With mini-camps going on around the league, now is as good a time as ever to take a look at how teams fared in the offseason. Doing this will be guest writer Travis Wingfield and will be broken down into 4 seperate installments. First, Travis looks at teams 32-25:
The bulk of the off-season is over and it's time to begin grading each team. This is all just chalk talk considering we're only taking into account what happened on paper, but you can evaluate a team based on their roster, and that's exactly what I'm doing. The Dolphins had a see-saw type off-season that I'm not in love with, but I don't hate either. The strong defense is even stronger and the offense is a lot faster. There are some question marks that need to be solved but this team could make some noise. As for the rest of the NFL, each team has been given their own paragraph. Without further ado, here are the 2007 off-season rankings. (Keep in mind it's grading how the teams did in the off-season, not how I think the teams will do this year).
32. Tennessee Titans- The Tennessee Titans came roaring down the stretch of 2006, winning 6 games straight before falling just one win shy of the post season in the final week vs. New England. Despite the hot finish, and discovering effectiveness from Vince Young, the Titans unloaded some key talent, and have dealt with the Adam "Pacman" Jones saga. Losing Drew Bennett and Travis Henry will hurt an offense that struggled to make plays outside of those two players. It gets even worse considering the Titans lost their other starting receiver in Bobby Wade and to put the icing on the cake, David Givens will miss the majority or all of the 2007 season with an injury. If Jeff Fisher pulls off 6-10 this upcoming season, he will have done one hell of a job.
Best add: Nick Harper S
Worst loss: Travis Henry RB
Outlook: 4-12 struggling to support, in my mind, an over hyped Vince Young.
31. New York Giants- As Eli Manning continues to struggle through his progression at the pro level, Tiki Barber carried the New York offense. Tiki shocked the football world when he announced mid-season that 2006 would be his final year. Losing one player has left the Giants on a turn for the worse, and I mean much worse. They added Rueben Droughns to share the load with 3rd year man Brandon Jacobs. Other notable names that are out the door are left tackle Luke Pettigout, linebacker LaVar Arrington, outside linebacker Carlos Emmons, and return man/running back Chad Morton. To go along with the axing, the Giants went with Aaron Ross in the first round when many believed there were other players that presented more value at the pick. The Giants were in the playoffs a year ago, but at just 8-8, and I don't see a repeat performance for the G-men.
Best add: Aaron Ross CB
Worst loss: Tiki Barber RB
Outlook: 5-11 battling with the Redskins for 3rd in the NFC East.
30. Chicago Bears- When the Bears drafted Cedric Benson in 2005, I don't think they envisioned this outcome heading into the 2007 season. In his 2 years, Benson has amassed just 919 yards playing behind Thomas Jones. Jones rushed for 2545 yards in those 2 seasons, but despite the production of Jones, money won and the Bears dealt Jones to the New York Jets. This is just one move I question among many the front office has executed this off-season. The problem isn't with players gained and lost, but rather with the executives' low balling players and coaches. Prior to a recent contract extension, Lovie Smith was the lowest paid coach in the NFL despite exceeding expectations for 3 years and eventually leading the Bears to Super Bowl XLI. The Bears were reluctant to give Smith a big deal, but eventually caved and paid the much deserving coach. The Bears are also neglecting star linebacker Lance Briggs who vowed he won't play another down for the Bears. This all goes without even mentioning Tank Johnson's jail time, and Alex Brown's request to be traded. It's a good thing the Bears are already in good shape because it has been a tumultuous off-season for Chicago.
Bess add: Greg Olsen TE
Worst loss: Thomas Jones RB
Outlook: 11-5 locking up an extremely weak NFC North.
29. Green Bay Packers- To play or not to play, that has been the question with Bret Favre the past few years. Well, he's back and seems disgruntled by the Packers' front office. With basically no notable free agent signings, all there is to discuss is subtractions and the moves that didn't go through. The starting backfield is gone, the tight end is off to Miami and Randy Moss is a Patriot instead of in Green Bay (like Favre was hoping). Ahman Green, William Henderson and David Martin are all in new places. The Packers are questionable at the running back spot (at best,) and drafted 2 injury prone players in the draft (Justin Harrell and Brandon Jackson.). My other question is did they really need a defensive tackle at the 16th spot of this year's draft? The worst part about it is that Justin Harrell was their best addition.
Best add: Justin Harrell DT
Worst loss: Ahman Green RB
Outlook: 6-10 because they over achieved last season and will come back down a couple of games.
28. San Diego Chargers- What does a team that finished 14-2 need to do to improve? It's not a matter of addition, but rather what that team lost. The Chargers have a brand new coaching staff after they fired Marty Schottenheimer, and lost Cam Cameron and Wade Phillips to head coaching jobs. Norv Turner is the new coach and he has attempted to get a play maker at wide out with Craig Davis in the first round. The Chargers lost linebacker Donnie Edwards to division rival Kansas City. Their best addition may have just been not letting a beast on the line get out of town (Kris Dielman). The Chargers will be back in 2007, however.
Best add: Retaining Kris Dielman OG
Worst loss: Donnie Edwards LB
Outlook: 11-5. It's difficult to do what the Chargers did last year and the AFC West is very tough.
27. Buffalo Bills- Remember that this list rates how the front office did for their team in the upcoming season. While I believe the Bills had a great draft, the departure of some key players has left the Bills depleted in several areas. Losing running back Willis McGahee, linebackers London Fletcher-Baker and Takeo Spikes and corner Nate Clements will prove costly for the Bills in 2007. Marshawn Lynch and Paul Posluszney were their first two draft choices and are both electrifying players; I just don't like the impact these players will have in year 1. The Bills did upgrade the offensive line by adding Derrick Dockery, Langston Walker, and Jason Whittle. The one knock on these signings is that the Bills paid too much and I too am on the "Marv Levy overpaid" bandwagon.
Best add: Marshawn Lynch RB
Worst loss: London Fletcher-Baker LB
Outlook: 5-11 after a good draft that bumped my expectations slightly.
26. Atlanta Falcons- Jim Mora was a player's coach that never quite seemed to get a grasp on Michael Vick's talents. After some controversial comments about wanting a position at the University of Washington, Mora all but wrote his obituary with the Falcons. Mora is out; enter former Louisville coach Bobby Petrino. It's Petrino's job to finally turn Vick into the superstar his talent suggest he should be. The Falcons adding Joe Horn to a receiving core that can't seem to catch a cold will add some much needed veteran experience to a young group of pass catchers. The Falcons also added, and I hate to say this but it's true, bust quarterback Joey Harrington to backup Michael Vick. They lost key pass rusher Patrick Kerney to Seattle and traded Matt Shaub to Houston in exchange for some picks. With those picks the Falcons did very well, selecting Jamaal Anderson, Chris Houtson and Justin Blaylock. I think Atlanta improves and pending on the Michael Vick situation, the Falcons could be serious NFC contenders.
Best add: Joe Horn WR
Worst loss: Patrick Kerney DE
Outlook: 8-8 and challenging for a playoff spot in 2007.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars- The Jaguars didn't make a lot of noise this off-season, relying on the health of quarterback Byron Leftwich. The biggest decision they made was deciding on the enormous oft-injured gunslinger to lead their offense. The decision was a surprising one as coach Jack Del Rio opted to name Leftwich the starter opposed to opening up a camp competition with David Garrard and Quinn Grey. Tony Pashos and Denis Northcutt join the offense that simply needs to put more points on the board. Reggie Nelson, Justin Durant and Mike Walker are among several draft selections the Jaguars made. Nelson should step into a starting role immediately, filling in for Deon Grant's vacancy. The Jags are young at WR and still have a young offense, it's on Leftwich and those receivers (who I'll classify as decent) to see where this team goes.
Best add: Tony Pashos OL
Worst loss: Deon Grant S
Outlook: 8-8 but playing every team tough. It'd be another story in the NFC.
Up next: teams 24-17, coming 5/28