1 Thing Each NFL Head Coach Wants to See Happen This Summer

James DudkoFeatured ColumnistMay 23, 2013

1 Thing Each NFL Head Coach Wants to See Happen This Summer

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    Quarterbacks taking the next step dominate the list of things NFL head coaches want to see this summer. Two rookie passers will be counted on to spark quick turnarounds in the AFC East.

    In the AFC North, a second-year quarterback needs to prove himself to a new coaching staff. Over in the NFC, two veteran signal-callers must show they still have what it takes to light up scoreboards. In the NFC South, two quarterbacks are heading for a crossroads in their relatively young careers.

    Aside from quarterbacks who must deliver, one rookie head coach will be relying on a veteran pass-rusher to make his hybrid defense work, while a Super Bowl winner will be hoping somebody emerges to lead a new-look running game.

    Here is a list of one thing every NFL head coach will want to see this summer, beginning with the eight teams with new men in charge for 2013.

1. Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals: Carson Palmer Still Has It

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    New Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians has pinned his hopes for a quick rebuild on aging quarterback Carson Palmer. Arians will want to see that the 33-year-old passer still has what it takes.

    According to ESPN's Merrill Hoge, Arians recently claimed Palmer "still has it." Arians had better believe that, considering he has already criticized the state of the offense Palmer is taking over, per The Arizona Republic.

    At least Palmer will be able to throw to Larry Fitzgerald. Although he will need 2012 first-rounder Michael Floyd to improve.

    There are question marks involving a revamped offensive line. The Cardinals also lack a clear-cut starter at running back.

    However, no matter how those issues unfold, the pressure will still be on Palmer to deliver.

2. Doug Marrone, Buffalo Bills: Rookie EJ Manuel is NFL-Ready

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    Doug Marrone announced himself to the NFL by producing the shock of the 2013 draft when he selected EJ Manuel in the first round. The ex-Florida State star will quarterback a team that has not made the postseason since 1999.

    Marrone will want the summer to show that Manuel is ready for that daunting task. He was a late-riser on many draft boards, but his first-round selection was still a surprise.

    Manuel possesses a strong arm and some dual-threat skills. The Bills do have weapons in the form of wide receiver Stevie Johnson and tight end Scott Chandler.

    They can also call on a strong running game, led by dynamic youngster C.J. Spiller and tough veteran Fred Jackson.

    Marrone will want to find out if Manuel is capable of attacking defenses from day one, or if he needs to be a game manager in his rookie year.

3. Marc Trestman, Chicago Bears: Improved Offensive Line

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    Marc Trestman has been smart in focusing most of his efforts on fixing the Chicago Bears' dreadful O-line. He needs to see that his revamped front five can adequately protect quarterback Jay Cutler.

    Trestman runs a version of the West Coast offense and will rely on the pass. That makes Jermon Bushrod a smart free-agency acquisition.

    The former New Orleans Saints left tackle spent time protecting the blind side of Drew Brees. Trestman also made the right choice adding Kyle Long in the draft's first round.

    Matt Slauson completes a trio of newcomers. Trestman's remodelled line must show their new head coach they can keep Cutler upright more often.

4. Rob Chudzinski, Cleveland Browns: Can Norv Turner Improve Brandon Weeden?

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    Rob Chudzinski did a smart thing hiring Norv Turner as offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns. Chudzinski will want to see that Turner is improving quarterback Brandon Weeden this summer.

    A controversial first-round choice in 2012, Weeden had his struggles as a rookie. He could benefit from Turner's vertical-based passing game. Turner has already offered a positive assessment of Weeden, according to The Plain Dealer.

    Turner is certainly a more daring play-caller than ex-head coach Pat Shurmur. However, the deep, timing-based pass patterns he favors will only work if his quarterback can connect with them.

    Both Turner and Chudzinski have good reputations working with quarterbacks. Turner has helped the likes of Jim Everett, Troy Aikman and Philip Rivers flourish.  

    Chudzinski oversaw Cam Newton's thrilling debut season in 2011. He will count on Turner to get Weeden ready to push the Browns back to relevance this season.

5. Gus Bradley, Jacksonville Jaguars: Jason Babin Emerge as a "Leo" Pass-Rusher

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    Many might expect an assessment of quarterback Blaine Gabbert to dominate Gus Bradley's thoughts in Jacksonville. However, being a defensive-minded coach, Bradley will rely on that unit to spearhead the Jaguars' rebuilding efforts.

    The crucial part of that process will be finding the right "Leo" pass-rusher for his hybrid defensive fronts. Veteran Jason Babin will get the first chance, according to Jaguars.com.

    He can play defensive end and has experience at linebacker, which the role demands. Babin has been a prolific pass-rusher in his time.

    He logged 18 sacks with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011. However, although he managed 12.5 with the Eagles and Jaguars last season, Babin is now 32.

    Bradley has stocked his line with run-plugging tackles like Kyle Love and Roy Miller. However, having a versatile pass-rusher off the edge is vital to his scheme. He needs Babin to reproduce his 2010-11 form.

6. Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs: Alex Smith Is Ready to Lead a Rebuilding Team

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    Andy Reid may have many things to fix on the Kansas City Chiefs roster. However, the most important thing he will want to see is if Alex Smith can effectively quarterback a rebuilding team.

    The last time Smith tried was as a first overall pick for the San Francisco 49ers in 2005. It wasn't until Jim Harbaugh took over in 2011 and assembled a talented group that Smith managed to shine.

    Even then he failed to keep the starting job. Smith lost out to Colin Kaepernick last season because he could not make good use of the many weapons around him.

    That has to concern Reid, who will know his new offense has talent. Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, tight end Anthony Fasano and running back Jamaal Charles will suffer without a credible quarterback.

    Reid needs to see that Smith was not just the product of a powerful supporting cast in San Francisco.

7. Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles: Michael Vick Is Still Starting-Calibre

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    Chip Kelly won't worry too much about executing his run-based, read-option offense with the Philadelphia Eagles. After all, he has LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown and Felix Jones in the backfield.

    What will concern Kelly is whether quarterback Michael Vick is still starting-calibre. The 32-year-old has been a brittle turnover machine the last two seasons.

    At first glance, Vick and his dual-threat skills are perfect for Kelly's speed-based schemes. At least they will be if Vick stays on the field, improves his mechanics and avoids mistakes.

    Kelly is all too aware of the risks, or else he would not have leaped at the chance to draft Matt Barkley. He has also given Nick Foles more work in OTAs, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

    Vick has a lot to prove to Kelly this summer.

8. Mike McCoy, San Diego Chargers: Can Rebuilt Offensive Line Hold up?

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    Just like Trestman in Chicago, Mike McCoy will be looking to a new O-line to help things go smoothly in San Diego. The new Chargers boss has rebuilt the offensive line, adding free agents like King Dunlap and Chad Rinehart to the mix.

    McCoy also used the team's top pick to select Alabama tackle D.J. Fluker. The challenge now is to get the right combination to help keep Philip Rivers free from pressure.

    The Chargers have had issues at left tackle and lost guard Louis Vasquez to the Denver Broncos. Rivers needs a clean pocket to launch the kind of deep strikes that define his game at its best.

    In an AFC West loaded with pass-rushers like Von Miller, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, McCoy needs his front five to hold up.

9. John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens: Anquan Boldin's Replacement

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    Replacing a wide receiver as dependable as Anquan Boldin will be no easy task for the Super Bowl champions. However, by the summer, Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh will expect to see a clear candidate emerge.

    A clutch of youngsters are vying for that right. At 6'2" and 207 pounds, Tandon Doss has the size Boldin offered.

    However, reports in The Baltimore Sun claim it is Deonte Thompson who has the best chance to win the job. Thompson is viewed as having the deep speed to suit Joe Flacco's arm strength.

    There have been a lot of changes on defense in Baltimore. However, with Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and Haloti Ngata, the Ravens can still feel confident about that unit.

    Filling a key position on an offense that was simply electric in the postseason is what Harbaugh will be most concerned with.

10. Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers: Rookie Eric Reid Boosting the Secondary

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    A normally stout secondary let Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers down in the playoffs. It nearly cost them the NFC Championship Game against the Atlanta Falcons and was their undoing in the Super Bowl.

    The decision to draft free safety Eric Reid in the first round and sign veteran Nnamdi Asomugha were clear attempts to shake things up.

    Now Harbaugh will need to see if those moves can succeed. He will need to see that rookie Reid can play his role in single-high coverage.

    Harbaugh will also be keen to find out exactly where and how Asomugha can help. Teams have now seen how the 49ers' fearsome defense can be exposed.

    Harbaugh will not want every opponent repeating the tricks of the Falcons and the Ravens this season.

11. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots: Danny Amendola Can Replace Wes Welker

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    Even with Rob Gronkowksi and Aaron Hernandez dominating, Wes Welker was still vital to the New England Patriots offense. Bill Belichick will need to see that Danny Amendola is up to the task of replacing him.

    Welker was Tom Brady's go-to outlet on third downs. Amendola performed a similar role for the St. Louis Rams when he managed to stay healthy.

    Brady needs him to be available and just as proficient as Welker was in underneath zones. Amendola wants to avoid the comparisons to Welker, according to WEEI-FM.

    However, it will be impossible for him to ignore them during his first season in New England. Belichick will want to see that Amendola can justify the comparison.

12. Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons: Osi Umenyiora Can Replace John Abraham

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    When the Atlanta Falcons parted ways with John Abraham, they waved goodbye to their best means of pressuring quarterbacks. Head coach Mike Smith is counting on Osi Umenyiora to take on that burden.

    Smith will want to see that Umenyiora can replace Abraham. He should be able to, because in many ways, the Falcons have simply found a slightly younger version of Abraham.

    Umenyiora is a cat-quick rush-end who can operate with his hand down or from a standing position. The 31-year-old also boasts his own exceptional record of getting after the passer.

    Umenyiora has registered 75 career sacks. Smith knows the defense won't carry the Falcons in 2013. However, he will also know that without a credible pass rush, his defense will only undermine a brilliant offense.

13. John Fox, Denver Broncos: Somebody to Emerge in The Running Game

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    Any offense led by Peyton Manning is never going to feature the run. However, it would help the Denver Broncos if a credible running back emerged to play a bigger role.

    That is something John Fox will want to see this summer. Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno are the veterans, but youngsters Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball will provide strong competition.

    A running back in a Manning-led offense needs good pass-blocking and receiving skills. He also needs an excellent understanding of pre-snap adjustments.

    The carries might be fewer than in other schemes, but the role is still demanding. Fox needs a recognized starter at the position to a complete an otherwise powerful-looking offense.

14. Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers: A Credible Starting Running Back

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    Like Fox, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy needs a credible running game to ease the pressure on his star quarterback.

    McCarthy and the Packers were mindful of this need in the draft. They selected ex-Alabama standout Eddie Lacy and former UCLA star Johnathan Franklin.

    McCarthy needs at least one of these two rookies to quickly prove himself as a credible NFL starter. Lacy offers power inside and has workhorse capability.

    However, Franklin's superior speed and useful receiving skills could be major assets in McCarthy's West Coast schemes.

15. Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans: A Healthy Ed Reed

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    When the Houston Texans snared Ed Reed in free agency, it seemed like a coup. That was until news of Reed's injury issues came to light.

    Surgery to repair a hip tear has "concerned" defensive coordinator Wade Philips, according to NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal. Phillips needs Reed's ball-hawk talents in deep areas to supplement his heavy-blitzing system.

    Kubiak knows that the Texans rely on balance. Their defense must complement a steady but far from dynamic offense.

    He will want to see Reed looking healthy this summer and ready to prove he has a few good years left.

16. Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks: A Strong Pass Rush

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    Pete Carroll needs to see that his Seattle Seahawks defense still has a strong pass rush. Chris Clemons, usually Carroll's premier pass-rusher, is recovering from a torn ACL.

    He may not be healthy when the season starts, according to The Seattle Times. To make matters worse, Bruce Irvin will miss the season's first four games while serving a suspension for drug violations, according to ProFootballTalk.com.

    Carroll will want to see that prized free agent Cliff Avril can emerge as the unit's top pass-rusher. Avril recorded 20.5 sacks during the last two seasons.

    However, that was as a base 4-3 end for the Detroit Lions. Carroll's defense mixes 4-3 and 3-4 concepts, so Avril will have to prove he can rush from any side and alignment.

17. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals: An Improved Running Game

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    Marvin Lewis should want to see improvements in the Cincinnati Bengals' running game this summer. Dependable veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis topped 1,000 yards in 2012, but Cincinnati's rushing attack did not scare opponents.

    The Bengals clearly intend to boost their big-play potential on the ground. Drafting Giovani Bernard in the second round proves that.

    The first running back off the board in this year's draft offers greater quickness than Green-Ellis. He is an elusive scat-back and a good receiver.

    With a blend of power and speed in the backfield, Lewis will want to see real improvement from 2012's 18th-ranked running game.

18. Mike Shanahan, Washington Redskins: A Healthy Robert Griffin III

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    There is no bigger concern for Mike Shanahan heading into the new season than the health of Robert Griffin III. The Washington Redskins boss will want to see that his star quarterback is healing well from offseason knee surgery.

    Everything Shanahan designed on offense in 2012 was for Griffin's benefit. The formula proved good enough to take the Redskins back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

    The read-option, pistol offense that obliterated defenses relies on having Griffin under center. However, The Washington Post's Mark Maske has reported that the Redskins are still uncertain about Griffin's status.

    Even if they don't think he will be ready for Week 1, Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen will want to see Griffin is ready to still be a factor this season.

19. Tom Coughlin, New York Giants: Victor Cruz in Attendance

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    Tom Coughlin needs Victor Cruz back in the fold with the New York Giants. Just seeing Cruz turn up for camp should be enough to put a smile on the face of the notoriously sour old coach.

    Cruz is vital to the dynamic of the Giants' passing game. His ability to manipulate deep coverage into the middle creates single coverage on the outside and space underneath.

    Cruz is also an invaluable source of big plays. His contract impasse is not helping Big Blue prepare to take back the NFC East.

    Recent reports in The New York Post indicated a deal is imminent. However, NFL.com's Ian Rapoport doesn't seem as sure.

    Coughlin needs this resolved quickly and needs a vital playmaker back with the team.

20. Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys: New 4-3 Defense Taking Shape

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    His background is on offense, but Jason Garrett's fate with the Dallas Cowboys could be tied to the team's new 4-3 defense.

    Garrett will need to see that aging guru Monte Kiffin has successfully implemented the new schemes. The Cowboys have some talent on defense, but couldn't stop anybody when it mattered during the last two years.

    They are taking quite a gamble changing the formula for a unit built with the 3-4 in mind. Garrett needs to know he can rely on Kiffin's defense to ease the pressure on his offense.

21. Rex Ryan, New York Jets: Geno Smith is Ready to Start

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    Speaking of big gambles, the New York Jets took the biggest when they decided to draft Geno Smith. Head coach Rex Ryan is in his final year and needs the second-round pick to take over the offense.

    Mark Sanchez has quickly unravelled after taking the team to consecutive AFC Championship Games. The Jets are clearly preparing for Smith to be at the helm.

    ESPN New York's Rich Cimini dubbed him the "preferred candidate." Ryan will want to see that Smith is ready to master coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's West Coast offense.

    Mornhinweg runs a system that is demanding on quarterbacks. Ryan at least knows that his defense will be strong.

    However, he also realizes that if the Jets don't have a credible quarterback, they will stumble through another poor season.

22. Joe Philbin, Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill Can Use His New Weapons

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    The Miami Dolphins spent big loading up on new weapons for young quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Head coach Joe Philbin will need to see Tannehill prove he is capable of using them.

    Specifically, the second-year starter will have to show he can utilize deep threats Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson. He has the arm strength, and the passing game should become more vertical with Wallace added to the mix.

    That is not to say that the Dolphins will ignore a crafty, short-range receiver like tight end Dustin Keller. Tannehill must show his coach that he can put better touch on his passes and improve his accuracy all over the field.

23. Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings: Christian Ponder Take the Next Step

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    Leslie Frazier needs youthful passer Christian Ponder to progress. Like the Dolphins, the Minnesota Vikings have been serious about improving the supporting cast around their quarterback.

    Savvy veteran wide receiver Greg Jennings was added in free agency. He is the type of pass-catcher who makes things easier for his quarterbacks.

    The Vikings also used a first-round choice on Cordarrelle Patterson. The ex-Tennessee flanker is a deep threat Ponder has to show he can use.

    Ponder has been steady and solid in his first two seasons. However, the Vikings won't usurp the Packers in the NFC North simply by having him hand off to Adrian Peterson.

24. Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions: Positives From a Revamped Secondary

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    Jim Schwartz needs to get a positive impression from a revamped secondary this summer. The Detroit Lions need their coverage to finally match their pass rush.

    They scored big in free agency when they landed Glover Quin from the Texans. He should form a punishing partnership at safety with Louis Delmas. That is, if Delmas can stay healthy.

    Things are not as clear at cornerback. Chris Houston likely mans one starting spot. However, Schwartz will want to see second-round pick Darius Slay win the other job ahead of veteran Ron Bartell.

25. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers: Somebody Stepping Up at Running Back

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    Mike Tomlin knows the Pittsburgh Steelers need their running game to produce this season. He will want to see a dominant force emerge in a crowded but uninspiring rotation.

    The Steelers used their second-round draft choice to select Le'Veon Bell. He will be used to lead a power-based ground attack.

    That is, provided he can fend off competition from Jonathan Dwyer. Dwyer is also effective between the tackles, but like many last season, had his share of fumbling issues.

    Tomlin will not want to enter the season with former Cardinal LaRod Stephens-Howling leading the charge.

26. Jeff Fisher, St. Louis Rams: Sam Bradford Ready to Take The Next Step

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    Just like Tannehill with the Dolphins, Sam Bradford has been given better weapons to make his job at quarterback easier. Now it is up to 2010's first overall pick to show he can use them.

    Head coach Jeff Fisher will certainly be a keen observer. The Rams drafted Tavon Austin to add a greater big-play threat to Bradford's passing game.

    They also added more dynamic tight end Jared Cook in free agency. The pressure is now on Bradford to stay healthy and live up to his draft billing.

27. Dennis Allen, Oakland Raiders: Positives From an Overhauled Secondary

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    The Oakland Raiders have questions on offense. However, head coach Dennis Allen will keep a close eye on a completely revamped secondary.

    Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie culled last season's defensive backfield. They acquired veteran cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter.

    They will be joined by top draft pick D.J. Hayden. The wild card will be aging star Charles Woodson. The Raiders convinced the 36-year-old Super Bowl winner to return to the team that drafted him in 1998.

    It will be interesting to see how Allen uses Woodson's hybrid skills. He could fit at safety, where hitters Tyvon Branch and Usama Young lead a thin rotation.

    Andy Reid could lead a pass-first offense in Kansas City, while Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning won't hesitate to air it out. So Allen needs this remade secondary to be one of his team's strengths in the AFC West.

28. Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers: Greater Maturity from Cam Newton

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    Ron Rivera doesn't want to see any more sulking from Cam Newton. The Carolina Panthers head coach needs to see his young quarterback play like the star of the franchise.

    Newton was far from that in 2012. He cut a dejected and isolated figure on the sidelines when things didn't go his way.

    Rivera will want to see Newton engaging more with his teammates this summer. He needs to see a leader for his offense, and not a moping diva.

29. Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints: New 3-4 Defense Taking Shape

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    He missed a year through suspension, but Sean Payton knows his New Orleans Saints offense is still strong. The real question is how will his defense perform?

    That is what Payton will be hoping to get a glimpse of in the summer. He will take a look at new coordinator Rob Ryan's attempts to mold a successful 3-4 front.

    Transitioning from a 4-3 is not easy, but the Saints have added some good scheme fits. They include hulking rookie nose tackle John Jenkins and free-agent outside linebacker Victor Butler.

    Payton will want to see signs that Ryan's defense will improve on 2012's horror show and not undermine Drew Brees and the offense.

30. Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Big Names Improving the Pass Defense

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    Greg Schiano will expect the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' pass defense to be better after an offseason of marquee recruitment. The team traded for shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis and signed safety Dashon Goldson in free agency.

    Schiano will want to see the positive influence these big names are having on his secondary. He will expect a complete transformation for a unit that formed the worst pass defense in football in 2012.

    Even second-round pick Johnthan Banks can expect to be under the microscope. Schiano wants to play a risky, pressure defense involving press coverage.

    Now he has the talent to make that bold scheme work. He will be keen to see the big names deliver.

31. Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts: A Stronger Offensive Line

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    Chuck Pagano knows the Indianapolis Colts cannot let star asset Andrew Luck get sacked 41 times again in 2013. The key to reducing that number will be stronger play from the offensive line.

    Pagano will want to see free-agent signings Gosder Cherilus and Donald Thomas making a quick impact. Pagano will also hope to see rookies Hugh Thornton and Khaled Holmes pushing for starting roles.

    The Colts must have a cohesive, powerful O-line in place by the start of the new season. If they keep pass-rushers away from Luck, Pagano's team will push the Texans all the way in the AFC South.

32. Mike Munchak, Tennessee Titans: Enthusiasm From Chris Johnson

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    Tennessee Titans honcho Mike Munchak should want to see some real enthusiasm from running back Chris Johnson. Given the moves the Titans have made to bolster the blocking in front of him, Johnson should be very eager to start the season.

    Those moves include adding guard Andy Levitre in free agency and drafting Chance Warmack. Add blocking tight end Delanie Walker to the mix, and this could be a massive year for Johnson.

    However, he has not been quite the same since breaking the 2,000-yard mark in 2009. He has shown only glimpses of his incredible talent in between lobbying for bigger contracts.

    The Titans have put in everything in place to let their best offensive weapon get back to his best. Munchak will want to see that Johnson is prepared to take that chance and reward the organization's efforts.