It’s never too early to look at how teams stack up competitively, even at the start of Training Camps. This is the time of year when optimism reigns supreme for most fans, but for others the bad news has already started, ala injury issues for MICHAEL THOMAS/SAINTS and CARSON WENTZ/COLTS. But let’s take the big picture into account and break the bad news to fans whose teams rank at the bottom of the League power rankings based on Training Camp rosters.
32) LIONS This team should play with renewed energy with new Head Coach DAN CAMPBELL leading the way, but the roster is still in tough shape. I don’t see how one can project progress at the QB spot with GOFF replacing STAFFORD. The receivers group is in total rebuild with JONES and GOLLADAY both gone. As a group, this may be the weakest wideout group in the League. Their secondary is one of the weakest in the NFL, talent wise, as well. It will take at least a few years to recover from the QUINN/PATRICIA leadership experience. The best news I can give you right now is that the LIONS look to have 11 Picks in a loaded 2022 Draft. Patience LIONS fans, and rest assured that the CAMPBELL-led 2021 LIONS will play a more aggressive and spirited brand of football than you have seen in years.
31) TEXANS Talk about a mess… the mess in Texas thanks to mismanagement from the top on down after the death of team founder ROBERT McNAIR. I would have ranked them at 32, but until DESHAUN WATSON is traded, I think they can win more games than the LIONS below them here. New GM NICK CASERIO has brought in more than half of the roster during his 6+ months on the job. He has worked a limited Draft, a few trades, and signing every mid-range VFA in sight to introduce new players to more than half his total roster. But beyond WATSON there is NO star power to be found… yet. Of their 90 roster spots, I count 50 new players. Good luck to first time NFL Head Coach DAVID CULLEY.
30) JETS Like CAMPBELL in Detroit, new Head Coach ROBERT SALEH should be a breath of fresh air in the Big Apple. And only time will tell if the ouster of QB SAM DARNOLD will turn into a positive with Rookie ZACH WILSON learning the hard way under fire. But the talent is still way too thin when you look at their Depth Chart. In all honesty, I am not in luv with their overall Draft effort. C.J. MOSLEY /LB finally hopes to get on the field for the team. Two years ago they paid him a ton to leave the Ravens and lead their Defense. However, an injury and a Covid opt-out has kept him off the field for pretty much 2 years. Now he comes back with a huge burden to carry. Their secondary and LB groups look deficient. They MUST establish a running game with an unheralded RB group of PERINE/COLEMAN/CARTER. Good luck guys. Hey, they have 11 Draft Picks next year just like the LIONS.
29) FALCONS Owner ARTHUR BLANK may have been just a wee bit too patient on the DIMITROFF era in Atlanta. The FALCONS have had a dangerously thin roster for several years, due in great part to a lack of quality/quantity in their annual Rookie class. Vet QB MATT RYAN should be delighted by the offensive mind of new head Coach ARTHUR SMITH. But DERRICK HENRY did not come with SMITH to lead their running game. Surprisingly, they did not draft a RB, and ended up trading JULIO JONES, ironically to SMITH’s old team, the TITANS. New GM TERRY FONTENOT, did however draft KYLE PITTS, who may just star as a TE/WR hybrid. The Draft and FONTENOT’s first VFA group help start the rebuild, but it will likely be a long season, with double-digit losses.
28) SAINTS. After going all-in for the past 3 seasons to get a Super Bowl ring before DREW BREES retired, it is now time to pay the piper. BREES is gone, the Salary Cap has hit head-on, and the roster has gotten old and thin. SEAN PAYTON is now trying to air out his post-BREES QB situation with JAMEIS WINSTON & TAYSOM HILL as his two options. As Camp opened, it was revealed that star wideout MICHAEL THOMAS had finally conceded to foot surgery in June and would be out until late October at the earliest. The SAINTS look to be the 2021 version of the 2020 PATRIOTS, sans BRADY. The bill for credit card buying at Draft time in many years has also come due with little young talent to fill empty roster spots. Returning SAINTS fans, in a post pandemic (maybe) stadium, may not recognize much of this current SAINTS team. Anything close to .500 would confirm the “PAYTON as coaching genius” image.
27) BENGALS Any chance for this team to climb from the outhouse to the penthouse will depend on QB JOE BURROW being 100% recovered from his knee issues, and a bunch of young guys playing up to a new level in their pro careers. The team chose to draft former BURROW favorite, from his LSU days, WR Ja’MARR CHASE with the 5th Pick in the 2021 Draft. A bigger need might have been OT PENEI SEWELL, who the LIONS gladly took with Pick 7. In defense of the BENGALS, one must remember that A.J. GREEN is gone, and the team needed a new No. 1 wideout. But the net result is that their current OL group still must prove they can protect BURROW much better than last season. The team also let GIO BERNARD talk his way out of town, making rehabbing RB JOE MIXON pretty much alone in their RB room unless Rookie CHRIS EVANS emerges quickly. It always seems like this franchise takes one step forward and two steps back. Unless BURROW is the new AARON RODGERS, this team is headed for another double-digit Loss season.
26) EAGLES The CARSON WENTZ era is over in Philly, and the JALEN HURTS era may have begun. IMO, the EAGLES had a very good Draft with of course De’VONTA SMITH highlighting the group at Pick 10. He should be the new DESEAN JACKSON, who is now with the RAMS. MILES SANDERS is their top RB, who can do it all, but can’t stay healthy. Enter draftee KENNETH GAINWELL, who was an explosive runner… when healthy. The team took LANDON DICKERSON/IOL in Round 2, but he is coming off of a late season knee injury at ‘Bama. HOWIE ROSEMAN, GM, plugged some holes, but my gut tells me that the dike needs replacing, not patching. They play in the NFC East, but are not even head and shoulders above any team in that division. I anticipate a lot of booing in South Philly this season.
25) GIANTS Wow, both of the Big Apple teams running in my group of bottom feeders. If a ton of things go right, they might sneak past the WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM and into Play-Off contention. What things? Well, let’s start with QB DANIEL JONES shedding his habits that make him a turnover machine. Then they need SAQUON BARKLEY to be healthy and approach 2,000-yards of Offense. How about, VFA KENNY GOLLADAY & Rookie KADARIUS TONEY emerging as high end receiving threats like the team has not seen since OBJ left town? What if ELERSON SMITH and/or AZEEZ OJULARI developed into elite edge-rushers for the second half of their Rookie season? Would it be too much to ask that VFA ADOREE JACKSON & Rookie AARON ROBINSON could join BRADBERRY in solidifying their CB group? GM GETTLEMAN suddenly fell in luv with the idea of trading Draft Picks from this year for some extra Picks in 2022. Thus, he ended up with only 6 Picks this go-round. Here is the good news GIANTS fans… GETTLEMAN’s wheeling and dealing netted him 10 Picks for next year, with 5 of them in the Top 100 Picks. So the really big push to win the NFC East may have to wait until next season.
That’s the bottom, as I see it today. Next up, I’ll take a look at the Top Dogs… the Elite 8,!