Friday, January 25, 2008

Postseason-less Blues…Revived: The AFC

As many of you know, most fans of the non-playoff bound variety have turned their heads towards two of the most important stages of any NFL “off-season” (is there truly one?):
The NFL Draft
Free Agency

Every team faces these issues. However, they’re far more apparent for those who aren’t watching film any longer of upcoming opponents.

AFC East

Miami Dolphins…
After a dreadful 1-15 season (thank you, Brian F. Billick), Dolphins fans can at least enjoy the #1 overall pick AND the addition of the Tuna into South Beach. With an offense that lacks any real firepower outside of the still-recovering Ronnie Brown and Ted Ginn Jr., things still remain bleak. While adding RB Darren McFadden to the backfield remains unlikely, who exactly will be brought into Miami to aid its skill positions on offense. While high expectations will be given to second-year wideout Ted Ginn, it will come down to the front office-driven decision of what to do at the quarterback position – filled currently by QBs Cleo Lemon and John Beck – that dictates the first year of the Parcells regime in Miami.

New York Jets…
10-6 and a playoff darling spiraled into 4-12 and calls into whether there is a “Mangenius” in New York. With the 6th pick in the draft, it seems clear that if a certain playmaking Razorback hasn’t slipped, a pass rusher or stand-up 3-4 backer is desperately needed. Not to mention, with their bitter rival Pats picking at #7 right behind them, the Jets have a lot of pre-draft studying to do. While questions surround veterans Laveranues Coles and Jonathan Vilma, we yet again fall into the quarterback trap with the Jets. While a top pick on a QB is highly improbable, it appears two-time winning playoff QB Chad Pennington will be back with the Jets and will compete with third-year QB Kellen Clemens. While neither was far from impressive in ’07, was enough of a stride made by Clemens to secure the lead in the quarterback derby? Methinks not.

Buffalo Bills…
With Trent Edwards, Marshawn Lynch and Lee Evans in place, the offense seems to have a core it can build around. As for the defense, it was beat up and battered last year, no more than rookie LB Paul Posluzny. While a large target to go over the middle is needed, it’s hard to believe the Bills are set with KR Terrence McGee being their off corner. With the Jenkins brothers (related only by last name) both likely to be drafted in the middle of the first-round, the Bills might be wise to stockpile secondary depth ready to cover the plethora of talented Patriot wideouts.

AFC North

Cincinnati Bengals…
Fortunately, any talk of trading Chad Johnson died long ago. While the defense has been labeled time and time again as the weaker unit, the entire team has taken several steps back since their fateful playoff loss in 2005 to Pittsburgh. So who’s under the microscope? Marvin Lewis and the entire Bengals coaching staff. Without a strong improvement, don’t expect this regime to stick around much longer in the second city of Ohio.

Baltimore Ravens…
Point and case: the quarterback position. With Steve McNair headed to the green pastures of retirement, Kyle Boller using up his fourth and fifth last chances and Troy Smith unlikely to be penciled into the starting lineup in Week 1, who will quarterback the Ravens next season? With John Harbaugh lined up as their coach, might a higher-than-usual draft pick may address this issue immediately? However, with an aging roster, is it likely a rookie QB taking snaps is the best medicine?

Cleveland Browns…
Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn? That’s child’s play. The real question Browns fans are asking is: How long can we rely on RB Jamal Lewis to be our running back? Likely to see another one or two-year tender, Lewis should remain a Brown, but was this season a return to superstar-form or a one-year aberration. Though the backups (Jason Wright and Jerome Harrison) are adequate, the Browns can’t afford to bet wrong on Lewis.

AFC South

Houston Texans…
8-8 and the only AFC South team not in the playoffs. Despite a strong surge late from backup Sage Rosenfels, QB Matt Schaub was plenty effective when healthy. With a slew of talented draft picks developing (Robinson, Ryans, Williams, and Okoye), the Texans must continue to strengthen their defense. Despite stunting a bit in his growth since his rookie season, CB Dunta Robinson needs a lot of help. The secondary must be addressed, early and often in both the draft and free agency.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs…
Falling down to Earth as hard as any team in the past season, the Chiefs have a glaring issue at QB (Croyle/Huard/???), a lack of playmakers on both sides of the ball, and free agents (Jared Allen) galore. Fortunately, the draft has been good to the Chiefs of late. However, the staple of the Chiefs – especially during their numerous playoff runs – has always been their offensive line. With countless departures, injuries, and underachievers, it’s clear that the line needs to add two or potentially three new starters…FAST.

Oakland Raiders…
The Lamont Jordan project was a bust, ditto potentially for Dominic Rhodes. Meanwhile, Justin Fargas isn’t a 250-carry back during an entire season. With a name like Darren McFadden on the board, the Raiders may have their back for the future … and then some. Perhaps, they may seek a wideout for 2nd-year QB JaMarcus Russell (DeSean Jackson perhaps?) Either way, the Raiders are likely to bolster the offensive unit even if it’s on the line.

Denver Broncos…
Missing out on the playoffs is tough, especially in Denver. The two Super Bowls in Denver occurred nearly a decade ago and the roster seems split between aging veterans (Rod Smith & John Lynch) and promising young stars (DJ Williams & Brandon Marshall). Despite countless attempts in the draft and via Cleveland, the defensive line better get help. Pounded by San Diego twice a year, Denver needs to stop going for the quick-fix and instead must bolster their line depth – alongside a recovering Jarvis Moss (last year’s #1 pick) – as Denver attempts to rebuild the mojo in the Mile High city.

While countless teams seem to be addressing the quarterback issue, it’s clear that there is plenty to offer for every team in the NFL this season: playoff-bound or not.

Remember, the NFL Draft is only 3 months away!

Until next time…

1 comment:

Outlaw said...

Fairly accurate assessment of the Texans needs. I think the weaknesses in the secondary are going to be the highest priority in the draft and free agency.

We have a lot of holes to fill at running back and the offensive line as well. If you look at the history of Kubiak/Gibbs at Denver you can count the times they drafted a running back or offensive lineman first on your hand .. then you wind up making an obsence gesture.

Good post