Our offseason Four Downs series ends with a look at the NFC West's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. The Rams and 49ers have to kick-start their passing games, Arizona's offense lacks a big dimension, and the Seahawks continue to rely on Russell Wilson's magic tricks.
05 Apr 2013
by Andy Benoit
The 2013 "State of the Team" articles will run daily through the NFL draft. These offer a snapshot look at a team’s roster, with players classified by color based on how they fit their role. My analysis is based on film study, not statistics, although we will try to note when my judgment differs significantly from FO's advanced stats, and explain a little bit why. Starters are in bold, and you will notice that there are 12 defensive starters rather than just 11. This denotes the extra playing time that nickelbacks and third receivers usually get in today's NFL.
Some players colored pink as "just a guy" are younger low-round picks who just haven't seen much playing time, but keep in mind that 99 percent of the time, there’s a negative reason why such a player has rarely seen the field.
Players colored red as "upgrade needed" are not necessarily bad players. Sometimes, this simply means the player is a decent backup who should not be starting.
Since I generally don't do analysis on special teams, those categorizations are based strictly on FO stats, with any comments written by Aaron Schatz. We're only listing kickers and punters, as most teams go into training camp without specific players set as return specialists.
In 2012, the Jets showed what happens when you take a quarterback with ordinary arm strength, inconsistent mechanics, and mediocre pocket savvy, supply him with a group of running backs who don’t have a ton of speed and a lackluster collection of receivers who can’t beat man coverage, put them all in a system that’s not particularly well thought-out, and tie it all together with an iffy offensive line. This season is about the Jets beginning their long road to recovery.
QB: Mark Sanchez, David Garrard, Greg McElroy, Tim Tebow
RB: Bilal Powell, Mike Goodson, Joe McKnight, Lex Hilliard (FB); Lost: Shonn Greene
The only thing keeping Sanchez on the field at this point is his embarrassingly inflated contract. He unraveled down the stretch in 2012. Even if he gets his game together, he’s still inadequate. Pocket presence and consistency in reads after the snap have been problems for the former Trojan. And it’s not like Sanchez has great raw arm talent to fall back on. Garrard could maybe be the right answer ... if not for the fact that he hasn't taken a regular-season snap in two seasons.
Obviously, a boost is needed at running back. The hope is that Goodson, a fourth-year pro with a bit of juice, can provide it. He’ll likely need to be in a committee. Powell has a little more agility than you’d guess, but overall he’s not dynamic. McKnight has electrifying wheels, but through three full years he’s yet to make a consistent impact on offense.
WR: Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, Clyde Gates; Lost: Chaz Schilens
TE: Jeff Cumberland, Konrad Reuland; Lost: Dustin Keller
Having a healthy (hopefully) Holmes will do wonders for the passing game. He’s one of the best route runners in the league. Unlike the rest of this group, he’s capable of consistently getting himself open. Hill has a long way to go in his development. It’s too early to tell if he’s the next Matt Jones, Darrius Heyward-Bey, or Roddy White. Kerley is a favorite of Sanchez’s and seems to be getting more comfortable with his slot role. He’s worth featuring. At tight end, Cumberland is athletic but unproven. Reuland must learn to play faster.
LT: D'Brickashaw Ferguson LG: Willie Colon C: Nick Mangold RG: Vladimir Ducasse RT: Austin Howard
Backups: Dennis Landholt, Caleb Schlauderaff; Lost: Matt Slauson, Brandon Moore, Jason Smith
Ferguson is a reliable finesse blocker. He doesn't pile-drive opponents off the ball, but he also doesn't require much help with chips or double teams. Colon is an outstanding drive-blocker ... if he’s actually on the field. Injuries have hounded him over the years. Mangold is coming off the worst season of his outstanding seven-year career, but can still be considered one of the best, if not the best, center(s) in football. If Ducasse, a former second-round pick, could truly play, he would have gotten in the lineup a long time ago. Howard is a limited athlete but the Jets learned they can survive with him as long as he’s helped in pass protection.
If any coach can make due with a paucity of pass-rush talent, it’s Rex Ryan. He does a great job making offenses play fast by using overloads, interchangeable blitzers, and zone-exchanges. The goal is often not to bring extra pressure, but rather, to simply create the illusion of pressure. That said, no mastermind is smart enough to make their scheme work without decent players. Ryan has resources at defensive line (albeit a thin defensive line), inside linebacker and cornerback. But there are major questions, if not outright gaping holes, at outside linebacker and safety. And those are the two most important positions in many of the pressure designs. Oh, also, they might want to actual resolve the Darrelle Revis situation. That's important too.
DE: Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples, Tevita Finau, __________; Lost: Mike DeVito
DT: Antonio Garay, Kenrick Ellis; Lost: Sione Pouha
Wilkerson is a dominant force at both 4-3 tackle and 3-4 end. He has long, strong arms, natural explosiveness, and a unique ability to bend in traffic without sacrificing power. Coples is not quite the player you’d expect a mid-first-rounder to be. The comparisons to Julius Peppers coming out of North Carolina were utterly ridiculous. (That’s what happens when people read program bios instead of watch film.) Coples is a sinewy, methodical athlete who doesn’t have the explosive first or second step to play on the edge. He has the potential to blossom into a very good interior player, though. Garay and Ellis form a stellar nose duo.
OLB: Garrett McIntyre, Antwan Barnes, Ricky Sapp, Jacquies Smith; Lost: Calvin Pace, Bryan Thomas
ILB: David Harris, Demario Davis, Nick Bellore; Lost: Bart Scott
Not one of these players is capable of generating pass-rush pressure on his own. That’s a problem. Harris is a sturdy all-around force inside, though it’s a bit concerning that he was so quiet last season. Also concerning is that Davis, the speedy 2012 third-round pick that Ryan purportedly loves, was unable to take a starting job from an ailing Bart Scott down the stretch.
CB: Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Kyle Wilson, Isiah Trufant, Ellis Lankster
S: Antonio Allen, Josh Bush, Jaiquawn Jarrett; Lost: LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell, Eric Smith
Revis is a question mark not so much because he’s coming off major knee surgery, but because his future with the franchise is very much up in the air. The uber-athletic Cromartie is coming off his best season in New York; if he plays just as well in 2013, we can safely move him up to the "blue" category. Otherwise this is is a very average cornerback group. Safety is an even bigger question mark. Allen and Bush are both unknowns. Jarrett is a former second-round pick who couldn’t even stay on an Eagles roster that was very unimpressive at the position.
K: Nick Folk P: Robert Malone
The Jets re-signed Folk this offseason, which makes no sense whatsoever. Folk has been below average on field goals and way below average on kickoffs for three straight years. They really need to bring in a couple of rookie kickers and hope one of them can win the job.
36 comments, Last at 10 Apr 2013, 7:21pm by LionInAZ