1. Carolina Panthers
History doesn’t bode well for them getting back to the Super Bowl, but most teams didn’t have Cam Newton as their QB though.
2. New Orleans Saints
The defense last year was a disaster. It won’t be that bad this year.
3. Atlanta Falcons
They need to be more balanced on offense and try not to force the issue.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If former head coach Lovie Smith was only given two years to turn this around, how long does Dirk Koetter have?
Head Coach: Ron Rivera
Key Position: Secondary
They don’t have Josh Norman, but they feel that the defense will be just fine. Bene Benwikere is the default number one corner while James Bradberry could be a sneaky good corner that no one knows about. That front seven is still great and the secondary only needs to play above average.
Key Acquisitions: DT Paul Soliai (Atlanta Falcons)
Key Rookies: DT Vernon Butler, CB James Bradberry
Head Coach: Sean Payton
Key Position: Defense
This unit was terrible on so many levels. Having a strong leader will go a long way in helping improve the 31st ranked defense. James Laurinaitis is going to be counted on as that lone voice that will make sure everyone is in position to succeed in getting the ball back to QB Drew Brees.
Key Acquisitions: DT Nick Fairley (Los Angeles Rams), CB Cortland Finnegan (Carolina Panthers), TE Coby Fleener (Indianapolis Colts), LB James Laurinaitis (Los Angeles Rams)
Key Rookies: DT Sheldon Rankins, WR Michael Thomas, S Vonn Bell
Head Coach: Dan Quinn
Key Position: Pass Rush
Their sack leader was Vic Beasley with four. The team had a total of 19 sacks. That’s not going to cut in today’s NFL. Dwight Freeney probably still has enough left in the tank for a minimum 5 sacks. Beasley will have to be better and there really isn’t much else. Not drafting a pass rusher might hurt them this season.
Key Acquisitions: DE Dwight Freeney (Arizona Cardinals), C Alex Mack (Cleveland Browns), WR Mohamed Sanu (Cincinnati Bengals), DE Derrick Shelby (Miami Dolphins)
Key Rookies: S Keanu Neal, LB Deion Jones, TE Austin Hooper
Head Coach: Dirk Koetter (Offensive Coordinator)
Key Position: Secondary
There were a few games where the secondary let them down with a big play that could have been prevented. Enter Brent Grimes who is a good corner who does have tendencies to be a shutdown corner. Drafting Vernon Hargreaves was another positive that should reduce those ‘let down’ moments to a minimum.
Key Acquisitions: DE Robert Ayers (New York Giants), CB Brent Grimes (Miami Dolphins), G J.R. Sweezy (Seattle Seahawks)
Key Rookies: CB Vernon Hargreaves, DE Noah Spence, K Roberto Aguayo