David Garrard and the Jaguars finished at the bottom of the AFC South with a disappointing 5-11 record last season.
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I can't imagine a player whose stock has dropped as much in my eyes as David Garrard's in the past year, but how much of the flat 2008 was his fault? And how much will the jettisoning of Matt Jones and Reggie Williams and the addition of Torry Holt fix that? The Jags have to hope their first two picks, tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton, will make a leaky line better immediately. That's the first step in making Garrard -- sacked 2.7 times a game last year -- play with more security.
The Bills remind me of the Orioles in the American League East. No matter what they do to improve in the offseason, they can't get over the New England hump. Even when Miami and the Jets make overtures to pass the Patriots, the Bills stay stuck down in the pack. That's why they went out and risked their season on Terrell Owens. If they've hit a home run with T.O., it might be enough to eke out nine or 10 wins against a manageable schedule. But I doubt it.
Prediction: I'll look foolish when Washington starts 4-2 or 5-1. These things happen with St. Louis, Detroit, Tampa Bay and Kansas City on the schedule before Halloween, three of them at home. But then, when it finishes against the Giants, Cowboys and Chargers, I might be closer to right -- and Jason Campbell might be closer to being somewhere else in 2010.
24. New Orleans
No team with Drew Brees will ever be awful, particularly in a division without an almighty power. The Saints will win two or three 40-31-type of games. But unless Gregg Williams can find a better-than-average pass-rush by maneuvering some average chess pieces -- and unless Jonathan Vilma plays like Superman, and Jabari Greer and Malcolm Jenkins cover like Deion -- this defense is not going to be good enough to win eight games.
25. San Francisco
When I think of the big factors in the Niners' 4-1 finish, I think of Patrick Willis playing sideline-to-sideline and the underrated Parys Haralson giving the team a decent pass-rush threat from the outside linebacker slot. They keyed a defense that held four of San Francisco's last five foes to 16 points or fewer. And I think of Mike Singletary's will, which cannot last for four months. I still don't think this offense can score enough to make San Francisco a threat to win its division.
26. Tampa Bay
Rebuilding year. Big-time. Whether Byron Leftwich wins the quarterback job, which I expect him to do and then keep the QB seat warm for Josh Freeman 'til 2010, this is a team more focused on next year than this one.
In every story about the Raiders' prospects this offseason, there's been some reference to the attitude/work ethic/study habits of JaMarcus Russell needing improvement. That's not good. The quarterback of your team has to know enough to be the hardest worker and the leader, and it sounds like Russell is neither. He's still young enough in his career to become that worker bee, but you've got to have your doubts as of now. I like that Tom Cable doesn't seem to be taking any crap from him, or anyone on the team, for that matter. I just don't think it's enough to get a team with questionable skill players and a mediocre defense over the top.
I find myself liking what the Bengals have done in the offseason, with the exception of not re-signing a sure 100-catch guy in T.J. Houshmandzadeh. And though they're going to have strong personalities to handle in Tank Johnson and Andre Smith, both should make this team more competitive. Love the Rey Maualuga pick; he'll be a gem, even if he comes off the field on third down. I'd probably have them in the seven-win range if I trusted Carson Palmer to come back at his peak from elbow injury, because Cincinnati will have to score a lot of points to win.
29. Kansas City
Could the Chiefs be this year's Dolphins, a team that gets a quarterback and magically starts being competent? Don't think so. Not unless the front seven of Kansas City is a lot better than it appears right now. The Chiefs surrendered an alarming 5.0 yards per rush last year, and that's not going to change overnight just because they're playing a 3-4 now and because they picked a couple of big bodies, Tyson Jackson and Alex Magee, with their first two choices in the draft.
30. St. Louis
There's no doubt the Rams did the right thing, bypassing Mark Sanchez for Jason Smith. It might get GM Billy Devaney fired at the end of this year (a new ownership group might do that anyway), but this team simply had to start building the right way, and a franchise left tackle was vital to the future. Not that Smith can help much this year. It'll be a big improvement if Marc Bulger is still standing by December.
Lions win four. Mayor commissions bronze statue of Jim Schwartz.
Hey, thank me, all you Brownaholics. Two years ago in a column like this one, I wrote that Cleveland was the worst team in the league. The Browns went 10-6. This year I'm saying they're the worst team again -- and I can guarantee you they're not going 10-6, unless Brady Quinn morphs into Tom Brady. Too many holes, too tough a division; write them down for 0-4 against the Steelers and Ravens.