Vacation's are almost over. Training camps are getting ready to start. As I said last week, to me this is a great time, because there is nothing to go on in the NFL, I get a chance to catch up on watching film and get to answer questions I have on certain teams and a chance to look at trends and philosophies.
What are the Giants biggest weaknesses?
I think there are some question marks with the offensive line. There are some ages and changes. I think LB is a little bit of a question mark. I wonder about their secondary. Remember a year ago, they weren't very good at CB so they played a lot of three safeties. Do they go to that again? I also wonder about their depth at WR when they go to sub packages. I also wonder about them at TE, because they have two guys coming off of IR. Other than that, I don't worry about them at all!...but hey, that looks like a lot of concerns, but with the Giants everything is fixable, because they have such a stable organization. They're not a perfect team, but they have to play well at the end of the season like they did a year ago.
Do you think Alex Smith is ready for a breakout career as a QB? The additions of Manningham and Moss should spice up his stats right?
In my opinion, he better have a solid year, because he now has a lot of weapons at his disposal. He's been really well coached. His OL is improving. Plus they got some more weapons in the draft, because they wanted to get some more explosive plays on offense like they get on defense. We should be seeing an offense that gets very close to showing the same kind of explosiveness. When you have that kind of defense, you get really good field position. The one thing I like about Alex Smith is that he didn't turn the ball over.
How do you evaluate the talent level of the Chargers compared to the other teams in the division
I think they still have good personnel, but I don't think they have the depth or playmakers that they used to. They look like a team that has to have everything go just right, including injuries. I don't know if they have enough pass rushers. I don't know if they have enough depth at the WR position and there is OL questions. Having said that, I think their personnel backs up to everyone in the division. They're probably still the most talented team, but it's not by the same margin as in the past. They are a team that can't afford injuries and they need some people to have career type years. This is a very tough AFC West and only one team gets into the playoffs and they all beat each other up.
I, myself, was one of the supporters of Mike Martz not being resigned. But, I will not totally blast him, and say he did nothing good. I firmly believe that if we hired Bates in the first place Cutler would not be as good a QB as is now. Cutler reads both sides of the fields now, not as many red zone int. Have you noticed that as well
First of all, Cutler has tremendous natural talent, so I don't think you can contribute it all to coaching. The one thing you do in a Mike Martz system is you read the entire field. A lot of it is high to low reads, looking for the deep routes first and then the short ones. It presents tremendous problems, because those are mostly 7 step drops and leads to a lot of hits. I think Cutler will be much more effective now with Mike Tice as coordinator. We'll see more 3-5 step drops. The ball will come out quickly. He will not take the physical beating he's taken in the past. I've watched Mike Martz's offenses for years. While they're creative and fun to evaluate, they don't see to put a premium on keeping your QB upright. It's a two-edged sword.
Do you think the Bucs have the pieces in place to take advantage of the unstable NFC South?
Well, I think they'll be a lot better because under Greg Schiano, they'll be much more disciplined and they won't self-destruct like a year ago. But they're still a team with question marks. Josh Freeman will have to cut down on his INTs and bad plays. They need a consistent running game. I do think the passing game will be better, because Freeman will have better weapons. They also have questions on defense with a pass rush that hasn't been productive.
Having said all that, I wouldn't necessarily agree with you that the NFC South is in trouble. New Orleans, by the time we get to September, will still be a dangerous team. Carolina might be the most improved team in the NFL. And I think Atlanta will be better. Even though Tampa Bay has improved, I think they're still the fourth best team in the division. We could have two teams moving out of here into the playoffs.
what is the key to the Bills success
I've been able to watch them on film the last few weeks. I like the potential I see. Their biggest improvement will be on their pass rush as they go from the 3-4 to the 4-3. They have a chance to be one of the most dominant units in the NFL. They need a second receiver to give them a quality nickel package. They have two backs in Jackson and Spiller that can be dominating. If they get good play at QB, they can be really good. They have a swagger that I haven't seen in years. But having said that, it's still no walk in the park when you have New England, Miami and the Jets.
Do the Cowboys need 1-2 more pieces on defense or can they get this job done this year?
They absolutely identified their problems on defense. When they drafted Claiborne and added Carr in free agency, it totally changed the look of their defense. Now they can play aggressive schemes that Rob Ryan wanted to play a year ago but couldn't because of the back end of the defense. Now, when they attack, they have confidence in putting those guys on an island. Now I see a defense that will create turnovers, big plays and a short field. Much like with Buffalo, I felt they really had a handle on what it would take to make them much better.
bears 2012 champions only if.....
First and foremost, they have to stay healthy, especially on defense. Age is a real factor among their playmakers. They don't have great depth. They need a career year out of several guys that are beyond 30, especially in their pass rush, to protect their backend. Offensively, I think they'll scheme some things to shorter pass routes which will help Cutler and a OL that doesn't hold up well on longer passes. The run game will develop, which didn't happen under Martz. And if Forte comes back happy, with him and Bush, the run game will be really good. I see this Bears team as not dominant, but will play well and play smart football with less mistakes. But having said that, again, you're in a division with Green Bay, who is still going to be terrific, and Detroit, who is much better than a year ago. I would look at Chicago and Detroit fighting it out for a wild card.
I'm in the minority that thinks Dallas might be the concern for my Giants more so than Philly? The improvements in their 2ndary and their young offensive players in Smith, Bryant, and D.Murray worries me a little more.
I think all three of those teams will be very evenly matched. We talked about the Cowboys and their improvement, but my biggest concerns are will they be healthy at RB? Will their OL gel? I'm also a little concerned about who will they find to be that 3rd WR? Philadelphia probably has more explosive talent, but as we saw a year ago, they didn't gel. From the film I've watched, the addition of Ryans from Houston is such a huge pickup, because you can't play that defense successfully without a dominant MLB.
As I watch film this time of year, there are a lot of really good teams, but I don't see many that look like they will just run away with it. In almost every division there looks like two or even three teams that looks competitive and they'll fight it out to the end. I don't know if it's parity or what, but I think we're in for some good football this season.