It’s over, Johnny. The summer is over. The nights are getting crisp and Labor Day is on the horizon. I have been out of school for 14 years and I still get knots in my stomach as the summer comes to a close. The only consolation is the beginning of football season. Every team is 0-0. Optimism and confidence aplenty! So, here I am to burst everyone’s bubbles. I took a look around the league to find the things that concern me about every team, though there’s a few I felt had more up side than down. As the summer of 2013 rides out in to the sunset, here’s how each squad is keeping their fans up at night.
If I were a Dolphins fan, I’d be concerned that HC Joe Philbin is in over his head. I say it every year, some guys are just coordinators. Not every good coordinator can make the jump to head coach. There’s a certain level of charisma that is required and an ability to delegate as so much needs to be placed on the OC / DC. History will tell, but Philbin falls more in to the coordinator category. One other thing, how in the world could the team let OT Jake Long walk? The offensive line is a major concern without him and they’ve got a shaky, young quarterback to protect.
If I were a Patriots fan, I’d be mostly concerned with the defensive side of the ball. With Brady, you’re never out of a game but things could be tough on even him this year. He could be starting the year without his top 5 receivers from last season. How much can New England continue to put on his shoulders?
If I were a Jet fan, I’d be mortified. I don’t see a solid starting QB on that roster. Sanchez, in my opinion, has already proven he can’t do the job. Geno Smith is not the answer. I foresee them cleaning house at the coaching level come next season. The team needs a new identity and a new direction. They’ve just hired a new GM, though fairly late in the off-season. I’ll give him two years to put his guys in place. But, sheesh, that Geno Smith pick was a mistake.
If I were a Bills fan, I’d actually be a little optimistic, legitimately, for the first time in quite a while. I think EJ Manuel could be a pretty good starting QB in this league, like the hiring of HC Doug Marrone and have always thought RB CJ Spiller has been underused. Marrone said Spiller will get the ball this season, “until he’s sick of it.” Buffalo could be only a year away from the post-season, if they stay healthy.
If I were a Steelers fan, I’d start to wonder if some lean years were ahead. They missed the playoffs last season, lost Mike Williams in the off season and if they can’t run the ball consistently, Roethlisberger will be running for his life more than usual. Dark days a comin’ in Pittsburgh? Looking that way.
If I were a Browns fan, I’d be concerned that GM Joe Banner will screw it up, eventually. There’s already one incredibly cheap franchise in Ohio (we’ll get to them next). One cause of optimism is the addition of OC Norv Turner who is a classic, ‘just a coordinator, not a head coach’ guy. There are some weapons on that team at the WR position in Greg Little and Josh Gordon and RB Trent Richardson, if healthy, could be very productive. QB Brandon Weeden can run this offense and Turner should make the right calls. If the Browns make any strides, it’ll be the first time in years. I can’t find a season over the past decade where there has been any significant improvement.
If I were a Bengals fan, I’d be concerned that my incredibly cheap and soulless ownership will let all this great offensive talent (TE Jermaine Gresham, QB Andy Daulton, WR A.J. Green) walk out of town once their rookie contracts are up. It’s a real possibility.
If I were a Ravens fan, I’d still be floating from the Superbowl. Yes, they lost Ed Reed and Ray Lewis who, frankly, were a shell of themselves last year. Lewis’ motivation and leadership will be missed but HC John Harbaugh actually thinks the defense could be better this year. No reason to believe they won’t win the division again.
If I were a Texans fan, I’d walk everywhere with a chain of rosary beads and St. James bible. The team is stacked on both sides of the ball but the injury bug ravishes this team like the bubonic plague, seemingly, every season. Stay healthy and the Texans will go to the Superbowl.
If I were a Colts fan, I’d be concerned too much is being placed on QB Andrew Luck’s shoulders. The kid is a budding star but Indy needs to run the ball better to take some pressure off of him. The trade for Darius Heyward-Bey could turn out to be a huge addition for Luck.
If I were a Jaguars fan, I’d sell my house and car and invest in a nice, comfortable boat. I’d fill the gas tank and take a lovely, long ride out to sea. I’d catch some nice fresh fish, grill it and enjoy a delicious meal. I’d drink my favorite bottle of cabernet and enjoy a sunset. Then, I’d take out a gun, shoot the side of the boat and slowly sink to my demise. Despite the hiring of HC Gus Bradley, that scenario I just painted is more worthwhile than sitting through another season of Jacksonville football.
If I were a Titans fan, I’d be overly concerned with which running back I’ll see in 2013. The Chris Johnson pre contract or the Chris Johnson post contract. Pre contract will equal less pressure on second year starting QB Jake Locker. Post contract will equal a severely struggling offense and a last place finish in the division.
If I were a Broncos fan, I’d be overly concerned about losing starting center Dan Koppen. This puts added pressure on left tackle Ryan Clady who protects Peyton Manning’s blind side. One can only wonder how many top flight seasons Peyton has left in him. As goes Manning, so go the Broncos. On the other side of the ball, the Broncos will be without OLB extraordinaire Von Miller for four games, suspended by the NFL for, well, you know.
If I were a Chiefs fan, I’d be very optimistic. Bold prediction: The Kansas City Chiefs will make the playoffs. QB Alex Smith is tailor made for HC Andy Reid’s offense. There’s an abundance of talent on both sides of the ball and the hiring of GM John Dorsey who tutored in Green Bay under Ted Thompson puts this team heading strongly in the right direction.
If I were a Raiders fan, I’d look forward to watching a full season of QB Matt Flynn. Always liked him, going back to his days at LSU. He finally gets the starting nod, coming over from Seattle. Could this team finally have found their starting quarterback? They still haven’t replaced Jim Plunkett.
If I were a Chargers fan, I’d be concerned that Phillip Rivers still has a clamp on the starting QB job. Not that there’s a better option on the roster but Rivers has become a broken record in this league. Same mental mistakes, same horsebleep attitude, different game. At some point, San Diego has to address the position.
If I were a Cowboys fan, (man, the jokes I could insert here) I’d have the deepest concerns of anyone. The biggest issue is the owner who will live longer than Al Davis, per Murphy’s Law, and continues to insist on being the GM. His personnel decisions baffle me and the ignorance of a running game will continue to keep QB Tony Romo in the underachieving class.
If I were a Giants fan, I’d be concerned with the defensive line. Lot of tinkering this off season. Opposing offenses will attack the front seven, though New York is probably the best overall team in the division.
If I were a Redskins fan, I’d be concerned that HC Mike Shanahan hates his QB. Owner Daniel Snyder should have requested Shanahan be arrested for his complete disregard for RG III’s health. Griffin is lucky the bottom of his leg was still attached following their playoff game against Seattle. RG III is slated to start the season opener. That’s a mistake. Don’t rush this kid’s return. I’d also be a little concerned that RB Alfred Morris won’t have nearly as much success if Griffin dials back his running and mobility which he needs to do if he’s going to have a lengthy NFL career.
If I were an Eagles fan and I am, I’d be concerned with, well, how much time you got? I’ve no idea how these players will respond to this pace. I have no idea who will end up being the starting QB, though my money is on Foles. I have no idea how much they will implement the 3-4 on defense and I have no idea how many household items this season will cause me to shatter. The nice thing is going in to this season with ZERO expectations. It’s like a 16 game exhibition season. All I want to see is the young guys get better every week.
If I were a Packers fan, the Brian Bulaga injury terrifies me. Green Bay needs to protect it’s crown jewel, QB Aaron Rodgers and the offensive line was already a major concern. Rodgers could go down enough times to set a record in 2013. I also don’t believe they’ve addressed the running back position. They drafted Eddie Lacy from Alabama but Lacy was part of a fairly weak RB class. The Packers will have to outscore a lot of teams, too, and they will, though not without anguish. The Packers defense gives up 27 points for every great play it makes.
If I were a Lions fan, I’d booby trap HC Jim Schwartz’ car, house and office. When was the last time you heard the term, ‘booby trap,’ by the way? Detroit has an incredible amount of talent on both sides of the ball yet they are the league-wide leader in lack of discipline. I was shocked Schwartz kept his job last year. Replace him and you’ll have a title contender.
If I were a Vikings fan, I’d wonder if Adrian Peterson can survive this league. His QB, Christian Ponder, doesn’t make life easier on him. Defending the Vikings can be seen as easy. Put 8 guys in the box and sit back and intercept Ponder. Yet as long as the world’s greatest running back plays at his current pace, you can put all 11 in the box and there wouldn’t be enough to stop him. But how long can he keep this up?
If I were a Bears fan, I’d be overly concerned that QB Jay Cutler is incapable of taking the next step. I’ve never been a fan of Cutler, his attitude. I don’t use the expression, “hate his face,” often but he sternly falls in to that category. Frankly, there isn’t enough offensive talent around him. He’s got a cannon for an arm and all the ability in the world but he’s not a guy you can ride. With more talent around, maybe, but not this year’s team. I will be curious to see if new HC Marc Trestman who is considered a strong offensive mind has any influence on him. Cutler, to me, is a modern day Jeff George.
If I were a Falcons fan, I’d say “NFC Championship Game” or bust. This is the second best team in the conference. My only concern is the HC, Mike Smith. He’s blown his fair share of games for Atlanta over the last few years. They’re stacked with talent on both sides of the ball but as long as Smith makes the tough decisions, there’s always a chance of an early post-season exit.
If I were a Saints fan, I’d be concerned that the return of HC Sean Payton isn’t nearly enough. Offensively, N’ Awlins will again average nearly 30 points per game. Problem is, the defense may average giving up 40 points per game. New DC Rob Ryan won’t make matters easier. The Saints are moving from a 3-4 to a 4-3 which could take the better part of the season to take hold. It’s a lot easier to stand guys up in a 3-4 than make guys used to rushing from the standing position to work out of a 3 point stance in a 4-3.
If I were a Panthers fan, I’d be concerned at the lack of weapons around QB Cam Newtown. The world’s greatest college extortionist struggled following an explosive rookie season but there weren’t many guys around him. That will likely continue.
If I were a Buccaneers fan, I’d be concerned about the pass defense which was one of the league’s worst in 2012. I like the addition of S Dashon Goldson, though they overpaid, and CB Darrelle Revis who is coming off an ACL. Offensively, they need more production out of QB Josh Freeman. Shows signs at times, but really lacks consistency.
If I were a 49ers fan, I’d make February reservations for New York. They’re the, hands down, best team in the conference, despite the Culliver injury. I’d be surprised if they didn’t reach the Superbowl.
If I were a Seahawks fan, I’d be concerned of the Sophomore jinx on QB Russell Wilson. He was tremendous in 2012 yet, in my eyes, a little wild. The trade for WR Percy Harvin looked like a great move until they, essentially, lost him for the season with a hip injury. Defensively, they’re solid at all three levels.
If were a Cardinals fan, I’d be eager to see if Carson Palmer can resurrect his career throwing to Larry Fitzgerald. New HC Bruce Arians is a strong offensive mind so I expect the Cardinals to be far better, offensively.
If I were a Rams fan, I’d wonder if QB Sam Bradford has enough weapons to take the next step in his career. They drafted little person WR Tavon Austin who has mind blowing speed but can fit in my back pocket. This is a team that lost Danny Amendola and it actually affected the talent level. Bradford is in trouble.
Finally, the rash of ACL injuries league-wide is becoming alarming. The Eagles lost a pair of WRs, Jeremy Maclin and Aurelius Benn. Green Bay lost OT Brian Bulaga, the Niners lost CB Chris Culliver, the Broncos lost the aforementioned Dan Koppen, the Saints lost WR Joe Morgan and the Chargers lost WR Denario Alexander, to name a few. I buy in to the bigger, stronger athlete theory. That’s the main reason but I also think part of it is new technology in the footwear these players are wearing. Cleats are now designed to help even the common man cut on a dime. This leaves, virtually, no give when a player plants. While the tighter the cut, the better the player’s burst, the entire body isn’t designed to stop that quickly and change direction. A little give keeps the upper part of the leg from detaching from the lower part. Maybe, just maybe, the footwear are becoming too good.
Looking forward to a fun 2013 NFL Season here on Voodoobrown.com. Don’t forget to check in weekly for my NFL Notes & Musings column and follow me on Twitter: @Darrendegaetano