You can all stop holding your breath, I'm back with Part 2 of the NeedTracker Series. In this installment, we'll take a look at the offensive side of the ball. Thank god we won't be attempting to find a QB, but there are places that could use an upgrade on offense (cough-WR-cough). Enough of me yapping, let's get to the breakdown. Make the jump.
I'll change it up a little and start with the most important unit on the field, the Offensive Line.
- Starters - LT Jake Long, LG Justin Smiley, C Jake Grove, RG Donald Thomas, RT Vernon Carey.
- Reserves - C/G Joe Berger, G/T Nate Garner, T Andrew Gardner, T Lydon Murtha.
Across the board, we are expensive and we are big. These guys have done a tremendous job, and even with injuries, we've been able to continue putting drives together and scoring points by plugging in guys like Berger and Garner. I'm concerned about the interior, because Smiley, Grove, and Thomas all have a history of injuries, so I think we could use more depth at the Guard and Center spots.
I feel pretty good about this position. Henne is the real deal, and White, while not real popular, gives us another weapon on offense to play with. The WildCard in this group is Pennington. He said recently that he's a loyal guy and he believes in this organization, which would lead you to believe he'd be willing to re-sign as a backup, but he also has said he would like to start and would have some thinking to do if there are opportunities elsewhere. I think the simple solution is to keep Pennington over Thigpen, and if Pennington leaves, you keep Thigpen. Either way, I don't see a need to look elsewhere for a QB.
Running Back / Fullback
- Starters - RB Ronnie Brown, FB Lousaka Polite
- Reserves - RB Ricky Williams, RB Patrick Cobbs, RB Lex Hilliard
This position is set right now, with one of the best FB's in the league, and a legit 4-deep at running back, but the future is really up in the air. Ricky has said he will retire after next season. Ronnie will be a Restricted FA this year, and an Unrestricted FA the following year, and it's unclear whether we'll be willing to pay him enough to keep around. My thoughts on Ronnie are that we need to look to trade him this offseason. I'm sure I'll get killed for that in the comments section, but hear me out. He's going to be 28, has 2 season-ending injuries in his career, and is going to be expensive to re-sign. If we re-sign him, I feel that in a couple years, we'll be trying to replace him without getting anything for him. Furthermore, if we look to trade him this offseason, we can really upgrade one of the other positions, and can wait on finding another back because the Ricky/Cobbs/Lex trio can carry the load for a season.
I'm actually pretty happy with the two guys we have starting, and Sperry had a nice couple of games as well. Fasano went through a rough stretch at the beginning of the year, dropping passes, fumbled, and generally playing like a scrub, but he's really come on lately, playing like the guy we all thought he was last year (he is who we thought he was!). Haynos is raw, but he's HUGE and has good hands, so in my opinion, we're good at this spot.
Surprise, Surprise, we need a receiver. We have 3 guys that will be very good #2's, in Camarillo, Hartline, and Bess, and as much as everyone's tired of Ginn, I'm willing to bet that he'll at least be useful across from a star. The WildCard in this group is Patrick Turner. He hasn't been able to get on the field, or even dressed on gamedays, even though our WR corps is the worst in the league, so it's hard to be hopeful about the guy. The positive thing about the WR's, though, is that when you add in a bigtime playmaker, suddenly it looks like a pretty good group.
OK, so after reviewing the roster, it looks like we need a WR, a RB for the future, and depth on the Interior OL. I'm sure there's people that don't think we need any RB's, but Ricky is gone after next season, and I already laid out my feelings for Ronnie, although I can't say I'd be disappointed if we kept him. There are a lot of options to pursue at WR, both in free agency/trades and in the Draft. So let's take a quick look at who we could get to fill these needs.
- Free Agency/Trades - There's some quality backup-type players and wiley old veterans available in the upcoming offseason. Guys like Stephen Neal, Kevin Mawae, and Chester Pitts are all 30+ years old and could provide veteran depth on our OL. Young up-and-comers like Deuce Lutui, Richie Incognito (great name), and Chris Kuper could also hit free agency and give us some competition and depth.
- Draft - Notre Dame's Eric Olsen is a versatile interior OL prospect currently projected in the middle rounds, as well as Alabama's Mike Johnson who started at both guard and tackle this season. I'm sure that our Front Office has some off-the-radar guys in their pockets for the later rounds, similar to the way they found Donald Thomas, so I think the draft is the way to go to complete the OL.
RB of the Future
- Free Agency/Trades - The only name that jumps out at me is Leon Washington, as he would bring that "score from anywhere" aspect to our running game long-term. If we want to look to free agency for a starting back, we should just re-sign Brown.
- Draft - There's lots of options in the draft for running backs this year, depending on the direction we would want to go. If we're looking for that explosive Reggie Bush-style back, there's guys like CJ Spiller, Noel Devine(the next Darren Sproles), and Joe McKnight. If we want a bruising inside runner, there's Anthony Dixon, Toby Gerhart, or Jonathan Dwyer. Many different ways we can go here, and all these guys would be able to contribute immediately if needed.
Number 1 WR
- Free Agency/Trades - This is where I really think we need to make a splash, and there's no shortage of star-quality WR's available if we're willing to go get them. Vincent Jackson, Brandon Marshall, and Miles Austin are all slated to become FA's, and all of them are go-to-guy caliber players. But I don't think those guys will hit the market. The real jackpot is to be had by ponying up some draft picks and making a blockbuster trade. Andre Johnson, of course, would be the dream of any fan, and he could be frustrated enough with the Texans futility to look for a way out after this season (article/interview in ESPN the Mag all but openly states it). But 2 other guys in particular are worthy of taking a look at: Anquan Boldin and Dwayne Bowe. Bowe was reportedly on the trading block during this season, and Boldin has been unhappy with the Arizona front office for years now. Any of the guys on this list would solidify the WR position for us.
- Draft - If we decide the price is too rich to sign one of the star FA's or trade for one of the unhappy studs, we can look to the draft and the top 3 WR's in my mind, Dez Bryant, Damian Williams, and Arrelious Benn. A lot of people like Golden Tate, but I'm not one of them. I think he can be good, but not #1 quality, and we need somebody with #1 quality. Anyway, Bryant and Williams will probably need to be taken in round 1, while Benn may (key word) drop into the 2nd for us.
So, not many needs on Offense, and a boatload of options to fill them, we should be looking at a very good offensive unit next season that can build upon the success of Henne and the snowplow of an OL. As usual, thoughts, comments, rants, insults, praise, or nonsensical rambling below. Defensive breakdown to come next week.