Random Ramblings

Okay, I'm not pretending to be Miss Cleo. I'm not even pretending to be Peter King. However, there are four things that I would like the forecast now, because it's on my head.<br><br> First, Jacksonville may not be a pushover. In fact, they may have gotten a little better since last year. For starters, the Jaguars still have Brunell, Smith, Brady, and Taylor on offense. I know what you're thinking. Fred Taylor has been a liability throughout his career.

Still, he's arguably the most talented running back in the league when healthy. Also, the Jaguars can use Stacy Mack to carry the ball 10 times a game, which could help Taylor stay fresh.

The Jaguars also used offseason to revitalize a horrific offensive line. The team drafted Mike Pearson from Florida to ultimately take Boselli's place at left tackle. Although Pearson has suspect strength, he is a dominant pass blocker who can handle speed rushers. To strengthen the interior line, the Jaguars signed free agents Kevin Long, Daryl Terrell, Raleigh Roundtree, and Chris Naeole.

To compensate for the losses of Hardy Nickerson, Gary Walker, Seth Payne, and Renaldo Wynn on the defensive side of the ball, the Jaguars added Wali Rainer, John Henderson, and Marco Coleman. Rainer is nothing special, but he should be as effective a middle linebacker as the aging Hardy Nickerson would have been.

Henderson has serious talent, and he could team up with Marcus Stroud to form a scary tandem at defensive tackle. Coleman cost less than Wynn, and still has enough left in the gas tank to be a solid player in Jacksonville…

Oakland won't be as good as a team as people think they'll be. The Raiders are facing a gargantuan state of cap hell next year (they are projected to be $50 million over), which makes this an all or nothing season. Although Bill Callahan has the credentials to be a fine head coach at the next level, it's not a guarantee that he'll be good.

Even if he is, he'll have to delicately massage the varying amount of egos on the team. Whenever you have a veteran laden team, the propensity for finger pointing in times of despair increases. For a lot of the players on this team, this is their last shot to win a Super Bowl, which means they won't settle for less. That's a lot of pressure to put on a first year head coach.

Second, the Raiders' defense is still suspect. Rod Woodson is a player that is relying on instincts alone at this point in his career. His athleticism and speed have all but deteriorated. If Woodson should get hurt, or is ineffective, the Raiders will once again have to rely on Anthony Dorsett at free safety.

The injury to Regan Upshaw hurts the Raiders to a degree, because Trace Armstrong will likely become a full-time starter. Armstrong was only a situational pass rusher before last season, and before he suffered a season ending injury to his foot last year. Also, the loss of Eric Allen could come back to haunt the Raiders. Phillip Buchanan is poised to become a very good corner in the NFL, but he's still just a rookie. He'll make mistakes, and his lack of ideal size will be a problem against bigger receivers. Tory James is a good nickel/dime corner, but if you ask him to start, he's not gonna be able to cut it…

The Kansas City Chiefs will have a top five offense this year. Just look at their offensive depth chart and you'll see why I think so.

Tony Gonzalez is the best tight end in football, and could end up being the best of all-time. Priest Holmes gained over 2,000 yards of total offense last year, while being the focus of many opposing defenses. Johnnie Morton is an underrated wide receiver who has the speed, route running ability, and YAC (yards after catch) producing ability to flourish in the Chiefs' offensive system. Playing behind Morton are talented wideouts like Sylvester Morris, Eddie Kennison, and Snoop Minnis.

The offensive line, which was solid to begin with, may have improved with the addition of William Roaf, a top five left tackle when healthy. The only question mark lies at quarterback, where Trent Green still has to prove himself. Green has yet to show the pocket awareness and quick decision-making skills needed to be an effective quarterback in the Chiefs' offense…

Though not doing anything spectacular in the offseason, the Bears will repeat as NFC Central champions this season. They've still got a nasty defense that should lead the league against the run. Urlacher, Holdman, and Colvin form the best core of linebackers in the game next to the Pittsburgh's quartet of Bell, Gildon, Farrior, and Porter. The pass rush, which was a liability last season, should improve with the addition of defensive ends Keith McKenzie and Alex Brown.

On offense, the Bears will improve. Chris Chandler should eventually supplant Jim Miller as the starting quarterback. Chandler can pick defenses apart when he's given time to throw, and has a reliable running game to lean on.

Marcus Robinson's return will also make a big difference. When healthy, Robinson is one of the better deep threats in the game. He'll re-join a wide receiver core that already includes Marty Booker and David Terrell.


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