June has arrived, baseball is in full swing while the NBA and NHL will be crowning a new champion soon but what about the boys of autumn?
Organized Team Activities or OTA's have begun, unlike last year when the NFL
lockout prohibited the boys from working out together during the
offseason. This year is different and
there will be no hand wringing from media members about the lack of anything to
report or fans bemoaning the fact that football may take the entire year
off. No, this year there are no labor
disputes and the billionaires who own the teams are now in perfect harmony with
the millionaires who work for them.
Let's take a
look at a few interesting developments around the league and what teams may be
worth watching in this upcoming season.
Kansas City Chiefs -
picked up a running back in the 3rd round a few years ago who could
be one of the best of all time. That's
right, I'm talking about Jamaal Charles. Charles sat virtually all of the 2011 season with an ACL injury but this
is a man with a 6.1 yards per carry career average. In 2010 he came within a whisker of breaking
Jim Brown's single season yards per carry record. He's not only an electrifying runner but he
can catch the ball as well.
In a game
dominated by the aerial assaults of Rodgers, Brees, Brady and others, it is
refreshing to see a team focus on the ground game. Assuming Charles returns to form the Chiefs'
rushing attack will be as menacing as a Panzer division with Peyton Hillis
added to the mix.
The former Cleveland
Browns fan favorite and his punishing brand of take no prisoners football will
be the perfect complement to the fleet-footed Jamaal Charles. The Chiefs selected Dontari Poe as the 11th
pick overall to bolster their defensive front and slow down the enemy ground
game. Their defense ranked 6th
last season against the pass and if they can shut down the run, they could be a
formidable foe for their AFC West adversaries.
New England Patriots -
offense certainly wasn't a concern for the Super Bowl runner-ups last year, the New England Patriots immediately went to work on stretching the field for this upcoming
season. Tom Brady had no speed merchant
burning down the sidelines; ala Randy Moss circa 2007. Chad Ochocinco was supposed to be that guy, but he looked dazed and confused with the sophisticated offensive schemes that
coach Bill Belichick is prone to running. So Brady took what he had, and he had plenty in the form of short to
midrange targets, and got the job done with flares to Welker, Gronkowski, and Hernandez.
of 3rd down conversions was never more evident than in the Super
Bowl when the Giants would lock on to the short targets and clog the middle. There were no concerns about Brady going deep
because neither Deion Branch nor Ochocinco were able to gain separation. But this season Brady will have Brandon Lloyd
at his disposal while three members of the 2nd round in the 2002
draft will reunite as Jabar Gaffney (1st pick, 2nd round
-Houston Texans), Donte' Stallworth (13th pick, 2nd round
- New Orleans Saints) and the Patriots own Deion Branch (32nd pick,
2nd round -Patriots) will comprise a majority of the receiving
the offense was tinkered with, the defense required a major overhaul. The Patriots were woeful against the pass, as
their depleted secondary was forced to convert wide receiver Julian Edelman to
a slot cornerback. The Patriots look to
have Ras-I Dowling back in the fold after he sustained a hip injury and have
added depth to their defense via the draft with the explosive defensive end
from Syracuse, Chandler Jones and the multi-faceted Dont'a Hightower from
Alabama. Did a great team just get
better? We will see.
San Diego Chargers -
Phillip Rivers led the Chargers 6th ranked
offense last season, but undid all those perfect spirals and touchdown passes
with 20 interceptions which ranked him tied for 3rd in the dubious
category of most interceptions with 20. The offensive line has been retooled and defense was a major priority as
the Bolts added first round pick Melvin Ingram to wreak havoc in enemy
backfields as well as augmenting their defense through free agency with the
additions of outside linebacker Jarret Johnson and defensive tackle Kendall
The San Diego faithful must be shaking their heads as Norv
Turner gets another bite at the apple this season. The head coach has been given a talented
roster only to see it fail in consecutive years. A postseason appearance is a must for the
underachieving franchise and the guillotine will fall swiftly if San Diego
starts to sputter this season.
Denver Broncos -
All eyes are
on Peyton Manning in the Mile High city. Manning is now working out with the team and the results have been
mixed. He is throwing longer than he has
during his rehab and stretching out his arm but his passes have been errant and
it is clear that this 36 year old future Hall of Famer is not ready for
primetime just yet. But that's why they
have OTA's, to get ready for training camp and build chemistry with the men who
will be counting on you as much as you are counting on them. It's too early to raise any eyebrows
regarding Manning's progress but the fine folks of Denver will be hoping that
Manning comes along sooner rather than later.
The New York Jets -
The pink elephant in the
room is obviously the role that Tim Tebow will play as the understudy to
reigning incumbent Mark Sanchez. There
is little doubt that the Jets did not deal for the charismatic QB to simply
hold a clipboard and be ready if Sanchez falters or gets injured. Ryan has stated he will employ Tebow when the
situation dictates and will count on his legs rather than his questionable arm
to make first downs and set his team up for success.
That may not sit very well
with Sanchez who was euphoric over his contract extension only to see the team
trade for Tebow in what must certainly be a signal to Sanchez that the team is
hoping but not convinced that he will be the leader of Rex Ryan’s eclectic