2014 Offseason Review: NFC East

Can the Cowboys get over the “hump” and return to the playoffs?
Can Tom Coughlin lead the Giants to success during another rebuild?
Are the Eagles a one year wonder?
Will the Redskins find redemption after an awful season?

My final article of this offseason, is one that the proprietor of this website (and my boss) has eagerly anticipated. So let’s have a look at the NFC East Division.

Dallas-Cowboys-logo

Free Agency: Having very little money to spend hit the Cowboys hard this free agency period. They now have two somewhat reliable back-up QB’s with Brandon Weeden & Caleb Hanie both from the Browns. DT Henry Melton (Bears) is a good pick-up and re-signing DE Anthony Spencer was key. Unfortunately the losses of free agency greatly outweigh the additions, as the Cowboys were relegated into signing mostly role players instead of starters.

Grade: F

Draft: Things went better for the Cowboys in the draft. Notre Dame OT Zack Martin is probably the most versatile O-Lineman around from this year’s class. Boise State DE Demarcus Lawrence adds speed as an edge rusher, and could become more than that as he progresses.
Pittsburgh WR Devin Street & Stanford DE Ben Gardner are good late picks.

Grade: C

Overview: The Cowboys were dealt some tough blows this offseason. Long time veterans Demarcus Ware & Miles Austin are gone as are Ernie Sims, Danny McCray, Phil Costa, Marvin Austin & Jason Hatcher. Due to salary cap constrictions, the Cowboys weren’t adequately equipped to fill the void. The most glaring of those was not finding a successor for QB Tony Romo, who along with TE Jason Witten are not getting any younger. Depth at WR is another concern as well. The Cowboys are basically fielding the same team as last year, and are hoping that it will be enough to get back to the playoffs.

new-york-giants-logo

Free Agency: Out with the old and in with the new, is what the theme was for the Giants this offseason. The new faces on defense: LB Jameel McClain (Ravens), CB’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Broncos) Zack Bowman (Bears) & Walter Thurmond (Seahawks), FS Quintin Demps (Chiefs) & DE Robert Ayers (Broncos) will give the Giants a lot to look forward to. On offense the Giants bought themselves a new O-Line with the additions of: OT Charles Brown (Saints), OG’s John Jerry (Dolphins) & Geoff Schwartz (Chiefs) & C J.D. Walton (Redskins).

Grade: B+

Draft: Louisiana State WR Odell Beckham, Jr. may not be the biggest receiver in the class, but his productivity is without question. Colorado State C Weston Richburg has good potential, but was a bit of a reach in the 2nd round. Syracuse DT Jay Bromley will add beef to the D-Line & Boston College RB Andre Williams should be a workhorse in this offense. San Diego State SS Nat Berhe is a good late pick.

Grade: B

Overview: Head Coach Tom Coughlin is hoping that this is a retooling year instead of a rebuilding one. Justin Tuck, Hakeem Nicks, Ryan Mundy, Kevin Boothe, Andre Brown, Louis Murphy, Keith Rivers & Aaron Ross are all gone. Despite that, the Giants did get plenty of quality free agents to take their place. QB Eli Manning has to love the new line in front of him and the new weapons he has at his disposal. If the offense gets into a rhythm, the Giants will not be a team to overlook.

Philadelphia_eagle_logo

Free Agency: FS Malcolm Jenkins (Saints) & CB Nolan Carroll (Dolphins) are welcome additions to a secondary that needed help. FS Chris Maragos (Seahawks) is good depth. On offense the Eagles signed QB Mark Sanchez (Jets) who gives them a much needed veteran as a back-up. Not a lot of signings, but each one was a need.

Grade: B

Draft: Louisville LB Marcus Smith was a big reach, when you consider that better LB’s were still available. Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews was a gift in the 2nd round and should pay off handsomely. Florida DB Jaylen Watkins has good versatility & Oregon DE Taylor Hart is an overlooked player with great size. Wisconsin DT Beau Allen is raw, but can become a force in time.

Grade: B-

Overview: Head Coach Chip Kelly was a busy man this offseason. Not willing to re-sign WR Desean Jackson & QB Michael Vick and trading for Saints RB Darren Sproles were big moves, the latter led to the trading of RB Brice Brown. After winning the division last year, expectations are high. Now can the Eagles meet those expectations? QB Nick Foles proved that he is the man to lead the offense, although now he will be asked to play an entire season. However, the key to the Eagles success will be their defense, which was inconsistent last season. If that unit can perform better, then another division title could be had.

Washington_Redskins_1000

Free Agency: WR Desean Jackson (Eagles) gives the Redskins a much needed deep threat on offense. On defense the Redskins were busy. LB’s Darryl Sharpton (Texans) & Akeem Jordan (Chiefs), CB Tracy Porter (Raiders), FS Ryan Clark (Steelers), and DT’s Jason Hatcher (Cowboys) & Clifton Geathers (Eagles) are all quality additions. The offense helped their line by adding OG’s Mike McGlynn (Colts) & Shawn Lauvao (Browns). WR Andre Roberts (Cardinals) is an up-and-comer and adds good depth.

Grade: A

Draft: Despite not having a first round pick, the Redskins were able to land Stanford LB Trent Murphy, who has good speed and size. Virginia OT Morgan Moses opened eyes during the offseason and should be a quality Tackle. Clemson CB Baushaud Breeland has plenty of potential and Tulane WR Ryan Grant is an overlooked receiver that will get you quality play. Baylor RB Lache Seastrunk adds speed to the backfield.

Grade: B+

Overview: The Robert Griffin III trade is complete. Now it is time for Griffin to produce. The addition of Desean Jackson is key, as speed will now be a big factor in the offense. The defense has been given an upgrade and the Redskins are poised to return to the playoffs. In order for that to happen QB Robert Griffin must stay healthy. Another injury to him, would be devastating.

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2014 Offseason Review: AFC South

Does anyone know what the Texans are doing?
Are the Colts primed for a Super Bowl run?
Can the Jaguars finally move upwards in the standings?
Are the Titans ready for life after Chris Johnson?

Let’s see what happened this offseason for the AFC South Division.

houston-texans-logo

Free Agency: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (Titans) becomes the new signal caller & RB Andre Brown (Giants) adds depth. The Texans helped their secondary by adding SS Chris Clemons (Dolphins) & FS Kendrick Lewis (Chiefs); NT Jerrell Powe (Chiefs) is a welcome addition. The Texans added a good amount of youth, which is what they needed, after losing a lot of veteran players to free agency.

Grade: C+

Draft: The Texans made South Carolina DE Jadaveon Clowney the top pick in the 2014 draft, and it’s hard to argue against that. Clowney’s athletic ability is undeniable, and despite an unspectacular senior season, he should be an exciting member on the D-Line for years. The Texans got plenty more. UCLA OG Xavier Su’a-Filo is one of the top interior lineman in the draft. Iowa TE C.J. Fiedorowicz is a good big body player that can block & catch. Speaking of big bodies, Notre Dame NT Louis Nix should be a dominant force, if he can keep his weight down. QB Tom Savage from Pittsburgh may not be a prototype, but he is a good project player, and Louisiana State RB Alfred Blue should be a good all-purpose back.

Grade: A+

Overview: The Texans are difficult to get a full grasp of. They have talent, but had a horrible season last year. Veteran players Owen Daniels, Ben Tate, Tim Dobbins, Danieal Manning, Joe Mays, Earl Mitchell, Darryl Sharpton & Antonio Smith are all gone, which has put the Texans in a complete rebuild. The draft got them several top notch blue chip players, but there is still no legitimate QB on the roster, and longtime standout WR Andre Johnson has been looking for a trade. The Texans have set a strong foundation, but it could be awhile more for them to be considered a top team.

Indianapolis_Colts_old_logo

Free Agency: LB D’Qwell Jackson (Browns) & DE Arthur Jones (Ravens) will help the defense a lot. WR Hakeem Nicks (Panthers) will help spread the field.

Grade: B

Draft: The Colts had to wait for the 2nd round to pick and they grabbed Ohio State OT Jack Mewhort, a solid if unspectacular lineman. Mississippi WR Donte Moncrief is a potential steal in the 3rd round, and Western Kentucky LB Andrew Jackson is a good late round pick.

Grade: C+

Overview: Despite losing Antoine Bethea & Donald Brown and having only 5 draft picks, the Colts are well equipped to make a deep run into the playoffs. QB Andrew Luck is in his third year, and he could be ready to lead this team to Super Sunday.

Jacksonville_Jaguars_Logo

Free Agency: The Jaguars had lots of cash to spend, and unlike the Raiders, they spent it wisely. On defense they snagged 3 DE’s, Red Bryant, Chris Clemons (both Seahawks) & Ziggy Hood (Steelers), and LB Dekoda Watson (Buccaneers). On offense OG Zane Beadles (Broncos) & RB Toby Gerhart (Vikings) are major upgrades, while WR Tandon Doss (Ravens) & FB Bradie Ewing (Falcons) add good depth.

Grade: A+

Draft: The Jaguars surprised everyone when they selected Central Florida QB Blake Bortles to be the heir apparent. He has the measureables to be a top QB in this league. The Jaguars then drafted a pair of shiny toys for their future QB; WR’s Marqise Lee from USC & Allen Robinson from Penn State. These receivers have bright futures ahead of them. Miami OG Brandon Linder adds beef to the O-Line, while Oklahoma CB Aaron Colvin is a splendid mid round pick. Florida State LB Telvin Smith & Arkansas DE Chris Smith are good depth picks, and Central Florida RB Storm Johnson is the icing on the cake.

Grade: A+

Overview: Head Coach Gus Bradley is ready to make his mark on the team, as he has assembled a new foundation of players to get the Jaguars back to winning. The loss of RB Maurice Jones-Drew signals a new era in Jacksonville, and while the Jaguars may not be contenders overnight, they definitely took a big step forward in returning to their old winning ways.

Free Agency: The Titans got more solid on defense with the signings of LB Wesley Woodyard (Broncos) NT Al Woods (Steelers) & DE Shaun Phillips (Broncos). On offense OT Michael Oher (Ravens) & OG Eric Olsen (Steelers) should provide stability. While WR’s Dexter McCluster (Chiefs) & Brian Robiskie (Falcons) will give the Titans some much needed firepower. QB Charlie Whitehurst (Chargers) is a very good back-up.

Grade: B+

Draft: Michigan OT Taylor Lewan comes with a successful college career and a big nasty streak. Washington RB Bishop Sankey provides more speed out of the backfield, and Penn State DT DaQuan Jones is a project. The one pick to watch out for is Louisiana State QB Zach Mettenberger. He comes with a lot of success, the right measureables and has played in a pro style offense. He may not have to wait to long to be the future.

Grade: B

Overview: So who are the Titans? With Chris Johnson, Alterraun Verner & Kenny Britt gone, the Titans have fielded some good new players onto the team. Now, can the Titans take the next step, or continue to be an average or below average team? The big question mark is QB Jake Locker. With just one year left on his contract he is in a do or die situation. The Titans have talent, now they just need to recognize their potential.

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Eagles’ offense on the rise under Chip Kelly

Chip Kelly came in to the NFL with a lot of question marks. At Oregon, he racked up 46 wins in just four seasons and was highly-regarded for his fast-paced offense. When he arrived last season as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, many wondered if this was just another gimmick offense like the Wildcat that would quickly get figured out. Philadelphia won the NFC East, ranked second in total offense behind the Denver Broncos and finished first in total rushing in Kelly’s first year. With a weak NFC East and players even more comfortable in year two under Kelly, the Eagles offense should once again be at the top of the league as they look to repeat as division champions.chpwink

While Kelly’s offense shined in year one, it wasn’t all about his high-octane offense. For any offense to perform well, the talent level must be there. With running back LaSean McCoy, wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper, quarterback Nick Foles and an exceptional offensive line, Kelly had the perfect blend of players for his attack. Following a Michael Vick injury, Foles took over. He responded behind center with an astounding 27-to-2 touchdown to interception ratio and completed 64 percent of his passes. McCoy returned to the Pro Bowl and led the NFL in rushing with over 1600 yards on the ground. Jackson had a magnificent season, using his exceptional speed to rack up over 1300 yards through the air and nine touchdowns. Cooper also had a career year with eight career touchdown catches. The offensive line was a cohesive unit and ranked as the top line in the league, sending their leader Jason Peters to the Pro Bowl last season.

Back to the upcoming season and Foles returns along with McCoy and the offensive line. Gone, however, is Foles’ favorite receiving option, Jackson. Following a rift with the front office and questionable off the field activities, Jackson was released. It is not too often you see a player released following a Pro Bowl season. To pick up the slack, the Eagles return Jeremy Maclin who is an explosive player in his own right. However, he missed all of last season with a torn ACL. They also drafted wide receivers Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff in the second and third rounds, respectively.

The chances of Foles’ repeating his nearly impossible touchdown-to-interception pace from 2013 is unrealistic. However, putting up those stats is not a fluke. Foles showed he is comfortable running Kelly’s offense and performed very well. Without Jackson, he will rely on other weapons but the Eagles should be fine. Matthews will step into the slot role and should perform well and if Maclin is healthy, he is a very good pass catcher. Tight end Zach Ertz provides a big target in the red zone for Foles and of course he has McCoy. The Pro Bowl running back thrived in Kelly’s system and will be asked to carry the load again this year. There is no reason to see him slowing down. Add in jack-of-all-trades back Darren Sproles, acquired via trade this offseason, and the Eagles offense could be even better in year two despite the loss of Jackson. The NFC East is a weak division and all teams have question marks. However, the Eagles have by far the fewest question marks and are poised to capture the division title again.

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WANTED: Henry Josey, Roster Thief

While Henry Josey has not stolen anyone’s roster yet, if he shows well in the remaining two weeks of the preseason, he will be taking someone’s job and landing on a 53-man roster.

HenryJosey

Henry Josey, a small, quick-footed running back, was able to exploit tiny holes with his speed in the second pre-season game against the New England Patriots.

But it wasn’t just his speed that impressed.

He made reads, picked the right hole, and followed his blockers down field, which we got to see a few times as he often found himself past the front seven of the New England defense.

The level of skills displayed is far beyond what you would expect from the undrafted rookie free agent out of Missouri. He looked like a younger, more explosive, version of Darren Sproles as he made his cuts and caught passes out of the backfield.

This type of speedy, dynamic, play is a great fit for the Philadelphia Eagles and Chip Kelly’s explosive offense for all the reasons you hear of how Darren Sproles will be contributing in the 2014 season.

The big question now, and one Howie Roseman and the Eagles’ staff will have to answer in the remaining two preseason games, is can Josey prove his value over the other running backs to get on the 53 man roster.  I’m high on him now, but need to see him against better opposing talent, before he kicks someone to the practice squad for week one.  Behind LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles on the depth chart are Chris Polk, Matthew Tucker, David Fluellen, and this exciting new talent that won’t last long on the waiver wire, should he get there.

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Makin the Picks: Eagles @ Colts | Week 2

Episode 2 of my daily series this August, talking Andrew Luck vs Nick Foles. Featuring “G4Ds” @EasyPickem app, @ChrisWesseling from NFL’s Around the League podcast, football newbie @Maxximillian, and yours truly. New episodes released every day at 10 PST.

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Makin the Picks: Eagles vs Jaguars | Week 1

Episode one of my daily series this August. Featuring “G4Ds” @EasyPickem app, @ChrisWesseling from NFL’s Around the League podcast, football newbie @Maxximillian, and yours truly. New episodes released every day at 10 PST.

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2014 Offseason Review: NFC West

Are the Cardinals ready to take charge?
Can the Rams finally get their offense going?
Do the 49′ers have all the right tools to win it all?
Are the Seahawks a one year wonder?

Time to look at, what is without question, the strongest division in the NFL: the NFC West Division.

Cardinals

Free Agency: OT Jared Veldheer (Raiders) is the big prize as he should be a mainstay for years, and OG Ted Larsen (Buccaneers) adds quality depth. LB Ernie Sims (Cowboys) & CB Antonio Cromartie (Jets) are fine veteran additions to an already strong defense. RB Jonathan Dwyer (Steelers), TE John Carlson (Vikings) & WR Ted Ginn (Panthers) add quality depth for the offense.

Grade: A-

Draft: Washington State SS Deone Bucannon was an overlooked Safety in the draft, and he should pay off handsomely. Notre Dame TE Troy Niklas has great versatility as well as great size. North Carolina DE Kareem Martin has tremendous upside & Alabama DE Ed Stinson is a fine late pick. Pittsburg State WR John Brown adds speed & Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas could be the future of the Cardinals.

Grade: A

Overview: Head Coach Bruce Arians quietly did a splendid job last year. The question now is, can he get the Cardinals back to the playoffs? Bolstering the O-Line is a big help for QB Carson Palmer. The defense took a big hit when LB Daryl Washington was suspended for the season, but the Cardinals are strong enough to overcome the loss. The offseason moves by the Cardinals have put them in a good position to reach the postseason. Now they must deliver.

St-Louis-Rams

Free Agency: QB Shaun Hill (Lions) gives the Rams a veteran to step in if needed. OG Davin Joseph (Buccaneers) also adds a veteran presence on the line. Unspectacular WR Kenny Britt (Titans) is looking for redemption. Re-signing OL Rodger Saffold was key.

Grade: B-

Draft: Auburn OT Greg Robinson brings much excitement to the O-Line as he should anchor the line for years. Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald adds more ferocity to an already strong D-Line. Florida State DB LaMarcus Joyner lacks size but has great versatility. Auburn RB Tre Mason adds good depth for the running game, and DB’s Mo Alexander of Utah State & E.J. Gaines of Missouri are good late picks.

Grade: A

Overview: It’s now or never for QB Sam Bradford. He has a lot of youth playing with him and he has to show that he is the man. The defense is formidable, and if the offense can finally compliment that side, the Rams could become dangerous.

San-Francisco-49ers

Free Agency: SS Antoine Bethea (Colts) & CB Chris Cook (Vikings) help offset the losses of other veteran players in the secondary. The re-signing of WR Anquan Boldin & DB Eric Wright were wise moves.

Grade: B+

Draft: Northern Illinois SS Jimmie Ward is an odd pick as he could have been had later in the draft. Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde is being looked at as the future of the running game. USC C Marcus Martin is a future starter & Wisconsin LB Chris Borland is a tackling machine. South Carolina WR Bruce Ellington will add good depth.

Grade: B

Overview: The 49′ers were oh so close to returning to the Super Bowl last year, and have now retooled with hopes to getting back there. They’ve shown confidence in QB Colin Kaepernick by rewarding him with an enormous contract. RB Carlos Hyde will eventually take over for aging RB Frank Gore, and the acquisition of Bills WR Stevie Johnson, might just be the one move that puts the offense over the top.

Seattle-Seahawks

Free Agency: DT Kevin Williams (Vikings) is the biggest name to join the team, as he tries to get to a Super Bowl. OG Stephen Schilling (Chargers) & CB Phillip Adams (Raiders) add depth. The re-signing of DE Michael Bennett & LB O’Brien Schofield was key.

Grade: C

Draft: Having to wait until the 2nd round to pick, the Seahawks landed Colorado WR Paul Richardson, who could be an immediate impact. Missouri OT Justin Britt is a tremendous reach, but UCLA DE Cassius Marsh could flourish in this defense. Alabama WR Kevin Norwood is a solid pick.

Grade: B-

Overview: The Seahawks are feeling the aftereffects of winning a championship, as plenty of free agents bolted for greener pastures. Brandon Browner, Red Bryant, Chris Clemons, Kellen Davis, Golden Tate, Walter Thurmond, Chris Maragos, Paul McQuistan & Breno Giacomini are all gone. That’s a lot to overcome, especially with the added pressure of being the defending champions in the toughest division in the league. Nevertheless, the Seahawks are a very tough team and are looking to repeat, as a good portion of their offense remains intact, and that their secondary is tops in the league.

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2014 Offseason Review: AFC East

Will the Bills end their eternal playoff drought?
Can the Dolphins put last year’s off field distractions behind them?
Do the Patriots have another Super Bowl appearance left in them?
Do the Jets finally have the right QB leading them?

It’s time to look at the offseason of the AFC East Division.

DISCLAIMER: The writer of this article is a Bills fan.

So without further ado…..

Buffalo

Free Agency: The Bills had to address their porous run defense and they did that by signing run stuffing LB Brandon Spikes (Patriots). Veteran CB Corey Graham (Ravens) adds great depth to the secondary. Unspectacular former first rounders LB Keith Rivers (Giants) & OG Chris Williams (Rams) fill needs, and RB Anthony Dixon (49′ers) looks to surprise.

Grade: B

Draft: The Bills made the boldest move of the draft by trading up to grab Clemson WR Sammy Watkins, the premiere WR in this year’s draft. Standout OT Cyrus Kouandjio from Alabama fell to the Bills in the 2nd round. Louisville LB Preston Brown looks to be an old school 3-down player, while Duke CB Ross Cockrell was an under-the-radar player, and Baylor OG Cyril Richardson & Miami, FL OT Seantrel Henderson could be steals.

Grade: A

Overview: The last member of the “League of Fools”, Bills owner Ralph Wilson Jr., passed away earlier this year. With that the front office is scrambling to field a winning team and end the Bills 14 year playoff drought, before a new owner takes over. The Bills weren’t just trading draft picks during the draft, as they traded away veteran WR Stevie Johnson to the 49′ers and acquired RB Bryce Brown from the Eagles. Prior to the draft, the Bills obtained Buccaneers WR Mike Williams, via trade. In addition, the Bills added former Lions head coach Jim Schwartz to be their new defensive coordinator, so you can see that the Bills are doing all that they can to become winners. But all eyes are on QB E.J. Manuel, who must stay healthy and must prove that he can be the leader the Bills need. Losing rookie phenom LB Kiko Alonso for the season, due to a knee injury, was a tough blow.

Miami

Free Agency: An overhaul on the O-Line was needed for the Dolphins as they added OT’s Branden Albert (Chiefs) & Jason Fox (Lions). CB Cortland Finnegan (Rams) & FS Louis Delmas (Lions) add great experience to the secondary and NT Earl Mitchell (Texans) could be a mainstay for years to come. RB Knowshon Moreno (Broncos) gets a chance to shine without Peyton Manning, and OG Darryn Colledge (Cardinals) adds depth.

Grade: A-

Draft: Tennessee OT Ja’Wuan James was a bit of a reach in the first round, but he has good potential. The other WR from Louisiana State, Jarvis Landry is a solid pick. North Dakota State OT Billy Turner needs to refine his game, but he is one to keep an eye on. Liberty CB Walt Aikens is an exciting small school talent, Georgia TE Arthur Lynch is a throw-back Tight End that will help with receiving and blocking, and Montana LB Jordan Tripp is a definite project with a future.

Grade: A-

Overview: The Dolphins want to put everything that happened last year behind them, and so far they have done a very good job of it. Now they are tasked with getting over the stigma of being an average team. The offense is loaded with talent, even if it is devoid of big names, and the defense is quietly a strength of this team. Consistency is the key to success for the Dolphins.

New England

Free Agency: CB Darrelle Revis (Buccaneers) is looking for redemption after a forgettable stint at Tampa Bay & CB Brandon Browner (Seahawks) adds youth. WR Brandon LaFell (Panthers) should provide a boost & veteran DE Will Smith (Saints) adds much needed pass rushing help.

Grade: B

Draft: Florida DT Dominique Easley’s draft stock fell due to injury, but he does fill a need. Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garroppolo is a big reach in the 2nd round. Wisconsin RB James White is a good rotational player. Georgia Tech CB Jemea Thomas has good potential & Michigan WR Jeremy Gallon is the type of slot receiver the Patriots like to use.

Grade: C+

Overview: The loss of Brandon Spikes, Adrian Wilson & Aqib Talib can not be dismissed, even if the Patriots feel they have replaced them. As long as QB Tom Brady is in charge, the Patriots will be contenders. Once again the pressure is on the defense to get them back to the Super Bowl.

New York

Free Agency: QB Michael Vick (Eagles), RB Chris Johnson (Titans) & WR Erik Decker (Broncos). Those are some big names, but are they the right players? WR Jacoby Ford (Raiders) & OT Breno Giacomini were added for insurance.

Grade: C+

Draft: Louisville FS Calvin Pryor is a playmaker, something the Jets really need. Texas Tech TE Jace Amaro is more of a big WR, and will have to transition to a more traditional offense. Maryland CB Dexter McDougle was a bit of a reach, whereas Oklahoma WR Jalen Saunders is a good slot receiver. Furman OT Dakota Dozier is a good solid mid round pick.

Grade: B

Overview: Another year, another QB for the Jets. This time veteran Michael Vick is tasked with getting the Jets to becoming winners. He does have help with Johnson & Decker, but Johnson is not the rusher he used to be, and Decker will soon find out that Vick is no Peyton Manning. Despite the big name signings by the Jets on offense, they more likely will once again have to rely on their strong defense to lift them to victory.

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2014 Offseason Review: NFC North

Are the Bears Super Bowl bound?
Will a new coach be the difference for the Lions?
Can the Packers defense become a strength of the team?
Do the Vikings have a quarterback?

Let’s have a look at the offseason of the NFC North Division.

Chicago

Free Agency: An overhaul of the defense was in order, and that’s what the Bears did. The signing of young DE’s Lamarr Houston (Raiders) & Willie Young (Lions) are top notch moves. The Bears didn’t stop there as they also added FS Ryan Mundy (Giants) & SS Danny McCray (Cowboys) and veteran players such as SS Adrian Wilson (Patriots), LB Tim Dobbins (Texans) & DE Jared Allen (Vikings). The Offense was also addressed with the addition of C Brian De La Puente (Saints) and WR’s Domenik Hixon (Panthers) & Josh Morgan (Redskins). The combination of youth and veteran players gives the Bears exactly what they needed to become a strong team.

Grade: A+

Draft: Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller may not be the fastest player in the secondary but he adds a great physical presence that the Bears need. DT’s Ego Ferguson (Louisiana State) & Will Sutton (Arizona State) are not spectacular, but they won’t be asked to be day 1 starters. Minnesota FS Brock Vereen is a great 4th round pick & San Jose State QB David Fales becomes an intriguing player to watch in a very crowded position.

Grade: B-

Overview: Despite losing Julius Peppers, Devin Hester, Henry Melton, Corey Wooton, Major Wright & Josh McCown, the Bears have made improvements, and have fans clamoring for a Super Bowl appearance. Those dreams all lie with the performance of QB Jay Cutler, who has to be feeling the pressure of “It’s now or never.” Cutler has few excuses; with a reorganized defense, a good running game with Matt Forte, and one of the top WR duos in the NFL (Brandon Marshall & Alshon Jeffery), it is not difficult to see that the Bears should be strong contenders for the Super Bowl.

Detroit

Free Agency: WR Golden Tate (Seahawks) is now the compliment to WR Calvin Johnson. Whether he is up for the job remains to be seen. WR Naaman Roosevelt (Browns) was added as insurance. On defense, LB Darryl Tapp (Redskins) & SS James Ihedigbo (Ravens) are solid additions.

Grade: B

Draft: North Carolina TE Eric Ebron gives the Lions a much needed extra weapon at this position, as Ebron is a much better receiver than blocker. Brigham Young LB Kyle Van Noy is a versatile player and could have an instant impact this season. Arkansas C Travis Swanson adds great depth with potential starting ability & Princeton DT Caraun Reid is a most intriguing project player.

Grade: B

Overview: Former Colts offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell is now the man in charge of “Restoring the Roar” in Detroit. The Lions are a talented group, yet somehow have difficulty maximizing their true potential. If Caldwell can get the Lions to reach that point, watch out.

Packers

Free Agency: The Packers had very little money to spend after re-signing B.J. Raji, James Starks, Matt Flynn & Sam Shields. Yet they were able to land veteran DE Julius Peppers (Bears), whom they are hoping will give them that extra push on defense.

Grade: C+

Draft: Alabama FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is not an exciting player, but he gets the job done, which is what the Packers need. Fresno State WR Davante Adams is a welcome fresh face to an aging receiveing corps, as are WR’s Jared Abbrederis from Wisconsin & Jeff Janis from Saginaw Valley State. Southern Mississippi DT Khyri Thornton is a project player that might have to learn fast.

Grade: B-

Overview: What more can head coach Mike McCarthy do with this team? The addition of Peppers will help, but other defensive players have to step up. CB Sam Shields was locked up, and as long as QB Aaron Rodgers is around, the Packers will still be contenders. Yet they are no longer the only good team in the division.

Minnesota

Free Agency: DT Linval Joseph (Giants) & CB Captain Munnerlyn (Panthers) are great additions. The rest are less exciting. DT Corey Wootton (Bears), OG Vladimir Ducasse (Jets), LB Jasper Brinkley (Cardinals) & FS Kurt Coleman ( Eagles), give Vikings fans little to be thrilled about.

Grade: C-

Draft: UCLA LB Anthony Barr is a tremendous athlete, but comes with little experience at his position, making him a big risk. Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater is the big story in this draft, as he appears to be the new heir apparent. Oregon State DE Scott Crichton was a late riser on draft boards due to his pass rushing skills. Stanford OG David Yankey could be a steal in the 5th round & Virginia Tech CB Antone Exum is a good late pick.

Grade: B

Overview: Matt Cassell, Christian Ponder & Teddy Bridgewater. That is what the Vikings QB situation has turned into, and it is not much to get excited about. RB Adrian Peterson will have to get ready to be the offense again, as the WR group is solid, but not spectacular. The loss of DL Kevin Williams & Jared Allen, RB Toby Gerhart, & OT J’Marcus Webb will definitely be felt.

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How Will Lane Johnson’s Suspension Affect The Eagles Campaign Next Season?

Currently, the NFL is at a point where it has had enough of steroids in sports. They have started to crack down on performance enhancing drugs, and have increased the punishments for using these drugs. As shown with the yearlong suspension of Josh Gordon for marijuana issues, the NFL is willing to suspend big name players, and they do not care about the reactions from the fans, the teams, or the players.

Recently, the NFL suspended yet another big name player – Philadelphia Eagles OT Lane Johnson. This suspension will last for four regular season games, and has forced the Eagles into a lot of unwanted attention. The loss of Johnson is only for four games; however, it will have a very huge impact on the eagles, and might even cost them a playoff position.

Johnson is a fantastic player, and his loss will be felt. The job of the OT, as a member of the offensive line, is to block defenders and keep them away from the player that has the football. This can also include blocking players from getting to the quarterback, which is a huge part of Johnson’s role with the Eagles. Last season, Johnson was one of the most consistent players on the Eagles, and he only missed one snap on the entire season because of a very mild injury. Johnson was one of the most consistently blockers on the team, and his loss will really hurt the Eagles, especially QB Nick Foles.

With the departure of QB Michael Vick, the Eagles have finally moved away from the running option offense that they have been using for the last few seasons. Now, with Nick Foles at the helm, they have become a pocket passing team. Last season, Foles was absolutely amazing as the starter of the Eagles, and he really made himself seem like a top 10 quarterback in the league. Much of this was due to the protection offered by Lane Johnson. Foles is a very, very talented passer, and the more time he has in the pocket, the better he plays. The Eagles have been known for focusing on the deep ball, and for this to work next season, Foles needs to have much more time in the pocket. With the loss of Johnson for four games, this will be an issue.

For the first four weeks of the season in 2014, the Eagles are playing the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Indianapolis Colts, the Washington Redskins, and the San Francisco 49ers. Many of these teams have very strong defenses, and they will take many more opportunities to go for the sack with Johnson out of the lineup. This can be very dangerous for Foles, and could even cost the Eagles a spot in the playoffs. The Eagles play in one of the most competitive divisions in the league. With the Eagles, New York Giants, Washington Redskins, and Dallas Cowboys in a single division, the NFC East is one of the hardest to actually pull away from the competition, and losing Johnson for four games could really cost his team some valuable wins.

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