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Takeaways From Last Week – May 20

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Freeman looks geared for failure

The Tampa Bay Bucs are going to be an interesting team to watch in 2013. Josh Freeman is entering the final year of his contract, and recently it was reported that the Bucs wouldn’t mind seeing rookie Mike Glennon get an opportunity.

How Josh Freeman handles this sort of adversity could impact the next five years of that franchise. I think Freeman is a talented quarterback, but I’ve never thought he had the intangibles to be a top-level starter. I liked Mike Glennon a lot, as he was the highest-rated quarterback in this draft class for me.

But I don’t think Glennon will really work as a rookie starter. The main issues I had with Glennon was that he wasn’t particularly mobile, nor does he have the intangibles that I think he could flourish as a rookie starter. In Dan Pompei’s piece linked to above, they make the comparison to Joe Flacco.

I do think that fits somewhat. You may or may not be surprised to discover that I don’t think Flacco possesses ideal intangibles. Flacco is a player that I think has benefited greatly from being on the right team. In Baltimore, he became a rookie starter because of injuries to Troy Smith and Kyle Boller. He made the most of that opportunity. But I think it helped greatly how much of the Ravens were a run-first, defensive-minded team that already had a leader in Ray Lewis. Flacco essentially never really had to assert himself as the guy up to this point. Moving forward with Lewis and others gone, and fresh off a Super Bowl he will now.

I think that’s why I’ll likely always consider Matt Ryan to be a better overall quarterback than Flacco. I know Flacco has better physical tools, and he’ll make throws look easy that Ryan will never be able to make in a million years. And for that, there are those that will consider him the better player. But I think given what Ryan has had to be in Atlanta from the very beginning, a stabilizing force, that makes him the better overall player. I just believe that if you had put Ryan in Baltimore in 2008, you’d likely to get the same if not better results. If you had put Flacco in Atlanta, I don’t think he would have had the same success. Flacco reached a level the past two years (running no huddle) that Ryan was doing Day One.

How does this relate to Tampa Bay? It’ll be interesting to see how things play out this year. If Freeman handles this currently adversity and flourishes, it could make his career. Because if he is dumped by the Bucs next year, I don’t see him landing in as good an environment. If he’s the top free agent next off-season, teams like Oakland and Cleveland will likely be strong suitors, but none of those teams have the supporting cast that Freeman has in Tampa.

Glennon won’t get the same circumstances that Flacco got in Baltimore. If Glennon became the Bucs starter, he would have to take the bull by the horns much earlier. And I’m not sure Glennon has that ability.

***

There are a lot of good free agents still available. Players that I will be shocked if they don’t find teams by the times camps open. In fact, many of these guys should already have jobs.

Josh D. Weiss-USA TODAY Sports

Will Sack For Money

Ahmad Bradshaw is still unsigned. Bradshaw is coming off an injury, and is not going to be healthy for a few more weeks or months. The Steelers were interested, but their selection of Le’Veon Bell might end their wooing him. But I think besides Pittsburgh, Dallas or St. Louis would be good fits for him. All of those teams still need help at the running back position and Bradshaw could wind up being the lead tailback for each team by the time the season ends. But the best fits for him might be in the city of New York. I don’t know if that bridge is burned, but the Giants haven’t really upgraded their running back position. And if they can get Bradshaw on the cheap, there’s no better place for him to land. But if not the Giants, then I think the Jets should be interested. Chris Ivory has talent, but he’s unproven. And with recent news about Mike Goodson, adding an insurance policy like Bradshaw could be a good move.

Brandon Lloyd is a talented receiver that is basically a poor man’s Julio Jones. The 49ers could use a vertical threat like him. I think another good landing spot for him might also be Baltimore. Jacoby Jones had a couple of big plays in January, but I don’t think you can rely on him week in and week out. The Texans tried him out as a potential starter and he never inspired confidence there, and I doubt Baltimore will get more than Houston did.

John Abraham is still unsigned and while it seems like Tennessee is his top suitor, I think teams like Buffalo, Denver, and the N.Y. Jets are the best fits for his skills. Mark Anderson did not live up to expectations as a rush end in Buffalo, and Abraham could be a nice short-term upgrade. Denver still hasn’t effectively replaced Elvis Dumervil as the edge rusher opposite Von Miller, and Abe could work well there. The Jets right now have Antwan Barnes and Quinton Coples on the edge. Coples is expected to stand up and rush, which I think Abraham would be a better fit doing.

Charles Woodson still needs to find a home. He can help out teams looking for depth in the secondary. The Raiders might be a great place for him to land because their secondary is depleted, especially at free safety. Carolina would also be a good spot since their secondary looks atrocious. The Rams, Jets, and Cowboys could use a free safety with Woodson’s experience and leadership.

The Redskins signed Jeremy Trueblood and Tony Pashos to upgrade their right tackle competition behind Tyler Polumbus. But if they could have done things over again, maybe they would have just signed Eric Winston who is better than all three. I think Seattle would be smart to pick him up since I think Breno Giacomini is fairly average.

***

It’s May, but I think it’s worth talking about some predictions and expectations for what will happen in 2013.

I think the five best teams in the NFC are the Falcons, Packers, 49ers, Seahawks, and Saints. I think those are the likeliest teams to make the playoffs this year. I think the winner of the NFC East will ultimately be the Eagles. I just don’t think the Giants or Cowboys are that talented as teams.

One team in the NFC I’m not sure of what they will be are the Chicago Bears. I think with the changes they’ve made to their offensive line, the Bears should now have an offense that could be potent. But I don’t really know about how good a coach Marc Trestman is to really have a strong opinion one way or the other.

The Rams could also be another surprise team in the NFC because I think they could have the makings of one of the league’s top defenses if they can get some production from their safeties this year. But their offense has a lot of question marks, particularly with their ground game. Will additions like Jared Cook and Tavon Austin be able to carry an offense to be a 10-win team and wildcard winner? I doubt it.

The Bucs and Lions will also be in the playoff mix. But for the issues with their quarterback, it’s tough to see Schiano being able to hold things together to get the most out of whoever is their quarterback in 2013. The Lions are another team that has talent to compete at the highest levels, but never once while Jim Schwartz has been their coach have I seen them perform to it. I don’t think 2013 will be any different for them.

As for the AFC, I think the Patriots, Texans, and Broncos will continue to be the class of that division. But I’m hard-pressed seeing any of those teams being Super Bowl favorites. I think they suffer from being a bit too finesse. With the Texans getting DeAndre Hopkins, I’d love to pick them as my AFC Super Bowl favorite because I think they have the most balanced roster in that conference. But they are still coached by Gary Kubiak, and I’m not sold he is a championship-caliber coach.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Will he rise from the dead?

I think the AFC North is going to be a very interesting division. The Ravens, Steelers, and Bengals I think are all teams that can make the playoffs and it’s possible they could be the final three playoff teams. The Ravens are likely going to take a step back this year, as people forget that they were a very inconsistent regular season prior to the playoffs. The Steelers will be interesting, but I don’t really know how this Todd Haley-Ben Roethlisberger quasi-feud gets played out. Big Ben has not held his tongue when it came to questioning the direction of the offense, and it’s hard for me to see with that and a declining defense them being more than a wildcard team. The Bengals are going to be interesting as well, as I would not be surprised one bit if they win that division. But it’ll take Andy Dalton stepping up and taking advantage of new weapons like Tyler Eifert and Gio Bernard to take his game to the next level. Dalton has the capability and with Mike Zimmer still calling the shots on defense, they could be in for a really good season.

The Colts will also be in the mix as well, but they will have to deal with the sophomore slump. Although fingers will be pointed at Luck should they take a step backwards, people will forget that in 2012 the Colts offensive line and defense were terrible for most of the year. Any games they do win in 2013, will be entirely because of Luck because I’m not sure that will change. The other factor is maybe Chuck Pagano isn’t that good a coach. We really don’t know yet. The Colts were 1-2 before ChuckStrong kicked in.

Speaking of sophomore slumps, a team I didn’t mention for the NFC playoff picture are the Washington Redskins. They have basically the same team as last year, except Brian Orakpo will be returning. I’m not sure that will be enough, although it should help their defense immensely. But I will say this, if RG3 returns from his injury and plays at a high level, I’ll officially declare him the Messiah. It’s often exaggeration when people say a guy carried a team, but in the case of RG3 last year with the Redskins and their 7-game season-ending win streak, it’s true. I think the thing hurting the Redskins in 2013 is the fact that I think they’ll be much more cautious with Griffin. And that means a lot less zone read. And in truth, that was most of their offense last year (the remainder being filled by handoffs to Alfred Morris). Griffin wasn’t asked to drop back that much and throw without some form of run-action to freeze the linebackers and safeties. If teams don’t have to go that extra mile to try and scheme against them defensively, I just am not sure the Redskins have the offensive firepower to be able to play with a more traditional offense and win. It’s nothing against RG3, who I think has the capability to do that, but it’s such a stark contrast to what they did last year. And to think they could go two straight years basically playing two different types of offenses and win is really something special. Sure, the Broncos did it the past two years with Tebow and Manning. That’s two different quarterbacks, we’re talking about one guy. Especially a guy that has been spending his off-season worried about his rehab than making the next progression as a passer.

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Author: Aaron Freeman

Aaron is the founder of FalcFans.com.

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