I am BACK!!!! These post take a lot out of me so i took some time away, but it’s March Madness so I have to write. Free Agency started last week, so that affects the remaining teams I have left to preview. Today we are starting to analyze many teams who were not really bad. The Bengals, Bills, Saints, and Eagles are really good at something, but were too reliant on that. Injuries usually play a huge part in why these teams did not have the season that they thought they would have. I am not saying it’s the only reason, but typically it is a big part. So lets get started with the Bengals.
The Bengals came into the season with very high hopes and for the majority of the season thy failed to live up to expectations. Injuries really plagued this team throughout the season this year. Tyler Eifert who had a breakout 2015-2016 season was out for the first half of the season this year. Eifert is a very dynamic Tight End who would help out any Qb when they need a safety valve. Dalton struggled not having him because defenses were able to shift their coverage to Aj Green. Without Eifert for the beginning of the year Aj Green had to shoulder the load because in the prior offseason they lost Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu so they needed all the receiving help this year.
One thing they was hoping would carry over from the prior year to this year was the play of their offensive line. last year they were ranked 4th in the league by profootballfocus.com, but this year they dropped to 13th. That is a huge drop when a team is incorporating new pass catchers and missing probably their most important. This free agency they were hoping to keep those key pieces on the line which was on Dalton’s blindside. Well that did not happen. Their Left tackle and guard both switched teams, so they have to fill that hole soon or trust the backups.
This defense dropped off the face of the Earth this year. The Bengals in 2015 had a scary pass rush and teams knew this going into their games. Geno Atkins is a beast in the trenches, but his cast was not helping him. Management must decide what they are going to do with Vontaze Burfict because he is a phenomenal player, but he struggles to keep his cool. Games are precious in the NFL and missing one could be the difference in making the playoffs or not. He missed five and three were because of suspension. I think it is time to find a replacement for him because the production is not worth the headache in his case. He has a history, so now a ticky tac play could warrant a suspension or a fine.
In the draft, they have to get younger on their defensive line, and this draft is full of pass rushers. Derrick Barnett is a BEAST like nobody else. He was etremely productive in college. In his three years of playing at Tennessee he accumulated 30 sacks. He was consistent year by year, so this shows talent and a high motor to me. It mainly shows that when known that he was the guy to stop, the opposition had problems stopping him. Pairing him with Atkins and Michael Johnson would help alleviate the double teams on one of them. In the later rounds I would draft another TE. I am a Virginia Tech Hokie fan and have watched Bucky Hodges his whole career. He is a fluid TE and presents match-up problems to most LBs and Safeties. Having him back up Eifert would be great for him because they could teach him how to block as well as tighten up his route running.
The Bills are an interesting team to examine because they have many great pieces in key areas, but they hold themselves back. The Bills were up and down all year. The first few games of the season they were close to firing Rex Ryan because they were under performing. They changed their offensive coordinator and started to run the ball more. This led to success out of them and a resurgence from LeSean McCoy, but that was short lived. They always beat themselves to me, and did not have the talent to overcome their mistakes. The Bills were ninth in the league in penalties. Penalties kill drives and momentum especially a team who defense set them back this year.
The team had a really good run offense and that can be contributed to their 11th ranked offensive line. Their line was very solid for them all year and McCoy flourished. He was healthy for the majority of the year and bounced back. He was sixth in the league in rushing yards this year. Even though he has performed tremendously, he is not the Shady of old. He can win you games, but he is not the workhorse he used to be. His tenure with the team needs to be cut short after this year in my opinion. The NFL is not a league that is kind to older running backs and it is easier to find a quality back in the draft or free agency for less than what McCoy makes. McCoy would make around $8-$9 million over the next three years. Jay Ajayi of the Miami Dolphins was a 5th round pick and is currently making $700,000 this year. I am not saying everyone will have the production of Ajayi, but their are many other cases around the league similar to this one.
Besides the business side of this team they have to address their defense because it took a hit this off season. They lost their number one corner to their rival in Stephon Gilmore, so they have to decide how they will make up for that lost. They picked up Micah Hyde in free agency and he is a good player. He helps their team out and improves that secondary, but the loss of Gilmore hurts more than that addition. The front seven needs work as well, but they have many prime time guys on their front line. Marcell Dareus is a beast, but he has to stay on the field. He missed a few games in the beginning of the season because he was suspended, but he has to be on the field to help this team. In the draft they need to address one of those areas. I personally want them to go after pass rusher, and I think Taco Charlton would be great for them. He is a big and physical DE and could compliment Dareus very well. Especially after watching him against Ohio State this year. Also since they Gilmore walked, they must go cover that position. The CB Marlon Humphrey out of Alabama is a good corner and can help fill the need.
The Saints have been one of the most consistent teams in the past decades. It is rare to see the Saints win less than 7 games in a season. The main problem with them is that over the past three years they have only won 7 games. They have an elite offense and Drew Brees is the cog that keeps them going. Its kind of amazing that he is playing at this level at 38 years old, but he needs more. The team has not drafted well to help Brees out on the defensive side of the ball. They took many shots on that side of the ball, but have yet to find a star to anchor their defense.
One reason for their lackluster defense has to do with their horrid front seven. It ranked 28th in the league this year. When you cannot get pressure on the quarterback, it leaves your secondary open to be picked apart, and the Saints secondary is not really good. Also their linebackers were not good in coverage when a running back came out of the backfield. They were the worse team by DVOA in covering them and that has to change. They have signed three linebackers this offseason and it will be interesting to see how Dennis Allen implements into his system.
Now this off-season have helped them with their rebuilding plan. The trade of Brandon Cooks is an interesting move because it gave them two extra picks and another pick in the first. This sets them up perfectly to bolster that defense or maybe make a play at one of the quarterbacks in this draft. Drew Brees is old and the time to think about his successor should be on their minds. He probably has about 2-3 years left of adequate play in his body. With that pick they acquired from the Patriots, they should go after one of the three prospects who are “supposed” to go in the first rounds. The one who is supposed to fall is DeShone Kizer and drafting him and developing would be great. His mechanics are not full proof, but you can help him. Payton is a great offensive coach and being a former quarterback he could help the rookie along. Aaron Rodgers was not always Aaron Rodgers, coming out of college he was a project. He did not have the mechanics he have now, so this should give the team hope.
The Eagles were a very interesting team this year because they performed better than what many expected. The first thing that sticks out about this team is that DEFENSE!!!!!! The main thing I love about that team is they have a phenomenal pass rush. Brandon Graham is amazing and he finally got his opportunity to show the league how dynamic he has always been. He was second in the league in pressures on the quarterback outside of Khalil Mack. Khalil Mack is an amazing defender, but Brandon Graham is not thought of in this way and it is sad. The Eagles start and end with him and he was the backbone for their success this year.
Outside of that this team is failing on many levels, especially in that secondary. The Eagles corners were getting abused this year and it is not even funny. Adams from the Packers and Dez Bryant abused these guys. If the pressure was not there on the quarterback than the secondary could not help. This led to them going on a five game losing streak. They must do something about this in the draft, or nothing will change. Losing Lane Johnson on their offensive line killed their momentum in the beginning of the season. He is a impact player and balances out their line because he is capable of handling any pass rushers from the left side. This now signals they must address the line as well in the draft. They signed Chance Wormack from the Titans an they hope he can revitalize his career there.
Carson Wentz was better than what people expected this year, but he needs help. His receiving core was atrocious. Unless you are an Eagles fan, it would be hard for a person to name two receivers on their roster. Skill guys in general is a need for the Eagles. Ryan Matthews stays hurt, but played well while he was healthy. This draft has a great class of skill guys in it and they should go after one of them. They have already signed receivers this year in free agency. Alshon Jeffrey was a great signing, but that was on a one year deal. They have to rebuild this position, and John Ross is BOX OFFICE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Listen HE RAN A 4.22!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I CANNOT STRESS TO YOU HOW FAST AND AMAZING THAT IS. Ross is a very skilled receiver outside of his speed. He can be the new Desean Jackson and help free up Jeffrey, Smith, and Matthews from safety high coverage.