No Playoffs? No Problem! How to Fix Your Team
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Erik Pears, Buffalo’s right guard, finished 76th in Pro Football Focus’ guard ratings among 78 candidates. He’s a free agent who shouldn’t return in 2015. At left guard, Buffalo played Chris Williams, Cyril Richardson and Kraig Urbik. Williams only played three games before joining the injured reserve, but he was not impressive during his time on the field. Richardson, a rookie, was benched after four starts and Urbik started the second half of the season. None are great fits in Greg Roman’s power running offense. To fix the position, Buffalo needs to add a talented offensive guard in free agency. Mike Iupati comes to mind as he’s played with Roman for the last few seasons and is one of the best run blockers in the NFL. Adding a player of his caliber would fix the left side of the line and allow Richardson, Urbik, Williams and Cyrus Kouandjio to compete for the right guard spot. One player can go a long way in fixing this problem.
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Phil Emery, yet the club is still searching for its next head coach. This easily tops the team’s list of offseason priorities. Consistent success in the NFL starts at the top. Finding a competent head coach is the only way the Bears can quickly right the ship and put themselves back on par with the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. If Pace fails in his first and most important big decision as general manager, little will change in the Windy City.
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Brian Hoyer? Someone who can corral Johnny Manziel? Yeah, several teams in this list need a quarterback and it’s probably the top reason they weren’t playing in January. For the Browns, the quarterback doesn’t need to be spectacular, just average. It seems like a simple enough search, but past experiences have told us that the difficulty level for this quest ranks right up there with finding Jimmy Hoffa’s body.
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Brandon Linder. Former second-overall pick Luke Joeckel struggled mightily in his first season at left tackle, and although there is hope for the young man to improve, there’s plenty of reason for concern. Jacksonville needs to find a center and/or another offensive tackle in free agency and possible names they could be interested in include Doug Free, Bryan Bulaga or Rodney Hudson.
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Justin Houston and the upside of Dee Ford at his disposal. If you add Tamba Hali into the mix (provided he restructures his 2015 contract), he’d have a trio, along with defensive tackle Dontari Poe, that would make the Chiefs front seven nearly unstoppable with LeBaue’s handprints on KC’s defense. Should this domino fall, Reid gets the chance to right that wrong that pushed him to hire Sutton. Further, a move to change defensive coordinators would make some of the Chiefs defenders happy. It’s clear the players tap dance when talking about Sutton and that tells me they’d support a mutiny.
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Ryan Tannehill finished with a solid 4,045-yard season and 27 touchdowns, but his long completion on the season was 50 yards and he averaged only 6.9 yards per pass, one of the worst marks by a starting quarterback. He completed only 37.7 percent of his passes that were targeted 20 or more yards down the field. The Dolphins had three receivers over 700 yards, but, despite having Mike Wallace, they didn’t have a true go-to receiver for Tannehill. In the red zone, they were middle of the league in efficiency, scoring touchdowns on 29 of 55 attempts inside the 20-yard line. A tall target could help improve that stat.
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Teddy Bridgewater better protection: Bridgewater had the best season of the rookie quarterbacks, the best rookie season in Vikings history, and one of the best in NFL history. All of that is more amazing considering the protection problems he faced. He was under pressure much of the season, taking 39 of the Vikings’ 51 sacks, tied for fifth-most in the NFL. With a poor first half of the season from left tackle Matt Kalil, and then losing right guard Brandon Fusco and right tackle Phil Loadholt by midseason, Bridgewater at least learned to get rid of the ball quicker in the final two months of the season. That should serve him well in the future.
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Weston Richburg and signed free agent Geoff Schwartz this past offseason, but they’re only halfway to fixing their problems up front. Center J.D. Walton and guard Brandon Mosley just flat out didn’t produce this year and the Giants could be in position to draft offensive lineman Brandon Scheroff from Iowa or La’el Collins from LSU. If Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr. and company look to make the new-look West Coast offense reach new heights, they’ll need to bring in reinforcements to help Big Blue win the battle in the trenches.
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Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense helped the Eagles to the fifth-ranked offense in yards, but it also put their defense at risk. On defense, they finished 28th in total yards and 31st in passing yards allowed per game. Offensively, they ran the most plays of any team in the NFC East, but they also had more than 100 more defensive snaps than the next-closest in the NFC East.
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Derek Carr some wide receivers: Rookie quarterback Derek Carr arguably had the best season out of the rookie quarterbacks, and he showed he has the talent to be the franchise quarterback the Raiders have so desperately needed. He did this without his wide receivers consistently making plays. Wide receiver Andre Holmes led the team in receiving yards, with just 693. The Raiders haven’t had a receiver break the 1,000-yard mark since Randy Moss did it in 2005.
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Doug Legursky to be the starting center, draft Pittsburgh RT T.J. Clemmings in the first round and move D.J. Fluker inside to left guard; and let Johnnie Troutman and Chris Watt compete at right guard.
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Brad Ford and his surgically repaired knee in the preseason. The Rams finished ranked 27th in pass protection and 23rd in run blocking, according to Pro Football Focus, after ranking in the middle of the league in both categories in 2013.
The St. Louis offensive line will look different in 2015, with right tackle Joe Barksdale and right guard Davin Joseph both unrestricted free agents this offseason, but could look drastically different by the start of training camp. The Rams can save $8 million in cap space, according to OverTheCap.com, by releasing Jake Long, who is coming off two season-ending knee injuries. They can save another $3.75 million by releasing veteran center Scott Wells.
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Jameis Winston: Remember, that the title of this series is how to make the Bucs a playoff contender in 2015. While Mariota is a talented prospect, it will take him some time to develop into a true NFL quarterback. With Winston, he can step right in and run an NFL offense. Both quarterbacks would be big improvements for the Bucs, but Winston would give the Bucs a better chance in 2015, and that’s the focus of this article.
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Jake Locker, then Zach Mettenberger, was their quarterback of the future, but that was hard to do when the offensive line was the worst in the league. Improve here, improve overall.
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Robert Griffin III and the dynamics between the two? Will Washington be active in free agency to fill in the holes or take the more prudent path through the draft? These are tough questions that all Washington fans will know soon. Certainly this is a team that has spent a ton of money over the years on the open market and where exactly has that gotten them? Mistakes here and the cost to move up and draft RG3 have really hampered this franchise.
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Analysis and commentary by Scout.com NFL team publishers.
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