As soon as the Bengals selected Tyler Eifert with the No. 21 pick in this year’s draft, speculation began regarding exactly how much the Notre Dame product could help Cincinnati’s offense.
What we all might have failed to consider here is the reverse hypothetical — how big a boost Eifert will receive from being a piece of the Bengals’ attack.
QB Andy Dalton, for starters, represents a substantial upgrade over Notre Dame starter Everett Golson, who led the Irish to the BCS title game but completed just 58 percent of his passes and often utilized a run-first mentality. Eifert also now gets to play alongside proven tight end Jermaine Gresham, a legitimate No. 1 tight end and producer of 64 catches last season; the next most productive TE behind Eifert (50 catches) on the Notre Dame roster last season was Troy Niklas, with five grabs. Then there is also the presence of wide receiver A.J. Green. He alone often commands attention from multiple defenders, clearing space on the rest of the field.
All of that should work to Eifert’s advantage in his rookie season.
It really was not all that long ago that the Green Bay Packers had an imposing threat at running back. In both 2008 and 2009, Ryan Grant topped 1,200 yards on the ground, while averaging 6.4 and 7.9 yards per catch out of the backfield, respectively.
But an injury sidelined Grant for almost all of 2010, and the Packers have spent the past three seasons trying to replicate his success. They were closer last year than people may realize — Green Bay finished as a middle-of-the-road rushing team (20th overall) and topped 100 yards on the ground in six of its final eight games, including a playoff loss to San Francisco.
Those numbers, and the Packers’ recent run game in general, might have been even better were it not for repeated injury woes. Not only did the Packers lose Grant three seasons back, but also Alex Green tore his ACL in 2011, James Starks dealt with myriad problems and Cedric Benson was sidelined by a Lisfranc injury in 2012. Even incoming rookie Eddie Lacy is trying to prove that toe surgery in 2012 will not hinder him going forward.
The arrivals of rookies Lacy and Johnathan Franklin have Packers fans hoping their team’s run game can crank up another notch this coming season. But can Lacy handle an every-down load? Is Franklin better than NFL teams gave him credit for in the draft? And are the incumbent backs (Green, Starks and DuJuan Harris) ready to cede playing time?
This will be one of the most intriguing position battles to watch come training camp. Let’s take a look at what each guy brings to the table:
Between the draft and free agency, much of the NFL offseason is spent celebrating talent that’s either entering the league or on the move. The extended down time between the conclusion of one season and start of another, though, often means positive news is interrupted by more disheartening stories.
And so, in light of Rolando McClain’s decision to retire rather than attempt to get his career back on track, Audibles presents the 10 players who have had the toughest offseasons, whether due to arrests, controversies, dumb quotes or more general disappointments.
He may have been there already, but Rolando McClain guaranteed himself a spot in the conversation over biggest NFL draft busts Wednesday, when the Ravens announced his retirement.
“Rolando let me know that he plans to retire from the NFL,” said Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome, who signed McClain to a non-guaranteed one-year, $700K contract this offseason. “We have placed him on the Reserve/Retired list.”
And so ends (at least temporarily) McClain’s thoroughly disappointing NFL career. The 23-year-old linebacker out of Alabama was the No. 8 pick, by Oakland, in the 2010 draft. but registered just a half-sack in his rookie season. Two more subpar years in black and silver (and off-field issues) led the Raiders to release him.
In need of some linebacker help, the Ravens picked McClain up earlier this offseason. He responded to that reprieve by getting arrested in April, his third run-in with the law in less than a year.
The Arizona Cardinals started 4-0 last season. Remember that?
They knocked off the Seahawks in Week 1, then marched into Foxboro and took down the mighty Patriots in Week 2. Wins over Philadelphia and Miami followed, with QB Kevin Kolb throwing a combined five touchdowns passes in those games, and just like that the Cardinals were the NFL’s surprise team at the quarter pole.
Unfortunately for them, they also were a league laughingstock over the final 3/4 of the year — their lone win over the final 13 weeks of the regular season came over the Lions on Dec. 16. That 38-10 triumph snapped a nine-game losing streak (and, as luck would have it, also cost the Cardinals three or four spots in the draft).
The Cardinals’ collapse enticed them to make some big changes, both at QB, where Carson Palmer will replace Kolb; and at head coach and GM, where Bruce Arians and Steve Keim now have the reins, respectively. That new regime has also made some smart moves this offseason.
The result: Arizona could be a much improved team in 2013. And the standings might not show it at all.