NFL Preseason 2012: Report-Card Grades for Every NFL Roster

Stephen WhiteFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2012

NFL Preseason 2012: Report-Card Grades for Every NFL Roster

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    I don't care how great an NFL coaching staff is; if they don't have some talent on the roster, it's going to be a long year.

    That's why I examined every roster: to see which teams have the talent to make some noise and which don't. I wanted to see which teams had the most elite talent, which teams had the biggest holes to fill and which had enough quality depth to withstand an injury or two.

    Click through to see your team's grade.

Arizona Cardinals

1 of 32

    Elite Players: WR Larry Fitzgerald, DE Darnell Dockett, DE Calais Campbell and CB/KR Patrick Peterson 

    High-Quality Players: NT Dan Williams, OLB Sam Acho, S Adrian Wilson and S Kerry Rhodes 

     

    Notes

    Rookie wide receiver Michael Floyd should contribute to the passing game right away.

    The Cardinals are stuck with two mediocre quarterbacks—Kevin Kolb and John Skelton—battling it out to start.

    Running back Ryan Williams is looking to come back from a knee injury that cost him his entire rookie season in 2011.

    The offensive line is bad, and it got worse over the weekend when it lost left tackle Levi Brown for the year.

    Most of the quality depth on the team is on defense and at wide receiver. 

    Roster Grade: D

Atlanta Falcons

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    Elite Players: K Matt Bryant, WR Roddy White, WR Julio Jones, TE Tony Gonzalez, DE John Abraham and CB Brent Grimes

    High-Quality Players: RT Tyson Clabo, QB Matt Ryan, RB Michael Turner, CB Asante Samuel, CB Dunta Robinson and S William Moore

     

    Notes

    Rookie center/guard Peter Konz will be pushing for playing time right away.

    The defensive tackle position is the weakest area on the team, but the Falcons have quality players there as well.

    Running back Jacquizz Rodgers appears to be ready to take some of the load off Michael Turner.

    Matt Ryan has too many weapons this year not to be highly successful.

    There is quality depth on both sides of the ball, particularly in the secondary.

    Roster Grade: B+

Baltimore Ravens

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    Elite Players: RG Marshall Yanda, RB Ray Rice, DE Haloti Ngata, MLB Ray Lewis, S Ed Reed and CB Lardarius Webb

    High-Quality Players: WR Anquan Boldin, LT Bryant McKinnie, FB Vonta Leach, QB Joe Flacco, NT  Terrence Cody and S Bernard Pollard

     

    Notes

    Rookie outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw should start from Day 1 with Terrell Suggs out for the season with an injury.  

    Joe Flacco is looking to take another step forward in his journey to become an elite quarterback.

    For that to happen, wide receiver Torrey Smith is going to have to become more than just a deep threat.

    There is quality depth everywhere on both sides of the ball.

    Roster Grade: A-

Buffalo Bills

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    Elite Players: DE Mario Williams, DT Marcell Dareus and DT Kyle Williams

    High-Quality Players: RB Fred Jackson, WR Stevie Johnson, DE Mark Anderson, S Jairus Byrd and KR C.J. Spiller

     

    Notes

    Rookie cornerback Stephon Gilmore will step in and start from Day 1.

    After Stevie Johnson, there isn't much else at wide receiver.

    Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has to show whether he can duplicate his brilliant play at the beginning of last season for a full 16 games. 

    Aside from the defensive line, there isn't a lot of quality depth.

    Roster Grade: D

Carolina Panthers

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    Elite Players: LT Jordan Gross, C Ryan Kalil, RB DeAngelo Williams, WR Steve Smith, QB Cam Newton, DE Charles Johnson and LB Jon Beason

    High-Quality Players: TE Greg Olsen, RB Jonathan Stewart, FB Mike Tolbert and DT Ron Edwards

     

    Notes

    Rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly should start and be an immediate upgrade at linebacker.

    Everyone will be looking to see if Cam Newton can match his production of his rookie season a year ago.

    The secondary is the weakest position, without any game-changers. 

    The defense lacks quality depth.

    Roster Grade: C-

Chicago Bears

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    Elite Players: WR Brandon Marshall, QB Jay Cutler, RB Matt Forte, DE Julius Peppers, MLB Brian Urlacher, OLB Lance Briggs, CB Charles Tillman and KR Devin Hester

    High-Quality Players: C Roberto Garza, RB Michael Bush, DE Israel Idonije, DT Henry Melton and LB Nick Roach

     

    Notes

    Rookies wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and defensive end Shea McClellin will push for playing time.

    The offensive line still needs some work on pass protection.

    Brian Urlacher had surgery on his knee last week, so his availability for the first regular-season game is in question.

    The major area of concern for the Bears on defense is the same one they have every year, it seems: safety. They have to hope Major Wright and Chris Conte can finally solidify that position.

    Offensive line is the only position at which there isn't quality depth.

    Roster Grade: B+

Cincinnati Bengals

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    Elite Players: WR A.J. Green, TE Jermaine Gresham, DT Geno Atkins and CB Leon Hall

    High-Quality Players: RB BenJarvus-Green Ellis, QB Andy Dalton, DE Carlos Dunlap, LB Rey Maualuga and S Reggie Nelson

     

    Notes

    Rookie Dre Kirkpatrick should contribute whenever his knee heals.

    The offensive line depth took a hit when Travelle Wharton went down with a season-ending knee injury.

    Dunlap and Maualuga were also injured recently but are expected back this season.

    The depth is good everywhere else on the team, particularly at cornerback.

    If there is one major concern on the team, it's starting strong safety Taylor Mays, who seems to put better hits on his own teammates than anyone else.

    Roster Grade: B

Cleveland Browns

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    Elite Players: LT Joe Thomas, C Alex Mack, CB Joe Haden and KR Joe Cribbs

    High-Quality Players: WR Greg Little, DT Jabaal Sheard, DT Phil Taylor, S T.J. Ward and CB Sheldon Brown

     

    Notes

    Rookies quarterback Brandon Weeden, right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, wide receiver Josh Gordon and running back Trent Richardson will all either start or play a lot. Richardson is still rehabbing his knee, so it may take him a little while longer to get in the lineup.

    The problem is that many spots at which they aren't elite, the Browns aren't even average. The rest of the offensive line, the tight ends and the linebackers are all below average.

    There also isn't a lot of quality depth anywhere.

    Roster Grade: D

Dallas Cowboys

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    Elite Players: WR Dez Bryant, WR Miles Austin, LT Tyron Smith, TE Jason Witten, QB Tony Romo, NT Jay Ratliff, OLB DeMarcus Ware, ILB Sean Lee and CB Brandon Carr

    High-Quality Players: RB DeMarco Murray, DE Jason Hatcher, OLB Anthony Spencer and S Gerald Sensabaugh

     

    Notes

    Rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne figures to start right away. There are major question marks with most of the offensive line and the running backs, however.

    There are also depth concerns at wide receiver and in the secondary.

    Witten and Ratliff are out with injury and may not be ready for the start of the regular season.

    Roster Grade: B+

Denver Broncos

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    Elite Players: LT Ryan Clady, QB Peyton Manning, DE Elvis Dumervil, OLB Von Miller and CB Champ Bailey

    High-Quality Players: WR Eric Decker, RB Willis McGahee, TE Jacob Tamme and LB D.J. Williams

     

    Notes

    Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is an ascending player.

    Defensive tackle Derek Wolfe and running back Ronnie Hillman, both rookies, should get some get some playing time.

    The starters on both sides of the ball all look pretty decent, but I question whether the Broncos have enough quality depth to weather a few injuries. 

    Roster Grade: B

Detroit Lions

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    Elite Players: LT Jeff Backus, C Dominic Raiola, WR Calvin Johnson, QB Matt Stafford, DE Cliff Avril and DT Ndamukong Suh

    High-Quality Players: WR Nate Burleson, WR Titus Young, TE Brandon Pettigrew, DE Kyle Vanden Bosch and S Louis Delmas

     

    Notes

    Backup tight end Tony Scheffler, defensive end Willie Young and defensive tackle Nick Fairley could start for most teams.

    Unfortunately for the Lions, they have major holes at running back and in the secondary, and they did nothing to upgrade those positions.

    Their depth at defensive line is outstanding.

    Roster Grade: C+

Green Bay Packers

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    Elite Players: WR Jordy Nelson, WR Greg Jennings, TE Jermichael Finley, QB Aaron Rodgers, DT B.J. Raji, OLB Clay Matthews and S Charles Woodson

    High-Quality Players: C Jeff Saturday, RT Bryan Bulaga, RB Cedric Benson, FB John Kuhn and LB A.J. Hawk

     

    Notes

    Cornerback Tramon Williams is very talented, but he has to bounce back from a disappointing 2011 season.

    Rookies Jerel Worthy and Nick Perry may both start or at least play a lot.

    One problem is depth, which took a hit at linebacker when Desmond Bishop went down with an injury. The Packers have quality depth everywhere else, though.

    Roster Grade: A-

Houston Texans

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    Elite Players: C Chris Myers, LT Duane Brown, WR Andre Johnson, RB Arian Foster, DE J.J. Watt, MLB Brian Cushing and CB Johnathan Joseph

    High-Quality Players: QB Matt Schaub, TE Owen Daniels, OLB Brooks Reed, OLB Connor Barwin and S Danieal Manning

     

    Notes

    It looks as though rookie outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus will push for playing time.

    Trindon Holliday appears to be a dangerous return man, if they choose to keep him.

    Quality depth is good on offense but appears to be a little thin on defense, especially with Watt out with a dislocated elbow.

    Roster Grade: A-

Indianapolis Colts

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    Elite Players: WR Reggie Wayne, OLB Robert Mathis, OLB Dwight Freeney and K Adam Vinatieri

    High-Quality Players: LT Anthony Castonzo, DE Cory Redding and S Antoine Bethea

     

    Notes

    Rookies quarterback Andrew Luck, tight end Coby Fleener and tight end Dwayne Allen will all start and/or play a lot.

    Obviously a lot is invested in Luck and his success, but there is no way to know how it will go yet. He has been very impressive in the preseason so far.

    There isn't a lot of quality depth anywhere on the team, and that was made worse with the injury to linebacker Pat Angerer.

    It's also going to take a while to transition the talent on defense to fit the new 3-4 scheme.

    Roster Grade: D+

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Elite Players: RB Maurice Jones-Drew (who still isn't in camp) and TE Marcedes Lewis

    High-Quality Players: C Brad Meester, FB Greg Jones, WR Laurent Robinson, DE Jeremy Mincey, DT Terrance Knighton, DT Tyson Alualu and MLB Paul Posluszny

     

    Notes

    Rookies wide receiver Justin Blackmon and defensive end Andre Branch should start from Day 1.

    Quarterback Blaine Gabbert looks much improved this year, but it's only preseason.

    If Jones-Drew doesn't show up for the start of the season, his backup, Rashad Jennings, looks like a capable starter at running back.

    The secondary still looks very suspect, with few playmakers.

    The only positional groups with quality depth are running back and defensive line.

    Roster Grade: C-

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Elite Players: WR Dwayne Bowe, WR Jon Baldwin, RB Jamaal Charles, OLB Tamba Hali, ILB Derrick Johnson, S Eric Berry and S Kendrick Lewis

    High-Quality Players: RT Eric Winston, LT Brandon Albert, WR Steve Breaston, TE Tony Moeaki, RB Peyton Hillis, WR Dexter McCluster and KR Javier Arenas

     

    Notes

    Quarterback Matt Cassel is probably in that mix as well, but he has to bounce back from a disappointing 2011.

    Because of all the injuries the Chiefs sustained last season, this year's backups got plenty of work and provide high-quality depth.

    Rookie nose tackle Dontari Poe should start and/or play a lot this season.

    Roster Grade: A

Miami Dolphins

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    Elite Players: LT Jake Long, C Mike Pouncey, DE Cameron Wake and CB Sean Smith

    High-Quality Players: RB Reggie Bush, DE Jared Odrick, NT Paul Soliai, OLB Karlos Dansby and S Reshad Jones

     

    Notes

    Rookies defensive lineman Olivier Vernon and running back Lamar Miller should push for playing time.

    Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill may start the season atop the depth chart. If he doesn't, it's just a matter of time before he is there.

    The Dolphins have a major weakness at wide receiver with no true No. 1 guy.

    Aside from that position, however, they have quality depth almost everywhere else.

    Roster Grade: C+

Minnesota Vikings

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    Elite Players: WR Percy Harvin, RB Adrian Peterson and DE Jared Allen

    High-Quality Players: WR Jerome Simpson, RT Phil Loadholt, DT Kevin Williams, OLB Chad Greenway and CB Antoine Winfield

     

    Notes

    Rookies left tackle Matt Kalil and safety Harrison Smith will start this season atop the depth charts.

    There's quality depth at most positions on both sides of the ball.

    It looks as though Adrian Peterson may not be ready at the start of the season, but his backup, Toby Gerhart, looks ready to carry the load until he is back.

    The biggest question mark with the Vikings, as it is with several teams, is at quarterback with Christian Ponder. He looks better so far this preseason, but he wasn't very good last year.

    Roster Grade: C+

New England Patriots

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    Elite Players: WR Wes Welker, TE Rob Gronkowski, TE Aaron Hernandez, QB Tom Brady, NT Vince Wilfork and LB Jerod Mayo

    High-Quality Players: WR Brandon Lloyd, LG Logan Mankins, LB Brandon Spikes, CB Devin McCourty and S Patrick Chung

     

    Notes

    Rookies defensive end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont'a Hightower will likely both start the season on top of the depth charts.

    The offensive line is a mess right now, but it may improve rapidly with some guys getting healthy and if Brian Waters returns to the team.

    With backup tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, the Patriots have the best quality depth at tight end in recent memory.

    The logjam at wide receiver is pretty impressive as well.

    Roster Grade: A-

New Orleans Saints

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    Elite Players: P Thomas Morstead, RG Jahri Evans, LG Ben Grubbs, WR Marques Colston, RB/KR Darren Sproles, TE Jimmy Graham, QB Drew Brees, DE Will Smith and MLB Curtis Lofton

    High-Quality Players: WR Devery Henderson, WR Lance Moore, RB Pierre Thomas, RB Mark Ingram and LB David Hawthorne

     

    Notes

    The secondary is again a problem, as they did nothing to upgrade a unit that performed poorly last season.

    Aside from the secondary, there is really good depth at the other positions. 

    The Saints will have to do without Will Smith for the first two regular-season games because of his suspension.

    Roster Grade: B+

New York Giants

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    Elite Players: WR Hakeem Nicks, WR Victor Cruz, QB Eli Manning, DE Justin Tuck and DE Jason Pierre-Paul

    High-Quality Players: RB Ahmad Bradshaw, DT Chris Canty, DE Osi Umenyiora, S Kenny Phillips and S Antrel Rolle

     

    Notes

    Rookies wide receiver Rueben Randle and running back David Wilson should push for playing time as the season goes on.

    The offensive line is a potential point of weakness, especially since Will Beatty's back is still giving him problems.

    There is quality depth on both sides of the ball. They may need it, as Nicks and Canty might not be fully healthy for the start of the season and cornerback Terrell Thomas is definitely going to miss some games.

    Roster Grade: B+

New York Jets

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    Elite Players: LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson, C Nick Mangold, WR Santonio Holmes, CB Darrelle Revis and CB Antonio Cromartie

    High-Quality Players: RG Brandon Moore, TE Dustin Keller, RB Shonn Greene, DE Muhammad Wilkerson, MLB David Harris and S LaRon Landry

     

    Notes

    Rookies wide receiver Stephen Hill, defensive lineman Quinton Coples, middle linebacker Demario Davis and safety Antonio Allen will all push for playing time.

    The position of concern is obviously quarterback. The starter, Mark Sanchez, makes too many mental mistakes, and the backup, Tim Tebow, is too erratic throwing the ball. But Tebow has a huge following, so there will be a controversy brewing at some point.

    There also are depth issues at right tackle, wide receiver and tight end.

    Roster Grade: C+

Oakland Raiders

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    Elite Players: K Sebastian Janikowski, P Shane Lechler, RB Darren McFadden, DT Richard Seymour, DT Tommy Kelly and S Tyvon Branch

    High-Quality Players: LT Jared Veldheer, QB Carson Palmer, DE Lamarr Houston, DE Matt Shaugnessy, MLB Rolando McClain and S Michael Huff

     

    Notes

    Rookies Rod Streater and Juron Criner will push for playing time at wide receiver.

    A lack of quality depth is an issue everywhere but wide receiver and the defensive line.

    McFadden has been hurt every year since he has been in the NFL. It won't matter how much talent he has if he ends up missing games again.

    The Raiders are explosive in the return game with Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore.

    Roster Grade: C+

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Elite Players: LG Evan Mathis, WR DeSean Jackson, RB LeSean McCoy, QB Michael Vick, DE Jason Babin, DE Trent Cole, DT Cullen Jenkins and CB Nnamdi Asomugha

    High-Quality Players: WR Jeremy Maclin, TE Brent Celek, MLB DeMeco Ryans, DT Derek Landri and CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

     

    Notes

    Rookies defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and return man Brandon Boykin will push for playing time.

    There is quality depth all over the roster.

    Jackson and Boykin should be explosive on special-teams returns.

    Roster Grade: A

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Elite Players: WR Mike Wallace, WR Antonio Brown, C Maurkice Pouncey, QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Rashard Mendenhall, OLB LaMarr Woodley, OLB James Harrison and S Troy Polamalu

    High-Quality Players: TE Heath Miller, NT Casey Hampton, MLB Lawrence Timmons and S Ryan Clark

     

    Notes

    Rookies guard David DeCastro, left tackle Mike Adams and running back Chris Rainey will push for playing time.

    Rainey and Emmanuel Sanders should provide some excitement to Pittsburgh's return game.

    The weakest area of the team is cornerback, and the Steelers chose not to try to bring in any upgrades.

    Wallace also still isn't in camp, Harrison just had knee surgery and Mendenhall may not be ready to start the season, as he is coming off a knee injury as well.

    They do have quality depth otherwise on both sides of the ball, and they're going to need it.

    Roster Grade: B+

San Diego Chargers

26 of 32

    Elite Players: LT Jared Gaither, TE Antonio Gates, QB Philip Rivers and S Eric Weddle

    High-Quality Players: C Nick Hardwick, WR Malcom Floyd, WR Eddie Royal, WR Robert Meachem, FB Le'Ron McClain, DE Corey Liuget and OLB Shaun Phillips

     

    Notes

    Rookie outside linebacker Melvin Ingram will start eventually and looks ready to make an immediate impact as a pass-rusher.

    The Chargers took a hit when starting running back Ryan Mathews broke his collarbone in their first preseason game, and wide receiver Vincent Brown broke his ankle over the weekend in the second preseason game.

    Gaither is still out dealing with an injury as well.

    They do have quality depth everywhere else on both sides of the ball.

    Roster Grade: B-

San Francisco 49ers

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    Elite Players: P Andy Lee, LT Joe Staley, TE Vernon Davis, RB Frank Gore, DE Justin Smith, OLB Aldon Smith, OLB Ahmad Brooks, MLB Patrick Willis, CB Carlos Rogers, S Donte Whitner and S Dashon Goldson

    High-Quality Players: LG Mike Iupati, WR Mario Manningham, WR Randy Moss, TE Delanie Walker, DE Ray McDonald, MLB NaVorro Bowman and CB Tarell Brown

     

    Notes

    Rookie wide receiver A.J. Jenkins should push for playing time.

    Ted Ginn Jr. and LaMichael James should give teams headaches on special-teams returns.

    Alex Smith is the big question mark, and he has to prove he can be an above-average quarterback and win games with his arm.

    There is quality depth everywhere on both sides of the ball.

    Roster Grade: A+

Seattle Seahawks

28 of 32

    Elite Players: LT Russell Okung, RB Marshawn Lynch, S Kam Chancellor and S Earl Thomas

    High-Quality Starters: WR Doug Baldwin, WR Sidney Rice, WR Terrell Owens, TE Kellen Winslow Jr., TE Zach Miller, DE Chris Clemons, DE Red Bryant, LB K.J. Wright and LB Leroy Hill

     

    Notes

    Rookie defensive end Bruce Irvin should play immediately on passing downs.

    The Seahawks have a quarterback competition, and it appears it will come down to the high-priced free agent Matt Flynn and rookie Russell Wilson.

    Leon Washington can still get it done on special-team returns.

    The lack of quality depth will be a problem if they experience any injuries.

    Roster Grade: C+

St. Louis Rams

29 of 32

    Elite Players: RB Steven Jackson, DE Chris Long, MLB James Laurinaitis and CB Cortland Finnegan

    High-Quality Players: WR Danny Amendola, DT Kendall Langford, DE Robert Quinn and S Quintin Mikell

     

    Notes

    Rookies defensive tackle Michael Brockers and cornerback Janoris Jenkins should start right away. Rookie running back Isaiah Pead should upgrade the return game.

    Sam Bradford will have to show the Rams this year that he is the franchise quarterback they thought he was when they selected him No. 1 overall in 2010. There are obvious holes at wide receiver and tight end, and the Rams made no effort to upgrade those positions, which will make it harder for Bradford to make that happen.

    There isn't a lot of quality depth at any position.

    Roster Grade: D

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Elite Players: K Connor Barth, RG Davin Joseph, LG Carl Nicks, LT Donald Penn and WR Vincent Jackson

    High-Quality Players: WR Mike Williams, TE Dallas Clark, QB Josh Freeman, DE Michael Bennett, DT Gerald McCoy, DE Adrian Clayborn, MLB Mason Foster, CB Aqib Talib, CB Eric Wright and S Ronde Barber

     

    Notes

    Rookies running back Doug Martin, linebacker Lavonte David and safety Mark Barron will all start and/or play a lot right off the bat.

    Da'Quan Bowers is hurt and may be out for the season with an Achilles injury. That's a bad thing for a team with a lack of quality depth at most positions on both sides of the ball.

    Freeman had a great 2010 and a disappointing 2011. He will have to prove to the Bucs which year was a true reflection of his skills.

    McCoy has to prove he can stay healthy for a full season.

    Roster Grade: C+

Tennessee Titans

31 of 32

    Elite Players: LT Michael Roos, OG Steve Hutchinson, RB Chris Johnson, DE Kamerion Wimbley and S Michael Griffin

    High-Quality Players: RT David Stewart, TE Jared Cook and MLB Colin McCarthy

     

    Notes

    Rookie wide receiver Kendall Wright should be an upgrade on returns and will push for playing time immediately.

    The Titans already lost offensive lineman Eugene Amano for the year, and that's a major hit for them up front.

    There isn't a lot of quality depth on either side of the ball.

    The Titans have a quarterback competition going on with Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker, either of whom will be adequate but not outstanding.

    After losing Cortland Finnegan in free agency, the Titans needed to attempt to replace his production, and they didn't.

    Roster Grade: C-

Washington Redskins

32 of 32

    Elite Players: TE Fred Davis, NT Barry Cofield, OLB Ryan Kerrigan, OLB Brian Orakpo and MLB London Fletcher

    High-Quality Players: WR Pierre Garcon, WR Santana Moss, LT Trent Williams and TE Chris Cooley

     

    Notes

    Rookie Robert Griffin III will start at quarterback from Day 1, and the Redskins have hitched their wagon to him for the foreseeable future.

    Wide receiver Brandon Banks is a very dangerous return man.

    The Redskins want Tim Hightower to be the featured running back, but he is still injured. Roy Helu is also banged up now, potentially leaving Evan Royster to win the position by default.

    There isn't a lot of quality depth on either side of the ball, so the starters will have to stay healthy.

    Roster Grade: C