Evan Silva

Offseason Low Down

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Silva's Pre-Camp Team Rankings

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

9. Chicago Bears

QB: Jay Cutler
RB: Matt Forte
WR: Brandon Marshall
WR: Alshon Jeffery
WR: Marquess Wilson
TE: Martellus Bennett
LT: Jermon Bushrod
LG: Matt Slauson
C: Roberto Garza
RG: Kyle Long
RT: Jordan Mills

Offensive Overview: The Bears return all 11 starters from an offense that ranked No. 2 in points scored. They'll upgrade from an upside standpoint on outgoing No. 3 wideout Earl Bennett with long, lanky 21-year-old prospect Wilson. Chicago has the best No. 1-2 wideout combination in football, and Wilson's ability to play outside will increase Marshall's slot snaps, where he is a huge mismatch. Jeffery busted out at age 23 to rank 10th in the NFL in receptions and sixth in receiving yards, and still has room to grow as a touchdown scorer (7). Cutler battled ankle and groin injuries last season, first going down in Week 7. His 16-game pace over the first month and a half was a 32:16 TD-to-INT ratio with 4,347 passing yards. We haven't even mentioned Forte or Martellus yet. This is an elite and relatively young, touchdown-scoring offense.

RE: Jared Allen*
LE: Lamarr Houston*
NT: Stephen Paea
DT: Jay Ratliff
MLB: D.J. Williams
WLB: Lance Briggs
SLB: Shea McClellin
LCB: Tim Jennings
RCB: Charles Tillman
FS: Brock Vereen*
SS: Ryan Mundy*

Defensive Overview: The 2013 Bears defense was historically porous, so GM Phil Emery set out this offseason to patch it up. He dished out lucrative contracts to Allen, Houston, and Jennings before using four of his first five draft picks on this side of the ball. No one should expect Chicago to field a shutdown 2014 defense, but simply becoming average would make the team significantly better. The Bears may also see silver lining in the restored health of Paea, Ratliff, Williams, and Briggs, who last season combined to miss 31 games. The Bears' offense is a high-octane machine. The jobs of this defense will be to stay out of its way and just get the ball back.

10. San Diego Chargers

QB: Philip Rivers
RB: Ryan Mathews
WR: Keenan Allen
WR: Malcom Floyd
TE: Antonio Gates
TE: Ladarius Green
LT: King Dunlap
LG: Chad Rinehart
C: Nick Hardwick
RG: Jeromey Clary
RT: D.J. Fluker

Offensive Overview: The Chargers under second-year GM Tom Telesco are a rising team I underestimated entering 2013. Rivers has been revitalized in coach Mike McCoy's quick-release passing attack, and remains in his prime at age 32. Telesco hit moon shots on 2013 draft picks Allen and Fluker, long-term building blocks at 22 and 23 years old, respectively. 24-year-old Green is a prime breakout candidate with enough talent to almost single handedly spike this unit from the NFL's No. 12 scoring offense into the single digits because of his touchdown upside and big-play ability. Healthy now, Floyd gives San Diego an upgrade on Vincent Brown, who was overmatched as last year's No. 2 receiver and got benched down the stretch. The O-Line is littered with maulers, and the backfield is among the deepest in football with Danny Woodhead, Donald Brown, and Marion Grice behind Mathews. San Diego has enough front-line talent and useful depth to be considered a top six or seven offense on paper, with room to grow.

RE: Corey Liuget
LE: Kendall Reyes
NT: Sean Lissemore
ILB: Manti Te'o
ILB: Donald Butler
OLB: Dwight Freeney
OLB: Melvin Ingram
LCB: Brandon Flowers*
RCB: Shareece Wright
FS: Eric Weddle
SS: Marcus Gilchrist

Defensive Overview: Even if the talent is merely above average, I expect San Diego's defense to be among the most improved in football after finishing last year 23rd in yards allowed, but a much more respectable 11th in points allowed, and making strides down the stretch as DC John Pagano gave ends Liuget and Reyes more one-gap freedom. Freeney, Ingram, Butler, and Te'o combined to miss a whopping 30 games. The pass rush should be far better, in turn helping cornerback play, which also received upgrades with the Flowers signing and first-round selection of playmaking nickel back Jason Verrett. The biggest concern on Pagano's side of the ball is nose tackle, where replacement-level Lissemore and fifth-round rookie Ryan Carrethers will be tasked with significant roles. This defense is by no means fearsome, but I think it can be league average this year. I think the Chargers will comfortably overtake the Chiefs as the AFC West's No. 2 team.

11. Indianapolis Colts

QB: Andrew Luck
RB: Trent Richardson
WR: T.Y. Hilton
WR: Reggie Wayne
WR: Hakeem Nicks*
TE: Dwayne Allen
LT: Anthony Castonzo
LG: Donald Thomas
C: Khaled Holmes
RG: Hugh Thornton
RT: Gosder Cherilus

Offensive Overview: Fairly or unfairly, I weight franchise quarterbacks heavily into my rankings. I see Luck as a top-five real-life signal caller, even if his fantasy performance hasn't quite reached those heights. (Yet.) The Colts' pass-catching corps is commonly viewed as deep, with Wayne going on age 36, Nicks on board, Hilton having broken out, and Da'Rick Rogers and Donte Moncrief in reserve, with a healthy Allen and Coby Fleener at tight end. A question worth asking is whether we'd see that cast as quality "weapons" if Luck wasn't their quarterback. Richardson is 24 with elite talent, but has underachieved through two NFL seasons and can only be viewed as a negative on this offense until (if) he turns it around. The offensive line is shaky with multiple camp battles for starting jobs. I think the Colts are a top-dozen team almost solely because they have Luck. If they had a worse quarterback, I'd probably rank them in the 20s.

RE: Arthur Jones*
LE: Cory Redding
NT: Josh Chapman
ILB: Jerrell Freeman
ILB: D'Qwell Jackson*
OLB: Bjoern Werner
OLB: Erik Walden
RCB: Vontae Davis
LCB: Greg Toler
FS: Mike Adams*
SS: LaRon Landry

Defensive Overview: Indy will be without top defender and 2013 DPOY runner-up Robert Mathis for games against Denver, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, and Tennessee to open the season. Mathis will be replaced by 2013 first-rounder Werner, a huge disappointment as a rookie. Chuck Pagano's defense doesn't look much better than last year's -- and could conceivably be worse -- after finishing 13th against the pass and 26th versus the run. Jackson is going on 31 with a long injury history. The secondary is competent at only two positions. Jones was a strong signing, but team pass rush remains a big concern. It's time for Colts fans to start becoming anxious about GM Ryan Grigson. Since a spectacular 2012 draft, he has struggled to assemble a strong roster.

12. Detroit Lions

QB: Matthew Stafford
RB: Reggie Bush
WR: Calvin Johnson
WR: Golden Tate*
TE: Brandon Pettigrew
TE: Eric Ebron*
LT: Riley Reiff
LG: Rob Sims
C: Dominic Raiola
RG: Larry Warford
RT: LaAdrian Waddle

Offensive Overview: I continue to be dumbfounded by Ken Whisenhunt's decision to coach the Titans over the Lions, who have the makings of an elite offense with a depth chart chock full of playmakers on the right side of 30, and as many as three young building-block linemen. Detroit settled for Jim Caldwell, who tabbed Sean Payton disciple Joe Lombardi to design offense and call plays. After watching in horror as Stafford suffered through an NFL-most 58 drops by would-be pass catchers last season, GM Martin Mayhew signed sure-handed run-after-catch weapon Tate, and drafted monster-ceiling top-ten pick Ebron. Lombardi will lean on a rotation of Bush and versatile timeshare partner Joique Bell to key his running game, while Stafford returns at age 26 and Megatron goes on 29. Personnel wise, the Lions' offense is firmly in the top seven or eight.

RE: Ziggy Ansah
LE: Jason Jones
DT: Ndamukong Suh
DT: Nick Fairley
MLB: Stephen Tulloch
WLB: DeAndre Levy
SLB: Kyle Van Noy*
LCB: Rashean Mathis
RCB: Darius Slay
FS: Glover Quin
SS: James Ihedigbo*

Defensive Overview: The Lions play stout run defense and can be incredibly disruptive on the interior, but their defense is otherwise question-mark laden. The outside pass rush is mediocre and the secondary is a huge concern with sophomore Slay coming off an injury-wrecked, largely ineffective rookie year and 34-year-old Mathis re-signed to be Detroit's No. 1 corner. Ihedigbo was solid in new DC Teryl Austin's Ravens back end last year, but can be a liability in pass coverage. Ultimately, the Lions have a handful of nice pieces, but the rest of their starting 11 on defense is suspect. Mayhew may need the offense to carry his team to the playoffs to keep his job into 2015.

13. Baltimore Ravens

QB: Joe Flacco
RB: Bernard Pierce
WR: Torrey Smith
WR: Steve Smith*
TE: Dennis Pitta
TE: Owen Daniels*
LT: Eugene Monroe
LG: Kelechi Osemele
C: Jeremy Zuttah*
RG: Marshal Yanda
RT: Rick Wagner

Offensive Overview: New OC Gary Kubiak is installing a run-based, play-action attack that should better suit Baltimore's personnel than outgoing Jim Caldwell's three-wide offense did. Flacco exposed himself to be a quarterback that needs a consistent foundation running game to succeed in 2013, when the Ravens ranked a putrid 30th in rushing and dead last in team yards per carry. Flacco's performance took a sizable step back after his breakout 2012 season-ending stretch. A Shanahan disciple, Kubiak's zone rushing offenses have a great history of success. Torrey will play the old Andre Johnson role in Kubiak's scheme, with Steve as Kubes' new Kevin Walter and Pitta teaming with Daniels regularly in two-tight end sets. The Ravens are unsettled at running back and right tackle, however, leaving some critical unfinished business for the heat of training camp. I view this as a league-average offense, albeit one with an arrow teetering up.

RE: Chris Canty
LE: Haloti Ngata
NT: Brandon Williams
ILB: Daryl Smith
ILB: C.J. Mosley*
OLB: Terrell Suggs
OLB: Elvis Dumervil
LCB: Lardarius Webb
RCB: Jimmy Smith
FS: Darian Stewart*
SS: Matt Elam

Defensive Overview: Defense is the strength of GM Ozzie Newsome's roster, although some drop-off should be feared. Ngata, Canty, Daryl Smith, Suggs, and Dumervil are all on the wrong side of 30, yet Baltimore is counting on them to be among its top defenders. Where the Ravens should noticeably improve is in the secondary, with Webb over a full year removed from his October 2012 ACL tear and Smith, an ascending 26-year-old with legitimate shutdown upside. Elam has slid to his more natural strong safety spot, while third-round pick Terrence Brooks puts pressure on ex-Rams starter Stewart for center-field duties. Williams offers big-time potential on the nose, and Baltimore is deep at inside linebacker after re-signing Smith and using back-to-back top-60 draft picks on Mosley and Arthur Brown. I think the Ravens will be stout against the run with sticky coverage in the back end. I'm a bit concerned about the overall team pass rush.

14. Kansas City Chiefs

QB: Alex Smith
RB: Jamaal Charles
WR: Dwayne Bowe
WR: Donnie Avery
TE: Anthony Fasano
TE: Travis Kelce
LT: Eric Fisher
LG: Jeff Allen
C: Rodney Hudson
RG: Rishaw Johnson
RT: Donald Stephenson

Offensive Overview: Last year's Chiefs played better offense than expected under Andy Reid, but were dangerously dependent upon Charles. Charles was the only tailback in football to lead his team in every receiving category, and simultaneously ranked third in the NFL in rushing. (Kansas City lost its only two games where No. 2 back Knile Davis was forced to carry the load.) Salary-cap constraints cost the Chiefs OLs Geoff Schwartz, Branden Albert, and Jon Asamoah, who combined for 28 starts last season and all landed lucrative paydays elsewhere. The trio will be replaced in-house. Kansas City didn't use a single draft pick to upgrade on Avery and A.J. Jenkins at wide receiver, while sophomore Kelce is being counted on for a suddenly major role after his rookie year was wiped out by microfracture knee surgery. Be it due to O-Line or weapons deficiencies -- or losing Charles to injury -- a 2014 offensive step back is likely.

RE: Vance Walker*
LE: Mike DeVito
NT: Dontari Poe
ILB: Derrick Johnson
ILB: Joe Mays*
OLB: Tamba Hali
OLB: Justin Houston
LCB: Marcus Cooper
RCB: Ron Parker
FS: Husain Abdullah
SS: Eric Berry

Defensive Overview: The Chiefs will use No. 23 pick Dee Ford in a sub-rusher role to spell Houston and Tali, and replace the latter as soon as 2014, when Hali's scheduled pay hits $9 million and he'll be approaching age 32. The front seven can be deadly when Poe, Houston, and Hali are all available to bring two-way pressure from the edges and interior, a worrisome combo for even the league's premier quarterbacks. The secondary is a question mark. Kansas City cut Brandon Flowers and benched Sean Smith during OTAs, where 27-year-old journeyman Parker ran with the ones. After a hot start, the bottom fell out on sophomore Cooper late in his rookie year. Abdullah has primarily been a special teamer in his career. In Houston's five missed games last season, the Chiefs' defense served up a weekly average of 25.2 points. They allowed 16.3 points per game in Houston's 11 appearances. The back end is a concern, but simply keeping the big guns up front healthy is the key for DC Bob Sutton’s defense.

15. Washington Redskins

QB: Robert Griffin III
RB: Alfred Morris
WR: Pierre Garcon
WR: DeSean Jackson*
TE: Jordan Reed
TE: Logan Paulsen
LT: Trent Williams
LG: Shawn Lauvao*
C: Kory Lichtensteiger
RG: Chris Chester
RT: Tyler Polumbus

Offensive Overview: The Shanahan era left behind a franchise back in Morris, a quarterback with league MVP potential, plus talent at "X" receiver and tight end, and a 26-year-old left tackle who's already made two Pro Bowls. The Skins parted with Mike and Kyle Shanahan due to differences with owner Dan Snyder, not based on job performance. The new staff has supplemented RG3's weapons with Jackson and Andre Roberts, as coach Jay Gruden intends to open up Washington's passing game, while wider bodies were targeted on the line. This offense can rediscover top-five heights if Griffin's knee is indeed healed and his dual threat restored, as spring reports out of D.C. insist. The Redskins are a sneaky threat to win the NFC East if RG3 is his 2012 self. If not, this could end up as a rough, learning year. This will be Griffin's first-ever experience with a non-college-style offense, and his 2013 tape shows he needs quite a bit of refinement in the nuances of the quarterback position.

RE: Jason Hatcher*
LE: Chris Baker
NT: Barry Cofield
ILB: Perry Riley
ILB: Keenan Robinson
OLB: Brian Orakpo
OLB: Ryan Kerrigan
RCB: David Amerson
LCB: DeAngelo Hall
FS: Ryan Clark*
SS: Brandon Meriweather

Defensive Overview: Mike Shanahan's biggest failures were on defense, where the Skins boast two impact rush linebackers but ended last year deficient everywhere else. Washington's new decision makers shelled out to retain two-gap end Baker and signed 32-year-old Hatcher to a $27.5 million deal. Baker is a replaceable talent, and Hatcher's already undergone knee surgery. A camp battle will take place at inside 'backer next to Riley, while the Skins will count on in-house strides from Amerson and Meriweather. On the wrong side of 30, Hall is a mediocre corner. Ex-Steeler Clark drew little interest in free agency and is going on age 35. The Redskins need their offensive potential to be maximized by Gruden; DC Jim Haslett's defense can't carry them. Haslett's focus should be on sacks and turnovers because this group probably won't stop anyone.

16. Pittsburgh Steelers

QB: Ben Roethlisberger
RB: Le'Veon Bell
WR: Antonio Brown
WR: Markus Wheaton
WR: Lance Moore*
TE: Heath Miller
LT: Kelvin Beachum
LG: Ramon Foster
C: Maurkice Pouncey
RG: David DeCastro
RT: Marcus Gilbert

Offensive Overview: After a half-decade of offensive line troubles and last year's shortage of playmakers -- at least to open the season -- the Steelers appear to have solidified both. All five starters return up front, most notably Pro Bowler Pouncey after tearing his right ACL and MCL last Week 1. Perhaps Pittsburgh doesn't have elite O-Line talent, but it does have a shot at continuity, crucial in Todd Haley and Mike Munchak's zone-blocking scheme. The Steelers' wideouts are small but explosive, and a healthy Miller gives them a formidable red-zone presence after playing last season well short of 100%. Utilizing no-huddle packages in the second half of 2013, Big Ben logged a 20:7 TD-to-INT ratio across the final nine games. The Steelers finished 6-3. This should be viewed as a top-half-of-the-NFL offense with room to grow. Roethlisberger remains squarely in his prime at 32, while seven members of this projected starting 11 are 26 or younger.

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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva

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