For reasons that the NFL appears set to explain as scheduling conflicts or respect for religious holidays, the league’s draft will move from late April to mid-May, starting in 2014.
What does that mean for the pre- and post-draft processes? Let’s take a closer look, by sorting through the facts and fiction of the changes.
If the San Diego Chargers could find any silver lining in Melvin Ingram’s extremely unfortunate ACL tear, it was that two veteran pass rushers — Dwight Freeney and John Abraham — still sat unsigned on the free-agent market. The Chargers wasted little time snatching up the 33-year-old Freeney, who will take Ingram’s spot at outside linebacker and provide a veteran voice to a relatively young defense.
But here’s the rub: Not only do the Chargers have to show they can adjust their defense to get Freeney in his preferred 4-3 set, they also still have numerous holes elsewhere on the roster.
Freeney said all the right things last offseason when the Colts’ new coaching staff transitioned to a 3-4 look. The results on the field never met expectations, though. After being hobbled by a high-ankle sprain early, Freeney finished the year with 5.0 sacks (his lowest total since registering 3.5 while missing seven games in 2007) and a career-low 12 tackles.
It was a bit of a lost season for the longtime Colt.
San Diego’s challenge will be to get him back in a situation he is more comfortable with — Freeney notched 102.5 sacks over 10 Indianapolis seasons playing defensive end in a 4-3. Does San Diego have the horses to be successful with a hybrid 3-4/4-3 defense?
Eventually, at some point during the 2013 season, the Seattle Seahawks will possess as deep a cluster of defensive ends as any team in the league. For at least the first four weeks of the season, though, that depth will be put to the test, mainly due to the four-game suspension delivered to Bruce Irvin late last week.
Irvin’s absence could pile on a defensive front that likely will open the year without Chris Clemons (torn ACL) and may have to rely heavily on Michael Bennett, who continues to play through an rotator cuff injury that will require surgery somewhere down the road.
The Seahawks will be Irvin-less for games against the Panthers, 49ers, Jaguars and Texans. That Week 2 showdown with the 49ers could prove particularly important — even at that early point in the season, dropping their home game with San Francisco might be a substantial blow for Seattle’s NFC West title chances. Irvin recorded two sacks in Seattle’s 16-12 win over Carolina last season, and he played significant minutes in his team’s late-season romp over San Francisco.
In this special offseason edition of our Break It Down, we glance back at how Seattle utilized Irvin against Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick last season …
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: