5 Contenders Who Need a Wake Up Call This Offseason
Every now and then, a contender will seemingly grow content with its status as a premier team in the NFL. This team will stop making the moves that made it so good. Teams like these require wake up calls.
Teams in need of wake up calls have a few traits in common. They have either established themselves as a contender in 2012 or recent years, and they aren't making the offseason moves they need to.
There are obviously some good teams on this list. However, if they don't change their ways, a few of them could see themselves falling quickly out of contention.
The Steelers have, throughout recent memory, been one of the NFL's best teams. But, in 2013, what makes this team special?
There are two acceptable answers: Ben Roethlisberger and Dick LeBeau.
Right now, Pittsburgh simply doesn't have much talent. The team's run game is putrid, and after losing Mike Wallace, its wide receivers are nothing special either. Even its once-great defense is on its last legs, as long-time fixtures like James Harrison and Casey Hampton are no longer on the team.
This is a roster in need of a talent infusion. The defense is falling apart, and the offense isn't dynamic enough to hold the team together. Pittsburgh needs to make some moves.
Despite a terrific 2012 season and an altogether talented roster, Atlanta hasn't done much to improve its roster the past two seasons. One huge problem is that the Falcons continue to trade away draft picks.
The team may have been justified in moving up for Julio Jones, but Desmond Trufant surely was not worth the move up. Atlanta had other needs, notably at defensive end, and shouldn't have surrendered valuable draft picks for a marginal first-round talent in Trufant.
Defensively, the Falcons remain a mess. Sure, the team has an abundance of offensive talent, but Atlanta needs to stop ignoring its defense. For now, the Falcons will probably be fine because the offense is so talented.
In a couple years, that may not be the case.
Houston's window is fading.
Mario Williams, Connor Barwin, two of the players who made Houston's defense a nightmare for quarterbacks are both gone. The unit, as a whole, is nothing special. There are flaws in all three levels and not enough special players to compensate.
Then, on offense, Matt Schaub is nothing amazing. Andre Johnson is getting older, and Arian Foster wasn't nearly as productive in 2012 as he had been.
The Texans addressed a long-time need when they drafted DeAndre Hopkins in the first round, but Hopkins won't put this team over the top. Houston needs dynamic players on offense and defense, otherwise it may soon need to rebuild.
New York Giants
The Giants struggled some in 2012, but their recent success still allows them to be labeled as a contender.
On offense, New York has talent. Eli Manning is a great quarterback, and the team's wide receivers are among the best in the league. The Giants should be able to score.
The problem is on defense. New York's pass rush, which contributed greatly to its past dominance is rapidly deteriorating. The Giants' linebackers are awful and their defensive backs are average at best.
Picks like Justin Pugh are the problem with New York. Pugh doesn't have much upside, and he didn't address any of New York's biggest problems. The team needs impact players on defense, or it will once again be shredded for yards and points alike.
New England Patriots
It's sacrilege to criticize Bill Belichick's drafts, but quite frankly, he hasn't been effective in recent years. He has, of course, continued to trade out of the first round, passing on any available premier talent.
This is proving costly.
Over the past few years, the Patriots have drafted a plethora of defensive players. None of them, however, are superstars. Why? Because the team consistently passes on great talent in favor of multiple marginal players. The prime example here is passing on Clay Matthews III and trading out of the first round.
This strategy hasn't worked. New England still has holes all over its defense, and few of these draft picks have turned into anything more than average starters. There is a distinct lack of elite talent.
Even on offense, the Patriots are showing signs of fading. The team's wide receiver corps is devoid of a special talent, and only the tight ends pose legitimate threats to opposing defenses.
With Tom Brady at quarterback, New England will continue to compete. Right now, though, this isn't a Super Bowl roster.