With the 2011-12 NFL season steadily approaching, it is time to take a look at what teams have made the right offseason moves to prepare for a run to the Super Bowl.
The NFL off-season began with a rough start due to the lockout, but that didnâ€™t stop teams from making off-season acquisitions and moves that stirred up the sports world. Being one of the most active NFL off-seasons in recent years, teams have bolstered their rosters in an attempt to make a run at the title.
Two teams specifically have made the right moves that have made them true contenders and my preseason picks to make the Super Bowl: the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots.
Although much has been made of Vince Youngâ€™s statement of the Eagles being a â€œDream Teamâ€, the Eagles have strengthened their roster in a way in which will help them make it to the Super Bowl. Defensively, the Eagles added defensive end Jason Babin, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, and cornerbacks Dominique Rogers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomougha.Â The premiere free agent of the 2011-12 offseason was Asomougha, and although rumored to be headed to the New York Jets, the Eagles flew in and snatched him, solidifying one of the best position upgrades in recent times.
The Eaglesâ€™ secondary has immediately become one ofÂ the best in the league, if not the best. With three Pro Bowl cornerbacks, it will be hard for any opposing quarterback to get the ball to their receivers. The willingness of Rogers-Cromartie to play the slot on three-corner sets, as he stated recently, helps silence the critics as to playing time issues, at least for now.
With lockdown corners covering each receiver, it becomes extremely difficult for quarterbacks, even the likes of Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, to get the ball to any receiver, even playmakers like Marques Colston and Greg Jennings.Â However, there are more reasons defensively and offensively why the Philadelphia Eagles are a preseason favorite to make a run at the Lombardi Trophy.
The Eagles not only drastically improved their secondary, but they also made key additions to the defensive front that will help them put pressure on the quarterback as well.
With the additions of defensive end Jason Babin and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, who combined for 19.5 sacks last season, the Eagles hope to bolster their pass rush.
On offense, the off-season signings of Vince Young and Ronnie Brown have added even more to an Eagles attack that was near the top of the league last season. Although both of these players sit behind starters on the roster (Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy, respectively), they bring talents that opposing coaches may still have to plan for. Both Vick and Young are threats to run the ball as well as pass.
While Vick is clearly the starter and the face of the franchise, Young may be able to come in and take some snaps just to confuse opposing defenses, allowing Vick to potentially line up outside on a wide receiver option play.
With the addition of Ronnie Brown, new possibilities are created for the running game. Although McCoy can both run and catch the ball, Brown may provide a couple Wildcat plays to the Eagles offense, as he was known to do with Ricky Williams at Miami. With explosive receivers like DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, two dual threat quarterbacks in Michael Vick and Vince Young, and two versatile running backs in LeSean McCoy and Ronnie Brown, you begin to see the endless possibilities for this offense.
The Eagles have been referred to as this yearâ€™s NFL version of the Miami Heat.
There have been a lot of critics of this team which have emerged via social media, print, and electronic media. However, the Miami Heat did make the championship game despite all the hate they faced, and I expect the Eagles to do the same.
Although fans arenâ€™t happy about how they stacked up their roster in the offseason, the simple fact is that the organization made all the right moves to put themselves in a position to make a run at the championship. Time will tell if they can live up to this prediction, but with Andy Reidâ€™s coaching ability and the new additions to the team, donâ€™t be surprised if they are still playing come February.
But who will they be playing, you might ask? The Eagles will meet my preseason AFC pick to advance to the Super Bowl: the New England Patriots.
The Patriots are coming off a stellar 14-2 regular season that nevertheless ended in disappointment with a second-round playoff defeat at the hands of their arch-rivals, the New York Jets. Patriots coach Bill Belichick followed a disappointing playoff exit with two offseason moves that have been the center of much discussion around the NFL.
With the trades for wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, the New England Patriots have added to very skilled players that also bring a lot of baggage. However, dealing with such players is one of Belichickâ€™s specialties. Being what many believe as the best coach in the league, Belichick has taken on the challenge of handling these types of players in the past, including such high-profile names as Randy Moss and Rodney Harrison.
The important thing about these additions is that the Patriots did not have to give up much to get them. The Patriots only gave up a fifth-round pick in 2012 and a sixth-round pick in 2013 for Ochocinco, and a fifth-round pick in 2013 for Haynesworth. There wasnâ€™t much risk involved in these deals as far as sacrificing players or picks to get them. However, aside from the departures of Ty Warren, James Sanders, and Brandon Merriweather, Belichick has kept the same team that won 14 games a year ago.
The Patriots primarily added to what was already a great team.
The Patriotsâ€™ already prolific offense adds Ochocinco who, despite his outspoken personality, is a solid receiver and bolsters what was already a good receiving corps.
Now Tom Brady has the likes of Wes Welker, Deion Branch, and Ochocinco at his disposal. With so many weapons and a Hall of Fame quarterback, it will be hard to stop this Patriots offense. Additionally, the Patriots added Nate Solder through the draft to help improve the offensive line, which tended to look shaky against opponents such as the Jets.
In adding Haynesworth, Belichick left many sportswriters and analysts questioning whether this was a good or bad move for the organization. However, letâ€™s not forget that Haynesworth, despite recent issues in Washington, was once a Pro Bowl-caliber athlete.
If Haynesworth can perform like he has in the past, when he was named to three straight All-NFL 1st teams and two Pro Bowls, then the Patriots may have arguably the best duo at defensive tackle in the league.Â Side by side with Pro Bowl defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, Haynesworth has the chance to put fear in opposing quarterbackâ€™s eyes by posing serious issues for offensive lineman.
The Patriots also brought in defensive lineman Andre Carter and Shaun Ellis.Â The Patriots have loaded up on linemen, which could mean a switch to a 4-3 defensive scheme. This Patriot defense appears deeper and more primed to perform at a level similar to what New England achieved during their Super Bowl years.
These off-season additions not only put the Patriots in position to rival last yearâ€™s 14-2 record, but also to get over the hump in the playoffs and make it back to the Super Bowl, which would be New Englandâ€™s first since 2008. This yearâ€™s offense could rival that yearâ€™s success, and the added defensive personnel could upgrade that side of the ball to one of the best in the league this year.
Bill Belichick has made all the right moves to get this Patriots team back to glory and another Super Bowl title.
The 2011-12 season will be a fun one to watch.Â Several teams have upgraded and changed their roster their roster this off-season in an attempt to put them in a position for success.
The Eagles and Patriots have used the draft, free agency, and trades to build rosters that put them in position to be true contenders for Super Bowl XLVII. Although time will tell to see if these teams can utilize their roster and step up for the challenge, the Patriots and Eagles are my preseason picks to make it to the Super Bowl and battle it out for the Lombardi trophy.