, there have to remain questions about Manning’s health after the neck surgery that sidelined him for the entirety of 2011 and made the Colts intent on using the No. 1 overall draft pick on a successor to Manning at QB, who turned out to be Stanford’s Andrew Luck. But Elway, head coach John Fox and a slew of doctors gave Manning a clean bill of health in the offseason, enough that the Denver brass felt comfy enough to ward Manning a five-year contract. Manning, now 36, says he feels as good as ever.

But it is not a stretch to say that the Broncos will flourish in 2012 based almost solely upon Manning resembling his pre-injury form.

The offense that Manning will orchestrate should look a lot like the Indy versions he piloted over the past several years: lots of no-huddle, timing routes, dump-offs to backs and liberal use of tight ends. Indeed, Manning’s comfort level with offensive coordinator Mike McCoy’s schemes was said to be a big selling point in the ex-Tennessee Vol inking with Denver.

There is plenty of upside within a young receiving corps that might really flourish with Manning firing his customary darts. Third-year wideouts Demaryius Thomas (whose 80-yard TD catch from Tebow on the first scrimmage play of overtime knocked the Steelers out of the Wild Card Round last January) and Erik Decker have flashed plenty of upside, and if each can stay healthy could post monster numbers. Ex-Kentucky TE Jacob Tamme is a familiar target of Manning’s from days with the Colts.

A young and talented offensive line, led by All-Pro LT Ryan Clady, provides a nice fortress. Among the rookies, San Diego State RB Ronnie Hillman is expected to make significant contributions after vet Willis McGahee wore down late in 2011 and Knowshon Moreno battled through more injuries. Place-kicker Matt Prater is also a weapon, having won a pair of OT games last fall on 50+-yard field goals vs. the Dolphins and Bears.

There is concern, however, about depth behind Manning, with Tebow and last year’s other QB options (Kyle Orton, who was released before the end of 2011, and Brady Quinn) having left town. As cover for Manning, all Fox has at the moment is ex-Bears journeyman Caleb Hanie and Arizona State rookie Brock Osweiler, a second-round pick and considered strictly a developmental project until further notice.

Lost amid Tebow-mania last fall was an improved defensive effort spearheaded by impact sorts such as undersized DE Elvis Dumervil (who missed the entirety of the previous 2010 campaign due to injury) and Texas A&M rookie LB Von Miller, who proved a revelation from the edge.

New defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, who was Jacksonville’s head coach the last nine seasons, has tweaked the platoon instead of overhauling it, which was unnecessary after the improvements shown last fall.

Still, some believe the Broncos could have done a little bit more in the draft, when the need for a run-stuffing defensive lineman was at the top of the wish list after DT Brodrick Bunkley moved to the Saints in free agency. Denver continued to trade down in late April at Radio City Music Hall before opting for ex-Cincinnati Bearcat DT Derek Wolfe early in the second round. Wolfe has plenty of potential but was not regarded among the top-shelf DTs in the draft, many of who were available before the Broncos' trade-down dynamics in the first round.

Wolfe might be forced into action early, as there are durability questions about others options at the DT spots in Del Rio’s 4-3 looks. Veterans such as Ty Warren, Kevin Vickerson and FA addition Justin Bannan (from the Rams) have all had injury issues before, especially Warren who hasn’t played since 2009, and Vickerson, who missed most of 2011 with ankle problems.

In Miller and fellow OLB D.J. Williams, however, Denver can bring heavy pressure from the edge, while Dumervil and his 52 career sacks rates as one of the league’s top pass rush threats.

The secondary could miss the veteran leadership of safety Brian Dawkins, who retired, but the Broncos’ second most-influential FA signing, ex-Saint Tracy Porter, makes for a potential shutdown combo on the corners alongside Champ Bailey. Ironically, it’s the same Porter whose late TD interception return off Manning sealed the Saints win over the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.

Summing up: The Broncos, surprise winners of the AFC West a year ago, were still only 8-8 last season, and used the uniqueness of the spread option and Tebow to reinvent themselves at midseason. That path seemed an unlikely one back to the playoffs, so expect more of a traditional look with Manning at the helm. Though the defense improved last season, and LB Miller looks like a superstar in the making, make no mistake that the Broncos’ fortunes in 2012 rest with Manning. The fact the AFC West appears to be in a transition phase should open the door for a return to the playoffs if Manning is still the old, pre-injury Peyton this fall.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:25787 Followers:33
07/21/2012 04:00 PM

Denver Broncos Set For Manning Era To Begin

John Elway considered it a gift from heaven.

Peyton Manning, interested in becoming a Denver Bronco?

The series of dominoes that had to fall in the right order to get Manning to the doorstep of the Broncos remains a story unto itself. For team prexy Elway, however, it offered him a chance to escape the Tim Tebow dilemma without too much collateral damage.

Though “Tim Terrific” was a revelation in the unorthodox manner in which he rejuvenated the Broncos last season, Elway was always a reluctant passenger on the Tebow bandwagon despite being well aware of Tebow’s wild popularity in the Rockies and throughout Bronco Nation. If he were to extricate himself from Tebow mania, he had to do nothing short of replacing the ex-Florida Heisman winner with a Hall of Fame caliber QB.

Enter Peyton Manning, and the rest of the storyline in spring was written. Manning, after his release from the Colts, embarked upon a brief courtship period with a handful of before signing with the Broncos in late March. Elway subsequently packaged Tebow in a trade to the Jets. All of a sudden, Tebow Mania was extinguished in the Rockies, but replaced by Manning Mania and a likely better chance for the Broncos to make a deeper run in the playoffs than the surprise charge to final eight authored by Tebow and friends last season.

Of course, there have to remain questions about Manning’s health after the neck surgery that sidelined him for the entirety of 2011 and made the Colts intent on using the No. 1 overall draft pick on a successor to Manning at QB, who turned out to be Stanford’s Andrew Luck. But Elway, head coach John Fox and a slew of doctors gave Manning a clean bill of health in the offseason, enough that the Denver brass felt comfy enough to ward Manning a five-year contract. Manning, now 36, says he feels as good as ever.

But it is not a stretch to say that the Broncos will flourish in 2012 based almost solely upon Manning resembling his pre-injury form.

The offense that Manning will orchestrate should look a lot like the Indy versions he piloted over the past several years: lots of no-huddle, timing routes, dump-offs to backs and liberal use of tight ends. Indeed, Manning’s comfort level with offensive coordinator Mike McCoy’s schemes was said to be a big selling point in the ex-Tennessee Vol inking with Denver.

There is plenty of upside within a young receiving corps that might really flourish with Manning firing his customary darts. Third-year wideouts Demaryius Thomas (whose 80-yard TD catch from Tebow on the first scrimmage play of overtime knocked the Steelers out of the Wild Card Round last January) and Erik Decker have flashed plenty of upside, and if each can stay healthy could post monster numbers. Ex-Kentucky TE Jacob Tamme is a familiar target of Manning’s from days with the Colts.

A young and talented offensive line, led by All-Pro LT Ryan Clady, provides a nice fortress. Among the rookies, San Diego State RB Ronnie Hillman is expected to make significant contributions after vet Willis McGahee wore down late in 2011 and Knowshon Moreno battled through more injuries. Place-kicker Matt Prater is also a weapon, having won a pair of OT games last fall on 50+-yard field goals vs. the Dolphins and Bears.

There is concern, however, about depth behind Manning, with Tebow and last year’s other QB options (Kyle Orton, who was released before the end of 2011, and Brady Quinn) having left town. As cover for Manning, all Fox has at the moment is ex-Bears journeyman Caleb Hanie and Arizona State rookie Brock Osweiler, a second-round pick and considered strictly a developmental project until further notice.

Lost amid Tebow-mania last fall was an improved defensive effort spearheaded by impact sorts such as undersized DE Elvis Dumervil (who missed the entirety of the previous 2010 campaign due to injury) and Texas A&M rookie LB Von Miller, who proved a revelation from the edge.

New defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, who was Jacksonville’s head coach the last nine seasons, has tweaked the platoon instead of overhauling it, which was unnecessary after the improvements shown last fall.

Still, some believe the Broncos could have done a little bit more in the draft, when the need for a run-stuffing defensive lineman was at the top of the wish list after DT Brodrick Bunkley moved to the Saints in free agency. Denver continued to trade down in late April at Radio City Music Hall before opting for ex-Cincinnati Bearcat DT Derek Wolfe early in the second round. Wolfe has plenty of potential but was not regarded among the top-shelf DTs in the draft, many of who were available before the Broncos' trade-down dynamics in the first round.

Wolfe might be forced into action early, as there are durability questions about others options at the DT spots in Del Rio’s 4-3 looks. Veterans such as Ty Warren, Kevin Vickerson and FA addition Justin Bannan (from the Rams) have all had injury issues before, especially Warren who hasn’t played since 2009, and Vickerson, who missed most of 2011 with ankle problems.

In Miller and fellow OLB D.J. Williams, however, Denver can bring heavy pressure from the edge, while Dumervil and his 52 career sacks rates as one of the league’s top pass rush threats.

The secondary could miss the veteran leadership of safety Brian Dawkins, who retired, but the Broncos’ second most-influential FA signing, ex-Saint Tracy Porter, makes for a potential shutdown combo on the corners alongside Champ Bailey. Ironically, it’s the same Porter whose late TD interception return off Manning sealed the Saints win over the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.

Summing up: The Broncos, surprise winners of the AFC West a year ago, were still only 8-8 last season, and used the uniqueness of the spread option and Tebow to reinvent themselves at midseason. That path seemed an unlikely one back to the playoffs, so expect more of a traditional look with Manning at the helm. Though the defense improved last season, and LB Miller looks like a superstar in the making, make no mistake that the Broncos’ fortunes in 2012 rest with Manning. The fact the AFC West appears to be in a transition phase should open the door for a return to the playoffs if Manning is still the old, pre-injury Peyton this fall.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:25787 Followers:33
07/21/2012 04:02 PM

Jaguars To Rely On Strong Defense Once Again

The lanes figure to be more clear in the new order of the AFC South, where Peyton Manning no longer roams for the Indianapolis Colts, and the Houston Texans enter 2012 as the defending division champs after reaching the playoffs for the first time in their history a year ago.

Thus, the division seems ripe for another team to make a breakthrough. We’re just not sure the Jacksonville Jaguars are ready to make that sort of leap into contender status.

Not that the Jags didn’t try to change their recipe in the offseason after last season’s dismal 5-11 mark that finally cost head coach Jack Del Rio his job last in the campaign after 8½ seasons in charge. That downturn had prompted the sale of the team by original owner Wayne Weaver to Shad Kahn, a colorful, mustachioed character who has become the new “face” of the franchise (much to the delight of TV cameras, getting a kick out of all of the mustache disguised on fans at EverBank Field, the old Gator Bowl).

Kahn is well aware that the Jags' popularity has dipped in recent years, forcing a tarpaulin to cover many seats at EverBank and reduce the capacity for TV sellout purposes. Kahn would of course rather open up all of the seats and get true sellouts at home, which in recent years have been limited to special games and Monday nighters which often (but no more) featured the Peyton Manning-led Colts.

Kahn’s first order of business was finding a new coach after defensive coordinator Mel Tucker (who has been retained by the new regime) kept the Jaguars together down the stretch in 2011 following Del Rio’s ouster. Kahn, however, seems to have made an uninspired choice in longtime NFL offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, a respected assistant but a failure in his previous head coaching stab a few years ago with the Bills.

The Jags, however, were looking for a coach with offensive chops to revitalize a moribund strike force that finished last in NFL passing (2,179 yards) and total offense (259.3 yards pg) a year ago. Mularkey at least has those chops, and has enlisted respected offensive assistants Bob Bratkowski (the new offensive coordinator) and Greg Olson (the new QB coach) to aid the renaissance.

That reboot, however, must start at the QB position, which has proven a problem area in recent years.

Second-year ex-Missouri Tiger Blaine Gabbert showed hints of progress as a rookie QB, but the jury remains out on Gabbert as a bona fide NFL leader, and Mularkey toyed with the idea of going in a different direction in the offseason. Instead, ex-Dolphin Chad Henne was added as veteran cover should Gabbert regress in his sophomore season.

The passing game was still the focus in the offseason, as Mularkey upgraded the receiving corps by adding two established NFL playmakers, Laurent Robinson and Lee Evans, along with Oklahoma State rookie Justin Blackmon, a high first-round draft choice (fifth) at Radio City Music Hall last April and considered the most-dangerous wideout in the rookie class. Now, can Gabbert get them the ball?

It is comforting, at least, to know that the Jaguars still retain multi-threat RB Maurice Jones-Drew, last year’s NFL rush leader with 1606 yards. And if the offensive line can stay healthy (which it couldn’t a year ago), maybe Mularkey’s strike force can indeed show improvement.

There was nothing wrong with the defense, which, as mentioned, retains coordinator Tucker. The Jags ranked sixth in NFL defense a year ago, and the stop unit kept J’ville closer than it should have been on several occasions, including a near-upset at Pittsburgh, and contributed mightily to the best result of all last season in a 12-7 Monday night upset win over the Ravens.

Nonetheless, the Jaguars went for defense with four of their six draft picks and made upgrading the secondary a priority in free agency when adding ex-Giant CB Aaron Ross, who will compete with Rashean Mathis for the first-string spot on the left corner.

The secondary appears to be one of the strong points of the stop unit, as is the LB corps, where all three starters (Daryl Smith, Paul Posluszny and Clint Session) return.

If there are a few questions, they might be on the defensive front, where tackle Terrance Knighton suffered a severe eye injury in an altercation at a nightclub – why do these guys keep on getting into this sort of off-the-field trouble? – and has been sidelined for most of the offseason. Defensive end Tyson Alualu is also coming off knee surgery, and his progress must be monitored. But the Jags made sure to re-sign DE Jeremy Mincey, and they are not likely to lose games because of Tucker’s stop unit.

Summary: The AFC South looks more wide-open these days now that Manning has left Indy, and the opportunity is there for the Jags to take advantage. The defense was playoff-quality a year ago, and the offense, on paper, looks as if it should improve with new brain trust (including Mularkey) featuring so many respected attack-end tacticians and schemers, and the presence of Jones-Drew and an upgraded group of receiving targets. But there remains a huge question at QB, where Gabbert is still early on the learning curve, and Henne, while a serviceable backup, does not inspire confidence if entrusted to spark a playoff surge.

The jury is also still out on Mularkey as a head coach after his failure in Buffalo. The Jags intrigue, but we’re not ready to consider them a playoff contender just yet until we see if QB Gabbert really is ready to take the next steps.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:25787 Followers:33
07/21/2012 04:02 PM

Jaguars To Rely On Strong Defense Once Again

The lanes figure to be more clear in the new order of the AFC South, where Peyton Manning no longer roams for the Indianapolis Colts, and the Houston Texans enter 2012 as the defending division champs after reaching the playoffs for the first time in their history a year ago.

Thus, the division seems ripe for another team to make a breakthrough. We’re just not sure the Jacksonville Jaguars are ready to make that sort of leap into contender status.

Not that the Jags didn’t try to change their recipe in the offseason after last season’s dismal 5-11 mark that finally cost head coach Jack Del Rio his job last in the campaign after 8½ seasons in charge. That downturn had prompted the sale of the team by original owner Wayne Weaver to Shad Kahn, a colorful, mustachioed character who has become the new “face” of the franchise (much to the delight of TV cameras, getting a kick out of all of the mustache disguised on fans at EverBank Field, the old Gator Bowl).

Kahn is well aware that the Jags' popularity has dipped in recent years, forcing a tarpaulin to cover many seats at EverBank and reduce the capacity for TV sellout purposes. Kahn would of course rather open up all of the seats and get true sellouts at home, which in recent years have been limited to special games and Monday nighters which often (but no more) featured the Peyton Manning-led Colts.

Kahn’s first order of business was finding a new coach after defensive coordinator Mel Tucker (who has been retained by the new regime) kept the Jaguars together down the stretch in 2011 following Del Rio’s ouster. Kahn, however, seems to have made an uninspired choice in longtime NFL offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, a respected assistant but a failure in his previous head coaching stab a few years ago with the Bills.

The Jags, however, were looking for a coach with offensive chops to revitalize a moribund strike force that finished last in NFL passing (2,179 yards) and total offense (259.3 yards pg) a year ago. Mularkey at least has those chops, and has enlisted respected offensive assistants Bob Bratkowski (the new offensive coordinator) and Greg Olson (the new QB coach) to aid the renaissance.

That reboot, however, must start at the QB position, which has proven a problem area in recent years.

Second-year ex-Missouri Tiger Blaine Gabbert showed hints of progress as a rookie QB, but the jury remains out on Gabbert as a bona fide NFL leader, and Mularkey toyed with the idea of going in a different direction in the offseason. Instead, ex-Dolphin Chad Henne was added as veteran cover should Gabbert regress in his sophomore season.

The passing game was still the focus in the offseason, as Mularkey upgraded the receiving corps by adding two established NFL playmakers, Laurent Robinson and Lee Evans, along with Oklahoma State rookie Justin Blackmon, a high first-round draft choice (fifth) at Radio City Music Hall last April and considered the most-dangerous wideout in the rookie class. Now, can Gabbert get them the ball?

It is comforting, at least, to know that the Jaguars still retain multi-threat RB Maurice Jones-Drew, last year’s NFL rush leader with 1606 yards. And if the offensive line can stay healthy (which it couldn’t a year ago), maybe Mularkey’s strike force can indeed show improvement.

There was nothing wrong with the defense, which, as mentioned, retains coordinator Tucker. The Jags ranked sixth in NFL defense a year ago, and the stop unit kept J’ville closer than it should have been on several occasions, including a near-upset at Pittsburgh, and contributed mightily to the best result of all last season in a 12-7 Monday night upset win over the Ravens.

Nonetheless, the Jaguars went for defense with four of their six draft picks and made upgrading the secondary a priority in free agency when adding ex-Giant CB Aaron Ross, who will compete with Rashean Mathis for the first-string spot on the left corner.

The secondary appears to be one of the strong points of the stop unit, as is the LB corps, where all three starters (Daryl Smith, Paul Posluszny and Clint Session) return.

If there are a few questions, they might be on the defensive front, where tackle Terrance Knighton suffered a severe eye injury in an altercation at a nightclub – why do these guys keep on getting into this sort of off-the-field trouble? – and has been sidelined for most of the offseason. Defensive end Tyson Alualu is also coming off knee surgery, and his progress must be monitored. But the Jags made sure to re-sign DE Jeremy Mincey, and they are not likely to lose games because of Tucker’s stop unit.

Summary: The AFC South looks more wide-open these days now that Manning has left Indy, and the opportunity is there for the Jags to take advantage. The defense was playoff-quality a year ago, and the offense, on paper, looks as if it should improve with new brain trust (including Mularkey) featuring so many respected attack-end tacticians and schemers, and the presence of Jones-Drew and an upgraded group of receiving targets. But there remains a huge question at QB, where Gabbert is still early on the learning curve, and Henne, while a serviceable backup, does not inspire confidence if entrusted to spark a playoff surge.

The jury is also still out on Mularkey as a head coach after his failure in Buffalo. The Jags intrigue, but we’re not ready to consider them a playoff contender just yet until we see if QB Gabbert really is ready to take the next steps.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:25787 Followers:33
07/21/2012 04:04 PM

Revamped New York Jets Eye Playoff Return

Wow! Rex Ryan must not mind living on the edge!

The controversial Jets coach was reportedly the driving force behind the acquisition of the one and only Tim Tebow, the polarizing ex-Heisman winner from Florida and magician for last year’s Broncos when leading Denver into one of the most-unexpected playoff berths in recent memory.

Yet if all goes to plan, Tebow, who alternately captivated and thrilled the Rockies with his unorthodox style a year ago, will only be a bit player as Ryan looks to steer the Jets back to the postseason after fading down the stretch to 8-8 a year ago, missing the playoffs altogether after qualifying for the AFC title game the previous two seasons.

A more important development for the Jets this fall is likely going to involve holdover QB Mark Sanchez, who has not progressed since his rookie season and might have even taken a step or two backwards a year ago. With limited physical attributes, Sanchez regressed markedly in 2011, tossing 18 picks and sacked 39 times as the Jets deviated from their run-first formula that had somewhat protected Sanchez in his first two years.

Sanchez was also guilty of crucial mistakes last season, such as the ghastly turnovers that allowed Miami to sneak away with a win in the regular-season finale and bury the Jets’ playoff hopes once and for all.

Still, Ryan and his new offensive coordinator, ex-Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano, believe a return to an infantry emphasis is the best way to shield Sanchez. The Jets fell to 22nd in NFL rushing stats a year ago after ranking first and fourth, respectively, the previous two years. Look for the Sparano offense to revolve around RB Shonn Greene, who recorded his first 1,000-yard rushing season a year ago (1,054 yards).

Enter Tebow, whose acquisition was also heartily endorsed by Sparano who introduced the 'Wildcat' looks to the NFL four years ago in Miami with Ronnie Brown taking direct snaps, and envisions Tebow as a similar-type threat this fall. If all goes to plan, Tebow will be spotted accordingly by Sparano, often in short-yardage or goal-line situations where the ex-Gator’s powerful running style offers the sort of dimension Sanchez cannot provide.

The risk of having Tebow as another offensive option are the peripheral distractions (no fault of Tebow’s) that might result if: A) Tim Terrific excels in his limited role, or B) Sanchez endures another difficult season.

There are other issues offensively, especially among the receiving corps where the moody Santonio Holmes has underachieved while proving a divisive influence in the locker room – his latest misadventure was asking out of June OTA work because he felt he had taken too many snaps already – and an OL that leaked too much in 2011 and failed to keep Sanchez upright. Sparano will have to thread the needle this fall to avoid many of these issues.

Moreover, there are defensive issues for Ryan to address as the stop unit has gradually weakened over Rex’s three years in charge. Indeed, the Jets’ 'D' allowed 123 more points in 2011 than it did in Ryan’s first season back in 2009.

Although the Tebow addition stole the offseason headlines, Ryan and GM Mike Tannenbaum made perhaps their boldest moves in the offseason with hopes of bolstering the recently-sagging defense. The top free-agent addition was ex-Redskins safety LaRon Landry, while the Jets went for additional defensive help with their top pick in the draft, tabbing North Carolina’s pass-rush demon DE Quinton Coples with a first-round selection.

Landry, however, might not prove the answer at one of the safety spots that has opened up with the likely departure of key performer, injury-prone Jim Leonhard (still unsigned as of early July), as an Achilles tendon injury limited Landry’s offseason work and threatened his availability for training camp. The secondary still features shutdown CB deluxe Darrelle Revis, but his partner on the other side, Antonio Cromartie, was picked on a bit too often a year ago as opponents mostly chose to avoid throwing the way of Revis.

The front seven will hopefully be bolstered by the addition of rookie DE Couples, who could provide a spark that was missing a year ago. Worryingly for Ryan, LBs Bart Scott and Calvin Pace both seemed to slow noticeably last fall.

Maybe Ryan can use Tebow on defense, too.

Summary: Ryan is attempting to change a formula that seemed to go bad a year ago, authorizing staff changes and making bold moves in the offseason that hardly appear foolproof. The Tebow acquisition, while looking good in theory, also threatens to be an unwanted distraction, with a simmering QB controversy the last thing Ryan or confidence-shaky holdover QB Mark Sanchez needs at this point.

But the Jets’ re-emergence as a playoff team likely rests with Sparano’s 'O' rediscovering its ground game roots, and for Ryan to reboot a defense that sprung a lot of leaks last fall. There is no guarantee the whole situation won’t blow up in Ryan’s face this fall.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:25787 Followers:33
07/21/2012 04:05 PM

Oakland Raiders Begin New Era With New Regime

It’s a new era in Oakland. Whether it’s going to be a better era than the mostly-dismal one over the past decade remains to be seen.

There’s no more Al Davis calling the shots for the Silver-and-Black after the franchise patriarch passed away last October. The new regime, led by Al’s son Mark, made a clean sweep after the Raiders faded to 8-8 last season, missing out on what looked to be a likely playoff berth much of last autumn when losing four of their last five games, including an especially painful, 38-26 final-game setback vs. San Diego that would have put Oakland into the postseason for the first time since the Super Bowl campaign of 2002.

When the smoke cleared, coach Hue Jackson, who had just one year on the job after serving as Oakland offensive coordinator under Tom Cable, walked the planked. The younger Davis thus enlisted a regime with his own fingerprints, led by new GM Reggie McKenzie, who got to run his first draft in late April after working alongside Ted Thompson in Green Bay.

Indeed, McKenzie seems intent on modeling the new-look Raiders after the Packers, which might make Al Davis roll over in his grave, but seems a prudent idea after Green Bay’s recent successes (and Oakland’s recent failures). New head coach Dennis Allen has been a well-regarded NFL defensive assistant for the past decade and arrives in Oakland after a stop in Denver as John Fox’s defensive coordinator for last year’s Broncos.

Allen is being given total authority to handle his coaching staff and on-field matters, a departure from the old Raider way of doing things in the era of Al. This is reminiscent of the operation in Green Bay, where a similar delineation exists between GM Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy.

On McKenzie’s end, there was little to work with in the April draft, with the Raiders minus a first-round pick (surrendered to the Bengals in the Carson Palmer trade) and without a selection until the 95th pick overall, late in the third round. It’s doubtful any rookies make much impact, although 4th-round LB Mike Burris from San Diego State has some intriguing upside and should help immediately on special teams.

McKenzie instead spent much of the offseason purging some of Al’s big contracts from the roster, releasing highly-paid but underachieving sorts such as CB Stanford Routt and LB Kamerion Wimbley. McKenzie was somewhat active in free agency, though was working mostly on the periphery while adding a few modestly-priced vets. Of those, ex-Texans G Mike Brisiel was probably the highest-profile addition, along with lesser-priced CBs Ron Bartell (ex-Rams) and Shawntae Spencer (ex-49ers) and DE Dave Tollefson (ex-Giants).

McKenzie also tweaked the offensive personnel, letting former QB Jason Campbell and RB Michael Bush both walk in free agency. Campbell’s departure puts extra pressure on Palmer to stay healthy, with disappointing ex-Heisman winner and free agent signee Matt Leinart the only experienced cover for Palmer on the roster.

New offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, the Texans’ QB coach the past two seasons, will be implementing a new-look West Coast-style package as well and will also be re-installing the zone blocking schemes last used in Oakland when Knapp was working for Lane Kiffin’s regime in 2007-08.

Palmer showed he could still wing it last season when he was thrown into the lineup cold in the sixth week of the season, partially explaining his 16 interceptions vs. only 13 TD passes. When Palmer had time to set and scan the field, however, he often looked as good as he did in his best Cincinnati years.

Palmer’s receiving corps is regarded as one of the up-and-coming ones in the AFC. Former first-round draftee Darrius Heyward-Bey finally began to flash some of his considerable upside when catching 64 passes a year ago. Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford are other wideouts who can also get deep.

On the opponents’ side of the 50-yard-line, however, the Raiders always remain a threat to at least put three points on the board with shaved-headed, strong-legged PK Sebastian Janikowski, whose achievements last season included kicking a NFL record-tying 63-yard field goal in Denver’s thin altitude in the opening Monday night game. Janikowski remains virtually automatic inside of 53 yards.

Without Bush as a nice change-of-pace and capable replacement, however, it will be important for RB Darren McFadden to stay healthy, which has not been easy the past couple of years. McFadden gained 5.4 ypc in 2011 but only played in seven games due to injury issues which have recurred throughout his career.

New defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, most recently the co-defensive coordinator at Stanford, has junked the old Raiders defense, authorized by Allen to implement a new look, multiple 4-3 that will hopefully highlight a deep and disruptive group of linemen featuring Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly on the inside and Lamarr Houston and Matt Shaughnessy on the outside, with ex-Giant Tollefson versatile enough to provide depth at all positions.

The concern defensively is in the secondary, especially on the corners, where ex-Ram Bartell and ex-49er Spencer did not have stellar 2011 campaigns in their former locales. Bartell, in particular, must be watched closely after missing action due to neck problems a year ago. Allen and Tarver will also be hoping the defensive front becomes more disciplined as it tries to better stop the run. Along those lines, Allen and Tarver could also use MLB Rolando McClain to improve as a run-stopper.

Summary: The uniforms will look the same, but much else appears to be changing post-Al Davis in Oakland. New owner, new GM, new coach, new offense, new defense...that covers about everything. Keeping Palmer and McFadden healthy will be key to the new, West Coast offense moving smoothly, while the restructured defense figures to be a work in progress.

They didn’t build Rome in a day, and it’s doubtful Reggie McKenzie’s vision of building the Raiders into an AFC West model of the Packers will happen overnight, either. We’d be surprised if the Raiders are as involved in the playoff chase as they were a year ago, or do better than last year’s 8-8 mark.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:25787 Followers:33
07/21/2012 04:07 PM

Seattle Seahawks Playing Catch-Up To 49ers

There’s a general belief that Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks were backsliding a year ago as they missed out on the postseason after being a surprise qualifier for the playoffs in 2010.

Upon further inspection, however, the Hawks posted the same 7-9 regular-season record last season as they did in 2010. The difference? NFC West rival San Francisco improved to 13-3, leaving Carroll’s team in the dust and setting a new benchmark in the formerly-weak division.

With the bar raised in the West, Carroll knew what he had to do in the offseason to close the gap on the 49ers after mistakenly going thin at QB last summer, when Carroll believed he could stay afloat with holdover Charlie Whitehurst and ex-Viking Tarvaris Jackson leading the charge.

Oh, well, what is it they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men?

Whitehurst, Carroll’s first big trade acquisition in 2010, proved a bust and is now back with the San Diego Changers, from whence he came to Seattle. As for Jackson, he gave it a shot last season and had a few highlight moments, but the inconsistencies that marked his previous days in Minnesota too often resurfaced in Seattle.

Carroll thus entered this offseason knowing that upgrades were needed under center if the Seahawks were going to have a chance to reel in the 49ers. After briefly trying to convince Peyton Manning to give Seattle a look, Carroll opted for the next-best alternative in the free-agent marketplace, ex-Packer Matt Flynn, who like some other past Green Bay backups – such as Mark Brunell and the Seahawks’ former QB Matt Hasselbeck – only seems to need a chance, which probably wasn’t going to happen at Lambeau Field with Aaron Rodgers in the way.

Flynn thus enters preseason on top of the new Seahawk depth chart at QB that also features third-round draft choice Russell Wilson, the former NC State and Wisconsin QB who polarized many NFL teams that couldn’t make up their minds if his prodigious college numbers and leadership skills would be negated by his lack of size. Carroll, however, sees Wilson as a potential Drew Brees-like performer, and was wowed by how quickly the rookie picked up the Seattle playbook in the OTAs. Still, Wilson appears unlikely to be featured for a while, especially with Flynn and holdover Jackson still in the Seahawks QB queue.

Assuming the 'Hawks get better QB play this fall, perhaps they can make an advance on the 49ers in the NFC West. The offense hopes to have better balance in 2012, with Flynn orchestrating offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s West Coast attack and vet RB Marshawn Lynch remaining in the fold after re-signing in the offseason. Still productive (1,204 YR and 12 TDs in 2011), Carroll and Bevell nonetheless remain sensitive to the many poundings Lynch and his physical style have absorbed and will likely be spotting Utah State rookie Robert Turbin (perhaps a steal of the draft in the 4th round) in order to better pace Lynch this fall.

It will help Flynn (or Jackson) to have big-play WR Sidney Rice in a healthy state after he missed seven games last fall due to injury. Ex-Stanford charge Doug Baldwin emerged as a nice possession-type receiver in Rice’s absence, but the Seahawks could use the downfield threat Rice can provide. An X-factor could be TE Kellen Winslow, who arrived in a trade with the Bucs and competes with holdover Zach Miller for snaps.

Meanwhile, Carroll did some more gambling in the draft when tabbing West Virginia’s enigmatic DE Bruce Irvin with the 15th pick in the first round. When right, Irvin was considered the best pass rusher in the college ranks a year ago, but maturity issues scared some teams away at Radio City Music Hall in late April. Carroll and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, however, envision Irvin as a center-piece of the stop unit, although at the outset he might be on the field only as a situational sub (likely on passing downs).

Irvin is only part of a defensive line upgrade that also included adding free agent DT Jason Jones from the Titans. Along with re-signing DE Red Bryant, Seattle’s front four should have a robust look, also featuring holdovers DT Brandon Mebane and DE Chris Clemons.

There are concerns in the LB crew, however, after last year’s platoon leader, MLB David Hawthorne, left in free agency to the Saints. Carroll hoped to fill the gap by signing another ex-Titan, Barrett Ruud, in his place, although Rudd endured an injury-plagued campaign a year ago in Nashville. Another Utah State rookie (like RB Turbin), second-round pick MLB Bobby Wagner, could begin the preseason with the first unit while Ruud continues to rehab knee and shoulder injuries.

The secondary, rebuilt last season, retains much the same look as a year ago, when Stanford rookie Richard Sherman emerged as an unlikely force late in the season and enters 2012 as the projected starter at the LCB spot.

Summary: Many NFC West observers suspect that the Seahawks appear the most-likely division entry to rise and challenge the 49ers this fall, but a quick peek at the Seahawks’ schedule suggests that a breakthrough won’t be easy, with non-division foes Green Bay, Dallas, Cam Newton and improving Carolina plus New England all on the schedule within the first six weeks. If Flynn provides the upgrade for the offense that many expect, however, the Seahawks will have a puncher’s chance against anyone, especially at Century Link Field, which Carroll’s team has made a nice fortress and where it has covered the number in nine of its last 11 home games.

Expect Seattle to at least be on the periphery of the wild card mix with a chance to return to the postseason if Flynn can deliver as hoped.

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