Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Veteran Losses: QB Josh McCown, OT Anthony Collins, OT Oniel Cousins, DE Michael Johnson, DE Adrian Clayborn, DE Da’Quan Bowers, ILB Mason Foster, ILB Dane Fletcher, S Dashon Goldson
Veteran Additions: S D.J. Swearinger, TE Tim Wright, DE George Johnson, DT Henry Melton, OLB Bruce Carter, LB Larry Dean, CB Sterling Moore, S Chris Conte
2015 Draft Picks: QB Jameis Winston 1st Rd, OT Donovan Smith 2nd Rd, OG/C Ali Marpet 2nd Rd, LB Kwon Alexander 4th Rd, WR Kenny Bell 5th Rd, WR Kaelin Clay 6th Rd, FB Joey Iosefa 7th Rd
2014 Record: 2-14
Quarterback is the most important position to any offense, but the offensive line is the most valuable. Tampa’s line will be a huge question mark heading into the season. They drafted tackle Donovan Smith out of Penn St in the second round and while some might consider the pick a reach (it was), that’s because Smith is a very raw player. They also drafted Ali Marpet, a versatile offensive lineman out of division three Hobart College. These two rookies are expected start at left tackle and right guard respectively. Right tackle Demar Dotson suffered a knee injury during the first preseason and although he is not expected to need surgery, the Bucs did go ahead and sign Gosder Cherilus, the former Colts right tackle who was released in July following a slow recovery from a knee scope this offseason. He will be expected compete for the starting right tackle spot with Kevin Pamphile as long as Dotson is out. Holding down the left guard and center spots are Logan Mankins and Evan Smith. Not only will this line be expected to protect the 2015 #1 overall pick Jameis Winston, they’ll also be expected to open running lanes for a running back group led by Doug Martin, who has firmly entrenched himself as the starting running back. He’ll be joined in the backfield by fullback Javorskie Lane, who had his 2014 season cut short by a broken leg. Mike Evans will be the Bucs top receiving target this year after an overshadowed rookie season that saw him catch 12 touchdowns. Vincent Jackson playing the #2 receiver role might actually be a good thing for him, he’ll have more opportunities to make big plays against #2 corners and he’ll definitely cause more mismatches in that role too. Fifth round draft pick Kenny Bell has looked like a steal in camp so far but there is a chance that veteran Louis Murphy will get the nod due to experience. If Austin Sefarian-Jenkins can remain healthy this year, he’ll be Jameis’ security blanket like Nick O’Leary was at Florida State. ASJ’s rookie season was limited to 9 games thanks to a back injury.
Much like how the success of the Bucs offense hinges on the success in the trenches, the same can be said for this defense.
The interior of the defensive line is probably the strongest position depth wise on this roster. Aside from All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, they also signed former Bears and Cowboys stud Henry Melton, who is already familiar with this system. They also have 2 former Super Bowl winning Seahawks in Tony McDaniel and Clinton McDonald. 2013 4th round pick Anthony Spence will be suspended one game as punishment for his marijuana arrest. Jacquies Smith and George Johnson will take over both defensive end spots. Both are young and seem to have talent, but neither have been full time starters before now. The linebacker group on paper seems to be a great fit for this Tampa 2 defense. The expected starters are Danny Lansanah, who recorded 3 interceptions in 2014 and returned 2 of them for touchdowns, at strong side outside linebacker.
Rookie ILB Kwon Alexander has recently been named the starter at the position and I think that’s a better move than starting veteran free agent acquisition Bruce Carter, who should be solid as a rotational/depth player. But the star of this group is weakside linebacker Lavonte David, who inked a 5 year/$50.25m extention a few weeks ago. Despite being one of the few elite defensive players in the NFL, the 2013 first team all pro linebacker has still never been selected to the Pro Bowl. Despite still playing at a high level in 2014, he did take a step back from a stellar 2013 in which he totaled 145 tackles, 7 sacks, 5 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles.
2015 Projection: 7-9 (4th in NFC South)
Last year I predicted the Bucs to win 10 games I think and I couldn’t of been anymore wrong. Well I’m calming my expectations this year, even though to some they still seem high. I believe in Jameis Winston. I’m not expecting him to come out and set the world on fire, but I’m expecting to see a lot of 4th Quarter magic coming from him this year.
Veteran Losses: RB Steven Jackson, RB Jacquizz Rodgers, WR Harry Douglas, TE Bear Pascoe, OT Sam Baker, G Justin Blalock, G Gabe Carimi, DT Corey Peters, OLB Sean Weatherspoon, OLB Prince Shembo, CB Robert McClain, CB Josh Wilson, S Dwight Lowery
Veteran Additions: WR Leonard Hankerson, TE Tony Moeaki, TE Jacob Tamme, OT Tyler Polumbus, G Chris Chester, G Mike Person, DE Adrian Clayborn, DE O’Brien Schofield, OLB Brooks Reed, OLB Justin Durant, CB Phillip Adams
2015 Draft Picks: DE Vic Beasley 1st Rd, CB Jalen Collins 2nd Rd, RB Tevin Collins 3rd Rd, WR Justin Hardy 4th Rd, DT Grady Jarrett 5th Rd, OT Jake Rodgers 7th Rd, S Akeem King Rd 7
2014 Record: 6-10
I’ve never seen a team completely fall the fuck off the map like the Atlanta Falcons have the last two seasons. It’s time to be honest and admit how valuable Michael Turner was to this Falcons team during his years in Atlanta. From 2008-2012, Turners rushed for 6,081 yards (81.1 yards per game) and 60 touchdowns. They’ve struggled to find consistency since then which has put the entire load on Matt Ryan’s shoulder. And although I think he is a top 10 quarterback, just some of the pieces around him just haven’t been good enough for him. The offensive line hasn’t been able to protect him nor has the run game been any kind of help. Kyle Shanahan was hired as the new offensive coordinator to fix the run game, something he’s been able to do in recent years. During his last two season’s in Washington (2012,2013) under his play calling, the rushing attack finished in the top 5. He had a good running game going in Cleveland but once the team lost center Alex Mack to injury that was all she wrote. Second year running back Devonta Freeman and rookie Tevin Coleman will compete for the starting job and running back Antone Smith will be in the mix also. Not sure if Evan Royster will even make the team, but the former Penn St. running back played in Washington under Shanahan. The tight end position has also been in flux since the retirement of Tony Gonzales. Expect Levine Toilolo and free agents acquisitions Jacob Tamme, Tony Moeaki to split reps at the position. When healthy, Julio Jones is one of the elite talents at wide receiver in the NFL. The thing is Jones can’t stay healthy, well he hasn’t been able to. He’s firmly entrenched as the number one receiver in this offense, meanwhile I’m not sure Roddy White will make it through the year as the number two. He is being pushed by Leonard Hankerson and rookie Justin Hardy for that spot. Roddy hasn’t been the same the last couple years anyway.
Most would assume the addition of rookie pass rusher Vic Beasley as the most important defensive move made for the Falcons this offseason, but I’m going to give that title to OLB Justin Durant. In 2014 Durant was leading the Cowboys in tackles (49) last year until he went down with a season-ending bicep tear on Oct. 27. He also totaled four tackles for loss, four passes defended and two forced fumbles—all in just six contests. Do the math, those numbers projected for a 16-game slate and you have someone who would’ve made a ridiculous impact on your front seven. The secondary is more of a sure thing compared to the front 7 and no, I’m not really sure that’s a good thing. CB Desmond Trufant has the talent to make a potential jump into the elite tier of cornerbacks in 2015. He’ll be joined in the secondary by fellow corners Mario Alford and rookie Jalen Collins, both who will compete for that second corner position. Dezmen Southward and William Moore will remain the starting safeties. Improvements should’ve been made, but we’ll have to see how they end up playing in 2015. Only thing that needs to be said about the defensive line is that they will have to get pressure and improve this pass rush that hasn’t been the same since John Abraham left.
2015 Projection: 9-7 (T-2nd in NFC South)
This defense will only go as far as head coach Dan Quinn can coach them too. This is a team that can’t afford to get anywhere giving up 26 points per game. Matt Ryan has been on fire the last couple years and it seems Julio is in his prime and ready to dominate. Let’s no waste their best years.
Veteran Losses: RB DeAngelo Williams, OT Byron Bell, C Fernando Velasco, DE Greg Hardy, OLB Chase Blackburn, S Thomas DeCoud.
Veteran Additions: RB Jordan Todman, WR Jarrett Boykin, ILB Jason Trusnik, CB Charles Tillman, S Kurt Coleman, KR Ted Ginn
2015 Draft Picks: OLB Shaq Thompson 1st Rd, WR Devin Funchess 2nd Rd, OT Daryl Williams 4th Rd, LB David Mayo 5th Rd, RB Cameron Artis-Payne 5th Rd,
2014 Record: 7-8-1
Cam Newton wasn’t healthy coming into the 2014 season and he struggled to stay healthy throughout the season. It also didn’t help that his starting tackles couldn’t hold their blocks to save their lives. Tackles Byron Bell and Nate Chandler gave up a combined 83 total pressures (sacks+hits+hurries). No wonder why Cam looked like he was on his deathbed most games. Both those cats are gone and now Michael “I Cant Protect Your Blindside, Hell I’ve Barely Protected Anyone’s Blindside Cause I Was So Bad They Moved Me to Right Tackle but the Panthers Want Me Back On The Blindside So Oh Well” Oher and Mike Remmers are expected to start left and right tackle. They’ll be joined by interior linemen Trai Turner, Matt Khalil and Andrew Norwell, some pretty good guys. Newton will be joined in the backfield by fullback Mike Tolbert and runningback Jonathan Stewart. Stewart totaled 679 yards in the final 7 games (including 2 playoff games) and the team is hoping that he’ll be able to carry this over into 2015 and at the least, stay healthy. On the outside, Cam Newton will still have 3 power forwards to throw the ball to in TE Greg Olsen and WR’s Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess. I’m also a fan of speedster Philly Brown. The addition of Tedd Gin Jr. should help this shitty special teams. I’ve also been hearing that rookie free agent Damiere Byrd has been making plays in camp. If anything he might get sent to the practice roster (if he doesn’t make the time).
For the most part the only question about this defense is who is going to start at the defensive end position opposite Charles Johnson? The team is pretty stacked everywhere else. Josh Norman is going to have a breakout season. Shaq Thompson is going to be the piece that takes this defense over. It may not be right away but it’s going to happen.
2015 Projection: 11-5 (1st in NFC South)
Ron Rivera has this team rocking and rolling. The defense will be very good, it’s just up to Cam Newton to lead this offense week in and week out and put up enough points.
New Orleans Saints
Veteran Losses: RB Pierre Thomas, WR Kenny Stills, TE Jimmy Graham, G Ben Grubbs, C Jonathan Goodwin, DT Tyrunn Walker, ILB Curtis Lofton, CB Patrick Robinson, CB Corey White, K Shayne Graham, DE Junior Galette
Veteran Additions: RB C.J. Spiller, G Mike McGlynn, C Max Unger, DT Kevin Williams, DE/OLB Anthony Spencer, ILB Dannell Ellerbe, CB Brandon Browner, CB Kyle Wilson.
2015 Draft Picks: OT Andrus Peat 1st Rd, ILB Stephone Anthony 1st Rd, OLB Hua’oli Kikaha 2nd Rd, QB Garrett Grayson 3rd Rd, CB PJ Williams 3rd Rd, OLB Davis Tull 5th Rd, DE Tyeler Davison 5th Rd, CB Damian Swann 5th Rd, RB Marcus Murphy 7th Rd
2014 Record: 7-9
I really do think I hit the nail on the head perfectly in on the Saints podcast so click the link below and listen!
2015 Projection: 9-7 (T-2nd in NFC South)
A lot of people think Drew Brees is getting washed but I don’t. He’ll have to work on the turnovers, but Brees is an all time great and i think he’ll get it together. The bigger question is will this defense get their shit together and help out the offense?