NFL Nation: Hidden Treasure

AFC hidden treasures: West | North | South | East NFC: West | North | South | East

Examining a position group that could exceed its preseason expectations:

The San Diego defensive line has been kind of flat in recent years.

It lost a lot of talent and it hasn’t been a difference-making unit in the Chargers’ 3-4 set.

I think that is changing. There are some interesting young players on this unit that will help improve this group.

It starts with 2011 first-round pick Corey Liuget. The end has progressed and the Chargers are expected to unleash him. Young nose tackle Cam Thomas is an underrated player who is solid. Fellow young player Vaughn Martin is coming into his own and he is a strong rotational player.

Add players like veterans Antonio Garay, Luis Castillo, Jacques Cesaire and rookie Kendall Reyes (who has big-time potential) and this unit has plenty of talent to be a difference-maker right now.
AFC hidden treasures: West | North | South | East NFC: West | North | South | East

Examining a position group that could exceed its preseason expectations:

The Oakland offensive line has been a negative influence on the team in recent years. I don’t see it being a problem anymore.

I think this unit is still a work in progress and it is still far from elite, but it’s not a problem.

I really like young center Stefen Wisniewski and left tackle Jared Veldheer. The Raiders added solid guard Mike Brisiel from Houston. He is excellent in the zone-blocking scheme the Raiders are going back to, and he is a tough player. These are three strong pieces to the line. They are all athletic and tough. They will battle all day long.

Guard Cooper Carlisle is also adept in the zone-blocking scheme. At right tackle, Khalif Barnes will try to hold off second-year player Joe Barksdale.

Again, this isn’t a great unit, but there are some solid pieces and I don’t think the Raiders are overly worried about this being a problem area.

Broncos' hidden treasure: WR

June, 26, 2012
6/26/12
12:00
PM ET
AFC hidden treasures: West | North | South | East NFC: West | North | South | East

Examining a position group that could exceed its preseason expectations:

Last year, the Denver Broncos’ receiver crew was considered young, green and a detriment to the team.

Even though Tim Tebow didn’t pass much, many league observers thought his receivers weren’t up to par, anyway. I don’t think that will be the case with Peyton Manning throwing the ball to the receivers this season. I think they will be looked at as a plus-group.

I expect third-year players Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker to emerge as stars playing with Manning. I also like veterans Andre Caldwell and Brandon Stokley for this system. Stokley is a crafty vet who has experience playing with Manning.

I’m not saying this will be an elite group, but Manning will have no problem getting production out of this group.
AFC hidden treasures: West | North | South | East NFC: West | North | South | East

Examining a position group that could exceed its preseason expectations:

Lose a known name, fail to replace him with a equally notable veteran or a prominent draft pick, and outsiders tend to panic. That’s what’s happened in Tennessee as the Titans lost Cortland Finnegan as a free agent to St. Louis. But the Titans never valued Finnegan the way the Rams and other suitors did.

And the Titans feel they have sufficient people in place to get the same sort of play out of their cornerbacks.

Jason McCourty played better than his twin brother, New England’s Devin McCourty, last season and is poised to be the Titans’ top cover man in 2012. Alterraun Verner came on to replace Finnegan outside in the nickel. Now Verner will start outside and kick inside the way Finnegan did. He’s not super fast, but he is super smart, and the Titans will be sure to give him deep help when he needs it. Second-year man Tommie Campbell worked through the offseason as the third cornerback, and the team is confident it has added enough polish to a raw guy to have an effective piece. He’s got blazing speed, so getting beat deep won’t be his issue.

SPONSORED HEADLINES