Daily Blog • May 7, 2010

We are less than a week away from sending my 2010 College Preview off to the presses! The good news is that once the magazine is off to the press on May 12th, we will go back to doing a blog EVERY DAY until the end of the 2010 College Football season!! Until then I will be giving you a 2010 NFL draft review. Today's blog gives you a review for the teams in the AFC East and AFC North. Have a great weekend!

AFC North



Its been a rough 6 months for Pittsburgh losing 5 straight in mid-November costing them a playoff berth. OC Bruce Arians received a mandate to run the ball more in 2010 and that was prior to the trade of their #1WR Santonio Holmes to New York Jets for a 5th RD DC. Pittsburgh also enters 2010 without Roethlisberger for the 1st 4-6 games & he is NOT allowed to work with the team prior to Training Camp. The team picked up Leftwich from Tampa Bay as insurance but Tomlin is leaning with Dennis Dixon. Pittsburgh addressed their biggest offensive need by taking Maurkice Pouncey who was clearly the best Center in the draft but he'll learn the system at Right Guard. Jason Worilds will be the #3 OLB for LY's #5 defense & is Pittsburgh's attempt at grooming a successor to James Harrison. Emmanuel Sanders is an attempt to develop a #3 WR despite acquiring Randle El & Battle in Free Agency. Thaddeus Gibson was a 1-year starter at OSU who did most of his pass rushing standing up & is a project. The key for the remaining draft choice’s is RB Jonathan Dwyer who's stock dropped due to testing positive at the Combine despite the NFL absolving him. He had a 2nd RD grade & is a major value here. Pittsburgh has only has 1 Division game during the suspension & get a bye to get Roethlisberger in shape then face Cleveland. Pittsburgh also has a 3 game home stand in December, which could make their season. 


As strange as it sounds the Ravens offense carried the defense into the playoffs for 2009 especially when they switched from being pass heavy to run 1st from mid-November on. GM Ozzie Newsome made a great move by bringing in Boldin in free agency to give Flacco a real #1 WR in the passing game as Mason is really a solid #2. Baltimore once again worked the draft to their advantage as they traded out of the 1st Round with Denver & replenished the defense. Sergio Kindle who is a good fit as a 3-4 OLB pass rusher, slid into the 2nd Round due to concerns he may need microfracture surgery. If he does, the Ravens have the depth to red-shirt him in 2011. Kindle will likely be a situational pass rusher if does not. Terrence Cody has issues with his weight & will be a two down run stuffing NT on the Baltimore line that will only help Ngata here. Ed Dickson & Dennis Pitta were both drafted to get Flacco more options in the passing game & if Dickson picks up the playbook he could push Heap off the roster. The Ravens did lose some DL depth with Bannan & Edwards leaving in free agency & they did little to address their secondary.  Baltimore opens with the Jets & have to travel to NE, ATL, HOU but get NO at home in mid-Dec. The Ravens look to be serious contenders for a deep playoff push in 2010 but their talent at CB still remains a concern though.


The Bengals were one of the big surprises for 2009 as they took the AFC North by force going 6-0 in the division but only won 1 game by more than 10 points. The Cincy OL was one of the most improved units in the NFL despite LY's 1st RD DC Andre Smith only playing 6 games. Smith is slated to be the #1 RT now & Marvin Lewis made upgrading the assets for Carson Palmer a priority. Palmer tore thumb ligaments in his throwing hand midseason & combined with the loss of WR Henry the Bengals simply didn't have any passing weapons outside of Ocho Cinco vs the Jets. Jermaine Gresham is the 1st bonafide receiving TE weapon Palmer has had in his 7 years & is a huge upgrade. While he missed all of 2009 at Oklahoma with a knee injury it was a Grade 2 sprain & he is 100% now. Taking Jordan Shipley despite his special teams value though is a sign that 2008's 2nd & 3rd RD WR's Simpson & Caldwell aren't stepping up.  Carlos Dunlap is a good value much like DE Michael Johnson was in the 3rd RD LY as he has 1st RD talent (45.5 plays behind LOS in 3Y) but his work ethic saw his stock slip. Brandon Ghee will compete for the nickel CB while Geno Atkins will have to fight to get into the DT rotation. Cincinnati does have a big need at FS/SS due to a lack of depth & its the big defensive weakness. Despite LY's success Cincinnati didn't give Lewis a contract extension as he is asking for more control & he may move on after 2010. 


The Browns closed 2009 with 4 straight wins & with a recommendation by Bill Parcells, Mike Holmgren opted to retain Mangini & the entire Cleveland coaching staff. Holmgren overpayed for Delhomme but the team doesn't have a QB controversy for 2010. The Browns have brought in quite a few vets who "have been there & done that" to change the culture focusing on defense. After missing out on Berry, the Browns passed on FS Earl Thomas & took CB Joe Haden who's stock fell due to a poor Combine (4.57) but he ran a 4.41 in a private workout. Instead of Sergio Kindle, Cleveland opted for SS T.J. Ward who has had some medical issues but the Browns feel he's a big hitter with lots of smarts. Montario Hardesty also has some injury issues but he did display some good agility & pop to defenders behind an improved Tennessee OL LY. Colt McCoy is a good value pick who's skills mesh ideally with the West Coast offense & he'll get time to learn & workout as he's not expected to play in 2010. Shawn Lauvao is a big (6-3 305) power run blocking RG/RT prospect who could earn the RG spot in camp. Carlton Mitchell is a big deep threat target who will need time to grow & Clifton Geathers is a nice developmental 3-4 DE prospect. CLE opens with 2 winnable games but have a tough set of 6 games afterwards. They also have a 3 game road set in December followed by BAL & PIT to end the year. CLE is moving in the right way but need more growth.

AFC East


In 2009, the NFL caught up to the very successful Wildcat system the Dolphins employed in 2008. Combined with injuries to Pennington, RB Brown, the interior of the OL & age catching up to OLB's Porter & Taylor Miami found themselves fortunate to be 7-9. The 2010 offseason was all about finding Chad Henne a proven WR target & upgrading the youth & speed on the defense. MIA sent a pair of 2nd RD DC's to DEN for Marshall getting a 26 yr old WR with 3 straight seasons of 100 rec's in return. With Marshall on board the Dolphins will be able to open up the Wildcat even more as they have a legit downfield option to take the extra Safety out of the box. Miami then used the draft to address the defense with just 1 offensive player taken the lowest ever in a Bill Parcells’ draft. With NT Jason Ferguson suspended the 1st 8 games they passed on Dan Williams, trading down & garnering a 2nd RD DC then taking Odrick. Odrick improves 2 spots as he is a disruptive up field DE for a 3-4 & bumps Randy Starks to NT making for a quicker DL. Miami really focused on upgrading its LB corps & will have 3 new faces in their 4 man unit for 2010 opening day. Misi is a former college DE making the shift to OLB & Sparano was pleased with how he looked in the 1st mini-camp. He enters camp as a pass rushing OLB & how much his coverage skills improve will determine his 1st string snaps. Edds is an ILB for passing situations who impressed with 5 ints LY. Carroll is expected to eventually challenge for a nickel DB spot but is likely a special teamer. Georgia's Reshad Jones is a big hitter who had 5 INT’s as a FS in 2008 before converting to SS in 2009 & Sparano admitted he is in competition for a starting FS job. The only offensive pick in the draft Jerry, has a very good chance to take the LG job as Justin Smiley was shopped by the team prior to the draft. Miami also made a very good signing in Dansby for their big FA pickup which should improve LY's #18 rush defense & provide an interior pass rush. Miami has a very tough schedule early on with 6 straight playoff teams & Pittsburgh with Roethlisberger at the helm after they face Buffalo in Week 1. The Dolphins could have quite a few new pieces for 2010 to go along with 2nd year CB's here & they will be a better team in the 2nd half of the season.

New England

The Patriots playoff loss to the Ravens resonated deeply with them as they were manhandled being outrushed 234 (4.5) to 64 (3.6) at home. NE had released much of its veteran leadership prior to the season & it caught up to them thru the year & with finality vs BAL. NE was surgical in how it approached FA & did the right thing in resigning Vince Wilfork to lead the defense. They added a savvy route runner in Holt to supplement the offense with Welker expected to be out the 1st 6 Wks & got a good blocking TE with Crumpler. NE supplemented the TE spot in the draft by taking a balanced blocking/receiving TE in Gronkowski & a dangerous receiving TE with Hernandez who will get a lot of attention from Brady to get him into the passing system as fast as possible. Belichick hasn't had a good deal of success developing WR's in the draft & Price is a decent sized WR who could struggle to get off the jam in press coverage. Defensively NE has had a bit of a problem with bigger WR's recently who could absorb hits & make yards after the catch. NE traded down twice, targeting McCourty who they feel is a well-balanced CB with sure tackling skills & good film ethic. Belichick prefers bigger OLB's with straight ahead speed that can also supplement the run & pass rusher was a priority after Banta-Cain who is a system player led the team with 9.5 sacks. NE scored a coup with Spikes who's stock plummeted due to a 5.06 40 time at the Combine but he plays much faster on film. His speed issues can be masked in a 3-4 system & NE has a solid nickel ILB with Jerod Mayo. Spikes will make his way onto the field on run stopping downs & is a boon to a defense that allowed 8 games of 110+ yds rushing (147 ypg 4.82). Mesko was the best Punter in the draft & the left footed Ray Guy winner shouldn't have much of a problem winning the job. The Patriots have a legit division rival with the Jets now & MIA traditionally gives Brady a tough game. They do get CIN, BAL, MIN, IND & GB at home with SD & PIT on the road. NE remains the favorite to win the AFC East thanks to Brady but it won't be as easy as it has been.

New York Jets

The Jets were fortunate to get into the playoffs as despite a 1-6 midseason run they slid into the playoffs as the Colts & Bengals rested starters at the end of the year. They grabbed a lot of respect by demolishing the Bengals & upset SD on the road before the Colts beat them in the AFC Championships. Rex Ryan's Jets were very active in the offseason releasing/trading 37.4% of the offense in RB's Jones & Washington. They feel comfortable enough in Sanchez to expand the passing game despite having the #1 rushing offense LY for a QB that had a 12-20 TD/Int ratio. The Jets have traded for 2 #1 type WR's after trading a 5th RD DC to PIT for Holmes to pair with Braylon Edwards. Tomlinson was brought in as he knows OC Schottenheimers system. While he has fallen off dramatically in the run he is still valuable with the pass & is a good blocker for a 3rd Down back. The Jets tallied 1 sack every 15.7 pass att's LY & by signing Jason Taylor to be a 3rd Down pass rush specialist they were able to take the best player available on the board when they picked. While very versatile & able to play man coverage with lots of special team value, Kyle Wilson fell due to the fact he played in the WAC. NFL scouts weren't sold on the level of competition that he faced but he fits very well with the Jets system & will be the nickel DB as he develops. Despite a very impressive year by the OL, the Jets surprised several people by releasing Faneca due to declining skills. Ducasse who comes from UMass will compete with 2009 6th RD DC Matt Slauson for the LG spot. The Jets feel the short term dropoff is offset by the upside of Ducasse in the longterm. By drafting McKnight the Jets are providing insurance in the event that Tomlinson's production continues to slide as well as special teams value. McKnight has a skill set similar to Leon Washington who the Jets sent to SEA due to issues over a new contract. The Jets are one of the few teams that utilize a blocking FB & Conner is the eventual successor to Tony Richardson. The Jets have a tough schedule to start the season vs BAL, NE, MIA & MIN in the 1st 5 Wks. They do get GB, HOU & CIN at home in the 2nd half of the year. The Jets have 5 primetime games to prove they are an annual contender for the AFC East title.


Despite closing out 2008 with a 2-8 record the Bills opted to retain Dick Jauron. The Bills focused the entire offseason on a "sugar huddle" style offense only to see the 1st string offense earn 1 FG in 15 preseason drives. Jauron fired his OC & junked the entire offensive playbook 3 days before the start of the season. BUF would go 3-5 to start the year being held to 10 pts in 4 games. Owner Ralph Wilson released Jauron &  cleared out the entire coaching staff including vauted STC Bobby April. Wilson didn't reignite the fan base by hiring GM Buddy Nix & HC Chan Gailey after higher profile candidates turned the job down. Gailey has admitted the team is going to be very run heavy & incorporate Wildcat elements into the scheme for 2010 while he decides what to do with his QB's. BUF is also transitioning to the 3-4 which will be difficult as aside from LY's 1st RD DC Aaron Maybin none of the smaller speed oriented Cover-2 defenders from LY are true 3-4 types. Nix is following the blueprint from when he was with SD in 2001 when they took Tomlinson as Spiller will work with Fred Jackson to be the focal point of the offense. Spiller had 21 of his 51 college TD's go for 50 yds or more & he is the fastest BUF RB (4.32) since OJ Simpson. Spiller is a direct answer to the fact they have ranked in the bottom 8 in yards in the NFL for 7 straight years. Easley is a big possesion type WR who will have to battle to be the #4 WR TY. Wang is a project LT who will be the swing OT for 2010 & his development will determine his snaps. BUF claims they had a 3rd RD grade on QB Brown but is another developmental project likely as a #2. BUF feels they got a good value with Troup in the 2nd RD & he will be an instant starter as their 3-4 NT & while he won't make a lot of plays upfield he is very strong (34 reps). Carrington had 19.5 sacks the L2Y but comes from the Sun Belt & will have to take a big step up here. BUF has a tough travel schedule TY at GB, NE, BAL, CHI in Toronto & MIN. Gailey also gets a rematch vs his former team the Chiefs but has 3 straight AFC East games to close the year. The Bills still have issues on the OL & with all the changes on defense they could very well be competing for the 1st pick in the 2011 draft.