In his first instalment of the 2016 NFL preview, Big Zacko highlights four teams with veteran QBs that need to win this season or face imminent rebuilds.
San Diego Chargers (4-12)
Head Coach: Mike McCoy (2013 22-26)
Quarterback: Phillip Rivers (2004) – one of the most prolific passers in the last 10 plus years whose cool head will help what is now a young supporting cast.
Key Draft picks.
Joey Bosa (3) DE, Ohio State – 2 time consensus All-American. A prolonged contract dispute has caused Bosa to miss most of the preseason.
Hunter Henry (35) TE, Arkansas – 2015 consensus All-American.
Eric Weddle FS – Pro Bowl safety.
Donald Brown RB
Travis Benjamin WR
Bruce Gaston DT
Dwight Lowery FS
James Jones WR
The Chargers haven’t been big movers in the off season. The loss of Eric Weddle will be somewhat alleviated by the signing of Dwight Lowery, a high quality cover man and sure tackler. But they still have huge question marks with the offensive line play and haven’t upgraded from last years disappointing rookie runner Melvin Gordon.
Unless Gordon has come on in his second year and the run game improves, Rivers will again be carrying the offensive burden. The passing game should be strong with Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin both quality receivers and the future HOFer Gates and young TE Hunter Henry.
The defense is improving but still holes in coverage and questions, especially with top rookie Bosa signing late, with the pass rush and ability to stop the run. It could be a tough season in San Diego, Rivers’ leadership will keep them competitive but they might be on the wrong end of the scoreboard more often than not.
Buy Low – 5 wins.
Buy High – 9 wins.
Chicago Bears (6-10)
Coach – John Fox 2nd season in Chicago a quality veteran coach.
Starting QB – Jay Cutler (2009), veteran gunslinger who is constantly under pressure to keep his job due to erratic play and a dysfunctional personality.
Key Draft Picks.
Pick 9 Leonard Floyd LB, Georgia
Cody Whitehair G, Kansas
Jonathon Bullard DL, Florida
Matt Forte RB (released)
Jermon Bushrod LT (free agency)
Martellus Bennett TE (trade)
Antrel Rolle S (released)
Matt Slausen G (released)
Bobbie Massie RT
Danny Trevathan ILB
Jerrell Freeman ILB
Akiem Hicks DE
Tony Moeaki TE
Ted Larsen C
After a disapointing 2015 the Bears have revamped the team, perennial workhorse Matt Forte has departed and 2nd year man Jeremy Langford takes over in the backfield. This is not a good thing. Langford was pedestrian last year averaging a meagre 3.6ypc and only 1.1 after contact, the Bears need to get better running the ball. Drafting Whitehair should help but only time will show how the Bears retooled line will go.
Defensively the Bears look far more solid. Freeman and Trevathan are tackling machines and definite upgrades at ILB, joining Pernell McPhee and possibly rookie Leonard Floyd (though he may start the season as a situational pass rusher), they could have a top 5 linebacker corps. Defensive line is serviceable Hicks a solid veteran and drafted Bullard.
The biggest concern is going to be moving the chains consistently with a bad running game and a Jekyll and Hyde QB, Bears fans could be in for a frustrating season.
Buy Low: 2 wins.
Buy High: 5 wins.
Detroit Lions (7-9)
Coach- Jim Caldwell (2014, 18-14)
Starting QB- Matthew Stafford (2009) – Solid but erratic veteran with a big arm but questionable decision making skills.
Key Draft Picks.
Pick 16 Taylor Decker – LT, Ohio State (2015 Consensus 1st Team All American, All Big Ten, Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year).
Pick 46 A’Shawn Robinson – DT, Alabama (2015 All American, Outland Trophy Finalist)
Pick 95 Grahame Glasgow – C, Michigan
Pick 111 Miles Killebrew – S, Southern Utah (2015 All Big Sky 1st Team)
Pick 151 Joe Dahl – G, Washington State (2015 1st team PAC-12, 2nd team USA Today All-American)
Calvin Johnson – WR. (Retired) Pro Bowler who has left the game in his prime. HUGE loss.
Joique Bell – RB. (Retired) Injuries derailed a promising career. Lions will miss his change up pace and 3rd down play.
Steven Tulloch – ILB. (Released) leading tackler, presumably Jamir Whitehead ready to step in his place.
Rashean Mathis – CB (Retired) Quality veteran, but the Lions young corners have potential.
Marvin Jones – WR. Solid WR2 in Cincy query his ability to step up to WR1.
Anquan Boldin – WR. Quality veteran who just keeps delivering.
The Lions finished on a three game winning streak to end at 7-9 and an improved season… unfortunately the offseason has not improved the roster. Key veteran signings are role players coming off injury ravaged seasons at their previous clubs. To make matters worse they lost pro bowl wide receiver Calvin Johnson to retirement and released veteran linebacker Stephen Tulloch who led the team in tackles.
The draft was clearly focused on upgrading the offensive line early and often. The addition of A’Shawn Robinson should add depth to an already top class defensive line that already has veteran tackle Haloti Ngata and young pro bowler Ziggy Ansah, but the line will need to create constant pressure to protect a weak secondary and an offense with huge question marks.
This season could be a rough one for an historically erratic Stafford who has lost his prime target of the last 9 seasons (Johnson) and will face constant pressure from defenders attacking a young offensive line (only Riley Reiff over 25)
Expect the Lions to win less games than last year;
Buy low – 4 wins.
Buy high – 8 wins.
Baltimore Ravens (5-11)
Head Coach: John Harbaugh (2008, 77-51)
Starting QB: Joe Flacco (2008) – Premier field general with a huge arm. Missed most of 2015 through injury.
Ronnie Stanley (6) LT, Notre Dame, (2015 Consensus All-American).
Kamalei Correa (36) LB, Boise State
Bronson Kaufusi (70) DE, BYU
Kenneth Dixon (134) RB, Louisiana Tech
Mike Wallace WR
Eric Weddle SS
Kelechi Osemele OT
Eugene Munroe LT
Courtney Upshaw DE
The Ravens need to keep Joe Flacco healthy and upright. If Ronnie Stanley comes as advertised the Ravens could be in for a solid season. Ravaged by injury last season a healthy Ravens could bounce back hard.
There are questions though on the WR group, will Steve Smith Snr be the same after his Achilles injury? Will Mike Wallace be the Pittsburgh Mike or Miami Mike? Can anyone else step up? Can Breshad Perriman get healthy?
The Ravens added some youth to the defense and it is a high quality unit on paper. The addition of Eric Weddle gives the Ravens a huge boost. CJ Moseley and Elvis Dumervil are set to put a tonne of pressure on opposing QB’s.
All that said they are still looking short of some other teams in the conference.
Buy Low: 5 wins.
Buy High: 9 wins.