In the Luck era, there have been 2 playoffs appearances, season #2-a little better than the previous year, each year, the goal is to improve and reach the Super Bowl-that goal will get a little harder to achieve once the core young players start earning "real" NFL salaries vs the rookie salaries they are currently playing under.The reality is, in the salary cap era, alot of things have to fall into place at the same time, to have a chance, there is only so much money and there are going to be holes. The teams that do the best job of finding talent and keeping that balance of quality "high priced" veterans and quality " lower priced" younger players are the teams that will reach that goal, it is a very difficult balancing act that only the elite can achieve. Having an elite QB, makes that goal a little easier, but if he isn't surrounded by enough talent and having a complete team, they will fail. So far in this era, there has been plenty of money to spend , adding talent via free agency, that will not be the case in the near future and the draft picks have been not quite as plentifull or productive as will be needed in the near future, as the core players reach their prime years and their contracts eat up a very large percentage of the cap money available, those decisions are more and more critical. This new era has been very productive and successfull, to date, but the real judgement will come in the next few years as we watch how those decisions are made and how productive they are. With that being said and training camp coming, a look at the status of this years position groups:
QB- Luck will coninue to improve each year and in the very near future, not be on the list of elite QB's, but the standard. Hassleback is as good as it gets for backups- with a very productive-successful and proven track record
RB- The big question is who will be the "man' or the rotation? We do not have complimentary RB's, we have 3 carry-the-load types and I still feel that's 1 too many, barring injuries. A 2 man-rotation is and can be quite succesfull, but not a 3 man rotation, whoever ends being the odd man out, is not going to be very happy with his role. Richardson will be given the chance to be the top dog, due to the price that was paid to bring him onboard. Bradshaw has shown the most production in his career and has the best track record, although injuries have always seemed to derail that. Ballard, has only 1 year, under his belt, but showed a lot of potential. The FB spot will be either Havili-who played very well last year, or Harvey- a converted LB
TE- Fleener played very good last year and that was huge, with Allen being out, the only thing he needs is to be more consisitent and avoid those critical drops. Allen was on the verge of becoming one of the elite TE's in the league and having him back will be a major plus. The backup spot will be between Saunders and Doyle, with Swoope probably being a down-the -road option
WR- How good will Reggie be, coming off major knee surgery at age 35? I really don;t see any dropoff..yet. Hilton is becoming one of the best deep threats and top young WR's in the league. Nicks brings a proven track record and a big-receiver body that we haven;t had in years. The rest of the unit will sort itself out with the upside potential of Rogers, the off the charts measurables Moncreif brings and the always forgotten, but never say die attitude of Whalen. Brazill, took his god given talent and what could have been, at least, a very productive NFL career and most likely threw it away. Washington is also in the mix and could get a roster spot, with a great camp or also be a down the road type
OL- Saved the best for last,the ongoing-forever search for a productive O-line continues. The Tackles seem to be in good shape, with Castonzo and Cherilus, the interior is and has been the problem area, there are a lot of options and hopefully in that mix is enough talent to field a good-to-above average unit. Holmes will be given the chance to be the guy at Center, playing a very important part of the overall effectiveness of the offense,as the guy who makes all the calls and the cohesiveness of the line. The 2 Guard spots are up for grabs for a host of players to take...Last years starter-Thortan, this years top pick-Mewhort, Thomas-one of last years key additions who didn;t play, due to an injury and a reclamation project in Louis. I still don't see this group as a strength, but I think there is enough talent in that mix to field a good line, if they play better, all the better, but until that happens, it is still a unit that looks to need more upgrading. As of now I think Thomas and Mewhort have the best chance of being the starters with Louis, being the darkhorse.who could unseat one of those 2 as a starter. There seems to be alot more depth at Guard, Reitz has a shot of making it, since he can be used anywhere, draft pick Ulrick and last years backup Nixon will be the top backup at Tackle
Summary- The offense is loaded with play makers, talent and depth, how good the line performs will go a long way is determing how the good the unit plays as a whole. If they play well and the running game is productive, the offense will be very good, if they play very good, this offense , can be as good as any offensive unit, in the NFL.