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Every NFL Team's Biggest Roster Flaw

Nick KostoraContributor IIIOctober 8, 2016

Every NFL Team's Biggest Roster Flaw

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    No NFL team is without a glaring flaw. Each has a problem area that must be addressed in order to improve over the course of the 2013 season.

    Obviously, some teams have fewer issues than others. It is hard to find much fault with the elite teams in the league, but while the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans and New England Patriots all won at least 12 games last season, they also have problems.

    The Broncos need a presence at defensive tackle, the Patriots lack depth in the secondary and the Texans have holes at linebacker.

    Bottom feeders like the Browns and Jaguars have many flaws, but even they have one issue that stands above the rest.

    So let's get right to it and analyze the biggest roster flaw for every NFL team. Along the way, we will try to figure out some ways that these flaws can become strengths and decide whether teams should look toward the draft or free agency for solutions.

Arizona Cardinals: Quarterback

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    You can go one of two ways with the Arizona Cardinals' biggest roster flaw. You can either blame the porous offensive line that allowed 38 sacks last season or look toward the revolving door at quarterback.

    The root of the problem probably lies somewhere in the middle. Having a merry-go-round at a position that includes Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer is not exactly going to build a cohesive offense. At the same time, they were usually running for their lives because they had no time to throw.

    Still, quarterback is the bigger problem because it is the most important position in football. You can have the best offensive line in the game, but if the quarterback behind it is terrible, then it doesn't matter much.

    Having missed out on Alex Smith, Arizona must now either give Kolb and his big contract another chance or look toward the draft for an answer.

Atlanta Falcons: Tight End (Maybe)

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    Saying that the biggest roster flaw for the Atlanta Falcons lies at tight end deserves a giant asterisk.

    Will Tony Gonzalez spurn retirement for another season and return to the fold, or has the elite playmaker decided to hang up his cleats permanently?

    Assuming Gonzalez truly is done, there is now a gaping hole in the Falcons offense. Letting go of Michael Turner at running back will be felt, but he is nowhere near as integral a piece as Gonzalez.

    The 15-year veteran caught for 930 yards and eight touchdowns last season alone. He has a tremendous chemistry with quarterback Matt Ryan and is reliable and consistent on third downs and goal-line situations.

    Without the former Cal standout, Atlanta will turn to Chase Coffman and Michael Palmer at tight end. Not terrible players, but not Tony Gonzalez.

Baltimore Ravens: Inside Linebacker

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    How do the Baltimore Ravens replace Ray Lewis?

    It is a question that we all knew would need to be answered eventually, but somehow never thought would actually happen.

    Well, it's time.

    Lewis is retired and Baltimore must now find a new Hall of Fame worthy inside linebacker to replace him. The team is currently working on re-signing Dannell Ellerbe, and that is a critical piece of the puzzle, but this is an issue that is likely going to be addressed in the draft.

    A player like Georgia's Alec Ogletree makes a lot of sense, and he plays with the type of motor that would fit in well with the Ravens' established defensive unit. It's impossible to completely replace career statistics of 1,558 tackles, 41.5 sacks and 119 pass deflections, but the Ravens need to start trying. 

Buffalo Bills: Outside Linebacker

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    The Buffalo Bills found a (rather expensive) solution to part of their pass-rushing needs last season when they brought in Mario Williams. However, there are more weapons needed in a 4-3 scheme, and Buffalo has a lack of them.

    Chris Kelsay has just retired, so obviously he can't be counted on anymore. The Bills need a quality pass-rusher that can put pressure on opposing quarterbacks and lighten the load on the Bills' less-than-stellar secondary.

    The Bills generated just 36 sacks last season, and that set the table for the entire defense. There are obviously other needs, as the team is desperate for receiving options and players that can find the end zone, but outside linebacker is the top need.

Carolina Panthers: Wide Receiver

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    The Carolina Panthers do not have a reliable pass-catcher outside of Steve Smith. 

    Any big fans of Brandon LaFell out there? No? How about Louis Murphy?

    What I am saying is that Carolina really needs some help for Smith and more weapons for quarterback Cam Newton to spread the ball around to. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have struggled in the backfield in recent years, and that is partly because the team struggles to spread the field vertically.

    Smith has already been in the league for 12 years and he cannot be counted on forever. Newton's development as a pocket passer is dependent upon having playmakers on the outside.

    Luckily, free agency is chock full of studs, including Greg Jennings, Wes Welker, Dwayne Bowe and Mike Wallace. Carolina is tight on cap space, but figuring out a way to bring one of those guys into the fold could put the Panthers in the playoff picture.

Chicago Bears: Offensive Line

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    How does one put this nicely?

    The Chicago Bears offensive line is terrible.

    And that is being modest. The fact that this team went 10-6 proves how good its skill players and defense really are. Putting the franchise tag on defensive tackle Henry Melton was essential for defensive continuity, but at some point, the offensive line needs some love.

    Gabe Carimi is still young, but his pass-blocking skills are nonexistent. J'Marcus Webb is somewhat serviceable, but far from good. Roberto Garza and Lance Louis struggle to clear running lanes.

    In other words, the whole line is a mess.

    There are a plethora of offensive tackles set to hit the open market and the draft is full of potential bookend players. The Bears are strapped for cash and likely can't afford a top-end guy like Brandon Albert or Jake Long, but something needs to be done.

    Jay Cutler cannot continue to drop back and immediately be bombarded by blitzing defenders.

Cincinnati Bengals: Safety

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    Chris Crocker is set for free agency. Nate Clements is a natural cornerback and unrestricted free agent, while Taylor Mays refuses to develop into an every-down player.

    The Cincinnati Bengals need someone to play opposite Reggie Nelson at the safety position and make an impact.

    Nelson led the team last season with just three interceptions. He had to carry a lot of the load in the defensive backfield, and that cannot continue.

    The Bengals will likely turn toward an NFL draft full of safety talent to address this need. A player like Kenny Vaccaro (Texas) or Matt Elam (Florida) could be a great long-term solution.

    Cincinnati could also use a reliable running back, quality wide receivers and linebacker help, so safety is not the only glaring need. Still, it is one that must be addressed soon.

Cleveland Browns: Tight End

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    Let's try and look past the quarterback position for just a second. We all know that Brandon Weeden struggled in his rookie season, but Cleveland is going to give him another crack at locking down the position in 2013. There are plenty of other roster flaws on this team.

    It's sort of a pick-your-poison scenario, but tight end is a flaw worth highlighting. Weeden will struggle to develop as long as he does not have a reliable set of hands to turn to in short-yardage situations.

    Andrew Luck brought Coby Fleener with him from Stanford, Robert Griffin III was given the athletic Fred Davis and Russell Wilson got Zach Miller.

    Weeden had to work with Benjamin Watson. He's a serviceable player, but at 32 years old, it is clear Watson will never be an elite tight end.

    Cleveland's offense is stifled because it lacks playmakers. Defenses load up the box to shut down Trent Richardson, and this renders the play-action passing game ineffective because there is no threat of Weeden going downfield.

    Wide receiver Josh Gordon made big plays on occasion, but again, there would be more opportunities to make plays if a quality tight end was lurking in the intermediate passing game, creating levels that the secondary must adjust to.

Dallas Cowboys: Safety

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    The Dallas Cowboys' biggest roster flaw is at safety. Don't believe me?

    Just check out what team vice president Stephen Jones had to say, per star-telegram.com:

    If there is a need on defense to me the biggest need is going to be safety. You got Church coming off an Achilles and obviously we really like everything we saw in Matt Johnson other than he couldn’t get healthy. We still don’t know about him but we like him a lot and we would still spend a fourth round pick on him if not higher knowing what we know. But when you got two young guys coming off injuries you can’t count on that.

    Dallas ranked 19th in the NFL in pass defense last season, allowing 230 yards per game. Safety Gerald Sensabaugh was not a reliable player and could be replaced.

Denver Broncos: Inside Linebacker

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    No NFL team is without a glaring flaw. Each has a problem area that must be addressed in order to improve over the course of the 2013 season.

    Obviously, some teams have fewer issues than others. It is hard to find much fault with the elite teams in the league, but while the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans and New England Patriots all won at least 12 games last season, they also have problems.

    The Broncos need a presence at defensive tackle, the Patriots lack depth in the secondary and the Texans have holes at linebacker.

    Bottom feeders like the Browns and Jaguars have many flaws, but even they have one issue that stands above the rest.

    So let's get right to it and analyze the biggest roster flaw for every NFL team. Along the way, we will try to figure out some ways that these flaws can become strengths and decide whether teams should look toward the draft or free agency for solutions.

Detroit Lions: Running Back

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    I simply refuse to believe that Mikel LeShoure is the answer at running back for the Detroit Lions. He does have some level of potential and hits the hole with authority, but he never makes the first defender miss.

    Simply look at what ex-NFL general manager Bill Polian had to say, per the Detroit News:

    Detroit is a dominant running back away from having a dynamic offense. Whether the Lions get that player in free agency or the draft remains to be seen, but they need one. Just imagine how much more effective WR Calvin Johnson could be if the defense had to divide its attention more?

    Polian is absolutely right, and while there is a gaping hole at cornerback, it is fair to argue that Detroit needs a versatile running back above all else.

    If the rumors of Reggie Bush potentially joining the Lions are true, the NFC North could become a lot more interesting.

Green Bay Packers: Offensive Line

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    OK, here is a double-edged sword that the Green Bay Packers have to deal with. They don't possess a running back capable of creating his own lanes or beating a defense.

    Similarly, the offensive line is one of the worst in the NFL at run-blocking and rarely, if ever, gives running backs a chance to get to the second level and spread their wings.

    So, what's the bigger issue? Lets go with the blockers.

    Green Bay did ranked 13th in Pass Blocking Efficiency, per Pro Football Focus, but still allowed far too many sacks. That means they are struggling in multiple facets of the game and changes need to be made.

    For instance, Marshall Newhouse is not a starting NFL left tackle. Apologies to Newhouse's dedicated fanbase that must exist somewhere, but he has slow feet and is constantly burned off the edge while generating no traction when attempting to get upfield and block.

    The Packers need to put consistent blockers in place and then handle the issues at running back.

Houston Texans: Outside Linebacker

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    Connor Barwin is a free agent and Brooks Reed is a good, but not great option opposite him at outside linebacker.

    The Houston Texans have a serious flaw at the position and need depth. Whitney Mercilus is on the roster and had six sacks last season, but struggled mightily overall in his rookie campaign, especially against the run.

    Teams are only going to continue to key in on J.J. Watt as his game develops and becomes more imposing. This is going to free up lanes for rushing linebackers, and Houston needs players that can take advantage of that opportunity.

    The Texans ranked 16th in the NFL in pass defense last season, and that ranking could jump inside the top 10 if Houston is able to improve its linebacking corps. 

Indianapolis Colts: Outside Linebacker

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    The Colts are another team in need of an outside linebacker.

    They cut ties with Dwight Freeney after a failed move to linebacker and are still experimenting with Robert Mathis at the position.

    Here is a radical idea: Let Mathis play his usual position along the defensive line and bring in a natural outside linebacker to fill that role. Indy is one of the few teams in the league with cap room galore, and the Colts would be wise to attack the market looking for a balanced 'backer.

    The fix seems simple, and it could help the Colts compete in a division with a great vertical passing game in Houston.

    Similarly, Indy also needs to find a second cornerback opposite Vontae Davis because Cassius Vaughn isn't good enough to start in the Arena League, let alone the NFL.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Quarterback

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    Some flaws are bound to not be addressed this season, and such is the case with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    Deep down inside, in places he doesn't like to go to, new general manager Dave Caldwell has to know Blaine Gabbert is not the future franchise centerpiece that the old regime thought it had drafted. The tape shows happy feet, a reluctance to make tough throws from the pocket and inaccuracy on deep balls.

    The alternative on the roster is Chad Henne. While the backup is capable, Jacksonville really needs an elite signal-caller that can excite the fanbase and give the franchise hope for the future. That player really does not exist in free agency, and the 2013 draft class possesses one of the weakest groups of quarterbacks in recent memory.

    The Jaguars are going to have to bite their aqua tongue for at least another year and hope that potential star is around in the 2014 offseason.

Kansas City Chiefs: Wide Receiver

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    To stay or not stay. That is the question facing Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe.

    He is a bona fide star in this league. The fact that he has caught for over 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns in the last three seasons while playing with the likes of Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn is a testament to just how dynamic a weapon he truly is.

    However, the Chiefs need receiving help no matter what happens with Bowe. Bringing in Alex Smith is a great boost to the passing game, but Jonathan Baldwin, Dexter McCluster and Steve Breaston provided a poor supporting cast for Bowe last year.

    Kansas City is loaded with talent at other positions, but wide receiver is the glaring flaw. Priority No. 1 has to be getting Bowe back on board, but the Chiefs have more work to do after that as well.

Miami Dolphins: Wide Receiver

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    You don't even need a full set of fingers to count how many touchdowns the Miami Dolphins receiving corps scored last season: three.

    Brian Hartline and Davone Bess are both decent players, but they are not good enough to be No. 1 and No. 2 options on a team. Hartline is an unrestricted free agent anyway.

    If Ryan Tannehill is going to take monumental leaps forward in 2013, he will need better weapons to throw to.

    In earlier slides, I mentioned names like Greg Jennings, Dwayne Bowe and Mike Wallace. These players would make a huge difference for the Dolphins and help them gain footing in the AFC East.

    However, the biggest way to correct this glaring flaw could be to go after Wes Welker. To sign a player away from the rival New England Patriots not only helps Miami, but hurts the best team in the division.

Minnesota Vikings: Wide Receiver

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    Take everything that was said about Dwayne Bowe in Kansas City and apply it to Percy Harvin in Minnesota.

    The Vikings have no viable targets behind Harvin (sorry, Jerome Simpson) and need the electric star to return to the team in 2013 for any hope of a decent passing game. Quarterback Christian Ponder has struggled in his development, but he has potential to be a competent starter in 2013.

    For that to happen, he needs Harvin and another top-notch receiver.

    And, just like what we said about the Dolphins targeting Welker, the Vikings could potentially snag Greg Jennings and weaken the division rival Green Bay Packers. 

    Minnesota does have other issues, especially at linebacker, but without better receiving options, this team cannot improve.

New England Patriots: Cornerback Depth

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    The New England Patriots really need to get better in pass coverage, and they need cornerback depth in order to do so.

    New England ranked an atrocious 29th against the pass in 2012, giving up 271 yards through the air per game. 2013 will not be much better unless cornerbacks are added to the depth chart.

    Aqib Talib, the team's top corner, is set to become a free agent. There is talent on the roster in Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington, but New England still needs more pieces. 

    Re-signing Talib would be beneficial, but adding integral pieces through the draft is essential. New England is already one of the best teams in all of football, and better depth in secondary could put it over the top.

New Orleans Saints: Safety

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    We covered how bad New England was against the pass last season, but somehow, the New Orleans Saints were even worse.

    The Saints ranked 31st in the NFL in pass defense, allowing a staggering 293 yards through the air per game. Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper combined to form one of the worst safety duos in the league, as Jenkins missed 20 tackles, per Pro Football Focus.

    This is not exactly a hidden flaw, but New Orleans has a lack of cap space and likely won't be able to get in the running for a good free-agent safety. Jenkins and Harper could both remain as clear-cut starters, but that does the team little in the way of progress.

    The more probable scenario is that the Saints use the draft as a way to inject young talent into the defensive backfield and rotation. Giving the rookie (or rookies) a chance to learn while playing would give Jenkins and Harper an opportunity to earn their keep for at least another season.

New York Giants: Linebacker

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    Chase Blackburn, Mark Herzlich and Michael Boley.

    Last season they formed a linebacker unit that leaves much to be desired. There is a reason that Boley was made a backup near the end of the year and has since been cut. The same fate could have easily struck Herzlich and Blackburn.

    Blackburn allowed 13.8 yards per reception in coverage and missed 10 of his 90 tackle attempts, per Pro Football Focus. Herzlich made just 30 tackles all season. 

    Like most teams on this list, the best way for the Giants to attack their main flaw is to go through the draft. However, this is not a fix that can be made through one selection at the top of the draft. New York needs multiple new linebackers, and it will take time to make this unit formidable.

New York Jets: Quarterback

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    What exactly are the New York Jets supposed to do at quarterback? It would have been easy to say they should attempt to trade for Alex Smith, but he is now with the Chiefs.

    Mark Sanchez is one of the least accurate quarterbacks in the league and has shown almost no improvement since coming into the league four years ago. New York is somewhat stuck with him because of his contract extension last season, but the franchise has to realize he is not a viable starting option.

    Yes, Tim Tebow is still on the roster and he has his supporters, but they are not members of the Jets front office or coaching staff. This flaw is likely the most glaring in the league, as New York needs a new quarterback and everyone knows it.

    Head coach Rex Ryan seems committed to Sanchez for at least another season. That choice is not going to be popular, and Sanchez's history suggests he won't improve his play.

Oakland Raiders: Offensive Line

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    When healthy and on the field, Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden was unable to gain much traction on the ground last season. He gained just 707 yards and averaged 3.3 yards per rush.

    Through the air, quarterback Carson Palmer threw 14 interceptions. Now, were both of these players at fault for their struggles? Partially, but the offensive line deserves the brunt of the blame.

    Palmer was forced to rush throws as the line held up the red blanket for defenders to bulldoze through. Similarly, they opened up few lanes for McFadden.

    Stefen Wisniewski is a good center and there is at least a case to be made that Jared Veldheer is a capable tackle, but the rest of the line is questionable everywhere. Oakland would be wise to shore up this flaw through the draft or free agency.

    The AFC West is a notoriously weak division, and strengthening the offensive line is the quickest way for Oakland to get into contention.

Philadelphia Eagles: Defensive Backfield

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    Before last season, who would have thought this statement would have any truth: The Philadelphia Eagles' biggest flaw lies in their secondary.

    As the Dream Team continues to be dismantled, the remnants of the "Big Three" at cornerback are quickly going with it. Asante Samuel was sent packing to the Atlanta Falcons last season, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a free agent and there is talk of trying to restructure Nnamdi Asomugha's deal.

    It truly is amazing how fast this unit fell apart, but there is no time for reflection, as Philadelphia needs to find the right pieces for 2013. Hopefully, that starts with working out a restructuring plan for Asomugha, but it needs an influx of talent regardless.

    Lesser-known free agents could be an option, and this includes looking for improvements at safety over Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Inside Linebacker

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    Lawrence Timmons is a quality, underrated inside linebacker, but he cannot handle the position alone. The Pittsburgh Steelers run a 3-4 defense, and that means he needs someone next to him on the inside.

    Larry Foote handled the responsibility last season, but he is old and ineffective. Pittsburgh needs someone to spark the defense and help return the team to the playoffs. The Steelers looked sluggish and slow down the stretch last season.

    Pairing up another younger player with Timmons could be just what the doctor ordered. It could easily be argued that running back is just as big of an issue for the Steelers, and it's fair to call these flaws a tie.

    Still, Foote missed one out of every 11.8 tackles he attempted last season, per Pro Football Focus. There are still young running backs that could turn things around in 2013, but Foote is too old to do the same.

San Diego Chargers: Offensive Tackle

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    This slide could simply say "the Chargers need an offensive line" and no one would question it.

    Still, we will dig deeper and go into just how bad San Diego's front has been in recent times.

    The Chargers allowed 49 sacks on Philip Rivers last season. He is often criticized for poor decision making and there is some validity to those complaints, but how can he be expected to excel with no blocking in front of him?

    Jared Gaither is a puzzle with his odd injury troubles last season. His replacement, Michael Harris, seemed to be a pylon every time he took the field, and Jeromey Clary is average at best.

    The advice for San Diego is to sign free agents, draft future stars and do whatever else it can to completely revamp this offensive line.

    There is still an elite quarterback somewhere inside of Rivers, but he needs time to throw the ball and regain his confidence if he is ever going to prove it.

San Francisco 49ers: Nose Tackle

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    Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean-Francois are both free agents. The good news for the San Francisco 49ers is that both of them are replaceable talents. The bad news is that a replacement is not always easy to find.

    Sopoaga failed to impress when he was on the field last season, recording just 27 tackles and one sack. The 49ers need an imposing force along the middle of the line that can generate pressure and take some of the burden off Aldon and Justin Smith at defensive end.

    Justin Smith is 33 years old and coming off an injury. He could use all the help he can possibly get. Aldon Smith needs Justin to occupy blockers so that he can isolate a tackle and blow by him on the pass rush.

    This team is obviously ready to compete for Super Bowls now, so looking for a developmental draft prospect may not be the way to go. The 49ers can afford to look for a veteran nose tackle that can fill an immediate hole and ensure they are formidable against both the run and the pass in 2013.

Seattle Seahawks: Defensive Tackle

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    Defensive tackle would be a huge flaw for the Seattle Seahawks regardless of Alan Branch being a free agent. He is, so it is the team's biggest flaw.

    Seattle needs to be able to get to the quarterback, and while a pass-rushing linebacker like Bruce Irvin is tremendous at doing just that in specific situations, it is essential to have every-down players that generate pressure as well.

    Branch was not that kind of player for the Seahawks, constantly getting lost amid blockers and rarely finding ways to assert his strength. What Seattle needs to do is go straight to free agency and find a defensive tackle that can complement Brandon Mebane.

St. Louis Rams: Wide Receiver

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    At some point, the St. Louis Rams will have to provide quarterback Sam Bradford with talent at the wide receiver position. Danny Amendola is good, but he is also often injured and hard to rely on.

    Amendola and Brandon Gibson are also pending free agents, which means that Brian Quick and Chris Givens are the Rams' top wideouts heading into 2013. If that is not a flaw, then nothing is. Neither of those players averaged even 50 yards receiving per game last season, and neither provides a true vertical threat.

    St. Louis was actually 4-1-1 in the NFC West last season, including a win and a tie against the San Francisco 49ers. This team is ready to compete for playoff positioning, but the lack of a threatening offense is overwhelming right now. 

    With running back Steven Jackson set to opt for free agency, the Rams have holes all over the offensive skill positions, and they need to start addressing them soon.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Cornerback

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    The best team against the run in the NFL last season was also the worst against the pass. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers allowed 297 passing yards per game last season and have a ton of work to do to fix this glaring flaw.

    Starting cornerback E.J. Biggers is a free agent, and so is Brandon McDonald. Tampa Bay traded away Aqib Talib last season and Ronde Barber is 37 years old.

    Trying to re-sign Biggers is a must, but the Buccaneers are almost completely devoid of talent in the secondary, especially at cornerback. They must attack this issue head on in the draft early and often.

    After starting 6-4 last season, Tampa Bay allowed at least 22 points in every game the rest of the way. Teams preyed upon that weak secondary and took advantage of the Buccaneers' inability to play in coverage.

    If cornerback is not addressed, Tampa Bay will continue to flounder at the bottom of the NFC South.

Tennessee Titans: The Interior of the Offensive Line

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    Starting center Fernando Velasco is set to be a free agent, as are Deuce Lutui and Leroy Harris. Steve Hutchinson is 35 years old and has a declining skill set. These are serious problems that are going to hamper the Tennessee Titans if not addressed this offseason.

    Sure, the team has other flaws. Middle linebacker is not a strong point and Jordan Babineaux played poorly last season, but Tennessee cannot function properly without guards and a center.

    Where this team turns to fix the problem is a mystery. Will they re-sign Velasco, Lutui and Harris? Velasco is easily the best of the bunch and should be brought back, but neither Lutui or Harris is exceptional at run-blocking.

    Perhaps they could look for a Chance Warmack out of Alabama or Jonathan Cooper out of North Carolina toward the top of the draft. They are both exciting young blockers that could grow and prosper between tackles Michael Roos and David Stewart.

Washington Redskins: Right Tackle

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    The Washington Redskins have plenty of holes that need to be addressed defensively, namely at cornerback, but it is fair to argue that right tackle is the biggest flaw.

    With Robert Griffin III coming off injury and still needing to be mobile to play his style, he will have to be able to move the pocket laterally in each direction.

    Having a Jammal Brown or Tyler Polumbus simply does not allow the Redskins the opportunity to do that properly. Brown was hurt for all of 2012 and Polumbus is never going to be a reliable option on the right side.

    For the way Washington's offense functions, bringing in a stud right tackle has to be a top priority this offseason. 

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