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Outlook for the 2011 Cincinnati Bengals

Outlook for the 2011 Cincinnati Bengals
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Rookie wide receiver A.J. Green (Georgia) is expected to start right away and could win Offensive Rookie of the Year.
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Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton is about to become the new face of the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Cincinnati Bengals were 4-12 last season and tied for the second worst record in the NFL. The Bengals were in a lot of games, but made mistakes at critical points in games and it resulted in a poor season. However, the Bengals did become a better passing team, but it came at the cost of their run game.

This season, the Bengals want to rebuild their team by focusing on their run game since their Terrell Owens isn’t coming back and Carson Palmer apparently wants nothing to do with the Bengals.

In the 2011 NFL Draft, the Bengals addressed their wide receiver issues by selecting a playmaker in A.J. Green (Georgia) with their first-round pick. In the second-round, the Bengals found their new future quarterback in Andy Dalton (TCU).

With the addition of their rookies, let’s take a look at the Bengals’ current roster and see what positions are still in need of upgrades.

Quarterbacks (4)

Andy Dalton, Jordan Palmer, Dan LeFevour, Carson Palmer

Rookie Andy Dalton (TCU) is expected to receive the “bulk” of the snaps in training camp, but could end up as a backup to whomever the Bengals the bring in from free agency. Dalton isn’t ready to start this early because he hasn’t spent any time with the coaches, due to the Lockout. If Dalton were to start, the Bengals would be looking at a losing season with no more than five wins because Dalton would be overwhelmed with the differences in the NFL and College style of play. Dalton would struggle because the NFL playbooks are much bigger, their defensive players are much better and the media will be all over him if and when he messes up.

Jordan Palmer is a tendered restricted free agent, but will remain with the team with a possible chance to start if the Bengals can’t find a stopgap veteran and Andy Dalton proves that he isn’t ready to lead the team. However, Palmer has completed 10 of his 15 career pass attempts for 59 yards and 2 interceptions while in backup duty, so it remains doubtful that he would have success as a starting quarterback. If the Bengals are able land a quarterback in free agency, Palmer would be relegated to competing for the third quarterback job with Dan LeFevour, with the loser getting cut.

Dan LeFevour was productive as a college quarterback at Central Michigan but lacks NFL-caliber arm strength. LeFevour has drawn comparisons to Chad Pennington by ESPN NFL Draft Guru Mel Kiper, but will need to play like him in order to make the Bengals roster as their third quarterback.

Carson Palmer told the Bengals after the 2010 season that he wanted to be traded or he would retire. Palmer has grown frustrated with the Bengals’ struggles and wants a fresh start somewhere else. Palmer threw for 3,970 yards, 26 touchdowns and 20 interceptions last season, but his team finished with the second worst record in the NFL and it’s obvious that the Bengals are not going to be able to compete with the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011. The Bengals will eventually have to give in to Palmer’s trade demands because he is scheduled to make $11.5 million and will be a disruption in the locker room if he drops his retirement talk. Potential suitors for Palmer include: the Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans, and Washington Redskins.

Free Agent Analysis:

Let’s pretend that Carson Palmer is on the Bengals roster. Their three quarterbacks would be Andy Dalton, Jordan Palmer, and Dan LeFevour. None of those quarterbacks has any starting experience in the NFL and that would leave the Bengals with a scary situation heading into Opening Day. Dalton needs a veteran former starting quarterback to help him deal with the everyday life in the NFL and career backups J. Palmer and LeFevour don’t know what it’s like to be the face of a franchise. Dalton is going to need a lot of help, especially since the Bengals have a new offensive coordinator and it will be a learning process for the whole offense. Potential Free Agents that could start for the Bengals immediately include: Marc Bulger, Matt Hasselbeck, J.P. Losman, and Alex Smith

Halfbacks (3)

Bernard Scott, Cedric Peerman, Jay Finley

Bernard Scott probably won’t be the starter in 2011 because he is not durable enough to handle the full time duties of a starter. Cedric Benson is expected to resign, but if he doesn’t the Bengals are expected to bring in other free agents. Scott had 61 carries for 299 yards and 1 touchdown in 2010. Scott averaged 4.9 yards per carry, but is more of a complementary back like Darren Sproles. Expect Scott to receive more carries and have a role as a third down back in 2011.

Cedric Peerman is an asset on special teams, but will end up competing for the third-string halfback job with Jay Finley. Peerman had 2 carries for 1 yard in 2010 and will need a strong preseason to remain on the Bengals.

Rookie Jay Finley (Baylor) became a starter in his senior year and had 195 carries for 1,218 yards and 12 touchdowns in his final season. Finley averaged 6.3 yards per carry and showed impressive patience and burst, but he is not a tackle-breaker or a homerun threat. Finley’s size (5’11’’, 208 pounds) and lack of speed make it unlikely that he’ll ever be a starter, but he should be able to beat out Cedric Peerman as the third-string halfback.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cincinnati needs a starting-caliber running back because Bernard Scott is too small (5’10’’, 197 pounds) to be counted on as the featured back of the Bengals. Cedric Benson is expected to resign with Bengals, but if that somehow doesn’t work out, the Bengals will need to look in the free agent market for their answer. Potential Free Agents include: Joseph Addai, Ahmad Bradshaw, Ronnie Brown, Michael Bush, Brian Westbrook, and DeAngelo Williams

Fullback (3)

Fui Vakapuna, Chris Pressley, James Develin

Fui Vakapuna was expected to be Cedric Benson’s lead blocker last season, but came down with a shoulder injury before Opening Day and was waived as a result. Vakapuna will get another chance in 2011 and should be able to beat out Chris Pressley as the Bengals’ starting fullback.

Chris Pressley is a good run blocker, but could become Fui Vakapuna’s backup, because Vakapuna is better at catching the football and if Dalton is named the starting quarterback, he is going to need backs to check down to as he steadily develops into a quarterback.

James Develin played on the defensive line and at linebacker in the Cleveland Browns’ rookie minicamp last year, but is listed as a fullback on the Bengals roster. Assuming it’s not a typo, Develin can considered a development project that will likely end up back on the Bengals’ practice squad in 2010.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cincinnati is probably going to start Fui Vakapuna at fullback since he would’ve started last year if not for a shoulder injury. If Vakapuna were to get hurt, Chris Pressley could easily take over.

Wide Receivers (8)

Chad Ochocinco, A.J. Green, Jordan Shipley, Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell, Quan Cosby, Shay Hodge, Ryan Whalen

Chad Ochocinco is in the final year of his contract, but is expected to be released once the Lockout ends because the Bengals are tired of his antics and believe that he doesn’t have the passion for football anymore. Once released, Ochocinco could have a bunch of suitors, but would likely sign with the Chicago Bears, New England Patriots, or New York Jets.

Rookie A.J. Green (Georgia) is the favorite to become the Bengals’ No. 1 receiver in 2011, assuming Chad Ochocinco gets released. Green scored 23 touchdowns in 27 career college starts and his difference-making deep threat ability should allow him to help quarterback Andy Dalton develop into a NFL quarterback.

Jordan Shipley had 52 receptions for 600 yards and 3 touchdowns as a rookie last season. It was a very productive season for the slot receiver, whose role is likely to expand. Shipley had a concussion mid-season last year, but bounced back the week after by setting career highs for a game with 6 receptions for 131 yards.

Jerome Simpson will become the Bengals No. 2 receiver, assuming Chad Ochocinco is let go. Simpson was the Bengals fifth receiver last season and appeared in only 5 games, but had 20 receptions for 277 yards and 3 touchdowns. Simpson didn’t receive playing time at the beginning of the season because he struggled to grasp the old playbook. Simpson should be able to handle the new playbook this year though because he met with new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden immediately after the Super Bowl.

Andre Caldwell was the Bengals fourth receiver last year and appeared in 15 games last season. Caldwell had 25 receptions for 345 yards, but closed out the season in a strong fashion. Caldwell should receive the same role next season, assuming Chad Ochocinco is let go.

Quan Cosby made the team as a punt returner last season, but may become expendable in 2011. As a receiver, Cosby only had 2 receptions for 16 yards, so the chances that he’ll be back are slim because he didn’t do that well as a punt returner in 2010, averaging 7.5.

Shay Hodge went undrafted last season, but made the Bengals’ practice squad and was promoted for the Bengals’ last game of the season. Hodge didn’t play the last game, but he might be given a chance to make the 2011 team because he was A.J. Green’s teammate at the University of Georgia. Green is going to be a key member of the Bengals and if they can make him feel comfortable, it should help Green make an easier transition to the NFL.

Rookie Ryan Whalen (Stanford) is a possession receiver, but his 4.62 forty time and his size (6’1’’, 202 pounds), suggest that he won’t have much of a role in the Bengals’ offense. Whalen will probably end up on the practice squad, but could find his niche as a special teamer.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cincinnati doesn’t need any wide receivers since they are in rebuilding mode.

Tight End (3)

Jermaine Gresham, Chase Coffman, Garrett Mills

Jermaine Gresham had 52 receptions for 471 yards and 4 touchdowns. Gresham showed the ability to be a dominant tight end, but he was inconsistent with his blocking, route-running, and pass catching in his rookie season. Gresham’s struggles were to be expected though because he was a rookie, but his fundamentals should get better as he becomes more familiar with NFL’s style of play.

Chase Coffman appeared in six games in 2010 and only had 3 receptions for 30 yards. Chase Coffman added more muscle in 2010 could be developing into a better blocker. The Bengals are going to be switching their offensive plan and will be utilizing the run more, so Coffman’s blocking skills could ultimately decide how long he lasts with the team.

Garrett Mills is a former fullback that converted into a tight end. Mills played 7 games for the Bengals in 2010, but only had 2 receptions for 19 yards. As a former fullback, Mills knows how to run block, which should help him earn a place on the Bengals’ roster.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cincinnati has three young tight ends and two of them are proven blockers. The Bengals’ tight ends should be good enough to help block outside blitzes and run block which should enable the Bengals to go along with their plan of running the ball more to ease quarterback Andy Dalton into the NFL.

O-Line (11)

Andrew Whitworth, Clint Boling, Kyle Cook, Bobbie Williams, Anthony Collins, Andre Smith, Reggie Stephens, Dennis Roland, Andrew Mitchell, Otis Hudson, Andrew Gardner

Andrew Whitworth allowed only 1.5 sacks last season, but committed 13 penalties as well. Whitworth is quickly becoming one of the best left tackles in the game, but if he wants to make a Pro Bowl, he’ll have to cut down on his penalties.

Rookie Clint Boling (Georgia) has the potential to become a solid pass-protecting guard, but should begin the 2011 season as Nate Living’s backup, assuming Livings resigns as expected.

Kyle Cook is an above-average run blocker and should be the Bengals’ starting center for the next few years.

Bobbie Williams has missed just three games over the last six years and has excelled in both run and pass blocking. Williams is 34 years old, but he is still in good shape and playing at a high level, so the Bengals have nothing to be concerned about just yet.

Anthony Collins should enter the season as a starter because the Bengals have a 7-2 record and average 110 rushing yards per game when he starts. Andre Smith was drafted to be the future right tackle of the Bengals, but Anthony Collins has severely outplayed them.

Andre Smith fractured his fifth metatarsal in his left food last November and remained in a walking boot 7 months after his surgery. Smith might be healthy by opening day, but given that this is the same foot that he broke in 2009, the Bengals better start Anthony Collins instead to Smith more time to recover.

Reggie Stephens made the practice squad last season, but his ability to play guard or center and his versatility should him a spot on the Bengals roster in 2011.

Dennis Roland is a restricted free agent and is expendable given his inconsistencies as a right tackle for the Bengals. Roland should remain with the team until cut down day, but unless he is able to show the Bengals that he has improved his game, Roland stands to be one of the players most likely to be cut.

Andrew Mitchell is a 6’5’’, 311 pound tackle with the potential to make a very good backup to Andre Smith. He’ll be competing with Dennis Roland for the last tackle spot on the team.

Otis Hudson and Andrew Gardner both signed reserve/future contracts and both will need strong preseasons if either of them stands a chance to make the team.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cincinnati is going to resign Nate Livings and they should be set after that.

D-Line (9)

Carlos Dunlap, Domata Peko, Tank Johnson, Antwan Odom, Geno Atkins, Robert Geathers, Pat Sims, Frostee Rucker, Clinton McDonald

Carlos Dunlap set the Bengals’ rookie record with 9.5 sacks last season. Dunlap played in a nickel role at the beginning of the season, but eventually earned more playing time and recorded all of his sacks over the final eight weeks. Dunlap will start at left end, since he is the Bengals’ most talented pass rusher, but he needs to work on his fundamentals and cutting down on mental mistakes.

Domata Peko had 42 tackles and .5 sacks as one of the Bengals’ captains last year. Peko is known as a run stopping defensive tackle, so the low number in sacks should be expected.

Tank Johnson had 10 tackles and zero sacks in seven games, but his season ended early with an injury to his right knee. Johnson is on thin ice and needs a strong training camp or he might lose his starting job to Geno Atkins. Atkins is a better pass rusher and certainly deserves the job, but Johnson has experience and is better against the run.

Antwan Odom has potential when he’s healthy, but an Achilles tear has hurt his production since he put up 8 sacks in just six games in 2009. Odom is set to make $4.5 million in 2011 and has only played in 21 games in his three-stint with the team, but he won’t get cut unless he struggles in training camp. Assuming Odom can bounce back to his former dominating self, the Bengals pass rush will be a force to be reckoned with

Geno Atkins appeared in all 16 games last season and had 3 sacks in a rotational role. Atkins ability to get to the quarterback should potentially allow him to replace Tank Johnson in the starting lineup.

Robert Geathers will play a rotational role as of now, but his $3.95 million contract is high for a backup. Either Geathers or Odom will be released, and while Geathers only had 1 sack in 16 starts last season, Odom’s injury history might keep Geathers on the roster.

Pat Sims is in the final year of his contract and is entering 2011 as a rotational defensive tackle. In 2010, Sims started 8 of the 14 games he appeared in and had 31 tackles and a career high 2.5 sacks. Sims is a nose tackle and might finally be developing some pass rushing moves. If Sims can get to the quarterback more in training camp, he could unseat Tank Johnson as a starter.

Frostee Rucker has three sacks over his four-year career in Cincinnati, but won’t be cut just yet because he is only scheduled to make $1.25 million. If Rucker has a weak training camp though, the media could influence the Bengals to get rid of him.

Clinton McDonald spent most of last season on the practice squad, but was promoted when Tank Johnson went down with an injury. McDonald is in the final year of his contract and if he doesn’t perform for the Bengals in training camp, it might be his last chance to play in the NFL.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cincinnati is set at defensive line and will likely be cutting a few players to save more cap room.

Linebackers (7)

Keith Rivers, Rey Maualuga, Michael Johnson, Roddrick Muckelroy, Dontay Moch, Vincent Rey, Dan Skuta

Keith Rivers finished second on the Bengals with 77 tackles despite playing most of the season with plantar fasciitis. Rivers also had 1 sack, but needs to work on his coverage skills. Rivers is only 25 years old and still has room to grow, but his improvement in stopping the run is encouraging.

Rey Maualuga is motivated for the 2011 season because his Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer called him “extremely average” Maualuga is also going to be switching to middle linebacker and the extra responsibilities that he’ll be given should help him become a better player.

Michael Johnson spent last offseason learning how to be linebacker, but Johnson was called upon to play defensive end because Antwan Odom had struggled since coming off his Achilles tear. Johnson flashed difference-making pass rushing ability in a situational role in preseason last year and the Bengals want to blitz more in 2011. Johnson will be ripe for the picking in coverage, but by him moving to strong-side linebacker, Rey Maualuga will be able to replace Dhani Jones. However, if Odom were to struggle again, Johnson would likely shift back to defensive end and another linebacker would step in.

Roddrick Muckelroy should step into the fourth linebacker role for the Bengals this season after playing in the goal-line package last season. Muckelroy rewarded the Bengals with two goal-line stands in his limited role and with a strong preseason, he could potentially change the Bengals’ coaching staff’s minds about moving Rey Maualuga to middle linebacker.

Rookie Dontay Moch (Nevada) will receive a situational role on defense and a huge role on special teams as a gunner. Moch’s size and speed (4.44 in the forty) will give him a huge advantage in punt coverage and be a nightmare for opposing teams’ returners.

Vincent Rey was promoted from the practice squad late last season, but only played on special teams. Rey had 3 tackles in two games last season, but should be able to secure a backup job considering that the Bengals are currently thin at linebacker.

Dan Skuta appeared in all 16 games last season and had 16 tackles and 1 forced fumble. Skuta played special teams primarily, but managed to start one game as well. Skuta obviously won’t start in 2011, but should be able to land at least a backup role.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cincinnati should resign Brandon Johnson once the resigning period starts. Johnson was Keith Rivers’ backup last season, but could potentially switch over to the strong-side linebacker position and compete for the starting job. Dhani Jones is getting older and the Bengals are in rebuilding mode, so it appears as though they’re willing to let him go. The Bengals aren’t expecting to make the playoffs in 2011 and want Rey Maualuga to get comfortable at middle linebacker.

Cornerbacks (7)

Leon Hall, Pacman Jones, Morgan Trent, Jonathan Wade, Brandon Ghee, Korey Lindsey, Rico Murray

Leon Hall is the Bengals’ top cover cornerback and is in the last year of his contract. Hall is currently one of the most underrated cornerbacks in the NFL and has made 58 starts in his first four seasons with a franchise-best 18 interceptions. Hall never receives any attention though because he plays for Cincinnati, but that could all change next year as he can expect a huge pay raise over the $3,037,500 he will make in 2011.

Pacman Jones should start opposite Leon Hall in 2011, assuming that the Bengals don’t bring in another cornerback and that Jones doesn’t get suspended. Jones was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest on July 10 and is scheduled to appear in court on July 18. If found guilty, Jones could lose a whole lot more as he is a repeat offender and would be facing another lengthy suspension by the NFL, possibly even a lifetime ban.

Jonathan Wade was burnt as a starting cornerback for the Lions, but held his own in his in his first start with the Bengals on Thanksgiving against the Jets. Wade faced Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes in man coverage, but did well enough to earn two more starts after. Wade could potentially be counted on as a starter if the Bengals opt to not sign any in free agency.

Morgan Trent was placed on injured reserve last season with a knee injury that he suffered back in Week 9. Trent has been a nickel and dime cornerback in his two season with the Bengals, but isn’t ready to challenge as a starter just yet. Trent is signed cheaply through 2012 and should resume the same role in 2011, assuming that he recovers.

Brandon Ghee had 9 tackles in six appearances last season, but could compete for the nickel job. Ghee possesses size (6’0’’, 190 pounds), speed (4.45 forty time) and athleticism, but lacks the ball skills and instincts to be a starter.

Rookie Korey Lindsey (Southern Illinois) is an underrated prospect with NFL ability and could possibly challenge for a nickel role. He has solid technique and showed great playmaking ability with his 14 career interceptions in college. Lindsey has even showed a willingness to stop the run, so he could potentially become a steal in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Rico Murray landed on injured reserve near the end of last season with an ankle injury after being promoted from the practice squad. Murray never made a play in 2010 and could be cut since he is set to make $480,000 and is not going to have any significant contributions.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cincinnati won’t be able to resign Jonathan Joseph, and Pacman Jones could get suspended, leaving the Bengals with a huge hole at cornerback. Potential Free Agents include: Phillip Buchanon, Chris Carr, Drayton Florence, Carlos Rodgers, Lito Sheppard, Ike Taylor, and Fabian Washington

Safeties (5)

Reggie Nelson, Chris Crocker, Tom Nelson, Robert Sands, Jeromy Miles

Reggie Nelson made 54 of 57 possible tackles and had 2 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles, while starting 6 of the 16 games he appeared in last season. With the departure of Roy Williams via free agency, Nelson will be counted on to take over the starting free safety job, allowing Chris Crocker to switch over to strong safety. Nelson has starting potential as he showed in his rookie season with the Jaguars when he had 5 interceptions.

Chris Crocker missed the last six games of the season last year due to a torn MCL and PCL, but his recovery has gone smoothly enough that he’d be ready to play “tomorrow” if there were a game. Crocker will move over to strong safety in 2011 and let the faster Reggie Nelson play free safety. Crocker isn’t a ball hawking safety and the move should allow him to be more active against the run. Crocker had 43 tackles and 2 forced fumbles in 2010.

Tom Nelson missed the first 5 games of the season last year with an ankle injury, but was able to secure a special team role. Nelson never received a look when Crocker went down his injuries, so it’s obvious that the Bengals only view him as a backup.

Rookie Robert Sands (West Virginia) struggles to tackle in space and as a result, he will become Reggie Nelson’s backup despite his size (6’4’’, 217 pounds) to play strong safety. Sands showed good speed and great ability to cover ground in college which is why the Bengals feel more comfortable putting him at free safety.

Jeromy Miles made the Bengals practice squad as an undrafted rookie last season, but was later promoted for depth purposes when the Bengals lost Roy Williams and Chris Crocker to injuries. Miles should make the team in 2011, but it’ll be as a backup and probably as a special teamer.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cincinnati is set at safety and won’t bring in a high priced upgrade. The Bengals want to remain relatively cheap while they’re in rebuilding mode and want to see how Reggie Nelson and Chris Crocker perform together.

Kicker (2)

Mike Nugent, Clint Stitser

Mike Nugent suffered a torn ACL and MCL last season, but was among the least accurate kickers in the NFL prior to his injuries, converting only 78.9 percent of his field goals. Nugent converted 1 of 3 field goals from 40-49 yards away and 2 of 4 field goals from 50+ yards away. Nugent hasn’t earned anything and the Bengals’ kicker job is up for grabs

Clint Stitser converted 87.5 percent of his field goals but missed a 29-yard field goal as well as 2 extra points last season. Stitser doesn’t deserve to be the Bengals kicker, and will likely be cut.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cincinnati needs a kicker since Mike Nugent and Clint Stitser are among the worst kickers in the league. Potential Free Agents include: David Akers, Matt Bryant, Shayne Graham, Ryan Longwell, Olindo Mare, Jeff Reed and Adam Vinateri.

Punter (1)

Kevin Huber

Kevin Huber was among the best punters in the league last season, averaging 42.1 yards per punt with only 6 touchbacks and 28 punts inside the 20-yard line. Huber could become a Pro Bowler in the next few years because the Bengals offense isn’t expected score a lot anytime soon and he’ll be able to become more accurate as a punter.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cincinnati has a good punter who is a hometown boy, since he played for the University of Cincinnati.

Long Snapper (1)

Clark Harris

Clark Harris is known for his gloves that he uses when he snaps the ball. Harris is also known for replacing Brad St. Louis in 2009 after St. Louis struggled with his field goal snaps. Since then, Harris has done a remarkable job and has job security going forward.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cincinnati doesn’t need to upgrade this position

Kick/Punt Returners (2)

Bernard Scott, Quan Cosby

Bernard Scott averaged 22.4 yards per kick return last season, but likely won’t be the kick returner in 2011 if Bengals’ Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden gives him a bigger role in the offense.

Quan Cosby averaged 7.5 yards per punt return last season and could potentially be stripped of punt return duties. Cosby averaged 11.9 yards per return in 2009, but his drop in production plus the fact that he hasn’t scored a touchdown in his NFL career is why the Bengals will be looking elsewhere on their roster.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cincinnati will search their roster for potential returners and don’t need to look at the free agent market for help.

Bengals Unrestricted Free Agents (14)

Cedric Benson, Jonathan Fanene, Brandon Johnson, Dhani Jones, Johnathan Joseph, Reggie Kelly, Brian Leonard, Nate Livings, Evan Mathis, Chinedum Ndukwe, Terrell Owens, Marvin White, Roy Williams

Cedric Benson is expected to resign with the Bengals as the lead back and Bengals first-year Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden sounds like he’s planning on having Benson on the team next year. “We have to find a way to get the best possible scenarios to get Cedric as many touches as possible without killing him,” said Gruden. In 2010, Benson averaged 3.5 yards per carry and rushed for 1,111 yards and 7 touchdowns on the ground. Benson was also more active in the passing game in 2010 and set a career high with 28 receptions and caught his first receiving touchdown in the NFL.

Jonathan Fanene was placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, but is said to be the Bengals’ third priority when it comes to resigning players. Fanene had 6 sacks when he replaced Antwan Odom in 2009, but only had 1 tackle in the 2 games that he appeared in last season.

Brandon Johnson was Keith Rivers’ backup last season and could be resigned, but his comments about enjoying the Lockout could hurt him. “I’m actually kind of enjoying my time off,” he said. “I get a lot of family time in, I get to kick it with my friends, and I get to do a lot of traveling. I don’t have to spend eight hours at the stadium.” Cincinnati and other NFL teams will question whether he still loves to play football.

Dhani Jones has missed just three games during his 10-year NFL career and is coming off a season in which he led the Bengals in tackles with 125. Despite his productive season in 2010, the Bengals are in rebuilding mode and were expected to let the 33-year-old walk before the Lockout, so it’s unlikely that the Bengals will resign him.

Jonathan Joseph is 27 years old and is being called the second best cornerback available in the free agent market, behind only Nnamdi Asomugha. Joseph arguably has better ball skills than Asomugha and has flashed potential as a shutdown corner. The Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, and Seattle Seahawks are reportedly the favorites to land Joseph if he doesn’t resign with the Bengals.


Reggie Kelly is not going to resign with the Bengals because he offers nothing in the passing game and was only a mediocre blocker after a torn Achilles wiped out his 2009 season. The Bengals are going back to power football and need blocking specialist tight ends.

Brian Leonard is a four year veteran and was tendered at a second-round level by Cincinnati before the Lockout, so it appears that the Bengals still want to keep him. If resigned, Leonard would probably handle the third-down role again in 2011.

Nate Livings won the starting left guard job last year because Evan Mathis was returning from a foot injury in training camp. As a starter, Livings struggled to protect Carson Palmer, but according to Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander, Livings played well enough to keep his starting job in 2011. Livings has great size at 6’5’’, 332 pounds, but will have to improve his pass protection or he might be relegated to backup duty for the rest of his career.

Evan Mathis won’t be back with the Bengals next season because the Bengals have enough depth at guard, making him expendable. Mathis is a solid run blocker and has flashed talent in spot duty. Mathis won’t be one of the big name free agents this year, but he could have a big impact if he signs with a guard-needy team.

Chinedum Ndukwe wasn’t extended a tender prior to Lockout and is an unrestricted free agent. When a team fails to extend a cheap tender to a player, it usually means they’re set on cutting ties. Ndukwe finished last season on injured reserve with a torn left MCL, but he should be able to find a backup job elsewhere after the Lockout.

Terrell Owens blamed the Bengals’ coaching staff for the team’s offensive struggles and has overstayed his one-year welcome in Cincinnati. Owens had ACL surgery back in April, but should be healthy by Opening Day. Potential buyers won’t need to be concerned with his knee, but T.O.’s influence in the locker room could make some teams hesitate to sign him.

Marvin White was sign late last season to add depth and pitch in on special teams. White could be brought back considering that his price tag is going to be low.

Roy Williams has played in just 19-of-48 games over the past three seasons, and is not expected to return next season. His replacement is going to be Reggie Nelson, who fared better than expected in his first year with the Bengals.

Outlook for the 2011 Detroit Lions

Outlook for the 2011 Detroit Lions
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Calvin Johnson earned a trip to the Pro Bowl last season, but he will need to earn another in 2011 if the Detroit Lions have any hope of making the playoffs.
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Ndamukong Suh was named the 2010 Defensive Rookie of the Year after leading all defensive tackles with 10 sacks.

The Detroit Lions finished third in the NFC North last season with a 6-10 record. The Lions became a pass-heavy team and they lost battle on the ground as a result last year. The Lions lacked a complement to Jahvid Best and they were hit hard with injuries all over their roster.

In an effort to change their losing ways, the Lions decided to keep their coaching staff and if the team can stay healthy, they could have a chance at the postseason.

In the 2011 NFL Draft, the Lions upgraded the defensive line, by selecting Nick Fairley (Auburn) with their first-round pick. In the second-round, the Lions selected a downfield threat in Titus Young (Boise State) and added a complementary back to Jahvid Best with the selection of Mikel Leshoure (Illinois). The rest of the Lions draft was used to fill in the depth chart.

With the addition of their rookies, let’s take a look at the Lions’ current roster and see what positions are still in need of upgrades.

Quarterbacks (3)

Matt Stafford, Shaun Hill, Zac Robinson

Matt Stafford underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason and the operation involved repairing his AC shoulder joint along with having his collarbone “shaved” by Dr. James Andrews. Stafford has fully recovered since the procedure and vows to play 16 games in 2011. In 2010, Stafford completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 535 yards, 6 touchdowns and 1 interception. The Lions plan to throw the ball often in 2011 and if Stafford can stay healthy, he has the potential to have a breakout year.

Shaun Hill underwent back surgery on May 11 to fix a disk problem in his lower back, but should be healthy by now. Hill is in a contract year and has proved to be a capable backup when he had to spot start last season. Hill played in eleven games and completed 61.8 percent of his passes for 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Zac Robinson joined the Lions last November after they claimed him off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks. Robinson is very athletic, but he has weak overall skills for a quarterback. Robinson likely won’t make the roster, but should be able to land a spot on the practice squad.

Free Agent Analysis:

Detroit is set at starting and backup quarterback. Robinson isn’t the ideal choice to be the Lions’ third-string quarterback, but they have more pressing needs to worry about. However, the Lions could resign Drew Stanton, since he was once seen as the long-term backup to Matt Stafford.

Halfbacks (5)

Jahvid Best, Mikel Leshoure, Maurice Morris, Aaron Brown, Ian Johnson

Jahvid Best is going to be the starter this season because he knows the Lions’ offense and his passing-game skills are crucial to the team’s pass-first system. Best is viewed as a perimeter runner and should also get the majority of the carries because Mikel Leshoure is viewed as a bruiser who will serve as the goal-line back. In 2010, Best averaged 3.3 yards per carry and had 4 touchdowns on the ground to go along with 58 receptions for 487 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air.

Rookie Mikel Leshoure (Illinois) has drawn comparisons to Steven Jackson for his size and burst. The Lions want to use Jahvid Best and Leshoure like the 2008 Tennessee Titans used Chris Johnson and LenDale White. Best figures to be the “get the lead” back and Leshoure will be the “keep the lead” back.

Maurice Morris could get cut because he is set to make $1.625 million, and the Lion’s might not want to pay that much for a third-stringer. Morris has been productive though as he averaged 3.7 yards per carry last season and also had 5 touchdowns

Aaron Brown has had just 44 carries over the last two seasons, but his tenure with the team might be cut short with three solid backs ahead of him on the current roster. His only hope is that the Lions decide to dump salary by getting rid of Maurice Morris’s $1.625 contract.

Ian Johnson signed a reserve/future contract and likely won’t make the team, but practice squad isn’t out of the question for him.

Free Agent Analysis:

Detroit is set at halfback after using two high draft picks on halfbacks over the last two seasons.

Fullback (3)

Jerome Felton, Jake Nordin, Matt Clapp

Jerome Felton was tender to a contract, but he is unhappy about his role in the Lions’ offense and believes he deserves more carries in 2011. In college, Felton set a school record with 63 career rushing touchdowns. Felton will likely remain a Lion, but he won’t receive many carries with the addition Mikel Leshoure.

Jake Nordin is an exclusive rights free agent, but likely won’t be retained after he suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder last season.

Matt Clapp likely will be cut because he was suspended four games last season for violating an undisclosed league policy. Prior to the suspension, Clapp had been bouncing around practice squads

Free Agent Analysis:

Detroit doesn’t need a fullback, but they need to have a discussion with Jerome Felton, to make him happier.

Wide Receivers (8)

Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Titus Young, Derrick Williams, Bryant Johnson, Stefan Logan, Tim Toone, Michael Moore

Calvin Johnson earned his first career Pro Bowl appearance last season with 77 receptions for 1,120 yards and 12 touchdowns. Megatron became one of the most dominating receivers last year and he should continue to grow on his success in 2011 because he will have more weapons around him and it should take off some double teams.

Nate Burleson encourages the drafting of Titus Young even though Young stands to take away some targets from him. Burleson had 55 receptions for 625 yards and 6 touchdowns last season which is kind of low, considering how many times the Lions passed the ball in 2010. Burleson will still be a No. 2 receiver, but he’ll need to play better for his team to have a shot at the playoffs.

Rookie Titus Young (Boise State) is an explosive playmaker and the Lions will use his downfield playmaking ability to stretch the field and occupy a safety, taking attention away from Calvin Johnson. Young will play outside opposite Calvin Johnson, pushing Nate Burleson into the slot in three-receiver sets.

Derrick Williams hasn’t done much in his two seasons with the Lions and will be on the bubble heading into training camp. Williams was billed as an explosive receiver when he entered the league, but he has yet to produce a score so far.

Bryant Johnson is expected to either be released or take a pay cut once the Lockout is resolved. Johnson is due $3.2 million, but he doesn’t deserve that money because of his lack of production and his tendency to drop passes. Johnson had just 18 receptions for 210 yards in 2010, and it appears that he’ll be looking for a new home.

Stefan Logan is an exclusive rights free agent and will definitely be back as a returner after proving to be one of the league’s top returners in 2010.

Tim Toone and Michael Moore signed reserve/future contracts, but likely won’t make the roster because the Lions have six receivers ahead of them with established roles.

Free Agent Analysis:

Detroit needs to release Bryant Johnson in order to save more cap room. Once they do that, their receiver position will be set.

Tight End (5)

Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler, Will Heller, Richard Dickson, Joe Jon Finley

Brandon Pettigrew has dropped 10 pounds since the end of last season and he plans to play 2011 in the 255 range. Pettigrew is hoping that it will help make him a faster tight end and allow him to have the same kind of production he had in 2010. Last season, Pettigrew had 71 receptions for 722 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Tony Scheffler is more of a downfield threat than Brandon Pettigrew, and he should receive an advantage on Pettigrew because Matthew Stafford will be under center and he throws a better deep ball than Shaun Hill. However, the addition of Titus Young will limit the effectiveness of Tony Scheffler because the Lions will use more three-receiver sets and fewer two-tight end formations in 2011.

Will Heller will have a minimal role this season because the Lions are planning to stretch the field and won’t use any three-tight end formations unless they are necessary. Heller is not really a receiving threat, so the only time he might enter a game is on special teams and in goal line situations.

Richard Dickson is probably going to make the practice squad because the Lions have no room for him on their current roster and he won’t beat out any of the three tight ends currently ahead of him.

Joe Jon Finley signed a reserve/future contract, but is going to make the team because the Lions’ top three tight ends are already set.

Free Agent Analysis:

Detroit is set at this position and their tight ends are perfect for their system because they can catch.

O-Line (10)

Jeff Backus, Rob Sims, Dominic Raiola, Stephen Peterman, Gosder Cherilus, Tony Ugoh, Donald Thomas, Jason Fox, Johnny Culbreath, Dan Gerberry

Jeff Backus has a partially torn pectoral muscle and is expected to miss the beginning of training camp. Backus will be 34 years old in September and has played at a respectable level, but is in the final year of his contract. The Lions need to decide if they want to keep Backus for a few more years or start thinking about a different long-term tackle.

Rob Sims has been a valuable trade acquisition for the Lions ever since they trade a fifth-round pick for him. Sims has solidified a longtime trouble spot at left guard for the Lions with his consistent performance in both the passing and running game.

Dominic Raiola has been mostly durable during his career, but he will be 33 years old in December. Raiola is signed through 2013, but the Lions will need to look for a replacement because although he was successful in their old zone-blocking scheme, Raiola will struggle as he gets older when the Lions ask him to power block.

Stephen Peterman played last season with a torn muscle on the ball of his right foot. The injury did not require surgery, but it did cause him “constant pain” throughout the 2010 season. If he can return healthy, it will do wonders for the Lions’ struggling running game.

Gosder Cherilus underwent surgery in the past two offseasons, but his most recent was on a knee injury and it required microfracture surgery. Cherilus participated in the Lions’ player-organized workouts and was reportedly “moving well”, so it appears that he should be able to build off of his promising 2010 campaign.

Tony Ugoh is a former Indianapolis Colt, but never developed as a NFL blindside tackle. Ugoh was a second-round pick, but has been considered a bust so far. The Lions signed Ugoh in December last season to give them more depth after they suffered significant injuries in their offensive line. Ugoh has the potential to become the Lions’ starting right tackle, but that’ll depend on the health of Gosder Cherilus.

Donald Thomas signed with the Lions in late November last season after Stephen Peterman went down with a foot injury. Thomas was a former starter as a Miami Dolphin, but he wasn’t active for any games in 2010. Thomas should make a solid backup in 2011 as he will have a better knowledge of the Lions’ playbook.

Jason Fox was a four-year starter in college, but will be a backup on the Lions for now. Fox has upside with his athleticism and size (6’7’’, 303 pounds), but he lacks the ideal strength of an NFL tackle. Fox had a minor knee surgery as a rookie last season and didn’t play until Week 17, so while he won’t start, he should be give the opportunity to compete for the Lions’ swing tackle behind Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherilus.

Rookie Johnny Culbreath (South Carolina State) has great size (6’5’’, 322 pounds) and athleticism (4.92 forty), but is considered a developmental project. Culbreath won the 2009 Lineman of the Year Award in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, but the talent in that conference isn’t nearly as good as the pros.

Dan Gerberry signed a reserve/future contract, but likely won’t make the roster as the Lions are expected to bring in another veteran backup via free agency.

Free Agent Analysis:

Detroit has two starting tackles that are coming off of injuries and remain question marks heading into the season. Tony Ugoh is unproven as a starter and the Lions can’t settle for uncertainties if they believe they have a legitimate chance of making the playoffs. Potential Free Agents include: Khalif Barnes, Alex Barron, Sean Locklear, Barry Sims, Langston Walker, and Ray Willis

D-Line (10)

Kyle Vanden Bosch, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Cliff Avril, Corey Williams, Lawrence Jackson, Sammie Lee Hill, Willie Young, Andre Fluellen, Barry Turner

Kyle Vanden Bosch had two vertebrae in his spinal cord fused together in early December last season, and figures to see a decrease in snaps in 2011. Vanden Bosch played in eleven games last season and he had 49 tackles, 4 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles, but he also gave the Lions so much more. In addition to helping lead the Lions’ player-organized workouts; he is being viewed as the “turning point” in the team’s attitude and improved play last season.

Ndamukong Suh was named the 2010 Defensive Rookie of the Year after leading all the NFL defensive tackles with 10 sacks. Suh has great potential and could become one of the greatest defensive tackles all-time, but he needs to work on having more of an impact against the run.

Rookie Nick Fairley (Auburn) will play in a three-man rotation with Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams at defensive tackle. On passing downs, Fairley and Williams will play at defensive tackle and Suh will move to defensive end. Fairley is a good pass rusher and ranked seventh in the nation with 11.5 sacks last season.

Cliff Avril is hoping to get a long-term extension from the Lions after recording 8.5 sacks in just 13 games last season. Avril is a three-year player and received a first- and third-round tender, but he isn’t planning on signing the $3.3 million tender. If the Lions can lock up Cliff Avril long-term, they could have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL over the next few seasons.

Corey Williams only had 2 sacks in 16 starts last year and as a result the Lions went and drafted Nick Fairley to improve their pass rush. Williams’ role will decrease in 2011, but he will still see a lot of snaps since Ndamukong Suh will move over to defensive end in passing situations.

Lawrence Jackson was on the bench in the first half of last season, but he flashed both run-plugging and pass-rushing ability in November and December. Jackson won’t start, but he will be a viable rotational end and should be the player that gives Kyle Vanden Bosch a breather.

Sammie Lee Hill was well above average in pushing the pocket and stopping the run last season. Hill was just a situational run-stuffer last year, but his emergence could eventually make Corey Williams expendable. Expect Hill’s role to be reduced in 2011 though because Nick Fairley is going to take away both Hill and Williams’ playing time.

Willie Young only appeared in 2 games last season, but he had no impact in those games. Young is a former seventh round pick and will have to compete for the Lions’ final defensive end spot.

Andre Fluellen tendered a contract prior to the Lockout, but the Lions will probably release him because they have four defensive tackles ahead of him.

Barry Turner signed with the Lions last December after Kyle Vanden Bosch went down with an injury. Turner is a mediocre prospect and likely won’t make the team due to the Lion’s amazing depth.

Free Agent Analysis:

Detroit has one of the best defensive lines in the NFL and doesn’t need to sign anyone.

Linebackers (7)

Zack Follett, DeAndre Levy, Ashlee Palmer, Jordan Dizon, Caleb Campbell, Doug Hogue, Isaiah Ekejiuba

Zack Follett originally thought his career was over thanks to a degenerative neck ailment, but has apparently found some optimism. If he can pass a physical, he should be able to make the Lions as a reserve linebacker and as a special teamer. Follett is only listed as a starter because he has starting experience and because he’s a better option than anyone else on the current roster.

DeAndre Levy is expected to be the Lions’ middle linebacker in 2011 after playing hurt all of last season. When healthy, Levy is a good run stopper, but he needs to work on his coverage skills. In 2010, Levy recorded 72 tackles, 2 interceptions and 1 touchdown in just eleven games.

Ashlee Palmer is expected to compete with Bobby Carpenter (once he’s resigned) for an outside linebacker job. Palmer received 5 starts last season, but recorded 55 tackles, 1 sack and 3 forced fumbles in 16 games.

Jordan Dizon likely won’t make the Lions roster after tearing his PCL and ACL and damaging his MCL in the 2010 preseason. Dizon has a long journey ahead of him, but it’s doubtful that he can beat out the other players on the roster.

Caleb Campbell had 3 tackles as a special teamer after spending most of his time on the practice squad last season. The Lions are thin at linebacker, so it would appear his job is safe, but he won’t get a chance to become a starter.

Rookie Doug Hogue (Syracuse) is extremely athletic and is excellent in space, but he is still considered a raw prospect. Hogue needs to add bulk and must improve his coverage skills after frequently getting caught out of position in college. Hogue will be a backup in 2011, but he has plenty of upside.

Isaiah Ekejiuba is a career special teamer and should make the roster in that same role in 2011.

Free Agent Analysis:

Detroit is very young at linebacker and besides needing two starters, they need experience. The Lions plan to resign Bobby Carpenter, but Landon Johnson or anybody for that matter, would be the better option. Potential Free Agents include: Keith Bullock, Danny Clark, Thomas Davis, LeRoy Hill, Ben Leber, Kawika Mitchell, Mike Peterson, and Pisa Tinoisamoa

Cornerbacks (5)

Alphonso Smith, Nathan Vasher, Aaron Berry, Jack Williams, Prince Miller

Alphonso Smith emerged as a starter last season, but after he picked off a team-high five interceptions, his play began to slip and it started when Tom Brady torched him on Thanksgiving. Smith will start in 2011 unless the Lions are able to resign Chris Houston and sign a starting-caliber free agent.

Nathan Vasher is a starter on the current roster, but once free agency begins, he will likely be relegated to competing for the nickel job. Vasher used to be a starter for the Chicago Bears, but in his first season with the Lions, he only made five starts, producing just 19 tackles and 1 interception.

Aaron Berry played in just one game last season, but he recorded 3 tackles and 1 interception before suffering right shoulder injury that would require surgery. Berry had been in a competition for the nickel job prior to his injury, but he likely will be competing for the fourth corner spot.

Jack Williams missed all of 2010 after tearing his ACL in Week 10 of the 2009 season. Williams would’ve played sooner, but he had scar tissue that built up, preventing him full range of motion in his knee. However, Williams is healthy and has now been cleared for all football activities and should be in the mix for a backup cornerback job this summer.

Prince Miller made 8 tackles last season, appearing in just four games as a sub-package corner and as a special teamer. Miller will compete for the fifth corner spot and possibly as a punt returner.

Free Agent Analysis:

Detroit needs a shutdown corner if they are going to have any chance of making the playoffs. Resigning Chris Houston would give the Lions a solid No. 2 corner, but they need to sign a starting caliber corner so they can move Alphonso Smith into the nickel role. Potential Free Agents include: Nnamdi Asomugha, Chris Carr, Antonio Cromartie, Jonathan Joseph, Richard Marshall, Carlos Rogers, Ike Taylor, and Josh Wilson.

Safeties (5)

Louis Delmas, Erik Coleman, Randy Phillips, Amari Spievey, Paul Pratt

Louis Delmas played all of last season with a groin injury, but he was still able to lead the team with 84 tackles while also contributing 2 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. Delmas has since recovered and has participated in the teams’ player-organized activities without any limitation.

Erik Coleman was a seven-year starter before losing his job to William Moore last season. Coleman has always been a productive tackler, but he is a coverage liability and hasn’t intercepted a pass since 2008. Coleman will be an upgrade over the Lions’ safeties from last year, but he will eventually get replaced by Amari Spievey once Spievey learns the nuances of the position.

Randy Phillips was an undrafted free agent last season, but that was because of a torn right labrum that made him miss the entire 2009 season. Phillips figures to be the Lions’ backup free safety this season after last years’ safeties proved to be incapable of producing when given the opportunity.

Amari Spievey was inconsistent in his first season as a strong safety, but he didn’t embarrass himself and is still in the Lions’ plans to be the long-term strong safety. The Lions brought in Erik Coleman as insurance, and though Coleman figures to win the starting job, Spievey will be close behind and ready to start if Coleman messes up.

Paul Pratt appeared in two games as a corner last season, but allowed the lone pass thrown his way to be completed for 15 yards. The Lions are going to move him to free safety as a backup, but he won’t see any more playing time there.

Free Agent Analysis:

Detroit could go out and sign a better strong safety than Erik Coleman, but they believe Amari Spievey will soon become their long-term strong safety.

Kicker (1)

Jason Hanson

Jason Hanson is 41 years old, but he had missed just one game over the last 18 season before spraining his MCL in Week 9 last season. Before his injury, Hanson had converted 85.7 percent of his field goals, so it appears that he is still capable of kicking in the NFL despite his age.

Free Agent Analysis:

Detroit could bring back Dave Rayner as insurance, but Hanson will likely win the starting job because he is still kicking at a high level.

Punter (1)

Nick Harris

Nick Harris averaged 44.6 yards per punt last season and landed 24 punts inside the 20-yard line with only 8 touchbacks.

Free Agent Analysis:

Detroit has a good punter signed through 2012 and they don’t want to address the position until then.

Long Snapper (1)

Don Muhlbach

Don Muhlbach is in a contract year, but has done a good job to this point.

Free Agent Analysis:

Detroit is set at long snapper for this season, and if Don Muhlbach were to get injured, the Lions know that Dominic Raiola could fill in capably as a long snapper.

Kick/Punt Returners (1)

Stefan Logan

Stefan Logan averaged 26.3 yards per kick return and 12.1 yards per punt return in 2010. Logan also had a 105-yard kick return touchdown.

Free Agent Analysis:

Detroit is set at returner because Stefan Logan did a fabulous job last season.

Lions Unrestricted Free Agents (12)

Bobby Carpenter, Dylan Gandy, Corey Hilliard, Chris Houston, Landon Johnson, Turk McBride, Brandon McDonald, Julian Peterson, Dave Rayner, Kevin Smith, Drew Stanton, John Wendling

Bobby Carpenter is expected to compete for a starting outside linebacker job if he resigns with the Lions. Julian Peterson is a free agent and Zach Follett’s (neck) football future is in question, so the Lions need to resign him.

Dylan Gandy will be a backup if he returns to the Lions. Gandy will likely explore all of his options to see if any other teams value him higher than the Lions do.

Corey Hilliard was signed off the Browns practice squad last season because the Lions had too many injuries on their offensive line. Hilliard might come back, but the odds of him sticking on their roster are slim.

Chris Houston wants a long-term deal, but because he had recurring shoulder issues in 2010, the Lions want to see if he can still play at the same level he did last season. Houston is a fine No. 2 corner when healthy, but the Lions will still need to sign another corner even if they resign Houston

Landon Johnson might resign with the Lions this season because they are willing to “let him compete for a starting spot.” The Lions are thin at outside linebacker, so it’s not surprising that they want to retain Johnson despite the fact that he suffered two concussions towards the end of last season.

Turk McBride set career highs last season, racking up five sacks and 33 tackles in 15 games. If McBride were to resign with the Lions, he’d likely be a rotational end, but at least he would get a pay raise.

Brandon McDonald likely won’t be back with the Lions this season because cornerback is expected to be their top priority and McDonald isn’t one of the elite corners despite his starting experience from his time with the Cleveland Browns. McDonald fractured his forearm towards the end of last season and most teams will probably avoid signing him until one of their corners gets hurt.

Julian Peterson won’t be back with the Lions because they released him prior to the Lockout. By letting Peterson go, the Lions saved $8 million in salary cap room. Peterson will be 33 at the end of July and will need to sign a much cheaper contract.

Dave Rayner converted 81.3 percent of his field goals last season and was perfect from beyond 50 yards last season. Rayner wants to resign with the Lions, but only if they cut Jason Hanson. If the Lions choose the latter, Rayner should still be able to find a team in free agency.

Kevin Smith won’t be back with the Lions because they just drafted 2 halfbacks over the last two years. Smith averaged 3.8 yards per carry last season, so he might be able to find a backup job somewhere. The Cleveland Browns would be an ideal choice because Montario hardest is coming off of ACL surgery.

Drew Stanton completed 58 percent of his passes for 4 touchdowns and 3 interceptions in 6 games last season. Stanton would best off if he resigned with the Lions because he would become the Lions’ long-term backup to Matt Stafford, once Shaun Hill leaves.

John Wendling was a good special teamer last season, and could resign with the Lions in the same role. Wendling isn’t great in coverage as a safety though, so he likely won’t attract too much attention on the market.

Outlook for the 2011 Cleveland Browns

Outlook for the 2011 Cleveland Browns
See all 2 photos
Colt McCoy struggled during his rookie season, but believes he can master the Browns’ new West Coast Offense.
See all 2 photos
Rookie Phil Taylor (Baylor) is going to improve the Browns’ run defense and help the team switch to a 4-3 defense.

The Cleveland Browns were 5-11 last season and while they were third in the AFC North, they were among one of the worst teams in the league last season. The Browns’ quarterback play was pathetic in 2010 and their whole offense rested on the shoulders of Peyton Hillis. On defense, the Browns gave up 129.4 rushing yards per game which ranked as the sixth most in the NFL.

In an effort to change their losing ways, the Browns fired former Head Coach Eric Mangini and hired former St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to replace him. With a new sheriff in town, the Browns are changing to the West Coast Offense and switching to a 4-3 Defense led by new defensive coordinator Dick Jauron.

In the 2011 NFL Draft, the Browns passed on selecting the second best receiver in the draft in Julio Jones (Oklahoma) and instead traded their sixth overall pick to the Atlanta Falcons for their 2011 and 2012 first-round picks, 2011 and 2012 fourth-round picks and 2011 second-round pick. In a separate trade, the Browns moved up in the first-round by trading the Atlanta Falcons’ first-round pick and their own third-round pick. With Kansas City’s first-round pick, the Browns selected defensive tackle Phil Taylor and with their own second-round pick they selected defensive end Jabaal Sheard (Pittsburgh). Both picks will upgrade the Browns’ run defense. With Atlanta’s second-round pick, the Browns selected a playmaker in receiver Greg Little (UNC). With Atlanta’s fourth-round pick, the Browns selected a versatile fullback in Owen Marecic (Stanford). The rest of the Browns’ selections were all depth picks.

With the addition of their rookies, let’s take a look at the Browns’ current roster and see what positions are still in need of upgrades.

Quarterbacks (4)

Colt McCoy, Seneca Wallace, Jake Delhomme, Jarrett Brown

Colt McCoy had a bad rookie season, completing 60.8 percent of his passes and averaging only 197 yards per game while throwing 6 touchdowns and 9 interceptions in 8 games. McCoy has become a better leader though and has organized offensive skill sessions with his teammates during the Lockout. McCoy was drafted to become the face of the Browns’ franchise, but last year was thrown into the starting quarterback role due to injuries. McCoy will be the starting quarterback in 2011 and he should be able to develop chemistry that will benefit him in the future, but it won’t be able to help the Browns make the playoffs this year.

Seneca Wallace has a lot of knowledge of the West Coast offense from his days in Seattle which is likely one of the main reasons that the Browns decided to resign Wallace to a three-year $9 million contract. Wallace is one of the most capable backups in the league and his mobility will be crucial if Colt McCoy were to go down with an injury.

Jake Delhomme is scheduled to make $5.4 million in base salary for 2011 and will likely be cut because the Browns aren’t going to overpay for a third-string quarterback. Delhomme played in 5 games last season, but threw for 2 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Delhomme has 10 touchdowns and 25 interceptions over the last two seasons and is no longer capable of being a starting quarterback in the NFL. If released, Delhomme could become a backup on another team and serve as a mentor for a young starting quarterback. Potential suitors could include: the Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers, and Tennessee Titans.

Jarrett Brown was an undrafted free agent last season and is currently poised to become the Browns’ third-string quarterback assuming Jake Delhomme is let go. Brown is probably better off being on the practice squad because he still needs to develop, but it isn’t the end of the world if the Browns were to keep him on their roster.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cleveland doesn’t need a quarterback because Colt McCoy is ready to become a starter and Seneca Wallace is a capable backup.

Halfbacks (3)

Peyton Hillis, Montario Hardesty, Quinn Porter

Peyton Hillis was overworked last year, but managed to produce numbers good enough to name him the cover athlete of Madden 2011. In 2010, Hillis had 270 carries for 1177 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground and had 61 receptions for 477 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air. Prior to 2010, Hillis had only received 81 carries in his career and it was evident at the end of the season that it took a toll on him. In his first 8 games last season, Hillis had averaged 4.78 yards per carry, but in the final 8 games, his yards per carry dropped to 3.82. Hillis took a beating in 2010, and led running backs with eight fumbles, while tying for third in the NFL by losing five of them. Hopefully, the Browns will be able to use Montario Hardesty in 2011, and be able to give Hillis more of a breather.

Montario Hardesty is expected to have a complementary role to Peyton Hillis in 2011 after missing 2010 with an ACL injury. Hardesty is a former second round pick with pass catching ability and could become the Browns third-down back.

Quinn Porter signed a reserve/future contract with the Browns, but would have made the Packers roster last season had it not been for a sprained MCL. Porter has playmaking ability when healthy, but lacks the mental part of the game. Porter should be able to land the third-string half back job though, considering he was good enough to make the Packers if it weren’t for his injury

Free Agent Analysis:

Cleveland is set at halfback, but will probably bring in an undrafted free agent to compete with Quinn Porter.

Fullback (2)

Owen Marecic, Tyler Clutts

Rookie Owen Marecic (Stanford) is expected to replace Lawrence Vickers as the Browns starting fullback. Marecic has pass catching abilities, (something Vickers didn’t have) and has had experience blocking for the 2009 Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart. Marecic used to play linebacker as well so he’ll know what to expect from defenses when he lead blocks for Peyton Hillis.

Tyler Clutts signed a reserve/future contract, but likely won’t make the team because the Browns draft a young talented fullback.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cleveland drafted a fullback in the fourth round and Marecic is capable of starting in 2011.

Wide Receivers (8)

Greg Little, Mohamed Massaquoi, Brian Robiskie, Joshua Cribbs, Demetrius Williams, Carlton Mitchell, Jordan Norwood, Rod Windsor

Rookie Greg Little (UNC) will be the Browns’ No. 1 receiver on opening day because he is very good at getting yards after catch and has the ability to break tackles. Little could win the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award because the Browns new offense will have the same terminology as his college offense. With that benefit in a shortened offseason, Little will be way ahead of his fellow rookies and with the talent he possesses, he should be able to compete at a high level right from the start.

Mohamed Massaquoi has been working with Pro Bowl receivers Wes Welker, Hines Ward, Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, and Chad Ochocinco during the Lockout. So far, Massaquoi has been improving his route running and is learning how to break down film better. Massaquoi is in his third-year in the NFL, but hopefully with his new knowledge, he’ll be able to improve his game and become a breakout player. Massaquoi will be the No. 2 receiver and should be able to better the 36 receptions for 483 yards and 2 touchdowns that he put up in 2010.

Brian Robiskie saw an increased role in 2010 and produced 29 receptions for 310 yards and 3 touchdowns. Brian Robiskie is a Michael Jenkins-type of receiver and lacks playmaking ability as evident by his 1.9 average of yards after the catch. Robiskie will operate out of the slot this season, but isn’t likely to be the long-term answer at the spot.

Joshua Cribbs is more of a gadget player than a receiver, but new Browns coach Pat Shurmur thinks that Cribbs still has the potential to be a threat in the passing game. Cribbs has the size (6’1’’, 215 pounds) and the speed to become a legit receiving threat, but hasn’t been given the opportunity to showcase it. In 2010, Cribbs set career highs with 23 receptions for 292 yards and 1 touchdown, but wasn’t involved in the offense enough. Cribbs is an expert at breaking tackles and has potential, but the Browns need to figure out how to get their most exciting player the ball more. Cribbs will compete for the slot receiver position, which is a spot that he should thrive in because he can catch a slant and spin away from tacklers with ease.

Demetrius Williams is a deep threat that couldn’t make it in Baltimore, a team that is filled with possession receivers. Williams has the talent to make it in the NFL, but as everyone knows, “those who don’t perform, often become forgotten”. The Browns could be Williams last chance in the NFL because the Browns have been the NFL’s laughingstock at receiver over the last couple of years and if he can’t make it as No. 5 receiver with them, he’d probably be better off going to the CFL or UFL.

Carlton Mitchell is physically gifted, but needs to show improved hands and route running if he wants to become the No. 5 receiver. Mitchell has the potential to be a good third-down possession receiver, but if he can’t limit his drops, he’ll never become anything more than an inactive player on game days. Mitchell played in 5 games last season, but didn’t catch a ball.

Jordan Norwood has spent the last two seasons on the Eagles and Browns’ practice squads, but isn’t expected to take the next big step in 2011. Norwood is still young (24), but is out of practice squad options and will need to beat out Demetrius Williams and Carlton Mitchell in order to make the team.

Rod Windsor played in the AFL last year with the Arizona Rattlers and earned Rookie of the Year honors with 47 receiving touchdowns. Windsor dominated in the AFL, but there is a huge difference in the talent between the NFL and the AFL. Windsor will need a big preseason if he wants a chance to make the roster, but he will likely make the practice squad and be used as a “preparation receiver” in practices in the red zone.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cleveland is a rebuilding team that will not be able to contend with the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011 and wants to see what they have at receiver before deciding to bring in players. Brian Robiskie isn’t the prototypical slot receiver, but Joshua Cribbs will be given the chance to beat him and if Cribbs comes out on top, the Browns will be set.

Tight End (5)

Benjamin Watson, Evan Moore, Jordan Cameron, Alex Smith, Tyson Devree

Benjamin Watson had a career high 68 receptions for a career high 763 yards and 3 touchdowns in his first season with the Browns. Watson is a playmaking tight end with good blocking abilities, but needs to become a better red zone target in 2011.

Evan Moore is a poor blocker, but still somehow manages to play tight end instead of receiver. Moore averaged a team-best 20.1 yards per catch in 2010, so hopefully the Browns will give Moore the opportunity to better the 16 receptions for 322 yards and 1 touchdown that he produced in 2010.

Rookie Jordan Cameron (USC) is a former basketball player and has received comparisons to New Orleans Saints’ tight end Jimmy Graham. Cameron has incredible talent, but will ride the bench as long as Benjamin Watson is on the roster.

Alex Smith appeared in just three games last season, but could find a way to beat out Evan Moore as Benjamin Watson’s backup. Smith is a good blocking tight end and if he can showcase some receiving skills, he could push Evan Moore off of the roster.

Tyson DeVree hasn’t seen real action since his senior year at Colorado in 2007. Devree had 37 receptions that year for 402 yards and 8 touchdowns, so it’s not like he doesn’t have the talent to earn a spot. The Browns just don’t have room for him. DeVree is on a roster full of tight ends, so his chances of making the team are not very good.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cleveland has 5 tight ends on their roster and will releasing two tight ends before opening day.

O-Line (10)

Joe Thomas, Eric Steinbach, Alex Mack, Shawn Lauvao, Tony Pashos, Steve Vallos, Jason Pinkston, Brandon Braxton, Pat Murray, Phil Trautwein

Joe Thomas hasn’t gone a season without making the Pro Bowl in his four-year career and has quickly joined the elite ranks as one of the game’s premier left tackles. With a young quarterback in Colt McCoy, the Browns can count on Thomas to protect his blindside, allowing McCoy to have more time in the pocket

Eric Steinbach put together another solid season for the Browns and was rewarded by being named the second alternate at the guard position in the Pro Bowl. Steinbach has started 32 consecutive games in the last two years next to Pro Bowlers Joe Thomas and Alex Mack and each should continue to provide sufficient protection for Colt McCoy.

Alex Mack is emerging as one of the elite centers in the NFL and is a big reason why Peyton Hillis became a household name in 2010. Mack was rewarded with his first Pro Bowl appearance in only his second season in the league and it appears that the future is bright for Mack.

Shawn Lauvao is expected to become the Browns’ new starting right guard. Lauvao has quick feet and is athletic enough to become a solid guard in the NFL. Lauvao used to be a tackle in college, but spent his rookie season last year learning how to play as a guard. Lauvao was on the sidelines mostly last season, but was able to better understanding of what a right guard’s assignment is.

Tony Pashos is expected to be the Browns’ starting right tackle on opening day in 2011, despite only making it through 5 games last season. Pashos landed on the injured reserve with an ankle injury, but according to GM Tom Heckert, Pashos will be the starter as long as he’s healthy. Pashos has the size (6’6’’, 325 pounds) to become a good right tackle, but hasn’t been healthy over the past few seasons, so the position will remain a question unless the Browns opt to look into the free agent market.

Steve Vallos is a former starting center from the Seattle Seahawks, but can also play guard. The Browns are set at center with Alex Mack, but should Shawn Lauvao struggle at right guard, Vallos should be able to come off the bench and fill in capably.

Rookie Jason Pinkston (Pittsburgh) played offensive tackle in college but will switch inside for the Browns and be a backup in 2011. Pinkston struggles with edge rushers, so moving him to guard should allow him to achieve his full potential.

Brandon Braxton, Pat Murray, and Phil Trautwein each signed reserve/future contracts, but not all of them will make the Browns’ roster. In past years the Browns offensive line depth was a strength, but with current free agents Floyd Womack and Billy Yates set to test the market, the Browns only have 7 guaranteed offensive line spots locked up.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cleveland needs to resign Floyd Womack in case Shawn Lauvao struggles and should look into the free agent market for a right tackle. Tony Pashos hasn’t been healthy over the past few seasons and right tackle was a huge hole for the Browns last year. Potential Free Agents include: Khalif Barnes, Alex Barron, Kirk Chambers, Wayne Hunter, Sean Locklear, Barry Sims, and Langston Walker.

D-Line (8)

Jabaal Sheard, Phil Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin, Marcus Benard, Travis Ivey, Brian Schaefering, Titus Adams, Ko Quaye

Rookie Jabaal Sheard (Pittsburgh) will start at defensive end for the Browns after posting 9 sacks and 4 forced fumbles as a senior last season. Sheard won the 2010 Big East Defensive Player of the Year as a relentless, explosive pass rusher and it should translate smoothly over to the NFL. Sheard was considered by many scouts as a late first-round projection, but fell to the Browns in the second round.

Rookie Phil Taylor (Baylor) will start in 2011 alongside Ahtyba Rubin as a pair of “two gap” tackles. Taylor isn’t much of a pass rusher, but if he can receive some double teams, it’ll open the door for linebackers D’Qwell Jackson and Chris Gocong to make plays without blockers on them.

Ahtyba Rubin led all defensive linemen with 82 tackles last season. Rubin played the nose in the Browns’ old 3-4 system, but will become a “two gap” tackle and play a crucial role in stopping the run in 2011. Rubin isn’t a good pass rusher either, so the Browns will need to rely on new defensive coordinator Dick Jauron to devise blitzes that will create pressure on opposing to quarterbacks.

Marcus Benard put up 7.5 sacks last season, but will need to produce more this season, or opposing quarterbacks will have more time in the pocket because Benard is the only experienced pass rusher on the team.

Travis Ivey was Ahtyba Rubin’s backup at the nose last season, but became a starter at defensive end at the end of the season. Ivey is too big (6’4’’, 325 pounds) to play end in the 4-3, but should be able to capably fill at defensive tackle as a run stopper.

Brian Schaefering received consideration as a 3-4 defensive end on last year’s team, but will switch back to defensive tackle in the Browns’ 4-3 defense. Schaefering isn’t much of a run stopper, and as a result, he will receive only situational play time. If not for a lack of depth on the defensive line, Schaefering would be looking at possibly getting cut, but he should be safe this year.

Titus Adams is an extensive rights free agent, but his odds of making the roster are slim to none with four other defensive tackles ahead of him.

Ko Quaye is under contract, but is in the same boat as Titus Adams. If either stands a chance, they need to unseat Brian Schaefering.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cleveland needs to resign Robaire Smith. Cleveland lacks defensive ends on their roster and will need to find some pass rushers in the free agent market because Marcus Benard isn’t proven and Jabaal Sheard is a rookie. Potential Free Agents include: Jason Babin, Ray Edwards, Jonathan Fanene, Charles Johnson, and Bobby McCray.

Linebackers (7)

D’Qwell Jackson, Chris Gocong, Scott Fujita, Steve Octavien, Kaluka Maiava, Titus Brown, Eric Alexander

D’Qwell Jackson could have a big season in the Browns’ new 4-3 defense because he is a good sideline-to-sideline tackler and won’t have to take on guards as much in the new system. Jackson appeared in just six games over the past two seasons due to season-ending pectoral injuries in each of his arms. Prior to the injuries, Jackson was the NFL’s leading tackler in 2008 and if he can stay healthy, the Browns will have an even better run defense.

Chris Gocong was a dominant run defender last season and with Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin poised to see lots of double teams, he could compete for the most tackles in the NFL. Gocong is also solid in coverage and could be an every-down middle linebacker which would also help his chances in racking up tackles.

Scott Fujita is the Browns’ team leader and has been teaching the basics of a 4-3 defense to his team during the offseason. Fujita will start opening day at strong-side linebacker, and it is crucial for him to stay healthy because he has missed twelve games over the past two seasons.

Steve Octavien is capable of playing any of the Browns’ linebacker positions, but it remains to be seen how much of an impact he’ll have in the Browns’ new 4-3 defense. Octavien has played in the 3-4 system his entire career and it’s likely that he’ll only be used on special teams in 2011.

Kaluka Maiava is recovering from a right ACL surgery that he underwent last October. Maiava is learning a new defense and hasn’t played in a while, so he shouldn’t receive a significant role in 2011. He’ll probably be a special teamer and be a reserve linebacker.

Titus Brown suffered a concussion at the end of last season on kick coverage. Brown will be fine heading into 2011, but he’ll only be used on special teams and have a reserve role at linebacker.

Eric Alexander is a career special teamer that provides good depth at linebacker.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cleveland is set at linebacker, but will be looking at undrafted free agents to compete with their backup linebackers.

Cornerbacks (5)

Joe Haden, Sheldon Brown, Coye Francies, Buster Skrine, Ramzee Robinson

Joe Haden was terrific in coverage last season and led the Browns with 6 interceptions. Haden did well as a rookie, but should continue to grow in his sophomore season and possibly even make the Pro Bowl.

Sheldon Brown underwent offseason surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, but should be healthy by opening day. Brown has played in every game over his nine-year career, so the Browns shouldn’t have to worry about him. In 2010, Brown had 63 tackles and 2 interceptions, and earned the right to start opposite Joe Haden.

Coye Francies spent the majority of last season on the Browns’ practice squad after dealing with a groin injury throughout their 2010 training camp. Francies is currently poised to be the Browns’ nickel corner, but that’ll change once free agency hits. Francies has talent though, but has been overlooked ever since his 2007 gun arrest which affected his draft stock last year with him falling into the sixth round, despite being San Jose State’s top cover corner.

Rookie Buster Skrine (UT-Chattanooga) has been timed in the 4.2s and 4.3s on the track, but isn’t much of a cornerback. Skrine could have a role as a gunner on special teams though.

Ramzee Robinson signed a reserve/future contract after bouncing around from team to team on their practice squads. Robinson could actually make it on the Browns roster in 2011 though because they don’t have much depth on their current roster.

Free Agent Analysis:

Behind Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown, the rest of their cornerbacks are full of question marks. The Browns need a proven nickel corner, and will need to look into free agency to find one. Potential Free Agents include: Phillip Buchanon, Travis Daniels, Drayton Florence, Ellis Hobbs, Roderick Hood, William James, Karl Paymah, and Brian Williams.

Safeties (5)

T.J. Ward, Mike Adams, Eric Hagg, Raymond Ventrone, DeAngelo Smith

T.J. Ward led the Browns in tackles with 123 last season and had 2 interceptions. Ward is very good at getting involved in the run game, but given his struggles in coverage last season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Dick Jauron put Ward in the box and blitz more.

Mike Adams is the Browns’ starting strong safety right now, but don’t be surprised to see him move back to cornerback. Adams lost his free safety job to T.J. Ward last season, but still managed to have 45 tackles and a sack in limited action.

Rookie Eric Hagg (Nebraska) is going to be T.J. Ward’s primary backup, but could eventually challenge for the strong safety job. In college, Hagg led his team in interceptions with five and was voted as the Huskers’ 2010 Defensive MVP.

Raymond Ventrone makes the veteran minimum and plays mostly special teams. Ventrone is currently poised for to become Mike Adams’ backup and should have the same role on special teams in 2011.

DeAngelo Smith signed a reserve/future contract, but is likely to be cut before opening day.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cleveland isn’t going to overpay for Abram Elam, but they need to find a strong safety better than Mike Adams. Potential Free Agents include: Josh Bullocks, Deon Grant, Michael Lewis, Quintin Mikell, Lawyer Milloy, Gerald Sensabaugh, Donte Whitner, and Roy Williams.

Kicker (1)

Phil Dawson

Phil Dawson had the franchise tag placed on him for 2011 even though he sold his Cleveland home back in November. Dawson thought he wasn’t going to be back because the Browns kept refusing to resign him to a long-term contract. Dawson is 36 years old, so the Browns probably don’t want to give him a long-term contract towards the end of his career, when his production will be declining. Dawson converted 82.1 percent in 2010 and was perfect from under 40 yards, but made only 37.5 percent from beyond 40 yards.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cleveland is set for 2011 at kicker, but they will eventually need a kicker since Dawson is growing impatient with the team over a long-term contract.

Punter (1)

Reggie Hodges

Reggie Hodges tied for eighth in the NFL in 2010 with a net average of 39.0 yards per punt and landed 29 punts inside his opponents’ 20-yard line. Hodges only had 5 touchbacks which is pretty good for a punter who has deal with the weather effects of Lake Erie.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cleveland has Hodges signed through 2012 and he has performed well enough that the Browns don’t need to find a free agent punter to replace him.

Long Snapper (1)

Ryan Pontbriand

Ryan Pontbriand is a two-time Pro Bowler and his snaps are a big reason why Phil Dawson is considered one of the best kickers in the NFL.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cleveland doesn’t need another long snapper with a two-time Pro Bowler currently on their roster.

Kick/Punt Returners (1)

Joshua Cribbs

Joshua Cribbs averaged 20.4 yards per kick return and 8.4 yards per punt return. Cribbs return numbers were down last season, but his potential to break a big one each time he touches the ball is so high that the Browns are willing to give him another shot in 2011.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cleveland has a proven returner in Joshua Cribbs and even though his production dropped, he still has home run potential.

Browns Unrestricted Free Agents (16)

Mike Bell, Kenyon Coleman, Blake Costanzo, Abram Elam, Greg Estandia, Jayme Mitchell, Sabby Piscitelli, Derreck Robinson, Matt Roth, Robaire Smith, Chansi Stuckey, Jason Trusnik, Lawrence Vickers, Floyd Womack, Eric Wright, Billy Yates

Mike Bell is not expected to resign with the Browns after rushing for only 71 yards on 31 carries with the team last season. Bell will attract some teams who are looking for a back with receiving skills, and might be able to land a third-down role somewhere.

Kenyon Coleman was released by the Browns because he is a better fit to play defensive end in a 3-4 system, but the Browns are opting to switch back to the 4-3 defense under new defensive coordinator Dick Jauron. Coleman will land on some team as a rotational end. Coleman is a quality run defender with experience, so he could find a younger team and take a mentor role.

Blake Costanzo was key special teamer for the Browns last season, but landed on the injured reserve in midseason with a groin injury. Costanzo is a career backup linebacker and could resign with the Browns if he accepts a contract near league minimum

Abram Elam has played both free and strong safety in his career and should be able to find a starting job with at least one of his potential suitors. The Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars among teams rumored to be looking for a safety.

Greg Estandia won’t be back with the Browns next season because they have too many tight ends on their current roster.


Jayme Mitchell could return to the Browns as a possible starter next year. Mitchell’s agent spoke to new defensive line coach Dwaine Board and he reportedly told the agent that Mitchell would be given a chance to start if he were to resign.

Sabby Piscitelli plans to test the market rather than resign with the Browns. Piscitelli has struggled in coverage and as a tackler in his career, so it’s unclear as to how valuable he believes he is.

Derreck Robinson won’t be back because he is a 3-4 defensive end.

Matt Roth is not coming back to the Browns this year and will test the free agent market instead. Most analysts believe that he will land with the Patriots because the defensive system that Belichick runs is similar to the system that his previous coaches ran.

Robaire Smith is recovering from a bruise on his spinal cord and could be back with the Browns only at a low price. If he were to come back, he’d be a backup defensive tackle. If he were to sign with a 3-4 team, he would be a rotational end.

Chansi Stuckey won’t be back with the Browns next season because he lacks playmaking ability. Stuckey set a career high with 40 receptions last season, but averaged only 8.7 yards per reception and had zero touchdowns. Stuckey should be able to find an opportunity to compete as a No.4 receiver, but it won’t be with the Browns because they just drafted a possession receiver in Greg Little.

Jason Trusnik is a good special teamer but has started in 15 games over his career. Trusnik is a versatile 3-4 inside/outside linebacker won’t be back with the Browns because they’re switching to a 4-3 defense. Trusnik should be able to find a team, but he likely won’t be handed a starting job.

Lawrence Vickers is going to be a free agent because he is a block-only fullback and doesn’t fit the Browns’ new West Coast offense. Vickers should find a job though because his blocking skills will be valuable to teams that want to run the ball.

Floyd Womack started 24 games for the Browns over the last two seasons, but could be brought back as a backup. If Womack returns, he will provide insurance in case Shawn Lauvao struggles again in his sophomore year.

Eric Wright was benched midseason after being burnt a lot at the beginning of last season and probably won’t be back with Coye Frances set to be the nickel and Sheldon Brown set to start opposite Joe Haden. Wright has talent though and should be able to find a team

Billy Yates became a better run blocker around the middle of the season, but his season ended early with a biceps injury placing him on injured reserve. Yates won’t be back because his replacement Shawn Lauvao has proved to be capable of holding the starting right guard job.

What Has Happened to the Buffalo Bills?

What Has Happened to the Buffalo Bills?
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Fitzpatrick has completed just 56.5 percent of his passes for 337 yards for 2 touchdowns and 5 interceptions in the Bills’ last two games.
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Jackson is the league-leading rusher with 917 rushing yards, but the Bills continue to struggle offensively lately.

Remember that feeling we all had when the Buffalo Bills (5-4) had just beaten the New England Patriots (6-3) in Week 3? The Bills were 3-0 and the whole city was buzzing about the possibility of the Bills going to playoffs which would end the curse of “Music City Miracle.”

That feeling seems to have evaporated away as the Bills have lost four of their last six games and are now going to be in must-win games every week.

The Bills’ schedule doesn’t get any easier either.

Miami (2-7) is no longer expected to be a cake walk after winning their last two games and the Bills have to face them twice (one at home and one on the road). The Bills also have to face the New York Jets (5-5), San Diego Chargers (4-5), and New England Patriots (6-3) on the road and the Tennessee Titans (5-4) and the Denver Broncos (5-5) at home.

It’s easy to see why the city isn’t thinking that the Bills have a chance any more. The Bills lost their last two games by a combined score of 71-18 against the Dallas Cowboys (5-4) and the New York Jets (5-5).

The offense which looked so promising early in the season has looked awful.

In his last two games, Ryan Fitzpatrick who just earned a brand new six-year $59 million contract, has completed just 56.5 percent of his passes for 337 yards for 2 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.

Fitzpatrick has to be held accountable. No more excuses about the weapons he has and the offensive line.

The offensive line has actually been very good. They’ve allowed the fewest sacks (10) in the NFL and running back Fred Jackson is the league’s leading rusher with 917 yards.

The offensive line did just lose its anchor in center Eric Wood, but Andy Levitre is capable of handling the job. He’s been filling in at left tackle with starter Demetrius Bell and rookie Chris Hairston out with injuries.

Hairston will be back this week though and he’s fared well in the games he was healthy for. Bell is getting closer to a return too.

Like I said before, no more excuses.

The Bills’ pass-rush has to start getting to the quarterback. It’s been non-existent this year except for a fluke game against the Washington Redskins where they had 10 sacks.

Rookie defensive lineman Marcell Dareus was drafted with the idea that he would drastically improve the defense, but it hasn’t worked out as planned. They’ve allowed 386.9 yards per game which ranks as fourth highest in the NFL.

Strong safety George Wilson is the Bills’ defensive player having a Pro Bowl-caliber season, but even his performance hasn’t been able to help the Bills. Teams are passing for an average of 261.4 yards per game, which is the sixth most in the NFL.

The Bills need to figure it out on defense because they have the talent. Not too long ago, the Bills had one of the best pass defenses in the league.

The Bills’ 3-4 defense has clearly been a failure, but maybe a switch back to 4-3 might help them. Their outside linebackers are already undersized as it is. Why not put out a defense that will maximize their talents?

Hopefully the Bills can figure out what’s wrong and fix it because their game at Miami this week is officially being declared as a much win game.

The Bills can’t afford a loss to a beatable team right now because it appears that they will need to win at least five of their next seven games if they’re going to have a chance at making the playoffs.

Outlook for the 2011 Atlanta Falcons

Outlook for the 2011 Atlanta Falcons
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Is Julio Jones the final piece to the Atlanta Falcons’ Championship puzzle?
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Can Brent Grimes perform at the same level in 2011?

In 2010, Matt Ryan and Roddy White led the Atlanta Falcons to an NFC best 13-3 record. However, the Falcons were eliminated from the playoffs in the divisional round, losing 48-21 to the Green Bay Packers.

In the 2011 NFL Draft, the Falcons took a huge gamble and traded away their 2011 and 2012 first-round picks, 2011 and 2012 fourth round picks, and 2011 second-round pick to the Cleveland Browns in order to select wide receiver Julio Jones with the sixth overall pick. With Jones’ the Falcons believe that they have added the final piece to their puzzle and are now ready to contend for the Super Bowl.

With the addition of their rookies, let’s take a look at the Falcons’ current roster and see what positions are in need of upgrades.

Quarterbacks (3)

Matt Ryan, Chris Redman, John Parker Wilson

Matt Ryan completed 357 of his 571 pass attempts for 3,705 yards, 28 touchdowns and 9 interceptions last season. Matty Ice is entering his fourth NFL season and could put up even better numbers in 2011, if the rumors are true about the Falcons’ offense switching to a “more aggressive and proactive” passing game. The Falcons realize that a championship offense must run through the quarterback, as evidenced by their drafting of Julio Jones.

Chris Redman completed 4 of his 6 pass attempts for 20 yards in a backup role last season. Redman played at the end of the last game in the regular season and did the best he could considering the Falcons’ were running out the clock and trying avoid injuries heading into the playoffs. Redman is a good backup and his career 21:13 touchdown to interception ratio backs that up.

John Parker Wilson is an exclusive rights free agent that the Falcons will likely keep because they love his intangibles and leadership ability despite his lack of size and arm-strength.

Free Agent Analysis:

Atlanta doesn’t need a quarterback because Matt Ryan is about to join the elite group of quarterbacks and Chris Redman is one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league.

Halfbacks (5)

Michael Turner, Jacquizz Rodgers, Gartrell Johnson, Antone Smith

Michael Turner had 334 carries for 1,371 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. However, Turner averaged just 3.58 YPC against a string of mediocre run defenses in the final five games of last season, showing a lack of burst and explosion. Turner surely must have been tired as he has led the NFL in carries in two of the past three seasons. Turner should receive less carries in 2011 and will need to be more involved in the passing game than his 12 reception for 85 yards in 2010.

Jacquizz Rodgers was selected in the fifth round due to his 5-foot-6, 191 pound frame. However, Rodgers was one of the most electrifying players in the NCAA and his aggressiveness and speed (4.47 forty time) should give him a chance to have an impact as Michael Turner’s backup in 2011.

Gartrell Johnson signed with the Falcons after Jerious Norwood tore his ACL, and appeared in nine games where he had 10 carries for 36 yards. Johnson was a legitimate third-string back and received carries whenever Michael Turner and Jason Snelling need a breather

Antone Smith played a role for the Falcons in 2010 as a gunner on special teams, but would’ve been on the practice squad had it not been for Jerious Norwood’s torn ACL in Week 1.

Free Agent Analysis:

Former backup halfbacks Jason Snelling and Jerious Norwood are set to test the free agent market. Snelling did a good job in 2010 and deserves a hefty raise and a larger role which might be more than the Falcons are willing to offer, considering that they just drafted Jacquizz Rodgers whom is considered a “change of pace” halfback. However, Norwood likely won’t be back given his injury history. If neither is retained, Atlanta would likely sign a veteran free agent to compete with Gartrell Johnson and Antone Smith. Potential Free Agent Halfbacks that fit their need include: Michael Bennett, Ladell Betts, Julius Jones, Dominic Rhodes and Cadillac Williams

Fullback (1)

Ovie Mughelli

Ovie Mughelli is an above-average receiver and a punishing lead blocker for Michael Turner. New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick called Mughelli “excellent at the point of attack” and the best fullback he’s seen in a “long time.”

Free Agent Analysis:

Atlanta doesn’t need a fullback because Mughelli is regarded as one of the best at his position. However, the Falcons will likely bring in an unrestricted free agent and sign him to their practice squad as insurance.

Wide Receivers (9)

Roddy White,Julio Jones, Harry Douglas, Michael Jenkins, Eric Weems, Kerry Meier, Andy Strickland, Brandyn Harvey, Tim Buckley

Roddy White had his best NFL season in 2010. He led the league with 115 receptions and his 1389 receiving yards ranked second to Brandon Lloyd’s 1448. White’s 10 touchdowns tied for seventh best in the league. It’s safe to say that Roddy White has joined the elite group of wide receivers.

Julio Jones is viewed as the final piece to the Falcons’ ideal championship caliber offense. The Falcons traded away their 2011 and 2012 first-round picks, 2011 and 2012 fourth round picks, and 2011 second-round pick to the Cleveland Browns just to draft Jones, so it’s obvious to say that he’ll have an impact in 2011. Jones is a huge upgrade over Michael Jenkins with his combination of playmaking ability and blocking skills.

Harry Douglas had 22 receptions for 294 yards and a touchdown last season, but Coach Mike Smith expects a “jump in production” for Douglas in 2011. Douglas had an ACL injury back in 2009, but a year of recovery under his belt should allow him to produce more from the slot this year.

Michael Jenkins had 41 receptions for 505 yards and 2 touchdowns in 11 games last season. Jenkins could be traded once the Lockout is lifted though because his $3.5 million salary might be too high for the Falcons, who likely don’t want to pay that money to a fourth-string wide receiver.

Eric Weems wasn’t targeted much as a receiver last season, but Brian Finneran’s departure via free agency could allow Weems to be more active in the passing game in 2011.

Kerry Meier is recovering from last summer’s ACL surgery and should compete for the fourth-string wide receiver position.

Andy Strickland, Brandyn Harvey, and Tim Buckley all signed reserve/future contracts and will likely be battling for practice squad spots once the Lockout is lifted.

Free Agent Analysis:

Atlanta doesn’t need receivers and will likely trade Michael Jenkins now that Julio Jones has that the number 2 receiver title from him.

Tight End (5)

Tony Gonzalez, Justin Peelle, Michael Palmer, Robert Agnone, Marquez Branson

Tony Gonzalez turned 35 in February and finished 2010 with his fewest receptions (70) and yards (656) since 1998. Despite losing speed, Gonzalez is still a capable possession target and should continue to help Matt Ryan grow as a quarterback.

Justin Peelle is a blocking specialist that underwent surgery to repair a sports hernia mid season in 2010. Peelle is one of those players that benefits from the Lockout as it gives him more time to recover.

Michael Palmer was a long shot to make the team as an undrafted free agent last season. As a result, Palmer had a limited role, but registered his first career touchdown in Week 9 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, Palmer will have to compete with Robert Agnone for a spot on the 53-man roster this season.

Robert Agnone landed on the injured reserve with a foot injury last season and should compete for the third-string tight end job with Michael Palmer.

Marquez Branson is pass-catching tight end that sustained a significant knee injury in preseason for the Denver Broncos last season. Branson signed a reserve/future contract with the Falcons, but it would be an absolute shocker if he was to make the 53-man roster, but the practice squad isn’t out of the question.

Free Agent Analysis:

Atlanta doesn’t need a tight end right now, but as Tony Gonzalez gets older, the team will eventually have to look for a replacement.

O-Line (9)

Sam Baker,Mike Johnson,Todd McClure,Andrew Jackson,Garrett Reynolds, Will Svitek, Jose Valdez, Joe Hawley, Rob Bruggeman

Sam Baker dealt with several injuries last year and it affected his play to the point that he got benched in favor of Will Svitek. However, when healthy, Baker has been a technician in pass protection and should start at the blind side in 2011.

Mike Johnson was a third round pick in 2010 and should take over the starting left guard position, should the Falcons not retain Justin Blalock, or Harvey Dahl once the Lockout is lifted

Todd McClure turned 33 in February and despite his age; he remains one of the league’s best run-blocking centers.

Andrew Jackson was selected in the seventh round and would currently start at right guard if the Falcons don’t address the offensive line. However, the Falcons are losing 3 offensive lineman to free agency and it’s likely that they‘ll retain at least one of them back, eliminating Jackson from starting in 2011. Although, it should be noted that Jackson would’ve been taken higher if he hadn’t suffered an ankle injury and missed nine games his senior year.

Garrett Reynolds stands in at 6-foot-7, 317 pounds, which is why it appears as though the Falcons are comfortable with letting Tyson Clabo leave. Reynolds is known as a nasty run blocker, despite having played just 24 career snaps so far.

Former Chief, Will Svitek saw action in all 16 games last season as a reserve lineman and on special teams. Svitek will compete with Garrett Reynolds for the starting right tackle job, but it’s assumed that Reynolds is the frontrunner.

Jose Valdez is a massive offensive lineman at 6-foot-6 324 pounds. Valdez is very athletic and will compete for a spot on the 53-man roster once the Lockout is over.

Joe Hawley is considered the eventual successor to Todd McClure, but could compete for a guard position in the meantime. Hawley has been given comparisons to Logan Mankins because of his nasty side, so maybe he could win the job.

Rob Bruggeman spent last season on the practice squad, and signed a reserve/future contract prior to the Lockout, but likely won’t make the 53-man roster.

Free Agent Analysis:

Atlanta has a lot of young, developing offensive lineman, so the possibility of losing Tyson Clabo, Justin Blalock, and Harvey Dahl shouldn’t hurt the team as much as many would expect. With that said, the Falcons will probably try to find a starting guard in free agency. Potential Free Agent Guards include: Trai Essex, Robert Gallery, Adam Goldberg, Kyle Kosier and Floyd Womack.

D-Line (10)

John Abraham,Jonathan Babineaux,Cory Peters,Kroy Biermann, Jamaal Anderson, Peria Jerry, Chauncey Davis, Trey Lewis, Lawrence Sidbury, Vance Walker

John Abraham had 13 sacks last season which is a big improvement from the 5.5 he had in 2009. If Abraham can stay consistent in 2011, the Falcons could win the NFC South.

Jonathan Babineaux had another good season with 27 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 interception. Babineaux is one of the better 4-3 defensive tackles in the NFL, but for some reason has never received Pro Bowl consideration.

Corey Peters played in 16 games and racked up 33 tackles and 1 sack in his rookie season. Peters has room to improve, and needs to hold off Peria Jerry if he’s going to start in 2011.

Kroy Biermann might have a breakout season in 2011. Biermann had 3 sacks last season, but his 48 quarterback disruptions, speed, and motor have many scouts including Scouts Inc.’s Matt Williamson believing that Biermann is headed for a break out.

Jamaal Anderson lost his starting job to Kroy Biermann last season, but had his best season so far. The Falcons need to decide whether they want to pay Jamaal Anderson $3.6 million to be the guy that gives John Abraham and Biermann a breather.

Peria Jerry had trouble recovering from his ACL tear in 2010 and lost his starting job to Corey Peters as a result. However, 2011 is another year and Jerry has full support from Coach Mike Smith, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can win the starting job.

Chauncey Davis is a rotational end that often comes on the field in run situations. However, Davis had returned an interception for a touchdown last season to go along with his 24 tackles. Davis should have the same role in 2011.

Trey Lewis recorded two tackles in Week 1 after a strong preseason, but was inactive the rest of the year after Jonathan Babineaux came off his suspension.

Lawrence Sidbury has a very high ceiling as a pass rusher, but needs to become more of a complete player before he can threaten for a starting job.

Vance Walker started last season on the practice squad, but joined the active roster, once Peria Jerry head to the injured reserve. In a limit role, Walker had 16 tackles, and could become expendable before the 2011 season.

Free Agent Analysis:

Atlanta is rumored to be targeting defensive ends in free agency even though John Abraham made the Pro Bowl and Kroy Biermann is a break out candidate. Clearly Atlanta is concerned with Abraham’s expiring contract and age. Potential Free Agent Defensive Ends include: Jason Babin, Ray Edwards, Charles Johnson, Cullen Jenkins, and Bobby McCray

Linebackers (8)

Sean Weatherspoon,Curtis Lofton,Akeem Dent, Coy Wire, Spencer Adkins, Robert James, Bear Woods

Sean Weatherspoon battled a knee injury after making a huge impact in the beginning of the season last year. However, Weatherspoon returned in Week 11 after missing 5 games, but he only played in the nickel defense for the remainder of the season.

Curtis Lofton has never missed a game in his three-year career and has averaged 115 tackles in that span. However, Lofton had dual knee surgeries in the offseason, but the good news is that the procedures were mere scopes and his rehab is going well.

Akeem Dent, the Falcon’s third-round rookie, could potentially start at the strong side linebacker position should Stephen Nicholas and/or Mike Peterson leave in free agency. Dent is a run-stopping linebacker, but isn’t the pass rushing linebacker that the Falcons need.

Coy Wire was the Falcon’s special teams’ captain last season and figures to have the same role in 2011, since he is too small to be starting linebacker.

Spencer Adkins didn’t play much in his rookie season and is still a project. Adkins will have to fight for a spot on the 53-man roster in 2011. Adkins has the speed, but has underachieved since before college. Adkins needs to prove that he deserves more than a practice squad spot.

Robert James signed a reserve/future contract with the Falcons prior to the Lockout, but their patience has to be wearing thin. James served a four-game suspension at the beginning of last season for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy and was added to the practice squad soon after. As a 2008 fifth-round pick, James hasn’t even register a tackle yet, so if he doesn’t have a strong preseason, he might be shown the door.

Bear Woods spent last season on the practice squad, but signed a reserve/future contract and could make the 2011 53-man roster if he has a strong preseason.

Free Agent Analysis:

Atlanta reportedly wants to resign Mike Peterson and Stephen Nicholas, but Nicholas has too many suitors and the Falcons will have to settle for Peterson. The Falcons need to find a pass rushing linebacker though and will need to look in free agency. Potential Free Agent Linebackers include: Danny Clark, Thomas Davis, LeRoy Hill, Ben Leber, Matt Roth, Scott Shanle, and Sam Williams.

Cornerbacks (5)

Dunta Robinson,Brent Grimes, Chris Owens, Dominique Franks, Rafael Priest

Dunta Robinson was the Falcon’s top cover cornerback heading into 2010, but knee and concussion issues affected his game and Robinson finished the season with 55 tackles, but only 1 interception.

Brent Grimes was the Falcons top cornerback last season as he allowed only three touchdowns on a league-high 124 passing targets. Grimes also had 5 interceptions and as a result the Falcons gave him a first-round tender back in March.

Chris Owens started in Week 1 last season, but injured his back fell down the depth chart as the Falcon’s number four cornerback. However, Brian Williams is headed to free agency and Coach Mike Smith has confirmed that Owens will reclaim the nickel back job.

Dominique Franks didn’t play much last year, but that should change in 2011 with Brian Williams headed to free agency. Franks should also get a chance to return kicks in preseason, though Eric Weems will likely be the starter

Rafael Priest was signed to a reserve/future contract prior to the Lockout and will likely make the team as the number five cornerback as his abilities to play both corner and safety make him valuable to their depth.

Free Agent Analysis:

Atlanta doesn’t need any big name free agents, just depth here. More than likely, Atlanta will bring in a couple of undrafted free agents to fill the roster out.

Safeties (4)

Thomas DeCoud,William Moore, Shann Schillinger, Rafael Bush

Thomas DeCoud is solid in both run support and coverage and is locked in as a starter. DeCoud is an underrated safety and should get more attention this year as the Falcons make a run for the Super Bowl.

William Moore took over for Erik Coleman in the second game of last season and never looked back. Moore had 71 tackles, five interceptions and a forced fumble last year should continue to get even better and eventually be a Pro Bowler down the road.

Shann Schillinger was limited to special teams in his rookie season and suffered a fractured ankle in Week 15. Schillinger still had a noticeable limp during recent players-only workouts and could end up on the PUP list if he doesn’t get healthy soon.

Rafael Bush was promoted from the practice squad in time for the last game of the 2010 season. Bush played on special teams last season and his 4.44 forty time could allow him to have a bigger role in 2011.

Free Agent Analysis:

Atlanta is going to look at undrafted free agents to fill out their roster. Shan Schillinger’s injury might open the door for a free agent backup. Potential Free Agent Safeties include: C.C. Brown, Josh Bullocks, Tyrone Carter, Matt Giordano, Donnie Nickey, Brodney Pool, Nick Sorenson, and Matt Ware

Kicker (0)

The Falcons don’t have a kicker on their current roster.

Free Agent Analysis:

Atlanta and Matt Bryant both want to reach a deal, but will have to wait until the Lockout is lifted.

Punter (2)

Matt Bosher, Kenneth Parrish

Matt Bosher figures to handle kickoffs and punting duties in 2011, despite being a rookie.

Kenneth Parrish is a former police officer and is expected to be the camp leg for the Falcons. Unless he shocks the Falcons, Parrish will mostly likely be cut before the regular season.

Free Agent Analysis:

Atlanta chose to let Michael Koenen walk and drafted Matt Bosher in the sixth round.

Long Snapper (1)

Joe Zelenka

Joe Zelenka has been a long snapper in the NFL since 2001.

Free Agent Analysis:

With his experience, the Falcons don’t need to find a new long snapper.

Kick/Punt Returners (1)

Eric Weems

Eric Weems averaged 27.5 yards per kick return and 12.8 yards per punt return to go along with 2 touchdowns last season and figures to have the same duties in 2011.

Free Agent Analysis:

The Cardinals have one of the best returners in the game in Eric Weems and don’t need to look to free agency for an upgrade. If Weems were to get injured, Dominique Franks would likely take over the responsibilities

Falcons Unrestricted Free Agents (14)

Justin Blalock, Matt Bryant, Tyson Clabo, Harvey Dahl, Brian Finneran, Michael Koenen, Stephen Nicholas, Jerious Norwood, Mike Peterson, Jason Snelling, Brian Williams

Justin Blalock will probably be back next year with the Falcons, considering his age (27) and he won’t command top dollar.

Matt Bryant has said he wants to resign with the Falcons and Falcons want him back as well

Tyson Clabo is going to command top-notch right tackle cash and the Falcons don’t need to give it to him. Especially with Garrett Reynolds on the roster

Harvey Dahl is a strong run blocker, but may command too much money in free agency. The Falcons have the depth to handle his departure.

Brian Finneran may have played his last down in the NFL. At age 35, not many teams are going to come looking for a slow fifth-receiver.

Michael Koenen was one of the highest paid punters last year, and the Falcons don’t want to give that much money to a punter, so they drafted one instead in the sixth round.

Stephen Nicholas wants to test the free agent market, but says that there is a “big” chance that he’ll end up resigning with the Falcons. Nicholas is a great 4-3 coverage linebacker, and the Falcons don’t want to see him leave. However, the Broncos, Lions, and Jaguars are said to be interested in him.

Jerious Norwood tore his right ACL last September and the Falcons aren’t likely to bring him back given their injury concerns about him.

Mike Peterson confirmed that the Falcons have expressed interest in resigning him this year and as a result has joined Matt Ryan in leading the informal workouts.

Jason Snelling had 87 carries for 324 yards and 2 touchdowns last season as a backup to Michael Turner. However, Snelling was more active in the passing game than Turner as Snelling had 44 receptions for 303 yards and 3 touchdowns. Snelling wants more money and a larger role and will explore his options in the free agent market, but don’t rule out his possible return to the Falcons.

Brian Williams is getting older and the Falcons want to get younger, so both sides will go their own way. Williams should be able to find a new home though as NFL teams are always looking for experienced cornerbacks

Bills Look to Make a Splash in Free Agency

Bills Look to Make a Splash in Free Agency
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Buffalo Bills GM Buddy Nix will have a lot of salary cap room to operate with as his team prepares to sign some significant upgrades from the 2012 free agency class
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Steve Johnson was the Bills’ top priority heading into the offseason and the Bills rewarded him with a five-year, $36.25 million contract extension. Now the Bills will look to find a wide receiver to complement him.

In 2011, the Buffalo Bills started their season winning five of their first seven games and had the whole city believing that this might be the first time since Music City Miracle that the Bills would make the playoffs.

However, the Bills disappointed their fans and finished the season 6-10 as injuries began to pile up and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick became inconsistent the rest of the year.

Some of the blame can be credited to Fitzpatrick, but he lost two of his most important offensive linemen due to injury in left tackle Demetrius Bell and center Eric Wood. He also lost starting running back Fred Jackson and wide receiver Donald Jones, who periodically struggled to overcome ankle sprains and never made a big impact in the offense. Jones ended the season with 23 receptions for 231 yards and a touchdown.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Bills couldn’t generate a pass rush and when they couldn’t force turnovers in games, opposing offenses went to work on them. The Bills allowed their opponents 31.9 points-per-game in their last nine games of the season.

Heading into the 2012 free agency, the Bills will have only a few holes to fill and it’s obvious that they need another weapon for Fitzpatrick to throw to. They also need a pass rusher who can help take pressure off the Bills’ cornerbacks who were exposed last season as a result of opposing quarterbacks having all day to sit back in the pocket.

The Bills went into 2011 with a 3-4 defense, banking on the injury-prone Shawne Merriman and the inconsistent Chris Kelsay to fulfill their pass rush desires with Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus responsible for stopping the run and taking on double teams. Both Merriman and Williams suffered Achilles injuries though and were placed on the injured reserve. The defense allowed a franchise-worst 5,938 yards and 434 points, the second most in team history.

In order to address some of those issues, the Bills have already made some moves this offseason by getting rid of defensive coordinator George Edwards and promoting Dave Wannstedt in his place. Wannstedt will be in charge of bringing back the 4-3 defense as he looks to improve upon the struggles of last season.

The Bills’ current projected starting front seven figures to look like this: Chris Kelsay and Shawne Merriman at defensive end, Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams at defensive tackle, Nick Barnett at weak side linebacker, Kelvin Sheppard at middle linebacker and Kirk Morrison at strong side linebacker.

The Bills’ defense appears to be set at linebacker and defensive tackle, but in order to have a solid 4-3 defense, a team has to have a good pass rush and the Bills’ currently don’t have that.

The free agent market for quality pass-rushing defensive ends isn’t that deep though.

Mario Williams is the player getting all the hype and attention, but the Bills aren’t the type of team to over pay for a player. Other options they might consider include: John Abraham, Andre Carter, Jeremy Mincey and Mark Anderson.

Aside from Williams, the market is pretty scarce, so look for the Bills to go with a defensive end in the first round of the NFL Draft instead.

The Bills have plenty of cap room though and due to the post-lockout rules the Bills have to spend accordingly. Look for that money to go to a proven wide receiver since that appears to be the Bills’ next biggest need.

Options at wide receiver include: Vincent Jackson, Marques Colston, Brandon Lloyd, Reggie Wayne, Mario Manningham, Pierre Garcon, Laurent Robinson and Robert Meachem.

It should be safe to assume that the Bills will find an upgrade at their wide receiver position to complement Steve Johnson, who recently resigned with the Bills after posting back-to-back 1,000 yards receiving

If you trust Bills’ general manager Buddy Nix, who has kept true to his word so far, the Bills should make some sort of splash in free agency.

“Our philosophy, or mine, or ours is that those big money guys that hit the market at 12:01 or midnight, the way it used to be, if you’re not careful you’ll overspend on those guys and not get what you pay for,” said Nix. “We’ve been one to think you can pick up good players later on in free agency, and I’m talking about guys like Nick Barnett, and receivers that we’ve picked up. They’re out there, and they’ll be out there and that’s kind of been our philosophy along with building through the draft.”

Outlook for the 2011 Denver Broncos

Outlook for the 2011 Denver Broncos
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Tim Tebow is expected to be the “Face” of the Denver Broncos, but can he get them into the playoffs?
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Elvis Dumervil missed 2010 with a torn pectoral muscle and tendon, but will he be the same dominating force that he was in 2009 when he had 17 sacks?

The Denver Broncos tied for the second worst record in the NFL last season at 4-12. The Broncos gave up the most points in the NFL on defense, allowing an average of 29.4 points per game. The Broncos also struggled running the ball and averaged only 96.5 yards per game on the ground, which ranked as the eighth fewest in the league.

In an effort to change their losing ways, the Broncos fired Josh McDaniels and hired Head Coach John Fox. With Fox at the helm, the Broncos will switch to the 4-3 defense and go from a pass-happy offense to a run-heavy offense.

In the 2011 NFL Draft, the Broncos used their first-round pick on the best pass rusher in the draft in Von Miller (Texas A&M). In the second-round, the Broncos used their first pick to select safety Rahim Moore (UCLA) in an attempt to get younger in their secondary. With their second pick in the second-round, the Broncos selected Ryan Harris’s replacement at right tackle in Orlando Franklin (Miami FL). In the third-round, the Broncos drafted a middle linebacker in Nate Irving (NC State). In the fourth-round, the Broncos selected a pass-catching tight end in Julius Thomas. The Broncos spent the rest of their draft filling in their depth chart.

With the addition of their rookies, let’s take a look at the Broncos’ current roster and see what positions are still in need of upgrades.

Quarterbacks (3)

Tim Tebow, Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn

Tim Tebow will be the Broncos’ starting quarterback because he fits the profile of what new Head Coach John Fox looks for in a quarterback. Tebow has strong intangibles, leadership, work ethic, toughness, and the ability to come through when a game is on the line. Tebow started three of the nines games he appeared in last year and completed 50 percent of his passes for 654 yards, 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Tebow still needs to work on his mechanics, but he appears ready to become an everyday starting quarterback.

Kyle Orton started thirteen games last season and completed 58.8 percent of his passes for 3,653 yards, 20 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Orton isn’t to blame for the Broncos’ 4-12 record last season, but it appears as though the new coaching staff wants to trade Orton and see what they have in Tim Tebow. Once the Lockout is over, Orton will have plenty of teams looking his way, but he will most likely end up with the Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks or the Washington Redskins.

Brady Quinn wants to compete for the Broncos’ starting quarterback job, but is a long shot to win the job. Quinn has completed 52.1 percent of his career passes and averages 5.4 yards per pass attempt to go along with 10 career touchdowns and 9 career interceptions.

Free Agent Analysis:

Denver is expected to trade Kyle Orton and if it happens it will leave a hole at backup quarterback. Tebow is still developing his skills in the NFL and would still need a mentor to help him progress. Potential Free Agents include: Marc Bulger, Jake Delhomme, J.P. Losman, Jim Sorgi, and Billy Volek.

Halfbacks (5)

Knowshon Moreno, Lance Ball, Correll Buckhalter, Jeremiah Johnson, LenDale White

Knowshon Moreno is the current starter right now, but he has work ethic issues and there are concerns that he can’t handle a feature back role. New Head Coach John Fox wants the Broncos to transition to a run-heavy offense and he has said that halfback is the team’s number one priority in free agency, once the Lockout is over. If the Broncos land another halfback, Moreno will be used in a third-down role, despite the fact that he started thirteen game last season. Moreno rushed for 779 yards and 5 touchdowns on the ground and grabbed 37 receptions for 372 receiving yard and 3 touchdowns through the air in 2010.

Lance Ball beat out Correll Buckhalter as Knowshon Moreno’s backup at the end of last season, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. Ball was often used to pass protect, but his role will change in 2011. If the Broncos sign a free agent and Moreno takes the third down role, Ball will have to compete to become the Broncos’ third-string halfback.

Correll Buckhalter averaged 2.5 yards per carry last year and is scheduled to make $1.92 million in 2011. The Broncos don’t want to pay a third-string back that much money, so it’s likely that he will be released once the Lockout is over.

LenDale White ruptured his right Achilles last August and likely will get cut before opening day. Players are never the same after dealing with that kind of injury and White hasn’t done enough in his career to influence the Broncos to keep him on their roster.

Jeremiah Johnson signed a reserve/future contract, but isn’t expected to make the team with the current amount of halfbacks ahead of him on the depth chart.

Free Agent Analysis:

Denver doesn’t believe Knowshon Moreno is capable of being a feature back and has stressed that finding another halfback is their top priority. Most NFL analysts believe that the Broncos are going to pursue DeAngelo Williams because of his connections to the new Head Coach John Fox. If the Broncos can’t sign Williams, here are a list of Potential Free Agents that the team could consider: Cedric Benson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Ronnie Brown, Michael Bush, Willis McGahee, Clinton Portis and Ricky Williams.

Fullback (2)

Spencer Larson, Mike McLaughlin

Spencer Larson played with an injured ankle last season, but eventually ended up on injured reserve. Larson will probably have to compete for the fullback job with Mike McLaughlin, but his starting experience will likely win him the job.

Mike McLaughlin is recovering from a sports hernia. McLaughlin used to be a linebacker at Boston College, but became a fullback with the Baltimore Ravens before getting injured. While at the Ravens’ training camp, McLaughlin earned the nickname “Alstott” from Willis McGahee.

Free Agent Analysis:

Denver has two fullbacks that dealt with injuries last season, but both should be healthy by opening day. If the Broncos want some insurance though, tight end Dan Gronkowski filled in last season when Spencer Larson was hurt and could switch to fullback because the Broncos just drafted two tight ends.

Wide Receivers (8)

Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, Eddie Royal, Eric Decker, Matt Willis, Britt Davis, Demaryius Thomas, Eron Riley

Brandon Lloyd had a career year last season and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl as a result. Lloyd finished 2010 with 77 receptions for a league leading 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns. The chances of Lloyd producing at the same level in 2011 is not very high though because new Head Coach John Fox wants to make the Broncos a run-heavy team.

Jabar Gaffney had a career high 65 receptions for 875 yards and 2 touchdowns last season. Gaffney likely won’t produce like that again in 2011 because of the Broncos’ new philosophy to run the ball more and because Tim Tebow’s limitations as a quarterback might prevent him from spreading the ball around to multiple receivers as effectively as Orton.

Eddie Royal had 59 receptions for 627 yards and 3 touchdowns last season, but he will see his role decrease in 2011 because the new offensive game plan won’t call for nearly as many three- and four-receiver sets. Royal should be ok with that though because he is currently recovering from an offseason hip procedure.

Eric Decker could potential beat out Jabar Gaffney as a starter because he has more talent and could easily step in as a physical, possession complement to Brandon Lloyd. Decker’s rookie season was delayed by a Lisfranc fracture that he suffered during his senior season at Minnesota, but he was still able to grab 6 receptions for 106 yards and 1 touchdown

Matt Willis landed on injured reserve with a broken foot last season, but still managed to have a reception for 17 yards. Willis was also a productive special teamer last season, so he could potentially make the team again in 2011.

Britt Davis was promoted from the practice squad to the Broncos’ roster after Demaryius Thomas landed on the injured reserve last season. Davis is a big possession receiver, but needs to produce on a consistent basis in order to land a No. 5 spot.

Demaryius Thomas is recovering from Achilles tendon surgery and won’t be back until at least Mid-October. Thomas will most likely begin the year on the PUP list, but won’t be able to contribute until around Thanksgiving.

Eron Riley signed a reserve/future contract, but likely won’t make the roster with so many players already ahead of him on the depth chart.

Free Agent Analysis:

Denver is set at receiver, and probably won’t even use all of their talented receivers in 2011.

Tight End (5)

Julius Thomas, Virgil Green, Dan Gronkowski, Richard Quinn, Daniel Coats

Rookie Julius Thomas (Portland State) as upside as a pass catcher and has good football smarts, but he needs to work on his blocking and route running. The Broncos view Thomas as a classic in-line tight end, but Thomas used to play basketball is more athletic than a traditional in-line tight end.

Rookie Virgil Green (Nevada) fell to the seventh round because of a microfracture from four years ago. Green is healthy now of course, but will be limited to situational duty in his first season in the NFL. Green will be given the “Joker” role immediately and will line up on the line of scrimmage, in the slot, out wide and in motion.

Dan Gronkowski is more of a blocking tight end than a pass catching tight end. Gronkowski had only 8 receptions for 64 yards last season. In fact, the Broncos value Gronkowski’s blocking skills so much, they allowed him to play fullback when Spencer Larson went down with an injury.

Richard Quinn is a blocking tight end like Dan Gronkowski, except that he only has 1 reception for 9 yards in his two-year career. Quinn will be a long shot to make the team because the two draft picks are virtual locks and Gronkowski has experience at fullback

Daniel Coats is a blocking specialist, but likely won’t make the team because there are two other blocking specialist tight ends battling for the third-string tight end position.

Free Agent Analysis:

Denver is set at tight end because they just drafted two of them.

O-Line (13)

Ryan Clady, Zane Beadles, J.D. Walton, Chris Kuper, Orlando Franklin, Russ Hochstein, Stanley Daniels, Chris Clark, Eric Olsen, Jeff Byers, Shawn Murphy, Manuel Ramirez, Herbert Taylor

Ryan Clady made the Pro Bowl in 2009, but struggled at the beginning of 2010 because he hadn’t recovered 100 percent from the torn patellar tendon that he had suffered from playing basketball in April last year. Clady got better as the 2010 season wore on and should be able to play at Pro Bowl level in 2011.

Zane Beadles was a tackle in college, but switched over to left guard last season and did a solid job of pass protecting for Kyle Orton. Beadles will receive a challenge in 2011 though as he’ll be asked to run block more.

J.D. Walton started at center as a rookie last year and did a good job of replacing Casey Wiegmann. Walton is a good power blocker, and should be in for a test in 2011 as the Broncos will run the ball more.

Chris Kuper isn’t a difference maker, but he is a solid power-blocking mauler with great durability. Kuper dealt with knee and ankle injuries last season, but was still able to play though the whole season.

Rookie Orlando Franklin (Miami FL) is regarded as a dominant run blocker, but his pass protection is considered a work in progress. Ryan Clady will still play at left tackle despite being the better blocker, so Tim Tebow will have to deal with Franklin’s growing pains

Russ Hochstein is a career backup and is fully recovered from his ACL surgery from a year ago. Hochstein is very versatile and can play both center and guard.

Stanley Daniels started the first four games for the Broncos last season at left guard but was eventually released before signing with the practice squad. Daniels has good size (6’4’’, 320 pounds) for a guard but needs to work on his technique if he’s going to ever start in the NFL again.

Chris Clark is average at run blocking, but is worse in pass protection. Clark is considered to be a project, but he should make the roster as a backup.

Eric Olsen is considered extra depth because if J.D. Walton were to go down with an injury, Russ Hochstein would be the first player off the sideline to replace him. Olsen is an good power blocker though, but he is going to have to be patient while he waits for his opportunity to play.

Jeff Byers likely won’t make the team because the Broncos don’t need any more guards on their roster. Byers might be able to catch on with another team before the season though.

Shawn Murphy, Manuel Ramirez, and Herbert Taylor signed reserve/future contracts, but aren’t likely to make the team with 10 other offensive lineman ahead of them on the depth chart.

Free Agent Analysis:

Denver lacks depth at offensive tackle, but is set at the center and guard positions. Potential Free Agents include: Alex Barron, Kirk Chambers, Wayne Hunter, Chester Pitts, Sean Locklear, and Langston Walker.

D-Line (9)

Elvis Dumervil, Kevin Vickerson, Louis Leonard, Robert Ayers, Jason Hunter, Jeremy Beal, David Veikune, Ben Garland, Mitch Unrein

Elvis Dumervil had 17 sacks as an outside linebacker in 2009, but missed all of 2010 with tears in his pectoral muscle and tendon. When Dumervil played at defensive end in the beginning of his career, he had 21 sacks in his first two seasons, but he fell to 5 sacks in 2008. Dumervil probably won’t record 17 sacks in 2011, but he will be an upgrade over any of the backups on the roster.

Kevin Vickerson will be a starter in 2011 since he dropped at least 30 pounds to add speed and flexibility for his move to the three-technique tackle in the Broncos’ new 4-3 defense. Vickerson emerged as a capable run defender last year, but the weight loss should help him become a better pass rusher.

Louis Leonard is not expected to start next season because the Broncos are expected to sign a free agent to start opposite Kevin Vickerson. Leonard played for the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots before finally achieving some continuity with the Broncos at the end of last season. In three games last season, Leonard had just two tackles, so it should be assumed that he’ll have a backup role in 2011.

Robert Ayers will start at left end on early downs, but will kick inside to defensive tackle in pass situations, allowing Von Miller to move to the line. With Elvis Dumervil, Ayers, and Miller on the line, the Broncos will have their best pass rushers in the nickel. Ayers 1.5 sacks last year, but probably struggled because he was asked to play outside linebacker after playing defensive end in college.

Jason Hunter will be a rotational end in 2011 after producing just 3 sacks last season. Hunter did have 60 tackles and a forced fumble, so he could potentially replace Robert Ayers as the starter if Ayers struggles again in 2011.

Rookie Jeremy Beal (Oklahoma) was an accomplished pass rusher in college, recording an impressive 27 sacks over his final three season. Beal’s speed (40 time of over 5.0) is concern though and is likely the reason he fell to the seventh-round.

David Veikune is going to switch from outside linebacker to defensive end in 2011, but the move could payoff in huge dividends since Veikune’s best attribute is his pass-rush ability. Veikune probably will be limited as a rotational end this season, but depending on how the season plays out, he could have a bigger role in 2012

Ben Garland was signed as an undrafted free agent last season, but spent the year on the “reserve/military” list. Garland is a long shot to make the team, but at least he’ll get a look from an NFL team.

Mitch Unrein signed a reserve/future contract, but isn’t expected to make the team because the Broncos are reportedly targeting two defensive tackles in free agency.

Free Agent Analysis:

Denver is set at defensive end, but needs to upgrade their defensive tackle position. Potential Free Agents include: Anthony Adams, Ron Edwards, Anthony Hargrove, Chris Hovan, Bryan Robinson, Jimmy Wilkerson, and Pat Williams.

Linebackers (10)

D.J. Williams, Nate Irving, Von Miller, Joe Mays, Wesley Woodyard, Mario Haggan, Mike Mohamed, Braxton Kelley, Lee Robinson, Dominic Douglas

D.J. Williams played as a 3-4 inside linebacker last season and had 119 tackles, 5.5 sacks and a forced fumble. In the Broncos’ new 4-3 defense, Williams will switch over to the weak-side, but will probably be suspended for a few games in 2011. Williams has had two DUI arrests in the last five-years which violates the NFL rules.

Rookie Nate Irving (NC State) led one of the nation’s top run defenses as a senior last season. Irving also has deceptive pass rush ability and showed a knack for making big plays in coverage. Irving will be a crucial player for the Broncos as they attempt to improve their defense by switching to the 4-3 system.

Rookie Von Miller (Texas A&M) is going to play strong-side linebacker, but will switch to defensive end on passing downs. Miller has great explosiveness, but his coverage skills were questionable in college, so the Broncos are going to let him do what he does best and rush the passer in passing situations.

Joe Mays is a slow-moving two-down thumper, but will be a backup to Nate Irving because new Head Coach John Fox likes to have highly athletic middle linebackers and Irving fits that mold better than Mays. Mays is a good run stopper, but without pass rushing skills, he’s likely to be limited to a special teams’ role in 2011.

Wesley Woodyard is expected to fill in at strong-side linebacker while D.J. Williams serves his potential suspension. Woodyard has talent in coverage, but his lack of pass rushing skills are the reason why he isn’t a full-time starter. Once Williams comes back, Woodyard should takeover at weak-side linebacker on passing downs.

Mario Haggan has played in 4-3 and 3-4 defenses in his career, but his current size (6’3’’, 267 pounds) suggests that he would be better off playing defensive end in the Broncos’ 4-3. Haggan will make $1.93 million in 2011, but the system fit might work against him and get him released. Haggan is a proven, and effective linebacker, so if he were to be let go, he would probably find a new home quickly.

Rookie Mike Mohamed (California) was the leading tackler at his college in his junior and senior seasons. Mohamed will be a backup and special teamer as a rookie though because he struggles in coverage.

Braxton Kelley will likely make the practice squad in 2011 because there is too many qualified backups on this roster.

Lee Robinson was promoted from the practice squad at the end of last season after Joe Mays landed on injured reserve with a groin injury.

Dominic Douglas signed a reserve/future contract, but the odds of him making the team are slim with so many linebackers already ahead of him on the depth chart.

Free Agent Analysis:

Denver is set at linebacker, but may release Mario Haggan because he is better suited for a 3-4 defense at this point in his career.

Cornerbacks (6)

Champ Bailey, Andre’ Goodman, Nathan Jones, Perrish Cox, Syd’Quan Thompson, Chevis Jackson

Champ Bailey is 33 years old but is still one of the elite cornerbacks in the NFL. As Bailey gets older, he could potentially become a free safety in order to extend his career by another couple of years. Bailey had 45 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 interceptions last year.

Andre’ Goodman injured his quad last season and only played in eight games as a result. When healthy, Goodman is capable of shutting down opposing teams No.2 receivers, but his injury was a key factor in why the Broncos pass defense struggled in 2010

Nathan Jones is a solid special teamer and decent nickel cornerback. Jones does a good job of sticking with opposing slot receivers, but that will change in 2011 as the Broncos switch to more of a zone approach.

Perrish Cox might not be on the Broncos much longer if he is found guilty in his sexual assault case. Cox’s sentence could range from two years to life in prison if convicted. Prior to the assault, Cox had been a backup, but filled in as a starter when Andre’ Goodman injured his quad. Cox is set to go on trial in October.

Syd’Quan Thompson was a special teamer last season, but could see time on defense because of the uncertainties surrounding Perrish Cox. Thompson is a physical corner, and finished as his alma mater’s (California) all-time leader in pass breakups, so he certainly is deserves an opportunity to earn a role on defense.

Chevis Jackson could make the roster if the Broncos decide to get rid of Perrish Cox because of his legal issues. Jackson is out of practice squad options, so he’ll need to earn a spot as the team’s fifth cornerback.

Free Agent Analysis:

Denver could lose Perrish Cox forever if he is found guilty, but Syd’Quan Thompson should be capable of filling in for him as the fourth corner. The Broncos will likely sign some undrafted free agent cornerbacks to compete with Chevis Jackson for the final spot.

Safeties (8)

Renaldo Hill, Brian Dawkins, Darcel McBath, Rahim Moore, Quinton Carter, David Bruton, Kyle McCarthy, Nick Polk

Renaldo Hill is 32 years old and scheduled to make $2.4 million in 2011. Hill had 63 tackles, 2 interceptions and 1 forced fumble last season, but was inconsistent in coverage last season. Hill could be released because the Broncos just drafted two safeties and are trying to get younger.

Brian Dawkins will be 38 years old in October and was horrendous in 2010. Dawkins is starting to lose his coverage abilities and his recent play certainly doesn’t merit the $6 million that he is scheduled to make in 2011. If Dawkins doesn’t take a pay cut, he could be released, but given his love for the city of Denver, he’ll probably restructure his contract.

Darcel McBath is expected to get a chance to start at free safety in 2011, despite being injury prone. Renaldo Hill and Brian Dawkins are slowly losing their athleticism and it became obvious last season that neither player has much left in the tank. If Dawkins is let go, Hill will move over to strong safety, allowing McBath to start at free safety.

Rookie Rahim Moore (UCLA) will probably play “center field” and compete with Renaldo Hill and Darcel McBath for playing time. Moore has drawn comparisons to Reggie Nelson, but only had 1 interception in his junior year after picking off 10 in his sophomore year.

Rookie Quinton Carter (Oklahoma) is considered a project right now despite his strength and his frame (6’1’’, 208 pounds). Carter has requisite tools, but doesn’t trust his eyes and takes poor angles to the ball. Carter will be a special teamer this year, but could become a potential starter once he cuts down on his mental mistakes

David Bruton is a special teamer, but was forced into a starting role last year due to the Broncos’ secondary being hit with the injury bug. Bruton finished with 25 tackles, but is not a candidate to receive significant playing time in 2011 because he couldn’t stay healthy last year.

Kyle McCarthy is coming off of reconstructive knee surgery, and likely won’t make the team because of the Broncos’ injury concerns and the amount of safeties on the roster.

Nick Polk signed a reserve/future contract, but has no chance of making the opening day roster because the Broncos have too many safeties on their roster and a few of them are going to get cut. Polk has no experience, so he’ll be the first to go.

Free Agent Analysis:

Denver has too many safeties on their roster. Renaldo Hill and Brian Dawkins need to start considering retirement. Darcel McBath and Rahim Moore are the Broncos’ future and it’s just a matter of time until the team figures that out.

Kicker (1)

Steven Hauschka

Steven Hauschka signed with the Broncos last season after Matt Prater ended up on the injured reserve with a groin injury. Hauschka finished the 2010 season converting 85.7 percent of his field goals, but could be cut if the Broncos are able to resign Prater.

Free Agent Analysis:

Denver needs to resign Matt Prater because Steven Hauschka has converted 72.7 percent of his field goals over his career and made mostly easy field goals last season.

Punter (1)

Britton Colquitt

Britton Colquitt averaged 44.6 yards per punt last season, but needs to work on his accuracy. Colquitt land 19 punts inside the 20-yard line, but also had 7 touchbacks.

Free Agent Analysis:

Denver should monitor Britton Colquitt closely during 2011, since it’s his contract year. If Colquitt can improve his directional kicking ability, they should resign him. If he flops in 2011, the Broncos will probably sign another punter in 2012.

Long Snapper (1)

Lonie Paxton

Lonie Paxton is one of the best long snappers in the NFL and is under contract through 2013.

Free Agent Analysis:

Denver is set at long snapper.

Kick/Punt Returners (2)

Eric Decker, Eddie Royal

Eric Decker averaged 25.3 yards per kick return last season when he replaced Demaryius Thomas due to his Achilles injury. Thomas is expected to miss the first half of 2011, so the job appears to be Decker’s to lose.

Eddie Royal averaged 11.9 yards per punt return last season, and will once again be the punt returner in 2011.

Free Agent Analysis:

Denver is set at both returner positions.

Broncos Unrestricted Free Agents (9)

Justin Bannan, Ronald Fields, Daniel Graham, Ryan Harris, Laurence Maroney, Ryan McBean, Matt Prater, Marcus Thomas, Jamal Williams

Justin Bannan can play as a 3-4 defensive end or as a 4-3 defensive tackle, but was released by the Broncos after he underperformed in the first year of his five-year $22 million contract. By releasing Bannan, the Broncos saved $4 million in cap room. Bannan will likely have to settle for a minor role with another team.

Ronald Fields likely won’t be brought back because he was arrested last season for “waving a gun in a nightclub.” Fields was used in a rotational role in 2010 and managed 22 tackles, but had 0 sacks. Fields is a former starting 4-3 defensive tackle, but has underachieved to this point, producing only 1 sack in six-year career.

Daniel Graham was released by the Broncos because they drafted two tight ends and he is no longer an asset as a receiver. Graham should still be able to find a job though, but he’ll need to embrace a blocking specialist role. The Seattle Seahawks could target him in free agency given his connection new Seahawks OL coach Tom Cable, who used to coach him at the University of Colorado.

Ryan Harris won’t be back with the Broncos because they just drafted a tackle with a second-round pick and he is injury prone. Prior to last season’s trade deadline, the Broncos reportedly talked attempted to deal Harris, but a six-week ankle injury scared teams away from acquiring him. The Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Houston Texans, Oakland Raiders, and Washington Redskins are the teams that were rumored to be interested, so maybe one of those teams will sign the 26 year old.

Laurence Maroney probably won’t get signed in 2011 because he averaged only 2.1 yards per carry last season and was charged with marijuana possession from his arrest back in January. Maroney’s best bet is to try the UFL or CFL in order to resurrect his career.

Ryan McBean wasn’t tendered after not producing any sacks in his 18 starts with the Broncos. McBean is a 3-4 defensive end, and will have to settle for a backup role wherever he ends up.

Matt Prater will likely be back with the Broncos after converting 88.9 percent of his field goal attempts last season. Prater has great leg strength and increasing accuracy. If Prater asks for too much money, the Broncos might say no because they currently have Steven Hauschka on their roster.

Marcus Thomas showed promise as a rotational lineman last season and could easily start at defensive tackle if he were to resign with the Broncos. The Broncos only drafted a seventh round defensive tackle this year, so it appears that the team is going to try to resign him.

Jamal Williams is a 3-4 nose tackle and is a three-time Pro Bowler. Williams is 35 years old though, so if he were to be signed, it would probably be as a short-term starter or as a backup with a mentor role.

Outlook for the 2011 Chicago Bears

Outlook for the 2011 Chicago Bears
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Rookie OT Gabe Carimi is going to be the man that proctects quarterback Jay Cutler’s blind side
See all 2 photos
Rookie DT Stephen Paea is going to be given the tough task of replacing Anthony Adams and Tommie Harris.

The Chicago Bears won the NFC North Division in 2010 with an 11-5 record, despite giving up a league-worst 56 sacks last season and having one of the worst offenses in the league. Once in the playoffs, the Bears would beat the Seattle Seahawks 35-24 in the Divisional round, but would lose to the Green Bay Packers 21-14 in the NFC Conference Championship game.

In the 2011 NFL Draft, the Bears addressed their left tackle issues by selecting Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin) with their first-round pick. In the second round, the Bears addressed their needs at defensive tackle by selecting Stephen Paea (Oregon State). Throughout the rest of their draft, the Bears added depth to their roster.

With the addition of their rookies, let’s take a look at the Bears’ current roster and see what positions are still in need of upgrades.

Quarterbacks (4)

Jay Cutler, Caleb Hanie, Nate Enderle, Matt Gutierrez

Jay Cutler completed 60.4 percent of his passes for 3,274 yards, 23 touchdowns and 16 interceptions last season. In his first season under Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz, Cutler was no longer allowed to freelance outside the pocket and as a result Cutler grew as a quarterback and made quicker reads, but his current protection and weapons around him are preventing him from reaching his full potential.

Caleb Hanie will have to compete with Nate Enderle to be Jay Cutler’s backup in 2011. Hanie apparently doesn’t have the support of Mike Martz who criticized Hanie for his two interceptions in last year’s NFC Championship game, despite the fact that Hanie was the only Bears quarterback to effectively move offense in that game. It appears that Hanie will be allowed to hit the free agent market in 2012, and a change of scenery might be good for him at this point.

Rookie Nate Enderle (Idaho) was an excellent game manager in college and has NFL size at 6’4’’, 240 pounds. Enderle has a solid arm, but his accuracy is very average and he has poor mechanics. Mike Martz handpicked Enderle and believes he can improve his fundamentals and turn him into a capable backup. In fact Martz has said that “Enderle was not drafted to be the third quarterback.” Expect The Bears to give Enderle every possible chance to unseat Caleb Hanie as Jay Cutler’s backup.

Matt Gutierrez spent last season on Chicago’s practice squad and signed a reserve/future contract. Gutierrez isn’t going to make the Bears opening day roster unless one of the quarterbacks goes down with an injury, or Mike Martz convinces the Bears to cut Caleb Hanie.

Free Agent Analysis:

Chicago is set at quarterback, but depending on Nate Enderle’s development, they might need a backup quarterback in 2012.

Halfbacks (4)

Matt Forte, Chester Taylor, Kahlil Bell, Harvey Unga

Matt Forte is entering the final year of his contract and is said to be looking for a huge contract. “Look at the stats over the last three years,” said Forte. “I’m among the top five running backs in all-purpose yards and touchdowns and all that stuff. So hopefully we can do something.” Forte hasn’t missed a game in three years, and was only one of five backs to top 1,000 rushing and 500 receiving yards in 2010, so he certainly deserves a raise from the $555,000 he’s set to receive in 2011.

Chester Taylor averaged 2.4 yards per carry last season, and despite rumors of his potential release, the Bears are expected to hold onto Taylor. Taylor will make $1.275 million in 2011, but needs to produce more on third downs or this could be his last season as Bear since his contract will rise to $1.75 million in 2012 and $2.425 million in 2013.

Kahlil Bell average 5.5 yards per carry in 2009, but didn’t receive a carry last season because Garrett Wolfe beat him out for the third-string half back job last season. With Wolfe heading into free agency, Bell is expected to step up and take over Wolfe’s role. The former undrafted running back could potentially be the No. 2 halfback, if Chester Taylor struggles again in 2011.

Harvey Unga is currently the fourth-string halfback after spending last season on the injured reserve. Unga isn’t expected to move up the depth chart will need to make a huge impact on special teams in preseason if he’s going to make it on the opening day roster

Free Agent Analysis:

Chicago could sign a proven backup halfback since the Bears didn’t get enough out of their backups last year. Chicago relied heavily on Forte last season, and might be inclined to find a better backup to relieve some pressure off of their star halfback. Potential Free Agents include: Michael Bennett, Ladell Betts, Kevin Faulk, Julius Jones, Mewelde Moore, Fred Taylor, Brian Westbrook, Cadillac Williams, and Ricky Williams

Fullback (1)

Eddie Williams

Eddie Williams signed a reserve/future contract, but could make the Bears’ opening day roster. Williams is a versatile fullback prospect with H-back type skills and soft hands. The Bears really don’t use a fullback in their offense, so Williams is going to have to compete with Harvey Unga to make the 2011 roster

Free Agent Analysis:

Chicago doesn’t really use the fullback position in Mike Martz’s system, but when they use the I-Formation, they put a tight end there.

Wide Receivers (5)

Johnny Knox, Earl Bennett, Devin Hester, Andy Fantuz, Onrea Jones

Johnny Knox was criticized by NFL Network’s Marshall Faulk for not fighting for passes in traffic and playing without physicality last season. “Every time I see Johnny Knox run a slant he goes behind the defender and you see an interception go the other way and everyone looks at Jay Cutler and says, ‘How did he throw that?,’” said Faulk. Knox had 51 receptions for 960 yards and 5 touchdowns, but led the league in most targets that were picked off. At this point in his career, Knox is better suited to be a No. 2 receiver because of his deep threat abilities.

Earl Bennett is expected to have a bigger role in 2011 after catching 46 receptions for 561 yards and 3 touchdowns last season. “We didn’t throw it to him enough,” Mike Martz said. “That will be remedied … He established himself as a guy who needs to get a lot more balls than he did.” Martz plans to use Bennett outside more, but that could change if the Bears bring in a possession receiver that could allow Bennett to stay in the slot.

Devin Hester played in just 66 percent of the Bear’s offensive snaps, but Head Coach Lovie Smith wants him to have more of an impact in the offense than the 40 receptions for 475 yards and 4 touchdowns that he had in 2010. “I would like to see us find a way to get him the ball more, maybe in certain situations,” said Smith. That idea could get thrown out the window if the Bears can land a better receiver via free agency.

Andy Fantuz used to play in the CFL for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Fantuz has good size at 6’4’’, 221 pounds, and has shown impressive athletic ability and good hands in the Bears player-organized workouts. If Fantuz can continue to showcase his talents in preseason, he could emerge as a receiver in a role similar to what Ricky Proehl had in St. Louis under Martz’s system as a possession, third-down type.

Onrea Jones was signed to reserve/future contract, but isn’t likely to make the opening day roster. The Bears are going to bring in a couple of free agents, which will move Jones further down the depth chart to the point that the Bears won’t need his services.

Free Agent Analysis:

Jay Cutler needs a physical go-to receiver to fight for his often wild throws and the Bears currently don’t have on their roster. Potential Free Agents include: Braylon Edwards, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Vincent Jackson, Randy Moss, and Terrell Owens. Edwards and Jackson would be a long-term solution whereas Houshmandzadeh, Moss and Owens would have to sign a one-or-two-year contract.

Tight End (3)

Greg Olsen, Brandon Manumaleuna, Kellen Davis

Greg Olsen had 41 receptions for 404 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2010. Olsen finished 21st in the league in tight end targets, behind the likes of Kevin Boss, Tony Scheffler, Tony Moeaki, and Jermaine Gresham. Under Mike Martz’s system, the tight end position is often overlooked, but given his Olsen’s talent, it’s going to be hard for Cutler not to look in his direction in 2011, considering it’s a contract season for Olsen.

Brandon Manumaleuna is a blocking specialist tight end, but was slowed down by a left knee scope last season. Manumaleuna had just five receptions for 43 yards and a touchdown in 2010, and probably won’t be much of a factor in the passing game in 2011, especially since he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in the offseason.

Kellen Davis should make the Bears’ opening day roster given his willingness to improve his blocking and the fact that Brandon Manumaleuna has injured both of his knees over the last two seasons.

Free Agent Analysis:

Chicago needs to see how healthy Brandon Manumaleuna is. Assuming they have their concerns, the Bears could look for another blocking specialist tight end. Potential Free Agents include: John Gilmore, Bo Scaife. Given the scarcity of blocking tight ends, Mike Martz might need to shift his philosophies.

O-Line (10)

Gabe Carimi, Chris Williams, Edwin Williams, Robert Garza, J’Marcus Webb, Frank Omiyale, Lance Louis, Herman Johnson, Johan Asiata, Levi Horn

Rookie Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin) polished his technique as a four-year starter at left tackle in college and will be given the opportunity to start there in his first season. Carimi has the ideal size to be an NFL tackle (6’7’’, 314 pounds) and should instantly upgrade the Bears pass protection. As a senior in college, Carimi won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top offensive lineman and has drawn comparisons to former Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Jon Runyan.

Chris Williams will start at left guard in 2011 despite rumors that the Bears might try to convert him as a center. Williams originally was the starting left tackle in 2010, but eventually was moved to left guard because the Bears wanted to get bigger in the interior of their line.

Edwin Williams was waived by the Washington Redskins before the 2010 season because he struggled with their zone-blocking scheme. Williams joined the Bears practice squad a few days later and a few weeks later was promoted to the active roster. The Bears’ power-blocking scheme proved to be perfect for the 6’3’’, 313 pound center and Williams is now being “groomed” as free agent Olin Kreutz’s eventual replacement at center.

Robert Garza originally started the 2010 season as the Bears starting left guard, but had to have arthroscopic knee surgery. Once Garza recovered, he re-entered the starting lineup as a right guard and as a result the Bears offensive line showed tremendous improvement and allowed fewer sacks in the second half of the season.

J’Marcus Webb is entering his second season with talks of him possibly being the starting left tackle. Webb has great athleticism, but putting the former seventh round pick at Jay Cutler’s blind side would be a huge gamble. The Bears would be better off letting him develop at right tackle and letting the rookie Gabe Carimi take over the left tackle spot, since Carimi won the Outland Trophy last year in college.

Frank Omiyale gave up 13 sacks and had 7 penalties in his first season as the Bears’ starting left tackle. Only four starting left tackles gave up more than 10 sacks last season, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that Omiyale will find himself on the bench behind rookie Gabe Carimi in 2011.

Lance Louis won the starting right guard job on opening day, but couldn’t hold onto it for long as Roberto Garza eventually slid over from the left guard position to take it from him. Louis struggled with run-blocking and the Bears had to take him out of the starting lineup. Louis won’t start in 2011, but should be the top backup guard for the Bears this season.

Herman Johnson is going to be a backup tackle and could surpass Frank Omiyale at some point. The man they call “House” used to play guard/tackle with the Arizona Cardinals, but will be asked to play tackle because his 6’7’’, 360 pound frame suggests that he’ll be good backup for J’Marcus Webb. Johnson has the potential to start, but needs to show up to training camp in better shape.

Johan Asiata and Levi Horn were signed to reserve/future contracts, but likely won’t make the Bears’ roster on opening day. The Bears are expected to resign Olin Kreutz and look for free agents, which will make both players expendable.

Free Agent Analysis:

Chicago needs to resign center Olin Kreutz because the team is in year two of a new system and needs Kreutz to mentor his eventual replacement Edwin Williams. The Bears addressed their left tackle issue by selecting Gabe Carimi and their right tackle position should be fine, assuming J’Marcus Webb develops better pass protecting skills. At the guard position, Roberto Garza is a safe bet, but Chris Williams needs to be replaced. Potential Free Agents include: Justin Blalock, Harvey Dahl, Trai Essex, Robert Gallery, and Adam Goldberg

D-Line (9)

Julius Peppers, Stephen Paea, Matt Toeaina, Israel Idonije, Corey Wootton, Henry Melton, Marcus Harrison, Nick Reed, Tank Tyler

Julius Peppers had 8 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 3 forced fumbles in his first season as a Bear. It wasn’t quite the season that the Bears had imagined when they signed Peppers to a six-year $84 million dollar contract, but they’ll take it. Peppers had zero sacks in the Bears’ two playoff games though, so the Bears need to be concerned about getting more production out of him when it matters most. However, many analysts believe that Peppers will be more effective in 2011 because he’ll be more comfortable in his second season and can afford to be more aggressive.

Rookie Stephen Paea (Oregon State) will primarily play the three technique, but will switch over to nose tackles on passing downs. Paea is a two-time Morris Trophy winner as the Pac 10’s top defensive lineman and racked up 29.5 career tackles for loss, 14 sacks, and nine forced fumbles in 36 career games. Paea fell to the second round because he suffered a torn meniscus during Senior Bowl practices. Paea had arthroscopic surgery to repair his knee, but apparently his injury scared away other teams. Paea should be healthy though and ready to start on opening day.

Matt Toeaina started 10 of the 16 games he appeared in at defensive tackle, and put up a career high 24 tackles and 2 sacks. Toeaina had only appeared in 5 games prior to the 2010 campaign, so the Bears should be pleased with the production they got from him. Toeaina figures to rotate in and out of games with Henry Melton, but both players will compete for the starting job in 2011.

Israel Idonije had 8 sacks and 3 forced fumbles in his first season as a starter and proved to the Bears that he’s deserving of starting in 2011. If Idonije can prove last season wasn’t a fluke, the Bears could have one of the top defensive end tandems in the NFL.

Corey Wootton showed improvement in a limited role at the end of last season but will need a big preseason if he’s going to take snaps away from Israel Idonije. Wootton finished the 2010 campaign with only 5 tackles and 1 sack.

Henry Melton has added 30 pounds of muscle this offseason in an effort to help his chances of starting at defensive tackle this season. Melton appeared in all 16 games in a limited role, but still managed to get 16 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and a forced fumble. Matt Toeaina might have gotten all the attention from the coaches last season, but it will be hard for them to overlook Melton in 2011. Melton figures to rotate in and out of games with Toeaina, but the starting job will be up for grabs once the Lockout is lifted.

Marcus Harrison was once viewed as “Chicago’s nose tackle of the future”, but was only active for five games in 2010 and was a healthy scratch for the final six games, including the playoffs. Harrison will one of the Bears’ “on the bubble” players entering 2011.

Nick Reed and Tank Tyler signed reserve/future contracts, but neither is expected to make the Bears’ opening day roster.

Free Agent Analysis:

Chicago doesn’t need any more defensive lineman, since there defensive ends were successful in 2010 and they drafted defensive tackle Stephen Paea in the second round to make up for the loss of Anthony Adams.

Linebackers (5)

Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher, J.T. Thomas, Chris Johnson, Patrick Trahan

Lance Briggs dealt with an ankle injury since training camp last season and opted to miss the Pro Bowl as a result. Briggs finished second on the Bears with 89 tackles and also had 2 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. Briggs is one of the top weak-side linebackers in the NFL and should be able to produce another Pro Bowl caliber season in 2011.

Brian Urlacher was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2006, but opted to take the week off after making 10 tackles, 1 sack and 1 interception in a losing effort in the NFC Conference Championship. For the whole season, Urlacher led the Bears with 125 tackles and also had 4 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. Urlacher was crucial to the Bears’ success in 2010 and will be counted on in 2011 as well.

Rookie J.T. Thomas (West Virginia) is only listed as a starter because the Bears aren’t allowed to negotiate a contract with Pisa Tinoisamoa during the Lockout. Thomas will be Lance Briggs backup and have a role on special teams

Chris Johnson and Patrick Trahan signed reserve/future contracts and both have a chance of making the Bears’ opening day roster because the Bears are thin at linebacker.

Free Agent Analysis:

Chicago is going to resign Pisa Tinoisamoa once the Lockout is over and reportedly wants to resign Nick Roach as well. If the Bears resign both players as expected, they won’t need to look through free agency.

Cornerbacks (5)

Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, D.J. Moore, Zackary Bowman, Joshua Moore

Charles Tillman was relatively injury-free in 2010 and played in all 16 games for the first time since his 2003 rookie year. Tillman was third on the Bears with 82 tackles and for the team lead with 5 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles. If Tillman can stay healthy in 2011, the Bears can feel assured that the right side of the field will be taken away from their opponents as Tillman is playing at an elite level.

Tim Jennings took the starting job away from Zackary Bowman in Week 4 and never gave it back. Jennings had 56 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble in 2010 and will battle again with Bowman for the starting job opposite Charles Tillman.

D.J. Moore was superb as a nickel corner last season with 42 tackles, 4 interceptions, 1sacks, and 1 forced fumble. Moore ran 4.6 forty in the 2010 Scouting combine but is a perfect fit for the Bears’ cover 2 zone scheme and should play the same role in 2011.

Zackary Bowman was replaced as a starter by Tim Jennings in Week 4, but according to Lovie Smith, Bowman is finally out of his doghouse. “Size, speed, hands – he has all those things.” Smith said. Bowman’s competition, Tim Jennings, was burnt on a regular basis in Indianapolis, but had a surprisingly stellar first season in Chicago. Obviously Jennings is the favorite heading into training camp, but Bowman could reclaim the starting job if he has a strong preseason.

Joshua Moore landed on the practice squad last season despite putting a nice preseason together and dramatically improving his coverage. Moore has talent and potential, but needs to get stronger before he gets a chance to have a role on special teams and eventually move up the depth chart.

Free Agent Analysis:

Chicago will bring in undrafted free agents to fill out their roster. The Bears only have 5 cornerbacks and most teams carry more going into preseason.

Safeties (4)

Major Wright, Chris Harris, Craig Steltz, Chris Conte

Major Wright is expected to be the starting free safety and had it not been for an early-season hamstring injury, Wright might have been a starter last season. After his injury, the Bears eased Wright into games, but with Danieal Manning searching for a big contract, the Bears are going to let Wright take over.

Chris Harris was fifth in tackles with 70, and tied for the team lead with 5 interceptions last season. Harris is a good coverage safety, but needs to work on getting more involved with stopping the run game especially if he’s moving into the strong safety role.

Craig Steltz was the Bears’ starting safety in their first preseason game, but suffered a high-ankle sprain and became a backup the rest of the season. Steltz won’t be a starter in 2011, but he will get more playing time and eventually earn a starting job with the Bears or another team since his contract is up after this season.

Rookie Chris Conte (California) was a seventeen-game college starter and will see a limited number of snaps in 2011. There’s no way that the Bears would give Conte a big role with such limited experience, but he should receive a special teams role since he ran a 4.5 forty.

Free Agent Analysis:

Chicago doesn’t need to resign Danieal Manning because Major Wright is ready to step into the starting safety role and the Bears would be wise to spend their money upgrading other positions.

Kicker (1)

Robbie Gould

Robbie Gould converted 83.3 percent of his field goals in 2010 which is very good because the conditions at Soldier Field are among the worst in the league. Gould is regarded as one of the best kickers in the NFL and he converted 3 of 4 field goals from 50+ yards.

Free Agent Analysis:

Chicago has Robbie Gould under contract until 2013 and he has yet to have a bad kicking season so far. The Bears do not need to look for a kicker, since Gould is also good at kickoffs and had 16 touchbacks in 2010.

Punter (1)

Richmond McGee

Richmond McGee signed a reserve/future contract but could become the Bears next starter with Brad Maynard heading into free agency. McGee was the Bears’ camp leg in last years’ training camp because Maynard was injured. The Bears must think highly of McGee’s leg if they decided to bring him back.

Free Agent Analysis:

Chicago appears willing to let Brad Maynard go and let Richmond McGee start in his place. Don’t be surprised though, if the Bears bring in a camp leg though.

Long Snapper (1)

Patrick Mannelly

Patrick Mannelly is 36 years old and in his thirteenth season as the Bears’ long snapper. He is currently the Bears longest tenured player and was resigned for two more years back in December.

Free Agent Analysis:

Chicago won’t need to worry about this position until the 2013 season, since Mannelly will probably be mulling over retirement by then. Mannelly is highly regarded in the organized and is a proven long snapper in the NFL.

Kick/Punt Returners (2)

Devin Hester

Devin Hester is one of the most electrifying kick/punt returners in the NFL. Hester averaged 35.6 yards per kick return in 2010 in the 12 attempts that he had. Hester also averaged 17.1 per punt return and scored 3 touchdowns.

Free Agent Analysis:

Chicago should let Hester return kicks in 2011, since he was much more successful than Danieal Manning who averaged 24.7 yards per kick return. Manning is an unrestricted free agent and the Bears can just plug Hester back in as a kick returner instead.

Bears Unrestricted Free Agents (13)

Anthony Adams, Devin Aromashodu, Josh Bullocks, Rashied Davis, Corey Graham, Tommie Harris, Brian Iwuh, Olin Kreutz, Danieal Manning, Brad Maynard, Nick Roach, Pisa Tinoisamoa, Garrett Wolfe

Anthony Adams is expected to receive interest from “several” teams because of his willingness to play nose tackle. The Bears are expected to try to resign Adams, but he needs to decide if he wants more money or stay where he’s comfortable

Devin Aromashodu is a poor route runner and blocker and after only having 22 receptions for 282 yards last season, he’s unlikely to receive much interest in the free agent market

Josh Bullocks helped out on special teams in 2010 and was active in every game. Bullocks will be looking for an opportunity to start and it’s not very likely that he’d get it in Chicago. Bullocks made 49 starts in his first four seasons with the New Orleans Saints, but made only 4 starts in his two seasons with the Bears

Rashied Davis helped organize workouts for the Bears’ receivers and quarterbacks during the Lockout. Davis is hoping that being a leader in the offseason will help his chances of staying on the Bears’ roster. If Davis were to be resigned though, his contributions would be limited because he’ll be 32 before the 2011 season begins and only had 9 receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown in 2010.

Corey Graham was a special team ace in 2010 but wants an opportunity to start in 2011. Graham was passed over by Tim Jennings when a starting spot at cornerback opened up.

Tommie Harris is coming off two consecutive disappointing seasons. Harris has lost some lower-body strength that made him a force to be reckoned with early in his career because of multiple knee injuries and a serious hamstring tear. Harris won’t rule out resigning with Bears, but will likely have to settle for an incentive-laden one-year deal. Harris could sign with the Indianapolis Colts because if he’s healthy, he’d be a natural fit in Indianapolis’ Cover-2 scheme.

Brian Iwuh had ten special teams tackles last season, but the Bears didn’t feel that Iwuh was worth signing a $1.2 million contract and will only resign him if he is willing to accept a minimum salary that is incentive and bonus laden.

Olin Kreutz has spent all 13 years of his career in Chicago, but given his experience, he could be an attractive free agent. Kreutz is 34 years old and this should be his last chance to receive a major contract. Kreutz could be back with the Bears though as both sides have expressed interest.

Danieal Manning wants to check out his options in the free agent market. He’s a dynamic kickoff returner with outstanding speed and athleticism and reportedly turned down an extension attempt from the Bears before the 2010 season was over.

Brad Maynard and special teams’ coordinator Dave Toub had disagreements about directional kicking last season and as a result the Bears are expected to move on from Maynard. Maynard ranked 29th in net average (35.2 yards) and could be headed for a downfall since he turned 37 back in February.

Nick Roach is expected to be resigned by the Bears because the Bears are thin and aging at linebacker. Roach is also a strong special teamer, and the Bears don’t want to lose all their free agents

Pisa Tinoisamoa missed 18 games over the past two seasons, but when healthy, he is an outstanding run stopper. Tinoisamoa is coming off his third right knee surgery and at 30 years his market price isn’t expected to be high, and it should be expected that the Bears will find a way to resign him.

Garrett Wolfe could be resigned by the Bears, but wouldn’t be an option to replace him Chester Taylor should they cut him. Wolfe is 5’7’’, 186 pounds and isn’t big enough to pick up blitzing linebackers on third downs and his value as a special teams ace might not be a good enough reason for the Bears to resign him.

Outlook for the 2011 Green Bay Packers

Outlook for the 2011 Green Bay Packers
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Can Aaron Rodgers lead the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers to a repeat?
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Clay Matthews was the 2010 NFC Defensive Player of the Year, but what will he do in 2011?

The Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 in the Super Bowl after going 10-6 in the regular season. The Packers weren’t even a lock to get in the playoffs when they were 8-6, but they won their final two regular season games and secured a wild card berth. Once in the playoffs, the Packers’ defense helped the team by creating eleven turnovers through four games and Aaron Rodgers used the great field position that was given to him and lead the team to victory.

The Green Bay Packers didn’t need to make a personnel change this offseason because they have done an excellent job of drafting core players and they can overcome the losses of their older veteran players.

In the 2011 NFL Draft, the Packers used their first-round pick to select Chad Clifton’s eventual replacement in Derek Sherrod (Mississippi State). In the second-round, the Packers selected Donald Driver’s eventual replacement in Randall Cobb (Kentucky). The rest of the Packers’ picks will fill in their depth chart.

With the addition of their rookies, let’s take a look at the Packers’ current roster and see what positions are still in need of upgrades.

Quarterbacks (3)

Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, Graham Harrell

Aaron Rodgers was named Super Bowl MVP last season after completing 24-of-39 passes for 304 yards and 3 touchdowns in the Packers’ 31-25 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rodgers has stepped out of Brett Favre’s shadow and will enter the discussion as the NFL’s top quarterback heading into the 2011 season after completing 65.7 percent of his passes for 3,922 yards, 28 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions in 2010.

Matt Flynn is in a contract year and has been in trade rumors this season because he showed last year that he has the talent to start in the NFL. In Flynn’s lone start last season, he completed 64.9 percent of his passes for 251 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception against a Bill Belichick-coached defense.

Graham Harrell has a below-average arm, but he produced multiple 5,000-yard seasons in Mike Leach’s Texas Tech spread offense and is the NCAA’s all-time leader with 134 career passing touchdowns. Harrell was an undrafted free agent out of college though because of the struggles of former Texas Tech quarterbacks B.J. Symons, Kliff Kingsbury, and Cody Hodges. Harrell earned a spot on the Packers’ roster by impressing their coaching staff with his velocity in their 2010 minicamp. Harrell will be the Packers’ third-string quarterback in 2011.

Free Agent Analysis:

Green Bay has one of the best quarterbacks in the league and his backup has done an exceptional job when called upon.

Halfbacks (4)

Ryan Grant, James Starks, Alex Green, Dimitri Nance

Ryan Grant is expected to be the starting halfback for the Packers as long as he returns to pre-injury form in training camp. Grant tore a ligament in his right ankle and was placed on injured reserve after rushing for 45 yards on 8 carries. Before last season, Grant had never missed a game due to injury and had rushed for 2,456 yards and 15 touchdowns over the two seasons prior. Grant is in a contract year, but his carries will be lower because of the emergence of James Starks.

James Starks is a work in progress as a pass blocker, but he is expected to be the third-down back because his receiver skills are superior to Ryan Grant. Starks is also a proven starter as evident in the Packers’ Super Bowl run. In the playoffs, Starks rushed for 315 yards, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. Starks would only start in 2011 if Grant can’t return to his pre-injury form.

Rookie Alex Green (Hawaii) is going to be the future third-down back if the Packers opt to let Ryan Grant walk after this season. Green is an explosive downhill runner with impressive size (6’0’’, 225 pounds), elusiveness, and underrated receiving skills. Green averaged 8.2 yards per carry, but that was inflated by his college’s spread offense. The Packers will use Green sparingly in 2011, but he should get a bigger role in 2012.

Dimitri Nance is likely to get cut because he averaged just 2.6 yards per carry in limited action last year. In the NFL, opportunities don’t come around often and if you don’t “seize the moment”, you will be forgotten. Nance clearly isn’t in the Packers’ future plans and will probably be cut, since they went out and drafted Alex Green in the third round.

Free Agent Analysis:

Green Bay has a lot of depth at this position and won’t need to address this position for a long time.

Fullback (2)

Quinn Johnson, Ryan Taylor

Quinn Johnson is an old-fashioned lead blocker, but he could be released if the Packers are able to resign John Kuhn because he isn’t a core special teamer and doesn’t have the hands for the Packers’ passing game.

Rookie Ryan Taylor (North Carolina) was a special teams’ captain in 2008 and 2010, and would’ve been in 2009 had he not missed all of that season with a knee injury. Taylor played fullback and H-back a pro-style offense and averaged had 36 receptions with an average of 9.2 yards per catch. Taylor will likely be a special teamer and a backup fullback in 2011, but he has the potential to become a starter.

Free Agent Analysis:

Green Bay will likely resign John Kuhn and release Quinn Johnson. Even if the Packers don’t resign Kuhn, they have a good prospect in Ryan Taylor and the Packers don’t need to upgrade this position.

Wide Receivers (7)

Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver, Brett Swain, Randall Cobb, Antonio Robinson, Chastin West

Greg Jennings easily could’ve been named Super Bowl MVP, but Rodgers’ 304 passing yards and 3 touchdowns looked better than Jennings’ 4 receptions for 64 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jennings is among the elite receivers in the league and earned his first Pro Bowl selection with 76 receptions for 1,265 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Jordy Nelson finished the 2010 regular season with 45 receptions for 582 yards and 2 touchdowns, but he stepped up in the playoffs, tying a team-high 21 receptions for 286 yards and 2 touchdowns. Nelson proved during the playoffs that he is ready to start opposite Greg Jennings in 2011 and it will come at the expense of Donald Driver.

Donald Driver is 36 years old and his production has declined since ever since his 2006 Pro Bowl season. Driver had just 51 receptions for 565 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2010 and his recent string of leg injuries suggests that he has lost a few steps. Driver will be used in the slot receiver role because Jordy Nelson is a better receiver at this point and Driver’s body is breaking down.

Brett Swain has been used primarily a special teamer in his two-year career, but with the expected departure of James Jones, his role will likely expand. Swain will have to compete with Randall Cobb for the fourth receiver job, but he should still make the roster if he loses.

Rookie Randall Cobb (Kentucky) is a prototypical West Coast slot receiver and should eventually replace Donald Driver as the Packers’ slot receiver. Cobb will begin his NFL career as a kick/punt returner, but he will also be given a chance to compete for the fourth receiver job with Brett Swain.

Antonio Robinson and Chastin West signed reserve/future contracts, but likely won’t make the roster unless one of the receivers ahead of them gets hurt. Both have a shot to make the practice squad though.

Free Agent Analysis:

Green Bay has a great group of receivers and will need to add just one receiver in the next few years because of Donald Driver’s age. However, they will be fine this year, with Driver in the slot and Cobb learning the offense from the sideline.

Tight End (5)

Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, Tom Crabtree, D.J. Williams, Spencer Havner

Jermichael Finley tore his lateral meniscus in his right knee last October, but he shouldn’t lose any explosiveness. If Finley can stay healthy, he will be another weapon in the Packers’ already dangerous offense. 2009 was the only season that Finley was a healthy starter and he recorded 55 receptions for 676 yards and 5 touchdowns in that season. Finley is a huge breakout candidate in 2011, since he has been a starter for two years and fully understands the offense.

Andrew Quarless has excellent size and hands for a tight end, but he’s not an elite tight end because he needs to become more consistent. Quarless has 21 receptions for 238 yards and 1 touchdown in 13 games last season. Quarless will be Jermichael Finley’s backup in 2011, but rookie D.J. Williams could cut into his snaps.

Tom Crabtree was used primarily as a blocker and special teamer last year and had just four receptions in the regular season, but he caught a 7-yard touchdown in the Wild Card round against the Philadelphia Eagles. Crabtree’s job could be in jeopardy though since the Packers drafted D.J. Williams.

Rookie D.J. Williams (Arkansas) is too small to be a traditional tight end (6’2’’, 236 pounds) and won’t see much time as a blocker in the NFL. Williams has been given comparisons to Dustin Keller because of his outstanding vertical speed and athleticism, but he will only see action depending on the situation and opponent.

Spencer Havner is not going to make the Packers’ roster because there are four better tight ends ahead of him. Havner was low tendered by the Packers before they drafted D.J. Williams and it is only a matter of time before he gets released.

Free Agent Analysis:

Green Bay is set at tight end and looks to have a bright future at this position because all of the players are young.

O-Line (13)

Chad Clifton, T.J. Lang, Scott Wells, Josh Sitton, Bryan Bulaga, Mark Tauscher, Derek Sherrod, Nick McDonald, Marshall Newhouse, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Caleb Schlauderaff, Adrian Battles, Chris Campbell

Chad Clifton is 35 years old, but according to Head Coach Mike McCarthy, Clifton’s last six games of the 2010 season were the best of his career. Clifton allowed just one sack (to Pro Bowler John Abraham) in the final six contests. Clifton excelled in pass protection and should retain the role heading into 2011.

T.J. Lang bounced between tackle and guard last season, but appears to be the favorite to become the new starting left guard, replacing free agent Daryn College. Lang played tackle in college, but the Packers feel more comfortable with Bryan Bulaga and Derek Sherrod at tackle. Lang is very athletic and should do well in a zone-blocking scheme.

Scott Wells had a Pro Bowl-caliber season last year, since he allowed just one sack and had one penalty in 16 regular season games last year. Wells is known as a great run blocker, but he stepped up in pass protection and is one of the main reasons that Aaron Rodgers was able to lead his team to the Super Bowl.

Josh Sitton is entering a contract year after emerging last season as one of the NFL’s best guards. Sitton is currently a bargain for the 2011 season since he is only scheduled to make $1.2 million, despite not allowing a sack last season. Sitton also did a splendid job as a run blocker and is certainly deserving of a contract extension once the Lockout is over.

Bryan Bulaga is expected to be the Packers’ long-term starting right tackle because the Packers drafted Derek Sherrod with their first-round pick. Bulaga struggled in pass protection last year and hasn’t proved to the Packers’ coaching staff that he is deserving of consideration for the blind side of Aaron Rodgers.

Mark Tauscher is scheduled to make $4.1 million in 2011 despite the fact that he is an injury-prone, declining veteran that plays swing tackle. Tauscher is also 34 years old and had surgery late last season to repair rotator cuff damage in his shoulder. In order for Tauscher to remain a Packer, he will need to take a paycut or face the possibility of being released.

Rookie Derek Sherrod (Mississippi State) is a significant upgrade over Bulaga in terms of overall length and athleticism and is the favorite to eventually replace Chad Clifton at Aaron Rodgers’ blind side. Sherrod will be a reserve in 2011 as he tries to develop a “mean streak” and picks up experience pass blocking in NFL-style 5-to-7 step drops.

Nick McDonald is a former undrafted player from Grand Valley State, but he will be given the chance to replace free agent Daryn Colledge as a starter at left guard. McDonald has Head Coach Mike McCarthy’s support, but his competition, T.J. Lang played more last season.

Marshall Newhouse played as a guard in his rookie season last year, but the Packers don’t believe that he has enough strength to play inside. Newhouse will move back to his college position of tackle and compete to become the fourth tackle on the team.

Evan Dietrich-Smith lost his roster spot with the Seattle Seahawks when they decided to bring back Chester Pitts, but he signed with the Packers after Marshall Newhouse landed on injured reserve. Dietrich-Smith will compete with Caleb Schlauderaff to stick on the roster as a backup guard.

Rookie Caleb Schlauderaff (Utah) was a four-time All-American pick in the Mountain West and was a first-team all-conference pick as a senior. Schlauderaff started 49 games in college and was very durable despite the fact that he doesn’t have much athleticism. Schlauderaff will compete with Evan Dietrich-Smith for the fourth guard job, but he might struggle and lose due to the Lockout hindering his learning process.

Adrian Battles and Chris Campbell signed reserve/future contracts, but likely won’t make the team because there are too many offensive linemen on the roster.

Free Agent Analysis:

Green Bay can afford to let Daryn Colledge walk because they have done an excellent job in recent drafts and have quality depth at offensive line. T.J. Lang is expected to take his place and should be able to capably fill in for the Packer’s “weakest link” on the offensive line.

D-Line (9)

Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji, Mike Neal, Howard Green, C.J. Wilson, Justin Harrell, Jarius Wynn, Jay Ross, Lawrence Guy

Ryan Pickett made the switch from nose tackle to defensive end last season. As a run-clogging, double-team commanding nose tackle, he anchored the Packers’ No. 1 run defense in 2009, but in 2010 as a defensive end, he dealt with an ankle injury and the Packer’s run defense fell to 18th overall. Pickett weighed 340 pounds last season, which likely was the reason why he had the injury. Pickett likely tried to slim down this offseason, but the media won’t know how much until the Lockout ends.

B.J. Raji finished his first season as a full-time starter with 39 tackles and 6.5 sacks. Raji played 85 percent of the Packers’ defensive snaps last season which was more than any other nose tackle in the NFL. Raji showed that he can rush the passer and stop the run at a high level, so it appears that he’ll continue to play a huge role for this defense

Mike Neal underwent rotator cuff surgery last October, but is apparently “close to 100 percent” recovered. Neal is the favorite to replace Cullen Jenkins, but he isn’t the pass rusher that Jenkins was. Neal is more of a “power player” and he has the potential to become an elite run defender.

Howard Green weighed 375 pounds with the New York Jets last season, but when he signed with the Packers, he lowered his weight to 350 pounds. Green is a nose tackle, but he moved to defensive end when Cullen Jenkins was hurt. Now that Jenkins is gone, Green could have a chance to play at defensive end if Mike Neal doesn’t fully recover.

C.J. Wilson made the Packers’ roster as a seventh-round pick last season because of his pass rushing skills. Wilson likely won’t start in 2011, but now that Cullen Jenkins is gone, he could see more playing time in pass situations.

Justin Harrell tore his ACL last season and he isn’t likely to remain on the Packers roster because he has missed 50 of the 64 possible games he could have played in for his career. Harrell was the 16th overall pick in 2007, but he has turned into an injury-prone bust. Harrell is scheduled to make $650,000 in base salary with a $575,000 roster bonus in 2011, but the Packers’ don’t have a lot of salary cap room and his potential release appears to be the direction that the Packers are going to go.

Jarius Wynn was a reserve pass-rushing specialist in the nine games that he was active in last season. He recorded five tackle and 2 sacks in the limited amount of time he had last season, but he could receive a bigger role in 2011 with Cullen Jenkins headed to free agency.

Rookie Lawrence Guy (Arizona State) was a 4-3 defensive tackle in college, but he will play the “five technique” end in the Packer’s 3-4 system. Guy had just 8 sacks in three seasons of college, but defensive coordinator Dom Capers believes he can coach him and get more production.

Jay Ross and Curtis Young signed reserve/future contracts, but likely won’t make the roster because there are too many defensive linemen on the current roster

Free Agent Analysis:

Green Bay is going to miss Cullen Jenkins badly, but they believe Mike Neal can step up and take his place. The Packers will lose in the pass rush department, but they will become a better run defense with the change.

Linebackers (10)

Clay Matthews, Desmond Bishop, AJ Hawk, Erik Walden, Nick Barnett, Frank Zombo, Brandon Chillar, Brad Jones, Ricky Elmore, D.J. Smith

Clay Matthews was named NFC Defensive Player of the Year after ranking fourth in the NFL with 13.5 sacks. Matthews was also named to the Pro Bowl last season which was the second consecutive selection for the two-year veteran.

Desmond Bishop was a special teamer at the beginning of last season, but he had become a building block on the Packers’ defense ever since he replaced Nick Barnett in Week 5. According to Pro Football Focus, Bishop was one of the better all-around inside linebackers last season in terms of run defense, pass rush, and pass coverage. Bishop is locked in as a starter after finishing in second on the team in 2010 with 103 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and a 32-yard pick six.

AJ Hawk led the Packers with 111 tackles last season, but he also had .5 sacks and 3 interceptions. The Packers rewarded him by releasing him and then resigning him one day later with a five-year contract with a $33.75 million max value which includes an $8 million signing bonus. Hawk will earn $10.95 million in 2011, and will start in place of Nick Barnett.

Erik Walden was originally waived at the start of last season by the Miami Dolphins, but he joined the Packers midseason and took the starting outside linebacker job away from Frank Zombo. Walden made 9 appearances in the regular season last year, but received just two starts and was still able to rack up 3 sacks. Walden should be the starting outside linebacker in 2011 because he has more potential and is a better playmaker than Zombo.

Nick Barnett is expected to be either traded or released by the end of training camp. Barnett is scheduled to make $5.5 million in base salary with a $375,000 roster bonus and a $150,000 workout bonus. Barnett only played in four games last season due to a wrist injury, but the Packers were able to overcome his injury and win the Super Bowl, so it appears that they believe he is expendable.

Frank Zombo was an undrafted rookie last season, but he defied the odds by starting in eight of the thirteen games he appeared in during the regular season last year. Zombo had 4 sacks last seasons and earned himself a chance to compete for the starting outside linebacker job opposite Clay Matthews.

Brandon Chillar subbed in as a nickel backer last season, but had his season come to an end early when he was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. In eight games in a limited role, Chillar produced 16 tackles, 1 sack and 1 interception. Assuming the Packers get rid of Nick Barnett, Chillar should see the same role in 2011.

Brad Jones lost his starting job to Frank Zombo after not producing any sacks in his five starts last season. Jones was placed on injured reserve with a right shoulder injury a week after being benched. Jones will have a chance to challenge for the starting outside linebacker job, but all signs point towards Erik Walden taking the job.

Rookie Ricky Elmore (Arizona) was drafted for his pass rushing skills. Elmore had a career high season as a senior in college with 11 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss. Elmore won’t challenge for a starting role, but he could make an impact on special teams.

Rookie D.J. Smith (Appalachian State) was drafted to become a special teamer despite the fact that he was a productive four-year starter in college. Smith is small (5’11’’, 239 pounds) and has below-average strength, but he has athleticism and could become useful on kick coverage.

Free Agent Analysis:

Green Bay needs a complement pass rusher opposite of Clay Matthews. The Packers played musical chairs at that position last year and could definitely use some consistency there. Potential Free Agents include: Thomas Davis, LeRoy Hill, Kawika Mitchell, Matt Roth, and Pisa Tinoisamoa

Cornerbacks (7)

Tramon Williams, Charles Woodson, Sam Shields, Patrick Lee, Davon House, Brandon Underwood, Josh Gordy

Tramon Williams made his first Pro Bowl as the top cover corner for the NFL’s No. 5 pass defense. Williams had a play-making, shutdown-caliber season last year, finishing the regular season, leading the Packers with 6 interceptions and 20 pass breakups. In the postseason, Williams was just as good (if not better) as he had 3 interceptions and a scored a crucial touchdown at the end of the first half in the Packers’ Divisional round game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Charles Woodson will be 35 years old in October, but he is still playing at an elite level. Woodson is a seven-time Pro Bowler and might become a safety in the future, but he will remain at cornerback in 2011 after finishing 2010, ranking third on the team with 92 tackles to go along with 5 forced fumbles, 2 sacks and 2 interceptions.

Sam Shields was an undrafted rookie last year, but he played a key role for the Packers as a nickel back. Shields best performance came in the NFC Championship game where he had 2 interceptions and 1 sack. Shields could become the eventual replacement for Charles Woodson since he has the speed (4.28 forty) and play-making skills.

Patrick Lee dealt with knee and ankle problems during all of last season and will have to compete for a spot on the roster in 2011. Lee was originally drafted as the eventual replacement for either Al Harris or Charles Woodson, but he has been injury prone over the last few seasons, and hasn’t been able to show case his talent yet.

Rookie Davon House (New Mexico State) showed toughness by playing all of last year at around 70 percent due to a high ankle sprain. House was a four-year starter in college and had 11 career interceptions with 3 touchdowns. House lacks ideal fluidity, but his size (6’1’’, 200 pounds) and speed (4.32-4.35 forty) gives him the potential to become a future starter in the league.

Brandon Underwood was a role player for the Packers in recent seasons, but his roster spot is in grave danger since he was convicted of “prostitution non-marital intercourse” and has been accused of allegedly assaulting his wife this offseason.

Josh Gordy was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster towards the end of the season when Patrick Lee was dealing with an ankle injury. Gordy played mostly a reserve role in his limited time, but he should be able to compete for the last corner spot on the roster. If he doesn’t make the team though, he could still be added to the practice squad for another year.

Free Agent Analysis:

Green Bay is set at cornerback and Packers’ GM Ted Thompson deserves a lot of credit for finding the right players to make the Packers pass defense ranked as fifth best last season.

Safeties (6)

Nick Collins, Morgan Burnett, Jarrett Bush, Charlie Peprah, Michael Greco, Anthony Levine

Nick Collins played through a rib injury towards the end of last season, but he was rewarded for gutting it out when he helped the Packers win the Super Bowl. Collins finished fourth on the team with 70 tackles and finished second on the team with 4 interceptions. Collins will be healthy going into training camp and will once again play a crucial role for the Packers as a roaming free safety.

Morgan Burnett should regain the starting strong safety job after suffering a year-ending torn left ACL last year. Burnett was a rookie last season, but he made his presence known with 14 tackles and 1 interception in just four games before being placed on injured reserve.

Jarrett Bush is one of the Packers’ top special teamers, but he has also seen some time as a nickel and dime cornerback. Bush can play both cornerback and safety, but he will remain at safety because the Packers have too much depth at corner.

Charlie Peprah is at his best when he plays in the box to support the run defense, but he needs to work on his coverage skills before he can become a full-time starter. Peprah became a starter last season when Morgan Burnett went tore his ACL, and although he did a solid job with 63 tackles and 2 interceptions in eleven starts, Burnett is the better safety when he is healthy.

Michael Greco and Anthony Levine signed reserve/future contracts, but only one will have a chance at making the roster since the other four safeties are more qualified.

Free Agent Analysis:

Green Bay is set at safety and their depth in the secondary is among the best in the NFL.

Kicker (0)

Free Agent Analysis:

Green Bay needs to resign Mason Crosby because he has proven he can kick in colder environments.

Punter (1)

Tim Masthay

Tim Masthay averaged 43.9 yards per punt last season. Masthay was really good at directional kicking last season as he landed 25 punts inside the 20-yard line with only 5 touchbacks.

Free Agent Analysis:

Green Bay is set at punter because Masthay had a great season last year.

Long Snapper (1)

Brett Goode

Brett Goode was “virtually flawless” last season and had an even bigger impact when he tackled Devin Hester twice on punt returns in Week 17. Goode was undrafted out of college, but he has found a home with the Packers as a three-year veteran long snapper.

Free Agent Analysis:

Green Bay signed Goode to a two-year, $1.6 million extension through 2012.

Kick/Punt Returners (1)

Randall Cobb

Randall Cobb is a better option than last season’s returners for the Packers. Cobb ran a forty time of 4.45 at the Scouting Combine.

Free Agent Analysis:

Green Bay is selected Randall Cobb to be the eventual replacement for Donald Driver, but he has elite return skills.

Packers Unrestricted Free Agents (10)

Atari Bigby, Daryn Colledge, Mason Crosby, Brandon Jackson, Cullen Jenkins, James Jones, John Kuhn, Donald Lee, Anthony Smith, Jason Spitz

Atari Bigby was a former starter for the Packers, but he has dealt with injuries over the last three seasons and has become expendable. Bigby’s latest injury involved arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle and he spent the first half of last season on the PUP list before playing in just four regular season games. Bigby should be able to land a job though because he has proven that he can be a big-time hitter with ball skills when he is healthy.

Daryn Colledge is expected to resign with the Packers since they ignored his request for a long-term extension last year. The Packers’ offensive line is very deep and the team would rather have T.J. Lang, Nick McDonald, and Derek Sherrod challenge for the starting left guard job than overpay for Colledge. Colledge should be able to be land a starting job, but it’ll likely be in a zone-blocking system because his athleticism is his best attribute. The Houston Texans, Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins are among teams that could possibly sign Colledge.

Mason Crosby is an overrated kicker and has been inconsistent during his four-year career. Crosby has failed to convert at least 80 percent of his field goals during any season in his career, but the Packers like his upside as a cold weather kicker.

Brandon Jackson is expected to resign with the Packers because he wants “an opportunity to start” which he won’t get since Ryan Grant is returning from injury. Jackson is more valuable in the passing game as a third-down back though because he excels in blitz pickup and has good hands. Jackson had an opportunity as a starter last season, but he rushed for only 703 yards on 190 carries (3.7 yards per carry average) and scored just 3 touchdowns on the ground. Jackson will likely become a third-down back on another team and his price tag shouldn’t be too high.

Cullen Jenkins has missed 17 games over the past three seasons, but has been a dynamic pass rusher when he has been healthy. Jenkins started eight of the eleven games he appeared in last season, but he was still able to produce 7 sacks. Jenkins is in the prime of his career can play as a 3-4 defensive end and as a 4-3 defensive tackle, so he should be able to attract a lot of interest in free agency and secure a long-term deal.

James Jones isn’t expected to be back with the Packers next season because of his tendency to drop the ball in crucial moments of the game. Jones could compete for a starting job with another team though since he has received comparisons to Anquan Boldin as a physical playmaker and had a productive season last year. In 2010, Jones had 50 receptions for 679 yards and 5 touchdowns.

John Kuhn will likely resign with the Packers because he has established himself as a short-yardage ace and a core special teamer. Kuhn received a bigger role in 2010 and scored 6 touchdowns while also proving to be exceptional in pass protection.

Donald Lee was released prior to the lockout because he was scheduled to make $2.2 million and was buried on the depth chart behind Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, and Tom Crabtree. Lee will be 31 years old by the end of August and his production has fallen over the past few years, but he should be able to find a job and become a mentor to younger tight ends.

Anthony Smith could be brought back as a cheap backup. Smith was acquired from the Jacksonville Jaguars for a conditional seventh-round pick last season, but he only made 7 tackles in four appearances as a Packer.

Jason Spitz is not likely to resign with the Packers since they didn’t extend a tender to him prior to the Lockout. Spitz’s versatility as a guard and center will be appealing in the free agent market, but he may have to become a backup elsewhere. The Jacksonville Jaguars and the Philadelphia Eagles are rumored as teams with possible interest in Spitz

2013 NFL Draft- Mock

2013 NFL Draft- Mock
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*This is my first revision after the NFL Free Agency period has begun in full force and also the College Pro Days have begun. Team needs are becoming more clear and the prospect evaluations are winding down.

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2013 NFL Mock Draft (4-23-13)

Round 1

Kansas City (2-14) Luke Joeckel*, Texas A&M- OT Height: 6-6. Weight: 310 *Joeckel is one of the VERY few ‘sure things’ in this year’s draft. He is Very Good to Great in nearly all aspects of the Left Tackle position in professional Football. In this year’s rather weak draft class, Joeckel is a rock star and a great pick, be it at 1,2,5,……etc.
Jacksonville (2-14) Dion Jordan, Oregon DE/OLB Height: 6-6. Weight: 248 *Dion Jordan proved himself to be a really good athlete at the NFL Combine and it’s pretty obvious that he possesses at least a few un-coachable attributes: he’s really tall and really long in addition to being fast and strong. Jordan will be a very good rush LB or an explosive weakside DE.
Oakland (4-12) Ziggy Ansah, BYU DE Height: 6-5. Weight: 274 *Ezekiel Ansah is a sure thing as an athlete and person, but somewhat an unknown as a football player. He has only been playing competitive football since 2010, leaving track and field and walking on the team at BYU. He is Raw…..he has to be…..doesn’t he? He surely doesn’t know all the tricks that a lifetime DE knows, but Ansah is very coachable, is progressing by leaps and bounds, and when he applies these skills with his God-given gifts, we have an elite level Defensive End who is worthy of a top 10 pick.
Philadelphia (4-12) Eric Fisher, Central Michigan OT Height: 6-7. Weight: 305 *Eric Fisher has been rocketing up the draft boards, possibly all the way to the top. He is 1-A if Joeckel is #1. His athleticism is at an elite level and he will be an anchor for his QB’s blindside for years to come. (If Fisher isn’t available here, the Lions are hoping that Lane Johnson, or maybe even Joecke,l is)
Detroit (4-12) Lane Johnson*, Oklahoma OT Height: 6-6. Weight: 302 *Lane Johnson is 1-a, 1-b, or 1-c in this year’s big 3 top Offensive Tackles crop. He is a former Qb and TE who is quickly rising up the draft boards and has the elite athleticism and footwork to protect the blindside. Lane is one of the few prospects who can “realistically” say that they are THE best player in the 2013 draft.
Cleveland (5-11) Dee Milliner, Alabama CB Height: 6-0. Weight: 201 *Dee Milliner has been universally considered the top CB, and the only elite CB, in this draft. But there were questions if he really was elite. Alabama routinely puts out underwhelming Corners who must benefit greatly from the incredible talent surrounding them. Milliner erased many of those concerns with his very strong Combine workouts- especially his 4.37 40-yd dash. Milliner is one of the very, very surefire prospects. And at an important position.
Arizona (5-11) Jonathan Cooper, UNC G/C Height: 6-3. Weight: 295 *Cooper used to be the “Other” elite interior O-lineman in the 2013 Draft. He is more of a technique and leverage type than Warmack, who is more of a mauler. That said, Jonathan Cooper projects as a elite level Offensive Guard for many years to come. Very “Safe” choice.
Buffalo (6-10) Geno Smith, West Virginia QB Height: 6-3. Weight: 214 *Geno Smith is the 2013 version of Alex Smith. Someone needs to be the best QB every year, and clearly that makes them a top-10 pick…..right?
New York Jets (6-10) Star Lotulelei, Utah DT Height: 6-3. Weight: 311 *Star Lotulelei is the definition of a high risk-high reward prospect. He is likely the most talented DT in a VERY strong DT class- physically. That is the Reward= you get one of the top football players in this draft class and a likely Pro-Bowl talent. Here’s the Risk= Risk(S)= first, he has the potential issue with his heart….granted, probably a smallish risk. But also, Star doesn’t exactly have a glowing resume as far as his desire, commitment, and motor are concerned. BIG RISK!….Big Reward(?)
Tennessee (6-10) Sharrif Floyd*, Florida DT Height: 6-3. Weight: 297 *Sharrif Floyd is one of the fastest rising prospects soon to join the NFL. He was an elite prospect recruited by the Florida Gators. But yes, Sharrif had an underwhelming Freshman and Sophomore seasons, but seemed to intensify his dedication and exploded as a Junior. Floyd is an explosive gap rusher in a 4-3 or can add some pressure and yet hold the edge in a 3 man front.
San Diego (7-9) Barkevious Mingo*, LSU DE/LB Height: 6-4. Weight: 241 *Barkevious Mingo’s athleticism cannot be questioned. He’s a monster. The overriding question he faces is whether he is a great football player or just looks good in pads.
Miami (7-9) Xavier Rhodes*, Florida State CB/ S Height: 6-2. Weight: 210 *The Dolphins have a weird fetish for big, strong, sometime bulky CBs. But they have had pretty good luck with their pass defense despite losing key members seemingly every year. Rhoades is a hybrid CB/S combo but he appears to have the instincts and athleticism the Dolphins look for.
New York Jets – && (7-9) Chance Warmack, Alabama G Height: 6-3. Weight: 320 *Offensive Guards are rarely chosen in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft, but Chance Warmack is an elite prospect, and he will break that trend.
Carolina (7-9) Sheldon Richardson*, Missouri DT Height: 6-3. Weight: 294 *Sheldon Richardson is a dynamic interior pass rusher and depending on system, the NFL really values pressure on the QB from the interior D-Line positions. This is what Richardson does best.
New Orleans (7-9) Jarvis Jones*, Georgia OLB Height: 6-2. Weight: 242 *Figuratively speaking: “Looks (at least work out) like Jane, Plays like Tarzan!” Jarvis Jones is also a huge Risk/Reward candidate. His Reward is that he is a wickedly explosive playmaker who is always around the ball. The obvious Risk is the Spinal Stenosis he possesses. This could be a non-issue, but there have been more than a few players whose careers were cut very short by it- Marcus McNeil, Chris Samuels, and even Peyton’s brother Cooper Manning, to name a few. High Risk!……..HIGH REWARD!?
St. Louis (7-8-1) Tavon Austin, W. Virginia WR Height: 5-9. Weight: 176 *Personally, I don’t understand 1st round consideration for a buck seventy pound firefly. His comp is Percy Harvin…. Except Harvin has him by over 20 lbs. (How explosive will Austin be after getting sandwiched between a big SS and MLB?) Austin IS electric though, and I suppose if he can somehow avoid ever getting tackled, he can stay injury free and light up the league (awkward pun not intended).
Pittsburgh (8-8) Cordarrelle Patterson*, Tenn WR Height: 6-2. Weight: 214 *Cordarelle Patterson is an outstanding athlete, perhaps the most dynamic offensive playmaker this year. Every team wants to find their own Calvin Johnson, and while Calvin doesn’t exist in this class, Patterson is the closest thing to a Julio Jones type of physical beast. The main knocks on Patterson are his suspect hands and below average Football IQ. The Steelers don’t care though. They just lost Mike Wallace and Patterson can run really fast and gets open deep- like Wallace- and later perhaps he will develop in a more complete player than Wallace.
Dallas (8-8) Sylvester Williams, UNC DT Height: 6-3. Weight: 313 *The Cowboys are switching to a 4-3 Defense this year and they need another Dtackle to team with Jay Ratliff. Fortunately for them, there is plenty of help up front and this is a rich D Tackle class. In this mock, they get an all-go, balls-out, relentless warrior in Sylvester Williams
New York Giants (9-7) Bjoern Werner, Florida St DE/OLB Height: 6-3. Weight: 266 *Bjoern Werner has been poked and prodded and his game has been dismantled to the point where the “experts” prognosis is that he is too stiff and not athletic enough to be a difference maker as a pass rusher in the NFL. To me, he is built from the same mold as Kyle VandenBosch, and while that’s not flashy, KVB was once a top-flight DE in the League.
Chicago (10-6) Alec Ogletree*, Georgia ILB Height: 6-3. Weight: 236 *Alec Ogletree is a dynamic football player. On the field, he is more dominant for his own position (ILB) than any other player in this draft (he and Milliner). But while his talent and explosive tendencies as a football player are apparent, the questions lie in his predicatively (?) undesirable tendencies off the field.
Cincinnati* (10-6) Kenny Vaccaro, Texas S Height: 6-1. Weight: 215 *Vaccaro is similar to Damantre Moore in that his workout numbers didn’t help his cause much. But in his case I don’t think they hurt him too much either. He is still clearly the top safety in this year’s draft and will be drafted as such.
St. Louis* (10-6) # – Eddie Lacy*, Alabama RB Height: 6-0. Weight: 220 *It seems like there is always at least 1 RB taken in the 1st Round and while there are none which deserve to be 1st Rounders this year, I suppose Eddie Lacy in the best option.
Minnesota* (10-6) Keenan Allen*, California WR Height: 6-2. Weight: 215 *Allen hasn’t displayed elite athleticism this offseason but he may very well be the most polished all around WR in this year’s draft
Indianapolis* (11-5) D.J. Fluker*, Alabama OT/G Height: 6-4. Weight: 355*OK. DJ Fluker may not be nimble enough or mobile enough to play Left Tackle in the NFL. But he does possess a very rare build and is a strong, strong man. He should be a turnkey Pro-Bowl Right Tackle within 2 years.
Minnesota* (11-5) ## Jesse Williams, Alabama DT Height: 6-3. Weight: 323 *A combination of elite strength and exceptional athleticism. Williams put up the most impressive strength workouts of any prospect in the draft and showed his athleticism by playing DT and short yardage Fullback at Alabama.
Green Bay* (11-5) Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame TE Height: 6-6. Weight: 251 *Tyler Eifert has separated himself as the top Tight End in the 2013 NFL Draft. He is the model of the new era of elite NFL TEs. He’s big, strong, fast and he gets open. Not to mention Eifert holds his own in blocking. He will be a big upgrade to anything that Finley was, or even was supposed to be.
Houston* (12-4) DeAndre Hopkins*, Clemson WR Height: 6-1. Weight: 200 *Hopkins is a very aggressive WR who plays bigger than his size and plays faster than his times. Very strong hands, attacks balls in flight. Catches everything away from his body.
Denver* (13-3) Eric Reid*, LSU S Height: 6-2. Weight: 212 *Is there any question that the Broncos need to upgrade at the Safety position? “How, in the WORLD, can you let that guy get behind you?!!!!!”
New England* (12-4) Justin Hunter**, Tennessee WR Height: 6-4. Weight: 200 *No, Justin Hunter is not a polished WR and he has many flaws that (hopefully) someday he can iron out, but neither was Randy Moss- and look what Tom Brady did with Moss!. I’m not comparing Hunter to Moss other than that they are both Tall, Fast, and can high point the ball, making them great deep threats and Red Zone targets.
Atlanta* (13-3) Desmond Trufant, Wash. CB Height: 5-11. Weight: 190 *Desmond Trufant is perhaps the best pure cover CB in this year’s draft. He possesses adequate size, is a very good athlete, and has elite recognition and anticipation skills.
San Francisco* (11-4-1) Jonathan Cyprien, Florida Int. S Height: 6-0. Weight: 209 *San Fran needs a replacement for Dashon Goldson and hopefully improve on the mediocre results they were given in the 2012 season. They are hoping for a season similar to Goldson’s Pro Bowl 2011 season. Cyprien is a fast riser in the draft whose draft star exceeds his school size and name recognition.
Baltimore* (10-6) Arthur Brown, Kansas St ILB/OLB Height: 6-1. Weight: 228 *The Ravens need to replace (or attempt to replace) the immortal Ray Lewis. It will be tough to ever match his locker room presence and leadership, but his production on the field must be compensated for. Arthur Brown is a clone of a young Ray Lewis. He is a violent, sudden, (considered to be) undersized, sideline to sideline enforcer.

#- St. Louis: from Washington = Robert Griffin

##-Minnesota: from Seattle= Percy Harvin
&& -New York: from Tampa Bay= Darrelle Revis

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Round 2

Jacksonville (2-14) Ryan Nassib, Syracuse QB Height: 6-2. Weight: 223
San Francisco – (2-14) $ – Damontre Moore, TexasA&M DE/LB Height: 6-4. Weight: 250
Philadelphia (4-12) E.J. Manuel, Florida State QB Height: 6-4. Weight: 237
Detroit (4-12) Tank Carradine, Florida State DE Height: 6-4. Weight: 276
Cincinnati – (4-12) $$ – Menelik Watson, Fl. St OT Height 6-6. Weight 320
Arizona (5-11) Manti Te’o, Notre Dame ILB Height: 6-1. Weight: 241
Cleveland (5-11) *Browns forfeit pick for supplemental draft pick (Josh Gordon)
New York Jets (6-10) Tyler Bray*, Tennessee QB Height: 6-6. Weight: 210
Tennessee (6-10) Matt Elam*, Florida S Height: 5-10. Weight: 208
Buffalo (6-10) Datone Jones, UCLA DE Height: 6-4. Weight: 280
Miami (7-9) Justin Pugh, Syracuse OT/G Height: 6-6. Weight: 292
Tampa Bay (7-9) Jamar Taylor, Boise St CB Height: 5-11. Weight: 192
Carolina (7-9) Kawann Short, Purdue DT Height: 6-3. Weight: 308
New Orleans (7-9) * Saints forfeit pick for Bountygate
San Diego (7-9) Dallas Thomas, Tenn G/OT Height: 6-5. Weight: 310
St. Louis (7-8-1) Larry Warford, Kentucky G Height: 6-3. Weight: 340
Dallas (8-8) Terron Armstead, AR. Pine-Bluff- OT-Height: 6-4. Weight: 310
Pittsburgh (8-8) Johnathan Jenkins, Georgia DT Height: 6-3. Weight: 359
New York Giants (9-7) Zach Ertz*, Stanford TE Height: 6-6. Weight: 249
Chicago (10-6) Robert Woods*, USC WR Height: 6-1. Weight: 180
Washington* (10-6) Jackson Jeffcoat*, Texas DE Height: 6-5. Weight: 245
Minnesota* (10-6) Kevin Minter*, LSU ILB Height: 6-0. Weight: 246
Cincinnati* (10-6) Giovani Bernard**, UNC RB Height: 5-10. Weight: 205
Miami * (11-5) $$$ – Jonathan Hankins*, Ohio St DT Height: 6-3. Weight: 320
Green Bay* (11-5) Jonathan Banks, Miss St. CB Height: 6-2. Weight: 185
Seattle* (11-5) Gavin Escobar*, San Diego St TE Height: 6-6. Weight: 255
Houston* (12-4) Margus Hunt, SMU DE Height: 6-8. Weight: 277
Denver* (13-3) Bennie Logan*, LSU DT/DE Height: 6-2. Weight: 309
New England* (12-4) D.J. Hayden, Houston CB Height: 5-11. Weight: 192
Atlanta* (13-3) Le’Veon Bell*, MSU, RB Height: 6-2. Weight: 238
San Francisco* (11-4-1) Quinton Patton, La. Tech WR Height: 6-2. Weight: 195
Baltimore* (10-6) Phillip Thomas, Fresno St S Height: 6-1. Weight: 208

$= 49ers: from Chiefs – (Alex Smith)

$$= Bengals: from Raiders (Carson Palmer)

$$$= Dolphins from Colts (Vontae Davis)

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Round 3

1. Kansas City (2-14) Sam Montgomery*, LSU DE/OLB Height: 6-3. Weight: 262

2. Jacksonville (2-14) Barrett Jones, Alabama C/G/T Height: 6-5. Weight: 311

3. Detroit (4-12) Terrance Williams, Baylor WR Height: 6-3. Weight: 205

4. Oakland (4-12) Matt Scott, Arizona QB Height: 6-3. Weight: 196

5. Philadelphia (4-12) Tyrann Mathieu*, LSU CB/S Height: 5-9. Weight: 178

6. Cleveland (5-11) Travis Kelce, Cincinnati TE Height: 6-5. Weight: 255

7. Arizona (5-11) Montee Ball, Wisconsin RB Height: 5-11. Weight: 210

8. Tennessee (6-10) Matt Barkley, USC QBHeight: 6-2. Weight: 230

9. Buffalo (6-10) Blidi Wreh-Wilson, UConn CB Height: 6-1. Weight: 195

10. New York Jets (6-10) Christine Michael, TA&M RB Height: 5-11. Weight: 215

11. Tampa Bay (7-9) Alex Okafor, Texas DE Height: 6-4. Weight: 261

12. San Francisco (7-9) @ – Marcus Lattimore*, S Carolina RB Height: 6-0. Weight: 218 *Luxury Pick: The Niners could trade some of their many draft picks and grab Darrell Revis, but I think that would be a mistake. Dude is a whiney cry baby who’s exorbitant salary will handcuff the franchise long term- and he’s a Cornerback NOT a Quarterback!! Know thyself son! I feel that San Fran would be better off drafting this lottery ticket- Marcus Lattimore, who is the best RB in the draft and a once in a generation type of talent if he regains full health. It’s bordering on heresy, but think Adrian Peterson, both in recovery and potential.

13. New Orleans (7-9) Kyle Long, Oregon OT Height: 6-6. Weight: 311

14. San Diego (7-9) Johnathan Franklin, UCLA RB Height: 5-10. Weight: 205

15. Miami (7-9) Nick Kasa, Colorado TE Height: 6-6. Weight: 271

16. St. Louis (7-8-1) Jonathan Bostic, Florida ILB Height: 6-1. Weight: 245

17. Pittsburgh (8-8) Bacarri Rambo, Georgia S Height: 6-0. Weight: 218

18. Dallas (8-8) David Bakhtiari*, Colorado OT Height: 6-4. Weight: 299

19. New York Giants (9-7) Sio Moore, UConn OLB Height: 6-1. Weight: 245

20. Miami – @@- (10-6) Denard Robinson, Michigan ATH. Height: 6-1. Weight: 193

21. Minnesota* (10-6) Travis Frederick*, Wisconsin C/G Height: 6-4. Weight: 312

22. Cincinnati* (10-6) Robert Alford, SE Loisiana CB Height: 5-10. Weight: 188

23. Washington* (10-6) Khaseem Greene, Rutgers OLB/S Height: 6-1. Weight: 230

24. Indianapolis* (11-5) Jamie Collins, S. Miss OLB Height: 6-3. Weight: 250

25. Seattle* (11-5) Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin OT Height: 6-6. Weight: 320

26. Green Bay* (11-5) Joseph Randle*, Oklahoma St RB Height: 6-1. Weight: 200

27. Houston* (12-4) Tyler Wilson, Arkansas QB Height: 6-2. Weight: 218

28. Denver* (13-3) Darius Slay, Mississippi State CB Height: 6-0. Weight: 192

29. New England* (12-4) Cornelius Washington, GA- DE- Height: 6-4. Weight: 268

30. Atlanta* (13-3) T.J. McDonald, USC S Height: 6-3. Weight: 219

31. San Francisco* (11-4-1) David Amerson*, N.C. St. CB/S Height: 6-1. Weight: 205

32. Baltimore* (10-6) Aaron Dobson, Marshall WR Height: 6-3. Weight: 200

33. Houston ***(comp.) Kiko Alonso, Oregon ILB Height: 6-4. Weight: 244

34. Kansas City*** (comp.) Stedman Bailey*,W Virginia WR Height: 5-10. Weight: 193

35. Tennessee*** (comp.) Jordan Reed*, Florida TE Height: 6-3. Weight: 240

@- San Francisco: from Carolina (Trent Robinson and Frank Alexander)

@@- Miami: from Chicago (Brandon Marshall)

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