The NFL Season is upon us as the very first preseason game was supposed to kick off this past weekend as the Green Bay Packers were to take on the Indianapolis Colts but due to field painting issues, NFL fans will have to wait until next Saturday as the Dallas Cowboys will play the Los Angeles Rams in the LA Coliseum. The regular season does not begin until September but while preseason games don’t count, football is counting down to being officially back – sans anymore field painting issues.
Each team begins the preseason with 90-players on their rosters but as things draw to an end, each organization will have the unpleasant task of cutting 37 of those 90 prior to regular season Week 1.
Our friends at Ourlads.com put together what they believe will wind up being the depth charts and starting rosters for all 32 NFL teams once it’s all said and done. I have to imagine that they will change here and there as the preseason progresses for many factors and reasons but for the sake of this article, we will go ahead and use what they have listed.
Starting with the AFC East and ending with the NFC West, we will look at each teams projected starters and break down each teams strengths and weaknesses. Feel free to chime in in the comments section either via social media or here on the site.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Strengths: Obviously the Patriots are going to continue to be the juggernauts they’ve been on the offensive side of the ball. The addition of Bennett at tight end will free up Rob Gronkowski and the other wide receiver options significantly. With the new rule changes that the NFL has implemented, Tom Brady will not be allowed to be touched and he will most likely get his way with the referees on demand. This will make the Patriots virtually impossible to defend. With Brady out under a 4 game suspension to start the year, second string quarterback, Jimmy Garapolo will still have plenty of weapons to move the chains and score.
Weaknesses: While there are not many glaring deficiencies, there are a few question marks at the linebacker position. The defensive line is a little flimsy as well. While they did add Chris Long, he has slid just a bit in production in the past couple of seasons while with the Rams. With that said, Belichick is one of the best the game has ever seen at squeezing every last bit of production out of an old guy like that. Not much should change in that regard.
NEW YORK JETS
Strengths: The defensive side of the ball, at this point, appears to be a bit more stacked than the offensive side. Rex Ryan, while there instilled a hard nosed defensive philosophy. It was gritty and a beat the man across from you to the punch mentality. Under Todd Bowles, there seems to be more of a strategic approach. Some of the same players such as Wilkerson and Revis will provide the veteran leadership for that unit. On offense, the Fitzmagic to Marshall show will continue. But Chris Ivory leaving could hurt some considering that they got Forte to replace him who was less effective in the Bears offense than he had been previous years.
Weaknesses: Protection and the run game. While Nick Mangold is still one of the best offensive lineman in the game, the rest of the offensive line has been patched together like Frankenstein. Retreads like Ryan Clady will have to prove that they still have what it takes to play at a high level in the NFL for me to be convinced that the Jets still have a good offensive line. As mentioned above, I am not sold on the running backs the Jets have in the stable right now. This coming from someone who had drafted Matt Forte in every fantasy football league for the past several years.
Strengths: This may be one of the hardest teams in the NFL to gauge this year. On the surface, part of me wants to say same ol’ Rex Ryan led team but on paper, they look like they might be able to ball out. At the very least, I want to say they have a shot at a wild card spot. Tyrod Taylor might just be the most underrated QB in the entire NFL. He has plenty of weapons at his disposal so if the offensive line can hold up, their offense can go. Their defensive strengths are along the defensive line.
Weaknesses: The linebackers, secondary, and offensive line have some big time question marks. Those three areas could very well be the difference between winning 10 games and 7 should they not play to their ma potential each and every weak. The personnel, along with inconsistent play have been the reasons why the Bills have not been able to surge past the hill of mediocrity.
Strengths: On paper, this team looks like a Super Bowl contender. No kidding. If this team somehow, after years of futility, can find a way to gel in all three phases of the game (Offense, Defense, and Special Teams) then it’s not extremely outrageous to believe and think that the talent is there for them to emerge as a contender. The Dolphins? Yeah right. Sure you are thinking that. But look at the roster … if all things go well, why not? They have to get solid quarterback play and keep Foster healthy for the year which is a feat in and of itself, but… it could happen.
Weaknesses: As alluded to above, the quarterback and running back positions need to be played to max potential. It’ll be very interesting to see how this team fairs in 2016. If you had to pick just one area of weakness, it would be the coaching and quarterback departments. Should those two things go well, yes, I am suggesting that the Dolphins could be at the very least a playoff caliber team.
Strengths: If there is any team that will be able to compete with the Patriots and Broncos in the AFC, it is the Steelers. You have arguably the best wide receiver in the game in Antonio Brown, you have an elite quarterback throwing the ball, an above average offensive line in both the run game and pass protection, the best and most complete running back in Le’Veon Bell. That offense has the potential to be the best one in the NFL. Yes, even better than the Pats and yes, possibly with Martavis Bryant out as well. Wheaton and Coates will get it done.
Weaknesses: There’s not many but am seeing some issues in the secondary. It’s quite possible to imagine that the Steelers will be in a lot of shootouts in 2016. Their front seven is not the best but not exactly the worst either. They will not be top 10 in run stopping either. The defensive side of the ball has some questions but they will be serviceable enough to make the Steelers legit contenders this season.
Strengths: This is a team that has all the right pieces but for whatever reason has not been able to get over the hump. They have a legit offense with good players at virtually every single position. Their defense is essentially parallel with the offense in terms of talent. They have the make up of a perennial playoff team. It’s tough to pin point why exactly they have not been able to emerge as a legit Super Bowl contender because of the roster.
Weaknesses: I do believe fully in what I claimed in the strengths section above. The one thing that stands out the most to me is the fact that they make huge mental errors in crunch time. This was personified and magnified in the playoff game they lost to their division rivals in the Steelers last season. Adam Jones and Vontaze Burfict both made mistakes which ultimately cost their team an advancement to the next round.
Strengths: The strength of the Baltimore Ravens this season will be in their defense. Harbaugh has built this team around that and the big play on offense. Play hardcore defense and take calculated shots for the homerun ball. The defense will never be the same as it was when Ray Lewis was there but if they can stay healthy, they can reemerge as a top flight defense in the NFL.
Weaknesses: The offensive line has some question marks and with those question marks comes question marks at the quarterback position and running back position as well. The Ravens were plagued with injuries last year so that will be something to watch in the upcoming year as well.
Strengths: Gosh, I am not sure where to begin here. I suppose you could say that the Browns strengths would be coaching, the wide receivers, and the tight ends. There are some good players on defense but those good players will not be enough to make up for all the bad ones. There’s so many unknowns here to suggest that they have a ton of strengths anywhere.
Weaknesses: There’s holes everywhere. There’s uncertainty at the quarterback position. Last season, the Browns were bitten by the injury bug so that will be an area to watch. I do believe that the Browns will take a step forward from the last year but it will not be significant enough to climb out of the cellar.
Strengths: The biggest strength that that Colts have is their quarterback and stable of the skilled positions on offense. Andrew Luck, when healthy, is one of the best in the league. He will give the Colts a chance to win the division in a very wide open division as long as he stays healthy. Frank Gore, the ageless wonder, will carry the lions share for the Colts once again in 2016. Both Hilton and Moncrief can be a great duo if Luck can stay consistent in getting them the ball.
Weaknesses: The defense is a liability here. Sorry Colts fans, that is you current reality. There are some good players on that side of the ball (i.e. Vontae Davis, Trent Cole, D’Qwell Jackson, etc.) but there just as many holes, if not more, on that side of the ball.
Strengths: There are a ton of strengths here for Gus Bradley to work with. If games were won on paper, the Jaguars would be the champs. There is so much young talent on this team. From their up and coming receiving duo to all the young talent that they have drafted on defense in the past few seasons, they’re stacked from top to bottom. You cannot look at one of the 11 starting positions for the Jags on the defensive side of the ball and claim, with honesty, that they’re weak at.
Weaknesses: If you had to point to one single weakness, it would be a weakness that the Jaguars have had for quite some time. This lead to several Blake Bortles interceptions. Bortles made his fair share of bad decisions as well but that was large in part due to the fact that he was inexperienced to a degree still. Bortles, with help from the offensive line, could do very well. He had a league high in interceptions last year. The Jaguars will need to limit the turnovers if they want to make a run at the division, that will be a key factor.
Strengths: The strength of this team is by and large the defense. Led by J.J. Watt, a force of nature by himself, the defensive personnel is stacked from head to toe, defensive line to the secondary. The secondary still has some to prove but led by Johnathan Joseph, they too are in good shape. The offense now has another weapon outside of DeAndre Hopkins in Will Fuller for newly acquired quarterback, Brock Osweiler. Osweiler helped the Broncos win enough games in 2015 while Peyton Manning was out to help them reach the playoffs. He won’t be expected to do much but manage the game. The Texans went out and snagged Lamar Miller, the Dolphins stud running back from last year as well.
Weaknesses: While not many, the secondary does have some question marks; specifically the safeties. The corners, Joseph and Jackson will allow the safeties to do their jobs better though. The offensive line, much like the Jaguars struggled to keep their qarterbacks clean in the pocket. that will be the thing to watch for the Texans in the upcoming season and through the preseason games.
Strengths: The Titans should have a very good rushing offense this season. Marcus Mariota, when healthy, is one of the most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks in the league. That bodes very well for newly acquired free agent, DeMarco Murray as well as Derrick Henry, who was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL draft. Both running backs should see a considerable amount of carries and are expected to share the backfield. This will keep them both fresh. This franchise has not had a big, athletic back of this stature since Eddie George played.
Weaknesses: The defense has been a liability for the Titans in the past few years. Veterans like Perrish Cox, Brian Orakpo, Casey Jurrell, and Jason McCourty will be counted on heavily to lead this team on that side of the ball. The front seven is spotty at best. While the Titans could do very well in blasting holes open for their two potential star running backs in the run game but they had issues keeping Mariota clean in the pocket. This could conceivably cut in to the production that Mularkey is hoping to get in the pass game.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Strengths: I think that the Chiefs have a very good chance at the division this season. Despite the Broncos being the defending champs, if Kansas City stays relatively healthy, they are strong in every area. Alex Smith is more than a game manager, he is a facilitator that is now comfortable with the role that Andy Reid has given him. Jamaal Charles is one of the best backs in all of football; he is the most well rounded in terms of receiving and running. The receivers and tight ends are all good enough to get it done. The Chiefs might just have the best secondary in all of football. Their front seven led be Justin Houston and Tamba Hali will progress this year.
Weaknesses: While not many, I would suggest that the defensive line is the weakest link. They could stand to get stronger at wide receiver as well but I think for all practicality, it is sufficient enough. The only other thing that KC could struggle with potentially is their depth. If there are a few injuries here or there, the back ups are not going to step in without the team missing a beat.
Strengths: I would compare the Oakland Raiders to the Jaguars in the sense that they look very good on paper. It’s tough to look at this team and say they are weak here or weak there. Very tough. The quarterback, Derek Carr will have a plethora of weapons at his disposal from Michael Crabtree to Amari Cooper to Latavius Murray. The offensive line, should it gel, could be a top 5 unit. The defense is led by both young phenoms as well as savvy vets. Ken Norton Jr. has plenty to work with on that side of the ball.
Weaknesses: Consistency. The Raiders, since their success in the early 2000’s, have not been a very consistent team. They have not been a team that can look good one week and head in to the next and execute the same way. Del Rio has the challenge of getting these guys to play well together and play consistent together. If they can limit penalties and turnovers, as clichè as it sounds, they have a shot.
Strengths: They’re the defending champs. They had the number one defense in the NFL and most likely will be close to that, if not the same in 2016. Barring any injuries to that side of the ball, the defense is where the Broncos will earn their keep. Their rushing offense should be serviceable but they do have a lot of new pieces along the offensive line, so there is that to consider. Sometimes it takes time for a new unit to gel together. Anderson and Hillman both can run the ball and will most likely be a solid one-two punch for the foreseeable future.
Weaknesses: Quarterback. There is no question that this is the weakest area. Say what you will about Peyton Manning as a player toward the end of his career but he was still very smart with the football and limited the turnovers. With the brand of football that the Broncos want to play, turning the ball over cannot happen if they want to win games. Mark Sanchez has been a turnover machine for much of his career. Nor does he bring close to the leadership that Manning did bring. What Manning lacked in physical ability, he made up for with his mind. Intellectually, and on the field processing data, there may not be a better QB to do it than Manning. Replacing that kind of field intellect is near impossible. If the Broncos do not make the playoffs, it will be in large part due to poor QB play.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
Strengths: Their passing game should be decent even without recently injured Stevie Johnson. Phillip Rivers has always been a quarterback that is capable of putting up huge numbers from game to game. The offensive line is in decent shape so that could help there. On defense, much like very one of their division opponents, the front seven is strength. Newly drafted Josh Perry has a good shot to take over the other inside linebacker position.
Weaknesses: The recent loss of Eric Weddle will hurt no doubt. Of course they still have Jason Verrett but the rest of the secondary could have a lot of big plays dropped on them. It’s tough on paper to see the Chargers really having a dominant defense. Fortunately for them, they might have the best passing offense in their division. Melvin Gordon disappointed the fans and expectations for himself … if he has a bad year this season, the Chargers may be looking at other running back options in 2017.
Strengths: The Redskins are loaded on the offensive side of the ball. The weakest link would be Matt Jones but if that’s your weakest link, you are in great shape. The wide receivers and tight ends could be one of the best in the league. Some people think that Josh Doctson will wind up being the best receiver in this years draft class. The offensive line isn’t exactly the hogs of old but they are the new school version of that.
Weaknesses: With DeAngelo Hall moving back to the free safety position, it leaves the other side of the field opposite newly acquired Josh Norman vacant. Whether it becomes Breeland or Dunbar, it leaves a hole. This also does not bode well for the nickel back. The Redskins will have a decent front seven but with the lack of help on the other side in the secondary, there will be yards and touchdowns racked up over there.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Strengths: If the Giants do not score 453 points per game this season, I will be surprised. They are loaded at the wide receiver position. Between Odell Beckham Jr., a healthy Victor Curz, and newly drafted Sterling Sheppard, among others, Eli Manning will have the best stable of receivers to throw to that he’s ever had in his career. The Giants went a little berserk in free agency on the defensive side of the ball and have shored up some big areas of weakness of previous and recent down years.
Weaknesses: I would say that since the retirement of Tiki Barber, the Giants have not been able to find that one running back to help balance out the Giants passing attack. Not much has changed in that regard. Rashad Jennings has never in his career gone over 1,000 yards for a season and neither have any of the other running backs that are currently on the Giants roster. The offensive line has its own issues as well. While the Giants will, with no question, put up big numbers in the air, they will struggle to move chains on the ground.
Strengths: Balance on offense. More than any other team in the NFL perhaps, as long as they can stay healthy, which has been one of their biggest downfalls, from quarterback, to running back, to the offensive line, to all the receivers, there really is not a single glaring weakness. There’s not much you can do to pick apart their offense. They have depth at running back behind their first round, fourth overall pick in Ezekiel Elliott with Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris. Dez Bryant is healthy again. Tony Romo is healthy again. If they are not a Top 5 offense, it will be due to significant injuries to the roster again.
Weaknesses: Depth. And their defense is ridiculously light on help. Sean Lee is the leader there but there are holes all over the place. The biggest question mark, especially with all the recent suspensions and things of that nature, is who will be able to get to the opposing teams quarterback? I cannot justify the Cowboys getting many sacks in the first few weeks until those suspensions are lifted. Eli Manning (Week 1), Kirk Cousins (Week 2), Jay Cutler (Week 3), and Blaine Gabbert (Week 4) will all most likely have big days and put up some good numbers against the Cowboys defense.
Strengths: The Eagles, offensively are in decent shape. Will they be a top 3 offense like they were under Chip Kelly in his first couple years there? Probably not. But they will be strong there with Ryan Matthews and Darren Sproles carrying the rock and Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor hauling in passes from Sam Bradford. The Eagles draft Carson Wentz to be the future of the team and should Bradford (a.k.a. Glassford) get injured, Wentz’s time may come sooner than later. Wentz has draw comparisons to players such as Andrew Luck and Big Ben due to his size and elusiveness.
Weaknesses: The Eagles secondary is the biggest glaring problem on their roster. Their pass defense in 2015 was ranked 28th in the NFL. Not much has changed in personnel to think or imagine that they will be much better in that department. Their front seven is serviceable but there are three very good quarterbacks in the division in Eli Manning, Tony Romo, and Kirk Cousins that the defense will have to face twice.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Strengths: Anytime you have Aaron Rodgers as your quarterback and he is healthy, you have a shot to win. Rodgers is getting his favorite target in Jordy Nelson back this season so the Packers offense should be a bit more effective through the air. The run game is still somewhat of a question mark but Eddie Lacy has lost weight and come in to camp as fit as he was in his rookie year when he torched the competition. The Packers do have some questions along the offensive line but overall they are in decent shape.
Weaknesses: On paper, the defense looks okay with exception to the linebackers. They’re fine on the edges with Matthews and Peppers, who both still have seen the better years of their careers already unfold, but the middle is where the Packers lack the most. They will need great play from their safeties to make up for the issues they will have in the middle of the field. I believe that teams will be able to run the ball up the gut quite a bit due to this issue as well. The defensive line is not the best the Packers have ever seen as well.
Strengths: The Vikings will be very strong running the ball in 2016 again. Adrian Peterson still has not shown any signs of slowing down. Typically when running backs hit that magical wall of the age 30, they stop producing at a high level. That has been far from the case with Peterson. The Vikings went out and drafted receivers to boost their production there by grabbing Laquon Treadweel with their first pick. Kyle Rudolph will still be one of Bridgewater’s favorite targets this season. Minnesota’s offensive scheme will not change much but they might get more production if Treadwell lives up to the hype.
Weaknesses: There are not many glaring holes anywhere. I believe that Minnesota is set up nicely to make another run at a division title under head coach, Zimmer. The only noticeable weakness I can see on paper is the lack of depth at virtually every position. If the Vikes have bad luck with injuries, that is virtually the only thing that could rob them of having a successful season and punchin another ticket to the playoffs.
Strengths: Barring any major injury, The Bears will most likely be a force on offense this season. While Jay Cutler has not always been the most consistent quarterback from week to week, they are stacked at every position. There’s a few guys along the offensive line that will need to prove themselves; particularly with rookie guard, Cody Whitehair. The Bears have good linebackers and the recent free agent signing of Danny Trevathan should help shore up that area.
Weaknesses: The Bears defense has a ton of question marks. The safeties are not very good in Amos and Prosinski and the defensive line is not what Vic Fangio is typically used to working with. Porter and Fuller are obviously very good corners in the league but the nickel position might be a weakness in covering the slot receiver for teams that like to pass the ball. The Bears are extremely weak in depth behind their projected starters. While stars emerge every year in the preseason, it is tough to see right now.
Strengths: I have a very tough time seeing the good here – at least on paper. Stafford may not be the quarterback he has been without Calvin Johnson. However, they do have two very good tight ends on Eric Ebron and Brandon Pettigrew that could possibly absorb some of the targets and attention that Megatron brought. Golden Tate will obviously see more action as well.
Weaknesses: Everywhere. There is not a single unit, whether it be the offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, secondary, etc. that you cannot point to a flaw. The Lions do have some good players, so I am not suggesting the entire team will be horrible but if you look at it, just on paper, they have the making of what an expansion team would have. There is zero depth. I fully expect the Lions to be selecting first in the 2017 draft, or close to it at the least.
Strengths: With Kelvin Benjamin back in the fold for the Panthers passing attack, they will be favorites to return to the Super Bowl heading in to the season. The Panthers offense will be much stronger in 2016. Their defense, despite losing their best corner to the Redskins in Josh Norman, will be just as good and possibly better barring any major set backs due to injury. They’re essentially the same exact team. The only caveat to that is that there is now so much film out there on them. Sometimes with that comes a steeper climb the next season. But a balanced defense combined with a balanced offense with all the pieces thy will have in place makes them the clear-cut front runner again this year.
Weaknesses: There just are not too many here. If you had to, as in your life depended on it, chose a weakness, you would have to question their secondary. However, with how stacked their front seven is led by Luke Keuchly the center piece, the pressure up front usually boosts the back end. The Panthers are not the deepest team in the NFL, so if there were a few significant injuries here and there, that could take its toll – but that same thing could be said for any team that is considered as a playoff favorite heading in to 2016.
Strengths: The Falcons strength here is without question going to be their offense. Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, and Julio Jones can be the best set of triplets we have seen in the NFL in a while. There are still some question marks on their offensive line but on paper they seem to be set up quite well for success. Recent addition of wide receiver Mohamed Sanu will help take some attention away from Jones.
Weaknesses: The Falcons defense still has big glaring holes across their depth chart. Outside of Beasley, Upshaw, and Trufant, the Falcons are working with either a bunch of unkowns or unprovens, or has been’s. I cannot recall a time in the past few years where the Falcons have been good on this side of the ball. I cannot pinpoint a reason why they have not tried to address it. Since 2012, when they appeared in the Championship Game against the 49ers, they have had many deficiencies.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Strengths: Quarterback. Any time you have Drew Brees, regardless of how old he is getting, you have a great chance to win a game. Though the Saints have not been relevant in a bit, they actually are set up well on the offensive side of the ball. They have beefed up their offensive line to give Brees more protection. He will have three viable options at the receiver positions in Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, and newly drafted Michael Thomas who has had a very good camp to this point. They have John Kuhn to throw to out of the back field and if Ingram is healthy at half back, they should have enough run support as well.
Weaknesses: The Saints quietly got better on defense with the acquisitions of Nick Fairley, James Laurinitas, and others. They still have some issues possibly at the linebacker positions and the corners are still arguably in flux with exception to Delvin Breaux who showed promise in 2015. The right corner position, along with the nickel corner position will be an area of concern heading in to the season. Vacarro has not quite lived up to his billing yet and Byrd has dealt with the injury bug here and there. The secondary will be the biggest area to watch on the defensive side of the ball.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Strengths: This is an up and coming young and talented team. Some of the national pundits have picked Tampa to finish behind the Panthers. In year two, the biggest spotlight will be on quarterback Jameis Winston who had a very promising rookie campaign. Winston will have plenty of targets both split wide and coming out of the backfield. The skilled positions are stacked with Jackson, Evans, Humphries, Seferian-Jenkins, and running back, Doug Martin.
Weaknesses: The defense will be led up front by Gerald McCoy and Levonte David but will they have enough help? The Bucs might have the most question marks of any other team in the NFC South on the defensive side of the ball. The linebackers to the secondary have some unproven talent. Sometimes, with that, comes a learning curve. Time will tell of course but regardless, they will still need to play the games.
Strengths: The Cardinals had a top flight defense that carried them all the way to the Championship Game last year against the Panthers. The offense had its own success story last season as well. Bruce Arians ran a very balanced and dominant team. He understands that the window is closing now though with players like Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, and Chris Johnson getting a little long in the tooth in their careers. David Johnson was a pleasant surprise last season at running back for the Cards and appears to be a big part of future plans for Arizona. They will defend their division title in 2016 and enter the season as the team to beat in the NFC West.
Weaknesses: While the Cards brought in Chandler Jones, brother of UFC Champ, Jon “Bones” Jones, to shore up the linebacker position, the Cards are still relatively thin at linebacker. That could create some issues in defending second level run defense. Fortunately they are very strong up front as well as in the secondary. It will be interesting to see how the Honeybadger returns to form and if he can come back fully himself this season too. But in looking up and down the depth chart, there do not seem to be many on the surface issues with this team.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Strengths: There are not many high expectations outside of the organization for the Niners in 2016. However, with Chip Kelly taking over as head coach for this young team, they will most likely make a surge on the offensive side of the ball. They have drafted defense very high in the past 4-5 seasons which started to take shape last year toward the end of the year. The 49ers once again spent a first rounder very high on the defensive side of the ball in snagging defensive end, DeForest Buckner. In 2013 and 2014, when Chip Kelly had only the duties of coaching football for the Philadelphia Eagles they ranked 2nd in total team offense with 6,676 behind only the Denver Broncos his first season and in his second season, 5th in total team offense with 6,348 yards.
Weaknesses: The Niners have a bunch to prove in the wide receiver department. They had high hopes for CFL star, Eric Rogers, who recently tore his ACL and is out for the year now. Players such as 4th round draft pick in 2015, DeAndre Smelter and Bruce Ellington will be looked upon to take some of the attention off of the Niners #1 receiver in Torrey Smith. Though they have showed flashes [Celek, McDonald], nobody has really emerged as an elite tight end which was a strength for the 49ers under the Harbaugh regime with both Vernon Davis [Redskins] and Delanie Walker [Titans]. The most glaring weakness for the Niners is experience. They are very young on paper.
Strengths: For the past few years, the Seattle Seahawks have been a standard in the NFC and in the NFL. They have been labeled contenders each and every year since 2013, or so. With Russell Wilson at quarterback, Seattle will compete in every game. They have a lot of the same faces at the wide receiver and tight end positions. Thomas Rawls will be expected to fill the shoes of Seahawks great, Marshawn Lynch a.k.a. Beast Mode. A lot of the national pundits expect the Seahawks to be a front runner once again this year and for all practical purposes, on paper, they seem like they will. The Legion of Boom reunited with Brandon Browner this year as well.
Weaknesses: I believe the most noticeable areas of concern would be along both the offensive and defensive lines. In the past couple of years, the Seahawks have completely overhauled the big boys up front on the offensive side of the ball; there is not a single starter left from just three years ago when the Seahawks made their first Super Bowl appearance in a very long time. On the defensive line, you have an unproven like Jordan Hill and rookie draft pick Jarran Reed trying to hold it down. Typically it takes time for defensive lines to gel – this could bleed in and effect a guy who has been dominant in Michael Bennett. While there are many familiar faces still on the team, there is definitely a lot more room for error than what some of the talking heads are acknowledging.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
Strengths: Youth. More than their division rivals in the 49ers, the Rams are very young on both sides of the ball. Obviously, the Rams are going to feed the ball to second year running back, Todd Gurley, who absolutely killed it his rookie year. It’s probably safe to say that the Rams will have a serviceable front seven but it will be interesting to see how the loss of Chris Long and James Lauranitas will take its toll.
Weaknesses: From putting a rookie quarterback [Jared Goff] behind a flimsy offensive line in pass protection to all the question marks in the defensive secondary, the Rams, more than any other young team in the NFL could have problems gelling due to lack of leadership. While Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn will most likely take over the roles that Long and Lauranitas left behind, the offense does not have that luxury. On paper, and with the move to Los Angeles, there are many uphill obstacles in the way for this team.
I just wanted to reiterate that these are not the set in stone depth charts. Ourlads does do a great job at putting these things together but they’re not flawless. They are a great source for updated rosters and depth charts. They stay up to date as things unfold. I was very fortunate to find them and if you are unfamiliar with them, you are welcome.
* Note: If you are viewing this article on a smaller device, you may consider turning it sideways to read the depth charts. Some zooming may also be necessary. Enjoy!