|05-19-2009, 06:17 PM||#1|
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Join Date: Apr 2001
Kush & Irsay
Defenseless teams seek offseason upgrades
Bad defense is difficult to overcome.
The Lions discovered that last season. Not only were they winless, but in many games they looked defenseless. Detroit had the NFL's worst defense, allowing 404.4 yards per game, followed by the Chiefs (393.2), Seahawks (378), Broncos (374.6) and Rams (371.9).
Not surprisingly, none of those teams made the playoffs. Not surprisingly, all five have new head coaches, new defensive coordinators and plenty of new personnel.
Here's a closer look at what the feeble five have done in the offseason:
What's different: New coach Jim Schwartz does not want to hear about last season. Linebacker Larry Foote, who left the Steelers to sign as a free agent, has the kind of attitude Schwartz seeks. "I think the first thing he brings is a couple Super Bowl rings and success in the league," Schwartz said of Foote. "That's street cred, instant credibility, whatever you want to say."
The Lions have revamped the linebacker corps, signing Foote and Cody Spencer and trading for Julian Peterson. Two more veterans, defensive tackle Grady Jackson and cornerback Phillip Buchanon also have been added, and the coaches have high hopes for rookie safety Louis Delmas.
Why they should worry: When you finish 0-16, you are a long way from being good. The Lions spent their two first-round picks on offense -- QB Matthew Stafford and tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Why not help the offense? Fixing the defense is a long-term project.
"Quite honestly, we needed to improve special teams and offense also," Schwartz said. "It wasn't like we were in a situation maybe like Denver. I think they were second in the league on offense and down toward the bottom in defense. We weren't real high on offense, either. So there were a lot of things to address."
Kansas City Chefs
What's different: New G.M. Scott Pioli has a strong draft record, and he liked defensive end Tyson Jackson enough to make him the No. 3-overall pick. Jackson, who got his first taste of the NFL at a recent minicamp, sounds realistic about the work he must do to become an impact rookie.
"Everything's much faster, guys are bigger, stronger," Jackson said. "You're a professional now. You got to get adjusted quick. I have to step up my game a lot more. I can't continue playing the college game and bring it to the NFL."
Pioli also added three veteran linebackers -- Mike Vrabel, Zach Thomas and Monty Beisel -- to accelerate the switch to a 3-4 scheme. Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast gets another chance after being fired by the Cardinals despite their Super Bowl run.
Why they should worry: After a disappointing rookie year, defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey might not be a good fit at nose tackle or end in a 3-4 defense. The Chiefs had the worst pass rush in the league with just 10 sacks, and on paper they have not improved.
What's different: The coaches expect linebacker Aaron Curry, the No. 4-overall pick, to start immediately. Cornerback Ken Lucas was signed as a free agent, and they traded for defensive tackle Cory Redding. New defensive coordinator Casey Bradley will bring some of the cover-2 principles he learned under former Buccaneers' coordinator Monte Kiffin.
Why they should worry: The Seahawks allowed more passing yards than any team, despite having a decent pass rush. They still have question marks in the secondary. If defensive end Patrick Kearney does not fully recover from shoulder and elbow surgeries, the pass rush too could suffer.
What's different: Veterans like safety Brian Dawkins and linebacker Andra Davis should add swagger. Rookie Robert Ayers expects to see time at outside linebacker and defensive end. With 22 years of NFL coaching experience, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will be leaned on heavily by new coach Josh McDaniels.
Why they should worry: The Broncos' front seven still has serious question marks. If Redskins rookie defensive end Brian Orakpo becomes a star, the Broncos might regret passing on him with the No. 12 pick.
St. Louis Rams
What's different: New coach Steve Spagnuolo did a superb job as the Giants' defensive coordinator. This is a tougher job. Strong safety James Butler and rookie middle linebacker James Laurinaitis are fresh faces, and second-year defensive end Chris Long should be improved. "We're taking from a lot of different teams -- five, six teams we've been watching tape of," Long said. "Hopefully we can do a little bit of everything."
Why they should worry: The Rams have won only five games the last two seasons, and the defense has been weak for years. When a team sinks this low, rebuilding usually takes time.