There are a lot of things being said right now about the team, in a number of threads, but I just want to say this in a thread of it's own, so that it doesn't have to be repeated, and that can hopefully be seen by more people than by my tacking it onto the end of a long thread (I think that when some go over a couple hundred posts, mostly it is just checking on what you wrote, and any responses to that).
I will begin by saying that I see too much of the yo-yo perspective going on; that when we win, everything and everybody is great, wonderful, the team is built for the future, etc, only to switch after a loss to the players suck, the GM sucks, the coaches suck, we're going to suck forever, etc. First off, let me say that I understand the anger; there isn't a fan of this team that likes to lose, and that doesn't want to leave the last decade in the rear-view mirror. However, most teams don't change immediately; teams with the deep, systemic problems that we had never change overnight. It simply can't be done, no more than advanced cancer can be dealt with in a single operation. Time, which many of us don't want to hear, is what is needed, as well as good moves from the front office and coaching staff.
We can argue about whether you think that the second two are happening, but it is really a given that no matter how good the coaches and front office are, it is still going to take more time than most people want, to include every member of the team, organization, and fanbase.
That said, there are things that I can see that are going well, and some things that are not going so well. Here is my opinion of both:
- The coaching on the offensive line has been, for a lack of a better word, awesome. The group has dealt with a number of injuries, having to start not just backups, but with free agents signed off the scrap heap; with the amazing amount of injuries, that the OL is even still functioning at all, much less at a halfway decent level, is a testament to the ability of Sparano to get the most out of his guys, even when they weren't available to him during preseason or offseason. There may be questions as to why some guys are playing, but overall, if any other team was dealing with this level of turnover, I doubt that they would even have a viable offense, much less one able to win some games, and to be in a number of losses.
- The defensive line, thought to be a serious liability during the offseason and preseason, has done yeoman work under Terrell Williams. With what was seen as a lack of quality depth (which still persists, in my opinion), the rotation has been productive on a regular basis. I firmly believe that any other team with our starters and backups would have a defense that was Swiss cheese at the best of times; much more production than pretty much anyone would have expected.
- Johnny Lynn and Clayton Lopez have done a pretty good job with the DB's; that isn't to say that there aren't mistakes, because that is as plain as the none on one's face, but overall there has been solid play from a group that has also seen more than it's fair share of injuries, although luckily most have not been serious.
- The LB's are doing pretty well, although I do look forward to even more improvement, maybe after a run-stuffing, lane-clogging DT is added. Roach has been solid, Moore is coming on, and Burnett has been better than I expected. It will be interesting to see how adding solid depth will allow the schemes to be tweaked...
- The play of Jennings is a pleasant surprise. I initially saw his signing as being a backup to McFadden, but he has proven that he may be able to carry the load of being a feature back. If nothing else, he has flashed surprising speed, as well as a determination to make the most from every carry. With Murray joining in the hunt next year, while we will need a third RB, I expect that the running game will be in good hands.
- The initial play of Pryor, and McGloin. Pryor showed quite a bit as the starter (improved mechanics, reading the defense, and footwork), but backslid his last four starts. McGloin looked good in his first game, not bad in his second; he will need to improve as well, but both have shown that they have enough to stick around in the league at some level.
- Marcel Reese has been more involved in the game plans, as the QB situation has improved, as well as the OL. Not being needed as much to stay in to block, or to chip out of the backfield, has let him be used more in the passing game, and he has seen more touches in the running game as well.
The salary cap has been dealt with, a huge albatross around the neck of this team. Dead money is going to be cleared, dead wood has been, and the ability to bring in some starters, and more importantly solid depth, will finally be there, after over a decade of having to shuffle here and there, due to poor contracts, and worse FA decisions.
- Some of the players that Reggie has brought in through late picks or as UDFA's have worked out pretty well; I think that this says something about his ability to see talent.
- McFadden has not shown the durability or the vision to be brought back. While he is capable of big plays, what he needs to accomplish them will limit him on this team, at least for the next few years. He may go on and have big years somewhere else, but I'm willing to risk that in order to bring in someone younger, cheaper, and likely more durable that can do the same thing.
- The WR corps is still lacking in production; I expect to see at least two guys let go this offseason, maybe as many as four. It isn't enough to have speed, or to measurables, or the reputation of hands without the fact; there may be a guy or two that could be kept as a project, but I think that production will outweigh potential in the near future. We need guys that can step up, and it is still undetermined whether most of these guys can, or will; time to bite the bullet.
- While the overall play of the OL is something, the depth and talent are not. It seems as though OT is not a huge area at this point, given that we have had five different guys starting at some point, and all of them have played decently or better (at times). On the other hand, OG is a major area of concern, as is a backup C. Some good work will need to be done in the offseason to address this.
- More depth at DB and S are needed; Chekwa, Adams, and even Ross at times look outmatched. If there is good competition brought in and these guys can win out, fine; if not, then let's strengthen the team.
- Janokowski has not looked to be himself; this may be the rib injury, but whatever it is, it needs to be straightened out. We needs his leg for FG's, but he has been shakier than ever before. I know he has a new holder, but his kickoffs aren't the same either...
- The QB position is still unsettled; either McGloin or Pryor need to step up and truly stake a claim to it, or another player needs to be brought in through the draft or FA. I would lean to a starter from FA, and the draft for the future, a QB to be brought along. Recent history is replete with high picks that tanked at QB; we really can't afford to keep shanking our picks in the early rounds if we want to build a winner, a team that is in the running year in and year out.
- Our drafting has to pick it up; we have now gotten to the point where we will have a full complement of picks. I said earlier that some of the guys that Reggie has found in the later rounds or free agency have worked out pretty well, but there have also been misses. Not saying that he can't miss, but there do have to be some players brought in that can and will have more of an immediate impact on the team.
- I hate the fact that injuries have pretty much kept us from being able to get a better read on Dennis Allen; while there has been improvement in the last year and change, it is hard to see just what he would or would not do in some game situations, due to seemingly always being a couple players down. I do think that at this point he will return for another year; I just would like to see fewer injuries so that he can be judged more effectively.
- Ou injury situation sucks; I don't think that it is necessarily the fault of the medical staff, but I do question whether it is the questionable field, and/or practice field, that contributes so much. Whatever it is, it needs to be addressed somehow, somewhere.
- The return game is in need of a spark; Ford is (I believe) going to be gone, and Jones has been less effective than I would have thought. His talent as a gunner are not being questioned, but I just don't see him being close to breaking a return. Maybe I just don't remember it off the top of my head, but if it has happened, it hasn't been often. Field position is huge to a defensive team; we need to improve ours by ramping up our return game.
So, there is my view. There are more cons than pros, but I am confident that we are moving in the right direction. What makes me so confident? Well, some of the very things that people complained about just a few years ago are no longer evident: players slacking off, poor team discipline, lack of effort, not competing through a game of season, no blitzing, no run defense, no pass defense, no hustle, no continuity, inability to sign name FA's, etc. That doesn't mean that there aren't any more questions, but if we compare where we were to where we currently are as a team, then we can see the improvement.
Stick with it, and let's see where we are at the end of the season.