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.

For more NFL news and updates, visit Fantasy Football Overdose today. You can also get updates via Facebook and Google+.

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2014 NFL Offseason Review: AFC North

Are the Ravens ready to get back to their winning ways?
Will head coach Marvin Lewis finally get a playoff victory for the Bengals?
Can the Browns get out of mediocrity?
Are the Steelers moving forward, backward or nowhere?

Let’s look at the how the offseason went for the AFC North Division.

Baltimore-Ravens

Free Agency: Ageless WR Steve Smith (Panthers) adds a reliable deep threat that the Ravens are sorely lacking. TE Owen Daniels (Texans) & RB Justin Forsett (Jaguars) add quality depth. The Ravens did a good job re-signing several of their own free agents to help keep the team intact.

Grade: B+

Draft: Alabama LB C.J. Mosley was a wise pick, as he could become a permanent fixture for a long time. NT Timmy Jernigan & FS Terrence Brooks of Florida State will add valuable depth and potential starting ability in the future. Colorado State TE Crockett Gilmore is an old school/traditional type player that will help as both a blocker and receiver. Coastal Carolina RB Lorenzo Taliaferro adds more competition to a crowded backfield & Penn State OG John Urschel is a strong project.

Grade: A

Overview: The Ravens went through a Super Bowl Championship hangover last year, but are now primed to become serious contenders again. Re-signing players like NT Terrence Cody, WR Jacoby Jones, OT Eugene Monroe & TE Dennis Pitta, emphasize how much the Ravens are willing to do to become one of the elite teams again.

Cincinnati-Bengals

Free Agency: Veteran SS Danieal Manning (Texans) adds good depth & QB Jason Campbell (Browns) is a quality back-up. Unfortunately this is as good as it got for the Bengals, as salary cap issues prevented them from adding more talent.

Grade C-

Draft: Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard was a gem of a pick, that the Bengals could not have expected so late in the first round. Louisiana State RB Jeremy Hill will add power to the running game, and West Virginia DE Will Clarke adds youth to an already strong defense. Alabama QB A.J. McCarron is a project that many fans will be keeping an eye on.

Grade: B+

Overview: It’s now or never for QB Andy Dalton. He has the weapons on offense and the Bengals have one of the best defenses in the NFL. There is no more room for excuses. The Bengals can win the division, but can they finally show up in the post season? Also, head coach Marvin Lewis is in his 12th year with the Bengals and is 0-5 in the playoffs. How much time does he realistically have?

Cleveland-Typeface

Free Agency: The Browns seemed more interested in adding older veterans rather than keeping their own younger counterparts. WR’s Nate Burleson (Lions) & Miles Austin (Cowboys), LB Karlos Dansby (Cardinals) OT Paul McQuistan (Seahawks) SS Donte Whitner (49′ers) are all at the twilight of their careers. The additional signings the Browns made, are mostly viewed as back-up players.

Grade: D

Draft: The Browns did make the draft payoff in a big way. Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert adds another big threat in the secondary. Then came the big trade-up to land coveted Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel. Nevada OT Joel Bitonio was a great pick in the 2nd round & Iowa LB Christian Kirksey should be a versatile defensive player. Small college talent RB Terrance West (Towson) & CB Pierre Desir (Lindenwood) were the icing on the cake.

Grade: A

Overview: Long time defensive coordinator Mike Pettine gets his first ever head coaching job, and what a job he has ahead of him. The Browns are facing a big dilemma. The fans will be yelling for Manziel to play immediately, but having him sit and learn would be the wise move. Losing defensive standouts T.J. Ward & D’Qwell Jackson and replacing them with aging veterans is a puzzler. Pettine is fortunate that this is his first year, then again Rob Chudzinski may have felt the same way last year.

Pittsburgh-Steelers

Free Agency: FS Mike Mitchell (Panthers) is a big addition for the secondary. However, WR’s Darrius Heyward-Bey (Colts) & Lance Moore (Saints), & RB LeGarrette Blount (Patriots) are a bit underwhelming for an offense that desperately needs weapons.

Grade: C

Draft: Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier is fast. Now he needs the discipline to contain his aggressiveness. Notre Dame DE Stephon Tuitt is a strong 2nd round pick. Kent State RB Dri Archer will add speed & the other Clemson WR Martavis Bryant adds dependability. UCLA LB Jordan Zumwalt & Tennessee DT Daniel McCullers are solid late round picks.

Grade: A-

Overview: The Steelers once again find themselves in a state of flux. The imbalance on both offense and defense make it difficult to assess if they have really improved. The loss of several veteran players makes the offseason feel like a step sideways instead of forward. QB Ben Roethlisberger is not getting any younger, and if he were to get injured…..Yikes!
If things do not improve for this team, don’t be surprised if head coach Mike Tomlin finds himself on the hot seat.

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NFL Early Outlook: Nick Foles

Last season, After Philadelphia Eagles starting QB Michael Vick got injured, all of the attention of NFL fans everywhere turned to backup quarterback Nick Foles. Previously, Foles had started a few games; however, he was not impressive at all. He became known for throwing terrible and inaccurate passes, and he constantly threw interceptions. Because of this, when Foles was required to be the starter last season, most people doubted his ability to succeed. Instead, they expected the Eagles to fail in a competitive division, and for them to not even be in a playoff race. They were wrong. After having an outstanding year, Foles will be given his first opportunity to actually start consistently in 2014. Though some are skeptical about his abilities, most analysts agree that he will have a great year.

Detroit Lions v Philadelphia Eagles

Right now, the NFL is moving towards pocket passers as being the main quarterbacks for teams. Over the last couple of seasons, mobile quarterbacks were expected to be the future; however, after multiple injuries to mobile quarterbacks like RGIII, pocket passers have become more popular again. This is great news for Nick Foles. Michael Vick was an okay quarterback on the Eagles; however, he was too old to be effective. Foles is one of the best pocket passers in the league. Look at his numbers from last season. In 2013, with only 10 games started, Foles was the best quarterback in the league. Over these 10 games, he threw 27 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. This is the best ratio with a minimum of 25 touchdown passes ever, he if he had three more touchdown passes, he would have broken Patriots’ QB Tom Brady’s ratio record with a minimum of 30 thrown touchdowns. Aside from this, Foles had a quarterback rating of over 119, and was one of the most composed pocket passers in the entire league. Despite this success, many are still concerned about his play next season.

Obviously, the biggest loss for the Eagles is the departure of WR DeSean Jackson to the Washington Redskins. Though this concern makes a lot of sense, Foles has seemed to overcome this issue. During OTAs, his accuracy looks even better than last season, which is hard to believe, and he is already working well with rookies. In order to replace DeSean Jackson, the Eagles turned to the draft. Here, they drafted WR Jordan Matthews, who has already started working amazingly with Nick Foles and backup QB Mark Sanchez. Matthews is very similar to WR DeSean Jackson in the sense that he is a larger deep threat wide receiver; however, he is much faster and has a better build. He has the ability to better break out of coverage, and his hands are much better than Jackson’s. Sure, there might be some first year jitters, but they should be able to work this out during a long offseason. Because of this, Foles will have a much easier time getting him the ball. Expect them to be a great tandem next season.

For more NFL news and updates, visit Fantasy Football Overdose today. You can also get updates via Facebook and Google+.

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LeSean McCoy’s Fantasy Football Value 2014

nfl_u_mccoy11_576x324After leading the NFL in rushing yards this past season, LeSean McCoy was projected to be one of the top fantasy football running backs again in 2014; however, with the Philadelphia Eagles sending a fifth round draft pick to the New Orleans Saints to acquire speedster Darren Sproles, McCoy may not be able to gain as many yards as he did last season. McCoy had a phenomenal season in 2013 leading the NFL with 1,607 rushing yards, adding another 539 yards through the air, and finishing with 11 total touchdowns; however, the addition of Sproles might threaten some of these numbers.

Sproles is an interesting player: he can be a running back, Wide Receiver, or return man and put up huge numbers in all three aspects of the game. Although Sean Payton preferred to put Sproles in motion and use him as a receiver in New Orleans, Eagles Head Coach Chip Kelly has already assured everyone that Sproles will be lining up in the backfield this season and that he will be a running back first and a receiver second. This could definitely impact how much McCoy sees the ball. McCoy’s large numbers last season were partially due to the amount of touches Kelly gave him: 314 rushing attempts and 52 receptions. However, you have nothing to worry about when it comes to McCoy; he is still projected to be a top five fantasy running back.

darren_sproles_eagles-300x300

The first thing to remember is that there is plenty of yardage to go around in Kelly’s explosive offense, especially with Desean Jackson leaving and signing with the Washington Redskins. Jackson’s absence will leave a lot of receiving yards to go around. Sproles is a great player, and Kelly will find plenty of uses for him besides rushing; so don’t expect McCoy to drop below 300 carries for the season. Sproles is most dangerous when he’s put into motion out of the backfield, so despite what Kelly is saying now Sproles will most likely end the season with more receptions than carries just as he did the past two seasons in New Orleans. If that’s the case, Sproles will at most take away a few receptions from McCoy; but McCoy should still see no less than 40 receptions this coming season.

The main reason that McCoy is expected to maintain his high fantasy value in 2014 is Coach Kelly. In his first season as the Eagles Head Coach, Kelly turned the Eagles offense into a well-oiled machine. Kelly’s offense was one of the most efficient and effective in the league, and Sproles will only make an already explosive offense even more dynamic. Kelly will no doubt find a way to utilize Sproles while preserving McCoy’s large role in the offense. Quarterback Nick Foles isn’t exactly a runner like Michael Vick was, so McCoy may have even more carries than last season despite losing some to Sproles.

The area in which Sproles will most affect McCoy is touchdowns. Sproles’s presence in the backfield threatens to take away a few touchdowns from McCoy, both rushing and receiving; however, if McCoy can maintain the same level of productivity in the running game that he had last season, he’ll earn plenty of points for his fantasy owners through high yardage. McCoy will most likely finish fourth out of all fantasy running backs behind Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, and Matt Forte. If you have a high first round draft pick in your league, I would recommend trying to grab one of these three; however, using a late first round pick on McCoy would not be a waste. Coach Kelly should have no problem finding a way to keep McCoy in the top five running backs in the NFL, but only time will tell how much of an impact Sproles will have on McCoy’s numbers in 2014.

For more NFL news and updates, visit Fantasy Football Overdose today. You can also get updates via Facebook and Google+.

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2014 NFL Offseason Review: AFC West

Continuing my offseason review, here’s a look at the defending AFC Champions division: the AFC West.

 

broncos

Free Agency:
The Broncos lost plenty of players in free agency and signed only a handful in return, but they made those signings count. The secondary was strengthened thanks to the addition of CB Aqib Talib (Patriots) & SS T.J. Ward (Browns), both have plenty of years ahead of them. A pair of Cowboys join the D-Line with up-and-coming DT Marvin Austin and veteran DE DeMarcus Ware. Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders adds more speed and youth to the offense.

Grade: A

Draft:
Despite picking very late in the draft, the Broncos were able to find value. Ohio State CB Bradley Roby is a good prospect and will get plenty of time to develop. Indiana WR Cody Latimer shot up the draft charts in the offseason and could be an instant impact, and the other OT from Michigan, Michael Schofield, was a solid under the radar pick. Louisiana State LB, Lamin Barrow, was a good late round pick.

Grade: B

Overview:
Eric Decker, Champ Bailey, Zane Beadles, Robert Ayers, Shaun Phillips, Knowshon Moreno, Wesley Woodyard & Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are all gone. That’s a lot to lose, but instead of moping over those losses, the Broncos went out and got proven replacements. The defense has been bolstered with more youth, and Peyton Manning is still the QB. Will that be enough to go from the best in the AFC, to the best in the NFL? We’ll see.

 

Kansas-City-Chiefs

Free Agency:
Texans LB Joe Mays & Raiders DT Vance Walker bolster an already strong defense. The Chiefs needed O-Lineman badly and got four of them: OT’s J’Marcus Webb (Vikings) & Ryan McKee (Rams), and OG’s Jeffrey Linkenbach (Colts) & Otis Hudson (Bengals). Not all big names, but there was little out there.

Grade: C

Draft:
Auburn LB Dee Ford & Rice CB Phillip Gaines are good young additions that the defense will need. Oregon RB De’Anthony Thomas adds more speed out of the backfield & OT Laurent Duvernay-Tardif from McGill (Canada) is a project. But the most intriguing pick, is Georgia QB Aaron Murray, who despite injuries, has a lot of starting experience and could be the Chiefs future signal caller.

Grade: B

Overview:
The loss of Branden Albert, Jon Asamoah & Geoff Schwartz can not be taken lightly, as the Chiefs will be looking at a completely different offensive line. Unless QB Alex Smith can be consistent, the Chiefs will have to rely on their monster defense to win games for them again.

 

Oakland-Raiders

Free Agency:
The Raiders had the most salary cap money to spend this offseason. Problem is, they didn’t spend it wisely. WR James Jones (Packers) & OT Austin Howard (Jets) is the good news, as these players will help the offense. Now the bad news: DE Justin Tuck (Giants), LB LaMarr Woodley (Steelers), RB Maurice Jones-Drew (Jaguars), CB Carlos Rogers (49′ers), OT Donald Penn (Buccaneers), CB Tarell Brown (49′ers), OG Kevin Boothe (Giants) & DE Antonio Smith (Texans). All prominent names, but also all at the age of 30 or above. If the Raiders were primed for a Super Bowl run, these signings would make more sense. But the Raiders aren’t, so they don’t.

Grade: D

Draft:
Ironically, the Raiders draft was miles better, in fact, it was one of the best. Buffalo LB Khalil Mack could be a terror for years to come. Fresno State QB Derek Carr had a first round grade and went in the second round. Mississippi State OG Gabe Jackson is a mauler, and Utah CB Keith McGill & Louisiana Tech DT Justin Ellis are excellent 4th round picks. Western Kentucky S Jonathan Dowling, could be a steal.

Grade: A+

Overview:
For the first time since Rich Gannon, the Raiders finally have a real QB. While Matt Schaub is on the downside of his career, he can give the Raiders something they have been lacking at QB, consistency. If Schaub doesn’t work out, Derek Carr is waiting in the wings. Despite an outstanding draft, the highly questionable free agent signings and inability to keep players, make the Raiders an enigma. How with over $60 million in cap space, could they let Lamarr Houston & Jared Veldheer walk?

 

sd

Free Agency:
Colts RB Donald Brown gives the Chargers much needed balance in the backfield and QB Kellen Clemens (Rams) adds a veteran presence in case of emergency.

Grade: C+

Draft:
Texas Christian CB Jason Verrett is unheralded but is a good prospect. Georgia Tech LB Jeremiah Attouchu adds more youth to the LB corps and could be an instant impact. Arkansas State DT Ryan Carrethers & Arizona State RB Marion Grice are good late round picks, and Baylor WR Tevin Reese could surprise.

Grade: B-

Overview:
Once again, the success of the Chargers hinges on the play of QB Phillip Rivers, who willed the Chargers to the playoffs last season. While the Chargers did not add many players to the roster, they re-signed most of their core players. This is an underrated team that may just need a few more breaks to go their way, if they are to reach Arizona in February.

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2014 NFL Offseason Review: NFC South

It is the slowest time of the year for pro football fans. Free agency has long passed its excitement levels, and the NFL Draft has come and gone. Now we have over a month to go before our teams report to training camp, and the news has been practically nil. The most exciting news we have gotten lately, is that the NFL will not be using the Roman numeral “L”, as part of their logo for the 50th Super Bowl.

So just how did the NFL teams do this offseason? Well, that’s what I’ll be writing about over these next few weeks before training camp opens. I will review each team’s activity in both free agency and the draft (complete with letter grades) and write up a final overview. Each write up will feature one article per division. To start things off, this piece will look at the NFC South Division.

Atlanta-Falcons

Free Agency: Defense is what the Falcons sought and that’s what they got in Dolphins DT Paul Soliai & Chiefs DE Tyson Jackson. Soliai adds an extra veteran presence, while the disappointing former first round pick Jackson, will look for a fresh start on a new team. Cardinals CB Javier Arenas will get more opportunities, and should be a starter. On the offensive side, the Falcons hit it big by landing prized OG Jon Asamoah of the Chiefs. They also added Bears veteran WR Devin Hester, who could be a good 3rd alternative, if he can catch the ball.
Grade: B+

Draft: Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews is regarded as one of the top O-Lineman and should be a mainstay for years to come. Minnesota DT Ra’Shede Hageman adds more bulk and youth to an already stout D-Line. Wisconsin S Dezmen Southward, helps fill a need, but was quite a reach in the 3rd round. Florida State RB Devonta Freeman should add some much needed versatility in the backfield, while Notre Dame LB Prince Shembo was a good value pick in the 4th round. Purdue CB Ricardo Allen & Connecticut LB Yawin Smallwood, could be late round steals.
Grade: A

Overview: Injuries destroyed the Falcons last year, but their troubles paid off with high draft picks. Jake Matthews should protect QB Matt Ryan for a long time, and adding Jon Asamoah to the O-Line was huge. WR’s Julio Jones & Roddy White need to stay healthy, as does RB Steven Jackson, who is not getting any younger. On defense, the addition of Hageman and retaining DT’s Peria Jerry & Jonathan Babineaux will help the Falcons significantly. The Linebacker position needs depth badly, which is why the Falcons drafted 4 LB’s this year.

 

carolinapanthrs
Free Agency: After losing 4 of their Wide Receivers, the Panthers had to replenish that position. Enter Jason Avant (Eagles), Jerricho Cotchery (Steelers) & Tiquan Underwood (Buccaneers). Not big names, but the pickings were slim. Tight End Ed Dickson of the Ravens is another potential receiving threat. Safeties Thomas DeCoud (Falcons) & Roman Harper (Saints), should help the Panthers depleted secondary.
Grade: C+

Draft: Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin has potential, fills a need, but is also a questionable pick. Benjamin has the size, but is not the deep threat the Panthers sorely need, and was surprisingly the only WR the Panthers drafted. Missouri DE Kony Ealy is a surprising pick, but there is no denying the threat he brings to the D-Line. Safety Tre Boston of North Carolina adds much needed depth & San Jose State CB Bene Benwikere could be a surprise.
Grade: C+

Overview: Long time Panther WR Steve Smith is gone, as are 3 other WR’s. So who is Cam Newton going to throw to? Three journeyman WR’s, a tall rookie with questions of his desire to play football & 2nd year receiver Marvin McNutt will not strike fear in the hearts of opposing defenses. The Panthers will need their defense to step up big. Pairing rookie DE Kony Ealy with the likes of Greg Hardy & Charles Johnson is a scary combination. Again, why did the Panthers only draft one WR?

 

New-Orleans-Saints

Free Agency: The Saints surprised the entire league when they landed Bills FS Jairus Byrd. To add some insurance to their secondary, they also added Broncos CB Champ Bailey. The secondary is indeed a strength.

Grade: B+

Draft: Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks fills a big need and the Saints are hoping he can be an immediate impact. The secondary got some much needed depth with Nebraska CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste & Alabama Safety Vinnie Sunseri.
Grade: B-

Overview: The Saints are doing everything they can to get back to the Super Bowl. Despite some major departures in free agency, they were still able to sign Byrd & Bailey. However, disgruntled TE Jimmy Graham has still not signed his franchise tender, and QB Drew Brees will have to make due with the receivers he has at his discretion. RB Darren Sproles will be missed. The salary cap is spent as far as it can go for the Saints. They better hope their strategy pays off.

 

Tampa-Bay-Bucaneers
Free Agency: The Buccaneers had plenty of cap space and they were busy spenders. Bears QB Josh McCown is reunited with his former coach, and gives the Bucs some stability. The O-Line was given plenty of attention as well: C Evan Dietrich-Smith (Packers), G O’Neil Cousins (Browns) & T Anthony Collins (Bengals) are all young and form a good unit. Key defensive players include: DE Michael Johnson (Bengals), CB Alterraun Verner (Titans) & SS Major Wright (Bears). Not a lot of Pro Bowlers, but this is a solid foundation to build on.
Grade: B+

Draft: Big WR Mike Evans from Texas A&M is being counted on to be an instant impact player. He’ll need to show that he can do more than catch the jump ball. Washington TE Austin Sefarian-Jenkins is a complete player as both a receiver and a blocker. West Virginia RB Charles Sims adds good depth and keep an eye out for speedy WR Robert Herron of Wyoming.
Grade: B

Overview: The biggest addition to the Buccaneers is new head coach Lovie Smith, and he has already put his stamp on the team. Releasing CB Darelle Revis and trading WR Mike Williams are just a couple of examples. Veteran QB McCown, should help the progress of 2nd year QB Mike Glennon. Tampa Bay has put together a solid group of players, whether they can make a difference in their first year, is yet to be seen.

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NFL Early Outlook: The Philadelphia Eagles

nfc-east The NFC East is one of the tightest divisions in the league. With the Dallas Cowboys, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Washington Redskins, and the New York Giants, there is no telling which team will come out on top from year to year. Last season, many of these teams surprised us. The Redskins and Giants both had terrible seasons.  The Cowboys failed to make the playoffs, and the Eagles surprised NFL fans everywhere with their great season. Going into 2014, you can expect the Eagles to have a very strong season and again contend for an NFC playoff spot.

When looking at the Eagles defense in 2013, there were some clear deficiencies. Firstly, their pass rushing game was terrible. They were ranked 20th in the league in sacks, and rarely put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. In a division that plays several games against Tony Romo, RGIII, and Eli Manning, it is essential that the Eagles solidify their pass rushing abilities. In order to do this, they drafted OLB Marcus Smith from Louisville. Smith was given the award of AAC Defensive Player of the Year, and he should bring the same style of play to Philly.  In 2013, he racked up 18.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks. Obviously, he will not put up the same numbers at the NFL level; however, you can expect him to be an impact player.

Aside from the pass rush attack, the other defensive area the Eagles had to work on was the CB position. Last season, the Eagles gave up far too many passing yards and are looking for a young player to fill that gap.  To do this, they drafted Jaylen Watkins from Florida. Though he is undersized, Watkins is a very good corner. He is not the play-making CB that Richard Sherman is; however, he does have the ability to go step for step with most WRs. If he matures well, he could easily be the next Revis Island.

Jordan Matthews Vanderbilt The Biggest changes for the Eagles are going to be seen on their offense. Obviously, the biggest hole that the Eagles need to fill is the spot left by WR DeSean Jackson. In order to do this, they drafted their new WR1. They drafted WR Jordan Matthews from Vanderbilt. Matthews is a very talented receiver, and he should be able to take over the workload left by Jackson. Matthews will not bring the same speed as Jackson; however, his overall physicality is much better. The 6’3 receiver is the perfect height to be a deep threat, and he is also much stronger than Jackson ever was. Matthews can be compared to a Calvin Johnson type of player, and he should start on opening day.

Having said that, the biggest change for the Eagles will be their quarterback situation. After years of trying to make Michael Vick work, the Eagles gave up and have discovered that Nick Foles is a better player. With Foles as the solid starter, you should expect the team to finally have the pocket passer which they need to succeed in today’s NFL. Get ready for a big year by the Philadelphia Eagles.

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Philadelphia Eagles Draft Review

Going into the 2014, the Philadelphia Eagles had a few tasks to accomplish. See, this team is in an odd position. They are well past the rebuilding phase of the team; however, they are heading in a completely new direction next year. For the first time, QB Nick Foles will be given the starting role, and he and Chip Kelly will be integral in forming the ideal offense for the team. The biggest priority of the team was to replace WR DeSean Jackson, and also improve the defense as much as possible. From their picks, it seems as though they have done just that.

Eagles 2014 Draft Class

Losing DeSean Jackson would be devastating to any team, but it would be especially hurtful to a pass-happy Eagles squad led by Nick Foles. In order to help him make this transition, they drafted WRs Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff. Both of these players should have an impactful role next season. Matthews is player who is very similar to Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski. He is a larger receiver who has the ability to play down the sideline; however, he often played out of the slot while at Vanderbilt. As one of the better technical receivers in the draft, Matthews also has the ability to run routes through the middle as well. He should be a starter on opening day without question. Aside from this, Josh Huff should not be overlooked. Kelly has already coached Huff wile at Oregon, and the two have a great relationship. Huff is great for this team because of his versatility. He has the ability to be integrated into the passing game quite well; however, he offers an even better upside as a run blocker. In regards to his offensive capabilities, he is very similar to Wes Welker. He will be used more for short pass scenarios; however, he will accumulate several yards after the catch.

In regards to the Eagles defense, fans should also be optimistic at this year’s draft class. With their first round pick, Eagles selected pass rusher Marcus Smith. Last season, one of the biggest issues that the Eagles had was the fact that they gave quarterbacks too much time, and in their division, that can really be a problem. Smith should hopefully start on opening day and has the ability to provide the spark that the Eagles need to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Aside from this, one of the biggest needs for the Eagles during the offseason was at the CB position. Last season, the Eagles really struggled in this department, and tried to sign journeymen players to fill the void. Going into this draft, they decided that they were going to account for this deficiency by drafting CB Jaylen Watkins from Florida. During training camp, Watkins will have minimal competition at best, and he is very likely going to be starting on the Eagles sidelines on opening day. Originally, there was some hesitation about Watkins because the CB class in this years draft was a bit weaker than in most years. Having said that, Watkins was undoubtedly the best CB at Florida, he has the ability to match receivers step by step by reading plays, he has really been impressive in minicamps, and Chip Kelly loves working with him. He should have a great impact next season.

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