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|05-11-2006, 06:44 PM||#1|
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How The AFC Stacks Up In Offseason The Rankings
Steel the one
By Charles Robinson, Yahoo! Sports
May 10, 2006
When the Super Bowl wrapped and Ben Roethlisberger had become the
youngest starting quarterback in league history to win a coveted
ring, it took less than an hour for someone to ask the Pittsburgh
Steelers quarterback to contemplate an encore performance.
"Are you kidding?" said Roethlisberger shaking his head. "I'm just
going to enjoy the first one before I think about the next one."
While the 2006 season was understandably the furthest thing from
Roethlisberger's mind on that February night, Pittsburgh's quest for
a Super Bowl sequel is drawing closer.
With training camp just over two months away, the Steelers have done
little more than plug holes this offseason. But with many of the
AFC's expected elite coping with defections (Edgerrin James, Mike
Anderson and Drew Brees) or injuries (Carson Palmer and Daunte
Culpepper), the Steelers have done just enough to stay in the
conference's pole position for '06.
Now that the dust has settled on the draft and free agency, here is
how the AFC stacks up in the offseason rankings.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers ? Health is paramount on the offensive line.
The Steelers did an adequate job replacing free-agent losses in the
draft, and they will have better depth this season. Heath Miller and
Willie Parker will make strides, and Ben Roethlisberger should be an
MVP front-runner next season.
2. Denver Broncos ? Mike Anderson is a significant loss, but Jake
Plummer can take another step forward this season with Javon Walker.
Ron Dayne's play is going to be pivotal, and the defense needs pass
rushers who can finish the job in 2006. The collection of cornerbacks
has the potential to be the NFL's best this season.
3. Cincinnati Bengals ? Dexter Jackson and Sam Adams are solid
additions on defense, but the draft class doesn't look like it will
have the immediate impact of last year's crop. David Pollack and
Odell Thurman should continue to improve. Carson Palmer is the great
unknown, but if he returns at full strength, this is a team worthy of
a Super Bowl.
4. Indianapolis Colts ? The loss of Larry Tripplett will sting, but
the departure of Edgerrin James is monumental. Peyton Manning can
count on consistently facing eight men in coverage. The Colts appear
to have another draft class (beyond Joseph Addai) that will take a
few seasons before making a significant impact.
5. San Diego Chargers ? The development of Shawne Merriman and Luis
Castillo and the signing of Marlon McCree will make the defense
better from Day 1. Antonio Cromartie and Marcus McNeill provide
quality depth. The offense is still loaded, but Philip Rivers will be
the key to success. If he falters, the Chargers will struggle to make
6. New England Patriots ? Laurence Maroney and Chad Jackson were
great pieces for the future, but the draft did little to replenish
what the Patriots need right now. The departures of Willie McGinest
and defensive coordinator Eric Mangini will hurt a defense that has
become a shadow of the Super Bowl units.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars ? Mike Williams and Stockar McDougle could
improve the offensive line ? or they could continue to be overweight
disappointments. Brian Williams and Nick Greisen should be solid
defensive additions, but the draft was yet another head-scratcher.
The Jaguars' advancement to a Super Bowl is going to depend on the
health of Byron Leftwich and Fred Taylor and the emergence of either
Reggie Williams or Matt Jones.
8. Miami Dolphins ? The Dolphins might be a trendy dark horse pick
for Super Bowl XLI, but there are way too many questions hanging over
this team. Daunte Culpepper's health is the No. 1 issue, and the
secondary is an unknown with the additions of Will Allen, Renaldo
Hill and Jason Allen. The loss of Ricky Williams is going to put a
lot of pressure on Ronnie Brown to stay healthy and carry a full
9. Kansas City Chiefs ? Beyond the addition of Tamba Hali, the
Chiefs are largely the same team from 2005. Under Herm Edwards, Larry
Johnson could rush for 2,000 yards, but the defense remains the big
issue. Unless Kansas City can generate some kind of consistent pass
rush, it's going to be another season of shootouts and more hopes for
a full season of good health on the offensive line.
10. Cleveland Browns ? The Browns are amassing plenty of talent, but
there is lots of uncertainty. Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow Jr.
are coming off significant injuries, and Charlie Frye is still
getting adjusted. The offense should be better with the additions of
LeCharles Bentley, Kevin Shaffer and Joe Jurevicius. The defense also
got a shot in the arm with veterans Willie McGinest and Ted
Washington and rookies Kamerion Wimbley and D'Qwell Jackson.
11. Baltimore Ravens ? An active offseason produced some quality
veteran talent in Mike Anderson, Trevor Pryce and Corey Ivy. Adding
Haloti Ngata in the draft should help, too, but it remains to be seen
how all the turnover will affect the defense's chemistry. Also, the
quarterback issue still hasn't been resolved. If Steve McNair doesn't
land in Baltimore, it's another season of praying that Kyle Boller
12. Oakland Raiders ? The offense is still loaded, but will Aaron
Brooks be any better than Kerry Collins? History suggests he can't.
Lance Johnstone will be a good complement to Derrick Burgess, and the
secondary is young and talented with another first-round addition in
Michael Huff. But the linebackers are still a big concern. Adding
Darnell Bing and Thomas Howard won't shore up the unit overnight.
13. Houston Texans ? The Texans should be able to put together a
respectable rebound season, a la Cleveland in 2005. They added a nice
group of solid veterans in free agency with Anthony Weaver, Eric
Moulds, N.D. Kalu and Sam Cowart. The draft should have some instant
impact, too, with Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans, Charles Spencer and
Eric Winston all vying for starting spots. Plus, Gary Kubiak should
be able to breathe some life into the offense immediately.
14. New York Jets ? John Abraham and Kevin Mawae are significant
losses, while free agency only brought solid additions in Andre Dyson
and Kimo von Oelhoffen. Unless Chad Pennington and Curtis Martin have
huge bounce-back seasons, it's going to be another long year for the
Jets. For Eric Mangini, this should be a rebuilding year.
15. Buffalo Bills ? Larry Tripplett was a good addition in an
offseason of pulling players off of the scrap heap. Forget the
reaching in the draft for players like Donte Whitner and John
McCargo. The Bills took plenty of gambles in free agency by signing
Aaron Gibson, Peerless Price, Andre Davis and Craig Nall.
16. Tennessee Titans ? The Titans didn't make a lot of moves in free
agency, but they got some quality veterans with the signings of Kevin
Mawae, David Givens, Chris Hope and David Thornton. LenDale White
could provide some instant impact from the draft, too. But the second
half of the 2006 season should eventually be about Vince Young,
unless Steve McNair returns and Young holds a clipboard all season.
Updated on Wednesday, May 10, 2006 4:47 pm EDT
|05-11-2006, 06:47 PM||#2|
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Re: How The AFC Stacks Up In Offseason The Rankings
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