Frankly Football: What every NFL team needs going into the season
With the start of all the training camps and actual football games coming soon to our televisions, I feel like an excited kid on Christmas morning. Seeing as how it is the 25th of the month, I thought I'd play Santa Claus and give each team a little present before the start of the season.
For Atlanta ... Two young and talented offensive linemen to help protect rookie quarterback Matt Ryan as he becomes baptized under fire this season. Keeping Ryan upright and confident will be a huge step in the right direction for the Falcons.
For Arizona ... Consistency for Matt Leinart and the discipline to behave like a professional on and off the field. This is the make-or-break year for Leinart. If he can find a way to win a game early in the season for the Cards, his career just may take off.
For Baltimore ... Joe Flacco finding the key for speeding up his game in all areas, mentally, physically and emotionally. His advancement and development as a potential starter in the NFL will hinge solely on his ability to anticipate the routes in the passing game.
For Buffalo ... Fewer visits to the training room. The Bills had seven starters hit IR last season (13 overall) and also need to find a way to not mismanage games down the stretch.
For Carolina ... Plenty of pass pressures and sacks, as the Panthers were one of the worst teams in getting to the quarterback last season. Carolina needs to get a big year out of Julius Peppers and its defensive front if it intends to move up in the NFC South.
For Chicago ... The return of the play of their defensive line from the 2006 season. Forget giving them a legitimate quarterback. It's Chicago, it's the Bears -- they win with defense and the kicking game. The Bears will just need no mistakes from their quarterbacks.
For Cincinnati ... A bona fide third wide receiver to help take some of the pressure off Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Offense will be the concern in Cincinnati, not defense. Without a third wideout, the two starters will see all sorts of double teams.
For Cleveland ... A nickel corner who can help the pass defense. The Browns have little depth in their secondary and will need to find a promising young defensive back this summer.
For Dallas ... Peace, harmony and a secondary that can actually cover at critical times in the game. The Cowboys were one of the worst teams defensively in allowing points at the end of each half.
For Denver ... A few big offensive and defensive linemen to help protect and rush the passer. The Broncos are losing the battle in the trenches against everyone, especially the Chargers, a team Denver scored six points against in two games last season.
For Detroit ... Some pass protection for Jon Kitna. He got killed last year and will again this year, unless the Lions find a way to protect.
For Green Bay ... A smooth transition for Aaron Rodgers. The Packers have a very good team, and now without Brett Favre, we shall find out what he really meant to the team last year. My guess is -- plenty.
For Houston ... A left tackle who will allow Matt Schaub to play all 16 games and not get injured. Maybe Duane Brown, their first-round pick, can handle the job for this sleeper team.
For Indy ... A healthy team by Week 17. The key for the Colts is their weekly injury report. When they are healthy, they can beat anyone; one or two of the wrong injuries and they are in deep trouble.
For Jacksonville ... A 10-sack season for either one of its rookie defensive ends, either first-rounder Derrick Harvey or second-rounder Quentin Groves. Pass rush from the outside is what will close the gap for the Jags on the Colts.
For Kansas City ... The ability to remember the important lesson of getting good before great. The Chiefs need two offensive linemen to play like Pro Bowlers and a host of other players to play well. What will be more important than wins in K.C. will be the enthusiasm and passion the team displays each week.
For Miami ... Chad Henne becoming the new Dolphins starter by Week 4 as they rebuild the team one block at a time. The Dolphins will be better this year but they will improve greatly if they have their quarterback of the future playing well.
For Minnesota ... Super Bowl-quality play from the quarterback of a Super Bowl-quality team. I can't think of one player who will control the won/loss record of any team in the NFL more than Tarvaris Jackson. His ability to throw the ball will really enhance the Vikings' chances.