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  1. #1
    r8rh8rmike's Avatar
    r8rh8rmike is offline Superbowl MVP
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    NFL's Most Improved Position Groups

    NFL's most improved position groups

    By Chris Wesseling
    Around the League Writer

    Now that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have imported the dynamic duo of shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis and All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson, the Bucs' secondary has a strong argument for most improved position group in the NFL.

    Let's take a look at the contenders.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers secondary

    If Revis' recovery from knee surgery goes half as smoothly as those of Adrian Peterson and Robert Griffin III, the Bucs will have the league's premier lockdown cornerback to go with veteran Eric Wright and ball-hawking second-round draft pick Johnthan Banks. Pairing Goldson with the hard-hitting Mark Barron gives the Bucs a safety tandem with the potential to rival the Seattle Seahawks' Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor as the NFL's best. A pass defense that ranked dead last in 2012 could be one of the league's stingiest in 2013.

    Tennessee Titans offensive line

    Tennessee's interior run blockers have been so overwhelmed the past two seasons that Chris Johnson developed the bad habit of hesitating at the line of scrimmage, no longer trusting his eyes. Johnson now is wearing a wide smile in the Titans' new run-first offense after the additions of Pro-Bowl caliber left guard Andy Levitre and right guard Chance Warmack, whom the team selected 10th overall in April.

    Center Fernando Velasco is coming off a fine season, but he will face heat from fourth-round draft pick Brian Schwenke, viewed by NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock as the top center prospect in the 2013 NFL Draft.

    Miami Dolphins receiving corps

    Nominal No. 1 receiver Brian Hartline managed to convert 131 targets into one measly touchdown last season. The only other NFL wide receiver with at least 100 targets and fewer than three touchdowns was Davone Bess, also of the Dolphins. In other words, Ryan Tannehill's so-called weapons lacked any semblance of playmaking ability.

    Enter Mike Wallace, one of the rare breed capable of scoring touchdowns (32 in four seasons), drawing double teams and blowing the top off of defenses. Wallace has averaged a touchdown every 12.7 targets compared to 41.7 for Bess and 50.2 for Hartline. On top of Wallace's deep speed changing the dynamics of the entire offense, tight end Dustin Keller gives the Dolphins their first movable chess piece at tight end since Randy McMichael was in his prime nearly a decade ago.

    Arizona Cardinals quarterbacks, offensive line

    The optimism rising in the desert is rooted in the confidence that the Cardinals no longer will be held hostage by a collection of the NFL's most inept quarterbacks and blockers. Even if Carson Palmer has regressed to the league average, that qualifies as a godsend after Cardinals quarterbacks tossed a grand total of two touchdown passes from Weeks 8 to 17 last season.

    The beleaguered offensive line has added reinforcements with left tackle Levi Brown returning from a season lost to triceps surgery and No. 7 overall pick Jonathan Cooper already penciled in as the starting left guard. Right tackle Bobby Massie quietly was one of the NFL's most improved rookies in the second half of the season.

    Philadelphia Eagles offensive line, tight ends

    The Eagles topped our list of the teams benefiting from the return of injured players, largely because left tackle Jason Peters, center Jason Kelce and right guard Todd Herremans all are expected back at full strength after missing at least half of the 2012 season. Throw in No. 4 overall pick Lane Johnson at right tackle, and this offensive line might be the most athletic in the league.

    New coach Chip Kelly clearly has designs on featuring the tight end in his offense, signing the versatile James Casey and drafting tight end Zach Ertz in the second round to complement Brent Celek.

    St. Louis Rams receiving corps

    Sam Bradford will miss security blanket Danny Amendola on third downs, but the infusion of speed will more than make up for the loss. Explosive rookie Tavon Austin will fill Amendola's role in the slot, teaming with deep threat Chris Givens to give Bradford two receivers with 4.30 40-yard-dash speed. Austin Pettis emerged as a red-zone threat late in the season, and the Rams expect big strides from 2012 second-round draft selection Brian Quick. Don't sleep on third-round rookie Stedman Bailey, who was Geno Smith's go-to receiver at West Virginia.

    The key to the turnaround could be size-speed freak Jared Cook, expected to be a "huge part" of the new-look passing game after being underused by the Tennessee Titans.

    "We are a thousand years ahead of where we were last year," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer recently told ESPN.com's Mike Sando.


    Cleveland Browns pass rushers

    Edge rusher Paul Kruger is expected to be the focal point of new coordinator Ray Horton's 3-4 defense. He'll play opposite Jabaal Sheard, who led the team with seven sacks last year. The Browns envision No. 6 overall pick Barkevious Mingo following the Aldon Smith/Bruce Irvin plan, easing him in as a situational pass rusher.

    Desmond Bryant's five-year, $34 million contract raised a few eyebrows, but he has a relentless motor as evidenced by the fourth-most quarterback pressures of any defensive tackle in the NFL last season.

    Other candidates: Chiefs quarterbacks, Panthers' front seven, Saints secondary, Packers running backs, Falcons running backs, Eagles tight ends, Seahawks receiving corps, Colts offensive line, Jaguars offensive line, Bills receiving corps, Raiders secondary.


  2. #2
    Ram Dragoon's Avatar
    Ram Dragoon is offline Registered User
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    Re: NFL's Most Improved Position Groups

    The formula for success has always been first win in your division and be competitive outside it. The NFC-West is defense first, and seek advantages on offense; even the woeful Cards had a defense in 2012. So is it surprising that Tampa invested in its secondary with New Orleans or Atlanta to contend with? Failures to the formula thus far to success in one's division, New York (Jets) and possibly Miami; I didn't see enough moves for either to be contenders within their division. But as to the NFC-West at least the Rams, Seagulls, and Cards have fallowed the dictum with their (paper) improvements on Offense. It has yet to be seen if whats on "paper" will come across on the field

  3. #3
    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: NFL's Most Improved Position Groups

    "We are a thousand years ahead of where we were last year," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer recently told ESPN.com's Mike Sando.

    We must be close to finding the GLEAM!

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