And now the conclusion of our two part series. The Greatest Value: The Defense. (You hear the majestic music in the background right? No?)
Cole: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa shored up their interior last season with Gerald McCoy but they’re woefully short at defensive end. The Tampa 2 scheme requires some sound pass rushers on the outside and if Tampa wants to control the likes of Drew Brees and Matt Ryan they have to get after the quarterback.
Andy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Can’t help but agree with Cole here. Tampa did a lot of work to improve their interior D-line, but finished with only 26 sacks last season. Tampa was surprisingly close to a playoff position last year, but if they want to beat the Falcons and the Saints, then they have to get some pressure on their Quarterbacks.
Cole: Denver Broncos
Josh McDaniels signed Justin Bannan to a big contract last season. He was promptly released this season with John Fox arriving and installing a 43. They’ve got no presence on the inside and that means teams can identify and double Elvis Dumervil. Without a threat somewhere else on the line, this unit will continue to struggle and get pushed around. This team has been hammered several time in the past few years and folded immediately after (actually the Ravens did this in back to back years). If they don’t get more physical they’ll continue to settle in mediocrity.
Andy: Cleveland Browns
Since releasing former pro-bowler shaun rogers, the Browns have very little at the DT position. On top of this, they were in the bottom 10 in rushing yards allowed last season. With Rashard Mendenhall, Ray Rice, and Cedric Benson in the same division, the Browns cannot afford to stay this weak at what is potentially the most important position for stopping the run. If they are able to sign a gap-filling DT, they could force these teams to beat them through the air. While this won’t put them in a playoff position, it is crucial for the rebuilding of this team.
Cole: New York Jets
Rex Ryan failed to develop a pass rusher out of Vernon Gholston. They’ve survived on scheme, but they really have to get a hold of a player that can just go at it without a lot of disguises. They fooled Tom Brady in the playoffs, but if they want to consistently beat teams like them and the Steelers, they’ve got to go at the quarterback sometimes straight up and they have no one that can do that. Add in an elite Ware type rusher and this is a very, very scary defense, with a great defensive mind behind it.
Andy: New England Patriots
“Adalius Thomas” best sums up their linebacker play the last few years. While their rush defense and sack totals were not terrible last year, there is still a large amount of room for improvement. The Patriots could benefit from a multi-threat OLB, one who can rush the QB and can also fall back into coverage. A more complete defense is what they need to try and repeat their early years of success, and the OLB is the best place to start.
Cole: Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens have been plugging 3 or 4 guys in next to Ray Lewis since Bart Scott left. Tavares Gooden was drafted to be the heir and he continues to get concussions and injuries. Dannelle Ellerbe has played the best, but has some attitude issues and Harbaugh isn’t a fan of those. He also makes some big time mistakes. Jameel McClain is the most consistent but lacks sideline to sideline speed, and that should be a necessary seeing as Ray Lewis has lost that too. If they could get another tackling machine on the inside, with some pass rush ability, this would be a scary unit again (an upgrade to the other pass rush linebacker wouldn’t hurt either).
Andy: Detroit Lions
They’ve done work on adding D-lineman and Louis Delmas was a good addition at safety, but the holes left by Matt Millen were so great, it’s inevitable that there is more to add. What the Lions need next on defense is a 100+ tackle MLB who can play sideline-to-sideline. What is also needed is a leader of their defense, a position often filled by the MLB. Their offense was usually not the problem last year, and if they add a MLB (and some people in the secondary), then this will add a dangerous team to the already-loaded NFC North.
Cole: Houston Texans
What can you say positive about this unit? Kareem Jackson is young? They let go of Dunta Robinson and this unit simply imploded. They were worst in the league and could simply not do anything. I find it hard to believe Wade Phillips will turn it around with new talent being brought in. Their offense is playoff caliber, their defense just needs to be decent.
Andy: Houston Texans
I don’t know how to say this politely, but the Texans secondary really did suck last season. They gave up 267 yards per game. Letting go of Dunta Robinson turned out to be an epic mistake. Whether it be through the draft, a trade, or free agency, the Texans need to add some new blood to their pass defense, especially if they want to successfully make the transition to the 3-4. The offense could be more consistent in getting points before they fall behind, but most of the blame for last season falls on the defense. Even an average pass defense might be enough to get them into the playoffs.
Cole: Minnesota Vikings
Not for lack of trying to address the hole at the very back of their defense, they’ve spent picks on players (Tyrell Johnson) and brought in guys (Madieu Williams). Neither has worked out, and when compared to the ball hawks in Green Bay the need looks greater. Their inability to prevent a lot of big plays hurt them dramatically this past season, and if they plan on making any more runs before this defense is worn down, they’ll need to add two play makers back here.
Andy: Dallas Cowboys
Maybe I am being too harsh here considering Sensabaugh did not have an awful year and Allan Ball is still learning the safety position, but my God did they get burned a lot. The big problem is Ball, who I do not think will make the cut as a FS. Considering their CBs are not terribly good either, it is key that they get a FS who has an instinct for the position and who can make the plays. Their schedule next year is not filled with many great QBs on opposing teams, but if they ever want to win a playoff game (or pass the Eagles in the NFC East), Safety is a position that must be addressed.