Defensive Line – We admit before the season that we were very excited about the prospects of this position group, but we were dead wrong here. They never lived up to their advance billing. Losing Jay Alford was a bigger blow than we originally thought it would be. He should be back strong and we expect him and Cofield to be the starting DTs. They sure did not get their money's worth from Chris Canty. When he was healthy enough to play he accomplished very little. We kept waiting for plays to come and they never did. Rocky Bernard was a waste and he should not be back. Fred Robbins gave them some good years, but it looks like it's over for him too.
The DEs were supposed to be pass-rush demons, but that didn't happen. Problems with Osi started in camp when he walked out on Sheridan. We will give him another year to return from his serious knee injury from the year before. It is said it often takes two full years to recover. Hopefully he will regain the step he appeared to lose on his pass rush and play stronger against the run. He never was great at run defense, but he was never as bad as he was this year either. Justin Tuck tried to play through shoulder problems and he was not the same player. Still he was their best defensive lineman, so we expect him to be back to full strength next year. Mathias Kiwanuka was an improvement over Osi against the run, but he is not as good a pass rusher. Kiwi plays hard and we like that about him. We believe Dave Tollefson has value as a quality reserve. We still believe the pieces are in place at DE.
We want to add a DT and there should be some really good ones available in free agency. We would strongly consider Justin Bannan and Dwan Edwards from the Ravens, Ryan Pickett from the Packers, Vince Wilfork from the Pats and our choice Aubrayo Franklin from the 49ers. Franklin is coming on strong and we would really like to sign him.
Linebackers – This group needs to be blown up. They were dreadful. They weren't fast enough, athletic enough and they didn't tackle well. Here's who we don't expect to be back: Antonio Pierce, Danny Clark and Gerris Wilkinson for sure. Pierce is the closest thing they had to a leader, but his effectiveness was questionable in that role because of some of his locker room antics with the media and his role in the whole Plaxico Burress affair.
On the field, he could no longer perform as an acceptable middle linebacker. There are questions remaining on the returning guys and some may not make it through the next camp. Michael Boley shows some good things at times. He played hard to the end and didn't quit, yet he still needs to be more consistent. At least he does have some of the athleticism they need at LB. Bryan Kehl is one of our guys because when he was drafted we believed he was going to win a starting outside spot and be very good. That hasn't happened yet, but he deserves another chance. He does have athletic ability.
We got to see Jonathan Goff play at MLB after Pierce went down. Truthfully, he was OK at best, but he did nothing to convince us he was the long-term solution. Clint Sintim showed some pass-rush ability, but he may be out of place as a full time coverage/rush LB. Still, he deserves more time. Chase Blackburn should return since he is still valuable on special teams and as a reserve. They need to invest in another MLB and OLB who can start immediately.
Our plan would be to draft Brandon Spikes from Florida in round one and sign Karlos Dansby from the Cards to play the strong side. Outside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon from Missouri would be a good fallback in round two if we couldn't get Dansby.
Defensive Backs – Corey Webster and Terrell Thomas are set as the starting corners. Aaron Ross should prove to be a valuable third corner and we would not move him to safety. One problem is they don't have that special corner that can cover the smaller, quicker slot receivers.
That was supposed to be Kevin Dockery, but he had a poor year and we don't expect him to return. Bruce Johnson showed some of that ability, but not enough. We would like a healthy return from Kenny Phillips at safety, but we have our fears because of the serious nature of his knee injury.
As far as the rest of the group goes, we wouldn't be disappointed if they all were sent away. Michael Johnson, C.C. Brown and Aaron Rouse should be employed elsewhere. They couldn't cover, could not communicate properly and could not tackle. Outside of that they were fine.
We would look to add another safety in free agency like Antoine Bethea from the Colts. He will be a RFA, but he was an original sixth-round pick so there is a possibility he will receive a sixth-round tender. If so, we would snatch him up. Two second-round draft possibilities are Darrell Stuckey from Missouri and Nate Allen from South Florida; both would be good picks. If we couldn't get Bethea we would draft Stuckey. If he were available in round three we would recommend CB Javier Arenas from Alabama. He would be the nickel cover corner and he is an outstanding return man.
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