Around the NFL: 2008 NFL power rankings
With minicamps wrapping up and rosters all but set heading into training camps, we give you our first 2008 NFL power rankings:
Key point: Asante Samuel, Randall Gay and Donte Stallworth -- key players on the 18-1 team -- were lost in free agency. Yet, losing at the wire in the Super Bowl didn’t exactly suggest there’s a glaring crack in Bill Belichick’s armor.
Key arrivals: Tennessee linebacker Jerod Mayo (draft, No. 10 overall); Michigan linebacker Shawn Crable (draft, No. 78 overall).
Last three years: 10-6, 12-4, 15-1. Last playoff win: 2007.
Key point: Eli Manning comes in with Super Bowl still and is ascending; new backup David Carr, likewise a former No. 1 overall pick, is back with Chris Palmer, the Giants QB coach who was Carr’s head coach in Texas. Losing Michael Strahan and Kawika Mitchell hurts a dynamic defense.
Key arrivals: Safety Sammy Knight (free agent, Jaguars); safety Kenny Phillips (draft, Miami, Fla., No. 31 overall).
Last three years: 11-5, 8-8, 10-6. Last playoff win: 2007.
Key point: They didn’t just slip into the playoffs; they barged in, beating Pittsburgh during a 6-2 second half and then punching out the Steelers in the opening round. David Garrard’s 102.2 passer rating was helped by the fact he isn’t asked to -- and doesn’t need to -- throw that much.
Key arrivals: CB Drayton Florence (free agent, Chargers); Florida DE Derrick Harvey (draft, No. 8 overall).
Last three years: 12-4, 8-8, 11-5. Last playoff win: 2007.
Key point: QB Philip Rivers is coming of a torn ACL, LaDainian Tomlinson is going on 29 and has more career carries than Earl Campbell and Jim Brown made in their Hall of Fame careers.
Key arrivals: Arizona CB Antoine Cason (draft, No. 27 overall); OT L.J. Shelton (free agent, Dolphins).
Last three years: 9-7, 14-2, 11-5. Last playoff win: 2007.
Key point: There were signs of slippage in 2007. Peyton Manning posted his second-lowest passing yardage total of the decade and put up a passer rating below 100 for the first time in five years. Back-to-back midseason losses to the Patriots and Chargers were instructive.
Key arrivals: RB Dominic Rhodes (free agent, Raiders); Michigan RB Mike Hart (Round 6, draft; 5,189 rushing yards in college).
Key point: These hombres were over-rated, judging from the second half of last season (28-23 win over Washington, 28-27 win over Detroit, 10-6 loss to Philadelphia, 27-6 loss to Washington). Jerry’s ‘boys are 0-5 in the postseason since 1997.
Key arrivals: RB Felix Jones (draft, No. 22 overall; 1,225 and 1,199 rushing yards in last two years at Arkansas); South Florida CB Mike Jenkins (draft, No. 25 overall); CB Pacman Jones (trade, Titans).
Last three years: 9-7, 9-7, 13-3. Last playoff win: 1996.
Key point: New defensive linemen Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams aren’t good enough to turn the Browns into Supermen if the team doesn’t keep growing at quarterback.
Key arrivals: WR Donte Stallworth (free agent, Patriots; 31 career TDs); Center-guard Rex Hadnot (free agent, Dolphins).
Last three years: 6-10, 4-12, 10-6. Last playoff win: 1994.
Key point: Likely Hall of Fame coach Mike Holmgren led his team on a 6-1 tear when it was time to prove playoff worthiness last year. That’s nice, but the running game hasn’t been the same since Shaun Alexander’s 2005 Super Bowl season, and he’s no longer a Seahawk.
Key arrivals: Southern Cal defensive end Lawrence Jackson (draft, No. 28 overall); RB Julius Jones (free agent, Cowboys).
Last three years: 13-3, 9-7, 10-6. Last playoff win: 2007.
Key point: Since winning the Super Bowl in the 2005 season, the Steelers have lost Pro Bowlers Jeff Hartings and Alan Faneca from an offensive line that used to set the tone for the franchise. That makes it tricky for Ben Roethlisberger to get to his bevy of weapons.
Key arrivals: Illinois RB Rashard Mendenhall (Draft, No. 23 overall; 1,742 yards in 2007); 6-foot-4 Texas WR Limas Sweed (draft, No. 53 overall).
Last three years: 11-5, 8-8, 10-6. Last playoff win: 2006.
Key point: Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell says quarterback Tarvaris Jackson has made ³tremendous progress.² We’ll believe that when we see it, but when we see Adrian Peterson, we believe, no questions asked.
Key arrivals: DE Jared Allen (free agent, Chiefs, NFL-best 15.5 sacks in 2007); safety Madieu Williams (free agent, Bengals).
Last three years: 9-7, 6-10, 8-8. Last playoff win: 2004.
Key point: The playoffs seem possible behind veteran Chad Pennington, but not if they keep trying to grow greenhorn Kellen Clemens. A free-agency shopping spree shook up the feel of the roster.
Key arrivals: Guard Alan Faneca (free agent, Steelers); guard Damien Woody (free agent, Lions); TE Bubba Franks (free agent, Packers).
Last three years: 4-12, 10-6, 4-12. Last playoff win: 2004.
Key point: Lovie Smith is a good enough “glue” guy to fix at least some of the dysfunctional stuff that wrecked 2007. One of those things must be quarterback.
Key arrivals: Vanderbilt LT Chris Williams (draft, No. 14 overall); Tulane RB Matt Forte (draft, No. 44 overall; 2,200 rushing yards in 2007).
Last three years: 11-5, 13-3, 7-9. Last playoff win: 2006.
Key point: Reggie Bush can’t function without Deuce McAllister, but the latter has lost games to injuries four years in a row and is coming off surgeries on both knees. Drew Brees has topped 4,400 yards in each of his two Saints seasons.
Key arrivals: LB Dan Morgan (free agent, Panthers); Southern Cal DT Sedrick Ellis (draft, No. 7 overall).
Last three years: 3-13, 10-6, 7-9. Last playoff win: 2006.
Key point: It’s time for Vince Young to break through as a third-year pro, but aside from Crumpler, his receiving corps could break a pane of thin glass. Running back Chris Johnson must deliver as a rookie Round 1 pick.
Key arrivals: TE Alge Crumpler (free agent, Falcons); DE Jevon Kearse (free agent, Eagles).
Last three years: 4-12, 8-8, 10-6. Last playoff win: 2003.
Key point: Marshawn Lynch could be a great power back, but the passing game is no so hot. QB Trent Edwards must surprise.
Key arrival: Free agent OLB Kawika Mitchell (started for Super Bowl champion Giants).
Last three years: 5-11, 7-9, 7-9. Last playoff win: 1995.
Key point: Gary Kubiak is the right coach to turn Matt Schaub into a playoff-style quarterback, if -- and that’s a Texas-sized if -- Schaub has it in him.
Key arrivals: LB Chaun Thompson (free agent, Browns); RB Chris Brown (free agent; 2,757 yards, 4.3 per carry in five years with Titans).
Last three years: 2-14, 6-10, 8-8. Last playoff win: Never.
Key point: WR Steve Smith is young enough (29) to return to superstardom if rookie No. 13 overall draft pick Jonathan Stewart comes within 400 yards of the 1,798 he rushed as a 2007 Oregon Duck.
Key arrival: Pitt LT Jeff Otah (draft, No. 19 overall); WR Mushin Muhammad (free agent, Bears).
Last three years: 11-5, 8-8, 7-9. Last playoff win: 2005.
Key points: Jason Campbell comes off as one of those quarterbacks a team keeps hoping will break through, but he never quite does. The Redskins basically stood pat with a team that needed upgrades.
Key arrivals: Michigan State WR Devin Thomas (No. 34 overall, 1,260 yards in 2007); Southern Cal TE Fred Davis (draft, No. 48 overall; 881 yards, 8 TDs in 2007).
Last three years: 10-6, 5-11, 9-7. Last playoff win: 1999.
Key point: Javon Walker’s spotty career hardly suggests he’s exactly what JaMarcus Russell needs to grow up fast. It’s odd that a talent as bright as Russell will be best served handing off to Justin Fargas and Darren McFadden.
Key arrivals: Arkansas flash McFadden (draft, No 4 overall); DE Kalimba Edwards (free agent, Lions).
Last three years: 4-12, 2-14, 4-12. Last playoff win: 2002.
Key point: Donovan McNabb will turn 32 during the season. He has lost 22 games to injuries during the last six seasons. He hasn’t appeared in a playoff game since his Super Bowl season of 2004.
Key arrivals: CB Asante Samuel (free agent, Patriots); Notre Dame DT Trevor Laws (draft, No. 47 overall).
Last three years: 6-10, 10-6, 8-8. Last playoff win: 2006.
Key point: Talented Jay Cutler got flustered even before it became apparent his mediocre supporting cast might get worse, not better. A 2-4 finish including losses to the Bears (37-34), Raiders (34-20) and Texans (31-13) makes you wonder if Mike Shanahan is losing it.
Key arrivals: Boise State left tackle Ryan Clady (draft, No. 12 overall); LB Boss Bailey (free agent, Lions).
Last three years: 13-3, 9-7, 7-9. Last playoff win: 2005.
Key point: As marvelous as Carson Palmer is supposed to be, he edged division rival Derek Anderson just 86.7-82.5 in 2007 passer rating.
Key arrivals: Southern Cal OLB Keith Rivers (draft, No. 9 overall); DE Antwan Odom (free agent, eight sacks for 2007 Titans).
Last three years: 11-5, 8-8, 7-9. Last playoff win: 1990.
Key point: They made the playoffs with a 9-7 record against a weak schedule but were exposed as a fake team with a late 28-14 loss to the Texans. Jeff Garcia threatens to retire. Like the rest of the league cares.
Key arrivals: Kansas CB Aqib Talib (draft, No. 20 overall); center Jeff Faine (free agent, Saints); RB Warrick Dunn (free agent, Falcons).
Key point: Pick a name out of a hat -- Kyle Boller, Joe Flacco or Troy Smith -- and it’s not the quarterback you really want. Losing Adalius Thomas to New England warped the defensive chemistry in 2007. Bart Scott’s sacks plunged from 9 1/2 to one.
Key arrival: 5-foot-8, 199-pound Rutgers RB Ray Rice (draft, No. 55 overall).
Last three years: 6-10, 13-3, 5-11. Last playoff win: 2001.
Key point: They don’t have to face it now, but by November, it will hit them in the chops that Brett Favre was more than the face of the franchise. They wouldn’t have drafted Brian Brohm if they weren’t betting against Aaron Rodgers.
Key arrival: Kansas State WR Jordy Nelson (draft, No. 36 overall; 1,606 receiving yards in 2007).
Last three years: 4-12, 8-8, 13-3. Last playoff win: 2007.
Key point: Herm Edwards has reached a crossroads as an NFL head coach. He really could have used Brady Quinn in last year’s draft, but is left needing to milk unexpected magic from Brodie Croyle. Hey, he won with Chad Pennington.
Key arrival: LSU defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey (draft, No. 5 overall); Virginia guard Branden Albert (draft, No. 15 overall).
Last three years: 10-6, 9-7, 4-12. Last playoff win: 1993.
Key point: The blow of an 0-8 start was softened by a 3-1 awakening. An 0-4 finish with losses to Bengals, Packers, Steelers and Cardinals by a combined 131-67 score wrecked any optimism. Getting Steven Jackson healthy could make all the difference.
Key arrivals: Virginia DE Chris Long (draft, No. 2 overall); guard Jacob Bell (free agent, Titans); QB Trent Green (free agent, Dolphins).
Last three years: 6-10, 8-8, 3-13. Last playoff win: 2004.
Key point: The defense began to come of age behind sensational young linebacker Patrick Willis, the reason the 49ers won two of their last three games. But Alex Smith is not the caliber of quarterback who belonged at the top of a draft.
Key arrivals: WR Isaac Bruce (free agent, Rams); RB DeShaun Foster (free agent, Panthers); DE Justin Smith (free agent, Bengals).
Last three years: 4-12, 7-9, 5-11. Last playoff win: 2002.
Key point: Kurt Warner is too old and has been away from stardom too long. Matt Leinart is too ... something.
Key arrival: LB Clark Haggans (free agent from Steelers).
Last three years: 5-11, 5-11, 8-8. Last playoff win: 1998.
Key point: How do you get rid of your best defensive player (Shaun Rogers), purge the roster of other veterans, and hope to reverse a 1-7 second half that included losses of 42-10, 51-14 and 34-13? Calvin Johnson had better become Superman and then some.
Key arrival: Boston College left tackle Gosder Cherilus (draft, No. 17 overall).
Last three years: 5-11, 3-13, 7-9. Last playoff win: 1991.
Key point: I talked this week to a famous former player who is still actively involved in an NFL team’s operations. He said he likes Bill Parcells but suspects his act no longer works. Parcells’ odd handling of Jason Taylor fits into that discussion.
Key arrivals: Michigan left tackle Jake Long (draft, No. 1 overall); Michigan QB Chad Henne (draft, No. 57 overall; 9,715 yards as a four-year college starter).
Last three years: 9-7, 6-10, 1-5. Last playoff win: 2000.
Key point: A shaky offensive line with a left tackle (Todd Weiner) recovering from microfracture knee surgery might prompt rookie QB Matt Ryan to line up 10 yards deep in shotgun formation.
Key arrival: USC left tackle Sam Baker (No. 21 overall, draft).
Last three years: 8-8, 7-9, 4-12. Last playoff win: 2004.
Reach Repository sports writer Steve Doerschuk at (330) 580-8347 or e-mail email@example.com