Can you hear that? The sound of helmets knocking together, the wisp of a tight spiral and if you listen very closely, you might even hear a Dallas Cowboy being arrested. It’s football season baby. The best time of the year and if you don’t agree you might have to check yourself. A glorious time, where, for some reason NFL fans are intently paying attention to practice, and yeah I’m talking about practice. A time where hopeful fans get to see the young bucks who are supposed to turn the franchise around. Where we get a first look at which teams are the real deal and which teams (Jets) are fighting for the good ole’ first overall pick (Jets, if you didn’t catch it the first time).
As joyful as a time it is, it’s also a terrifying, sad, crushing, frustrating time for unlucky teams that see their season end before it even starts. The first victim of course being the Miami Dolphins, losing Ryan Tannehill and seeing uncertainty fill the air. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re the only ones at the start of the season. Then you have certain situations with contracts that are looming over the team and as much as the team says it isn’t a distraction, we all know it really is. These being the Redskins in Kirk Cousins and of course the hold out of Le’veon Bell.
Now I’m not about to tell you who’s going to win the super bowl, that may be a bit early to make those predictions but don’t worry, those will come soon. Here I’ll give you a team by team preview while showing my pre-season power rankings in the process. These based on last year’s performance and how well the team has done in the offseason. Here’s rankings 32-26.
- New York Jets
If you didn’t realize before, I’m not too high on the Jets. Last year they were beyond lousy landing a solid 4th overall pick. Don’t get me wrong, their front office drafted some pretty great potential with Jamal Adams, who I ranked as the top prospect, then Taking Mayes and going back to back Safeties. An immediate upgrade from a huge position of need last year.
It’s also tough to ignore the superior defensive line that they possess, could very well be a top 5 D-line. The issue is, I just told you the only bright spots on the Jets roster.
The huge question going into camp is the QB situation. Do me a favor and take a minute to think who the Jets QB is. You probably had no Idea. In camp Josh McCown is taking the slight majority of first team snaps and it’s probable that he’ll be the day one starter. This of course because the next best option they have is Christian Hackenberg, which explains itself.
Another problem they face is losing Marshall and Decker last year to free agency and to add insult to injury (literally) Quincy Enunwa was just placed on the IR. They drafted a couple wide-outs in the middle rounds so it will be interesting to see what roles they will play.
Don’t fool yourself Godell, this is major tanking right in front of your eyes.
- Cleveland Browns
Finally the Browns aren’t the worst team in the NFL, as a matter a fact if they weren’t so horrendously pitiful last year, they might be higher on the list.
To start, the Browns had one of the best drafts of the year. Getting top prospect Myles Garret, Jabrill Peppers, David Ndjoku and Deshone Kizer all with their first four picks. All prospects show great potential and might provide an immediate impact. Kizer might not see the field but for the future, he could be a great answer.
They did lose Terrelle Pryor, however replaced him with a solid vet in Kenny Britt who should mentor the rest of the young WR core very well.
The best part of this team is, by far, the offensive line. Adding Tretter and Zietler to an already stacked line should take the pressure whoever the QB will be, Kizer or Kessler.
I don’t expect much of anything from this team but by all means they’re trending in the right direction.
- Los Angeles Rams
LA baby! The main reason I have the Rams ahead of the Browns on this list is because of the playmakers they have on both sides of the ball. Todd Gurley had an off year I know but I fully expect him to bounce back.
The main addition of course is head coach Sean Mccvay. Touted as a Golden Boy in Washington we’ll see if he’s the real deal with coaching a golden arm in Jared Goff. It’s tough to be worse than Goff was last year looking as bad as a rookie QB could look going 0-7 in the games he started. Mccvay clearly improved Kirk Cousins so I wouldn’t be shocked to see an improvement in Goff. Especially now with the addition of Sammy Watkins. They had to give up a starting CB in E.J. Gaines but they will be able to afford the loss having a veteran like Kayvon Webster to replace him.
Adding veteran role players like John Sullivan, Connor Barwin, and Andrew Whitworth should help the roster extremely.
Don’t hold your breath on improvement however.
The largest concern to keep an eye on is clearly how Goff plays in his second year.
- Chicago Bears
The Bears have been increasingly pitiful over the years and have found themselves fighting to get out of the last place spot in the division.
Their main strength this season is the young offense that looks hopeful early on. Jordan Howard is coming off a spectacular rookie season rushing for the 2nd most yards. I expect them to lean on him throughout the year, having Glennon and or Trubisky complimenting him. Glennon should be a solid mentor for Trubisky and it looks like Glennon will start for most of the season. Of course the fans and depending on the record might force Trubisky into the starting role.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT KEVIN WHITE
The defense is still abysmal. They added a good addition in Prince Amukamara to what was a very inconsistent secondary. What worries me is the rush defense that didn’t see much of an improvement after the questionable trade in order to move up in the draft.
We’ll see how the young offense can play in a challenging division but it’s safe to say the Bears are years off from being a contender.
- Jacksonville Jaguars
They’re so low on the list primarily of the poor performance I saw from them last year and also the ability of Bortles to play QB is still up in the air. I’ll cut Bortles some slack considering he had a weak offensive line, however he still looks like a lost rookie QB and it shows on the stat sheet with all his Interceptions. Its essential that Bortles improves for this season for the Jags to have a shot at the playoffs (doesn’t look too good already considering he threw five interceptions during NON-CONTACT PRACTICE).
Based on the talent that is on this team there is no reason that they shouldn’t be in the playoffs. The key for this season is to see whether Dough Marrone and Tom Coughlin can turn the franchise around. They lost a lot of close games last year so that is something that needs to go their way in order for this to happen. The season lies on Bortles and if he can’t deliver once again it might be time for the Jags to start looking at what could be next for their QB.
The blockbuster addition the 9ers made in the offseason is hiring Kyle Shanahan has the head coach and John Lynch as the GM. It will be Kyle’s first opportunity to prove how good of coach he is, moving out of the shadow of Matt Ryan. Lynch has already showed us his ability in the front office making splashes in free agency and the draft.
The 49ers had the best draft of the year. Grabbing a top 5 prospect in Solomon Thomas and then stealing Reuben Foster who was a top 10 prospect before he was unceremoniously kicked out of the combine and questions arose. They also nabbed Malcolm smith and Brian Hoyer in free agency to add some solid veterans and close the question of QB on the roster.
Having Deforest Buckner and Navarro Bowman already, they will serve as perfect examples to Thomas and Foster. Don’t be surprised if this team comes as a bit of surprise this season. They’re still a couple of offenses pieces away from the playoffs but an improvement this season should come.
- Indianapolis Colts
The Colts proved to be a huge disappointment this past season. They finally let go of GM Ryan Gigson who not only didn’t improve the team but may have made it worse.
Cue Chris Ballard. Ballard was quick to make moves in the addition of Jabaal Sheard in free agency and continued to bolster the defense in the draft using his first three picks on defense. As much as these were great additions, he didn’t address the offensive line.
Luck was the 2nd most pressured QB in 2016 and with his shoulder injury a worry, its questionable to see how he plays this season.
If Luck can remain healthy and find his form the Colts ideally will be a much better team.