With training camp underway, I think it's a perfect time to see the changes made by each team in the NFC over the off-season. I will break down each team's additions, re-signs, departures and rookies drafted, as well as give my outlook on what they will do this season.
-Key Additions/Re-Signs: DT Shaun Rogers, LB Keith Rivers, TE Martellus Bennett
-Rookies: RB David Wilson, WR Rueben Randle, CB Jayron Hosley, TE Adrien Robinson, OT Brandon Mosley, OT Matt McCants, DT Markus Kuhn
-Key Departures: WR Mario Manningham, RB Brandon Jacobs, CB Aaron Ross
-Outlook: The world champs have had a decent off-season, but they did lose one of their starting wides, cornerbacks and running back in Mario Manningham, Brandon Jacobs and Aaron Ross. But the Giants did replace those players in the draft and will be getting back a lot of those injured players from last year. I think the defense won't miss a beat and the offense will continue to look strong, but the loss of Manningham and Jacobs will slightly factor in to their production and cause them to miss the divisional crown.
-Prediction: 2nd in division, 10-6 overall
-Key Additions/Re-Signs: CB Brandon Carr, OG Nate Livings, S Brodney Pool, ILB Dan Connor, QB Kyle Orton
-Rookies: CB Morris Claiborne, DE Tyrone Crawford, OLB Kyle Wilber, S Matt Johnson, WR Danny Coale, TE James Hanna, ILB Caleb McSurdy
-Key Departures: WR Laurent Robinson, CB Terence Newman, ILB Bradie James
-Outlook: The Cowboys had one of the best off-seasons in the league. Last year, the Cowboys couldn't stop a pass to save their lives. This year, the Cowboys now have one of the best CB duos in the league in Brandon Carr, from the Chiefs, and Morris Claiborne, from LSU. The Cowboys also added Dan Conner from the Panthers who will step in and be a major help tackling at linebacker. The Cowboys did lose their best wide from last year in Laurent Robinson, but I think with a healthy Miles Austin and a non-troubled Dez Bryant, the Cowboys will be better than ever on offense.
-Prediction: 3rd in division, 8-8 overall
-Key Additions/Re-Signs: ILB DeMeco Ryans, OT Demetress Bell
-Rookies: DT Fletcher Cox, LB Mychal Kendricks, DE Vinny Curry, QB Nick Foles, CB Brandon Boykin, OT Dennis Kelly, WR Marvin McNutt, OG Brandon Washington, RB Bryce Brown
-Key Departures: CB Asante Samuel, QB Vince Young, WR Steve Smith
-Outlook: The Eagles are once again adding on more talent. Picking up DeMeco Ryans from the Texans was a great step for the Eagles on defense, but adding DT Fletcher Cox to the line will probably be even more beneficial. Losing Asante Samuel could possibly be a problem, but if Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie can produce alongside Nnamdi Asomugha, the Eagles won't have to worry. On offense, the Eagles come back strong with all their major weapons in Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin to name a few. The only problem the Eagles offense had last year was the line at times, but adding another year together will help, as will the signing of Demetress Bell from the Bills.
-Prediction: 1st in division, 10-6 overall
-Key Additions/Re-Signs: WR Pierre Garcon, WR Josh Morgan, S Madieu Williams, S Brandon Meriweather, S Tanard Jackson, CB Cedric Griffin
-Rookies: QB Robert Griffin III, OG Josh LeRibeus, QB Kirk Cousins, OLB Keenan Robinson, OG Adam Gettis, RB Alfred Morris, OT Tom Compton, CB Richard Crawford, CB Jordan Bernstine
-Key Departures: WR Donte' Stallworth, S LaRon Landry, TE Mike Sellers
-Outlook: The Redskins were pathetic last year on both sides of the ball. From their horrible offense with Rex Grossman at QB to their garbage defense that got blown up in about every game, the Redskins were looking like the worst team in football. But all that may change this year. The Redskins moved up quickly in the draft and got their QB of the future, Robert Griffin III. On top of that, the Redskins decided to keep building up their offense by signing Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan to go with Santana Moss, Fred Davis and Chris Cooley. And the run game remains strong with Roy Helu and Tim Hightower. On defense, the Skins did lose Laron Landry, but they filled that position with Madieu Williams, Tanard Jackson and Brandon Meriweather. With DeAngelo Hall and Cedric Griffin at CB and Brian Orakapo and Ryan Kerrigan at LB, the defense is balancing out and we could see a Skins revival in 2012.
-Prediction: 4th in division, 6-10 overall
-Key Additions/Re-Signs: WR Randy Moss, RB Brandon Jacobs, WR Mario Manningham
-Rookies: WR A.J. Jenkins, RB LaMichael James, G Joe Looney, OLB Darius Fleming, S Trent Robinson, C Jason Slowey, DE Cam Johnson
-Key Departures: OG Adam Snyder, S Madieu Williams, WR Josh Morgan
-Outlook: I didn't think the 49ers could get any better, but they did. Losing Josh Morgan, the 49ers decided to replace him with not only Mario Manningham, but a hopefully resurrected Randy Moss. And any questions about Frank Gore's health have been answered now by adding not one, but two RBs in Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James. So now the 49ers not only have the best defense in the league, but they now have one of the deepest and balanced offenses as well. As long as Alex Smith doesn't regress.
-Prediction: 1st in division, 11-5 overall
-Key Additions/Re-Signs: QB Matt Flynn, OG Deuce Lutui, RB Marshawn Lynch, DE Red Bryant, WR Antonio Bryant, LB Barrett Ruud
-Rookies: OLB Bruce Irvin, ILB Bobby Wagner, QB Russell Wilson, RB Robert Turbin, DT Jaye Howard, ILB Korey Toomer, CB Jeremy Lane, DB Winston Guy, DE J.R. Sweezy, DE Greg Scruggs
-Key Departures: ILB David Hawthorne, QB Charlie Whitehurst
-Outlook: The Seahawks had a decent off-season I would say. Adding Matt Flynn to fix the QB problem might work, but Flynn has been a back-up his whole career, so he will need to prove himself. The Seahawks did reach in the draft though on LB Bruce Irvin from West Virginia. A proven problem off-field, Irvin has the talent to be good on the field as long as he doesn't get into any more trouble. And speaking of trouble, the Seahawks may not see Marshawn Lynch out there for the beginning of the season for his recent run-in with the law. The running load will be with Leon Washington and rookie Robert Turbin. Unfortunately for them, I think I see the Seahawks falling back this season and it's very possible they could be last in the division.
-Prediction: 3rd in division, 6-10 overall
St. Louis Rams
-Key Additions/Re-Signs: DE Kendall Langford, CB Cortland Finnegan, WR Danny Amendola, WR Steve Smith
-Rookies: DT Michael Brockers, WR Brian Quick, CB Janoris Jenkins, RB Isaiah Pead, CB Trumaine Johnson, WR Chris Givens, T Rokevious Watkins, K Greg Zuerlein, OLB Aaron Brown, RB Daryl Richardson
-Key Departures: WR Brandon Lloyd, DT Gary Gibson, OG Jacob Bell
-Outlook: They can't get any worse, so obviously the Rams had a "good" off-season regardless. The only downfall they had was losing Brandon Lloyd, but they picked up Steve Smith from the Eagles and drafted Brian Quick, who could become a great wide for them as long a Sam Bradford stays healthy. The biggest upgrades the Rams made was on defense. Adding Pro Bowl Cortland Finnegan and drafting, who I think could be a star, Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, immediately turns their secondary into something feared compared to last year's joke of a defense. All in all, I think the Rams took a step in the right direction, but I don't think it is going to make any big impact on how they do.
-Prediction: 4th in division, 4-12 overall
-Key Additions/Re-Signs: G Adam Snyder, CB William Gay, S James Sanders
-Rookies: WR Michael Floyd, CB Jamell Fleming, T Bobby Massie, OG Senio Kelemete, CB Justin Bethel, QB Ryan Lindley, T Nate Potter
-Key Departures: G Deuce Lutui, LB Clark Haggans, LB Joey Porter, DB Richard Marshall
-Outlook: The Cardinals finished last year second in the division at 8-8. The Cardinals had a decent offseason as they filled the holes of players who left, but I think the biggest move they made was by adding another big play receiver in rookie Michael Floyd. Floyd probably will be the third string wide to start, but with Larry Fitzgerald as his mentor, Floyd could easily become the duo that was once Fitzgerald and Boldin. The only question mark is the quarterback as Kevin Kolb has not lived up to the price tag of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but he will get another year to prove himself. If he can become the 300-yard a game passer everyone thought he could be, the Cardinals could have a dangerous offense that could give them a push to the post-season.
Prediction: 2nd in division, 8-8 overall
-Key Additions/Re-Signs: C Jeff Saturday, DE Anthony Hargrove, TE Jermichael Finley
-Rookies: DE Nick Perry, DT Jerel Worthy, CB Casey Hayward, DT Mike Daniels, SS Jerron McMillian, OLB Terrell Manning, OT Andrew Datko, QB B.J. Coleman
-Key Departures: FS Nick Collins, QB Matt Flynn, CB Patrick Lee, RB Ryan Grant
-Outlook: As usual, the Pack is still locked and loaded on offense. With the best QB in Aaron Rodgers and plenty of targets to throw to, the offense will have no problem scoring points. The only question I have for them is, who will run the ball? With Ryan Grant no longer on the team, the Packers options are James Starks and Alex Green. I think if the Pack wants to have a solid run game, they need to pick up someone like Joseph Addai or Cedric Benson. But then again, Rodgers will probably just throw the whole game. And on the other side of the ball, the Pack's secondary went from bad to worse. Coming in as last years worst pass defense, the Pack lost their FS Nick Collins to free agency and replaced him with rookie Jerron McMillian. The Pack also made no moves to sign a better CB, so I think this year is going to be another year of shootouts week in and week out. But it will be no problem for the Pack as I think they will be the one scoring more every week and taking home the divisional crown.
-Prediction: 1st in division, 11-5 overall
-Key Additions/Re-Signs: WR Brandon Marshall, RB Michael Bush, QB Jason Campbell
-Rookies: DE Shea McClellin, WR Alshon Jeffery, SS Brandon Hardin, FB Evan Rodriguez, CB Isaiah Frey, CB Greg McCoy
-Key Departures: DT Amobi Okoye, QB Caleb Hanie, S Brandon Meriweather
-Outlook: The Bears had a great off-season offensively. Trading for Brandon Marshall reunites him with Jay Cutler, his old QB in Denver. And the Bears didn't stop there as they signed Jason Campbell to back Cutler up and added Michael Bush to take some carries away from Forte. But I think the biggest pickup was Alshon Jeffery in the draft. Jeffery has the body and size to be a good wide for the Bears, and he has a chance to learn from one of the games best hands in Marshall. The Bears had put together a solid offense for 2012. As for their defense, the Bears really didn't make too many changes. The dominant veterans Brian Urlacher, Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs and Julius Peppers all return for another year. The only question I have is in the secondary. The starting safeties for the Bears, Major Wright and Chris Conte, are young, inexperienced and not very good. If they can prove themselves this year and make stops against the stacked divisional foes they will face, the Bears have an outside shot at winning the division.
-Prediction: 2nd in division, 10-6 overall
-Key Additions/Re-Signs: DE/OLB Everette Brown, CB Jacob Lacey, WR Calvin Johnson, ILB Stephen Tulloch
-Rookies: OT Riley Reiff, WR Ryan Broyles, CB Dwight Bentley, DE Ronnell Lewis, OLB Tahir Whitehead, CB Chris Greenwood, CB Jonte Green, OLB Travis Lewis
-Key Departures: OLB Bobby Carpenter, QB Drew Stanton, CB Eric Wright
-Outlook: The Lions were a tough team to predict. I understand the duo of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson is unstoppable, but Stafford playing another full season is a 50/50 chance. And another question for them is the run game. Mikel LeShoure is a good back, but he is coming off a missed rookie season due to injury. Though he is 100% now, he still has never taken a snap in the NFL and he may not till week 3 after being busted for marijuana charges. And if that isn't enough of a problem, the actual starter, Jahvid Best, hasn't played a full season either because of concussions. Kevin Smith is the only back left, and of course, he is an injury problem too. I think in order to keep defenses from double teaming Johnson and focusing on the pass game, the Lions are going to have to find a decent running back who can step up and stay healthy. And on defense, the Lions are talented and loaded, but they have a lot of problem players who draw flags on the field and get in trouble with the law off the field. If the Lions have any chance at doing something this season, they will need to find a run game, keep players healthy and keep players from causing trouble.
-Prediction: 3rd in division, 9-7 overall
-Key Additions/Re-Signs: WR Jerome Simpson, TE John Carlson
-Rookies: OT Matt Kalil, FS Harrison Smith, CB Josh Robinson, WR Jarius Wright, TE Rhett Ellison, WR Greg Childs, S Robert Blanton, K Blair Walsh, ILB Audie Cole, DE Trevor Guyton
-Key Departures: OLB Kenny Onatolu, OG Anthony Herrera, S Tyrell Johnson, LB EJ Henderson, CB Cedric Griffin
-Outlook: As a Vikings fan, I can sadly say this is going to be a long year. I think I was generous in saying the Vikings would win five games. The offseason wasn't very good for the Vikings who decided to go with Matt Kalil on the O-line instead of Morris Claiborne at CB or Justin Blackmon at wide. Kalil isn't bad, I just wish the Vikings went elsewhere in the draft this year. But then again, the Vikings needed help everywhere. The biggest question I had for them though was why they didn't make anymore additions. The additions of John Carlson and Jerome Simpson will help the pass game, but Christian Ponder will need to progress as the QB of the future to make the signings worth anything. The biggest question of course is Adrian Peterson's health. Peterson thinks he is ready to go, but the Vikings are saying Toby Gerhart is going to be the starter early in the year. If that's the case, I think the offense is going to have a tough time scoring every week, which brings me to the other question mark of defense. The Vikings lost starting MLB EJ Henderson and CB Cedric Griffin and filled those spots with their backups. But the biggest question and most obvious is at safety. I don't know what the Vikings front office is doing, but they have some sort of love for Notre Dame because both starting safeties are rookies from Notre Dame in Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton. The only logical explanation I can think of is they are doing this because they will have good chemistry together. Other than that, all I see is two unexperienced safeties in a division of passing teams. To wrap it all up, I think my first claim of this being a long season has been solidified and if you are a Vikings fan like me, prepare for lots of losing.
-Prediction: 4th in division, 5-11 overall
-Key Additions: CB Asante Samuel, S Thomas DeCoud
-Key Departures: FB Ovie Mughelli, MLB Curtis Lofton, WR Eric Weems
-Rookies: G Peter Konz, OT Lamar Holmes, FB Bradie Ewing, DE Jonathan Massaquoi, S Charles Mitchell, DT Travian Robertson
-Outlook: The Falcons are a team with a very bright season ahead of them. I've tabbed the Falcons as one of the best in the NFC this year and I think it's very obvious why. Offensively, the Falcons have Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Michael Turner to name a few. The O-line is one of the best and adding G Peter Konz in the draft makes them that much better. Defensively, the Falcons have a very deep and solid CB crew in Brent Grimes, Dunta Robinson and newly acquired Asante Samuel. On the D-line, veterans Ray Edwards and John Abrams return to anchor the line and in the middle, LB Sean Weatherspoon leads the attack next to up and comer Stephen Nicholas. These Falcons are going to make a lot of noise this year with their loaded and balanced team.
-Prediction: 1st in division, 10-6 overall
-Key Additions: RB Mike Tolbert, S Reggie Smith, LB Kenny Onatolu
-Rookies: LB Luke Kuechly, G Amini Silatolu, DE Frank Alexander, WR Joe Adams, CB Josh Norman, P Brad Nortman, S D.J. Campbell
-Key Departures: WR Legedu Naanee, MLB Dan Connor, OG Travelle Wharton
-Outlook: Center Ryan Kalil came out to the public and believes the Panthers are going to win the Super Bowl this year. I'm going to nicely say, no. The Panthers have gotten better, but so has the division and that's why they will be in the cellar of it. The Panthers lost MLB Dan Conner and G Travelle Wharton, which are two pretty big losses. The only addition the Panthers made that was big was RB Mike Tolbert. Tolbert is a big strong runner, but is he really needed? The Panthers have DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, so the move doesn't really max sense to me. The Panthers also have Cam Newton, who is partially a RB as well. On defense, the Panthers added the NCAA tackle leader in Luke Kuechly to go with Jon Beason, Thomas Davis and James Anderson. The Panthers will have no problem tackling, but they will have a problem stopping the pass. The CB core is built around Chris Gamble and Captain Munnerlyn, who can be good at times, but the other guys behind them don't have much experience. The moral is, the Panthers are going to have another rebuilding year.There won't be a Super Bowl victory like Kalil predicted and there won't even be a playoff berth. Maybe next year Kalil.
-Prediction: 4th in division, 5-11 overall
New Orleans Saints
-Key Additions/Re-Signs: ILB David Hawthorne, MLB Curtis Lofton, OG Ben Grubbs, QB Drew Brees
-Rookies: DE Akiem Hicks, WR Nick Toon, SS Corey White, OG Andrew Tiller, OT Marcel Jones
-Key Departures: DT Shaun Rogers, CB Tracy Porter, OG Carl Nicks, WR Robert Meachem
-Outlook: I don't even know where to begin with the Saints. They had maybe the most controversial offseason ever, but I won't get into that. This is about how they will do this year. Signing David Hawthorne and Curtis Lofton is a big help to fill in the hole that suspended Jonathan Vilma left. Another key player that will be missed is CB Tracy Porter. The Saints already weren't very good against the pass, and now they lose one of their starters. Besides losing their coach for a year, I think defense will be the biggest problem for the Saints this year. Their offense will be fine as long as Drew Brees stays healthy, but they can't win if they give up just as many points as they score and I think that is what will happen this year.
-Prediction: 2nd in division, 9-7 overall
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
-Key Additions/Re-Signs: WR Vincent Jackson, DT Amobi Okoye, OG Carl Nicks, CB Eric Wright, TE Dallas Clark
-Rookies: SS Mark Barron, RB Doug Martin, OLB Lavonte David, ILB Najee Goode, CB Keith Tandy, RB Michael Smith, TE Drake Dunsmore
-Key Departures: OLB Geno Hayes, OT James Lee, QB Josh Johnson
-Outlook: To me, the Bucs had probably the best offseason of anyone. Adding a great receiver in Vincent Jackson was step one. Then picking up Carl Nicks for the O-line solidified the strength and blocking for QB Josh Freeman and the run game. Speaking of the run game, the Bucs picked up Doug Martin in the draft to go with LeGarrette Blount, which gives them a pretty good duo of speed and power. The most underrated pickup on offense I think was Dallas Clark. This gives young Freeman an experienced veteran target in Clark to go with Jackson and young guns Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn. The Bucs offense is going to be great this year. On the other side, the Bucs got even stronger on defense as well adding CB Eric Wright to go with Aqib Talib. The biggest addition I think though was safety Mark Barron from Alabama. Not only is he a great young talent, but he is a great young talent learning from the other safety Ronde Barber. Barron is in a perfect situation to learn from one of the best and I think he good be a force immediately because of that. The only question mark to me for the Bucs is their linebackers. Losing Geno Hayes is going to hurt because I don't think Quincy Black is a leader for that LB core. Unless Mason Foster continues to grow and become the leader, LB will be the death of that defense. All in all, I think the Bucs could easily be second in the division, especially with everything going on in New Orleans.
-Prediction: 3rd in division, 7-9 overall
****2012 AFC Outlook****