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2012 AFC Pre-Training Camp Preview

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OZOC01

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2012 AFC Pre-Training Camp Preview

Training camp 2012 is almost here and NFL teams are now engaged in the 10 OTAs that they are allotted per the most recent CBA, so I figured it would be a good time to start my annual rankings. I will rank the teams in each division by several positional categories. While reading this, keep in mind that I am going by the whole sum of players at each position that will likely still be on the roster at the end of the preseason, not simply the projected starter(s), because positional depth is important. Of course, some teams are close enough at certain positions to go either way and some of you may simply think higher of your team's players and/or coaches. BTW, I am NOT projecting how the entire division will finish the 2012 season; that will be done in my preseason preview. Just ranking according to respective positions. I will start with the AFC.

AFC EAST TEAMS: New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins,

Quarterbacks:

1. Patriots: Tom Brady puts up video game type stats with a slot receiver and two tightends.

2. Jets: Their starter is coming off 3rd straight sub-80 QB rating and the backup’s 2011 QB rating was even lower goes to show the drop-off of the rest of this division. Oddly enough, both QBs have career winning records.

3. Bills: The signing of Vince Young keeps the Bills from the bottom. Well, that and the drafting of…

4. Dolphins: …Ryan Tannehill 8th overall. Now he is reunited with his college coach that he didn’t play well for last season. Wonder how this will go…

Running Backs:

1. Bills: Underrated RB (Fred Jackson), explosive RB (C.J. Spiller), and change-of-pace RB (Tashard Choice). Nice!

2. Dolphins: Doubt Reggie Bush will lead the league in rushing; he did well just to lead his team. Rookies Lamar Miller and Jonas Gray could become very good backups.

3. Jets: Shonn Greene did have 1,000 rushing…but only 186 of them came in the final three games.

4. Patriots: Do not put much stock in the Joseph Addai signing…his best rushing year was his first.

Pass Catchers:

1. Patriots: TEs Gronkowski and Hernandez combined for over 2,000 receiving yards and 24TDs. And forget about the Super Bowl drop; Welker led the league with 122 catches.

2. Jets: Santonio Holmes is a proven clutch receiver and Dustin Keller is above-average. Time will tell regarding rookie Stephen Hill.

3. Bills: Stevie Johnson is a 1,000 yard receiver and David Nelson is decent. Not much else.

4. Dolphins: Somehow I do not see Legedu Naane coming close to departed Brandon Marshall’s production, no matter who’s at QB.

Offensive Line:

1. Patriots: Despite losing someone of Matt Light’s caliber, this OL is still tops in the division.

2. Bills: No big names, but in 16 games the OL allowed Fitzpatrick to be sacked only 22 times and the Bills tied for the 4th best team rushing average (4.9).

3. Dolphins: Rookie Jonathan Martin should improve an OL that already has Jake Long and Mike Pouncey.

4. Jets: Despite having Nick Mangold anchoring the OL, the Jets were near the bottom (29th) in rushing average and Sanchez was sacked 39 times.

Defensive Line:

1. Bills: The addition of Mario Williams (who returns to his natural 4-3 position) will improve the rest of the DL.

2. Dolphins: Nothing special individually, but had a big part of 3rd ranked run D and 3.7 yards per rush.

3. Patriots: DL has been hurting since the trade of Richard Seymour.

4. Jets: Usually when the run defense in a 3-4 is middle of the road, the big boys up front are not occupying the opposing OL.

Linebackers:

1. Dolphins: Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett are solid in the middle. Cameron Wake is an emerging sack artist (8.5 in 2011). All played a big part in 3rd rank run defense in 2011.

2. Patriots: Adding rookie Dont’a Hightower to Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo will only help.

3. Jets: None dominate out of group, but all are solid.

4. Bills: Nick Burnett is good. Kelvin Sheppard and Kirk Morrison are so-so.

Defensive Backs:

1. Jets: Darrelle Revis and Co. allowed 5th fewest passing yards and 4th fewest completion percentage in 2011. Then they added safety LeRon Landry.

2. Bills: The secondary either made big plays (20 INTs) or gave up big plays (30 passing TDs allowed). Here’s assuming 1st pick Stephon Gilmore helps reverse that trend.

3. Dolphins: Dolphins hoping 2006 2nd round pick (Richard Marshall) does better than the 2009 2nd round pick he’s replacing (Sean Smith).

4. Patriots: Only the Packers gave up more yards through the air. And nothing was done to improve secondary.

Special Teams:

1. Patriots: Stephen Gostkowski among league scoring leaders. Zoltan Mesko much better in 2011 than 2010.

2. Bills: Rian Lindell and Brian Moorman one of better kicker/punter combo in NFL. C.J. Spiller is electric.

3. Dolphins: K Dan Carpenter and P Brandon Fields are consistent. Davone Bess one of leagues’ better punt returners.

4. Jets: Joe McKnight’s league leading 31.6 kick return average (in 34 attempts) is impressive. K Nick Folk’s 76% field goal accuracy is not.

Head Coach:

1. Patriots: Five Super Bowl appearance (3 victories) since 2000. Even coached team to 11 victories without franchise QB in 2008 season.

2. Jets: Two AFC Championship appearances in first two seasons, but could very well slip.

3. Bills: A road victory every once in a while would help Chan Gailey’s cause.

4. Dolphins: At the bottom…where 1st time Head Coaches reside.

AFC NORTH: Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns,

Quarterbacks:

1. Steelers: Big Ben/Charlie Batch possibly best one-two QB combo.

2. Ravens: Basically here by default.

3. Bengals: Impressive rookie season, especially considering the lack of off-season preparation time. An improvement in 2012 will equate to improvement in ranking.

4. Browns: As the old saying goes, "if you have two QBs, you have none."

Running Backs:

1. Ravens: 2nd leading rusher in 2011 (Ray Rice), one of league’s best lead blocking back (Vonta Leach) and now a nice rookie RB complement (Bernard Pierce).

2. Browns: You can contribute this rank to either how highly I think of rookie RB Trent Richardson, or how little I think of the other two teams’ RB situation.

3. Bengals: I’m not sold on BenJarvus Green-Ellis on a team that doesn’t have numerous other options for opposing defenses to consider. Luckily, they still have Bernard Scott.

4. Steelers: There’s a reason the original ‘smash mouth’ kings are throwing 500+ times now.

Pass Catchers:

1. Steelers: Two 1,000 yard receivers that average over 16 yards per catch.

2. Bengals: A solid #2 receiver (Mohamed Sanu?) away from being #1.

3. Ravens: Is it the receivers, or inconsistent QB play? I say it’s a bit of both.

4. Browns: Looking at their off-season moves, maybe they think they should be #1 on this list???

Offensive Line:

1. Ravens: When wondering how a 5’8 212lb tailback gains 1,300+ yards and scores 12 times while playing in a division with two Top 10 run defenses, look no further than this OL.

2. Steelers: Adding rookies David DeCastro and Mike Adams to join Maukice Pouncey makes this OL respectable…finally.

3. Bengals: 3.9 yards per rush will not cut it, even though allowing 24 sacks on a rookie QB is not terrible.

4. Browns: Just LT Joe Thomas and a bunch of other guys.

Defensive Line:

1. Ravens: Nearly 1,000 pounds of OL occupying ability.

2. Steelers: Just barely behind the Ravens. Barely.

3. Bengals: Not on the level of the Ravens and Steelers, starter-wise. But they are deeper than both teams.

4. Browns: 21.5 sacks in 2011 from 2012 projected front four was decent. Must help more against the run (30th), though.

Linebackers:

1. Steelers: Not as productive as they were in 2010, but still pretty good.

2. Ravens: If not for T-Sizzle’s season-ending injury, they would be #1.

3. Bengals: There is no shame in being #3 in this category in this division.

4. Browns: D’Qwell Jackson is a tackling machine. Scott Fujita and Chris Gocong? Not so much.

Defensive Backs:

1. Ravens: 53.8% completion and 11TDs allowed (vs 15INTs) in 2011. Enough said.

2. Steelers: The Steelers surrendered fewer passing yards than the Ravens, but I still cannot get rid of the image of the overtime touchdown catch and run that ended their post-season run.

3. Bengals: On paper this team has the best secondary in terms of potential and depth. Now awaiting production.

4. Browns: No disrespect to this group. In any other division they would not be at the bottom. Allowed the 2nd fewest passing yards in 2011, but that is deceiving because it was so easy to run against them (30th in rushing yards allowed). Also had the 2nd fewest passing attempts against them (29.3/game).

Special Teams:

1. Browns: Josh Cribbs still one of the better returner and Phil Dawson one of the best deep ball kicker in 2011 (7 of 8 beyond 50 yards).

2. Bengals: Solid Kicker/Punter combo. Brandon Tate shows flashes of being a really good return specialist.

3. Steelers: Antonio Brown was a Pro Bowl returner last season. Shaun Suisham was barely average kicker.

4. Ravens: No consistent return threat. Billy Cundiff terrible beyond 50 yards (1 for 6).

Head Coach:

1. Steelers: Two Super Bowl appearances (one victory) already in first five seasons as Head Coach.

2. Ravens: Four seasons (and playoff appearances) into impressive coaching career (44-20). One victory from Super Bowl appearance during two of those runs.

3. Bengals: Career record with Bengals not very impressive (69-77-1). Qualifying for postseason in 2011 with rookie QB was.

4. Browns: Yet to be seen.

AFC SOUTH: Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars

Quarterbacks:

1. Texans: When healthy, Schaub is a stat stuffer. 2nd year QB T.J. Yates is serviceable.

2. Titans: Hasselback is a solid stop-gap until Jake Locker is ready...which could be soon.

3. Colts: Rookie Andrew Luck has been compared to Manning and Elway. Colts’ fans will find out soon enough.

4. Jaguars: Easily the worse QB situation in the AFC.

Running Backs:

1. Texans: Foster and Tate make up one of the league’s best one-two RB punch.

2. Jaguars: 2011 NFL rushing leader IS his team’s offense.

3. Titans: Can CJ0YDS revert back to CJ2K? The Titans’ money is on that he can.

4. Colts: Plenty of #2 RBs. No clear #1…

Pass Catchers:

1. Texans: Andre Johnson still best receiver in AFC. TE Owen Daniels is solid.

2. Titans: Assuming Kenny Britt’s knee checks out, he and Nate Washington form a nice duo.

3. Colts: Outside of Wayne, lots of question marks here. Rookie tightends could surprise.

4. Jaguars: The Jags have made a legit effort to improve last season’s woeful group via free agency. Time will tell concerning rookie Blackmon.

Offensive Line:

1. Texans: C Chris Myers anchored OL that nearly produced two 1,000 yard RBs.

2. Titans: Addition of Pro Bowler Steve Hutchinson strengthens this OL’s potential...assuming his tank isn’t empty yet.

3. Jaguars: This line isn’t the greatest, but having an extremely indecisive rookie QB didn’t help, either.

4. Colts: Oh man, where do I even begin...

Defensive Line:

1. Texans: J.J. Watts is a mad-man and Antonio Smith was a Pro Bowl replacement.

2. Titans: Decent DL, but no pass-rushing threat. Perhaps FA signee Kamerion Wimbley will fill that void?

3. Jaguars: By cutting Aaron Kampman, they must feel comfortable about their other Ends.

4. Colts: Switch to 3-man front leaves a lot of uncertainity.

Linebackers:

1. Texans: Conner Barwin (11.5 sacks in 2011) leads a solid group.

2. Colts: Will Freeney and Mathis moving to outside rush-linebackers equate to traditional double digit sacks?

3. Jaguars: Helped run defense rank Top 10 in rushing yards allowed (9th) and average per rush (4th).

4. Titans: Helped run defense rank 24th against the run and 23rd in yards per rush attempt.

Defensive Backs:

1. Texans: Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph helped defense led league in lowest opposing completion percentage (51.9%).

2. Jaguars: Added veteran CB Aaron Ross (Giants) to 8th ranked pass defense.

3. Titans: 14th against the pass in 2011…then lost best CB in free agency.

4. Colts: Allowed opposing QBs to complete a ridiculously high 71.2% of their passes in 2011, most in the NFL.

Special Teams:

1. Titans: Rob Bironas one of the top distance field goal kicker in NFL (13 of 16 from beyond 50+ since 2009). Marc Marini is underrated returner.

2. Jaguars: Josh Scobee near automatic in 2011 (23 of 25 FG). Montell Owens a Pro Bowl special teamer.

3. Colts: Vinatieri is Vinatieri. Rookie T.Y. Hilton will likely get first crack at return gig.

4. Texans: Jacoby Jones is a good punt returner. Drafted a kicker in the 5th round. Exactly…

Head Coach:

1. Texans: From nearly losing his job to divisional champion. What a difference a season makes.

2. Titans: Nearly led team to Wild Card berth in first season.

3. Jaguars: Was 14-18 during previous Head Coaching stint (Bills 2004-2005).

4. Colts: As a first time Head Coach, this will be an uphill climb. But aren’t they all?

AFC WEST: San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders

Quarterbacks:

1. Broncos: Peyton is only QB that could make Bronco fans forget about Tebow.

2. Chargers: Rivers had a down year (by his standards). Expect a return to normal 100+ QB rating in 2012.

3. Raiders: With a full offseason, Carson’s on-field performance will improve.

4. Chiefs: Chiefs have too many offensive weapons for Cassel to possibly struggle…right???

Running Backs:

1. Chiefs: Speaking of offensive weapons, I introduce to you: Thunder (Peyton Hillis) and Lightning (Jamaal Charles).

2. Chargers: Ryan Matthews is coming along. Mike Tolbert is a good complement.

3. Raiders: McFadden was unstoppable, until injury stopped him mid-season. Losing Michael Bush will hurt.

4. Broncos: How does the #1 rushing offense the season prior end up here? When 70% of the rushing yards were gained by departed QB and a RB that is now in his 10th season. And also when the 2009 1st round RB is a bust.

Pass Catchers:

1. Chargers: Losing Vincent Jackson hurts. FA signee Robert Meachem will try to sooth the pain.

2. Cheifs: Bowe/Breston/Moeaki…none of them household names. All are solid.

3. Broncos: With the change at QB, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker should easily double their reception totals. As for Jacob Tamme? See 2010 stats with fore-mentioned QB.

4. Raiders: Can Darrius Heyward-Bey shed his ‘bust’ label??? To Be Continued…

Offensive Line:

1. Broncos: It’s been several seasons since Manning has had a Pro Bowler blocking his blind-side.

2. Raiders: Led way for 7th rank run offense in both yards per game and yards per run.

3. Chargers: Huge OL that should help improve last season’s 4.3 yards per rush.

4. Chiefs: Drafting OL with their 2nd AND 3rd picks should give an indication of the state of this unit.

Defensive Line:

1. Raiders: The DTs are stellar. The DEs are not.

2. Broncos: Elvis Dumervil’s 2011 sack total dipped a bit (from 17 to 9.5). Some help from the other side wouldn’t hurt his cause.

3. Chargers: This is definitely not your older brother’s DL.

4. Chiefs: Another high 1st pick on a defensive lineman. Perhaps third time’s the charm?

Linebackers:

1. Chiefs: Pro Bowlers Derrick Johnson is a tackling machine and Tamba Hali is a sack machine.

2. Broncos: Von Miller is the truth! D.J. Williams is not bad, either.

3. Chargers: Takeo Spikes is stout, but Antwan Barnes is only pass-rushing threat. Not good when running a 3-4 defense.

4. Raiders: Young Rolando McClain is progressing. Young Aaron Curry is not.

Defensive Backs:

1. Broncos: Acquiring Tracy Porter was huge, but Brian Dawkins (retirement) will be missed.

2. Chiefs: Young talented unit was 6th in passing yardage allowed and 7th in opposing QB completion percentage. And that was WITHOUT Eric Berry, who is returning from injury.

3. Chargers: Chargers are hoping rookie Brandon Taylor, teaming with Pro Bowler Eric Weedle, will help reduce the 29TDs allowed through the air in 2011.

4. Raiders: Let’s see: Nnamdi Asomugha; gone. Stanford Routt; gone. Chris Johnson; gone…

Special Teams:

1. Raiders: Pro Bowl Kicker, Punter AND Long Snapper…doesn’t get much better than that.

2. Chiefs: Ryan Succop and Dustin Colquitt are solid, if not spectacular. Arenas and McCluster are premier returners.

3. Chargers: Nate Kaeding has been one of the most consistent kickers over the last several years. He is coming off an ACL injury.

4. Broncos: Britton Colquitt had a good (but busy) 2011. Matt Prater did not.

Head Coach:

1. Broncos: 73-71 regular season and 6-3 postseason, all without a franchise QB…until now.

2. Chargers: 107-113-1 regular season and 4-4 postseason, the last several seasons WITH a franchise QB.

3. Chiefs: After taking over late in 2011, team went 2-1. One of those wins was against previously unbeaten Packers.

4. Raiders: Youngest Head Coach currently in the NFL.

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Wow, I applaud all your diligence & hard work in writing & constructing this post. Nice job!!!

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