Biggest Flaw for Each NFL Team Heading Into Next Season

As each NFL roster enters a new year with hope, there remains a reason (and sometimes multiple) why each team could falter in 2018. There is still time left for teams to address these concerns via trade or free agency, as rosters stand right now, these are the biggest Achilles heels for each NFL team.

1. Arizona Cardinals: Offensive Line

Whether it’s Sam Bradford or Josh Rosen under center, protecting them is more important than usual. The Cardinals offensive line truly struggled last year, giving up the third most sacks (52) and having the second fewest rushing yards per attempt with just 3.4. With Humphries and Iupati hoping to stay healthy all year, there is some hope for the line, but replacing Veldheer with a struggling Andre Smith could be a huge liability.

2. Atlanta Falcons: Secondary

There are not many flaws in the Falcons roster, but their defensive play on the field has to be more impactful. Their 8 interceptions last year were 29th in the league, and their inability to create turnovers in the playoffs ultimately did them in. With 0 interceptions in their two playoff games, getting back to the Super Bowl will require secondary starters Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, Ricardo Allen, and Keanu Neal to improve upon their team’s 27th ranking in takeaways in 2017.

3. Baltimore Ravens: Receiving Corps

After unsuccessfully redoing their wide receiver corps last year with veterans Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin, the Ravens are doing it again this year. But this year’s corps might be even riskier. Willie Snead was irrelevant in New Orleans last year with just 92 receiving yards, John Brown’s once promising career has not lived up to expectations, and Michael Crabtree is dropping more and more passes each year. This year’s top three receivers combined for just 1,009 yards in 2017, over 400 less than Baltimore’s top three wideouts last year.

4. Buffalo Bills: Passing Attack

With Deonte Thompson off to Dallas, Zay Jones is the returning leading receiver for Buffalo coming off just a 316-yard season. The Kelvin Benjamin trade has been disappointing, as the former first-round pick averaged just 36.2 yards per game with Buffalo last year. While Tyrod Taylor might be to blame for the inefficiency and 31st best passing attack from a year ago, neither A.J. McCarron nor Josh Allen have proven they can do any more than Taylor at the professional level. And with these wide receivers, I’m not sure if they can. 

5. Carolina Panthers: Pass Defense

The Panthers’ pass defense was not horrible last year, but it certainly was not good either. After allowing the 9th most yards per attempt in 2017 and finishing in the bottom third of playoff teams in terms of giving up big plays through the air, Carolina’s secondary only got worse after losing  starters Daryl Worley and Kurt Coleman. Bashaud Breeland would have been a good replacement for Worley, but after failing his physical, the Panthers must rely on James Bradberry and Kevon Seymour to shut down tough divisional foes Drew Brees and Matt Ryan.

6. Chicago Bears: Quarterback

While everyone seems to be riding the Mitch Trubisky bandwagon this offseason, it is hard to understand why if you look at the numbers. Trubisky was at the bottom of the barrel last year in passing yards per game, finishing below Tyrod Taylor, DeShone Kizer, and even the quarterback he replaced, Mike Glennon. Furthermore, he was 31st in completion percentage (59.4{be335959a5ac67fd532012f67f367e1b54828f6842d2f7a78b287c54935e999d}) and 29th in yards per attempt with 6.6 among quarterbacks with a minimum of 100 attempts. That 7-7 touchdown to interception ratio is not a good sign either. While head coach Matt Nagy will bring in a new system along with better receivers in Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Trey Burton, if Trubisky cannot take a step forward, all these improvements could prove futile.

7. Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton and Marvin Lewis, Again

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. If that’s the case, the Bengals must be insane. Andy Dalton and Marvin Lewis have shown flashes of potential as a top-tier QB-head coach duo, but since Dalton came into the league, the Bengals are 0-5 in the playoffs. Dalton’s playoff stats are horrid, posting just 218 yards per game with a 55.7 completion percentage to go along with 6 INTs and just one touchdown. Even before Dalton came, Lewis failed to win a playoff game with Carson Palmer as well. After posting losing records the last two years, the Bengals inexplicably kept Marvin Lewis. Expecting a new result in 2018 would truly be insane.

8. Cleveland Browns: Pass Defense

Whatever happens at the quarterback position for Cleveland, they will either have a guy who took a poor Bills team to their first postseason appearance in forever or the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Defensively, however, is a different question. The Browns allowed the highest quarterback rating in the league last year (102.2), and they replaced starting corners Jamar Taylor and Jason McCourty with E.J. Gaines and a rookie cornerback. This young secondary with Denzel Ward, Damarious Randall, and Jabrill Peppers could surprise in 2018 and defend the pass well, but that is a lot to hope for from a crew of young players.

9. Dallas Cowboys: Receivers

Dez Bryant is gone and so is Jason Witten. The Cowboys top five receivers entering the year – Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, and Deonte Thompson – have combined for 4,630 receiving yards over the last two years combined. That is an average of 463 yards per year per receiver. Dallas finished 27th in the league in receiving yards per game last year, and that number should only get worse. With no one to bail Dak out like Witten did, who does Dallas turn to? 

10. Denver Broncos: Running Back

I’m still absolutely befuddled as to why the Broncos cut C.J. Anderson. After rushing for over 1,000 yards last year with over 4.1 yards per carry, Anderson was cut in favor Devontae Booker, Royce Freeman, and a couple extra million in cap space. Booker has a career yards per carry average of just 3.6, and Freeman is an unproven rookie. With a talented defense and Case Keenum taking over the reigns at quarterback, a good rushing attack might be all Denver needs to get back to the playoffs. Can they get that from Booker and Freeman?

11. Detroit Lions: Left Tackle

Calling the Lions’ array of left tackles last year unimpressive would be an understatement. Rotating between Taylor Decker, Brian Mihalik, and Greg Robinson, the left tackle position combined to allow 12 sacks, which would have been the most of any individual lineman in 2017. Rushing to the outside of the left tackle led to just 3.01 yards per carry, which ranked just 26th in the league. The position has not gotten any better this offseason, as the only movement has been replacing Greg Robinson with 5th-round pick Tyrell Crosby. Decker currently sits atop the depth chart, and unless the 2016 first-round pick can finally live up to expectations, the Lions will yet again have a huge weakness in one of the most important positions in football.

12. Green Bay Packers: Red Zone Defense

Without Aaron Rodgers for much of last season, the Packers looked outright atrocious from the eye test. But surprisingly, it was their red zone defense was easily their worst attribute. Despite allowing the 13th least amount of red zone trips, they allowed their opponents to score touchdowns on over 65{be335959a5ac67fd532012f67f367e1b54828f6842d2f7a78b287c54935e999d} of those trips, ranking 30th in the league. With Tramon Williams and first round pick Jaire Alexander expected to start at corner on the outside, taller receivers will continue to have a field day in the red zone as neither of the two CBs eclipse six feet in height.

13. Houston Texans: Offensive Line

The Texans revamped their offensive line this year, which needed to happen as Pro Football Focus ranked them as the worst in the league in 2017 after allowing the most QB pressures (253). Seantrel Henderson and Senio Kelemete will take over RT and RG respectively, but the two have combined for just 18 starts over the last two years. Incumbent LT Julie’n Davenport committed 4 penalties and allowed 2 sacks in just 4 starts a year ago. C Nick Martin and Chiefs’ former LG Zach Fulton are the most proven players on the line, but are the rest of the changes enough to keep Deshaun Watson upright in 2018?

14. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck’s Health

Last year, when Tony Dungy appeared on the “Dan Patrick Show”, he seemingly accidentally revealed with a hot mic that Jim Irsay had told him Luck’s injury was “inside [Luck’s] head now.” Make of that what you will, but the fact remains that Luck has not taken an NFL snap in over 500 days. Without Luck last season, the Colts had the third worst passing attack in the league compared to his last two full seasons when Indianapolis ranked 1st and 5th. While the Colts still have other holes on their roster, nothing really matters until Luck gets back on the field and can prove he is still the franchise quarterback he once was.

15. Jacksonville Jaguars: Passing Attack

Does anyone in the league get more hate than Blake Bortles? Whether you are a hater or not, the numbers do not lie. Bortles has averaged 16 INTs a year since coming into the league, and last year he had 7 games of less than 200 passing yards and 11 of less than 250. None of their current wide receivers have ever posted a 900 yard season. With a plethora of decent receivers in Donte Moncrief, Marqise Lee, Keelan Cole, and rookie D.J. Chark, someone will have to step up and be a true number one target to give Jacksonville a chance against the likes of New England.

16. Kansas City Chiefs: Cornerbacks

As the Patrick Mahomes era is set to begin in Kansas City, there are sure to be growing pains. A good defense can help nullify some of these early struggles, but after trading Marcus Peters, Kansas City must rely on Steven Nelson and Keith Reaser to lock down opposing receivers, a tandem that has just 22 combined starts in 8 seasons. Kendall Fuller is their best corner, but is solely productive at nickel. To make matters worse, their 2018 schedule is chalk full of top-tier receivers. Keenan Allen, Jordy Nelson, and Demaryius Thomas are all in the division for two matchups each, as well as games against Antonio Brown, Doug Baldwin, A.J. Green, Larry Fitzgerald, and Brandin Cooks.

17. Los Angeles Rams: Edge Rushers

The Rams have an incredible roster entering 2018, but much of that roster comes from getting rid of expensive edge rushers Connor Barwin and Robert Quinn, who combined for 13.5 sacks a year ago. Replacing them are their former backups, OLBs Matt Longacre and Samson Ebukam. While the two had a respectable 7.5 sacks coming in as rotational players, they must now take the role of primary starters and feature pass rushers. While the center is stacked with Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh, and the secondary is dangerous, the outside is a question mark. 

18. Los Angeles Chargers: Red Zone Offense

Even with Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry last year, the Chargers had just the 28th best red zone offense in the league. Los Angeles only reached the end zone on 46.81{be335959a5ac67fd532012f67f367e1b54828f6842d2f7a78b287c54935e999d} of trips inside their opponent’s 20, and those two tight ends had 5 of those touchdowns. With Gates not re-signed and Henry just recently tearing his ACL, the Chargers only have 6-4 Mike Williams to be a big target in the end zone. Based on his play last year (11 catches in 10 games), the former first-round pick will need a huge leap in production to be effective in the red zone for the Chargers. 

19. Miami Dolphins: Kicker

It took a lot for me to not put Ryan Tannehill here, who is attempting to bounce back from an ACL injury, and the Dolphins wide receiving corp. But special tams is still an important aspect of the game, and the Dolphins seemingly have no one that can consistently make field goals. After letting Cody Parkey walk in free agency, after making 21 of 23 field goals a year ago, Miami drafted Jason Sanders in the 7th round to presumably take over kicking duties. And yet, the New Mexico product might have been one of the worst options. During his collegiate career, he made 70{be335959a5ac67fd532012f67f367e1b54828f6842d2f7a78b287c54935e999d} of field goals from 30-39 yards out and 58.3{be335959a5ac67fd532012f67f367e1b54828f6842d2f7a78b287c54935e999d} from 40-49. Their only other active kicker, undrafted free agent Greg Joseph, is even worse, making 65{be335959a5ac67fd532012f67f367e1b54828f6842d2f7a78b287c54935e999d} from 30-39, 59.3{be335959a5ac67fd532012f67f367e1b54828f6842d2f7a78b287c54935e999d} from 40-49, and 33.3{be335959a5ac67fd532012f67f367e1b54828f6842d2f7a78b287c54935e999d} from 50+. 

20. Minnesota Vikings: Depth at Skill Positions

These Vikings might have the best roster in the league. Finding any flaw was a difficult task, but the depth behind those offensive stars is the one that stood out. Dalvin Cook’s backup Latavius Murray played decent in relief last year, but was  inconsistent. In 5 of 12 games without Cook, Murray had less than 3.3 yards per carry. At receiver, behind Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, sit Laquon Treadwell, Stacy Coley, and Kendall Wright. Treadwell was disappointing last year, posting just 200 receiving yards despite being active for all 16 games. Coley was not targeted once in rookie campaign, but still sits alongside Treadwell on their current depth chart behind their two stars. Kendall Wright could end up being the best of the bunch, but that’s not enough if a couple people get injured. 

21. New England Patriots: Nate Solder’s Replacement

How do you replace Nate Solder, the model of consistency and production at left tackle? The Patriots are attempting to figure out the answer this season after Solder has started 31 games at the position over the last two years and 82 over the last six. Their early depth chart places LaAdrian Waddle as the starter, with incumbent tackle Marcus Cannon staying on the right side. But Waddle, who has spent the last two and a half seasons with New England, has also played primarily right tackle throughout his career and has just 4 starts to his name during his time with the Patriots. First-round pick Isaiah Wynn played left tackle in college, but will likely move to guard at the professional level due to a smaller 6-2 frame. The sleeper pick could be Trent Brown, who the Patriots traded for during the draft. A right tackle in San Francisco, Brown started a game last year at left tackle when Joe Staley was injured. While he was by no means a star, he might be the Pats best option to replace Solder.  

22. New Orleans Saints: Mark Ingram’s Suspension

Yes, the Saints still have Alvin Kamara during Ingram’s suspension. But Ingram was the primary rusher as Kamara was used more in the passing game. Carrying the ball 230 times compared to Kamara’s 120, Ingram is the soul of the Saints’ rushing attack. Sean Payton has even said  they will not increase Kamara’s carries during the suspension, which makes one wonder where the running game will come from? New Orleans’ first four games are home matchups against Tampa Bay and Cleveland before a short road trip as they visit the Falcons and then the Giants. Without the balance Ingram brings to the offense, the Saints could potentially drop those two road games and maybe even get upset in one of those home matchups. Given New Orleans’ schedule, they can ill afford such losses as their Week 8-12 games are at Minnesota, vs. Rams, at Cincinnati, then home against Philadelphia and Atlanta. Definitely not an easy stretch of football, and it does not get better as they then go on a three-game road trip before closing the year home against Pittsburgh and Carolina. With a schedule that tough, the Saints will likely have to win three or four of their first four games to make the playoffs, something that will prove difficult without Ingram.

23. New York Giants: Pass Defense

We talked about insanity with the Bengals earlier, and this might be the same case for the Giants’ pass defense. They finished horribly in pretty much every statistic possible: 31st in passing yards per game, 32nd in passing touchdowns, 27th in yards per attempt, and 28th in points allowed per game. And yet their secondary didn’t change much, with Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple set to line up on the outside and Landon Collins and Darian Thompson manning the safety positions. Yes, Collins is a star and Jenkins missed almost half the season last year, but the Giants secondary has a lot to prove a year after disaster. 

24. New York Jets: Right Half of Offensive Line

As the Jets look to complete their rebuilding process soon after trading up to draft Sam Darnold, half of their offensive line remains a disaster. Right tackle Brandon Shell allowed 8 sacks last year, tied for the third most of any offensive lineman. Brian Winters is no stud at right guard either, allowing 4 sacks while finishing in the top 10 for penalties in 2017. Rushing toward the right tackle led to just 3.17 yards per carry (25th), and rushing outside on the right side was even worse at 2.83 (27th). The Jets did well in filling other roster holes this offseason, signing CB Trumaine Johnson, MLB Avery Williamson, and RB Isaiah Crowell, but the right half of their offensive line remains unchanged.

25. Oakland Raiders: Secondary

Remember when the Raiders finished in the top 10 in the league with 16 interceptions? It’s okay, Oakland fans don’t either. The only statistic anyone can recall is their meager 5 INTs from a year ago, easily the lowest in the league. With Gruden now as head coach, they essentially outcasted all the starting corners from a year ago. They have been replaced with an inexperienced Gareon Conley and an aging Leon Hall, who was three starts and one interception in the last two years. Daryl Worley provides some hope off the bench and should quickly take the starting spot away from Hall. Shareece Wright and 4th round pick Nick Nelson provide more depth, but the secondary that finished 28th in yards per pass attempt last year still has a long way to go.

26. Philadelphia Eagles: Linebackers

Cutting Mychal Kendricks made a lot of sense financially for Philadelphia, but still takes the Eagles’ second leading tackler out of the picture. Nigel Bradham remains a dominant force as their strongside backer, but accompanying him is Jordan Hicks, who is coming off an Achilles injury, the second of his career. When he comes back, it is unlikely he can return to 2016 form, when he had 86 total tackles and 5 interceptions. Free agent signee Paul Worrilow is out for the year after tearing his ACL in practice, and that leaves former Bronco backup Corey Nelson to take a majority of snaps this year. Behind Bradham, Hicks, and Nelson sits Nathan Gerry, whose mere 20 career defensive snaps does not provide any wow factor for the reigning champs.

27. Pittsburgh Steelers: Tight End

Pittsburgh’s big three of Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown is probably the best in the league, but the team is still trying to replace Heath Miller. Jesse James’ stats are misleading, as the majority of his production last year came in Week 1. Aside from then, James averaged less than 2.5 receptions and just 22 yards per game. He also failed to be the productive red zone target many tight ends are expected to be after only catching 5 passes on 12 targets inside the 20. Backup Vance McDonald was also relatively unproductive last year, catching just 14 passes all season.

28. San Francisco 49ers: Offensive Skill Positions

Marquise Goodwin impressed last year with 962 receiving yards, but most of that production may have just been by circumstance or Jimmy G’s talent. Pierre Garcon is going to be their No. 2 receiver, but with his 33rd birthday right around the corner and an all too recent history of injury, it is hard to imagine consistent production from him. At the running back position, the team allowed Carlos Hyde to walk in free agency while replacing him with longtime backup Jerick McKinnon. The former Vikings’ tailback has never rushed for more than 600 yards in a season, and his last 100-yard game came way back in October of 2014. Unless second-round pick Dante Pettis can break out this season and emerge as one of the young star receivers in the league (which is still very possible after four productive years at Washington), the 49ers offense will have to be carried by Garoppolo.

29. Seattle Seahawks: Running Backs

The Seahawks offensive line is terrible, but who is their running back? No running back on Seattle rushed for more than 250 yards last year. The combination of Chris Carson, Mike Davis, Eddie Lacy, C.J. Prosise, and Thomas Rawls averaged just 3.3 yards per carry in 2017. Lacy and Rawls are gone and replaced by rookie Rashaad Penny out of San Diego State. Penny provides hope for Seattle’s rushing attack, but playing against mostly Mountain West opponents makes it generous to assume  his NFL production will instantly match what he was able to do in college. This could be the second straight year that the Seahawks’ leading rusher is QB Russell Wilson. 

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Secondary

For as bad as the Giants’ secondary was last season, Tampa Bay’s might have been worse. After finishing 32nd in the league in passing defense (260.6 yards per game), the Bucs made no significant changes to the unit. Still anchored by aging cornerback Brent Grimes, they will have to rely on Ryan Smith on the outside with an unheralded safety tandem of Keith Tandy and Justin Evans. While securing a much better defensive line group in the offseason with the additions of Jason Pierre-Paul, Vita Vea, and Vinny Curry might disrupt opposing quarterbacks more often (a much needed change after finishing dead last with just 22 sacks in 2017), the secondary will need much more than a better pass rush to improve.

31. Tennessee Titans: Wide Receivers

Richard Matthews would be a really good No. 2 receiver in most offenses. Unfortunately, Tennessee is not like most offenses. Matthews will yet again be expected to be the top receiver for the Titans in a corps that has not produced a 1,000-yard receiver in the Marcus Mariota era (not counting tight end Delanie Walker, who had 1,088 in 2015). The Eric Decker experiment flopped big time, and 2016 first-round pick Corey Davis was either injured or inefficient all of last year, averaging just 32.4 receiving yards per game. Taywan Taylor in the slot will have you asking “who?” Perhaps Tajae Sharpe has a breakout year producing respectable numbers in 2016 before missing all of last year with a right foot injury.

32. Washington Redskins: Defensive Line

Strong safety was a definitely a consideration for the Redskins (and would have included a scathing review on how Washington passed on Derwin James), but even with first-round pick Da’Ron Payne, the Redskins’ defensive line is  unimpressive. After allowing the most rushing yards per game last year (134.1), the Redskins have kept most of the same defensive front. Jonathan Allen and Stacy McGee are expected to start alongside Payne, a tandem that combined for just 1.0 sack and 1 tackle for loss for Washington last year. Matt Ioannidis provides some pop off the bench after tallying 4.5 sacks last year, but the unit still has a long ways to go.

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