New looks for a new season

In a summer of change, these rank as the 10 biggest makeovers in the NFL this year.

Revamping the Teams

September 08, 2005|By KEN MURRAY | KEN MURRAY,SUN STAFF

1. Browns

defense

Out: 4-3 defense, DE Courtney Brown, DT Gerard Warren, CB Anthony Henry

In: 3-4 defense, CB Gary Baxter, S Brian Russell (above), NT Jason Fisk, LB Matt Stewart

Skinny: The Romeo Crennel era will launch with a switch to the 3-4 scheme, even though the Browns don't have the personnel to run it successfully. Fisk (6 feet 3, 295) doesn't have ideal size at nose tackle. The Browns tried to shore up a thin linebacking unit by moving defensive end Kenard Lang there, but his transition has gone slowly. Their front seven is shaky, but the back end is solid.

2. Raiders

running game

Out: Amos Zereoue and Tyrone Wheatley

In: LaMont Jordan (above)

Skinny: The Raiders ran the ball the fewest times in the league last year and ranked last in rushing yards. Zereoue, who led the team with 425 yards, was released. Jordan, from Maryland, fills the need for a power runner. Opponents must decide between putting more defenders deep in coverage against Randy Moss and Jerry Porter or stacking the box to stop Jordan. Somebody gets a mismatch.

3. Cowboys

defense

Out: 4-3 defense, LB Dexter Coakley, DE Marcellus Wiley

In: 3-4 defense, LB Demarcus Ware (above), DE Marcus Spears, NT Jason Ferguson, CB Anthony Henry, CB Aaron Glenn

Skinny: Only one NFC team allowed more points than the Cowboys (405) last year. Coach Bill Parcells used the draft and free agency to find a 3-4 solution. Ware is a promising pass rusher and Henry hopes to solve a crisis in the secondary. Parcells hasn't completely scrapped the 4-3, though. Like most teams, the Cowboys will use multiple fronts.

4. Dolphins

coach

Out: Dave Wannstedt

In: Nick Saban (above)

Skinny: Wannstedt made brutal personnel decisions in Chicago and Miami, and wound up back in the college ranks at Pittsburgh. Saban will pay for the mistakes of the previous regime, including the trade of a second-round draft pick for third-string quarterback A.J. Feeley. Gus Frerotte isn't much better than Feeley, so the Dolphins will be hard-pressed to score. Saban has overhauled a good defense and given it a multiple look. He's building the team in the image of his former mentor Bill Belichick's Patriots defense.

5. Chiefs

defense

Out: DE Vonnie Holliday, LB Scott Fujita

In: OLB Derrick Johnson, ILB Kendrell Bell, CB Patrick Surtain (above), SS Sammy Knight

Skinny: The worst pass defense in the league triggered a shakeup at linebacker and in the secondary. Bell must overcome an injury rap and Knight is slowing down, but Surtain has been one of the league's premier cornerbacks. If Johnson plays to first-round expectations, the Chiefs' defense could be gnarly.

6. Ravens wide

receivers

Out: Travis Taylor

In: Derrick Mason (above), Mark Clayton

Skinny: Finally, the Ravens have some receivers who can make yards after the catch. Forget that they had the Colts' Brandon Stokley at one time. And that the constant rotation at quarterback didn't help Taylor. But in Mason, Clayton and incumbent Clarence Moore, the Ravens have playmakers -- assuming they finally have the quarterback.

7. Vikings

defense

Out: DT Chris Hovan, LB Chris Claiborne, S Brian Russell

In: DT Pat Williams (above), DE Erasmus James, LB Napoleon Harris, LB Sam Cowart, CB Fred Smoot, S Darren Sharper

Skinny: A glut of new defensive players should give the Vikings their best chance to end Green Bay's domination in the NFC North. Williams is a major addition at tackle. Cowart has been injured a lot, Harris fell out of favor in Oakland, and Smoot missed most of preseason. It's a curious mix.

8. Jets offensive coordinator

Out: Paul Hackett

In: Mike Heimerdinger (above)

Skinny: Heimerdinger and Hackett are diametrical opposites. Heimerdinger likes to take shots downfield in his offense. Hackett prefers the shorter throws of the West Coast system. Jets coach Herm Edwards brought in Heimerdinger to invigorate a stodgy offense. The bigger issue is whether quarterback Chad Pennington has a strong enough arm to capitalize on the new system. He was indecisive in the preseason coming off shoulder surgery.

9. Cardinals quarterback

Out: Josh McCown

In: Kurt Warner (above)

Skinny: Cardinals coach Dennis Green made yearly trips to the playoffs in Minnesota with retread quarterbacks. He'll try it again in Arizona with the former Rams star. If Arizona's suspect offensive line can protect the brittle Warner, he could resurrect his career and the Cardinals' offense. If the line can't, the offense goes back to McCown, who was unable to hold the job a year ago.

10. Patriots linebackers

Out: Tedy Bruschi, Ted Johnson, Roman Phifer

In: Chad Brown (above), Monty Beisel

Skinny: A stroke, concussions and age took Bruschi, Johnson and Phifer (37) out of the Patriots' lineup in the offseason. They are major losses in the middle, especially Bruschi, who was the emotional leader of the defense. Beisel was a backup in Kansas City, and Brown, 35, hasn't played a full 16-game season since 2001. Without Bruschi, the defense can't be expected to have the same cohesion. It will be another challenge for the master, Bill Belichick.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.