Sunday, September 13, 2009

2009 AFC WEST team previews

AFC west

1.San Diego 10-6
2.Oakland 6-10
3.Denver 5-11
4.KC 3-13

2009 AFC SOUTH team previews

AFC south

Indianapolis 10-6
Tennessee 9-7
Houston 8-8
Jacksonville 7-9

2009 AFC NORTH team previews

AFC north

Pittsburgh 11-5
Baltimore 10-6
Cincinnati 8-8
Cleveland 6-10

Pittsburgh Steelers- 11-5 winning the division and losing in the playoffs

Overview- 6 Superbowl titles set them apart from Dallas and Frisco ( 5 Lombardi trophies each) and makes them the model for other NFL franchises. Perhaps the fact that they have had only 3 coaches in the last 40 years is a big part of that success. The Rooney family seems to understand that teams have bad seasons, and building through the draft is the way to ensure lasting success. They reload year after year, despite losing many high profile free agents. A rabid fan base, hard nosed approach, and strong tradition define this franchise. To maintain that success they need to go back to running the ball more. Their current O-line isn't great individually ,but they play well as a unit. Teams will be ready for the pass now and until they can prove they can run the ball well again, I expect them to come up just a bit short. Need to avoid the post superbowl champ blues, as they had a 1rst round playoff exit last time .

Coaching- While it's true that Mike Tomlin took over a already successful team, he immediately won over the locker room, and earned the organizations respect. Only 37 years old and coming off his first Superbowl title . Many new head coaches try to change everything to fit what they want. Tomlin instead kept many of former head coach Bil Cowher's assistants. Instead of forcing Pittsburgh into a Tampa 2 defense( his specialty as he is a member of the Tony Dungy coaching tree) he blended his ideas with longtime 3-4 genius Dick Lebeau's into the NFL's best defense last year. Lebeau is one of the few guy's who should bein the HOF as a player and an assistant coach. Offensive Cordinatoor Arians made the best of what he had last year , and since he is a QB ( helped make Peyton Manning into who he is) guy , they were lucky to have him last year.

QB- Big Ben has 2 rings at a very young age. A big strapping lad with a cannon for an arm. Hard to bring down and extends many plays with his movement in the pocket, but does hold onto the ball far too long sometimes. Has developed a good pump fake recently and throws a great deep ball. Take a lot of chances, but he has had so much success its kind of hard to rein him in. Spreads the ball around like few young QB's do. Trust his receivers and will air it out if they have a crease deep , or are 1 on 1. Veteran backup Charlie Batch is a team first guy and a valuable resource off the bench. A former starter in Detroit who has performed admirable when called upon to play. Won't lose them many games if he needs to step in for awhile, but won't win a ton either. More of a bus driver type. 2nd year player Dennis Dixon is a projectable athletic QB who might develop into at least Kordell Stewart /slash type in time, but needs to get bigger if he wants to be a starter somewhere.

O-Line- A group who's whole is greater than the sun of it's parts, as the have no pro bowl caliber guys , but still generally get the job done. Mammoth LT Max Starks finally showed some consistency last year when he stepped back into the starting lineup.Marvel Smith is gone and retired now, so they need him to realize his potential fulltime. Has the abilty to be what Flozell Adams was in his prime, and he sometimes engulfs defenders the same way Adams does, but like Adams his mean streak only comes in flashes. Long arms and decent feet. When he is on he's a top notch left tackle. Would be an even better RT, but he is what they have, and that's not too bad. LG Chris Kemoeatu would be a better fit as a RG,but I suspect it is because he pulls so well on the short trap to his right that they keep him on the left side . A short area mauler who struggles in space, and doesn't change directions well. If he locks on or gets to his man he will drive him back with a will, but isn't a quick twitch athlete. Definitely prefers to run block, and is too often off balance in his pass sets. If he hits his hand punch he will stop a defender in his tracks. If he misses his punch he lacks the abilty to recover well. C Justin Hartwig started every game after signing as a FA last year. i thought they might move him to guard, but he is a serviceable center. Definitely at his best running the ball against bigger DT's. Struggles with quick penetrators but never gives up on a play. A big smart lunch pail type center who gets the most out of what he has. Former undrafted FA Darnell Stapleton was a surprise when he took over as the starting RG last year , but is on IR for the season. Was also the backup center and will be sorely missed. The battle for RG will probably between former swing tackle Trai Essex and rookie 3rd rounder Kraig Urbik. Essex has mostly been a reserve for 4 years but has some starts at LT due to injuries. He profiles better on the left side, so it might be best if he switched with Kemoeatu, but I doubt they will do it. Doesn't really have the feet to be on a island anyway, especially on the left side, and if he develops more of a mean streak he may find his niche inside. Urbik has the mean streak and is a lot like Kemoetu. Has some RT experience in college , but definitely fits better inside. A short area mauler, who needs work on technique and balance. RT Willie Colon is another guy who would fit best inside, and has played there some in his young career. Doesn't have the feet to be on an island alone, and he needs help too often in passing situations. Often holds when he doesn't get help, and is off balance too often. If he played with better knee bend consistently he might be an above average RT, but he doesn't. Has a mean streak and gives his all, but he's sloppy right now.2nd year OT Tony Hills has great athletic ability , but lacks the size and mean streak to compete for starting job right now. A projectable player if he bulks up and gets nastier, but was an underachiever in college and may never actually reach his potential . 2nd year undrafted FA Ramon Foster looked good in the preseason and will probably back up LG and RT for now.

Tight end- Heath Miller is one of the leagues most underrated players. A complete TE, who is a strong blocker. Stays with his blocks in the run and passing game, Solid in -line , on the double team, and at the second level. Runs good routes ,but is mostly a safety valve for Big Ben underneath. Tough to bring down after the catch , but lacks long speed, and has only average quickness. Basically a less sudden Jason Witten, and a key player on this offense.Matt Spaeth is also a good blocker, and one of the leagues bigger TEs, with room to put on even more size.After 3 TD's on only 5 cathces in 07, he saw a rise in catches, but not one touchdown. Pittsburgh runs a lot of 2 TE sets and he is the last guy a defense is likely to focus on, so the most likely to be open. A valuable player to have as a backup. 7th rounder David Jhonson wil at least be a practice squad player, and is faster than the other 2 TE's. Only 6"2", but 260 pounds with the abilty to stretch the field. Will probably be active at least some of the time , given the amount of 2 TE sets they run, and can probably play some H-Back too.

Wide receivers- Hines ward is a future HOFer ,and the kind of player coaches love. A tough guy mentality, strong work ethic, leadership skills, big heart ,fearless over the middle, and one of the few players who seems to get the most out of his abilities. A former QB with a high footbal IQ. Is in his 12th season now, and not quite as fast as he was, but he still gets open .Good hands and runs hard after the catch. although he isn't a threat to run away from a lot of people anymore. Crisp route runner and quick out of his breaks. Probably the best steeler ( and the way Ben holds onto the ball they all have to be aware of it) at coming back for the ball when the QB is in trouble. A punishing blocker despite not being very large. Most likely WR to crack back on a LB with maximum force, and they have to be aware if him because of it. Not overpowering blocking in -line but has good technique and gives max effort. A throwback type and former Superbowl MVP. Santonio Holmes is the current Superbowl MVP and may have finally come imno hjs own. Ward may catch more balls( most of them will be underneath) but Holmes is more likely to be the primary receiver this year,and bust the long ones . Explosive after the catch with great long speed. Quick out of his breaks and turns DB's around. Great vertical threat who has the chance to be the true # 1 guy now after his great Superbowl performance. Has explosive return abilty , but is now deemed too valuable to be risked there much. )8 2nd rounder Limas Sweed got open when he was on the field, but had way too many drops when it was thrown to him, even in the post season. The big receiver Ben was asking for didn't do much as a rookie. His biggest contributions last season came on special teams. Caught some passes in the preseason this year, but was overshadowed by 3rd round pick Mike Wallace. Wallace is a lot like Holmes although, taller, and less polished. A big play waiting to happen, with explosive ability after the catch and deep threat speed. Needs work on his routes , but could be a 3rd receiver this year, and eventual replacement for Ward. If they paired him with Stefan Logan on kickoffs , Pittsburgh could have a lot of big plays, and strong field position out of the return game this season.

Running Back- Willie Parker always seems on the verge of being replaced nd somehow escapes with his job intact. This may be the year his luck runs out. Rashard Mendenahll was drafted in the 1rst round last year to at leas split time with him , but missed the year with an injury. Parker started an finished the regular season strong but the rest of his season was marred by inconsistency and injury. He then started out the playoffs with bang only to tail off again in th AFC championship game and in the Superbowl. It seems readily apparent he at least needs someone to share time with him in order to get the most out of his skills. Has home run speed but not much wiggle. Looks like a 3rd down back ,but he is an inconsistent receiver and pass protector. Probably best as a change of pace back if Mendenhall steps up. If Rashard Mendenahll does step up the job is his for the taking. A bruising runner with good speed, but he has reportedly taken a long time to learn the offense, injury aside. Also had ball security issues as a rookie , and nothing makes a team and coaching stuff lose faith in a unproven player quicker than turning the ball over. If he fixes those 2 things he looks like a 300 carry workhorse type back, and the type of hard nosed players steelers fans will love. If not they are in trouble. Mewelde Moore has found his niche as a 3rd down back . A smart pass protector and excellent receiver with big play capabilities out of the backfield and in the flats. Not a threat to be an every down guy but can have a big game or 2 if he needs to be the main guy for a short period of time. Is also a return man but he has never taken one in for a score.

2009 AFC EAST team previews

AFC east

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.

DEFENSE

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.

DEFENSE

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.

MIAMI DOLPHINS
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 .

DEFENSE

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 .

BUFFALO BILLS
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.

DEFENSE

D-Line
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.

2009 NFC WEST team previews

NFC west

Arizona 9-7
Seattle 7-9
San Francisco 7-9
St. Louis 4-12

ARIZONA CARDINALS

Predicted finish- 9-7 and winning the division
Overview- Won't catch anyone by surprise this year. Also have a first place schedule with Boldin , Dockett, and Dansby contract squabbles ongoing. Warner is 38 and while he still is playing at a high level you have to wonder if he will finally hit the wall ( or get injured) this year, and how much of a difference Leinert at QB would mean. Have a new defensive coordinator and dual offensive coordinators to start the season. A tough road back to the Superbowl this season as there are more viable NFC contenders than in recent years ,and all the teams in their division should be improved this time around. It's unlikely that a wild card comes out of the NFC west , so they have to win the division, and without a better pass rush that may even be difficulty this year. They need a healthy Beanie Wells to force teams to crowd the line of scrimmage and give their run game a home run threat now.

Coaching - Former Steelers offensive whiz Ken Whisenhunt is only the second Cardinals head coach to go .500 or better in each of his first two seasons. Led the cards to their first Superbowl appearance and now faces the difficult task of taking the team to the next level.At the very least he has changed the teams mindset to one that expects to win, and that is huge for this franchise. With the departure of O coordinator Todd Haley to KC, Whisenhunt is almost going to a play calling by committee approach. O-line/asst.head coach Russ Grimm is the running game coordinator, and former WR coach Mike Miller becomes the passing game coordinator, with Whisenhunt overseeing the whole thing.

QB- The ageless Kurt Warner keeps on ticking, but you have to wonder when it's all gonna end. If he stays healthy (big if considering age and wear/tear) he could finish as one of the leagues top QB's again .He has the best trio of wide receivers in the NFL this season, but you have to wonder if AZ with a 1st place schedule falters. Reads defenses at a high level, makes quick decisions, and is very accurate. Well liked as a person , player and a leader on & off the field. Biggest weakness is a tendency to force the ball down field to his receivers instead of taking what the defense gives him , when teams are laying back to stop the pass. A more viable receiving threat at TE when Warner gets in trouble and the Rb's doing a better job of getting down field on swing passes would help him a lot too. Matt Leinert has mostly been a disappointment since being drafted and hasn't shown the poise , leadership, accuracy , and good decision making skills he displayed at USC. There is talk of him maturing and making football and conditioning( mma training) a bigger priority this off season but he needs to make a big impression in the locker room and step up big any time he gets the chance to see the field this season. AZ can pick up his option or let him go this year, and I am not sure which he would personally prefer, but the time is now if wants a chance to stay and throw to these gifted receivers long term.

O-line-A improving group under Russ Grimm, but still only middle of the ( at best ) pack league wide. The unit does not posses one pro bowl caliber player at present, although Levi Brown has the talent, if he lives up to it. Brown was drafted to man the blind side of Leinert( left handed quarterbacks blind side is covered by the RT) but Leinert isn't the man yet. Brown also plays like your average RT to date. A physical run Blocker who struggles with speed rushers on the outside, and is at his best in the trenches drive blocking in line. Has the feet to play on an island, but seems to tire easily, and ends up off balance too much. Sometimes leans on his man instead of exploding into him late in games and get shucked. Too inconsistent to be an upper echelon OT right now ,but shows flashes of it, and still has the potential to do so. Regardless he is one of the 2 above average O-lineman they have . RG Duece Latui is mauling drive blocker in line, but struggles in space. A bit slow footed and subpar on the second level, but is good in a power running offense( like the NYG or Dallas) . Strong hand punch in pass pro, but if he misses his initial punch players often blow right by him. Doesn't have the feet to play anywhere else on the line. C Lyle Sendlein would be better as a backup at C and guard right now until his technique improves. Makes the right line calls, but is off balance and too high far too often to be on the field every down. Is still young enough to develop into a productive starter if he get coached up but seems lost at the second level, which is where most centers usually shine. 3rd year pro LG Reggie Wells was the cards most consistent lineman last year and is a player on the rise. A good athlete with above average technique that I expect to get better with time. Needs to be a bit more physical , but usually gets the job done and plays with leverage and sound angles.The best on their team on the second level and has quick feet in pass pro. If Gandy went down they would probably flop Brown over to the left side, but I think Wells might be able to do so if called upon. Doesn't really fit this power running style and would be best in a zone cut blocking scheme. LT Wayne Gandy is a solid veteran with sound technique, but will never be a pro bowler. Sort of like Jeff Backus of Detroit, in that he generally gets the job done, but is unspectacular and struggles with the leagues above average defenders. Good ( not great ) feet , hands and technique but needs to play with more of a mean streak. Not a finisher. Giant 5th round rookie Herman Jhonson( 6"7' and 385 pounds) is a intriguing prospect. If he played at 345 I think he would be a stud RT, and maybe even a good RG if he could play with better leverage. If he gets his conditioning under control, he could end up like Dallas Pro Bowl RG( and former cardinal) Leonard Davis, or he could end up op out of the league like former 1rst round bust Mike Williams ( buff.- trying to make a comeback in Washington) & Aaron Gibson ( det.) by eating his way out of a good career.

Tight Ends- Talented , but lazy Leonard Pope is gone and the starters job is up for grabs right now. 10 year vet Anthony Becht has never lived up to his 1rst round status . Is a good technical blocker, but doesn't play nasty enough. Runs nice routes and shows good hands, but isn't sudden enough to get open on a regular basis. The kind of veteran every team needs as a backup, but if he's your starter, you need to upgrade. Stephen Spacht is a younger, slightly better version of Becht who could win the job, but won't be stretching the field very often. Also a core special teams player so you know he will be on the roster.Former USC standout( Leinert and Latui's college teammate) Dominique Byrd was a bust as a 3rd round pick in St. Loius and is trying to work his way back into the league right now. Was seen as a Chris Cooley pass catching type H-back/TE hybrid coming out in 06, who needed to be a better blocker, but disappointed . If he gets his head on straight and buckles down he could give them a TE who could stretch the middle of the field ,but it's a long shot right now.

Wide receivers- as good as it gets 1-3 in the NFL. Fitzgerald is the games most complete receiver at present, with Calvin & Andre Jhonson still trailing him at the moment. Big, Strong, runs precise routes, fearless over the middle,adjust to the ball wherever its thrown, out jumps DB's, breaks tackles , runs well after the catch, fights for the ball, and has the games best hands. Improved his conditioning and got leaner prior to the 08 season which saw him become a more explosive player and make the jump form pro bowler to superstar. Was amazing in the post season last year, and is a threat anywhere on the field.Could be a better blocker but he's willing and when he locks on sustains well. Simply the best right now .Anquan Boldin is in a tough position. He's definitely a # 1 receiver ( one of the games 8-15 best) but isn't the best on his team. Got a new contract when AZ didn't have to pay him, and now wants another one before it's over because Fitz just got a huge deal, and the cap has changed. I guess I can sympathize some, but he will never get paid as much as Fitz, because he isn't as complete a player. More of a west coast type. A big strong receiver who makes things happen after the catch, especially on short throws, but isn't a major threat to stretch the field vertically. Good hands, and is always ready to come back if the QB's in trouble, but lacks the speed to force DB's to jam him. If they do, he overpowers and gets by them them consistently. Good blocker as well. Steve Breaston would start for most teams, and he is a great luxury to have if a starter goes down( like Boldin did for awhile last year) but he's still # 3 here. With the cards lack of a major TE, he still sees the field a lot on 3 receiver sets. A tad undersized ,and does struggle with press coverage some, but find the creases in zone with regularity even if he isn't at his most comfortable over the middle. Elusive in space and has home run speed. Good hands and a true deep threat who runs the post as well as anyone. Also a threat as a returner on special teams. Early Doucet is a poor mans Boldin right now, and may get a chance to prove it if Anquan is indeed traded. Just in his 2nd year, but needs playing time to progress. Jeremhe Urban is good enough to be a slot receiver on some teams right now and fits best in a west coast offense. Big , strong, sure handed, and runs well after catch but is probably 5th on the depth chart right now. This team has an embarrassment of riches at WR.

Running backs- Tim Hightower is miscast as a every down back. Has shown the abilty to be a tough short yardage back and run between the tackles, but lacks moves and lacks explosion. Decent receiver and willing blocker who just needs more coaching in the passing game. Is a tall RB and could possibly bulk up and be a FB. Fights for every yard, but his upside is limited.1rst rounder Beanie Wells has it all , if he can stay on the field and hold onto the ball. Finds and hits the hole with a will. Has a good burst and can take it to the house. Good wiggle for a big man, and cuts back and accelerates like a much smaller back, but occasionally runs around players he should just run through. Needs work in the passing game all around, but he could be a beast on screens, and is not as punishing a runner as you would expect for a big back. If he stays healthy ,and works hard to get the best out of his ability ,he could be the next Jamal Lewis. Jason Wright is best as a special teamer and is a better football player than athlete. Good as a backup but your in trouble if he your starter for any extended period of time.Pint sized Larod Stephens Howling was electric in the preseason and runs a lot like Darren Sproles. Could seemingly appear out of thin air from behind larger blockers and blast past defenders in the return game, and on the occasional 3rd down or reverse for AZ. Isn't big big enough for full time RB duty in the NFL right now. Veteran fullback Dan Kreider is an effective lead blocker, but doesn't offer much else. Doesn't see the field a lot anyway with all the 3 and 4 receiver sets they run.

DEFENSE

D-line- Darnell Dockett is really miscast as a 3-4 DE, but he is still good at it. When he moves inside for the 4-3 on passing downs he is even more effective .Wreaks havoc in the backfield in the passing and running games with his quick first step .Can penetrate regularly and is so quick off the ball he forces most O-lineman to react to him. Will occasionally stunt himself out of a play but pursues anyway, as he has a high motor. Stacks and sheds well and plays with good leverage. Only the biggest drive blockers give him trouble one on one and he often blows right by them, which makes them cautious driving into him. Can't hold the point against double teams but he does split them sometimes. Could probably put on a few more pounds and still keep his quickness but hasn't yet in 6 years in the league. Antonio Smith is gone now, so 2nd year player Calais Campbell needs to step up. Looks like Chris Canty and sometimes plays like him ,but lacked his technique and motor the majority of the time in his rookie year. Tall long armed guy who can anchor against the run when he bends his knees and plays with leverage. Not much of a threat as a pass rusher currently ,as he doesn't get off the ball fast enough, and needs a wider variety of moves. Very young and if he harnesses his talent , improves his technique, and gets a lot of practice reps could be almost as good as Canty. Lacks quick twitch muscles and that will always limit his upside. NT Bryant Robinson is the a starter because Gabe Watson and Alan Branch continue to disappoint.He can still clog the lanes some, but doesn't cover much ground or get off the ball fast. Only a bull rusher if they pass while he's in the game. Should only be a rotational 4- 3 player for run downs by now. Gabe Watson looks like a classic 3-4 NT and even plays like a dominant one sometimes, but is either out of shape or lazy, as he tires easily . Will overpower the double team on one play then stand up and get driven back 4 yards or pancaked on the next. Has the same physical attributes of San Diego's Jamal Williams but lacks the motor , technique and dedication to make the same impact so far. Needs to buckle down and show some heart to harness his potential. Only offers a inconsistent bull rush as a rusher. Alan Branch is basically the same guy with a little more consistency and athleticism but he missed 12 games last season due to an injury. They are both from Michigan and I fear they are feeding each others under achievement being on the same team.DE/DT Kenny Iwebema is a better athlete than football player right now and needs to be coached up and get as many reps as possible to harness his potential. 2nd round pick Cody Brown was a college DE and probably would have been a situational pass rusher at DE in the 4-3, while making the change to 3-4 OLB at the same time, but he is out for the year with a wrist injury.12 year vet Bertrand Berry is no longer a pro bowl player, but still provides leadership and continues to be valuable as a situational pass rusher when they are in the 4-3.

Linebackers- Karlos Dansby is an upper echelon pro bowl type LB,who could be even better if he devoted himself to his craft . If he had teammate Larry Fitzgerald's work ethic his HOF induction speech would already be written.When he's on he's a fierce hitter that punishes ball carriers, blows up lineman in the hole ,sheds quickly,runs sideline to sideline ,is a good tackler. When he's not he's still pretty good, but he just makes you wonder.Has the speed for coverage and runs with all but the fastest TE's and RB's out of the backfield. Might be even better if they moved him outside to the ROLB in the 3-4 as he rushes the passer well when given a chance to do so. Plays the WIL spot in the 3-4 and the weakside in the 4-3 to take advantage of his speed, but could probably play anywhere he was needed . MLB Gerald Hayed is a thumper between the tackles but lacks the speed to go sideline to sideline. A sure tackler and adequate in zone coverage, but doesn't have the athleticism to be a top tier MLB. 10 year vet Clark Haggans is more quick than fast and is better suited to the WIL in the 3-4. Doesn't have the burst to be a top flight pass rusher or the speed to run with TE/RB's downfield when called upon to do so. Stacks and sheds against the run and will stick his nose in , but isn't fast enough to chase down plays from the backside. Was above average in the 3-4 in his Pittsburgh days, but he has lost a step now.ROLB Chike Okefor is another descending veteran and he would fit better on the strongside on the 3-4, as he stacks and sheds well enough to pull it off. Has a good motor but lacks the burst to get up field when rushing the passer. Cody Brown was drafted to eventually replace him but that's been pushed back a year due to his injury. 2nd year backup Ali Highsmith is undersized for the 3-4 but could contribute on passing downs this year. Mostly a special teamer as rookie and he plays faster than he times in the 40.

Secondary- A very talented group that I expect to step up big this season and tat is littered with balhawks.SS Adrian Wilson is still one of the leagues best 9 years in. A punishing run defender with linebacker size and safety speed. Good tackler, and stacks and sheds like a LB. Has the speed to run with most TE/RB's and excels at throwing them off their route inside the 5 yard area. Still best in the box, but can run down field as long as he's not covering someone really fast.Will out-muscle receivers for the ball if he's near it. Antrell Rolle made the move to FS last year and it seems a good fit, as he is at his best with the ball in front of him. Was a big corner and could run with receivers but got turned around too much out of the break. A ball hawk and physical run defender with a knack for the big play. I expect him to breakout this season. 08 1rst rounder Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a tall lean corner with Deion Sanders like abilty and almost as much makeup speed. He needs that speed ,as he likes to jump routes and go for the big play. Needs to be more physical with receivers on the line and in run support, but kept getting better as a rookie. I expect him to continue to improve and be a pro bowler soon. CB Bryant McFadden is a better all around player than Cromartie right now, but lacks his upside. Strong & physical on the line and in run support, but lacks makeup speed.At his best in cover 2 and reads QB's well and reacts quickly to receivers. Still OK in man because he is smart but can get beat deep if he misses his jam, or doesn't play far enough off the line. An above average starter in his prime right now.Ralph Brown is a veteran backup and mostly gets by on experience when called upon, but has always lacked the athletic ability to be a solid starter. Still has the smarts to jump a route and make a big play from time to time ,as he came up big in the postseason last year. Best as a nickel and adequate there for now. Young Michael Adams is high effort special teamer who lacks the speed and size to be a starter right now.

Special teams- Larod Stephens Howling, Antrel Rolle , and Steve Breaston are all explosive returners, but I would really like to see Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie join the party as well. Strong legged Neil Rackers is still a solid starter, but will probably never have another season like he did in 05.Punter and former rugby player Ben Graham has a big leg but his directional punting needs work. Kevin Spencer came with Whisenhunt from Pittsburgh 3 years ago and is a former special teams coach of the year.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Predicted finish - 7-9 and missing the playoffs. A team in transition. A new head coach and a QB who might be on his last legs. If Hasselbeck is healthy all season( big if) they could win the division and make the playoffs, but I highly doubt that will happen. It sjust as liely they wil be picking in the top 5 again if Matt misses a lot of games thsi season.

Coaching - Jim Mora Jr. takes the reins this year and he has his work cut out for him. I don'y criticize the selection of Aaron Curry at #4 this year. If you can get the best player in the draft with the 4th pick you should generally pull the trigger and they may not have thought Mark Sanchez was a franchise( I do ) QB like . I thought they should at least got a better veteran backup in case Hasselbeck misses extended periods of time. I'll bet a lot they will be drafting one in the first round next year.Offensive Coordinator Gregg Knapp was once had the same job with Mora in Atlanta and is a west coast offense guy so their shouldn't be too much change in the offensive scheme . Defensive coordinator Casey Bradley is in his first NFL coordinator job, but don't worry much, as Mora is a defensive minded coach and will have his hand in things.

QB- Hasselbeck was coming off his best season in 07 when injuries started piling up. Nerve damage, bulging disc and knee all in the same year. Is 34 now and that would be hard for a QB of any age to come back from. He's a gamer and loves football so I think he will probably find a way to get in 10 games, but his below average O-line & running game won't help matters much.Reads defenses well and has good feet in the pocket. Good arm ,makes good decisions, and at his best in the pocket. Better QB than athlete and still a leader, but all signs point to him being past his prime now. Seneca Wallace is a better athlete than QB. Short enough to have problems seeing in the pocket and has trouble finding clear passing lanes. Best when sprinting outside the pocket to take advantage of his speed to run or pass. Could run some wildcat and has done some trick plays in the past. Best if called upon for only a short time as his limitations can be game planned for if a team has time to be ready for him. Solid backup but only in spot duty and as a change of pace.

O-line- Future HOFer Walter Jones isn't what he was , but he is still one of the 10 best LT's in football ,and one of the greatest of all time. If not for age and increasing proneness to injury he would still be top 5 in my book. Has incredible balance and feet for such a large man. Still dominant in the run and pass games most of time and only the very best DE's/OLB's give him any trouble. Smooth technique and physical in all phases of the game. Incredible hands and transitions when pass blocking. Locks on in the running game and drives his feet till the whistle blows. Excellent on the double team and walling off at the 2nd level. It's a toss up to me on whether Jones or Johnathan Ogden is the greatest LT of all time. RT Sean Locklear plays more like a LT, as he lacks meanness in his game ,and relies more on angles and technique to ge the job done. Has the feet and balance to be on an island, and could be a slightly below average( bottom 10 starters at the position) LT in the NFL, and an above average LG if needed. Doesn't get enough push off the ball when run blocking , but uses his technique and quickness to seal and shield well.Can't move the better run defenders he faces, but double teams well and chips adequately. Still a decent starter though.G Mike Wahle was once one of the leagues best pulling guards but he has slowed down, looks slow in space now and has become increasingly injury prone. Tall and lean for a guard with above average athleticism and has the feet to play RT if needed. Best when facing quicker penetrating DT's as he has sound technique and a quick get off. Still OK on combos and going to the 2nd level . Gets mauled by big 2 gap DT's in the run game one on one, and only seems like he is in the way when bull rushed. On the downside of his career but still above average when playing against speed, but now below average playing against power. Rob Sims is a below average starter for the offense. Great foot to foot in a straight ahead power running game ,but ends up missing his blocks and on the ground too much if he doesn't connect firing out of his stance. Powerful mauler with poor balance and below average feet. Will squash you if he locks on, but often outright whiffs his man. Weak on the 2nd level and struggles with speed. Would be a solid starter on power running teams but doesn't fit this offense. Center Chris Spencer was the starter last year before going down with an injury, and really needs to be replaced. Makes good line calls and keeps his head on a swivel but that's all right now. Gets overpowered off the ball on a regular basis and plays with poor pad level , despite getting off the snap quickly. Doesn't use his hands well ( holds a lot too) and gets tossed aside ( even by LB's at the 2nd level) too much. Lacks the physicality, strength, and mean streak to be a starter in the NFL currently. Rookie 2nd rounder Max Unger should take Spencer or Sims job barring injury. Can actually play anywhere but LT on the line and is a smart technician with a mean streak. Not a mauler off the snap but meets defenders head on and secures his hands before driving his feet. Plays whistle to whistle and never lets up even when being beat.Cut blocks well which keeps bigger DT's off guard and he anchors well against the bull rush. Could get a bit bigger and stronger, but still at least gets in the way in the run game. Good awareness to stunts and blitzers, and is definitely the best pass blocking guard among the rookies. Strong on double teams and the second level. 3rd year player Steve Vallos can play both Guard and Center and was definitely better than Spencer when he took over last year. Not as adept at making the line calls and picking up stunts yet, but also doesn't get beat near as much. Average quickness of the snap but is physical when engaged . Needs to work on keeping his pad level more consistent, but he generates a push and at least walls off defenders on the 2nd level. Sinks his hips pretty well against bigger DT's but struggles with one gap penetrators some. Backup OT Ray Willis doesn't have the feet to play on an island and should be moved to guard. Needs to work on bending his knees and keeping his feet driving and he could be an effective RG with his physical type of play.

Tight Ends- 2nd year player John Carlson is a Complete TE who never needs to leave the field. Strong hands and will fight for the extra yardage. Potential for a break out is there, but the addition of TJ and the return of Burleson make it less likely he will get many more looks than he did last year. Has had a strong pre-season and all reports have him on the upswing. More quick than fast, but finds the holes in coverage. Runs routes, blocks, and catches like a young Jason Witten. If he keeps improving I expect him to have a similar career.Veteran John Owens is a smart backup who lacks the athletic abilty to be a good starter. Good blocker on 2 TE sets and can catch if it's thrown to him, but not quick enough to consistently get open. Rookie Cameron Morrah is a tweener. Too slow to play WR, but not big or physical enough to block in line. Needs to get bigger, but is fast enough to be a effective receiver on 2 Te sets this year.

Wide Receivers- A veteran group with talent, but the receiving core as a whole was injured almost all last year. Incoming Pro bowler TJ Houshmandzadeh is a big strong possession receiver who is fierce over the middle. Catches the ball at it's highest point as well as anyone. Precise route runner with stronghands, but is only OK running after the catch, and that's a priority in this offense.Durable throughout his first 8 years , and that is sorely needed in this group.Nate Burleson is the probable number 2 who started last season with a bang, only to suffer a season ending injury. Always seems to get hurt when things are going well. But, has top notch ability if he could just stay healthy.A good route runner and has strong hands, but lacks top end speed to stretch the field on a regular basis.Lacks upside but is a god fit here if he can just stay healthy. Former Superbowl MVP Deion Branch has been a constant disappointment since coming over in the trade from the Patriots. Fits best in the slot and can break long ones if you get him the ball underneath . Injury prone throughout his career and lacks the size to be an every down player , especially when he runs routes over the middle. Turns DB's inside out with his explosive breaks and sometimes slows to make the catch , but he could be cut if someone else makes a strong impression in camp.3rd round pick Deon Butler is a speedster who needs refinement in all areas of his game but the go route. Actually reminded me of Steve Smith ( Carolina) in college and has the same explosive abilty and temperament, but only time will tell if he harnesses that abilty. Might be a great punt returner if given a shot at it.

Running Backs- Julius Jones has been a disappointment throughout his career in the NFL, despite seemingly being productive.Inconsistent and seems to have a few games a year that make everyone think he's a franchise back, but has never done it for a whole season. Always nicked up or down right injured, and lacks the power to run between the tackles as an every down back. If he didn't make so many mental errors he might be a good 3rd down back, but he keeps making them.Explosively burst through the hole and to the outside, but just can't seem to do it regularly. Edgarrin James is well past his prime and no longer has the speed to do much more than be a rotational player . Runs hard, and sees the hole well, but its often closed when he gets there now. Smart in pass pro and as receiver . Still has something to offer a team and maybe some of his heart will rub off on Jones. Justin Forsett is a undersized back with good burst, wiggle and vision, but lacks top end speed. Probably too small to be an 3o0 carry back for a full season, but produces when given the ball, and people said the same thing about Emmit.Only average returning kicks and needs to improve his hands to return punts well, but has the burst to succeed there.

DEFENSE

D-line- Stocky DT Brandon Mebane plays with good leverage and gets off the ball fast. Penetrates well and can hold the point 1 v1 ,but is lacking against double teams. Holds up blockers to free up the linebackers to run to the ball ,and maybe the refs just don't see his stubby arms doing it ,becuase he gets away with it a lot. Effective interior pass rusher with a high motor and good transitions. A player on the rise in this defense. 2nd year player Red Bryant is a run stuffer and I think he might even be able to play in the 3-4 as a NT . Stout at the point but doesn't move well laterally. Plays mean and stacks well, but is better at occupying blockers than shedding them. Doesn't offer much but a bull rush and rip move as a rusher but does try to redirect and deflect passes. Colin Cole is a stockier version of Bryant with a little more lateral quickness and better hand use. He llos more liek a 3-4 NT than anyting to me.Backup Craig Terrill has a high motor but lacks the athleticism and strengths to be a starter right now. A better pass rusher than Bryant and Cole who may get in on passing downs. The defensive ends are a much stronger group than the DT's and have 4 quality players capable of starting in the mix. 11 year vet Patrick Kerney may be past his prime and a bit injury prone now, but when he's on the field he is a force. Relentless and can play either side. Strong at the point and holds the edge. Penetrates and at his best coming forward with good hand fighting. Quick first step and can run the arc . Bull rush and swim techniques are strong, but lacks a lot of counters . Will chase down everything till the whistle blows . While a descending player, he's still above average when healthy and a leader. Darryl Tapp isn't what he once was but is still a quick situational pass rusher who can run and chase. Never strong at the point and allows blockers into his body too much in the run game. Corey Redding is versatile player who can play strong side end or RDT in the 4-3. Quick off the ball and can hold the point 1v1 but can't stack a double team inside. Best when lined up in a one gap scheme where he can penetrate. Doesn't always play to the whistle and will occasionally just mill around when his initial move is stymied. Inconsistent but shows flashes of pro bowl talent. Just needs to go hard on every play to make the next step. 08 1rst rounder Lawrence Jackson is at his best rushing the passer and has wide variety of moves to get to the QB. Needs to play with better pad level in the run game to be an every-down player, but has the talent and size to do so. Never seems to give up when rushing the passer, and though he doesn't have Kerneys quick first step, he gets a lot of pressure. Needs to sink his hips better when playing the run.

Linebackers- possibly the most talented 4-3 LB core in the league.MLB Lofa Tatupu is a smart, quick leader who makes plays all game ,when he is allowed to run free.Doesn't shed well if blockers get into him and is best between the tackles in the run game.Reads his keys well and has good instincts coming forward.Lacks the top end speed to go sideline to sideline and chase down plays from the backside. Crafty in zone coverage and reads QB's well to jump routes.Good hands for the interception .SLB Leroy Hill is one of the leagues most underrated players, but he always seems to be nicked up, and that could be part of the reason he doesn't get the credit he deserves. Fast and has good instincts. Comes up to take on blockers well and holds his ground , but is even better at avoiding them. Faster than Tatupu ,and would probably be able to play MLB better in this defense with his speed, but WLB would be his best position. Flows to the ball and shows good play recognition.Can wreak havoc in the backfield and can rush the passer when he gets his chance at it. Almost moves like a safety and is good in coverage. Aaron Curry was just too good to pass up at # 4 but adding him to this LB crew is damm near ridiculous. Is like a bigger Leroy Hill who's potential is off the charts. The main difference is when Hill takes on a blocker he holds his ground , while Curry knocks them back or down. Faster in a straight line than Leroy but doesn't possess quite as fluid hips . If he went to a 3-4 team he could play either OLB position and get a lot of sacks once he worked on pass rushing techniques. Stacks and sheds like a DE, and makes plays sideline to sideline. 3rd year player Wil Herring plays with reckless abandon and that's why he is effective on special teams. Could probably start at the SLB position for a lot of teams in a year or 2, as he is good at coming up to take on blockers . Stacks and sheds adequately but he doesn't read keys well yet, and is still a bit raw recognizing the play. Still needs a lot of work in coverage and isn't very fluid in his hips. A 3-4 team will probably pick him up when he becomes a free agent, put some weight on him, and make him a LILB. A decent backup with upside, but needs work in the film room and reps on the practice field to develop better instincts.Backup David Hawthorne is a squatty run defender and core special teamer, but still has lot to learn. Limited speed and can only play the middle between the tackles and on run downs currently.High motor developmental prospect . 4th year vet Lance Laury is a core special teamer but a limited athlete . Brings it with a thump when he gets to the ball carrier, but is raw is all aspects as a LB.


Secondary- CB Marcus Trufant is one of the leagues best but is injured( back) to start the season and will miss at least 6 weeks. One of the closest to actually being a shutdown corner, that the current pro-offense rules allow. Well rounded in all phases. Has very fluid hips. Fierce in man and bump and run coverage. Reads QB's and receiver reactions well. Good hands for the interception and goes for the ball whenever its thrown near him. Shows a burst to the ball , especially in zone ,and jumps routes enough to make QB's nervous. Has the speed to run with anyone and can go all the way if he picks it.Keeps his feet underneath him and has a smooth back pedal . A good tackler and sticks his nose in when they run at him. 9th year veteran CB Ken Lucas returns to Seattle this year after 4 season with the Panthers.Is a big physical guy who looks like a safety ,and probably would play safety right now if he was a better tackler. Smooth hips and good hands in press coverage ,but lacks makeup speed these days. If he doesn't get his jam at the line receivers can beat him deep , but he is still very quick in the first 15 yards. Too often falls for fakes and is off balance in run support, which is really strange considering he almost never does in a pass coverage. Has lost a step but is still a decent starter, especially in cover 2. Former 1rst rounder Kelly Jennings has the same speed and hips as Trufant, but lacks his read and recognition skills. A former starter who looked to be an ascending player after the 07 season, but he got burned a lot last year. Bites to hard on fakes and double moves. Opens his hips to early and just needs to buckle down and learn his job better. Still a decent nickle back last year, but I fear he lost some confidence as the season went on. Josh Wilson actually took Jennings job last season, but he is still a better athlete than football player at this point. Fast & smooth out of the break and possesses makeup speed ,but takes too many chances. Needs to jaw less with the receivers and concentrate on reading receivers and QB's more. Has a burst and can contribute on special teams. Looks to be a quality future starter if he can play with more discipline. 10 year vet starting SS Deon Grant has lost a step, but his instincts and play recognition even it out. A smart, crafty ,veteran leader who is still a decent starter, but is past his prime now. FS Jordan Babineaux is finally a starter. Can also play corner and has had a knack for the big play the last few years. Reads & reacts quickly and at his best coming forward, Doesn't have makeup speed as a CB ,but is good in cover 2 there. FS is good fit because he is a solid tackler and you want him being your last line of defense. Always seems to go to the right place and is solid in run support. A smart player who has earned his position. Also a good special teamer. Former starting FS Brian Russell knows what he's doing but no longer seems to have the speed to make it happen. Never the fastest guy to begin with anyway, he seemed to lose 2 steps last year and got beat a lot. Could add 20 pounds and be a LB, but I think his starting safety days are over.

Special teams- Justin Forsett is quick in the short area but will probably never break a kickoff for a TD, as he lacks long speed. Could maybe break a Punt if the field is short enough, but is not a natural receiver there yet. Josh Wilson had a good year returning kickoffs and I expect him to be even better this year. Deon Butler would be a better choice than Forset as a KR mate and I expect he will end up with the job.Olindo Mare had his best season in awhile last year ,and still has a big leg, but has been wildly inconsistent on FG's in the past.Punter Jon Ryan is player on the rise with a big leg. Will probably be around 12-15 years.Bruce Dehaven is above average as special teams coach.

SAN FRANCISCO 49'ers

Predicted Finish- 7-9 and only a QB away from the playoffs.
Overview- Mike Singletary has this team believing it can win ,and If I had more faith in their QB choices ,I would pick them to win this division now. If either( former #1 overall pick) bust Alex Smith or Shawn Hill can just be a bus driver (don't lose the game type) this team could win 9 or 10 games now.Their 2nd largest flaw, although it's not nearly as pronounced , is the lack of a consistent pass rush. Only Justin Smith and Parys Haralson have brought anywhere near consistent pressure, and someone else needs to make it harder to double them by winning his one on ones. Their 3rd major problem is a lack of a go-to receiver. Michael Crabtree is being a baby and demanded to be paid what he thinks he deserves ,instead of his draft slot, and I don't see the niners giving in.Vernon Davis ( did show progress late last season and this pre-season)but still hasn't harnessed his awesome talent on any kind of consistent basis. The QB alone could make them a playoff team. If they got all 3 weaknesses shored up this year they could possibly even get a first round bye in the playoffs, but that's asking a ton for one season.

Coaching- Mike Singletry as a coach is similar to the coach who he won a superbowl with- MIke Ditka. A tough guy who's main skill is motivation, but who's players will all know that he cares about them as people as well. Lets the coordinators mostly run their side of the ball, and will usually only step up in for key decisions. Still looks like he could suit up and his intensity level hasn't dropped any since his playing days. Was instrumental in the drafting of and the growth of Patrick Willis into the role of the leagues best inside linebacker.Is an icon that young players should respond too. Despite never being a coordinator himself I expect him to have success long term and make this team into a perennial contender.Jimmy Raye is a coordinator for his 7th team and will make sure that this offense runs a tough grind it out game.Greg Manusky enters his 3rd year as the boss of the defense and the unit improved dramatically under his stewardship last season. A young talented defense with a good mix of veterans, that could rise very soon if their pass rush improves.

QB- Shaun Hill or Alex Smith? Not as big a question as you might think it is. Singletary comes from Chicago where Jim McMahons main responsibility's were handing off and not turning the ball over. Alex Smith obviously has more abilty but has shown to be mistake & injury prone . Hill provided leadership and efficiency last year . 10-4 as a starter through his career and appears to be getting better. Looks to be the bus driver they need to be competitive, but I question if he is ready to win big games for them when a team stacks the box against him right now. Average arm , but does make quick efficient reads. Doesn't have the arm to make deep out throws, but has shown some touch lofting the ball over DB's deep. Could be a Chad Pennington type with a little better arm , and that would be fine to get them to the playoffs if this team steps up around him. If Vernon Davis or Michel Crabtree step up this year he could have a good season and take them to a division title . If both did he could make the pro bowl and win a playoff game,but that seems a lot to wish for this year.Ceiling is Phil Simms and that's not a bad thing, but lacks the tools to ever be a big time passer. Alex Smith seemed to be making the transition well from the spread offense /shotgun when Norv Turner was there, but regressed as soon as he left. Has all the tools but is much like Vince Young right now, a better athlete than QB.If he ever harnesses his awesome talent he could be a Donovan NcNabb type QB. 5th rounder Nate Davis is a project but he has strong arm and is a good athlete.

O-Line- LT Joe Staley is a player on the rise and is just a notch below the top tier LT's currently, but he is only in his 3rd year and we think he will make that jump soon. Lacks the brute strength to be a top 10 guy right now ,but he has the frame to add more muscle and be a perennial pro bowler.Sound technique and plays with good leverage. Quick feet and good balance. Uses his hands well when he locks on and when hand fighting, but could his hand punch better. Could be a bit nastier but at the least he looks to be 10 year above average starting LT. LG David Bass looks and plays like a RG. More a mauler than a technician and fits this offense. Aggressive in line and moves the line of scrimmage well, but struggles in space and on the move. Also Struggles with speed and penetrating DT's. Bull rushing him is a waste of time , but swims, spins and counters give him trouble. Fits this offense but would would only fit on the right side for most teams. C Eric Heitman is underrated and is the leader on this line. More of a technician and best on the double team and chipping in the short area. Makes excellent line calls, and gives max effort. Good balance and feet, but struggles against bigger NT's. Above average pass blocker and plays with good hand use, balance and leverage . Is smart and always has his head on a swivel. If he was on a more successful team I think he would have been to at least one pro bowl by now. Could also play LG at high level if needed. 2nd year RG Chilo Rachal is your basic straight ahead mauler. Needs to get better when pulling as he often misses his block and stands up too quick when he turns. When he hits you you know it ,but needs to improve his balance and play under control. Not a natural knee bender but if he stays low he is a force. The team improved when he became a starter last year and he is on the way up. RT Adam Snyder is a versatile guy that can play anywhere but center if needed, although he lacks the feet to be a long term LT. Is big and plays whistle to whistle, but could be a meaner finisher. Good at everything ,but great at nothing due to his lack of athletic ability. A solid starter who versatility is very valuable to any NFL team.Backup RT Tony Pashos has a lot of staring experience , but would fit better inside. A massive mauler with a mean streak, who lacks the feet to play on an island. If he improved his leverage a bit I think he could be a great RG. Could be an effective starter in this or any other offense who runs the ball a ton, but he is a liability pass blocking on the outside, who always needs help against anyone with speed. 11 year vet Bary Simms is past his prime. Was once a good pass blocker and average starter, but has never had the size and strength to be a good run blocker. Could take over for Staley for a short time, but their run game would suffer, and I think at this stage in his career they would probably just flip Snyder over and start Pashos at RT .

Tight End- The mercurial Vernon Davis is the Nuke Laloosh of the NFL. Million dollar skills and a 5 cent head. If Singletary can straighten him out, he could be a top 5 TE this season and the best in the game soon ,but we have all been fooled by Vernon before. Regressed last season,but has been targeted a lot in the pre season. Physical specimen , and a fierce willing blocker,but his technique is still raw. Makes a lot of mental errors and drops easy passes to often. Has WR speed in a 250 pound package, and if he can harness his abilty it would make more of a difference to this team than any other player could. It's all up to him and the time is now. Backup Delanie Walker is a former WR who bulked his way up to a new position. Short for a TE, but has good hands if the ball is ever thrown to him. Good technical blocker, but lacks the ferocity of Davis.

Wide receiver- If Michael Crabtree wakes up and signs before the season he could be a definite difference maker. Good size, strong hands, and electric after the catch . Former QB with a high football IQ, but you would never think he has only been running routes for a short time the way he separates. Competes for every ball and extra yard. The only things he lacks is elite top speed and experience, but I think he is a future pro bowler. Reminds me of a quicker Anquan Boldin. Future HOFer Isacc Bruce is still smart and has the burst to separate in the short area. Not the burner he once was ,and has never been very big or physical , he would fit best as # 3 slot receiver right now. On the decline but still valuable as a player and mentor. 2nd year Josh Morgan has looked great in the preseason against lower tier players the last 2 years but is still raw. Fits best in a west coast offense as he is a big strong guy who can break tackles. Lacks the speed to separate well, but is physical if you jam him ,and uses his body well to shield defenders. Good blocker and that alone could make him a effective starter in this offense.Still young and improving as a route runner . Decent hands but needs to not body catch so much.Former starter Arnaz Battle is a lot like a older Josh Morgan with inconsistent hands and no upside left. Brandon Jones is like a poor mans Crabtree. Has strong hands but has lost a step due to injuries. Could start but will likely be a 3rd receiver. Great hands and smart but only above average against zone coverage . Can't separate in man or off coverage. Jason Hill is a better athlete than WR. A injury prone burner who needs polish on his routes and hands. Their fastest receiver if he puts it together though ,and would be great KR if he had better hands. Al Davis would love him.

Running Back- Frank Gore is a beast. All balls, heart and will coming downhill like a bowling ball with feet. Has overcome massive injuries and still runs like he thinks he's indestructible. Is always nicked up because of his physical running style and amount of carries, but if he misses a play ( or game) you know he is badly hurt. Stout and runs with a strong leg drive. Breaks tackles and always seems to be falling forward when hes brought down.Excellent receiver and goes north south right away. Marion Barber and Gore are brothers of the soul, but Gore runs smarter and with better vision than Barber does.3rd rounder Glen Coffey had a strong preseason and at the very least should be able to help take some of the load from Gore. Good at a lot of things but not great any, he reminds me of a taller Tashard Choice. Could probably add 10 pounds of muscle and not lose any speed ,since he's not a burner anyway. Lacks Gores vision, but he's young.Former college QB Micheal Robinson has developed into a versatile player for frisco. Plays RB, WR, is excellent on special teams, and can throw a little wildcat into the mix if called upon.

DEFENSE
D-line- 08 FA addition Justin Smith had his best season as a pro last year. A good but but great 4-3 end, he always seemed just a step slow from being the top pass rusher 4-3 ends need to be to make the pro bowl. Always a force against the run, he showed he could still stack and shed in the 3-4 ,where he faced many more double teams. A better pass rusher than most 3-4 ends and he got consistent pressure all season. Didn't get as many 1 v 1 reps rushing as most 3-4 ends, due to there not being enough other good pass rushers on this team last year . If someone besides Haralson steps up he could get double digit sacks this year. Deserved pro bowl berth in o8.NT Aubrayo Franklin is a stocky lane clogger who gets his main job done- occupying blockers so the LB's can run to the ball. Stout at the point of attack, but won't win any foot races, even though he can slide up and down the line well while manhandling blockers. Only viable between the tackles, and the bull rush is his only effective pass rush move .A 2 down player who is key to this defense and who's a FA after the season . Expect the best he's got this year.Strongside DE Issac Sopoaga is stout against the double team but really needs to learn how to disengage better and improve his play recognition. A very good athlete for a 320 pounder, who shows inconsistent results. Blows up one play only to get completely out of position the next too often.Penetrates right into traps and washes himself out on draws and screens, then penetrates into a 4 yard tackle for a loss. A massively strong high motor guy, but he needs to spend more time studying his craft to take the step up to the next level. Needs to stay low when rushing the passer and improve his hands, as he has a quick first step but often gets stalled if his first move is caught. Despite already playing 5 years in the league ,and having a football players mentality, he is still not as a good a football player as his athletic ability warrants. If he ever got it all together he could be another Haloti Ngata. 08 1rst rounder Kentwaan Balmer's transition to the 3-4 didn't go as smoothly as hoped. Flashes his ability when he stay low , but stands up way to much to start yet. Could see some time in the 4-3 inside where he's still more comfortable ,especially in passing downs. 3rd year Ray McDonald is a versatile backup and can play either the weakside 3-4 end spot or DT in the 4-3 , but I think he fits best as 4-3 strongside end. When he plays with leverage he looks like a starter, but he is still inconsistent in that area. Still very raw abut gives good effort . Might be a starter if he gets coached up and stays dedicated. 7th round pick Ricky Jean Francois was a underachiever in college, but has the tools to be a starter. A quick first step and long arms ,but he doesn't use them well.Injury prone and has had off the field issues in the past. Plays with bad leverage too much and gives up when his initial move is stopped. At his best he reminds me of Tommie Harris, but those flashes are few , and too often time he just looks like a slacker on the field. If Singletary could motivate him he could at least be a force as pass rusher inside on passing downs in the 3-4 and as a penetrator when they play the 4-3. Could be in line for a big contract in 4 years or be out of the league forever in 4 months.

Linebacker- Patrick Willis is the games best interior linebacker already .Unlike his mentor Singletary who was just fierce between the tackles, Patrick can roam sideline to sideline.Has Ray Lewis-like instincts and fills immediately. Has improved a lot as a pass defender since he entered the league and is now a threat to pick it in the middle of the field & take it the house. Would be a pro bowler on any defense in any system . A tackling machine who hits with a pop and wraps up when he gets there. Stacks, sheds, uses his hands and diagnoses the play well above average. Runs like a safety and is even a good blitzer when he gets the chance to do so. My pick for defensive player of the year this season and barring injury will be at the top of his position for a long time. Strongside interior LB Takeo Spikes is still a productive player, despite being past his prime. Injuries & age have slowed him some, but his ability to read the play makes up for a lot of that loss of speed. Was once the best coverage LB in the game and still read QB's like a book when he drops into coverage. Fierce in run support and is a good tackler but he doesn't disengage as quickly as he used to. Still an above average starter. ROLB Parys Haralson is a player on the rise and if can take the next step into the upper echelon of Pass rushers he could be in the pro bowl soon. At his best rushing the passer and mostly relies on his speed to beat the tackle to the spot. Good hands but longer armed OT's can keep him at bay once they lock on. Average in run support, but he is a bit undersized for the position and its not for lack of effort. Below average in coverage, but he has the speed to cover TE's , if not the technique just yet. Could be the next James Harrison if he keeps progressing. Many Lawson always seems to be nicked up if not downright injured.Has the ideal frame for the position, but still could add 15 pounds of muscle and probably maintain his speed. Would probably fit best on the weakside but Haralson has that covered. Speedy with a quick first step and fluid hips for coverage when has to drop back. Needs to get better taking on blocks and holding the point of attack. Often runs around blockers ,and while that sometimes results in a positive big play ,it also can result in him being out of position and giving up a big play. Also a valuable contributor on special teams.Ahmad Brooks career has been marred by injury and off the field incidents. Looked to be a future star when he was a rookie with the bengals, but is now a backup in frisco. Maybe Singletary can revive his flagging career.Has the size to play inside but has been playing outside for the 49ers. 5th rounder Scott McKillop looks like a guy who can play the LILB spot( currently maned by Spikes )in the future. Willing to come up and take on blockers, but isn't the athlete Takeo is, and isn't fast enough to make a lot of plays outside the tackles.Strong tackler in all areas, but will probably end up a 2 down player if he does become a starter. At the least he should be a good special teamer and solid back uop right now.10 year vet Jeff Ulbrich is still as solid backup to Willis but lacks the size to play the 3-4 inside spot regularly. Better in a 4-3 when he is protected, but still has good instincts and recognition skills, if not the speed he once had to use them.

Secondatry- CB Nate Clements is big fast strong fringe pro bowl type corner ,who has never got the recognition he deserves playing in buffalo and frisco. Fierce in run support and dominant in cover 2. Has the speed and hips to run with receivers and the hands to control them when he is in press coverage. Reads receivers well and breaks on the ball quickly, although he can get caught peaking into the backfield sometimes. One of the games 8-10 best corners. CB Dre Bly is past his prime, but will still probably start for this team.Still has an excellent backpedal and fluid hips but he's lost a step. Would now fit best as a slot nickel corner as he is not very physical on the line when he needs to jam receivers. Not best in run support and is more of a drag down tackler. 6th year corner Shawntae Spencer needs to be more physical if he wants to take the job from Bly. He's a big corner but doesn't play like it, especially in run support . He mostly just gets in the way of runners and holds onto them till someone else comes to help him make the tackle, or goes for the ankles. Can turn and run with anybody .Has the height & long arms to make the play on the ball and the hands to secure the pick. Injured the last 2 years and Bly was brought in to push him. Is bets playing off the line where he can drive to the ball, but his weak tackling makes him vulnerable to WR screens. If Spencer had more of a football players mentality he could be special but I haven't seen it yet.3rd year corner Tarell Brown has the tools but not the technique to be contribute a lot so far.4th year player Marcus Hudson is big strong corner who fits better as a safety. Isn't fluid enough, and doesn't use his hands well to stay with receivers on the line. Lacks makeup speed and has trouble staying with receivers coming out of their breaks . Should add 15 pounds and change positions. Plays best off the line coming forward and is a good tackler.Michaell Lewis is physical in the box SS with good tackling skills an LB's demeanor. Outside the box he is juked to often and takes some false steps in coverage. Might fit better as 4-3 WLB, but is still an average as starter as long as he isn't asked to run downfield with receivers much ,as he lacks the speed to do so. Doesn't make many big plays.FS Dashon Goldon is a former CB who should be an upgrade as starter this year. Takes good angles to the ball and can run with receivers better than most FS, but is still a bit raw in his recognition skills . A young player who I expect to improve steadily this season.A solid (if unspectacular ) tackler currently.Former starter Mark Roman has the read and recognition skills to be starter but lacks the speed and burst to make plays. Past his prime and was never a playmaker to begin with. Is best as backup . 2nd year player Reggie Smith has experience at both safety and CB, but he won't get better at either until frisco makes him choose one. Isn't fast enough for man coverage and needs to get a bit bigger for safety,although he has the toughness to play SS right now. Has good instincts and diagnoses well as a safety and would probably fit best there.


Special teams- Little CB Allen Rossum is just a return guy now but his burst and speed are on the decline.Michale Spurlock is probably his backup at PR and partner on kick returns and he did run one back in Tampa once. PK Joe Nedney is injury prone but solid when he's on the field. 6th year punter Andy Lee is above average especially on distance.Al Everest is a solid veteran coordinator, although a bit unimaginative .

ST. LOIUS RAMS

Predicted finish-4-12 and in last place
Overview- A rebuilding team with some talent,and a new defensive whiz coach, but in desperate need of a new QB.

Coaching- Steve Spagnuolo was the architect of the most amazing pass rush in NFL history in New York. Will need time to evaluate his players on the field and get them acclimated to his system. A lot of stunts and unique blitzes that will confuse offenses ,can also confuse defenses while the players are learning them. Will need a year or 2 to get the right personnel in place to run his scheme. Had a solid draft and has some building blocks but made a mistake by putting 1rst rounder Jason Smith at RT. Probably still thinks he can win with this roster, but will learn soon enough that he can't with Bulger as the QB,and without better interior pass rushers. Ken Flajole comes over from Carolina and joins fellow LB aficionado Spagnuolo to be the official boss of the defense, but you can bet Spags will be calling most of the schemes and blitzes.Pat Shurmur comes over from Philly, where he coached the QB'S and was instrumental in McNabbs development . He will be needed when they actually draft a QB.

Quarterbacks- Stick a fork in Marc Bulger because he looks done. Has taken too many hits and is gunshy in the pocket now. Is too light to take the pounding the NFL offers and is now injury prone. Once read defenses quick and was accurate when he got rid of it. Now when he actually gets the time to throw( not often enough) Bulger gets rid of the ball too fast to take the time to diagnose the read properly. His quick release should allow him to hold onto the ball longer but he has happy feet in the pocket these days ,and is hearing footsteps even when their isn't a need for it. It's a shame because he once was a rising star, but mass o-line injuries and repeatedly getting hit has messed him up. Is at his best when he sprints out now becuase he is less worried about getting hit, and has above average speed for a QB, but his days as a starter should be done. Former first round bust( Balt.) is still a better athlete than he is a QB. Strong armed and fleet of foot, he is like a right handed poor mans Michael Vick. Inaccurate and doesn't read defenses well. Can rifle the ball if he has straight line to a open receiver, but has little touch on his passes, and repeatedly fails to see defenders in his throwing lanes. Would still probably be a better starter than Bulger at this point, but just never progressed the way most though he would. Its a safe bet they will have a top 8 pick( If not top 2) and will have a new QB next season.

O-Line- #2 overall pick Jason Smith was a safe bet, and you rarely go wrong with top 5 OT's, but why draft a LT and play him at RT? Current LT Alex Barron isn't physical enough for the right side and while he has good feet, he is below average on either side, and moving Smith to the right side doesn't make a lot of sense.Smith isn't Orlando Pace yet, but he has the potential to be a top level OT. Came from a spread offense and needs polish coming out of a 3 point stance and with his run blocking. Plays nasty in the run game ,but the 2 point stance isn't conducive to playing with proper pad level, and he is often to high to get good leverage . Quick feet and a strong hand punch in pass pro. Has long arms and if he locks on its over, but his stance can get to high at times and cause his balance to be inconsistent. A former TE and high level athlete for an offensive tackle who should anchor this line for at least 10 years.Barron is a better athlete than a football player and his technique is below average everywhere. Shows flashes of the first round pick he was but lacks consistency and a mean streak. C Jason Brown was a crucial addition in free agency and can play either center or guard at a high level. Physical drive blocker with the force to take on NT's 1 v1 , and only has trouble with the quickest penetrating DT's. Good on the double team but struggles in space at the 2nd level. Has a strong hand punch in pass pro and is best in a close splits alignment , as the quicker players can occasionally give him trouble. Plays whistle to whistle and should play at a pro bowl level for years to come.RG Richie Incognito is a gorilla strong mauler, but lacks balance and plays too stiff to be a good starting guard. Is musclebound and looks more like a DT ,with a similar mentality. Could probably be a good strong side 3-4 end on defense and actually reminds me of Igor Olshanksy playing offense. Needs to bend his knees more and keep his balance when on the move. Has a vicious hand punch and it knocks players back and off course in pass pro, but is vulnerable to stunts and twist. If his feet are set when he engages it is impossible to bull rush him .Doesn't move well in space and is best in a straight ahead power running game, which is good because Spags will probably take a page out of his NYG days, and run a similar scheme. Will fit this offense, and theoretically could have his best season this year if he can stay healthy, but needs to play smarter. Is prone to penalties and has has a bad temper. Has also played center. LG Jacob Bell is more a finesse technician, and looks to have the feet to play LT better than Barron. Smart and slides well in pass pro, but is a subpar run blocker. Takes sound angles and has good hand placement, but isn't physical , or a finisher. Quick to chip to the second level but mostly just gets in the defenders way and is soft in every phase of run blocking. Needs too get stronger and more physical ,as he run blocks with the force of a a TE. 3rd rounder Jhon Greco was drafted to play OT but doesn't have the feet to do on the left side. Plays to the whistle but isn't very physical yet. Could probably back up at either guard spot now, and start at LG or RT for some teams in a year or 2. A better football player than athlete right now who just needs to learn his craft and will probably develop into a solid starter. Mark Setterstrom is solid backup at center or guard and has past starting experience.Rookie Robert Allen is a raw small school developmental prospect with good upside at G, but raw technique at the moment.

Tight Ends- Randy McMichael was an upgrade here last year before geting injured. A above average receiver with a quick release who finds holes in the zone. A wiling blocker, but better on combo blocks and he isn't overly strong in line.A smart route runner who uses his body well to shield DB's and has strong hands over the middle. Should be healthy this year and one of the brighter spots of the offense.3rd year player Daniel Fells has a lot of upside, but isn't nearly as physical as you would expect a 270+ TE to be, and needs to play nastier . Gives good effort blocking in line none the less.Still looks uncertain blocking at the 2nd level and needs more reps to improve. Doesn't have the quickness to separate much but his route running is OK. Is raw but improved a lot last year when he got his chance and may see significant time in 2 TE sets this season.

Wide receivers - A young inexperienced group that definitely needs to be upgraded, and the WR coach has his work cut out for him. Last years 2nd round pick Donnie Avery is a speedy big play threat ,but I see no reson why he should be a number 1 receiver right now. His unpolished route running and a tendency to round off breaks leads to problems. Would probably be great this year as a slot receiver on a team with 2 veteran wide outs( they would have been wise to at least keep Torry Holt for this purpose alone) who could help tutor him and take advantage of his abilty to stretch the field . Undersized and can have trouble with press coverage, but can also slip a DB for long ball, so cover 2 gives him problems. Good hands but not the bravest guy over the middle just yet. Explosive on plays where he catches the ball in space ,and can bust one after the catch, but doesn't break many tackles. Still young and has a ton of upside, but he needs a big possession type receiver opposite him to allow him to maximize his abilities.Reminds me of a young Terry Glenn. Young veteran( 3rd year) Laurent Robinson was a acquired cheaply from Atlanta in the offseason and has the ability to be that possession receiver for now. When he got playing time as a rookie he produced, but seemed to fall out of the falcons plans when the starters got healthy. Lacks top end speed and separation skills , but the better his routes get( making progress) the less that will be a problem. Is best against zone,as he finds the holes pretty quickly.Has good hands and adjustments to poorly thrown balls and coverages. Keenan Burton will be competing with Robinson and has more upside, but is less polished. Quicker out of his breaks ,but is easily pushed off his route by press coverage, and needs to really work on using his hands to secure a release. Inconsistent hands and has tendency to run before securing the catch. Needs to be a smarter route runner and develop more counters.Good speed but isn't a burner , but he is only in his 2nd year with definite upside.Ruvell Martin is the veteran of the group in his 4th year, but can't separate against most corners.A big physical guy who will push away press overage, but can't get open if the DB plays off him.Should bulk up and play TE or go back to a west coast offense, where his skill breaking tackles and running after the catch would come in handy. Martin is the best blocker of a group that is subpar as a whole in that area.Wes Welker wannabe Danny Amendola actually has a chance to get some paying time in this group, but he is a poor mans Welker at best until he learns to find holes in coverage the way Welker does. 5th round pick Brooks Foster is a supreme athlete but a raw football player who is a project .A group where the oldest player only has 3 years in the league is not encouraging for a QB.

Running backs- Steven Jackson is a stud when he's healthy, but has missed 4 games each of the last 2 seasons. Able to rush for 1000 yards in each anyway, so that speaks well to how good he is when on the filed .A big back (with good not great speed) who runs downhill as soon as he sees a crease. Runs through tackles (and over people if needed) and is rarely brought down 1 v 1. Makes good cuts and isn't just a battering ram, but is generally going north south with force. Can take it the house and doesn't stop driving his feet till he's down.Strong receiver and pass protector. A complete back who just needs to stay on the field to be a difference maker.Was the key component of the offense last year and will probably be even more so under Spagnuolo. Samkon Gado is the probably backup and is a stout straight ahead runner with few moves, but moves the pile. Lacks the vision and wiggle to be a starter all year, but to be fair , he did produce in his one starting jaunt as a rookie 4 years ago. Kenneth Darby has more burst than Gado and can also return kicks.Could see time as a 3rd down back if Jackson needs a breather. FB Mike Karney is a good straight ahead in the hole drive blocker inside and makes legitimate holes inside but occasionally whiffs outside the tackles.A sneaky receiver if given the chance and shows good hands, but is not a threat to carry the ball unless its really short yardage.Fits this offense and is average for the position in most offenses, but will probably be above average in this scheme.

DEFENSE

D-Line- The loss of high motor improving DT Adam Carriker for the season is a significant problem for this team. He was by far the best of a below average group of interior D-lineman and someone needs to step up big to fill that gap.Lajuan Ramsey has the most potential of the guys left to take Carrikers place, but he is inconsistent with his technique. I am not sure if its an effort, conditioning ,or experience problem but you never know which one of him will show up play to play. Strongside DT Clifton Ryan is a big lane clogger and makes a difference in the run game, but isn't a threat as a pass rusher and will be replaced on obvious passing downs. Holds the point and frees up backers by occupying multiple people on some downs, but probably couldn't play the NT on a 3-4, as he has a tendency to stand up off the line when tired. Has little lateral movement along the line of scrimmage but gives good effort in that area, even though he lacks foot speed.Best in short yardage, but only a bull rusher if he's in the game when a team passes. Gary Gibson is high motor guy who is a better football player than athlete. Trys hard and can penetrate in gaps, but can't hold the point against a double team and needs to only play on the weak side. Needs to improve his variety of pass rush moves ,as his quick first step alone could make him a effective pass rusher. Did look pretty good in the pre season and plays to the whistle but his upside is limited. 14 year vet Hollis Thomas is big stocky run stuffer who can still make a contribution in short yardage and as a rotational player, but he tires easily and is increasingly injury prone. 4th round pick Darell Scott is a top athlete as a DT but should have came out a year earlier. A workout warrior type who has never lived up to his athletic ability on the field with any consistency, and test better in workout clothes than he plays in pads. Was injured and looked like he had a case of senioritis last season. Needs to learn his craft and give top effort on every down and he could be special . Right now he has flashes of brilliance ,but takes plays off, has shown inconsistent technique and effort in college. o8 first rounder Cris Long plays every down to the whistle, has great hand use, gets off the ball quickly, plays with good leverage, stacks and sheds, holds the point,chases down plays all along the line and basically does everything GOOD but hasn't gotten GREAT results yet. Brings consistent pressure rushing the passer but seems just a little late to make the big sack so far. Needs to take the next step up from solid high effort player, to elite DE. reminds me of Patrick Kerney of Seattle, and needs to play the Justin Tuck role in this defense.DE Leonard Little is still an elite pass rusher when he's on the field, but has missed a lot time to injuries the last 3 seasons. Quick first step and an array of moves make him disruptive coming forward in the passing or running games, but he can't stack and shed in the run game. Would be best as a situational pass rusher at this point in his career. It would probably be better this season if he switched sides with Long, as he doesn't fit on the strong side and Long can play either.Backup Victor Adeyanju can only play the strong side and lacks quickness. Trys hard ,but is not special anywhere. Looks to be a career backup.Can't switch to a 3-4 as he doesn't do well holding the point on double teams, but is stout against the run 1 on 1. 10 year vet James Hall is former starter and excellent backup. A smart player who's lost a step that makes the most of what he has, but gets by on his motor and experience now. Best on the strong side at DE, but can move inside to DT with Long on passing downs.

Linebackers- Veteran Will Witherspoon is a versatile player who is smart enough to play the WLB or MLB, but is beter on the weakside. A above average starter who runs sideline to sideline and chases down play everywhere. Runs around blocks instead of taking them on. Good instincts and reads his keys well, but doesn't shed very well when he does engage.Good in coverage, but better in zone, as he reads QB's quickly and drives to the ball. A good, not great player, and a sure tackler. Rookie 2nd round pick James Laurinitas is a similar player, but is a little bigger, and a tad slower.Has good read and recognition skills and drives to he ball quickly. Sheds well but only when he's coming forward, as he gets engulfed if the lineman gets up on him. Is a sure tackler but not a big hitter.Better in the run game now, but has the tools to play in coverage well and just needs more experience doing it.Can run all over the field but best between the tackles, and probably couldn't play anywhere else in the defense right now.A durable, high effort, leader who will probably be a 10 year starter in the league , but needs to get faster to become an upper echelon LB.SLB David Vabora was Mr. Irrelevant( last player picked) in the 08 draft but actually became a starter by the end of the season. Plays mean and comes forward to take on blockers with force, and really improved his shedding techniques in the preseason, but still is a little below average at it. Plays smart in the run game and hits with force, but is stiff in coverage. Reads coverage ok and QB's well, but doesn't get moving fast enough when he sees where the ball is going. Currently best as a 2 down player and could be bigger for his position, since he has the frame to add 10-15 pounds without sacrificing quickness.Not sure if he's ready to be a starter but he's got the job . Paris Lenon should be the starter in the middle on some team and is a great backup. Got cut by the patriots trying to transition to a 3-4 ,after being one of the few bright spots on Detroit's 0-16 team last year. No jobs were left so I I think he went where he thought he could break into the starting lineup.Will probably see the field on nickel at least. 2nd year player Chris Chamberlain was great on special teams last season but rarely saw the field on defense. A former SS who could conceivably earn a job on nickel but is too small to play even the WLB spot every down right now.Backup SLB Larry Grant has bulked up since coming to the league but is too slow to be a starter. Mostly a special teamer.

Secondary-a below average group with potential currently , led by solid safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, that a better pass rush could make look much better.Atogwe makes big plays and gives up big plays, although last year he had more of the former. Average size and speed for a free safety, although you generally wish a taller guy as your last line of defense. Is a balhawk and is at his best when the balls in the air .Takes good angles to the ball in the running and passing games. Runs well with most receivers but has trouble with the faster guys. Avg. tackler who goes for the ball, but still needs to make sure he wraps up first sometimes. Good instincts , except for on double moves, especially in the post.Gets good jumps off the QB, but is vulnerable to the pump fake. A rising player who has been a starter since he came into the league 4 years ago, and who should only continue to get better. Ronald Bartell is a big strong press corner. Best in cover 2 as he is physical at the line and in the short area, but if he misses his jam he doesn't recover quickly enough to avoid getting burned deep in man. Breaks on the ball quickly in the short area .Not as physical as you would like in run support for such a big corner . Has the speed to run with most receivers in a straight line and the height and long arms to go for the ball, but can get turned around down field.Still a young and improving player that is above average in zone and below average in man coverage right now. FA addition SS James butler comes over from the giants with Spagnuolo and should be an upgrade here, especially given the fact that he is already familiar with the scheme.Had his best season last year and is fierce in run support . A good tackler in the box who uses his hands well to avoid and disengage from blockers.Best in the short area in the passing game,but can't run downfeild with faster TE's and RB's. Fits best in zone or coming forward. Adequate size but could probably add 10 more pounds of muscle at his height and not lose any quickness.Looks like he could be a Tampa 2 weakside linebacker if he did.The other staring corner is up for grabs.3rd ropund pick Bradley Fletcher is a better athlete than CB right now Has ear safety size and unless he can get more fluid in his hips and transitions may end up there long term. Tall and fast in a straight line, but is stiff coming out of breaks. Seems to recognize the play but doesn't transition well enough to get their in time a lot .Bets in press coverage and in zone right now. Strong in run support. 3rd year CB Jonathan Wade was the nickel back last year and even started a game for the rams, so he might have the inside track for the job. Still needs work on his recognition but has fluid hips and quick transitions when he does. If he takes the next step this could be at least a solid group. 2nd year player Justin King missed the entire 08 season due to injury. A workout warrior type who has massive potential, but needs to learn how to play football. Long term project who needs coaching but can probably be counted on to provide special teams help.Backup SS Craig Dahl also come from the giants and is a solid backup with starters potential if he could just stay healthy.Backuup S Anthony Smith was a former starter in Pittsburgh who lost his job and can at least provide experience as a backup.

Special teams- Punter Donni Jones is one of the games best and he gets plenty of chances to practice his craft in this offense.Big leg with good hangtime. K Josh Brown is strong on kickoffs and above average on FG's. Former Dallas hardknocks star Danny Amendola is the primary returner on punts and kicks. More quick than fast, but if he can find a seem on a punt he might take it back, but is likely to get caught from behind on any long kick return.Kenneth Darby has more speed to take it back on a kick but neither has shown to be anything special here. Donnie Avery would be the best guy for both spots but it's likely they don't want to expose their undersized # 1 receiver to any more big hits than necessary. Tom McMahon is in his first year as a special teams chief and is unproven.

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