Despite everything the NFL’s 32 teams have done this Offseason to bolster their rosters and address any weaknesses, all 32 still have issues and certain spots which have either been perpetual problems or where they could use a starter or some added depth.
After all of the signings, releases, trades and draftees made by the NFL’s teams in the last four months of the Offseason, all 32 of the league’s clubs still have at least one soft spot on their rosters which need addressing or which may affect the starts of the respective 2015 NFL Regular Seasons.
As it always is, the QB spot is a popular problem spot for NFL teams, with a big gap between the Haves and the Have-Nots, but other positions or units like DB, OL and TE also crop up on this season’s watch list. Let’s look at a big concern for all the teams and provide some maybe overlooked picks here.
Let’s look at particular needs for each team and speculate on how easy or hard it will be to remedy these roster weaknesses before Week 1 and the 2015 Kickoff Weekend opener between the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, Sept. 10 (NBC, 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT; NFL Odds: Patriots -2½, Total: 49, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook).
Arizona Cardinals—TE: For a second straight year, Arizona (33/1 to win Super Bowl, SkyBet) has seen a TE leave out of nowhere. In 2013, it was Jake Ballard who left, while this year, 30-year-old John Carlson unexpectedly left the Cardinals fold in May. So, returning injured QB Carson Palmer will be working with Darren Fells, 2014 2nd Round pick Troy Niklas, Gerald Christian, Ted Bolser and Ifeanyi Momah in the team’s two-TE set. But losing Carlson so suddenly this Offseason has been a blow to this upstart NFC West team and the Arizona Cardinals will probably again have to address getting another (quality) TE sometime in the Future.
Atlanta Falcons—TE: With Atlanta club legend Tony Gonzalez now just a distant memory, the Falcons (+240 to win NFC South, Paddy Power) need help at Tight End right now. Atlanta’s current Depth Chart at the spot is Jacob Tamme, Levine Toilolo and Tony Moeaki. Tamme should earn the starting spot after camp is over although Moeaki may challenge him for the role.
Baltimore Ravens—TE: No, not every team in the NFL needs a TE, but a byproduct of alphabetization leaves us with this reality, brother. The Baltimore Ravens (10/1 to win AFC, Coral) miss the days when Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta were on the roster, as with second-year TE Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle, this is definitely a position which could keep Baltimore from winning the AFC or even making it to the conference semifinals. The elite teams in the conference like the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts all know the importance of TE and depth at the spot in the modern NFL game. Speak on it.
Buffalo Bills—QB and OL: The Bills (+450 to win AFC East, Sky Bet) did get QB Matt Cassel (Texans) in the Offseason, but with EJ Manuel, Tyrod Taylor and Matt Simms, this team could really still use a great QB to lead them for the next decade. Easier said than done. And with a really nice receiving corps and the addition of RB LeSean McCoy (Eagles), Buffalo has a decent looking Offense on paper with the exception of a solid OL, which will be undergoing a rebuilding year with the addition of Richie Incognito and draftee John Miller.
Carolina Panthers—DL: The Carolina Panthers (+2200 to win NFC, SkyBet) have signed QB Cam Newton to the Fat Deal he wanted and Carolina is one of the most underrated teams in the league, but they do need a decent right DE to complete their DL. Right now, Kony Ealy, Wes Horton and Frank Alexander are the three guys on Carolina’s Depth chart at the position but none of the three have really distinguished themselves yet for this team, which won the NFC South division last season with a losing record. Keep your eye on the black cats.
Chicago Bears—QB: Yeah, the Chicago Bears definitely need help on the DL and at LB, but where they should really be worried is at QB, where Jay Cutler will be again “The Man” for Da Bears. After failing to trade the expensive Cutler to the Tennessee Titans on NFL Draft night—showing a desire and need for the QB position, hoping to get either Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston (Florida State) or Marcus Mariota (Oregon)—Chicago will have to roll again with a guy who makes some of the worst throwing decisions in the NFL. And should Cutty get hurt, the Bears will have to turn to Jimmy Clausen, David Fales or Shane Carden. Nightmare on State Street. 2105 could and should be another long one for the Bears who also have issues on Defense. Rust never sleeps, sister.
Cincinnati Bengals—TE: Yet another team that needs a TE, a position slowly turning into one of the most important in the NFL, is the Bengals (+275 to win AFC North, William Hill). Who couldn’t use a guy that can both catch the pass and block depending in the team’s needs? Cincinnati’s current Depth Chart (ESPN) at the TE position has Tyler Eifert, Kevin Brock, Tyler Kroft and CJ Uzomah, so, the one thing this improving team is missing is a clutch go-to TE of years past like Eighties team star Rodney Holman. Memories.
Cleveland Browns—DB: Honestly, the Browns (+1100 to in AFC North, Paddy Power) need help at QB and at WR and some other crucial positions for the future, but for now, it looks like the DB position may be the weakest part of this team. Starting right CB Buster Skrine (Jets) bolted Cleveland the first day of Free Agency so new-signee Tramon Williams (Packers) and Justin Gilbert will compete for the spot. 2015 could be another long year for the Browns who find themselves stuck in one of the league’s toughest divisions and having to play the Ravens, Steelers and Ohio rival Bengals all twice each season. Not fun.
Dallas Cowboys—RB: After having an incredible 2014 season at RB, the Dallas Cowboys (20/1 to win Super Bowl, William Hill) let DeMarco Murray (Eagles) go to the City of Brotherly Love, and signed Darren McFadden (Raiders) to be his replacement. OK. With one of the best OLs in the NFL, and, after establishing a solid Rushing attack with Murray, the Cowboys have gambled and may not even end up seeing McFadden as their starter, with Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle reportedly impressing in the Spring. With Murray, the Cowboys had no worries but trying to keep both he and WR Dez Bryant was a bit too much for team owner Jerry Jones. Dumb move.
Denver Broncos—OL: With future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning at QB, the Denver Broncos (+550 to win AFC, Sky Bet) like to live and die by The Pass, and in order to do so, Denver needs a solid OL and that could be a big issue this season with potentially four new starters plugging in—after LT Ryan Clady suffered a tear to his Anterior Cruciate Ligament—in what looks like the 39-year-old legend’s last season in the league. The Broncos reliability and depth on the OL could destroy them with so much pressure on them to keep Old Man Peyton from getting crunched.
Detroit Lions—OL: LT Riley Reiff and RG Larry Warford are the only two returning starters on the OL for the Detroit Lions (16/1 to win NFC, Betway), so QB Matt Stafford and Detroit will need to address talent and depth on the OL likely all this season, next Offseason and maybe all the way until this time in 2016. Detroit lost All-Pro NT Ndamukong Suh (Dolphins) to Free Agency but did trade for talented NT Haloti Ngata (Ravens) to somewhat soften the loss
Green Bay Packers—DB: The Packers (4/1 to win NFC, Ladbrokes) saw Tramon Williams (Browns) an Davon House (Jaguars) leave via Free Agency and then suffered a major blow when Casey Hayward injured his foot. If Hayward can’t return at least 90% healthy, Green Bay may have to turn to Rookies Damarious Randall (Arizona State) or Quinten Rollins (Miami-Ohio). Still, this team did a good job addressing other needs, including re-signing WR Randall Cobb, and after missing out on the Super Bowl by a quarter, expect the Cheeseheads and QB Aaron Rodgers to do everything in their power to try to get there this time around. Curds over turds.
Houston Texans—QB: The Texans (50/1 to in Super Bowl, bet365) may need help in other places, but to think that Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett and Tom Savage will be enough at the most important position on the team may be a bit of a stretch for Houston which may really end up regretting letting Ryan Fitzpatrick sign with the Jets this Offseason. The Texans do have other needs, but as the QB position goes in the 2015 Regular Season for Houston, so should go their fortunes. Boom or bust, but what would you expect from the Lone Star State?
Indianapolis Colts—OL: The Indianapolis Colts (11/1 to win Super Bowl, bet365) have been the darlings of many bettors this Offseason, but still, Indianapolis had an incredibly choppy OL last season and it may hamper this perennial AFC South champions again this season, with as many as three starting spots still up for grabs, but one positive here for the Colts is the depth Head Coach Chuck Pagano and General Manager Ryan Grigson have at the position. And with players like First Round pick Phillip Dorsett (RB, Miami-Florida), WR T.Y. Hilton, RB Frank Gore (49ers) and two killer TEs (Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener), it’s crucial to have a good line in front of star QB Andrew Luck so he can have the proper time and space to get the football to these many versatile and dangerous Offensive weapons. Indy will score points.
Jacksonville Jaguars—LB: The Jaguars (250/1 to win Super Bowl, William Hill) honestly need help on both lines, as well as at LB, at least in terms of having some depth at the spot, but credit to them for taking potential star Dante Fowler, Jr. (Florida) with the #3 overall Pick in the Draft to help at the position. But in an extremely twist of cruel fate, the Rookie tore his ACL in his first practice with the Jaguars, thus sadly ending Fowler’s first season with the Jaguars before it even began and leaving Jacksonville still a little thin at LB.
Kansas City Chiefs—WR: True, the Kansas City Chiefs (40/1 to win Super Bowl, Ladbrokes) need help on the OL and DB, but this is a team who seems allergic to getting TD from the WR spot and with Dwayne Bowe (Browns) gone, Kansas City looks to have new guy Jeremy Maclin (Eagles) and Albert Wilson (16 receptions in 2014) as starters. Granted, Maclin is an improvement over Bowe, but another solid starter would provide depth with Wilson, Jason Avant, Frankie Hammond and Junior Hemingway providing depth, but moving down the pecking order. The Chiefs plan on getting the majority of their Offense on the ground and have the RBs to do so, but teams that have trouble scoring TDs through the air have trouble rallying from behind and seldom get too far in the NFL postseason.
Miami Dolphins—OL: The Dolphins (+3300 to win Super Bowl, bet365) are expected to be a bit better by most people this season, but the jury is still out for me. Miami needs help at WR and LB as well as on the OL, the Guard position specifically. Dallas Thomas (LG) and Billy Turner (RG) have the edge in the fight for starting spots on the Dolphins starting OL, but Jeff Linkenbach and Rookie Jamie Douglas (Arizona State) are reportedly pushing the two.
Minnesota Vikings—OL: Like Miami, the Minnesota Vikings (28/1 to win NFC, William Hill) need help on the OL at the Guard position, among some other places. Minnesota moved Brandon Fusco from RG to LG so David Yankey and Rookie Draft Picks TJ Clemmings (Pittsburgh) and Tyrus Thompson (Oklahoma) may all be competing for that now open starting spot. This team is probably better than most think, get RB Adrian Peterson back and may have a future star at QB in Teddy Bridgewater if everything goes right at Paisley Park.
New England Patriots—DB: Losing someone as talented as All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis (Jets) has to have some kind of vacuum effect on a team’s secondary, but for the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots (+350 to win AFC, Paddy Power), it’s more than just Revis’ safety spot at DB which a question mark, but the three CB spots New England also employs. Forget Deflategate and its implications: The DBs could make or break the Patriots this season. But still, this is a team that knows how to win and has proven it can rally from behind with star QB Tom Brady and his may receiving targets at WR, TE and even RB. Dynasties end when they want.
New Orleans Saints—TE: The New Orleans Saints (+2200 to win NFC, Stan James) have a lot of needs, including LB and DB—New Orleans ranked #31 in Total Defense last season—but after trading club legend TE Jimmy Graham to the NFC champion Seattle Seahawks to address another need (Center) and get the talented Max Unger, the Saints now may be looking at having 34-year-old Benjamin Watson (20 receptions, 136 yards in 2014) as their starting TE. And when you have a guy like Drew Brees at QB, a prolific starting TE is almost required. Who dat? Not Jimmy.
New York Giants—OL: The New York Giants (20/1 to win NFC, William Hill) could use DBs, a DE and a QB for the Future, with Eli Manning getting older, but the OL and the experience a a unit and depth there is a real concern for Head Coach Tom Coughlin. And with LT Will Beatty (torn pectoral) out, that much more pressure will be put on the starters which look like Rookie Ereck Flowers (LT, Miami-Florida), Justin Pugh (LG), Weston Richburg (C), Geoff Schwartz (RG) and Marshall Newhouse (RT). 2015 could be a long year for the G-Men, even seemingly tucked away and with no expectations in the NFC East.
New York Jets—QB: The Jets (+8000 to win Super Bowl, BetVictor) did an absolutely fantastic job this Offseason, but, as they always have since Joe Namath retired, have problems at QB. For now, the Jets are putting their eggs in either the new acquiree Ryan Fitzpatrick (Texans) basket—and it just may pay off and shock the NFL—or the Geno Smith basket. And only Time will tell if draftee Bryce Petty (Baylor) can translate what he knows from his pass-pass-pass collegiate days to the much-different style of play in the NFL. Getting a guy at QB to lead this now incredibly talented roster for the next decade could put the J-E-T-S, Jets! Jets! Jets! back on the map.
Oakland Raiders—CB: The Oakland Raiders (+25000 to win Super Bowl, Sky Bet) signed WR Michael Crabtree (49ers) to provide some nice depth at WR, but the DL, OL and CB are still concerns for this AFC West team. DJ Hayden looks to start at one corner with second-year man TJ Carrie (Ohio) or Keith McGill starting on the other side with Neiko Thorpe, James Dockery and Dexter McDonald competing for the second-string spots at camp for this team which used to be one of the AFC’s elite teams coached by the dynamic Jack Del Rio. Not now John.
Philadelphia Eagles—OL: Former Oregon ringmaster and now Eagles Head Coach Chip Kelly is also dynamic, but like the Giants and several other teams in the NFL, the Eagles (25/1 to win Super Bowl, Paddy Power) are thin at OL, and a couple of injuries away from a crisis. Addressing the OL will be a thing this summer, Fall, Winter and probably again next Spring for Philadelphia. With the departure of the productive WR Jeremy Maclin (Chiefs), the Eagles did address a need at WR in the 1st Round, picking the talented Nelson Agholor (USC) with the 30th overall selection, giving a nice starting duo with the underrated Vanderbilt product Jordan Matthews (67 receptions, 872 yards, 8 TDs in 2014). This team could shock the NFC or disappoint in a big way if the pieces don’t fit and new acquiree at QB Sam Bradford (Rams) gets hurt again and/or disappoints. If so, it’s Marc Sanchez to the rescue!
Pittsburgh Steelers—DB: The Pittsburgh Steelers (28/1 to win Super Bowl, Sky Bet) same problem for the last couple of years looks again to be an issue now—the DBs, and consistency and depth at the S and CB positions. The Black and Gold saw three starters—legend Troy Polamalu (Retired), Ike Taylor (Retired) and Brice McCain (Free Agency)—leave this year with Shamarko Thomas, Mike Mitchell, and Cortez Allen suddenly having much pressure on them. Pittsburgh did somewhat bolster the depth at DB in the NFL Draft, but it almost had to, taking three DBs overall: Senquez Golson (Ole Miss) in Round 2; CB Dorian Grant (Ohio State) in Round 4; and S Gerod Holliman (Louisville) in Round 7. Their services may and will be required frequently in 2015 for the Steelers. You can count on that.
San Diego Chargers—OLB: The Chargers (14/1 to win AFC, Ladbrokes) will be counting heavily on ROLB Jerry Attaochu and LOLB Melvin Ingram heavily this season at OLB after seeing Dwight Freeney (Free Agent) and Jarret Johnson (Retire) go. So with the pressure on at that spot, second-string OLBs and their availability and durability will be big for San Diego and Tourek Williams, Cordarro Law and Kyle Emanuel will be fighting for those spots. And Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco will be looking for OLBs for some time most likely.
San Francisco 49ers—CB: No team lost more on Defense than the 49ers (+1000 to win NFC West, Stan James) including CBs Perrish Cox (Titans) and Chris Culliver (Redskins) to Free Agency. Shareece Wright, Dontae Johnson and Chris Cook will get their chances to start, but it seems San Francisco will be scouting, signing, trading for and drafting DBs, especially CBs, for the next couple of years. And losing Head Coach Jim Harbaugh (Michigan), was a devastating blow as well. Few teams have seen rosters implode like San Francisco has and is right now.
Seattle Seahawks—C: The NFC champion Seahawks (+475 to win Super Bowl, bwin) had to give up something of value to get talented TE Jimmy Graham from the New Orleans saints, so Seattle shipped solid C Max Unger to The Big Easy in an effort to improve its somewhat anemic receiving corps. In the Offseason, Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll has gone with Lemuel Jeanpierre—who got some valuable playing time last season when Unger was injured—while Patrick Lewis, Drew Nowak and Rookie Kristjan Sokoli (Buffalo) at least provide some depth.
St. Louis Rams—OL: Offseason surgeries to starting LG Rodger Saffold (Groin) and LT Greg Robinson (Toe) have left the two still rehabbing so St. Louis has been using Garrett Reynolds (LG) and Brandon Washington (LT) at the positions this Offseason. So, the Rams will have concerns about the recovery and health of Saffold and Robinson, the experience of whomever may end up starting in Week 1 and the depth overall of the OL. Like many, St. Louis (+900 to win NFC West, Sky Bet) will be scouring the Free Agency market, contemplating trades and drafting OLs for awhile. And, injuries at OL have hampered this team and its plans before.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers—QB: What? Didn’t the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+900 to win NFC South, Ladbrokes) just draft Florida State sensation Jameis Winston and QB with the #1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft? And doesn’t Tampa Bay have Mike Glennon (83.3 QBR) at QB to compete with Winston and be a serviceable starting QB for the Pewter People Eaters of the Sunshine State? Yes and yes, Monsieur. And that’s precisely the point and why it’s the Bucs top concern. Immediately clicking at QB in the NFL is a rare trait only exhibited lately by the Colts’ Andrew Luck and the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson. With Winston and Glennon, Tampa Bay has promise now but could have problems by October. Concern.
Tennessee Titans—QB and OL: Like the Buccaneers, the Titans (+2500 to win AFC South, Paddy Power) did the right thing Spike and drafted a Heisman Trophy-winning QB (Marcus Mariota, Oregon) right away in the NFL Draft, but with Mariota so raw and Zach Mettenberger an able starter but not the kind of guy to lead a roster like this to a .500 record, Tennessee will again be among the NFL’s worst 4 or 5 teams this season. This roster needs help everywhere quite honestly and the OL is also a point of great concern. The Titans have somewhat addressed this need by taking LT Taylor Lewan (Michigan) and RG Chance Warmack (Alabama) in the last two NFL Drafts to at least provide some kind of anchor. This team has a long way to go and should be considered fade material. Nothing new really.
Washington Redskins—QB: The names are familiar—Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy—and all three Washington Redskins (+1200 to win NFC to win NFC East, Ladbrokes) QBs, who all saw a considerable amount of playing time in the 2014 season, had exceptional college careers, Griffin at Baylor, Cousins at Michigan State and McCoy at Texas, but leading Washington as signal caller has been an iffy proposition for all three, especially starter Griffin, the guy who looked like he might rejuvenate the franchise until injuring his right knee. But no team as poor as the Redskins has just one spot of concern and Head Coach Jay Gruden and Washington are lucky the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in the NFC as if not, it may be the worst team in the conference. At least there’s always next season, right?
NFL Conference Futures Picks: Green Bay Packers +400 to win NFC (Ladbrokes), New England Patriots +350 to win AFC (Paddy Power)