Ranking best backfields (cont.)
16. Minnesota Vikings
Questionable: Brett Favre? And how much better will they really be with him anyway? He's 2-6 against the Lovie Smith Bears and he struggles with 3-4's, which the Packers will be playing. If Matt Stafford has a Matt Ryan-type rookie year, Favre arguably rates no better than the fourth-best QB in the division.
The Thought: The Vikes are still the AP Show and will be until their quarterback -- any quarterback -- is more than just a bit player.
17. New Orleans Saints
Add/subtract: Veteran running back Deuce McAllister was released in the offseason.
Questionable: Bush is recovering from knee surgery and has played 16 games in just one of his three seasons. It's time for more.
The Thought: Brees' passing numbers are bordering on the irrelevant without a backfield mate that commands some attention consistently.
18. Tennessee Titans
Questionable: Young remains as enigmatic as he is talented. Until there is less enigma and more talent on display, the offense has limits. Ditto, LenDale White.
The Thought: Johnson was a jolt to the entire AFC as a rookie averaging 4.9 yards per carry and 43 receptions. But Collins is the definition of a journeyman, and Young is still a big-picture unknown.
19. St. Louis Rams
Who: QB Marc Bulger; RB Stephen Jackson
Questionable: Bulger, paging Marc Bulger ... your young receivers are waiting.
The Thought: At their bests, Bulger and Jackson were arguably the NFL's best passer-rusher pairing. Jackson is still an elite force with 1,042 rush yards and 4.8 combined yards every time he touches the ball but Bulger was the 30th-ranked passer with just 57 percent completions.
20. San Francisco 49ers
Add/subtract: Adding WR Michael Crabtree with the 10th overall pick in the draft has Bay Area fans yearning from a return to the days of Rice/Taylor/Owens ... well, Rice/Taylor, anyhow.
Questionable: Gore has gone down with ankle sprains each of the past two seasons. And how much did Hill benefit from the element of surprise? Jimmy Raye is the 49ers' seventh offensive coordinator in seven years -- question enough?
The Thought: The 49ers won four of their last five under Hill and loom as an underrated challenge if Gore is part rather than all of the offense.
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Add/subtract: Jon Gruden moving from sideline to broadcast booth will have some effect on the QBs. Warrick Dunn's departure ends an era. But Ward was a 1,000-yard rusher with the Giants and Freeman was the No. 17 pick of the draft.
Questionable: A team that has two starting quarterbacks has none. What if it thinks it has three?
The Thought: The Bucs are on the rise but the quarterback competition will take focus away from one central figure, which figures to be Freeman in the future.
22. Kansas City Chiefs
Add/subtract: Cassell changed the quarterback situations of nearly 20 percent of the AFC, including the team he left, the team that got him and the one (Denver) that didn't. But as Cassell was arriving, franchise tight end Tony Gonzalez was leaving for Atlanta. Bobby Engram is a quality veteran if not a game-breaker.
Questionable: A draft strategy that did not address offense until round five and a skill position until a round later. Cassell could play catch with Randy Moss in New England; now he's got Mark Bradley. Question mark, as is a thin offensive line.
The Thought: Cassell is not operating behind that Patriot line or throwing to those receivers. As Johnson goes, so goes the offense.
23. Cincinnati Bengals
Questionable: Is the OL going to allow another 51 sacks? Because that could be the end of Palmer, who had a broken nose, sprained ankle and elbow injuries from the beatings.
The Thought: Sharing a division with Baltimore and Pittsburgh does no backfield any good and the Bengals ranked no better than 27th in nine of 10 significant offensive categories.
24. Denver Broncos
Add/subtract: Orton in, Cutler out. The Broncos were volume buyers in free agency but the biggest personnel change was Josh Daniels in, Mike Shanahan out. Let the makeover begin, starting with Moreno, the 12th overall pick of the draft.
Questionable: Orton does not have major downside but how will he fare in a system other than Chicago's where he had two successful runs as a starter? The Broncos had eight different players rush for 100 or more yards but none totaling more than rookie fullback Peyton Hillis' 343, making their No. 12 rushing rank an illusion. Moreno needs to be the solution.
The Thought: Orton never was fully appreciated in QB-starved Chicago and played through ankle problems last season that turned the second half of the season into a franchise disappointment.
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