Quarterback Barometer

With 4 weeks of the NFL season in the books (almost), and a potentially very strong quarterback class in the upcoming draft, I wanted to take quick look around the league at the potential needs of each team, and at what point in the draft they may look to target a passer.  I found 4 teams in the league that absolutely should be looking for a franchise quarterback in the first round this year, and identified 8 others that could also be looking for someone in the first few rounds.  Conversely, I feel there are 14 teams who don’t even need to consider the quarterback class in the coming NFL draft should they chose not to.

 

Scale Find me a franchise quarterback! (1st round, early 2nd)

We need depth/competition. (1st-3rd)

A mid to late rounder would probably help. (3rd-6th)

Good to go. (7th, undrafted FA or nothing)

 

Arizona Carson Palmer should be the starter short-term but Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley don’t stand out as backups.  The Cards would be wise to invest early and find a long term starter.  They could wait till the 2nd round this year and still get their guy, but someone like Zach Mettenberger would make a lot of sense in the first round.

Atlanta Matt Ryan is still just 28 and the face of the team.  They are pretty high on backup Dominique Davis as well, he is the only other QB on the roster right now.

Baltimore  Joe Flacco is making a lot of money after the Raven’s Super Bowl victory but Tyrod Taylor is their only backup.  I can’t imagine fans or coaches feeling good about the idea of Tyrod starting any games.

Buffalo  EJ Manuel was the first round pick of new coach and offensive guru Doug Marrone, and will be given a few years to develop.  When Kevin Kolb went down with a severe concussion, undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel, who was overlooked by many while playing for a bad Washington State team, really gained momentum.  The Bills will be comfortable to develop these two guys for a few years.

Carolina  Cam Newton is the man in Carolina and Derek Anderson is a solid backup who seems content in the role.  They would be much better off finding Cam some help elsewhere on offense (wide receivers).

Chicago  Like him or not, Jay Cutler can be a good quarterback.  Josh McCown is still in the league (who knew?) as the backup, so they could probably use some competition there, but it isn’t pressing as Cutler generally stays healthy and coach Marc Trestman is limiting the chances for him to get hit.

Cincinnati  Andy Dalton has a track record of winning, but his arm strength often leaves fans wanting more.  Backup Josh Johnson, practice squad member Greg McElory, Zach Robinson, who is on the PUP list, all look more like #3 QBs and not like capable starters, so another arm is probably a good idea.

Cleveland  Despite being 2-0 as the starter, I don’t believe Brian Hoyer can’t keep the magic up all season or long team.  Brandon Weeden might get another chance this season, but he can’t be in the teams long term plans anymore, and Jason Campbell isn’t more than an OK backup at this point in his career.  The Browns are beginning to rebuild again and that starts with a quarterback.  Then again, as an offensive coordinator, Rob Chudzinski has seen the Miami Hurricanes win a National Title with Ken Dorsey behind center and sent Derek Anderson to the Pro Bowl so hey, maybe Brian Hoyer is their future, it is the Browns after all.

Dallas   Tony Romo recently got a contract extension and Kyle Orton is as good a backup as any.  Fans might hate Romo’s mental lapses and the team’s lack of playoff wins, but from a big picture standpoint, Romo isn’t really that bad compared to many other starters around the league.  They might shop for a developmental guy in the mold of Romo years ago, but I don’t expect any major moves just yet.  Another late season meltdown could change that though.

Denver  Peyton Manning.  Ok so despite his best season as a pro, Manning can’t play forever.  Luckily the Broncos are set-up nicely, having drafted Brock Osweiler and Zac Dysert in recent years, and at least one of them figures to learn enough from Peyton to be able to take over eventually.

Detroit  Matt Stafford is only 25 and nearly had back to back 5000 yards seasons.  Shaun Hill is a solid backup and the team seems high on Kellen Moore.  Not much to see here.

Green Bay  Aaron Rodgers is one of the best in the league and still only 29, but this team desperately needs a backup.  They took Rodgers in the first round despite having Brett Favre as their starter, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the team invested a fairly high pick on a long term backup quarterback this offseason.  That could change if another team gives up on a guy that Green Bay likes (IE Josh Freeman, Blaine Gabbert, Brandon Weeden or even Matt Schaub).

Houston  Matt Schaub might not make it through the season as the starter after being booed at home again this week.  Both TJ Yates and Case Keenum have flashed at points and this season will tell a lot about the teams long term plans.  I’m not ready to call for a 1st round draft pick yet because of the presence of both Yates and Keenum, but they could be looking soon.

Indianapolis  Possibly the luckiest team ever to get the first overall pick in the years of Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck.  You almost have to expect that they next time they need a quarterback, there will be an elite prospect just waiting for them.  They also brought in veteran Matt Hasselbeck to hold the clipboard, so they don’t have any pressing needs until Hasselbeck retires.  I figure Matt stays around with the hopes of getting a ring soon.

Jacksonville  What a mess this team is right now.  I fully expect the Jaguars to have the #1 overall pick this year and for Teddy Bridgewater to be their week 1 starter next season.  It really isn’t a bad situation for a rookie quarterback to come into either as the offensive line is solid and Cecil Shorts, Justin Blackmon (presumably not suspended) and Ace Sanders are already in place as receivers.

Kansas City  What a job Andy Reid has done through 4 games this year.  I questioned some of the team’s decisions this offseason, but the early results are impressive.  Alex Smith seems to be a solid starter, Chase Daniel is the short term backup and Tyler Bray very well could be the long term solution.  I don’t think they need anyone, but Andy does like drafting quarterbacks.

Miami  Ryan Tannehill looks like the future of this team and his development has been outstanding.  Matt Moore chose to stay as the backup rather than try to start elsewhere and Pat Devlin is the developmental guy.  I don’t expect any moves.

Minnesota  I have my doubts that Christian Ponder is the solution at quarterback and Matt Cassel, despite playing well in England this weekend, is not a starter.  McLeod John Baltazar Bethel-Thompson is currently the third string quarterback (I’m not lying, check for yourself).  If I’m the Vikings front office, I’m going back to the well for a quarterback this year while we still have Adrian Peterson.

New England  Tom Brady isn’t going anywhere and Ryan Mallett is still the backup.  They signed Tim Tebow for a while in the preseason but that was probably just Bill Belichik doing a favor for his pal Urban Meyer.  They won’t do more than look for a late round project.

New Orleans  Drew Brees is the man in New Orleans and Luke McCown (he is still in the league too?  Damn McCown’s) is the only backup with hometown Ryan Griffin on the practice squad.  The roster has talent all around and this team figures to go late into the postseason though, so this might be the time to grab the quarterback of the future at the end of the first round.

New York Giants  Despite the team’s struggles, Eli Manning is still a top quarterback.  Veteran Curtis Painter is the backup for now and Ryan Nassib was drafted last year to take that role long term.  There is no way this team is moving on from Eli yet, no matter how bad they play this year.

New York Jets  Geno Smith was the big name quarterback in last years draft and fell to the Jets in the 2nd round.  Mark Sanchez is on IR and presumably done playing for this team.  Uninspiring Matt Sims and Brady Quinn round out the depth chart, and Sims might even get a chance to start if Geno continues to struggle.  The team has other holes, however, and I expect Geno gets at least one more season to prove his worth.

Oakland  This is a tough one because its possible the team loves Terrell Pryor.  Matt Flynn is a solid backup if Pryor remains the starter, and Matt McGloin did enough to earn his spot in the pre-season.  I would expect the Raiders to use this year as an audition for Pryor, but they really should bring in stronger competition for next year.

Philadelphia  Another tough situation to project.  It seems like this will be Michael Vick’s last year in Philadelphia but no one knows if Nick Foles or Matt Barkley can be the starters moving forward.  If the Eagles end up with a top 10 pick again, it will likely mean both Vick and Foles had shots at starting, so my gut instinct is that a quarterback like Brett Hundley or Marcus Mariota are brought in to compete with Foles/Barkley.  This one is entirely up in the air though because I do believe that Barkley could be the quarterback of the future as well.

Pittsburgh  Much like Eli Manning in New Jersey York, Ben Roethlisberger is the man in Pittsburgh despite the teams early struggles.  The backups Bruce Gradkowski and rookie Landry Jones are solid enough.  I don’t expect anything outside of a potential veteran backup shuffle here.

San Diego  This has been Phillip Rivers comeback season so far and if he keeps it up, he will remain in the team’s long term plans.  Veteran Charlie Whitehurst came back to San Diego as the backup and rookie Brad Sorenson is the 3rd QB and developmental guy.  Unless Rivers falls apart in a big way, they won’t need to make any moves.

San Francisco  Colin Kaepernick was inserted as the starter over Alex Smith mid-season last year, and the team almost won the Super Bowl.  Kaep has struggled early this year but he is still their guy.  Colt McCoy is a one year backup plan until BJ Daniels is ready to assume the role full-time.

Seattle Russell Wilson is another young quarterback who is already the guy for his team.  Tarvaris Jackson is a very strong backup for the team as well so I can’t imagine they will be looking.

St. Louis  The Rams seem committed to Sam Bradford as their long term answer at quarterback, but he has many detractors.  If they do choose to move on from Bradford, there are no in-house options as Kellen Clemens is the only backup.  If they like someone in the 2nd or 3rd round, they should absolutely pull the trigger, and with 2 first round draft picks this year thanks to the Redskins and the RG3 trade, the first round is absolutely an option as well.

Tampa Bay  Josh Freeman has been removed as the starter and rookie Mike Glennon has taken over.  Dan Orlovsky is the backup right now.  If anyone on that list excites you as a long term quarterback option, good luck.  I expect a new head coach to be in town next season and Glennon will presumably have the rest of the season to audition for a starting role, but if I’m the new coach I am drafting someone to at least compete with him.

Tennessee  Jake Locker looked like a new man and a legit quarterback until his injury this week.  Luckily the team has a viable backup in Ryan Fitzpatrick, and veteran Titan Rusty Smith is still around on the practice squad.  The team doesn’t need anyone as long as Locker comes back healthy and continues his improvement.

Washington  RG3 was rushed back to start this season, despite the fact that Kirk Cousins has shown himself to be a strong backup.  Rex Grossman is the best #3 quarterback in the league.  I can’t imagine the team needing to draft anyone this offseason unless RG3 suffers another major injury.

Catching up with the NFL season

Week 4 is already underway in St. Louis tonight, as the 49ers look to get back on track after a terrible two week stretch.  The home team Rams, meanwhile, look for a big divisional upset in the early stages of the season.  With 3 weeks in the books, some teams seem to have issues, some are exceeding expectations, while others simply, as Denny Green so eloquently put, are who we thought they were.  Lets review the first 3 weeks.

 

NOT LOOKING GOOD

New York Giants – Has any team looked worse than the Giants so far?  A -61 net point differential, good for 2nd worst in the league, thanks to a defense allowing 38 points per game.  The Giants have no running game and Eli has thrown 8 interceptions already.  With road games at Kansas City and Chicago in the near future, paired with 2 games verses the ultra-productive Eagles offense, things may look even worse by the time their week 9 bye rolls around.  Tom Coughlin may decide it’s time to retire and a top 10 draft pick could be in the team’s future.  Jake Matthews would make sense so Pugh can slide inside and Eli can have a second to look downfield.  The 4 sacks in the first quarter and 6 in the first half last week versus Carolina were unacceptable.

Washington Redskins – If you read my sophomore slump post, you know I was very down on both RG3 and Alfred Morris this year.  I was worried about RG3’s knee early in the season and thought teams would be able to load the box to slow down Morris.  Griffin has responded by throwing for over 300 yards a game, but the team has been slow to start and the defense has been the worst in the league.  They have been unlucky to play Philadelphia, Green Bay and Detroit in the early going, but I’m not convinced the defense has the talent to rebound too much.  Away games at Oakland and at division leader Dallas are sandwiched around a bye that the team desperately needs to use to get things back on track

Pittsburgh Steelers – Only 51.7 rushing yards per game means the team’s offense has to relay on Big Ben and the passing game, but the offensive line hasn’t been able to give him any time.  Todd Haley’s play calling has been a big issue and I’m not sure things will get better as long as he is calling plays.  After a long trip to Wembley Stadium in England, the team gets a much needed bye week before playing 3 of their next 4 games on the road.  The Steelers have the talent to turn things around but they are also in a deep hole and it very well could be a throw away season.

 

BETTER THAN EXPECTED

Kansas City Chiefs – A rejuvenated Andy Reid is running a fairly conservative passing offense and they team is running the ball (9th in the league in rushing attempts!!).  The defense ranks 3rd in scoring, 9th in yards and leagues the league in sacks while only allowing opponents to convert on 28% of their 3rd downs.  With 4 of their next 5 games coming at home, including matchups with the Giants, Raiders and Browns, this team could be racing out to high win totals and will put Andy Reid back in the playoffs.  The biggest concern for the team will be injuries, because they lack depth at pretty much every position.

Miami Dolphins – The Dolphins are 3-0 and have already beat Indy and Atlanta.  Ryan Tannehill has taken the next step in his 2nd year in the league and really looks like a great pick.  I still don’t know if I believe this team can sustain their success for the rest of the year, and a mid-season stretch with a short away trip to Tampa Bay followed by home games versus San Diego, Carolina and the New York Jets will determine how their season ends.

New Orleans Saints – Their offense isn’t surprising, and really the win total isn’t either.  If anything, 23.3 points per game sounds low for this team.  The shocker here is their top 5 defense after being bad at a record-setting level last season.  Many people, myself included, have been very negative towards Rob Ryan’s abilities as a coach, but whatever he is doing this year is outstanding.

New York Jets – The other Ryan, Rex, is doing a heck of a coaching job as well this year as the Jets are 2-1.  The team was the butt (sorry) of quite a few jokes going into the season but the team is playing solid football.  Bilal Powell is underrated and Stephen Hill is ready to breakout on in the mold of the other tall, fast receivers from Georgia Tech (See Johnson, Calvin and Thomas, Demaryius).  The team lacks talent all around, but as long as the defense keeps playing like a top 10 unit, Geno can learn on the go.  They weren’t projected to get much more than a few wins and with 2 on the books already, this season can be considered a success.

 

THEY ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE

Jacksonville Jaguars – As expected the Jags have the worst offense and one of the worst defenses in the league.  Blaine Gabbert has already missed 2 games, but with Chad Henne unimpressive in those 2 starts, Gabbert is returning as the starter and fans are already clamoring for local favorite Tim Tebow.  I really expected that MJD was the running back headed to Indy last week, but its possible injuries have caught up with him for good now.  Teddy Bridewater can start looking for homes in the Jacksonville area.

Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos – These teams are playing as expected, but in their cases, that is a good thing.  These were the favorite teams in their respective conferences and after 3 games, they still are.  The Broncos are 1st yards and scoring, and Peyton Manning is playing at MVP level, possibly better, with 12 touchdowns, 0 interceptions and has completed 73% of his passes.  This offense is impossible to match up against with Thomas, Decker, Welker and breakout player of the year Julius Thomas.  The defense is still good enough to get by, even without Champ Bailey and Von Miller, just wait till they are both back.  Looking at the schedule, the upstart Chiefs and a week 16 game at Houston are the only games that scare me, but honestly, by week 16 the games might not even matter for them, as they will have the #1 seed locked up.  Start the 16-0, to rest or not to rest talk now.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, have the 4th most points scored and have the #1 defense, allowing only 27 points TOTAL.  This team might be unbeatable at home and has great depth across the board.  They play at Houston and at Indy the next 2 weeks and still have road games at Atlanta and the rematch at San Fran, but its hard to see them losing more than 3 games total.

Predictions for the 2013 season

I had this article started but did not get a chance to post it prior to the first Sunday of games.  My friend and sometimes contributor Tim and I each set out our predictions for this season.  They will be listed as a quick chart below, followed by some explanation from each of us.  Feel free to comment on how wrong we both are for our predictions.

AFC Division Winners:  Tim – Patriots, Bengals, Texans, Broncos

Ryan – Patriots, Bengals, Colts, Broncos

AFC Wild Cards:  Tim – Bills, Ravens

Ryan – Titans, Chiefs

NFC Division Winners:  Tim – Niners, Saints, Packers, Cowboys

Ryan – Niners, Falcons, Packers, Eagles

NFC Wild Cards:  Tim – Seahawks, Falcons

Ryan – Seahawks, Saints

 

NFC Rookie of the Year:  Tim – Eddie Lacy,  Ryan – Tyrann Mathieu

AFC Rookie of the Year:  Tim – E.J. Manuel,  Ryan – Giovanni Bernard

Defensive Player of the year:  Tim – Aldon Smith,  Ryan  – Clay Matthews

Offensive Player of the year:  Tim – Peyton Manning,  Ryan – Peyton Manning

 

MVP:  Tim – Aaron Rodgers

Ryan – Colin Kaepernick

 

 

My Rationale: 

I left out the Texans in the AFC South and had both the Colts and Titans replace them.  This was more about my concern of the Texans being a team who could fall out of the playoffs than it is an endorsement for the Titans or Colts as a championship contender.  My last wildcard spot was the Chiefs.  Their offensive line is very good and the pass-rush can be scary with Hali and Houston.  If Alex Smith can take care of the ball, Andy Reid will pile up a decent amount of wins.

In the NFC nothing is too surprising, there are a lot of teams with the talent to make the playoffs.  I picked the Eagles to win the East partially as a homer and partially because no one in that division impresses me and someone has to win.  The Saints are my last wild-card despite my despise for any defense led by Rob Ryan, their offense is just too good.  The Bears are the one team that I think can seriously challenge.

I like Eddie Lacy for NFC rookie of the year but went a different route.  In the AFC Gio Bernard has a lot of hype following Hard Knocks so it won’t take more than a few big plays to get him the award.  If Peyton Manning isn’t the offensive player of the year with his group of receivers, something is wrong.  I went with Clay Matthews for Defensive POY because of an improved group around him that should allow him to make plays.  My MVP is Colin Kaepernick, I am in that group of people that is in love with his skill set and the Niners should be the best team in the league this year.

 

 

 

Tim’s Rationale:

AFC:

Patriots

Bengals

Texans

Broncos

Only real surprise here is the Bengals taking the AFC North. They are a team on the rise, and have maybe the only defense that can compete with the 2 powerhouses in the NFC West in Seattle and San Francisco. The Patriots shouldn’t have too much competition in the AFC East with the Jets, Bills, and Dolphins. I expect the Bills and Dolphins to be improved, but it would take a lot to unseat the Patriots there. The Broncos and Texans should dominate weak divisions, but the Colts could be a sneaky team.  I just don’t see them getting the same luck (no pun intended) they did last season in close games.

 

NFC:

Cowboys

Packers

Saints

49ers

The NFC is stacked with good teams, making these picks that much more difficult. Obviously 2 teams stand out, the Cowboys and Saints. The pick of the Cowboys is all about health. I think this is their last chance to put it all together, keep Austin, Murray, and the offensive line healthy and make a run for the playoffs. Any of those 4 teams could win the division without much of a thought, but I like their chances. The Packers should cruise in the North behind Rodgers and Lacy. The Saints will be rejuvenated by the return of Sean Payton. The offense is never a question, but the team looked lost last season at times, and I think his leadership will catapult them over the Falcons. The 49ers and Seahawks are a toss-up, so I took the team I think has better line play on both sides of the ball, and that was the 49ers.

 

Wild Card:

AFC:

Bills

Ravens

The BILLS! Yes I know, it seems crazy, but stay with me here. Talent is not the issue with this team. C.J. Spiller is a beast, Stevie Johnson is a solid WR, and EJ Manuel could really surprise some people with his ability. He may not be the greatest single game QB, but he knows how to put together a decent season. Their D-Line should be great. They underperformed last season, but I’m optimistic  they play to their potential. The Ravens just squeak in over the Colts and a bevy of 8-8 teams that will likely come out of the AFC. Let’s see what Flacco can do when he’s the “man”

 

NFC:

Seahawks

Falcons

Again, the NFC is so stacked. Right now I have the Redskins, Giants, Bears, Lions, and Vikings as the teams on the outside looking in.  Any one of them could make a serious run at that 6th seed, but this race will be interesting to watch all season.

 

Rookie of the Year:

EJ Manuel

Eddie Lacy

Manuel gets the nod because I believe he leads the Bills to the playoffs, and that puts him over the top for any players in the AFC. Lacy should get enough touches in the Packers offense to put up the kind of numbers that win awards. I don’t really see any defensive players having the kind of impact these rookies do, but one name to watch if it does come from the defense is Ziggy Ansah. That’s a tough lineup to crack, but if he gets regular snaps he could be a handful for offensive lines to block.

 

Defensive Player of the Year:

Aldon Smith

Smith is a sack artist extraordinaire, and with the likely regression of JJ Watt from the season he had last year, Smith has an opportunity to claim the title this year. Von Miller’s suspension helps a little too. If the 49ers don’t win the division, look for Watt to repeat.

 

Offensive Player of the Year:

Peyton Manning

Unlike last season, when Adrian Peterson took home both Player of the Year and MVP, this season will see a split between the two awards like the past. Peyton will come up short of the MVP, but in leading the Broncos to the AFC West crown, and just being Peyton Manning (7 TDs in the first game helps) he will take home the Offensive POTY award.

 

Most Valuable Player:

Aaron Rodgers

Not a huge shocker here.  Rodgers is the best QB in football right now. He plays on one of the best teams in the NFL. I don’t really pay attention to the people talking about his leadership skills. Jermichael Finley needs to be more concerned with actually catching the passes thrown his way than how Rodgers leads. Expect Peterson, Manning, and Brees to be in contention, but Rodgers will walk away with the hardware.

Eagles 53…for now

The Eagles roster is at 53 at the moment but there will be a few moves in the next couple days, I guarantee it.

 

 

Quarterbacks (3):  Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley

Same as I predicted, as did everyone else.

 

Running Backs (3):  Lesean McCoy, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk

Tucker was a luxury that I wanted to keep.  I hope he makes it to the practice squad.

 

Tight Ends (4):  Brent Celek, James Casey, Zach Ertz, Emil Igwenagu

Four tight ends as expected but I was off by one.  Clay Harbor has the physical tools but things have never clicked for him so Emil makes the team based off of his ability to play full back, h-back and tight end.

 

Wide Receivers (5):  Desean Jackson, Riley Cooper, Jason Avant, Damaris Johnson, Jeff Maehl

Everyone was wrong on this one.  Rather than keeping camp darling Greg Salas or undrafted interest Shepard, the Eagles kept Chip Kelly veteran Jeff Maehl.  Maehl stays thanks to his experience in the system and ability to play anywhere, but don’t be surprised if he is gone by the end up of the week for someone with more raw potential.

 

Offensive Line (9):  Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, Lane Johnson, Allen Barbe, Julian Vandervelde, Dennis Kelly, Matt Tobin.

The 5 starters and Allen Barbe are on as expected.  Same for backup center Julian Vandervelde.  I thought maybe Dennis Kelly would go to the PUP list, but he is on the roster so perhaps he will be ready sooner rather than later.  I only had Danny Watkins on the team to fill Kelly’s spot but he was cut as many hoped and expected.  What a bad 2011 draft for the Eagles at the top.  I said Matt Tobin was a dark horse to sneak onto the roster, thanks to his ability to backup at both right tackle and right guard, and he was the last guy to make it here.  Michael Barimo simply was not as NFL ready as Tobin and hopefully makes the practice squad.

 

 

Defensive Line (7): Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton, Bennie Logan, Isaac Sopoaga, Vinny Curry, Clifton Geathers, Damion Square

Same 7 guys as I, and many others projected.  Damion Square is most in danger of being cut for a waiver wire player simply because he has no outstanding physical attributes.

 

Outside Linebackers (3):  Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, Connor Barwin

As predicted Everette Brown and Adrian Robinson didn’t stick.  Travis Long is a practice squad hopeful.  The biggest surprise cut is Chris McCoy, who looked like he was the #4 outside linebacker.  He is another guy that hopefully can make it to the practice squad as the team searches the waivers for another outside backer.

 

Inside Linebackers (4): Mychal Kendricks, Demeco Ryans, Emmanuel Acho, Jake Knott, Casey Matthews

I saw a few bad plays from Matthews in the final preseason game and reacted by having him not make the roster, but he is a valuable special teams player and ahead of Jake Knott to actually see the field in a meaningful game right now.

 

Cornerbacks (6):  Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Jordon Poyer, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Hughes

I predicted Willians, Fletcher, Boykin, Poyer and a player to be named later.  For now Marsh and Hughes stay, but neither or them are safe by any means, and that player to be named will be named by the end of the week.  Be sure that the team is looking for a number 4 corner back who can play right now, because Poyer is not quite there.  I wish Marsh would have panned out but Hughes has a better chance to stick thanks to special teams.

 

Safety (5):  Nate Allen, Patrick Chung, Earl Wolff, Colt Anderson, Kurt Coleman

This one was pretty straight forward, these were the best 5 guys on the roster.

 

Special Teams (3):  Alex Henery, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos

 

 

 

Overall I did a pretty solid job getting into the head of the Eagles front office.  I had the last player at 4 different positions wrong, and kept an extra running back and linebacker over some depth at corner.  The 5th wide receiver and 4th tight end were Jeff Maehl and Iggy and not Russell Shepard and Clay Harbor.  The last two offensive linemen were Dennis Kelly and Matt Tobin and I had predicted Kelly on the PUP list and Michael Barimo’s long-term potential over Tobin’s ability to play right now.  At linebacker the Eagles kept Casey Matthews and not Chris McCoy and both Curtis Marsh and Brandon Hughes made it, for now.  I look forward to seeing who makes it to the practice squad and who might be available from another team that could help the Eagles this season.

A prediction for the Broncos 53 man roster

My friend Tim is a former (and possible future) sports blogger who follows the NFL almost as closely as I do.  While I am an Eagles fan, his family is originally from Colorado, so he has been a lifelong Denver Broncos fan.  If I had the ability to look at every single NFL roster and then the subsequent time to write about them I would, but in the meantime, I trust Tim’s evaluation of his own team.  With that said, here is his projection for the Broncos 53 man roster, as well as his plan for the practice squad:

 

QB:

Peyton Manning

Brock Osweiler

Zac Dysert

 

RB:

Ronnie Hillman

Montee Ball

Knowshon Moreno

Jeremiah Johnson

 

WR:

Demaryius Thomas

Eric Decker

Wes Welker

Andre Caldwell

Tavarres King

Trindon Holliday

 

TE:

Jacob Tamme

Joel Dressen

Julius Thomas

 

OT:

Ryan Clady

Orlando Franklin

Chris Clark

 

OG:

Louis Vasquez

Zane Beadles

Chris Kuper

John Moffitt

 

C:

Manny Ramirez

Ryan Lilja

 

DE:

Derek Wolfe

Robert Ayers

Quanterus Smith

Malik Jackson

Jeremy Beal

 

DT:

Kevin Vickerson

Terrance Knighton

Mitch Unrein

Sylvester Williams

 

OLB:

Von Miller (SUSP)-(Doesn’t count)

Shaun Phillips

Wesley Woodyard

Danny Trevathan

Lerentee McCray (Cut/PS after Miller back)

 

ILB:

Nate Irving

Steven Johnson

 

CB:

Champ Bailey

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

Chris Harris

Tony Carter

Kayvon Webster

 

SS:

Mike Adams

Duke Ihenacho

Omar Bolden

 

FS:

Rahim Moore

David Bruton

 

ST:

Matt Prater

Britton Colquitt

Aaron Brewer

 

 

 

Practice Squad:

Gerell Robinson (Toughest Cut)

CJ Anderson

Vinston Painter

Ben Garland

John Youboty

Aaron Hester

Ross Rasner

Damien Holmes

Thoughts on the Eagles 53 man roster

NFL rosters have to be down to 53 players tomorrow.  This is Chip Kelly’s first year in the NFL so it is hard to say what he and Howie Roseman might want to keep and how much they are looking around the league.  Kelly has commented in the past that if he had a say, he would up the roster size to 80 player.  This post is the 53 men I would put on the roster right now.  My preference is to keep younger guys to develop with the knowledge that this probably isn’t a Super Bowl winning roster quite yet.  I do believe at least 2 or 3 moves will be made in the next week, so I will also note which of my 53 players I expect to be in jeopardy of making it only to be cut a few days later.

 

Quarterbacks (3):  Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley

Not really a whole lot to discuss here.

 

Running Backs (4):  Lesean McCoy, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk, Matthew Tucker.

Chip will probably run the ball a lot more than Eagles fans have seen in a decade.  Add to that the chance for formations where Shady lines up in the slot and Brown is in the backfield to get the best matchups and the best talent on the field.  I also don’t trust that Matthew Tucker would be available to make it to the practice squad so I would rather have the depth on the roster and ready to go.

 

Tight Ends (4):  Brent Celek, James Casey, Zach Ertz, Clay Harbor

Four tight ends has been the expectation and Clay Harbor learned some wide receiver to provide depth there.

 

Wide Receivers (5):  Desean Jackson, Riley Cooper, Jason Avant, Damaris Johnson, Russell Shepard

This one is tough because Greg Salas has played so well.  With 4 tight ends and 4 running backs there is less room for wide outs and Greg Salas would have a tough time making it on the field with Jason Avant already entrenched as the slot receiver and Damaris as the probable backup there.  I give the nod to Shepard instead thanks to special teams ability and youth.

 

Offensive Line (9):  Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, Lane Johnson, Allen Barbe, Julian Vandervelde, Michael Barimo, Danny Watkins

The 5 starters are set and Allen Barbe is the backup at left tackle and left guard.  Julian Vandervelde is the backup at center and has guard experience, but could be a guy who is upgraded by the end of the week.  In this projection, I am anticipating Dennis Kelly being placed on the PUP list so that he is 100% down the stretch.  Danny Watkins makes the team for now but could be traded or cut for an upgrade elsewhere.  Matt Tobin is a dark horse to sneak onto the roster.

 

 

Defensive Line (7): Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton, Bennie Logan, Isaac Sopoaga, Vinny Curry, Clifton Geathers, Damion Square

Most of these guys are pretty locked into roster spots with Square as the only one I’m not sold on.  Square is a smart player but not a strong physical talent.  For now he will be on the roster and ideally he would spend the season inactive and in the weight room.  I would love to upgrade over Sopoaga, but hopefully Logan earns the starting role by mid-season.  Antonio Dixon is done.

 

Outside Linebackers (4):  Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, Connor Barwin, Chris McCoy

I think these 4 guys are all locks.  Cole and Graham can both move to defensive end in passing situations as well, which may end up costing a guy like Square a roster spot if another outside linebacker with 3-4 experience can be found.  Everette Brown might have done enough to make it on another roster but I don’t expect to see him in Philly and Adrian Robinson simply didn’t have enough time to earn a spot.

 

Inside Linebackers (4): Mychal Kendricks, Demeco Ryans, Emmanuel Acho, Jake Knott

Kendricks and Ryans are the unquestioned starters and Acho and Knott look like strong backups.  Watching Casey Matthews last night took him off my list, but he could make the team based on camp and based on special teams needs.

 

Cornerbacks (5):  Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Jordon Poyer, (Player to be named later)

I am keeping Poyer because he has long term potential and appears to be able to contribute right away on special teams.  There will absolutely be a 5th corner added sometime soon but that player is not on the roster yet.  I just think Brandon Hughes and Curtis Marsh getting hurt took away their chances to impress the new coaching staff.  Eddie Whitley would have been my 5th had he not gotten hurt.  Poor Trevard Lindley gets cut every year at this time.

 

Safety (5):  Nate Allen, Patrick Chung, Earl Wolff, Colt Anderson, Kurt Coleman

The top 3 guys are pretty much set.  Colt Anderson is too valuable on special teams and is effective enough as a run stopping safety.  Kurt Coleman makes the team because of his willingness to do anything but is another candidate to be cut later this week for someone from the waiver wire.

 

Special Teams (3):  Alex Henery, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos

Pretty straight forward here.

 

 

 

Now I will make a guess at the practice squad.  One thing to keep in mind is that several players do not have eligibility due to NFL rules, and others may get signed to other teams.

 

Dennis Dixon – although I would like GJ Kinne as well, Dixon is the better option for now

Emil Igwenagu – he’s been here before and could get the call quickly if any of the tight ends go down

Derek Carrier – some people think he was cut early in an attempt to limit film so he can be kept on the P.S.  Brett Brackett was signed away by Jacksonville last year and teams are always looking for athletic tight ends.

Joe Kruger – a year on the practice squad could do wonders for him and he could then push for a spot in the rotation next year

Travis Long – another guy who simply needs a year to develop and could absolutely make the team next year

Matt Tobin – if he doesn’t end up on the 53 man roster

Wide Receiver – Ifeanyi Momah, Jeff Maehl and Greg Salas all have eligibility but Salas will be on someone’s roster.  I love the potential of Momah, especially his size, but his lack of experience has been apparent through camp and pre-season, where as Maehl has a veteran presence.  Odds are the spot is an outsider.

Cornerback – There is a chance the coaches don’t think Poyer is ready and he ends up here, but that means they found other options for the active roster.  If not, this will be a defensive back cut from another roster.

Sophomore Slump or Surge? Part 2

In the last post I looked at some of the members of last year’s rookie class for whom I was projecting a worse statistical second season, or a sophomore slump.  Now I want to highlight a few players that I expect to make a big jump from year 1 to year 2.  Obviously any player who did little or nothing last season and then contributes this season will technically have a surge, so I’m just picking out a few that I expect the have the biggest jump in impact on their team.

 

SURGERS:

 

Mychal Kendricks – The second year linebacker flashed at times for the Eagles last year but, like the rest of the team, was incredibly inconsistent.  The move to inside linebacker in a 3-4 / 4-3 under scheme, coupled with a year of experience seems to have slowed down the game for Kendricks, though, and his status as one of the most athletic linebackers in the NFL will start to show-up this season.  A talented blitzer from the inside (30 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks his last 2 years at Cal), Kendricks also has the speed (4.47 40 time) to matchup with tight ends and receivers in the slot.  Watch for Kendricks to be an impact linebacker this season.

Jayron Hosley – A ball-hawk with punt-return experience is always dangerous in the secondary, just ask Patrick Peterson.  I’m not saying Hosley will be as good as Peterson and he was slow to get involved last season, only getting credited with 12 games (6 starts), 1 interception and 5 pass deflections last season (according to Pro Football Reference).  With Corey Webster another year older, I expect Hosley and 3rd year player Prince Amukamara to form one of the better young cornerback tandems in the league.

Courtney Upshaw – Upshaw spent last season banged up and behind a one of the strongest linebacker cores in the NFL, as the Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl.  Ray Lewis, Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe are all gone and Elvis Dumervil is the only other pass rusher the team added in the offseason.  Upshaw knows how to get to the quarterback from the 3-4 outside linebacker position (32.5 sacks in his last 2 years at Alabama) and will be used in rotation with Terrell Suggs and Dumervil.  He might not be a Pro-Bowler just yet, but I expect him to thrive in the always strong Baltimore defense.

Nick Toon – Toon came into the league as a ready-made wide receiver, but didn’t make it on the field as a rookie.  A year later he looks to be a part of a re-built receiving core for the Saints.  Veterans Lance Moore and Marques Colston look to be the top pass catchers with tight end Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles always in the mix, but Nick Toon and rookie Kenny Stills will be factors as well.  Drew Brees has averaged all but 4800 passing yards over his 7 years in New Orleans so there are plenty of balls to go around.  Add to that, Colston is always playing hurt and misses time here and there, and Moore, despite coming off of his first 1000 yard season, is 30 years old this weekend and plays mostly in the slot.  Toon should see a lot of time on the field this year with one of the leagues best throwing it to him.

Ryan Broyles – Broyles knows how to get open and how to catch the ball.  He is the NCAA FBS all time career reception leader with 349 catches, despite missing the end of his senior year with a torn ACL.  His 131 catches as a junior is also 8th best all time.  There were glimpses that this ability was going to carry over into the NFL, but then he tore his other ACL.  Broyles may never be healthy enough to contribute regularly in the NFL, but he also may have just been unlucky.  If Broyles has healthy knees this season, he could catch an awful lot of passes thanks the coverage that Calvin Johnson demands.

Mohamed Sanu – Sanu is the anti-Broyles in terms of size and shiftiness, but like Broyles, he runs precise routes and has great hands.  Sanu is big, strong and slow (only a 4.67 40 at the combine), but will catch anything you throw his way over the middle.  He is also a great target in the redzone and grabbed 4 touchdowns in 3 games last season (from 10, 14, 2 and 5 yards out).  The Bengals look the have one of the best teams in the NFL this season and while Sanu will never be a big-play guy, he could absolutely emerge as the possession receiver that allows AJ Green to continue to get open on the intermediate and deep routes.

Rueben Randle – This one is easy, Randle is a 6’4″ 2nd round talent with 4.5 speed and Hakeem Nicks cannot and will not stay healthy.  Eli Manning throws enough that Randle will be valuable, even as a 3rd wide receiver.  His 298 yards last season will be surpassed quickly.

Ronnie Hillman – Hillman has the tools to become a solid running back in the NFL with his 4.45 speed and pass catching ability.  In only 2 years at San Diego State Hillman ran for 3243 yards and 36 touchdowns before coming to the NFL in the 3rd round and looking lost at times last year.  With Montee Ball now in Denver and Knowshon Moreno healthy (at the moment), it is now or never for Hillman despite it being only his second year.  It is entirely possible he is not meant for the NFL, or meant to be a role player, and he is my least confident pick on this list, but I can also see Hillman rising to the challenge and collecting 1500 all purpose yards this season.

 
Some other names I considered but may not see the kind of jump in production as the guys I listed:

 

Daryl Richardson – could be the Rams feature running back and has 3 down skills

Jonathan Massaquoi – talented pass rusher on a top team, pass defense should be improved and only Kroy Biermann and Osi Umenyiora ahead of him

Michael Egnew – solid pass catching tight end, may be become the starter in Miami thanks to the Dustin Keller injury

Demario Davis – very athletic inside linebacker for the Jets, Bart Scott is gone and David Harris is starting to lose a step; could become a playmaker in the middle

Alshon Jeffery – a virtual clone of Brandon Marshall, the wide-out he should start opposite of; could put up really good numbers if Jay Cutler can stay upright