1. New England 13-3
2. NYJ 9-7
3. Miami 8-8
4. Buffalo 6-10
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Predicted finish- 12-4 , winning the division, home field advantage and winning the Superbowl.
Overview- I normally don't think of a team going through this much of a player turnover as a Superbowl contestant, let alone winner. However they have a lot of the previous championship pieces in place, have drafted well, and their additions & young players are all very talented. As long as a veteran nucleus from their title days (especially Brady & Belichick ) is in place, I expect this team to gel by midseason and disatnce themselves from the pack. Brady looked a bit rusty in the preseason ,and it will probably take him till midseason to be in midseason form as well.
Coaching- Bill Belichik's team first ( learned it from Parcells) gospel is a tried and true formula for success. Has even got former me first player randy Moss to by into the program, and many veterans are willing to come to New England for less money, or in a lesser role at the end of their careers, to get a chance at a ring. Spygate aside he is one of the best coaches in football history. Despite losing coordinators on a regular basis to head coaching jobs he keeps on truckin. The loss of Player personnel guru Scot Pioli could be a bigger loss than offensive wunderkin Josh McDaniels to Denver though. Veteran coach Dean Pees returns for a 3rd year as the boss of the defense, but Belichick is as much responsible for this units success as him.Is old enough to not be as much in demand for a head coaching job as former Belichick proteges. It looks like the offense will be run by committee with Belichick having the final say. This worries me a tad ,as he made his bones on the defensive side of the ball, but on the bright side it may cause them to go to a more ball control oriented offense.
QB- Tom Brady is one of the the 2 best QB's in football if he is healthy this year . Looked a bit rusty in pre-season , and overthrew a lot of receivers( even Moss and thats hard to do), but he will return to form soon enough. Was a below average athlete when drafted, and made himself into a HOFer through hard work and dedication. Intense leader who has the respect of everyone around him. Reads defenses as well as anyone in the game. Has put on weight and even made his arm stronger since he was drafted. Accurate and poised in the pocket, and can make any type of throw if he has a little time. Slow footed, but has great feet in the pocket, and only struggles on the move outside the pocket. Has won more big games than anyone not named Joe Montana and is the only QB currently in the game who I think may end up better than Montana when it's all said and done , as he is like a taller more intense version of Joe. Backup Kevin Occonnel is one of the few patriot high draft picks to not pan out so far. Has the tools but seems to lack the work ethic and poise to pull a Matt Cassell if Brady goes down again. Rookie undrafted FA Brian Hoyer is a project and I think the patriots are in big trouble if Brady goes down again.
O-line- A overrated group who Brady makes look better than they are, even though they are still above average as a whole.. LG Logan Mankins is their best lineman and only current pro bowl caliber blocker. Not a mauler but he is a finisher. Plays fierce and to the whistle. Quick off the ball and plays with good leverage. Good chipping at the second level, but does struggle with size some. Excellent when pulling ,and while he won't declete a lot of guys in line, he gets the job done.Good pass blocker when he's covered but doesn't always react well to stunts and blitzes, but that is partially the fault of the center.C Dan Koppen is no longer a pro bowl player and I think he has lost confidence since the giants took it to him in the Superbowl. Excellent on the second level and making the line calls, but has a tendency to look the wrong way on stunts. Needs to keep his heads on a swivel when pass blocking and be quicker off the snap. Struggles with size, and doesn't recover well if beaten. He grades out as a little above average, but can't block most DT's 1 v 1. Best when double teaming and going up field. 9 year veteran LT Matt Light used to be the patriots best lineman but has lost a step and become injury prone recently. Uses his hands well but his arms aren't ideal length for a blindside protector. Has quick feet and can still beat all but the elite edge rushers to the spot, but doesn't react well to secondary moves. A good run blocker for a LT , especially at the 2nd level, but is more of a technician than drive blocker. Still above average for the position but past his prime now. RG Stephen Neal is just average as a starter and not the mauler most RG's are. Gets beat off the snap too much but if he lands his initial hand punch its over. Off balance too much and needs to keep his feet underneath him, but he generally plays with good leverage . Plays to the whistle and has a mean streak, but is would probably fit better at LG . Active going to the second level, but needs to make sure he hits his block first instead of loading up for the big hit. Also struggles with stunts and slants in the running and passing games. RT Nick Kaczur shouldn't be a NFL starter at RT. Maybe he could be a good LG, but he lacks the aggression to play on the right side ,and feet to play on an island anywhere. Has been injury prone in his young career and doesn't hold his blocks long enough when he makes them. Best on double teams and at the second level, which is why LG seems more appropriate at this stage of his carer. Is still young so the light may come on, but I expect Sebastian Volmer to be starting soon if Kaczur plays like he did last year. If Light goes down again and they flip Nick over to the left side, the patriots need to be running the ball, and throwing on the 3 step drops a lot. 2nd round rookie Volmer is a former TE, who is still learning how to play OT. Long arms and his feet are still coming along. Probably better at RT right now, but could develop into a NFL starting LT in time if he keeps progressing. Excellent balance in line and plays mean ,but still developing after only being a starting OT in college for 2 years. Good feet laterally ,but slow footed for a former TE. Once he learns how to keep his pad level low more consistently ,and is more confident in who is blocking on the 2nd level , I think he will be at least a long term answer for NE at RT. 5th rounder George Bussey is a college tackle that will probably have to move inside in the NFL, as he is too small and his arms aren't long enough to be on an island. . Bussey is a project who will probably take time to develop, but can at least be a swing tackle and back up both G positions this year if he makes the team.
Tight Ends-Benjamin Watson was Vernon Davis before Vernon Davis was in the NFL. An immensely talented guy who shows flashes of brilliance but hasn't put it all together yet. Hasn't had as many immaturity issues as Davis, but there is hope... he is a free agent this year! Nothing seems to motivate some pro athletes like the chance at a big pay day. Injury prone, but constantly teases with big plays when he's actually on the field , and makes you wonder what could be. Has receiver speed ,and even lines up as one sometimes. Gets open regularly but his inconsistent hands seem to have Brady looking for other people first. A willing blocker ,but not a mauler, even though he is active downfeild . Backup Chris Baker is a receiving option only at TE, and can be a decent safety valve, although he lacks Watsons speed to stretch the defense downfeild. Alex Smith also isn't much of a blocker , although he's better than Baker at it and at least makes the attempt to wall off people regularly. Quick and can separate, with good hands ,and fearless over the middle. Could see a lot of 2 TE sets this year, but also isn't the deep threat Watson can be if he just puts it together. They will miss Mike Vrabel in short yardage and on the goal line. He was the best blocking TE they had and a great end zone target.
Wide Receivers- Randy Moss is still one of the games 5 best receivers and its best vertical threat . Big & fast with soft hands, and the games best at timing his jumps for the ball. Never the bravest guy in traffic but will run curls over the middle. Uses his hands well to release, but can be run out of bounds on his route by the bigger more physical corners. Explosive after the catch and still has great top speed, even if he has lost a step. Has improved as a blocker in New England and not caused any controversy there, after a career of it in Minnesota in Oakland. Fierce in the red zone and often catches the ball with double coverage. Still occasionally doesn't play as hard when the play is away from him. Wes Welker is Brady's security blanket and continually gives him an outlet when he's in trouble. A little energizer bunny with the heart of the king of the jungle, but the size of a cub. More quick than fast ,and finds holes in zone coverage all day, but can struggle getting a release against stronger corners in man to man. Good hands and explosive after the catch ,even though his long speed isn't special and he doesn't break a lot of tackles. Willing blocker , especially on crackbacks, and his max effort overcomes his size limitations in this area. Think a smaller Hines ward. Compliments Moss well and they are 2 of the leagues smarter receivers.Also effective on punt returns. Joey Galloway is one of the veterans past his prime who has joined up to try to get a ring in New England. Still has good straight line speed, but has gotten increasingly injury prone .Probably will only help them as # 3 or #4 receiver now. Could help stretch the defense and open up some big plays for Moss, while adding a few of his own , if he can stay marginally healthy. Has always been best on deep balls, slants, and screens. Never a over the middle guy and his injury history makes it clear he shouldn't be trying to run many routes there now anyway. 3rd rounder Brandon Tate might have been a first rounder if not for a major knee injury. When he comes back I think he can be like a young Galloway. An explosive big play threat anywhere on the field, including the kicking game. Still not sure if he will play this year, but when he is all the way back New England will have more deep speed than any team in the NFL. Julian Edelman is a former college QB trying to make the conversion to receiver. It will take time and he is a project who may be on the practice squad to start the season. Despite QB's having high football IQ's, it is a difficult transition, and he will only see the field early if there are mass injuries. Big 7 year veteran Sam Ailken is their best blocking receiver but has mostly been a special teamer thus far in his career,and is on the bubble to make the team.2nd year player Matt Slater was a good special teamer as a rookie as well, but saw very little time as a receiver, despite New England running so many 3,4,and 5 receiver sets.Can return kicks as well.
Running back- Laurence Maroney has been injury prone and largely a bust so far due to the missed time. Has all the tools to be a stud starter, but is either injured or tentative due to injury .He is a free agent after this year, so if he's gonna do it this is the season. Has flashes when healthy , especially early in the season when injuries are usually less prevalent, but I think Fred Taylor is the best back on the roster now.It will probably be a running back by committee approach here, but if all are healthy( a remote possibility with this group) I expect Taylor to get the lions share of carries. Future HOF 12 year vet Taylor is another guy coming to to New England at the back end of his career, in hopes of getting a ring. Still big and quick, but has lost his long speed,as he used to be game breaker . Experienced receiver and blocker in the passing game. Has always been either nicked up or seriously injured,but productive when on the field. Strong between the tackles with good vision and a burst when he finds a seem. Sammy Morris was The patriots most effective runner last year and would probably get more carries if he didn't have fumbling issues. Another vet with a long injury history. Fits bets in a zone blocking scheme, and is north south guy. 11 year vet Kevin Faulk is a consummate pro. While he hasn't ever been a every down back , he is a major part of their 3rd down offense and had his best season in the NFL last year. A speedy little scat back who knows his role and produces when on the field and has a high football IQ. Very skilled receiver out of the backfield, still has a burst running or receiving, and is a smart pass protector. Is the only one of their current backs who knows the offense really well.
D-line-The best unit on this team as a whole. Future HOF er Richard Seymour is in a contract year again and that's very good for the pats. Had one of his bets seasons last year after I thought he was on the downside of his career. Still great holding the pint and quick off the snap. Excellent pass rusher with multiple moves and long arms to bat down and redirect passing lanes. A complete player who never needs to leave the field. Strong side DE Ty Warren is one of the more underrated players in the game and plays his position as well as Seymour does. A stout run stuffer who is even better holding the point than Seymour and who uses his hands well to shed or occupy depending on what is needed at the time. Is quick all along the line of scrimmage and a good pass rusher for a 3-4 end although he lacks Seymours quickness upfield. Both can move inside when the team switches to a 4-3. NT Vince Wilfork is a big beastly 2 down run stuffer who occupies blocker a and clogs lanes to free up other players to run to the ball. Stout with a low center of gravity and hard to move even with double teams. Quicker than most 350 pound men, but gasses quickly and doesn't offer much more than bulrush of they pass while he's in the game.Is a FA after the season and a team like Dallas , Denver , or San Diego will pay him big dollars if the pats don't at least franchise tag him. Jarvis Green isn't as stout at the point of attack as the 2 starting DE's, and is best when rushing the passer or penetrating up field. Would probably start for most teams, but he does stills see significant time on the field. Rookie 2nd rounder Ron Brace was drafted to protect the past of Wilfork leaves in free agency. A little taller and in better shape than Vince, but he is still a big time run stuffer who fits best as a 3-4 NT. 5th year player Mike Wright fits bets as a RDT in a 4-3 but still contributes as rotational player at weak side DE. Inconsistent technique has held him a back from seeing more time , but I think he will be a starter somewhere next season for a 4-3 team. Doesn't always play with leverage, but when he does he stacks and sheds well and make splasy along the defensive front. Good hands when rushing the passer, but still stands up to much when he swims. Needs a change of scenery to realize his potential.
Linebacker- Adalius Thomas is a every down player who can play every linebacker spot in the 3-4 or 4-3 if needed, and even RDE in a 4-3 if called upon. His versatility actually handicaps his stats ,as the patriots have moved him around whenever its needed, and I think its starting to wear on him some. He has made some comments to that effect at least .Missed 7 games last year and he needs to be healthy if the pats are going to make a run this year, but the 10 year vet could just be starting his physical decline . With the retirement of Teddy Bruschi (and Jerod Mayo being so young )he definitely needs to take more of a leadership role on the defense, especially if they leave him in 1 position. Extremely quick in coverage for a 270 pound man and even played some safety for the ravens a few years back. Is best when used as a rush linebacker ( ROLB this season if all goes well) and his first step and long arms lead to steady pressure on QB's. Can blow up O-lineman when taking on blocks and shed quickly. Plays to the whistle and makes big plays.Weak side ILB Jerod Mayo had a very productive rookie year and is a rarity on a Belichick defense- A rookie starter from day 1. Has good recognition skills and runs well , although he is not quite sideline to sideline fast. Awareness level was very high for a rookie, and even played well in coverage, especially in zone. Strong tackler, and stacks and sheds like an old pro. Future pro bowler if he stays healthy and keeps progressing. Gary Guyton looks to be the other starter on the inside this year and he progressed well as rookie last year. Doesn't have Mayo's instincts yet, but is an even better athlete and can run down anything he sees. Flies around the field and is still a little bit out of control ,but tackles well despite it. Willing to take on blockers, but it isn't his strong suit, and he still needs work shedding them. Prefers to run right by them most of the time ,and rarely gets caught up in trash, but is vulnerable to overrunning plays and counters. Looks to be a long term starter and possible future upper tier player ,once his recognition skills are honed and he can play in better control. Fierce blitzer and could probably be a rush linebacker with time to work at it. Has a good frame and might be able to add 10 more pounds of muscle and keep his speed. Seemed to be a better athlete than football player in college and went undrafted last year, but either they coached him up real well or the light just went on as the season played out .08 3rd round draft pick Shawn Crable didn't do a lot last year before getting hurt, and now he's out for the season already. Has the talent to be a good rush LB if he's ever healthy. 09 3rd rounder Tyrone McKenzie was expected to help as a strong side OLB this year but was also hurt and is out for the year as well. Veteran backup OLB Tully Banta Cain returns to New England thsi year after his 2 years as a 49er didn't work out. Doesn't play the run well or cover well. Best as backup ,and mostly here as a pass rushing specialist and special teamer, and he does both well. With all these injuries expect some moves as other teams make cuts and possibly another return from Junior Seau. Still has the size and athleticism to play SILB if he's rotated enough to avoid injury, and the instincts to make some plays in limited playing time.Has said he will only come out of retirement again to play for the pats.
SECONDARY- This is the unit that can make or break them this year. A curious mix of talented youth and veterans, with a lot of players new to this team. After being regulalry injured for the first 4 years of his career, and flashing great talent whn he was healthy, Leigh Bodden has played in all 16 games the last 2 years. After a year in football hell( 0-16 Detroit) he comes to the promise land of New England. An agressive athletic defender with good size. Fluid hips and quick out ofhis break with a burst to the ball. A play maker if healthy and a sold run defender. A very good acquisiton ,and if he stays on the feild all year will be key to this units success.13 year vet Shawn Springs still has something left in the tank when healthy, but he has missed 12 games the last 3 years and has lost a step. A big ,physical, agressive corner who might be a better fit at FS at this stage of his career. Still a above average press corner when healthy ,and can stay with a lot of receivers in the first 15 yards ,but if burners get a release on him he doesn't have makeup speed anymore. Excellent recogtion skills, especially in zone. Uses his hands well, and still has pretty fluid hips with a god break on the ball. Fights for the ball in the air and is strong against the run.Possible HOFer Rodney Harrison has retired and is no longer the strong safety. 3rd year SS Brandon Merriweather is a former corner ,who is bit undersized for the position, but is still an above average player on the rise. Fast and has good hands for the interception, and has experience at every position in the secondary . Physical and willing in run support ,but he doesn't read the play as well as he will with a few more years. A lot of big plays happen becuase of him ( and he gives up some ), but the positive plays are outweighing the bad and I expect he will make less mistakes this season.Also an excellent special teamer. Would probably be better as a FS once Patrick Chung learns the defense well enough to start at SS.Rookie top pick SS Chung is a physical in the box safety who is at his best when attacking anything within the first 10 yard of the line of scrimmage . Has good recognition skills but is a bit stiff in his hips. Much better against the run than the pass, and once he learns to curb his aggression on double moves and pump fakes, he will probably be a long term starter. Excellent burst to the ball when he gets it right and hits like a LB. Good tackler and a durable leader in college. FS is still an ongoing battle for the starting job right now in the preseason. FA addition Brandon McGowan has a shot to be a starter her after missing most of 08 due to injury in Chicago. Was a part time starter for Chicago in 07 . Played mostly in Chicago , and solid in run support ,although he's not a big hitter. Excellent pursuit angles and a good wrap tackler in space. Best when the balls in front of him or in Tampa 2 coverage. Stiff hips and doesn't have the makeup speed for man coverage. Could be a solid starter if there is talent around him and he plays with more aggression .At the very least he is a versatile top shelf backup with good special team ability. Last years starting FS James Sanders is a similar player to McGowan, but he knows this scheme well already and is more physical in run support. Sanders plays a good centerfield . Gets good breaks on the ball , but mostly makes sure nothing deep gets past him instead of blowing up receivers downfield. Solid if unspectacular and also a valuable special teamer.The last of the 3 second round picks is CB Darius Butler. Also has played some receiver, and is an explosive guy when he gets the ball in his hands, withthe abilty to take it the house.Aggressive and best in press coverage, but when he plays off he gives up too many catches.Seems to do everything well but nothing great. Mostly strong techniqe but opens his hips too late sometimes. Good burst, ball skills ,and makeup speed. A cover corner who is probably a future starter, but he needs to just refine his technique and be more physcial in run support. Might see some time in the slot or when they are blitzing as a rookie.Would be a dynamite punt returner if he could improve his hands.2nd year player Johnathan Wilhite actually started 4 games last year due to injuries, but his technique is still raw, and he needs to use his hands better. Looks like a cover corner and can turn and run with receivers , but needs to play nastier . Lacks aggression in press coverage and in run support .Terence Wheatley is a smaller corner who is still a better athlete than football player at this point. Has a dynamite skill set, but he needs to stay healthy and learn his craft.
Special teams- PK Stephen Gostkowski handled the pressure of replacing clutch kick legend Adam Vinatieri very well as a rookie ,and made the pro bowl last year in his 3rd season. Does it all well. Laurence Maroney will be one of the kickoff returners as long as he's healthy. Matt Slater, Terence Wheatley , and even Faulk night take a turn if needed. Someone needs to step up here and break some.Welker is the primary punt returner and is very good at it. Scott O'brien is the new special team coach in NE. he is a veteran and worked for Belichick back in his days in Cleveland.
NEW YORK JETS
Predicted finish- 9-7 and just missing the payoffs . New Head Coach Rex Ryan brings his cocky manner and attacking defensive style to the Jets. Rookie QB Mark Sanchez has the best offensive line of any rookie QB in recent memory to help him succeed. Expect him to make some great plays early, have some bad games once the league has more film to study on him, and then start to progress again the last 3rd of the season. This team could finish anywhere between 6-10 and 10-6, but I think they will lean more towards the positive. A talented veteran defense, with a head coach who knows how to put them in the best position to succeed, a strong running game, and one of ( if not the best period) 3 best O-lines in the NFL, should be able to overcome a lot of the rookie QB's growing pains. Will probably be a threat to the patriots division title hopes by next season.
Coaching- Cocky , Brash, arrogant , and productive. Basically a bigger younger version of his father Buddy Ryan. Beloved of his players and will bring back a swagger to to this team. His new players will feel liberated after a few years of Manginis micromanagement. New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is on the same page as Ryan, and came with him from Baltimore. You can bet Rex will still have his hand in the defensive calls though. Convincing young rising coaching star Brian Scottenheimer to stay was one of Ryans best moves this off season. Runs a strong ball control scheme he learned from his dad Marty, although he has a little more imagination than pops.
QB- Don't fool yourself into thinking that Mark Sanchez will have as good a rookie year as Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco, despite having an even better O-line than either. In time I fully expect Sanchez to be a productive starter, but he lacks the starting experience( only 16 college starts) of the other 2. Athletic with a little above average arm, quick release, good wheels, decent size, and a strong football IQ. Still he's young to be a NFL starter ,and he will be the starter , don't doubt it because Ryan loves him. Experience will fix what ails him, but expect interceptions somewhere in the teens, and just be happy if he throws 15 TD's with the receivers he has, or throws more TD's than picks. Probably a pro bowler in 3 or 4 years, but will need to weather the New York media storm for now.Reminds me of Aaron Rodgers ,but Rodgers wasn't thrown into the fire like this.Soon to be backup Kellen Clemens is like Sanchez with a lower football IQ and less confidence. Career backup (here or anywhere else most likely) but does have starting experience and is a young veteran backup with his resume is good to have. I read that The QB competition is open to all 3 QB's, but if the Jets had faith in 2nd year QB Erik Ainge to be a starter, they wouldn't have given up so much to get Sanchez in the first place. Ainge has an NFL body and is probably great at 7 on 7, but he has happy feet in the pocket in preseason games ,and does poorly under pressure right now. Still very young ,so you never know what he could be in time, but game pressure is hard to simulate in practice.
O-line- If this isn't the best O-line in football , it's at least top 3 . A great mix of young and old veterans, with 4 guys that have good technique, and all but one are best as run blockers. If Nick Mangold isn't the best center in football he's in the top 3 and should be #1 soon enough. Plays fierce with good leverage and technique. Strong hand punch and keeps driving his feet even if he gets stood up by the occasional bigger DT's. Handles penetrators and 3 techniques better than any center in the game. Makes good line calls and has his head on the swivel. Good on the double team and at the second level. Has gotten better every season in the league and is a pro bowler already . Debrickshaw Ferguson has the feet and quickness to be a top 5 LT, but needs to get stronger and meaner. Struggles to anchor against strength and needs to sink his hips better .Can get his feet crossed if someone gets their hands in on him. Hard to ever beat on the edge and if he locks out against a pass rusher its over. Struggles to keep weight on, and hasn't gotten as strong as you would expect a guy with 3 years in the league to be, but when the weights there it shows up in his drive blocking. Better at the 2nd level than inline as a run blocker, and is always in control in space. Gives good effort either way, and is still an above average LT with some upside if he bulks up more.If he could weigh 315+ all year (and get angrier) I think he would be a pro bowl caliber player for years to come.His ceiling is Jordan Gross and that's pretty good. Alan Faneca is still an above average guard( top 10-15 in the league) but he used to be top 3. A better run blocker than pass blocker. An excellent puller who is best in space, but is also still pretty effective inline. 12 years in the NFL may have slowed his reaction time a tick on pass blocking, as he needs to land his punch or he's in trouble now, having lost some of the abilty to recover he once had. Does use his hands well though, and can take on the biggest DT's, but penetrators now give him some trouble.Would probably be a better fit at RG at this stage of his career. RG Brandon Moore is about league average but nothing special, and not your typical mauler. Too often gets off balance and get shucked in line, running or pass blocking. Good pulling and at the second level , but not as good at it as Faneca. RT Damien Woody has started at every O-line position but LT at one time or another during his career. Sound hands and leverage run or pass blocking.Still a savvy vet and a good drive blocker, but would also probably fit better at RG these days, even though he is still above average for a RT. Mostly just struggles with speed now, but he is beginning his 11th season so that's to be expected. Not a lot of depth backing them up right now and if someone goes down this line could go from a positive to a negative quickly. Wayne Hunter is great athlete for a OT, but has never developed the way most thought he would when Seattle took him in the 3rd round 5 years ago. Rookie 6th rounder Mat Slauson may develop into a starting RG in time, but still needs a lot of work on his technique and play out of control too much. A strong unit, but they could use another young guy too develop into a starter due to the age of Woody and Faneca. Depth
Tight End-Dustin Keller is short for a TE ,but his leaping abilty makes up for it some. A willing blocker but not big or strong enough to be a major force inline. Speedy with good routes and adjust well to the ball in flight. A ascending player who can stretch the field. Ben Hartsock is basically their blocking TE , and does a good job of it, but doesn't offer a lot as a receiver.
Wide receivers- This group is the weakest on the squad. They let Laverneos Coles go and I think that was a mistake. Jerricho Cotchery is a stout strong possession receiver, and the best they have . Runs routes well, but is more quick than fast. Gets just enough separation and will fight for the ball. Tough over the middle and can break tackles after the catch, but lacks top end speed. If he ever blocks as tough as he plays receiver he could be a fringe pro bowler. Brad Smith is a former college QB who still hasn't polished his route running much despite 3 full seasons in the league. Explosive if he gets his hands on the ball, and even returns some kicks, but needs to step up now.Could run some wildcat if needed. David Clowney is still more a finesse receiver , but could be the deep threat here. Should put on some size if he wants to be a starter. Good hands and great speed & quickness.Gets pushed around by corners on the line, but if you play off him he will burn you. They still have time to add someone so don't be surprised if they are scouting the waiver wire after final cuts, or give Marvin Harrison a call.
Running Back- A very good group with a excellent mix of styles and ages. Despite a fantastic 08, Thomas Jones is currently in a contract dispute with the team.Finds the hole right away and hits it. Has some wiggle but doesn't waste time dancing in the backfield. A very smart runner with good speed and a lot of know how.Can still take it to the house and has no weaknesses, but for some reason teams never seem to appreciate just how good he is. An decent receiver and blocker as well.Leon Washington is their 3rd own back and is also in a contract dispute with the team. Has played so well that they may end up splitting carries. Since their line is best at run blocking they might just want to keep running both of them 70% of the time. A Explosive home run hitter that can score on any ,run ,pass or return.A smart pass blocker but gets mowed sometimes becuase of his smaller stature. Even runs hard inside and kind of reminds me of Warrick Dunn. I would like to see what he could do ( and if his body could hold up) with 300 carries some day.Because of his youth my guess is he will get paid before Jones does.Rookie Shonn Green is a stout power back who may gain a lot of carries if ( either or both) Jones and Washington hold out or get injured. Has looked good in the pre-season displaying excellent vision and can move the chains.At his best when he just makes one cut and goes. Runs people over when he stays low and can at least help in short yardage situations now. Ryan loved him and the Jest traded up to get him. Raw in the passing game all around currently.15 year vet Tony Richardson is still a solid lead blocker, but has never been much of a running threat . Is no longer the receiving threat out of the back field he was in his prime, but still has strong hands.Also an excellent pass blocker and can line play H-back in a pinch if needed.
D-line-3-4 NT Kris Jenkins is the key to this whole defense. If he gets hurt they could end up 6-10. The 9 year vet went through some major injuries awhile back , but has been mostly healthy for 3 years now , except for a occasional bad back. However he is a lot older now, plays a position that causes him to get rolled up on regularly, and carries more extra weight than he did in his prime. A cat quick 380 pound beast when he's fresh. Needs to be rotated and when he tires can get beat badly. Dominant 3 out of 4 plays and guesses the snap count well. You'll notice when hes tired becuase he will have a slow get off and lose his leverage.Great swim move and stunts and penetrates well. Can completely collapse the pocket when pass rushing if he's rested. A force against the double team either splitting it, or holding his ground. A force between the tackles an one of the leagues most dominant players if used right. Needs to get more rest as the season goes along. Strongside DE Shawn Ellis is still above average for the position but his motor could be better. Like Jenkins he is good( not great like Kris) 3 out of 4 plays .Unlike Jenkins his bad plays seem more due to lack of effort and technique than conditioning. Has a good get off and generally holds the point well . A good pass rusher for his position and can also move inside when they go to a 4-3. RDE was still in dispute as of today. 9 year vet Marques Douglas comes over from Baltimore with Ryan, but would probably be best as 4-3 DT in a cover 2 scheme. Is a quick of the ball penetrator, but lacks closing speed as a pass rusher or chasing down plays along the line. Probably a rotational player or situational pass rusher now.Best causing problems in the backfield against the run, but can slant himself out of plays too much. Doesn't hold the point well against double teams or even against stronger 1 v 1 O- lineman. Has short arms and not much of a threat to disrupt passing lanes. More of a pressure pass rusher instead of a big sack guy.3rd year player Mike Devito is a stout run stuffer and they will probably end up splitting the job.If he put on 20 lbs he could probably be a good 3-4 NT and does back up Jenkins some now. Doesn't play as fast he timed coming out of college and isn't overly athletic, despite having a good motor .The former small school prospect has gotten better every year in the league. Can also move inside on goal line,but doesn't offer a lot as a pass rusher yet.Sione Pouha is only a run stuffer as a backup NT. That's ok if he needs to be in the game, and his main job is to clog lanes and occupy blockers anyway, but he won't cause anywhere near the havoc Jenkins does. Only brings a bull rush against the passer ,and doesn't move much outside his gap, but plays whistle to whistle.Howard Green has the same skills as Pouha but lacks his motor.
Linebackrs- Don't read to much into Ryan pursuing Bart Scott instead of Ray Lewis in free agency . Scott is a 6 years younger and great at his position, but people don't often realize they don't play the same position. Scott is probably the best 3-4 strongside ILB in the game at taking on blockers and still making the tackle. A Fearless and fiery violent player who wears his heart on his sleeve.Strong blitzer with good speed ,but can't cover man on man, although he is decent in zone. Best between the tackles blowing up guards when they are trying to get to the second level.WILB David Harris is the reason Ray Lewis isn't needed in NY. Only in his 3rd year and has been productive whenever he's on the field. Good speed, but isn't quite a sideline to sideline guy, but has everything in 3 yards of the tackles covered. Good instincts and recognition, but is susceptible to being too aggressive to play action. Excellent breakdown tackler and blitzer. Still learning but looks to be a 10 year starter and maybe a future pro bowler. Opposite personality of Scott and could be a more vocal leader, but I am sure Bart will talk enough for both of them. Is almost as good as Lewis is now ,but will never have the ceiling Ray had in his prime.ROLB Calvin Pace was the 08 big FA acquisition. Has good (not great ) speed and burst .Gets off the ball and gets a lot of pressure but can't run the arc well enough to ever be a consistent double digit sack guy. Forced 5 fumbles last year and has excellent technique. Has progressed as a pass defender and gotten more fluid when hes called upon to drop back in coverage .Good motor and holds the edge . Was above average in all phases of the game last year, but great at nothing. Will probably never start a pro bowl, but could be an alternate. Suspended the first 4 games of the season for violating the leagues performance enhancing drug policy, so I'm unsure how he'll be when he gets back. Also plays end in the 4-3. LOLB Bryan Thomas is usually good against the run and the pass, but his inconsistency has kept him from becoming a truly great player. Doesn't read the play well in the run game, but can hold the edge. Good hands to stack and shed against the run ,or rushing the passer. Quick off the ball , can run the arc some, transition in his moves well, and brings pressure, but generally at his best when coming forward.A liability in coverage and that limits his playing time a little. Good as a 3-4 OLB , but better as a 4-3 DE .Still in his prime. O8 combine workout warrior Vernon Gholston is in danger if being the next Mike Mamula. A far better athlete than football player who needs to buckle down and learn his position . Also must start giving max effort on every play. The kind of guy you expect AL Davis to draft.Ryan Fowler can back up both ILB spots and is the antithesis of Gholston. A average athlete but a smart football player. Probably will best as a backup in this defense , or on the strongside in a 4-3.
Secondary- All in all a strong group with a lot of play making abilty.Darrelle Revis is already one of the leagues top 5 corners and could be the best pretty soon. A physical man to man corner who uses his hands to redirect and jam as good as anyone.Good speed and quick out of his breaks. Fluid hips and backpedal. Uses the sideline well and is a good tackler against the run.Breaks on the ball and rarely gets flagged.Reminds me of a bigger Asante Samuel, although he isn't as big of a gambler.Lito Sheppard came over from Philly after 2 years of contract squabbles and uninspired play. Was a pro bowler before the contract problems began. Still not sure if he was just mentality affected by the $ problems or if it was the injuries that led to his decline. He's still only 28 and if he's motivated the Jets should have 2 great press corners to allow them to blitz. Best in the slot and up on the line jamming receivers.Strong in run support despite his lack of size. Biggest weakness is his tendency to overpowered by the biggest receivers and out jumped for the ball.Has good straight line speed but it takes time for him to reach it.FS Kerry Rhodes is a complete player who has started every game of his career. Big and covers a lot of ground vs the pass. If he's on the line he can blitz and press receivers and TE's.A solid player in run support but not the big hitter that he is in the passing game.A ball hawk who gives QB's pause and has been to a pro bowl. New SS Jim Leonard comes over with Ryan from Baltimore. Would be small for a corner, let alone a SS. A quick, smart, tough ,overachiever who makes the most out of what he has. More quick than fast . Think Wes Welker playing defense and he even returns punts yo boot .2nd year player Dwight Lowery started 10 games as a rookie.The more film teams had on him the worse it got. Plays hard but his technique is still raw. Learning from Revis and Sheppard might be the best thing for him.Will probably be at least the nickel back and play a lot. Has a knack for the big play but is best in zone right now.Donald Strickland comes over from frisco where he has some starting experience. A hard nosed run defender ,and if he were bigger I would suggest a move to safety.Not the most fluid guy and his press skills are lacking, but breaks on the ball well.Good special teamer too.
Special teams- Leon Washington is lightning in a bottle returning kicks and pretty good returning punts too. Jim Lenoard is probably his partner on kickoffs and backup returning punts.David Clowney could probably pull it off if he had enough reps at it too. Jay Feely is one of the leagues better kickers.Punter was still undecided as I write this and its my guess they will end up with a journeyman veteran.Mike Westhoff is one of the leagues best special teams coordinators and his units always seem to run back kickoff to the house no matter who the returner is.
Predicted finish- 8-8 and missing the playoffs
Parcells/Bellichick doctrine led teams usually have a great turnaround in their first year and then a fall back next season. This is mostly due to schedule. When they bring in the new regime the team is playing a last place schedule, and then next year they have a much tougher one. Add that they generally change the organizational outlook to a team first philosophy, it takes about 3 years for them to turn over the roster to players who fit their system, and the prospects are generally good long term. Throw in the nothing to lose trick plays and occasional unexpected( wildcat) scheme and it has been a recipe for success.It has always worked for Parcells and I think they will be back in the fight for the division title on 2010.They are drinking the koolaid right now and I expect they will for about 5 years if Parcells hangs on, but I think he will be gone due a clause his contract that allows him to leave and keep all promised money if there is an ownership change.There was , but he has vowed not to take the money and run until he's sure they are committed to the right path.
Coaching- Parcells brought Tony Sparano over from Dallas with him.Sparano is not quite the hardass Bill is, and I think it helps him relate to today's players a little better than Bill does. Still has the same no nonsense, team first , ball control offense, blitzing 3-4 schemes though.Veteran offensive coordinator and QB guru Dan Henning returns for a 2nd season. Never a successful head coach despite many chances, but always has been good running an offense.Bill also took D coordinator Paul Pasqualoni from Dallas . This was his first shot at being a coordinator in the pros after spending almost 30 years in college, and then a few in Dallas with the linebackers/TE's. Didn't disappoint last year and is likely too old to be much in demand as a head coach no matter how well the defense does.
QB- Well its a safe bet someone named Chad will be the QB here most of the time, but that's about all. Chad Pennington has everything a hall of famer could have- but arm strength. That will always stop him from leading a team to a superbowl ring as the main guy. If you force him to pass ,and just shut down the short to medium range throws, he usually can't get the ball deep quick enough to prevent the faster DB's from getting there.Has good touch,poise, reads defenses well ,highly accurate, leads, but just doesn't have the arm to cash the check his brain writes. He's like Troy Aikman without the cannon attached to his shoulder. 2nd year player Chad Henne has the arm, but the rest is still debatable.Had a tendency to implode at big times in college and needs to prove that's a thing of the past. Other weaknesses include a propensity for locking on to his 1rst receiver, and not being very mobile. On the bright side he looked pretty good this preseason and has had a year to learn the offense. A big tough strong armed guy who just needs to not lose games for this team to be successful right now. I think he will be the starter by week 10 at the latest. Whether its due to injury, Pennington's limitations, or the season being out of reach, is the only question. Pat White was drafted , ostensibly to run the wildcat , but if he were 2 inches taller I think he might be the nest Steve Young. A left handed QB that is a superior athlete at the position. Has a strong arm.Drew Brees is also only 6 feet tall, so I don't think it's necessary to move him to WR right now, as he still might be able to make it work. Maybe have him do both, but he has the arm , character , work ethic, and brain to play QB . Ronnie Brown already runs the wildcat brilliantly, but he is a FA after this season, and I think that is part of the reason why White was drafted.
O-line - Jake Long had an excellent rookie year , and is probably somewhere between the leagues 8-15 best OT's right now, but he shouldn't have made the pro bowl. Winning teams and big names( # 1 overall pick) generally get more credit than they deserve ,and this was the case with Long last year. Would be the games best RT, and he is a much better run blocker than all but a few LT's. Big , strong, and mean at the point of attack. Long arms and if he locks out on you it's over. Has adequate feet for a LT, but nothing special. Plays with good leverage and his strong hand punch saves him if it lands, but he is only average adjusting to counters, and isn't as quick as you ideally want a LT to be .Still young so he may improve, but he needs to get better at the second level. A better football player than athlete who reminds me of former Bengal and Raven great Willie Anderson.RT Vernon Carey is a similar player to Long and also prefers to run block.Has also played G and LT, although he is less suited to LT than Long, and definitely doesn't have the feet to survive there. Would be best at RG , but he is still a good RT, and one of the best at his position at the 2nd level. Great hands, strength, and has a mean streak. New Center Jake Grove comes over from Oakland and while he is nothing special, he is an upgrade over Samson Satelle. Is a strong player who mans up in the middle and prefers to run block. A little stiff out of his stance for a center,but at least he generally makes the line calls right.Plays till the whistle blows with good leverage, but struggles with speed. LG Justin Smiley is a player in his prime who's main strength is at the point of attack. Inline he quick and fierce all the way up to the LB's, but struggles on the move anywhere else. Is a smart pass blocker with a good hand punch, but lacks quickness to recover and struggles with penetrators.Pulls well but often misses his man in space.Would be a dominant RG. The team struggled after his injury last year. Donald Thomas is running with the first unit at RG right now and the Dolphins seem to be clearing out most of his challengers. The 08 6th round pick won a starting job last year and the went on IR in week 1. A straight ahead mauler with a lot to learn, and definitely could only play RG now. Plays angry but off balance, and his technique is inconsistent in every facet of the game. In this run first offense a lot of his weaknesses are shaded, but I think he will improve with more reps. Has his head on a swivel pass blocking but if he misses his punch or gets off balance it's a jailbreak to the QB. Doesn't react well to counter moves from good pass rushers. Looked improved in the preseason but he's still very inexperienced so expect more growing pains. Ike Ndukwe filled in for Thomas last year, but was traded to the chiefs recently. Off season Standout Brandon Frye was just cut. 08 4th rounder Shawn Murphy is the last man standing to take the job from Thomas, and he opened camp as the starter, but he isn't very physical and that is what this offense is all about.Rookie Andrew Garner is a raw developmental OT prospect with the right measurables.
Tight End-Don't let the 7 TD's last year fool you, Anthony Fasano is a block first TE with inconsistent hands.A smart aggressive blocker ,who's technique is sound. A decent route runner with average speed.If he had better hands I would compare him to Heath Miller, but he hasn't shown them consistently yet.So lets call him a poor mans Miller.9 year vet David Martin is now a backup and he as more speed than Fasano, but the same problems with his hands.A willing blocker, even though he is less physical than Fasano.Rookie small school 5th rounder John Nalbone is a developmental prospect with the skills to be a complete TE once he gets coached up. 2nd year player Joey Haynos is a big blocking TE who has definitely improved in -line since being drafted. Could be converted to OT if TE doesn't work out, as his speed is nothing special at TE , and he has already added 10 pounds since being drafted. This team runs a lot of 2 TE sets and throws to the TE( 11 Td's all together in 08) a lot.
Wide receivers- Probably the the weakest group on the team.The Terry Glenn comparisons for Ted Ginn are overblown ,and although they are the same diminutive size he lacks Glenn's toughness getting open. He should be a # 3 slot guy/returner right now, but he is listed as their # 1 on the depth chart.Has track star speed and big play ability, but has trouble even getting off the line against the press, and gets out muscled for the ball downfield.Did improve a lot last year as a route runner, but is still raw in a lot of areas. If he weren't a former # 9 overall pick I think he would develop better but he pressure is always on.If you play off him ,he will eat you alive and his double moves leave him wide open down field. Inconsistent hands, but its mostly due to trying to run before he secures the ball. Explosive returner and electric in space after the catch. I expect him to break some long ones this season, but have games where he almost disappears as well.If Henne takes over at QB I expect the long ball to Ginn to be a bigger threat this year.Greg Cammarilo was the only reliable receiver this team had last year.Not overly fast but runs great routes and has strong hands.Good balance, fights for the ball, catches it at it's highest point, and is a above average blocker. If he added 10 more pounds of muscle I don't think he would lose any speed ,and it would help him break tackles & block even better, as he isn't going to outrun anyone anyway.Kind of like a poor mans TJ Housemanzadeh ,and was rewarded with a new contract this off season.Devon Bess is like a poor mans Wes Welker. A little guy with good hands who finds the wholes underneath in coverage and is a safety valve for the QB. Smart and scrappy, but more quick than fast.3rd round pick Patrick Turner has the frame to convert to TE, and that may be where his future lies. Other than as a big goal line threat, where fades are likely , he doesn't seem to have a lot of options right now in this offense.I don't think he will ever be able to get separation against NFL DB's on a regular basis, and probably will only be able to make catches where his size can come into play. Big with decent hands ,but not quick enough.Not the immature problem( and unfairly compared to former USC WR's)Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarret were, but I doubt he's ever going to be a starter unless he miraculously develops separation skills. Kind of reminds me of Hank Baskett of Philly. 4th rounder Brian Hartline's a tough overachiever, but he needs to get bigger, and polish his skills. Parcells loves players with his attitude though.
Running back- Both Brown and Williams are NFL starting quality backs. Ronnie Brown returned from a major knee injury when he was having his best season in 07 to have a solid 08 , but didn't look as explosive as he used to be. although he still has more than most.A strong power runner between the tackles with some burst to take it outside if he sees a crease develop. Excellent after contact and always seems to fall forward.Good receiver and pass protector. Also runs the wildcat intelligently. A free agent after the season and Parcells usually prefers to keep players with his type of football IQ. Don't be surprise if a coach from the Parcells/Belichick tree steals him away with more money,as they al love smart players with versatility, but veteran backs are no longer getting a ton in FA anyways. Social anxiety disorder he may have, but at game time Ricky Williams is still explosive with the ball in his hands.Not as thick as he used to be, but still looks like he could run a LB over. Furious leg drive and still has a burst, if not the long speed he once possessed, but he's in no way slow. Good receiver and willing pass blocker, but doesn't always make the right choice choosing his man to block. Seemed rejuvenated last year and finally at more peace with football. Maybe its the sharing carries instead of being the main main guy in a offense, or just maturity, but has looked better than Brown running the ball in the preseason. If not for his discomfort with the spotlight (and authority in general) I think he would have been a HOFer. Still strong in a tandem role though.FB Lousaka Polite followed Parcells from Dallas last year and is a battering ram in the hole, but struggles in space.A good short yardage runner and had 15 first downs to his credit last year. Doesn't see the field as m uch as he should with all the 2 TE sets they run, but also effective on special teams.Smaller back Patrick Cobbs sees the field some as a 3rd down back but mostly contributes on special teams .
D-line- Veteran NT Jason Ferguson is merely a stop gap at the position till the Dolphins can find a younger long term starter, just as he was in Dallas.He is an experienced heady veteran who brings stability to the middle of the defense, but does nothing great. Better at stopping the run than the pass, and is usually just a plodding bull rusher if they do pass when he's in the game. Is only a 2 down player but he stays low, and doesn't get driven back a lot, despite being small for the position. At his best when shading the gaps and plays hard every snap. Missed almost all of 07 with an injury and returned to play every game last year. Randy Starks in the starting RDE and moves inside when they go to a 4-3. Would be a fringe pro bowler if he had Ferguson's motor. Quick and athletic for a 300+ pounder but takes plays off and tires easily.Plays with good leverage but doesn't transition well and best when used in a rotation.LDE Kendall Langford had a productive rookie year but is still raw.Better against the run than the pass now, and needs to develop more pass rush moves & counters.Strong and aggressive even if he gets beat. Stacks and sheds well usually , but can get too high on occasion. Tall and uses his hands well to bat down balls and redirect passing lanes. Can split the double team some, but is still inconsistent with his technique doing it. Good athlete with a good motor who reminds me of a young Chris Canty against the run, but can't be as good a player till he becomes a pass rusher. Rarely used when they go to a 4-3. Phillip Merling is also a 2nd year player and takes Langfords place when they go to a 4-3.More raw than Langford and only an average motor. Quick first step upfield, but if his initial move is stopped he doesn't do much. Holds the edge well when he stays low and can overpower OT's at the point. Both just need more reps and time .When they get it I expect both to be productive starters for a long time. Backup NY Paul Solaiai has the size to play the position, but hasn't impressed the coaches much. Mostly just squats in his lane and can occupy multiple blockers, but is really slow off the ball and that allows the defense to get into him and drive him back till he can re-anchor. Could probably drop 30 pounds , get in better shape and be a much better player.4 year veteran Tony McDaniel comes over from Jacksonville via trade ( for a 7th rounder) and is probably best suited to play 3-4 end if he can stay low on a consistent basis. Has mostly been a backup but did start 3 games last season. Tall and has long arms ,but has been injury prone throughout his short career.
Linebackers- Joey Porter had his best season rushing the passer last year, but has taken a slight dip in his abilty against the run. Still quick off the ball ( even if he has lost half a step) but makes up for it with multiple techniques and athleticism. Can run the arc and has a high motor. Has been a fiery durable player for 10 seasons but his mouth can get him into trouble with his coaches, opposing teams, and the refs. Quick in coverage in the short area and is a play maker in zone, but can't cover anyone past fast 8 yards now . No longer fast enough to play the weakside at a high level when they go to the 4-3. Can be overaggressive and teams will use that against him but was still a pro bowl caliber defender last season.Did tail off late in the season, so age may finally have started to catch him. His attitude doesn't fit the Parcells program , so if they start to lose he could disappear or be traded quickly .Future HOFer Jason Taylor is no longer dancing with the stars and returns to Miami. Was simply bad last year in Washington but that was partially due to injury. Although players who miss the entire off season to do TV shows shouldn't expect to have great seasons. The 2nd round pick the dolphins stole for him must make Parcells chuckle. Still has great speed and balance off the edge coming forward, and can chase down play from the backside, but is only a situational pass rusher now in the 3-4 . Is a liability in the run game ,and teams will audible to run right at him sometimes in the 3-4 . Probably won't see a lot of playing time in the 4-3 for this reason alone .Despite a limited role this year ,he could still get double digit sacks if healthy even though he has also lost half a step. MLB Channing Crowder is at a crossroads. He can either ascend to pro bowl caliber LB, and he has all the tools to do so, or just stay a good 2 down defender.After years of being bad in coverage and playing himself into a 2 down role he made himself at least only slightly below average against the pass last season. Still not his strong suit and he still bites on play action too easily, but he did have 6 passes defensed. Is tough enough to man the Strongside ILB position in the 3-4 and take on blockers , or play the MLB spot in the 4-3. Excellent tackler and uses his hands to shed well. Akin Ayodele is only average as a starter in the 3-4 and not quick enough to be a above average player anymore, especially when it comes to covering fast TE's & RB's out of the backfield .Smart and has sound technique everywhere but he is past his prime , although he is still a hard nosed player.Enough of a liability in coverage that he is only effective in the first 8 yards of the line of scrimmage and probably will be replaced on obvious passing downs.Former Canadian football league defensive MVP Cameron Wake should at least be able to help out on passing downs as a situational pass rusher. Looks the part and showed a quick get off and good hands in the preseason.Needs to know( or stick to) his role better against the run. Veteran Matt Roth will probably be replaced by someone on passing downs when he returns from injury, even though he had his best year as a pass rusher last season. A fierce tough guy who only should be starting as a 4-3 strong side end, as he can hold the point . Will fight for every inch of ground. Is stiff changing directions in coverage, but has a great motor.A better football player than athlete who is miscast as a 3-4 OLB. Is on the PUP list and will miss at least the first 6 games of the season because of it. Probably won't be a full time starter by the time he comes back. Backup Strongside LB Charlie Anderson played pretty well as a situational pass rusher last year when they went to the 4-3 , and is a core special teams player.Always at his best coming forward and chasing down plays,but is a tick slow , especially to react if he has to drop into coverage. Former Raider 3rd round pick Quentin Moses looks the part of the perfect 3-4 rush OLB but has been a disappointment since he entered the league. A better athlete than football player who just doesn't seem motivated to take advantage of his massive talent.
Secondary- The unit was a problem and they brought in a lot of talent through free agency and the draft, but they haven't meshed that well in the preseason so far. New FS Gibril Wilson took the money and ran last year. After being a key contributor to the Giants Superbowl run he took big $ to join the raiders.They realized his contract was too big to keep, and cut him. Without the giants awesome pass rush forcing QB's to get rid of the ball so early, he wasn't near as good, but still not bad. Definitely better aginst the run and plays more like a in the box SS, so I am not sure why they want him as their FS. Needs to be either surrounded by good coverage guys in the secondary,be on a team with a good pass rush, or playing SS to be an effective starter .Will make the tackle but too far behind the line of scrimmage too often, and lacks the speed to run with faster TE's and backs. Good hands for the ball if he gets there on time but is often only there in time to make the hit or tackle. Is a big hitter playing out of position.SS Yeremiah Bell is almost the same player but playing in the right position. An aggressive in the box safety who can handle coverage responsibilities close to the line of scrimmage ,but is too slow to stay with anyone past the 8 yard mark in man coverage. Good in cover 2 and brings it with a thump in run support. Might be a good WLB in a Tampa 2 scheme if he bulked up a little. 9 year vet Will Allen is a small tough Tampa 2 type corner. Good recognition skills and quick out of his break to the ball.Can get shielded or out muscled by the better big receivers. Doesn't have the speed to run downfield with faster receivers in man coverage anymore. A physical tackler and will stick his nose in there in run support. Competes hard on every play and is till a good starter if the team mostly runs cover 2. The Dolphins drafted 2 big talented corners in the 1rst and 2nd rounds this year.# 1 pick Vontae Davis is the brother of Vernon Davis .Seems to share his immaturity issues and less than stellar attitude towards coaches.Vernon seems like he might be finally getting it, so maybe some will rub off on little bro. Has great instincts but his read and recognition skills in coverage are behind his talent. Fast everywhere, fluid, and explodes on the ball out his breaks.Tough in run support and can strip the ball or force a fumble with a good pop, but he needs to wrap up better.Excellent ball skills and can leap with the best of them. A big strong corner with great athletic abilty, but he needs to drink the koolaid to be able help this team now.2nd rounder Shawn Smith is even bigger and looks like a tall safety . That may be where he eventually ends up, but he's new to the CB position( RB till college) and has played better than Davis in the preseason.Still not fluid in his hips and takes too many false steps. Has progressed in this area every year of college . I expect he will keep doing so in the pros, so CB will probably be his position till his speed drops, but expect him to get burned a fair amount till then.Great in press coverage and is strong with long arms to redirect and jam.Good( not great )speed but his long arms and height give him the appearance of makeup speed at times. Good ball skills, and is bigger than most receivers to out muscle or out jump them for the ball. Still a better athlete than CB right now, but he made progress in the preseason and is listed ahead of Davis on the depth chart right now.A willing run support player but not the fiercest tackler.Former cardinal Eric Green was signed to a 2 year contract in the offseason and has already been released.06 1rst rounder Jason Allen has been a disappointment since being drafted. Shows flashes of his abilty , but has shuffled around between CB and safety, and hasn't made the most of his chances at either enough to be a reliable satrter. Has gotten more physical in press coverage , but still doesn't read the play well. Probably will end up at corner, but he needs to do something now to become a starter. Has been a good special teamer, so he isn't in danger of being cut. 4th year safety Tyrone Culver is a capable backup and can help out on the dime defense. A serviceable special teamer as well. 5th rounder Chris Clemons is a better athlete than football player right now and is a project, but looks to have the burst to be help out on special teams out of the gate.
Special teams- Tedd Ginn is a keeper as a kick returner and may be the punt returner too , if he can hold onto the ball. Devon Bess might end up returning punts just to make sure the ball is caught . Patrick Cobbs was the other kick returner last year and is serviceable. Vonte Davis returned some kicks in college as well, but wasn't as special at it as his athletic abilty would suggest. PK Rob Carpenter had a good rookie year and has a strong leg.3rd year punter Brandon Fields continues to improve. John Benemego has a reputation for developing strong special team units and returns to the dolphins for a 2nd year .
Predicted finish- 6-10, refusing to resign TO after the season and rebuilding yet again
Overview- I hate to disappoint optimistic Bills fans but signing TO was about making money, not winning games. If their main concern was winning games they would have resigned Jason Peters instead of trading him. Love or hate him ,TO generally creates interest in whatever team he's on. He usually causes minimal problems his first year with a new team, and there are rumors that his agent may have finally gotten him to understand that he may not make the HOF( great numbers or not) if he screws up one more locker room, but he usually is coming to a good team. This team has a young O-line with a lot of lineman playing new positions ,and a young unproven QB. Possible meltdowns aside they aren't going anywhere. They have been 7-9 for 3 straight seasons but this team lacks the talent to take the next step. Constant free agent losses and football decisions based more on money than results have made this franchise a perennial candidate to be moved.
Coaching- Dick Jauron will probably be the fall guy for this teams record, but he is not a bad coach. Has been without a good QB his whole tenure in Buffalo. Even a defensive minded guy who runs a conservative offense need a better QB( and more overall talent) than he has had to make the playoffs. Turk Schonert was supposed to be the Offensive coordinator and spent the offseason installing a no-huddle offense, like Buffalo ran back in their glory days. The results were so underwhelming in the preseason he was fired last week. QB coach Alex Van pelt will reportedly take over part of the play-calling duties, while running backs coach Eric Studesville will be the running game coordinator.Perry Fewell returns to run the defense again and is a rising star in league circles. Has done a good job with massive injuries and free agent losses.
QB- Poor Trent Edwards. he is not a veteran QB with any big credentials to even help him keep TO at bay. TO ate a young Romo up and even took on perennial pro bowlers Jeff Garcia and Donovan McNabb. Add his new O-line and I think Edwards is in for a long season. Has made steady progress since he became the starter despite a lack of a complete offense to use. Has a good arm and accuracy.Has improved reading defenses, but still can be confused by complicated schemes. Good feet in the pocket, but he does tend to hold the ball a bit too long. I was hoping to see what he could do with a good line and 2 good receivers but that's out the window now. Not being given enough of a chance to succeed but I think he would with a good offense around him. Still young and he may go somewhere else .or the line may surprise me, or just grow over time. Backup Ryan Fitzpatrick is unfortunately known for being the guy who ran out of the back of the end zone for a safety with Cincinnati last year. Not what you would expect from a Harvard guy but pressure gets to even the smartest QB's. Is a good athlete but is a tad undersized and has a long delivery. Average arm and accurate if he has time to throw ,but doesn't handle pressure well at all. Mechanics and feet are still developing ,and if he ends up playing behind this line I don't see them getting any better. At least he has starting experience after taking over when Carson Palmer went down last year.
O-line- Not only is this line full of unproven( but talented) young players, but they all are playing a different position from the one they played last year. Trading Jason Peter was bad enough but they cut his likely replacement ( Langston Walker) in a cost cutting move last week. At the very least Walker is a solid RT or LG, and would provide some more experience to this line, but now he's gone. 08 7th round pick Demetrius Bell has never even started an NFL game, but is now the starting LT. A small school developmental selection last year, and he does have the agility and athleticism for the position, but he is still too raw to be protecting a QB's blindside. Did look much improved in the preseason and I could see a team in need trying him at LG right now, but isn't strong or technical enough to be a starting NFL tackle just yet. 1rst rounder Eric Wood can play RG or C and looks to be the guy at RG as of now. Mean in a phone booth and will compete on every play, but is still a rookie with . Think a young Kris Deilman. 2nd rounder Andy Levitre is a former college LT with good technique, and a good motor, that will probably be the LG to start the season. The kind of versatile guy coaches love, and he could probably start anywhere inside and play well. Could probably play RT if absolutely necessary, but not at high level ,as he doesn't have the feet or agility to play on an island in the NFL. Former RG Brad Butler will move out to RT. Isn't mauler you usually expect on the right side( especially at RG(, but he has good hands and has improved his technique since he csme into the league. Would probably fit best at LG, but he is at least serviceable, and did play RT in college. FA addition Jeff Hangartner is a veteran with starting experience at both C and G. Will be an improvement over what they had least year, but is about league average for the position. 3rd year player Johnathan Scott will probably back up both tackle positions. He's a good athlete but more of a finesse player, who has always been an underachiever. Even in college he would show flashes of what he could be , but hasn't sustained it for any significant period of time. Seth Mckinney has started at all 3 inside positions, but his best position is center. A valuable reserve who could probably still start for a few teams, but will probably be the 1rst guy off the bench if any of the 3 inside guys go down.Kirk Chamber is just a career backup who lacks the athletic ability and physicality to be a starter.At least he is smart and technical if called upon.
Tight Ends- Derek Fine and Shawn Nelson are both undersized catch first TE"s. The job is still up for grabs as I write this. Fine is more polished , but lacks the upside athletically of Nelson. Nelson looked to be a more physical willing blocker at the Senior bowl, after not showing a lot of it in college, but Fine has better technique. Nelson is more explosive and faster , but Fine runs more precise routes. Fine may win the job to start the season, but if Nelson packs on a few pounds and improves his technique he could be the starter by mid season. Last years starter Derek Schouman is basically just a big receiver, and is the leagues lightest TE/H-back. Gives good effort bocking, but mostly just gets in the way. Needs to get bigger and is unlikely to remain the starter long this year.
Wide receivers- I think I have covered TO's effect on the locker room. On the field he is still a starting caliber receiver, but has lost a step and can no longer beat double coverage. Big, physical, and fast, but has indifferent hands. Explosive in the open field and can break tackles, but shy's away from contact unless the defender is smaller than him. Not the bravest guy over the middle if he sees a hit coming . Rounds off his routes too much and sometimes takes plays of when the play is away from him. Can be a great blocker if the ball is near him, in line or down field, but doesn't do much when its run to the other side. Is not what he was , but is still very good if used right. On the decline and a locker room cancer is true as well. Lee Evans is a undersized deep threat who needs to TO to draw defenses away from him. Is slight and has trouble beating press coverage, but if has room to run he's gone. Runs good routes everywhere but the deep middle of the field. Good hands and a burner once he gets the ball. Good hands and explosive out of his breaks. Would be awesome in a 4 wide run and shoot type offense, like AZ runs. If this line was better and Edwards had more time, I think he would lead the league in receptions over 40 yards this season, but its not. 08 second rounder James Hardy not only had a weak rookie season and ACL surgery at the end of the year, but TO took his number too. A huge Plaxico Burress type who should have been a nice deep threat as a rookie. Doesn't have great separation skills but uses his body to shield defenders well. Size, strength and good hands if he healthy and its like he will start the season on the PUP ( Physically Unable to Perform , and will miss at least the first 6 weeks of the season) list. Roscoe Parrish is a little jitter bug, and can do wonders in the open field if he can get off the line of scrimmage. Known most for his special teams returns, and reminds me of Dante Hall in his prime. A home run hitter if open .Josh Reed is a solid # 3 , and was miscast as # 2. A stocky polished player who lacks explosion, but is fearless over the middle.
Running backs- Fred Jackson has his chance now. Marshawn Lynch is suspended to start the season and Fred is the main guy in their running game . All he lacks is top speed to break a lot of long ones, but that can be said about many god backs in the HOF. Big and keeps his legs driving. Picks the hole well and gets vertical quickly. Has some wiggle but its his vision that makes him find the hole right away. Excellent in pass pro and a good receiver. Has produced when given a chance in the NFL. the main reason he is geteing a chance to be the man is the legal woes of Marshawn Lynch. Lynch is almost the same typ of runner as Jackson, but he has more burst and a lower center of gravity. Not quite as adept as Jackson in the passing game, but he's not a negative there. Whether it's alleged domestic violence, hit & run, or weed: Lynch has been his own worst enemy off the field so far . May be relegated to short yardage duties by the time he gets back if Jackson fulfills his promise and is healthy. Xavier Oman is a straight ahead downhill short yardage type who didn't get a lot of chance to show what he has as a rookie last season. Corey Mcinytre is a better special teamer than lead blocker, despite weighing about 260 pounds. More of a seal & wall off guy, than a meet you in the hole and rock you FB.
A unit filled with guys with good motors, and one of the strengths of their team. Big DT Marcus Stroud was an excellent acquisition last year, who solidified the middle of the Buffalo defense. The 9 year vet (and 4 time pro bowler )clogged lanes and helped free up the LB's to make plays. Can split or stack a double team when he's fresh. When he plays with leverage he is almost unstoppable, and he usually does, but occasionally when tired his 6"6" frame can be a liability. Strong, quick , agile and collapses the pocket well against the pass. Not necessarily a great pass rusher but has good motor and uses his long arms and height to redirect passing lanes when he's bull rushing. Still looked to be in his prime in 08 , but 9 years in the trenches is a long time. 4th year DFT Kyle Wiliams is a squatty run stuffer with a high motor. A better football player than athlete who gives his all on every play. Stacks and sheds well but doesn't do much more than bull rush against the pass. Also a strong tackler inside.Spencer Johnson is mostly a rotational player. Has a quick 1rst step and good hands but needs to perfect more pass rush moves. Cant hold the point against the double and his frame could support another 10-15 pounds of muscle to help out in this area. Does play with good hands inside, but is inconsistent . Moves well laterally down the line of scrimmage when he's 1 v 1. Might have reached his ceiling after 5 years in the league unless he puts on more muscle, or might not be willing to do more to reach that ceiling. Former 1rst rounder John McCargo has been a bust so far in the league. A penetrating 3 technique tackle, who always seems to be injured and could be cut if he doesn't fulfill his promise soon.DE Aaron Schobel is a speedy fierce technician who makes up for his lack of size with technique , athleticism , and a relentless motor. Great pass rusher with good hands , a quick first step, and a variety of pass rush moves. Holds the point better than you would expect and can run around or dart inside blocks to make him more effective there. Will chase down plays from the backside and never gives up on a play. Missed 2/3 of the 08 season with a foot injury , but looked pretty good again in his limited time in the preseason . Strong side end Chris Kelsay is like Schobel with 20 pounds of muscle added on . Not as quick but the same skill set, attitude, and high level technique. 1rst rounder Aaron Maybin is a lot like a young Schobel, but even quicker off the ball. An undersized pass rush end who probably will contribute as a situational pass rusher as a rookie. Might have been a better fit as a 3-4 rush OLB, but he went to a 4-3 team. Needs to get bigger to hold the point of attack better, but can run the arc when rushing the passer. Good motor and balance .Will chase down play from the backside.Backup DE Ryan Denney is a better football player than athlete who gets everything out of what he has. Played decent in place of Schobel last year ,and extremely valuable as a backup,as he would be solid starter for some teams. Nothing special but will never fail from lack of effort. 08 3rd round DE Chris Ellis disappointed as a rookie. Needs to play meaner and keep his pads down. Best when rushing the passer or slanting. Doesn't hold the point or use his hands well yet.
Linebacker- a mostly undersized unit that relies on speed to get the job done. Depth and experience could be a problem.MLB Paul Pozluszny was a starter as a rookie in 07 ,but suffered a season ending injury in week 3, and he had the injury prone tag from college. Returned in 08 to play near a pro bowl level and lead the defense. An excellent form tackler with strong diagnostic skills. Almost a sideline to sideline LB , but is just a tick slow to pull it off. Rarely blocked straight on and has a fierce attitude . Uses his hands & pad level well to stack and shed.Improving in coverage and not a liability there, but still much better against the run. FA addition Kawika Mitchel comes over from the giants and brings some much needed size to the Bills LB core. Can play all 3 spots and should allow Keith Ellison to move over to the weakside where he is a better fit. Big and quick with good instincts. At his best coming forward and doesn't move well laterally. More of a take on and shed player. Good technique in zone coverage ,but lacks the speed and athleticism to run with faster TE's down field. Ellison is a speedy undersized LB who fits best in a Tampa 2 scheme. Stepped up and played some strong side LB last year due to injury, but doesn't have the sand in his pants to take on lineman coming up field. Runs around blocks well,but is vulnerable to cutbacks. A high motor guy who can chase down everything and has the speed to blow up plays in the backfield. At a more natural position he could be poised for a breakout year. Excels on special teams as well and is strong in coverage.5th rounder Nic Harris a former college SS who is still making the transition to WLB. Should at least contribute on passing downs and special teams as a rookie. Undersized tough guy with good tackling & diagnostic skills. Too stiff to be a safety but should be fine at LB with more reps and time.2nd year player Jhon Corto is another undersized guy who is mostly a special teamer right now. Undrafted rookie FA OLB Ashlee Palmer has had a strong camp and will make the team. At the very least he has a special teamers bonsai attitude.
Secondary- A very good pair of corners showed promise last year and if Bryan Scott can do the job at FS this unit could be a strength this season. CB Terrence McGee is now in his prime and is above average for the position 7 years in. Best in zone and doesn't have the elite speed to run deep with receivers. Smooth hips and quick out of the break with a burst to the ball . Has improved his read and recognition skills. Short and a bit undersized . Can struggle with bigger receivers but competes on every play. Willing in run support but not a big hitter there.)8 1rst round CB Ledois McKelvin came on strong last yer when he got more playing time. Made 6 starts as a rookie and improved as the season went along. An elite athlete with makeup speed, quickness, and fluid hips. Aggressive and flies all over the field, but needs work on his tackling. A dynamite returner who ranked 2nd in the NFL in kickoff return AVG. A player on the rise who's lack of height is the only thing that might keep him from being a upper echelon CB. SS Donte Whitner's off the field trouble may keep him out of pro bowl contention this season. He is rumored to be up for suspension after being tasered by police this off season. Last year he still played well ( although not as well as the previous 2 years) dispute injury and is one of the leagues better safety's after 3 seasons. High football IQ and is always around the ball. A bit undersized for SS, but you wouldn't know it by the way he sticks his nose in on run support. A physical player against the run or pass who is all over the field. Has the speed and diagnostic skills to play FS and it might better for the Bills if they switched him with Bryan Scott. FS Bryan Scott played well last yer when he became a starter but is still at his best in the box. Always at his best with the ball in front of him against the run or pass. Reads plays OK but is just a tick slow breaking on the ball too often. 2nd rounder Jarius Byrd is a CB/S tweener. Has shown to be a ballhawk in college and safety is probably his best position in the pros , as he is he lacks the burst and change of direction skills to play corner man to man. He's actually a lot like Whitner so he may end up backing up both safety positions, or he may end up taking Scott's job. Has always been a playmaker with strong instincts to jump routes .I think when he gets a chance he will make things happen, but guys who make jump routes for big plays also give up their fair share of big plays . Strong hands for the interception and it's possible he could play press corner in a Tampa 2 scheme as well. Backup Drayton Florence is an inconsistent player who never seems to live up to his potential . Flashes high level abilty on one play and looks lost the next. Usually a step behind and best as backup . Technique is inconsistent and has played his way out of the starting lineup in San Diego and Jacksonville already.
Special teams- Year after year the Bills are among the leagues best special teams units since coordinator Bobby April took the job. 3 strong returners in Leodis McKelin , Roscoe Parrish, and Terrence McGee. Add the commitment to make special teams a valuable roster commodity, the aforementioned coaching of April, and a willingness to spend a lot of time actually practicing special teams make this unit special. Punter Brian Moorman is one of the leagues better directional kickers, and even a good athlete if a trick play is needed. Ryan Lindell is a solid placekicker as well.