Evan Silva

Offseason Low Down

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2018 NFL Team Needs

Monday, February 5, 2018



Dallas Cowboys

Defense: All three levels of Dallas’ defense need upgrading. Top pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence and MLB Anthony Hitchens’ contracts are up, and the Cowboys will likely pursue veteran competition for a youthful secondary. 2017 first-round DE Taco Charlton was a predictable first-year disappointment.

Wide Receiver: As soon as Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension kicked in, Dallas’ passing-game limitations were exposed, and they were exacerbated without elite offensive line play. Cowboys pass catchers’ inability to get open still bears the brunt of the blame. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are far cries from the players they once were, and Cole Beasley hasn’t been right since tearing his hamstring in November of 2016. Just-A-Guy Terrance Williams pops up for a productive game once every two years.

Offensive Guard: In addition to a far-tougher schedule, the Cowboys’ biggest challenge was overcoming an offensive line that lost two starters in LG Ronald Leary (Broncos) and RT Doug Free (retirement). The evaporation of Dallas’ O-Line depth was exposed when LT Tyron Smith missed time. Even after La’el Collins flopped in 2017, Collins will likely be given another year at right tackle. The Cowboys’ biggest hole is left guard, where Jonathan Cooper is headed to free agency.

Denver Broncos

Quarterback: 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch is a near-certain bust, and Trevor Siemian’s confidence comes and goes. 2017 seventh-round dart throw Chad Kelly may sneakily be the most talented passer on Denver’s roster. If GM John Elway can’t lure free agent Kirk Cousins to the Mile High City, quarterback will be squarely in play at the No. 5 overall pick.

Offensive Line: Elway took steps to fix Denver’s 2017 line by drafting LG Garett Bolles and signing LG Ronald Leary and RT Menelik Watson. The Broncos can stay optimistic Bolles will improve after a rough first season, but Watson was a free-agent bust and LG Max Garcia needs replacing. C Matt Paradis is a restricted free agent.

Tight End: Inside linebacker, running back, and interior pass rusher are also needs, and cornerback will become one if LCB Aqib Talib gets traded or released. Tight end is a position Denver has most struggled to fill with Jeff Heuerman and Austin Traylor presently sitting atop the depth chart. 2017 fifth-round pick Jake Butt (knee) is an unknown after spending his rookie year on injured reserve. In Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, the Broncos have plus perimeter weapons, but nothing in the middle of the field.

Detroit Lions

Defensive Line: The Lions’ pass rush was nonexistent in each of the last two years, and now RE Ziggy Ansah and DT Haloti Ngata are free agents. Detroit was desperate enough for late-season pass rush that GM Bob Quinn signed Dwight Freeney off the street. DE Anthony Zettel is a promising edge prospect and LE Kerry Hyder’s (Achilles’) return should help, but multiple pass rushers and run stuffers are needed on the Lions’ front.

Cornerback: The Lions have No. 1 CB Darius Slay signed through 2020, but rotating No. 2s Nevin Lawson and D.J. Hayden are free agents. With Quandre Diggs moving to safety, slot corner will be open to competition involving 2017 second-round pick Teez Tabor, although Tabor earned only 190 rookie-year snaps. In New England, new Lions coach Matt Patricia mainly employed man coverage on the back end.

Interior Offensive Line: Running back and outside linebacker are additional needs, and both will likely be addressed by GM Bob Quinn. Up front on offense, Joe Dahl would be Detroit’s left guard if the season began today, and Graham Glasgow would start at center. Whether it be at left guard or center – Glasgow can play both – the Lions need another interior starter, pushing Dahl into a swing role. LT Taylor Decker, RT Rick Wagner, and RG T.J. Lang otherwise form a solid nucleus when healthy. Unfortunately, Decker, Wagner, and Lang combined to miss 14 games.

Green Bay Packers

Pass Rusher: Even when it was clear last offseason their sagging pass rush needed to be addressed, the Packers largely ignored it in the 2017 draft and let go of Julius Peppers, who went on to lead the Panthers in sacks. Green Bay promptly slipped to 19th in the NFL in sacks (37) and 22nd in QB hits (83), further exposing a pass defense that continued to deal with myriad cornerback injuries. Whether it be off the edge or on the interior, new DC Mike Pettine’s side of the ball needs a pass-rush injection.

Tight End: The Packers tried shoring up tight end by signing Martellus Bennett to a three-year deal last offseason, but Bennett finagled his way out of Green Bay after Aaron Rodgers went down. With Richard Rodgers scheduled for free agency, left behind are Lance Kendricks, Emanuel Byrd, and Robert Tonyan as the Packers’ only tight ends under contract for 2018.

Offensive Line: Both lines could use work; Defensive line depth is badly needed in Green Bay. On the O-Line, RT Bryan Bulaga has been thrown around as a potential cap casualty coming off a torn ACL, and mercenary RG Jahri Evans’ contract is expiring after a bounce-back year. 2016 second-round T/G Jason Spriggs has struggled whenever he has played and can’t be counted on for a 2018 role.

Houston Texans

Offensive Line: The lone surefire returning starter on the Texans’ offensive line is C Nick Martin, and Martin has missed 18 games over the past two seasons due to ankle injuries. RG Jeff Allen has been a free agent bust, and RT Derek Newton’s career remains in doubt after tearing both of his patellar tendons. Left tackle, left guard, right guard, and right tackle are all wide open.

Defensive Back: The Texans made the regrettable 2017 mistake of declining to meet CB A.J. Bouye’s contract demands, instead keeping 34-year-old LCB Johnathan Joseph, whose deal is now up. 2016 first-round pick Kevin Johnson took a big step back after a promising rookie year. Whereas Bouye teamed with Jalen Ramsey to give Jacksonville the AFC’s top pass defense, Houston finished 25th in Football Outsiders’ pass-defense DVOA. The Texans must address cornerback and strong safety.

Tight End: As Lamar Miller is a release candidate and D’Onta Foreman is coming off of a torn Achilles’, running back also merits mentioning as a Texans need. As does backup quarterback with Tom Savage headed to free agency and Deshaun Watson coming off his second ACL tear in four years. Tight end is also likely to be addressed; Houston has a glut of bodies at the position but no clear solution. C.J. Fiedorowicz’s career is in doubt due to repeated concussions, and neither Ryan Griffin nor Stephen Anderson has proven a starting-caliber tight end.

Indianapolis Colts

Cornerback: With Vontae Davis long gone and Rashaan Melvin’s contract up, Kenny Moore, Quincy Wilson, and Nate Hairston would form the Colts’ nickel-package cornerback trio if the season began today. 2017 second-round pick Wilson couldn’t get on the field until the final month of his rookie year, and neither Moore nor Hairston was a plus contributor. Indianapolis allowed league highs in 20-plus-yard completions (64) and yards per attempt (8.0).

Pass Rusher: Although Indianapolis’ pass rush improved mildly with the 2017 additions of OLBs John Simon and Jabaal Sheard, Chuck Pagano’s defense still finished 31st in sacks (26) and 26th in QB hits (75). Both on the interior line and off the edge, the Colts need multiple pass-rush reinforcements.

Offensive Line: Even after GM Chris Ballard knocked his first offseason out of the park, Ballard begins his second year with a needs-filled roster. Wide receiver opposite T.Y. Hilton, a running back complement to Marlon Mack, and inside linebacker also require upgrading. Still most critical is the Colts’ offensive line, a longtime deficiency that must be corrected with Andrew Luck presumed back. Injury-plagued LG Jack Mewhort’s contract is up, and C Ryan Kelly is coming off a disappointing, concussion-ended second year. Right guard and right tackle are perennially up for grabs.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Quarterback: The Jaguars’ defense and running game dragged Blake Bortles to the AFC title round, and the coaching staff’s season-long kid-gloves treatment of Bortles was telling. Bortles’ $19.05 million fifth-year option is guaranteed for injury, so his postseason right wrist surgery could complicate matters should the Jaguars hope to cut him. Regardless of Bortles’ status with the club, it would be a surprise if Jacksonville did not pursue veteran quarterbacks and/or use an early pick at the position.

Offensive Guard: The Jaguars have built a solid four-man core of LT Cam Robinson, C Brandon Linder, RG A.J. Cann, and RT Jermey Parnell. Their one glaring deficiency is left guard, where Patrick Omameh’s contract is up. Hell bent on defining themselves as a smash-mouth, run-first team, the Jags must continue to prioritize their front five.

Middle Linebacker: The Jaguars are low on needs, but they will likely look to upgrade on free agent MLB Paul Posluszny, whose role was reduced more and more as last year progressed. Telvin Smith and Myles Jack were the Jags’ two linebackers on the field for most of the season. One in-house candidate to replace Posluszny’s limited snaps is Blair Brown, a 2017 fifth-round pick.

Kansas City Chiefs

Defensive Front Seven: This need encompasses multiple positions, but multiple positions in Kansas City’s defensive front seven must be addressed. DC Bob Sutton’s run defense has gotten trampled for years, and NT Bennie Logan’s contract is up. 35-year-old ILB Derrick Johnson wasn’t the same player coming off his second Achilles’ tear in 2017. Johnson’s contract is now expected to void. Maintaining a fearsome pass rush should still be Kansas City’s top priority. OLB Tamba Hali is an obvious release candidate at age 34, and 2014 first-round OLB Dee Ford has underperformed.

Offensive Guard: Getting C Mitch Morse and RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif back healthy will go a long way toward stabilizing Kansas City’s interior line, but left guard was the 2017 team’s biggest offensive weak spot, playing a major role in the Chiefs’ running-game ups and downs. Kansas City would likely prefer LG Bryan Witzmann to return in a swing guard-tackle reserve role rather than as a starter.

Wide Receiver: The Chiefs’ cornerback need was lessened by last week’s acquisition of slot CB Kendall Fuller, although right corner will have to be addressed with Darrelle Revis presently penciled in as a starter. Kansas City will likely also add a veteran to its quarterback room behind Patrick Mahomes. In order to maximize Mahomes’ all-levels passing skill set, however, another wideout capable of winning downfield opposite Tyreek Hill should be prioritized. Chris Conley might be that guy, but he tore his Achilles’ last October. Demarcus Robinson failed to add a new dimension to the passing game after Conley’s injury, and underrated slot man Albert Wilson is a free agent.


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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva



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