NFL Report Card Grades for Every Roster After Final Cuts

Russell S. Baxter@@BaxFootballGuruContributor ISeptember 3, 2012

NFL Report Card Grades for Every Roster After Final Cuts

0 of 32

    Mere days before the start of the NFL season for the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants and roughly a week away for the remaining 30 teams, organizations are tweaking their clubs, putting together their practice squads and scanning the waiver wire for additional talent.

    This is one of those times in which front offices really earn their keep.

    Finding good football players may not be hard to do, per se, but finding great players is a little more difficult. And even harder is finding the right mix, which makes this ultimate team sport sometimes so hard to figure.

    So we’ve taken a crack at evaluating the rosters in terms of talent, but keep in mind that these grades don’t take into account so many other factors needed to win in the NFL. It’s simply a look at how many good or great players each team appears to have and whether each has the depth needed to go deep in the postseason.

    Hopefully we get an A for effort.

Arizona Cardinals

1 of 32

    Ken Whisenhunt has settled on John Skelton as the starting quarterback, perhaps only for now.

    And he’s certainly not devoid of weapons, with all-timer Larry Fitzgerald, rookie Michael Floyd and company at wide receiver, as well as the tight end combo of Jeff King and Todd Heap. And running backs Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams could also be an effective duo.

    Of course, all of the above is assuming the Cardinals offensive line rounds into shape, which has not been the case to date.

    On defense, look for Ray Horton’s unit to improve on last season’s middle-of-the-pack ranking, especially if the team can up that takeaway total from 19 in 2011. And the Arizona special teams will have a big impact once again this season.

    Unfortunately, the uncertainty behind center and the blocking up front are major red flags.

    Roster Grade: C

Atlanta Falcons

2 of 32

    It seems like business as recent usual for the Falcons, with perhaps a few tweaks in philosophy.

    Look for a breakout second season for wideout Julio Jones, who could become Matt Ryan’s favorite target, despite the fact that Pro Bowler Roddy White has caught 100-plus passes two years in a row.

    Veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez is winding down his career, but he’s still one of the best in the league.

    Workhorse runner Michael Turner may be spelled more often by both Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling, while this may be a different offensive line as we get deeper into the season.

    The defense, with new coordinator Mike Nolan, appears solid, but there are still a few issues. There will be a lot asked of second-year middle linebacker Akeem Dent, while this unit will be better once defensive tackle Corey Peters is healthy. And look for ball-hawking corner Asante Samuel, late of the Eagles, to do what he does best.

    But has enough been done to dethrone the Saints?

    Roster Grade: B+

Baltimore Ravens

3 of 32

    Ozzie Newsome does as good of a job handling the personnel for this team as any executive in the league. But this offseason, he was presented with a number of challenges.

    The free-agent departure of left guard Ben Grubbs means former Bengals veteran Bobbie Williams moves in next to left tackle Bryant McKinnie. The remainder of the offense is status quo, and if second-year wideout Torrey Smith continues to emerge and quarterback Joe Flacco continues to improve, this could be the best Ravens offense in quite some time.

    On defense, there’s a pair of new starters at outside linebacker (at least for now) in Paul Kruger and Albert McClellan, but that’s until 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs returns.

    And while Jacoby Jones could be a huge addition to the return game, rookie placekicker Justin Tucker has supplanted veteran Billy Cundiff.

    Roster Grade: A

Buffalo Bills

4 of 32

    This team appears more solid on both sides of the trenches for the first time in quite a while.

    Over the last two years, the Bills have added Marcell Dareus, Mario Williams and Mark Anderson to a defensive line that already included former Pro Bowler Kyle Williams.

    Linebacker Nick Barnett, who led the Bills in tackles last season, may be in line for an even bigger season in 2012, and first-round pick Stephon Gilmore should help the secondary.

    Rookie Cordy Glenn won the left tackle job this summer, arguably bolstering a group that helped this team give up the fewest sacks in the league last season.

    The running game has depth with C.J. Spiller and Tashard Choice behind unsung Fred Jackson, but Stevie Johnson could use a little more help at wideout. And quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will look to bounce back from last year’s second-half slump.

    Roster Grade: B-

Carolina Panthers

5 of 32

    The addition of talented rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly is so important because it adds depth to a unit that was rocked by injuries last season. Now add the former Boston College tackling machine to Jon Beason, Thomas Davis and James Anderson, and the Panthers have the makings of a very formidable group.

    Up front on defense, end Charles Johnson continues to perform well, and if tackle Ron Edwards can stay healthy this season, there should be some overall improvement at the line of scrimmage. The recent addition of Dwan Edwards could help inside, as well.

    Offensively, the backfield is beyond loaded, with quarterback Cam Newton and running backs DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert.

    While it may be tough for Steve Smith to top last year’s numbers, look for a lot more balls thrown the way of third-year pro Brandon LaFell and sure-handed tight end Greg Olsen.

    Meanwhile, there are a few new faces on the offensive line in left guard Amini Silatolu and right tackle Byron Bell, as well as a new kicking tandem in rookie punter Brad Nortman and young Justin Medlock.

    Roster Grade: C+

Chicago Bears

6 of 32

    If all goes according to plan, this could be the Bears’ best offensive unit in quite some time, although there have been some concerns regarding the left side of the line.

    The addition of wideouts Brandon Marshall and rookie Alshon Jeffery, teamed with Earl Bennett and Devin Hester, give quarterback Jay Cutler plenty of options. And it will be interesting to see if tight ends Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth become bigger receiver options.

    Michael Bush also gives Lovie Smith a little insurance behind Pro Bowl runner Matt Forte.

    There are a lot of familiar faces on the defensive side of the ball, but there's also a little youth, as well. First-round end Shea McClellin could help the pass rush, but the biggest “addition” to this unit would be a healthy Brian Urlacher.

    The kicking game is solid, and the return artists are even better.

    Roster Grade: A-

Cincinnati Bengals

7 of 32

    This could be a very intriguing season in the Queen City, as the Bengals look to make consecutive postseason appearances for only the second time in franchise history.

    There’s a nice foundation in second-year standouts quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green, although there are also a lot of unproven commodities behind them.

    Brandon Tate had a terrific summer and could be very busy catching passes and returning kicks.

    Pro Bowl tight end Jermaine Gresham is a solid target, and extremely sure-handed BenJarvus Green-Ellis is now the main running threat.

    Led by underrated left tackle Andrew Whitworth and rookie first-round pick Kevin Zeitler, the Bengals offensive line suffered a blow with the season-ending injury this summer to free-agent pickup Travelle Wharton.

    On defense, there is a lot of depth on the line, while seven of the 10 members of the secondary are former first-round draft choices, including all six cornerbacks.

    It’s an interesting team in an intriguing division.

    Roster Grade: B

Cleveland Browns

8 of 32

    The current brain trust in Cleveland did some maneuvering in this year’s draft to absolutely guarantee the arrival of running back Trent Richardson, while standing pat later on in grabbing quarterback Brandon Weeden.

    And while the latter will start the season opener against the Eagles, we’re not 100 percent sure what to expect from the former.

    In any case, this is a Browns team still trying to find itself offensively. The unit’s best player is left tackle Joe Thomas, who will be in tandem with rookie right tackle Mitchell Schwartz this fall.

    Josh Cribbs is the veteran amongst the wideouts, but Greg Little showed some promise last season and rookie Josh Gordon could help.

    The defense usually did its share to keep opponents out of the end zone, but it still had issues against the run, and the early-season absence of Phil Taylor doesn’t help, nor does the season-long loss of linebacker Chris Gocong.

    Still, it remains to be seen if Pat Shurmur’s team has enough bodies to compete in the AFC North, where the Browns have lost a combined 10 straight games to the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals.

    Roster Grade: C

Dallas Cowboys

9 of 32

    You have often heard that people overvalue the Cowboys’ talent on a yearly basis. While that may be true to a point, we’ll avoid the temptation.

    Additions to the secondary and offensive line could make the difference in the very tight NFC East, although the latter group didn’t get a lot of playing time together due to a rash of injuries.

    Quarterback Tony Romo enjoyed a terrific season after a sluggish start a year ago and could be primed for a bigger year if wideouts Dez Bryant and Austin Miles can stay healthy for the vast majority of the season and tight end Jason Witten heals quickly. And we’ll find out if second-year runner DeMarco Murray is the real deal after injuries cut short a promising rookie campaign.

    On defense, all-world sack artist DeMarcus Ware just keeps on coming, but more options are needed.

    The new-look secondary features corners Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, as well as strong safety Barry Church.

    Roster Grade: B-

Denver Broncos

10 of 32

    This just in: There was a big change at quarterback with the addition of Peyton Manning, who will take the field next Sunday night in his first meaningful NFL game since January of 2011.

    Running back Willis McGahee comes off a strong year and will be counted on again to carry the majority of the load.

    Third-year pros Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are the key wideouts, while free-agent pickups Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme will attempt to do their best Dallas Clark impressions.

    On defense, the combination of John Fox and new coordinator Jack Del Rio should boost a unit which had nowhere to go but up after a forgettable 2010. Linebacker Von Miller and defensive end Elvis Dumervil did combine for 21 of the team’s 41 sacks last season, and the addition of corner Tracy Porter to team with Pro Bowler Champ Bailey helps.

    But the less-than-opportunistic Broncos forced only 18 turnovers in 16 games last season. And this will be a better unit once 2011 team tackles leader D.J. Williams returns from suspension.

    Roster Grade: B

Detroit Lions

11 of 32

    There are high expectations in the Motor City following the team’s first playoff appearance since 1999.

    But do the Lions have the necessary bodies to compete?

    There are plenty of positives with quarterback Matthew Stafford, a 5,000-plus-yard passer who threw 16 of his 41 touchdown passes to All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson. Wideouts Nate Burleson and Titus Young and tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler give the Lions signal-caller plenty of options.

    And this is an experienced offensive line, made better by first-round rookie tackle Riley Reiff, who adds depth for now.

    The defensive line is loaded, with ends Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch and tackle Ndamukong Suh, who looks to make amends following a troubling sophomore season. And middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch is unsung.

    Still, the running back situation is a bit muddled. And there are concerns in the secondary, especially at cornerback.

    And both issues need to be resolved in a hurry.

    Roster Grade: B+

Green Bay Packers

12 of 32

    Hard to find fault with an offensive unit that scored 63 of the team’s 70 touchdowns and totaled 40-plus points a team-record six times. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers had one of the great seasons of all time, and his receiving corps is very much intact.

    However, last season’s ground attack was missing and hopes to reappear this season via Cedric Benson, Alex Green and James Starks.

    It was the defense that proved to be an issue last season, hence Ted Thompson using his first six draft choices in April on that side of the ball.

    First-round pick Nick Perry starts opposite former Pro Bowler Clay Matthews, both of whom are hoping to jump-start last year’s disappointing pass rush. Veteran Charles Woodson, who is making the switch from cornerback to strong safety in this his 15th NFL season, hopes to continue his ball-hawking ways.

    Those expecting another 15-win season or better could be disappointed, unless there’s some support from that aforementioned running game.

    Roster Grade: A

Houston Texans

13 of 32

    Gary Kubiak’s team did it the hard way last season, and in some ways, it may be just as difficult not only repeating as AFC South champions but bearing the burden of being a Super Bowl contender.

    Quarterback Matt Schuab and wide receiver Andre Johnson are back after missing big chunks of last season, but Mario Williams is now really gone (to the Bills), after missing the final 11 games of 2011.

    But Schaub has arguably the best running back tandem in the league in Arian Foster and Ben Tate, reliable wideouts in Johnson and Kevin Walter, a standout tight end in Owen Daniels and a solid offensive line, albeit one with a new right side.

    Even without Williams and inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans (Eagles), this is a formidable defense that has few weaknesses and could be even better during coordinator Wade Phillips' second season at the helm.

    There is a new kicking game with punter Donnie Jones and journeyman specialist Shayne Graham. And third-year speedster Trindon Holliday did his best Forrest Gump during the preseason, returning a total of three kicks for scores.

    Even with the offseason losses, this is a loaded club.

    Roster Grade: A- 

Indianapolis Colts

14 of 32

    The team underwent a makeover that would make Cher Horowitz of Clueless fame proud.

    First overall pick Andrew Luck is now behind center and has rookie tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen at his disposal. Veterans Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie and Donnie Avery, as well as intriguing third-rounder T.Y. Hilton, are the top receivers, and 2011 leading rusher Donald Brown returns.

    But this group plays behind an offensive front with three newcomers.

    Defensively, there are numerous familiar names in ends-tuned-outside linebackers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis and safety Antoine Bethea, to mention a few, and cornerback Vontae Davis was recently acquired from Miami.

    It wouldn’t be surprising if the Indianapolis defense, now in a 3-4 alignment, was ahead of the offense for most of the season.

    And since depth in most areas is a big concern, you may be asking for more from all of your rookies than they’re prepared to give.

    Roster Grade: C-

Jacksonville Jaguars

15 of 32

    The big news is that 2011 NFL rushing champion Maurice Jones-Drew has finally shown up in Jacksonville after a holdout (h/t USA Today). But as of now, Rashad Jennings will get the start in Week 1 vs. the Minnesota Vikings.

    In the meantime, second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert has a new wideout corps in Laurent Robinson and rookie Justin Blackmon, as well as Mike Thomas and former Browns receiver Brian Robiskie. A bounce-back season from former Pro Bowl tight end Marcedes Lewis would certainly help.

    The defense was more than respectable a year ago, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t be a bit better with rookie defensive end Andre Branch hoping to bolster the pass rush and veteran corner Aaron Ross adding to the secondary.

    And if head coach Mike Mularkey can continue to improve Gabbert’s confidence, this could be a sneaky team as the season unfolds.

    Roster Grade: C+

Kansas City Chiefs

16 of 32

    You have to like the fact that Scott Pioli addressed several areas in the offseason that were affected by crippling injuries last season.

    The offseason addition of running back Peyton Hillis not only gives new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll some options, but it also provides some solid insurance should Jamaal Charles go down again. Veteran defender Abram Elam is now around to spell strong safety Eric Berry, and one-time Super Bowl champion Kevin Boss joins Tony Moeaki at tight end.

    Elsewhere, adding right tackle and Texans castoff Eric Winston was a steal. And second-year wideout Jonathan Baldwin should be a perfect complement to Dwayne Bowe.

    But while the defensive front features a lot of high picks, you would like to see a little more production, especially when it comes to stopping the run (26th in the NFL in 2011).

    All told, it’s hard not to like what you see here.

    Roster Grade: A-

Miami Dolphins

17 of 32

    Some will say the fix was in during the training-camp battle at quarterback, as eighth overall pick Ryan Tannehill got the nod over Matt Moore and David Garrard. No doubt, his familiarity with new offensive coordinator Mike Sherman’s system had to help.

    There’s Reggie Bush and his NFL rushing title aspirations in the backfield, while Davone Bess, Legedu Naanee and Brian Hartline, as well as tight end Anthony Fasano, lead a thin pass-catching corps.

    Defensively, the Dolphins could do some damage with players such as defensive linemen Randy Starks and Paul Soliai and linebacker Cameron Wake, each of whom has been named to at least one Pro Bowl. And the addition of cornerback Richard Marshall made Vontae Davis expendable, with the former first-round pick being dealt to the Colts.

    In a division with the powerful New England Patriots and an improving Buffalo Bills squad, it will be interesting to see just how many “hard knocks” the Dolphins take trying to climb to the top of the AFC East.

    Roster Grade: C-

Minnesota Vikings

18 of 32

    They arguably have the NFL’s best running back, as well as the league’s best pass-rusher.

    They also gave up points and touchdowns through the air at an alarming rate last season, and it added to the franchise’s worst record since 1984 (3-13).

    Second-year quarterback Christian Ponder has wideouts Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins at his disposal, but don’t be surprised if tight end Kyle Rudolph becomes his favorite target.

    Of course, life should be a little easier for all now that running back Adrian Peterson appears ready to go this season. And rookie left tackle Matt Kalil was brought in to aid an offensive line that had some issues last season.

    Minnesota tied for the league lead in sacks a year ago, with 22 of those 50 quarterback traps via All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen. There are still some solid performers on this side of the ball in defensive tackle Kevin Williams, linebacker Chad Greenway and cornerback Antoine Winfield, but some young players are going to have to step up fast.

    Real fast.

    Roster Grade: D+ 

New England Patriots

19 of 32

    You must be doing something right if you have 11 consecutive winning seasons and have been to five Super Bowls over that span.

    Tom Brady is always in the discussion when it comes to the best quarterbacks in the league. He shows no signs of slowing down as he approaches his 13th season.

    While Wes Welker annually leads the team in receptions, tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are just as busy catching touchdown passes.

    The running game will have a new look, with second-year backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, while the offensive line may be the club’s biggest issue via new left tackle Nate Solder and Pro Bowl right guard Brian Waters winding up a no-show.

    First-round picks Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower were brought in to fix a defense that had its issues and the pass rush, half of whose sacks from last year (via Mark Anderson and Andre Carter) are no longer around. But defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and linebacker Jerod Mayo are still around.

    Good special teams units round out one of the league’s most complete teams.

    Roster Grade: A

New Orleans Saints

20 of 32

    There’s been a buzz around the franchise all offseason, and unfortunately, most of it has not been for the right reasons. But time marches on, and the team will do its best without head coach Sean Payton this year.

    At least Drew Brees is back (as if there was any doubt), and the record-setting quarterback put up mind-boggling numbers last season.

    Even with Robert Meachem gone, there’s still plenty of talent in terms of pass-catchers in receivers Marques Colston, Devery Henderson and Lance Moore, as well as Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham.

    And there’s a three-headed monster in the backfield in the form of Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram.

    On defense, they’re still looking for someone up front to rush the passer, a task made more difficult early this season after former Pro Bowler Will Smith was suspended for the first four games.

    Free-agent import Brodrick Bunkley should help against the run, as should a new linebacking corps that includes Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne. Safety Roman Harper led the team in sacks as well as tackles last season, something defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo would like to change.

    On paper, the Saints look prepared to defend their NFC South title. Of course, there’s a little more to it than that this season.

    Roster Grade: A-

New York Giants

21 of 32

    Eli Manning usually saves his best for the stretch run or the playoffs (or both), but he is also not that far removed from the turnover-prone quarterback of 2010.

    Which version will we get in 2012?

    The ground attack has a different feel with Ahmad Bradshaw and rookie David Wilson. Despite the presence of the lightning-quick Victor Cruz and talented Hakeem Nicks, the receiving corps certainly took some hits with the free-agent departure of wideout Mario Manningham as well as the loss of tight end Jake Ballard. But second-round pick Rueben Randle has impressed to date as a pass-catcher.

    The offensive line is far from perfect, but it is certainly tested when it comes to pass protection, just from having to deal with New York's defensive front in practice.

    Perhaps the biggest concern on the other side of the ball is at cornerback, where Corey Webster is sound, but injuries have shelved Terrell Thomas for the second consecutive season.

    For these Giants as of late, it’s not been a matter of who they are but of what time of the season it is.

    Roster Grade: B+

New York Jets

22 of 32

    So what of Rex Ryan’s fourth edition of the Green and White, which looked red-faced on the offensive side of the ball for the vast majority of the preseason?

    We’ve heard enough about quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow, as well as the trials and tribulations of the right tackle position and the lack of playing time this summer for the wide receivers, although rookie Stephen Hill certainly got his share of minutes.

    Three-fifths of the Jets offensive line was in the Pro Bowl last season, while Dustin Keller is a reliable tight end.

    On defense, Ryan’s team doesn’t scare you, but it does make you a bit nervous. Inside linebacker David Harris is consistent, and cornerback Darrelle Revis is arguably the best in the business. Rookie defensive end Quinton Coples definitely made an impression along a defensive front with some young and talented players.

    But what of the J-E-T-S offense that was A-W-O-L in August? I guess we’re about to find out.

    Roster Grade: C+

Oakland Raiders

23 of 32

    The Silver and Black looked like they were headed back to the playoffs last season, but they squandered a 7-4 start.

    New head coach Dennis Allen looks to lead the Raiders back to a winning record, something not seen in Oakland since 2002.

    A lot depends on two key performers.

    With a normal offseason now behind him, will we see the former Pro Bowler Carson Palmer behind center? Turnovers have been his downfall the last two seasons.

    And can former first-round pick Darren McFadden stay healthy? On the field he’s one of the most explosive runners in the game. Off the field—well, that’s a place he’s been far too much in four seasons.

    Darrius Heyward-Bey finally came into his own last season and led the team in receiving, while second-year pro Denarius Moore bears watching, as do the offensive benefits from the addition of new right guard Mike Brisiel.

    Defensively, a lot will depend on the play of new cornerbacks Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer, as the Raiders look to upgrade a defense that gave up the second-most touchdown passes in the league last season (31).

    There’s talent up front with Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly, to name a few, while middle linebacker Rolando McClain was second on the team in tackles last season and probably needs to be first.

    Finally, perhaps there’s no better kicking combination in the league than punter Shane Lechler and the strong-legged Sebastian Janikowski, who seemingly won games by themselves last season.

    Roster Grade: C-

Philadelphia Eagles

24 of 32

    This may be the most talented group in the NFL from top to bottom, and if not, they're certainly in the discussion.

    If Michael Vick can stay healthy and cut back on last season’s turnovers, he has a plethora of weapons at his disposal, including the league leader in touchdowns, running back LeSean McCoy; explosive wideouts Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson; and reliable tight end Brent Celek.

    Up front, King Dunlap has the unenviable task of trying to replace left tackle Jason Peters.

    Defensively, the Birds are beyond deep on the line and improved at linebacker with DeMeco Ryans in the middle, the latter perhaps a big relief to cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Third-year safeties Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen were second and third on the team, respectively, in tackles last season.

    All the pieces appear to be in place, and if the Eagles can pick up where they left off late in 2011, well…

    Roster Grade: A

Pittsburgh Steelers

25 of 32

    It was an early playoff exit for the Steelers a year ago, this after two Super Bowl appearances the previous three seasons. And getting back to the playoffs is no guarantee this season in arguably the NFL’s toughest division.

    Ben Roethlisberger enters his ninth NFL campaign, and there was a priority put on better protection during the offseason. But the team’s first two picks in April—guard David DeCastro and tackle Mike Adams—were both hurt during the preseason, with the former expected to miss substantial time.

    Even with Hines Ward retired, the Steelers have plenty of options at wide receiver, with 1,000-yard receivers Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown, as well as Emmanuel Sanders and veteran Jerricho Cotchery.

    And with Rashard Mendenhall on the shelf, it will be a backfield by committee in Todd Haley’s offense.

    The Steelers defense has some youth, and it will be on display this season when called upon. But it’s some of those savvy veterans that Mike Tomlin may miss most.

    Roster Grade: A-

St. Louis Rams

26 of 32

    New head coach Jeff Fisher inherits a team with some talent, as the starting defensive line features three first-round picks (Chris Long, Robert Quinn and Michael Brockers) from the previous five drafts.

    In the secondary, rookie corner Janoris Jenkins will learn a lot from former Tennessee Titans Pro Bowler Cortland Finnegan.

    Former No. 1 pick Sam Bradford looks to bounce back from an injury-shortened season, while veteran running back Steven Jackson enters his ninth season. Rookie Isaiah Pead saw plenty of action in the preseason.

    But there are questions along the offensive line, as well as questions regarding whether or not Bradford has enough weapons at wideout (although second-year tight end Lance Kendricks bears watching).

    Scoring points could again be an issue.

    Roster Grade: C-

San Diego Chargers

27 of 32

    General manager A.J. Smith did things a little differently this offseason, using free agency more than usual and adding four new starters in wide receiver Robert Meachem, fullback Le’Ron McClain, outside linebacker Jarret Johnson and strong safety Atari Bigby.

    There are some question marks along both lines, and youngsters like Corey Liuget and rookies Melvin Ingram and Kendall Reyes hope to add a little oomph to the defense.

    The feeling here is that the Chargers, per usual, appear to have more than enough talent to win.

    The bottom line is that for one reason or another, it’s been nearly 20 years since they appeared in their only Super Bowl.

    Roster Grade: B

San Francisco 49ers

28 of 32

    There appears to be very little wrong with the team that has been built in San Francisco, one that came within a game of the Super Bowl in Jim Harbaugh’s first season on the sidelines.

    The Niners addressed some of their needs aggressively in the offseason, rebuilding their wide receiving corps with Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and rookie A.J. Jenkins. And the additions of Brandon Jacobs and second-round pick LaMichael James make a formidable backfield even deeper.

    One of the best defenses in the league returns intact, and the special teams are top notch as well.

    Unproven right guard Alex Boone replaces veteran Adam Snyder, but it’s a loaded offensive line that will look to keep quarterback Alex Smith safe and sound.

    Roster Grade: A+

Seattle Seahawks

29 of 32

    Giving a grade to this franchise is kind of assuming this group is set. And if the past two years are any indication, we’re just getting warmed up in the Pacific Northwest.

    Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson gets the nod over free-agent import Matt Flynn. They’ll be throwing to Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Braylon Edwards, as well as tight end Zach Miller, although we thought Antonio Bryant, Terrell Owens and Kellen Winslow might have been in that mix, as well.

    But this is still a better-than-average group.

    Seattle’s defense appears solid, especially in the secondary, and it’s just a matter of some of the younger linebackers stepping up this season. We’re wondering just how much shuffling will once again go on during the regular season.

    Roster Grade: We’ll C

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

30 of 32

    Just look at the Buccaneers roster. It’s hard to find many holes.

    Fourth-year quarterback Josh Freeman looks to bounce back from a forgettable season, and he has not only the one-two punch of runners Doug Martin and LeGarrette Blount at his disposal but former Pro Bowler Vincent Jackson to throw to, as well as Mike Williams. Dallas Clark can help stretch the field if he stays healthy, and while the injury-related loss of Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph stings, the left side of Donald Penn and Carl Nicks could be very formidable.

    Rookies Mark Barron and Lavonte David should make up for the problems on the defensive line, although there is not necessarily a lack of talent there. And veteran Ronde Barber’s move to free safety should pay off.

    Don’t expect any long losing streaks in Tampa this season, although moving up in the NFC South will be tough.

    Roster Grade: B

Tennessee Titans

31 of 32

    The Jake Locker era begins in Nashville, and he’ll have some big-play targets at his disposal in Nate Washington, Damian Williams and impressive rookie Kendall Wright, as well as Kenny Britt when he returns from suspension in Week 2.

    The running game is once again in the hands (and legs) of speedy Chris Johnson, who looks to rebound from an off year. If the preseason was any indication, we may be seeing a lot of his old self.

    Defensively, free agent Kamerion Wimbley hopes to upgrade a pass rush that managed only 28 sacks last season. An active secondary is led by safety Jordan Babineaux, who led the Titans in tackles last season, while there’s a lot of youth overall on this unit, as well.

    While not loaded with household names, this is still a team that could push the Texans in the AFC South this season.

    But a long list of things will have to go right for Mike Munchak’s club.

    Roster Grade: C+

Washington Redskins

32 of 32

    While youth is being served in Washington on a lot of fronts, this is an underrated group with a great blend of emerging players and sound veterans. And it wouldn’t be a shock if the third season in D.C. proved to be charming for Mike Shanahan.

    Rookie Robert Griffin III has Santana Moss, free-agent addition Pierre Garçon and second-year pro Leonard Hankerson to throw to. The recent release of running back Tim Hightower was somewhat surprising, but there are plenty of young legs in Washington, with Alfred Morris, Roy Helu and Evan Royster.

    The Redskins defense could be one of the best in the league if new safeties Brandon Meriweather and Madieu Williams gel. The key is if that proves to be a big "if." And there are concerns along the offensive line, which pulls this grade down a bit.

    Roster Grade: C+