The “Big Events” of the Off-Season have now come and gone; free-agency and the draft.
Last January, about two weeks after our season-ending win over the Broncs, I was sitting & thinking (as opposed to just sitting, which I do regularly) about what our team needed in the way of personnel to make a significant improvement this season. After serious rumination, I came to the conclusion that we were eight players short of being a solid team. I felt we needed:
1 RB, 1-2 NT’s, 1 ILB, 1 S, 1 OLB, 2 OL (interior), and 1 slot WR/KR,
and we needed to sign Chris Chambers.
Now the period of significant player acquisition is over. How well did our brain trust manage our roster?
RB-signed FA Thomas Jones; excellent move
NT-signed Shaun Smith, more further on
S- drafted Berry, Lewis; very good
OLB-drafted Sheffield (5th round) minimal, special teams probably
OL-signed FA’s Lilja, Weigeman, drafted Asamoah; adequate to good
Slot WR/KR-drafted McCluster, Arenas; could be good, jury’s still out
Signed Chambers-very good!
Our offense should be more exciting. JC will have an entire year to torment defenses, with Jones to keep JC fresh. Cassel will have Chambers for an entire season, and Bowe should come to camp in shape (and should have a more productive season). The slot WR position goes from being manned by walk-ons to a potential quick-strike position. If Cottam’s neck is sound, I expect good things from him (even if he was one of Herm’s picks). Our OL is becoming a team strength, rather than a weakness.
Our defense should show some improvement, with Hali having another year of experience at OLB. I expect some improvement from our DE’s, also (again, from a year’s experience). Our secondary could be improved, also. We have a play-maker at S, and Carr could be on the hot-seat at CB, with Washington having a year’s experience, and adding Arenas to the mix. Unfortunately, I expect no improvement from the middle of our defense. ILB was not addressed, and NT was only minimally (at best) addressed. Can Crennel coax steadier play from DJ? I assume Belcher will improve with a year’s experience. NT may well be our Achilles’ Heel. We failed to address the position in the draft. Before free-agency, every team that had a NT eligible to be a FA tagged him. We signed Shaun Smith, and apparently pronounced the position improved. Considering that every team tagged their NT’s that would have become FA’s, I think it speaks volumes about Smith’s abilities that he was released. To put it bluntly, if he was even adequate at NT, he’d still be in Ohio. I expect our opposition to run between the T’s against us, ad nauseum. It is highly unlikely we will find a significant NT & ILB available before July & the start of camp. Remember last year, when we had our WR “scavenger hunt” after the draft? How’d that work out?
Finally, we have a list of “non-contributers” from last season. With some luck, perhaps one or more of these players will move his game to the next level, and prove to be an asset. These players include:
CB, Washington; WR, Lawrence; RB, Williams; S, Morgan; S, Paige; OL, Brown