by Matt Soltysiak
At 13-3, no one had a better regular season in 2008 than the Tennessee Titans with the key to their success being their ground game. Of course they had that heartbreaking loss to the Ravens in the playoffs, however. There are quite a few changes for the Titans as the summer of 2009 approaches. Perhaps the biggest is the departure of defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth who went to Washington. The team also lost their defensive coordinator (Lions new head coach) and some depth in the defensive backfield due to Erik King and Chris Carr’s departures. On offense Chris Simms isn’t there anymore, but Kerry Collins saw a two-year contract thrown his way.
In the draft Tennessee used their first pick on receiver Kenny Britt out of Rutgers. Expect him to crack the starting line-up from day one. A go-to-guy is something this team lacked last year. In the second round the team grabbed Sen’Derrick Marks from Auburn. The defensive end will be counted on to help keep up a pass rush that could drop off with the departure of Haynesworth. In the third round, the Titans grabbed a tight end and a defensive back. Both of these picks could fight for playing time early on. Read more
The Texans finished ’08 at 8-8. Not bad, but then again not good. The biggest issue the team faced was an injury to Matt Schaub. For the second straight season their starting quarterback missed five games.
A couple players moving on include back-up quarterback Sage Rosenfels (who was traded to Minnesota) and running back Ahman Green. The Texans brought in Dan Orlovsky to be their new back-up.
In the draft Houston focused on defense in the first two rounds – grabbing linebacker Brian Cushing from USC and defensive end Connor Barwin from Cincinnati. The organization is probably hoping both players can start immediately as the team ranked 27th in points allowed (24.6 points a game). In the third round Houston grabbed offensive lineman Antoine Caldwell. Hopefully he can help provide some protection and keep Matt Schaub in the line-up for all 16 games. Read more
Just as we did with Quarterbacks recently (click here to view) let’s take an early look at the potential Top 10 Running Backs for 2009. Obviously, a lot can change between now and draft day, so this list is likely to change (and be expanded) as we get closer.
- Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings - Do I really need to say anything to explain this pick? I don’t think so.
- Michael Turner – Atlanta Falcons - The addition of Tony Gonzalez may limit his TD chances, but does anyone actually expect him to duplicate his 17 TDs from ’08? The move will help keep teams from keying on the run, opening up a few more lanes for him to burst through.
- LaDanian Tomlinson – San Diego Chargers - I don’t care what anyone says, he is still one of the best backs in the game. Look for him to rebound from a “down” year when he only rushed for 1,110 yards and 11 TD.
- Brian Westbrook – Philadelphia Eagles - The team selected Lesean McCoy in the second round, which you would think would hinder his value. On the contrary. A second useful back will help keep Westbrook healthy, hopefully allowing him to stay on the field the entire season.
- Frank Gore – San Francisco 49ers - The team got a huge gift in Michael Crabtree, which should allow Gore to rebound from a surprisingly disappointing season. Mike Martz is gone and now they have a passing threat to help open things up. That seems like a good mix to me. Read more
by Matt Soltysiak
The Colts started 2009 at 3-4, but ran through the rest of their schedule winning the final nine games of the season to finish at 12-4. Their postseason, however, was short lived with their overtime loss to the Chargers. Indianapolis is an organization that hadn’t changed much in the past five or six years, but that’s not the case for 2009. Head coach Tony Dungy retired as did the team’s offensive coordinator and line coach. The team cut star receiver Marvin Harrison, whose last two years were among the worst of his 13 year career. They also let Dominic Rhodes leave for a second time.
In the draft the Colts took Connecticut running back Donald Brown with their first round pick. It’ll be interesting to see if he can make an immediate impact on the offense (which averaged just 79.6 yards a game on the ground). Indianapolis used their second and third rounds to bolster the defensive side of the ball. Defensive tackle Fili Moala and defensive back Jerraud Powers add youth to a defense that was seventh in the league in points allowed, but middle of the road in most other categories. Read more
Last season proved to be a dyslexic one for the Ravens. After going 5-11 in 2007, Baltimore flipped it around going 11-5. They achieved this without a proven Pro Bowl quarterback, but with a rookie. The defense keeps its leader in Ray Lewis, but says good-bye to Samari Rolle, Chris McAlister, Jim Leonhard and Bart Scott. Baltimore retooled with former University of Maryland stand out Dominique Foxworth along with Chris Carr in the defensive backfield. On the offensive side of the ball, the team added former Eagle tight end L.J. Smith and a former second round pick in quarterback John Beck.
In the draft Baltimore grabbed offensive lineman Michael Oher in the first round. He should start right away, seeing as Willie Anderson announced his retirement. The Ravens added more to their defense by taking defensive end Paul Kruger in the second round and defensive back Ladarius Webb in the third. Read more
by Matt Soltysiak
The Browns went from 10-6 in 2007 to 4-12 last year. The problems started at quarterback, but encompassed the running game, receiving corps and defense. The most notable departures from last year’s squad include head coach Romeo Crennel and tight end Kellen Winslow. Donte’ Stallworth may also be unavailable for the season due to legal issues. To help with the passing game, Cleveland brought in David Patten and Mike Furrey.
In the draft the Browns used their first pick on center Alex Mack. With three second round picks Cleveland grabbed two wide receivers and a defensive lineman. Cleveland would like to see Brian Robiskie and Mohamad Massaquoi make a quick impact in an unexpectedly depleted receiving corps. Read more
by Matt Soltysiak
You really can’t do any better than the Steelers did in 2008 having won their second Super Bowl in four years. Pittsburgh started the season with six wins in their first nine games and finished the regular season with only one more loss to finish 12-4. Only one other team (Tennessee) in the NFL had a better record. Byron Leftwich filled in quite admirably last year when Big Ben wasn’t under center. Leftwich has left town and the team resigned Charlie Batch to serve as the primary back-up. Receiver Nate Washington left Pittsburgh, but Hines Ward signed a five-year extension and the Steelers also added Shaun McDonald. On the defensive side, they left linebacker Larry Foote go and decided to pay James Harrison a nice six-year deal.
In the draft Pittsburgh added some youth to the front four by taking Missouri defensive tackle Ziggy Hood at the bottom of the first round. No second round picks for this team, but they used three third round picks to add some depth to their offensive line, receiving corps and defensive backfield. Read more
by Ryan Lester of Lester’s Legends
If you had to pick a New Orleans Saints Running Back for your fantasy team, who would it be? Would you go with the electrifying Reggie Bush who has missed ten games the past two years or the unheralded Pierre Thomas? This is a dilemma for a friend of mine who has both players in his keeper league. He needs to decide which one to keep and which one to cut loose. It is conceivable to keep both, but that’s a risky move on a pass-happy team. Lets take a look at last year’s numbers.
Bush: 106 carries for 404 yards (3.8 ypc), 2 TDs; 52 receptions for 440 yards and 4 TDs; 3 return TDs
Thomas: 129 carries for 625 yards (4.8 ypc), 9 TDs; 31 receptions for 284 yards, 3 TDs
In standard scoring leagues, Bush had 138.4 points in 10 games. Thomas had 162.9 points in 15 games. Pierre’s average of 10.86 fantasy points per game is significantly less than Reggie’s 13.84, but you do have to factor in the injuries. Thomas is just a couple months older so age really isn’t a factor. Reggie carried the load early and Pierre took over down the stretch. Week 14 both backs were a factor. Bush had ten carries for 80 yards and 3 catches for 26 yards and a score. Over half of his rushing yardage came on a 43 yard play. Meanwhile Thomas had 16 carries for 102 yards and a score, as well as a seven-yard TD reception. Thomas is a slightly bigger back at 5?11?, 215 compared to Reggie’s 6?0?, 203. Going back to 2007, when Thomas gets the opportunity he produces. Read more
by Matt Soltysiak
Could a team with high expectations have done much worse than Cincinnati last year? Rhetorical question, of course, but this underachieving team managed only four wins in 2008. Carson Palmer’s injury didn’t help matters, but this team had many issues. There are a number of changes coming for the Bengals in 2009. Their big offseason loss is T.J. Houshmandzadeh who flew the coop to Seattle. Cincinnati did sign (or resign) a number of players. The Team’s leading rusher last year, Cedric Benson is coming back and they traded for Brian Leonard. Chris Perry was cut. J.T. O’Sullivan is expected to back up Carson Palmer. Laverneous Coles is expected to make people forget about that T.J. guy. Finally, safety Roy Williams is one of many new faces expected to help the defense find itself.
In the draft the Bengals grabbed offensive lineman Andre Smith with the sixth overall pick. Most experts think this guy has all the tools as long as he can stay focused and motivated. In the second and third rounds Cincinnati grabbed linebacker Rey Maualuga and defensive end Michael Johnson. If both of these guys can make the impact they’re expected to, this could be an upgraded defense from the 2008 squad that managed only 17 sacks all year! Read more
We are still months away from fantasy drafts starting up, but it is never too early to start preparing. Let’s take a look at an early list for the Top 10 Quarterbacks in the league. Of course, there is plenty of time for things to change, so we’ll be updating and expanding this list as things move closer.
- Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints - After throwing for 5,069 yards (leading the league by nearly 500 yards) and 34 TD last season (tied for league lead), do I really need to say more?
- Peyton Manning – Indianapolis Colts - While the departure of an aging Marvin Harrison could have an effect on his performance, the Colts are still loaded with plenty of fire power. Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez offer very good targets on the outside, as does Dallas Clark from the TE position.
- Philip Rivers – San Diego Chargers - He threw for over 4,000 yards and 34 TD without an elite wide receiver at his disposal. They didn’t address the position much via free agency or the draft, but a fully healthy LaDanian Tomlinson will certainly help. Read more