Welcome to the Podcast AF offseason review series, astutely titled “The Probe” – the unofficial official NFL offseason review series of the Vegas Golden Knights. Here, like most NFL “writers”, I will regurgitate takes I read or heard somewhere else and pass them off as original thoughts. Will Ryan Tannehill breakout in 2018? Was Mike McCarthy abandoned by the run game as a child? Does Saturn have a playoff atmosphere? Your questions, answered! Sponsored by “Ready Player One”, in theaters now!
#25-32: 2017 Division Winners
So I killed a cat yesterday. The plan was to do two final installments of “The Probe”, one dealing with the first place AFC teams and the other with the first place NFC teams. Due the aforementioned circumstance, they will be done in this single post. The idea is that these teams finished in first place and therefore don’t have many needs. A couple of them are even self explanatory. I was too sad to do this yesterday, so now I will do what Bill Belichick did when his players complained that practice was too long: do everything they would do in a 3-hour practice, but instead in a 2-hour practice.
Kansas City Chiefs (10-6, 1st AFC West)
- Patrick Mahomes is the starter after sitting behind Alex Smith for a season. He performed well agains the Broncos in week 17; expect a more vertical elements to Andy Reid’s traditional west coast offense in 2018.
- Mahomes is surrounded by big-name talent on offense: Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins.
- LG and C need viable starters. However, two interior weak spots, especially on an OL with two solid tackles, can be schemed around.
- Eric Berry and Kendall Fuller are alone in the secondary. These two have proven they can perform with a subpar pass rush.
- The Chiefs have a subpar pass rush. Chris Jones is fairly alone on the DL.
- 3 solid LBs: Justin Houston, Reggie Ragland, and Anthony Hitchens. Houston needs help rushing the passer.
- 29th-ranked defense against the pass; 25th-ranked defense against the run. Added Hitchens and Fuller.
MAJOR DRAFT NEEDS: Pass rusher, CB, FS, IL, NT
Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6, 1st AFC South)
- The offense runs through Leonard Fournette, and with Andrew Norwell at LG the run game should be even better.
- LT Cam Robinson is a plow in the run game but can’t pass block for his life. Should improve in year two. RG AJ Cann is the weak link on the OL as he enters the final year of his rookie deal.
- Bortles’ pass game is set up by Fournette and relies on high percentage passes and RPOs. Bortles is a limited passer but is elevated by a supporting cast that is only getting stronger.
- With a QB like Bortles, the Jags really can’t justify giving $15M to a #1 WR who Bortles can’t get the ball to.
- Following Aaron Colvin’s departure and Paul Posluszny’s retirement, nickel corner and MLB are spots that need to be addressed. Blair Brown is an option at MLB, Jaylen Myrick at NCB.
- Will Calais Campbell show signs of aging?
- Defense needs to be better against the run, 21st in the league. Could influence drafting a MLB or cutting Barry Church and drafting a faster strong safety.
DRAFT NEEDS: RG, MLB, CB depth, WR depth, future DE
Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3, 1st AFC North)
- Defense finished high in most rating but secondary play was undisciplined much of the time, as was LB play after Shazier went out. (cough cough Jaguars game)
- Jon Bostic is a good ILB addition to pair with Vince Williams. Need someone opposite TJ Watt at OLB.
- Defensive line solid.
- Still a great offensive line aside from Maurkice Pouncey’s down season. Some of them are starting to get up there in age.
- Antonio Brown is the best WR in league w/ JuJu and Martavis Bryant. Big Ben still great with these guys.
- Le’veon Bell may see more outside or gap plays with new OC Randy Fichtner,
New England Patriots (13-3, 1st AFC East)
- Tom Brady
- Players around Tom Brady that Tom Brady make look amazing
- LT is a major question following Nate Solder’s departure -> LaAdrian Waddle, Tony Garcia, or draft are options. Rest of OL is dynamite.
- Derek Rivers is back from a torn ACL in what is basically his rookie year. Adrian Clayborn joins the mix at DE along with Trey Flowers, who was great, and 2nd-year guy Deatrich Wise, who wasn’t.
- Malcolm Brown and Danny Shelton are the current DTs and are pretty good.
- Hightower coming back. Van Noy is the other LB as of now, but they’ll likely draft someone as well.
- “Big Nickel” in secondary with Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, and drug mule Duron Harmon as the safeties.
- Stephon Gilmore and Jason McCourty are great CBs. Eric Rowe really isn’t.
DRAFT NEEDS: LT, CB depth, DT2, LB, new Tom Brady
Los Angeles Rams (11-5 !st NFC West)
- Jared Goff was great in year two, still struggles with deep ball. Defenses might get better at disguising coverages which hurts Sean McVay’s trick of having one side of the field beat man and one beat zone.
- Todd Gurley.
- Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, and Cooper Cupp are a phenomenal WR corps. No good TE.
- Awesome OL. RG Jamon Brown is the weak link LT Andrew Whitworth is 36.
- Brockers-Suh-Donald speaks for itself.
- Two new starting OLBs: Samson Ebukam and Matt Longacre. Both performed well in part-time relief of Robert Quinn and Connor Barwin.
- One new starting ILB: Bryce Hager, the Rams’ 2015 7th-round pick, joins incumbent starter Mark Barron.
- FS Lamarcus Joyner is a top-5, elite safety in the NFL; 2017 3rd-round pick John Johnson had a great rookie year at SS.
- Marcus Peters. Aqib Talib. Nickell Robey-Coleman…AT THE NICKEL. Sam Shields as your CB4? You guys scared of
Jimmy GSam Bradford or something?
DRAFT NEEDS: RG, TE, might as well get some LBs, future LT?
New Orleans Saints (11-5, 1st NFC South)
- Players the Saints drafted last year that instantly were one of the best at their position:
- Marshon Lattimore, CB
- Ryan Ramczyk, RT
- Alvin Kamara, RB
- Marcus Williams, FS (lol)
- ALSO GOOD: Alex Anzalone at WLB, Trey Hendrickson at DE.
- Cameron Meredith is added to Mike Thomas and Tedd Ginn with Drew Brees throwing to them with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram setting up the pass while Ben Watson helps run block with an OL that needs a new C and LG.
- Cam Jordan is the best pass rusher in the NFL. Sheldon Rankins and Alex Okafor aren’t bad across from him but they need more.
- David Onyemata and Tyeler Davison good DTs, not long-term guys.
- Demario Davis replaces Manti Te’o at MLB between Anzalone and AJ Klein. Te’o remains as depth.
- DBs are great aside from Vonn Bell at SS. PJ Williams struggled at nickel corner but the Saints signed Patrick Robinson from Philly.
DRAFT NEEDS: LG, C, pass-rusher, SS, DT/LB depth, future QB?
Minnesota Vikings (13-3, 1st NFC North)
- The offensive line is sneaky bad. Shurmur was able to scheme around it, mainly with Jerick McKinnon, who was not re-signed.
- Kirk Cousins is good but has noted struggles behind poor OLs (Washington’s was better than Minnesota’s last season)
- Despite poor OL, Dalvin Cook was great prior to his injury)
- Diggs and Thielen are both elite, big catch radii and master route-runners.
- Rudolph is a big guy but there’s always been something underwhelming about him.
- Danielle Hunter – Linval Joseph – Sheldon Richardson – Everson Griffin is a phenomenal DL.
- Ben Gadeon back from injury at WLB. Joins SLB Anthony Barr on a contract year and newly-paid Erick Kendicks at MLB. Great LB corps.
- FS Harrison Smith is the best safety in the NFL, SS Andrew Senedjo is borderline top-10.
- CBs Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes is a slightly underwhelming duo knowing there isn’t much behind them. Vikings got luck with the year current free agent Terence Newman had at 38 years old.
DRAFT NEEDS: Entire OL, pass-catching RB, CB
*I think the Vikings take a major step back this year.
Philadelphia Eagles (13-3, 1st NFC East)
- Phenomenal OL across the board. LT Jason Peters was injured and his backup painted a picture of a lack of depth at the position. Also, Peters is 36.
- Jay Ajayi for $1.9M is robbery. Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood around as well.
- Jeffrey and Agholor are awesome in this offense. Mike Wallace is better than Torrey Smith. Zach Ertz is an elite TE, need to fill in TE depth behind him.
- And here we are. Carson Wentz and Nick Foles. Wentz with a wider skillset, Foles with RPOs and high percentage throws to space, lifted up by the best OL in the NFL and amazing skill guys.
- Most of their skill guys are on cheap/rookie deals.
- Brandon Graham, Michael Bennett, Derek Barnett, Chris Long. All just at DE. Graham is elite.
- Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Haloti Ngata. All just at DT. cox is elite.
- Kendricks – Hicks (healthy) – Bradham is quite the LB corps. Hicks only played weeks 1-8 after tearing his achilles.
- Rodney McLeod, Malcolm Jenkins good safety duo.
- Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby with Radul Douglas at nickel corner is the weak spot of the defense (with Patrick Robinson at NCB they were 17th against the pass). Wonder why Howie Roseman bolstered the shit out of an already bolstered front seven.
DRAFT NEEDS: CB, future LT, OL depth, TE depth. Must be nice when everything says “depth”
Sorry there was negligible humor in that. Have some respect, I killed a cat.
Thanks to everyone who read all 25 entries of “The Probe”.
Rest in peace to the cat I smoked yesterday. I’m sure I’m going to wake up in a cold sweat and see its ghost in the corner of my bedroom, haunting me forever.
From here on out I’ll probably monitor my NFL news aggregation apps and write smaller posts based on how I feel those impact my opinions on these teams. I’ll likely do quick draft rundowns for all the teams as well, just basically stating whether or not they field my perceived needs. Maybe I’ll do some film stuff too, who knows!
And of course… I will continue my crusade against Pricksco.