Every NFL Team's Weakest Link Heading into 2020 Season

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistAugust 17, 2020

Every NFL Team's Weakest Link Heading into 2020 Season

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    Even the strongest chains have a weakest link.

    OK, that might not technically be true if we're referring to actual metal, but it applies to every metaphorical chain in business, performative arts and, of course, sports.

    Which links are weakest throughout the NFL? With a focus on position groups, vulnerable players and some coaches, here are the weak links to be wary of within every organization.

Arizona Cardinals: The Secondary

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    While the Arizona Cardinals have made major improvements this offseason, and while they should be expected to take a step forward simply because head coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray are no longer rookies, the pass defense could remain problematic.

    That unit surrendered a league-worst 109.9 passer rating last season, and not much will change personnel-wise with versatile first-round rookie Isaiah Simmons focused exclusively on the linebacker position.

    Veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson has a loaded resume but is suddenly entering his 10th season while on the north side of 30. Safety Budda Baker is underrated and solid, but second-year corner Byron Murphy has a long way to go after surrendering a league-high nine touchdowns in coverage as a rookie.

    Beyond that, there's not a lot of depth. In other words, there isn't much margin for error with Peterson, Baker and Murphy, which could put a lot of pressure on Simmons and top edge defender Chandler Jones in the front seven.

Atlanta Falcons: The Starting Cornerback Spots

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    The Atlanta Falcons' cornerback depth chart lost starter Robert Alford following the 2018 season and then the even more accomplished Desmond Trufant in the 2020 offseason, leaving the coverage unit in flux entering this campaign.

    In his first full season as a starter, 2018 second-round pick Isaiah Oliver gave up a 113.0 passer rating opposite Trufant in 2019. Now, he could face even more pressure with less experience in his supporting cast as first-round rookie A.J. Terrell steps in essentially to replace Trufant. When we last saw Terrell, he was roasted by LSU in the national title game.

    They did at least add some experience with the recent signing of veteran Darqueze Dennard, but he'll probably only be able to challenge second-year fourth-round pick Kendall Sheffield for slot snaps.

    With the Falcons stacked as always on offense and the front seven at least adding Dante Fowler Jr. and Charles Harris in support of Deion Jones, Grady Jarrett and Takkarist McKinley, the back end is clearly Atlanta's biggest concern right now.

Baltimore Ravens: Interior Offensive Line

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    John Cordes/Associated Press

    There are few glaring weak spots associated with the Baltimore Ravens right now, but the league's only 14-win team from 2019 is tasked with trying to replace retired legend Marshal Yanda at right guard.

    That alone could be nearly impossible as journeyman D.J. Fluker competes with unproven youngsters Ben Powers, Tyre Phillips and Ben Bredeson, but it doesn't help that left guard Bradley Bozeman is coming off a so-so debut season as a starter, while center Matt Skura is on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list as he continues to recover from a severe knee injury.

    Yanda was an eight-time Pro Bowler who, according to Pro Football Focus, surrendered just one sack in a penalty-free final season, while Skura was one of the most effective centers in the game before getting hurt.

    With the former gone and the latter's status up in the air, a run-first offense could have some problems on its hands up front in 2020.

Buffalo Bills: The Guard Positions

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    While the Buffalo Bills' interior offensive line isn't in terrible shape thanks to the presence of high-quality veteran Mitch Morse, incumbent starting left guard Jon Feliciano's recent pectoral injury could leave Buffalo in dire straits on either side of Morse.

    That's because Feliciano was probably the stronger of the team's two reigning starters at that position. Left guard Quinton Spain has never been a standout player and earned a poor grade from Pro Football Focus in his debut season with the Bills, which could put a lot of pressure on backups Daryl Williams, Ike Boettger and Evan Boehm.

    That's a pretty solid group of versatile options beyond Feliciano, but depth only comes in handy if somebody emerges, and none of those guys has accomplished much in starting guard roles.

    Without the Feliciano injury, this would be a bit of a nitpick decision considering the number of options at this spot in Buffalo. That we went this route is another indication the defensively balanced and offensively exciting Bills are truly a playoff-caliber team without any glaring weaknesses.

Carolina Panthers: Tight End

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    The Carolina Panthers are going through somewhat of a rebuild, which means several spots could have qualified here. There's little depth left on the edge, for example, and they're relying on a lot of unproven talent in the secondary.

    But at least Carolina has lots of growth potential there and elsewhere. Not sure the same can be said of the tight end position, where Greg Olsen's depature has left a huge hole that might not be fillable with anyone on the current roster.

    There's the drop-plagued Ian Thomas, who averaged just 4.5 yards per target and scored one touchdown in 2019. There's Chris Manhertz, who has caught six total passes since entering the league in 2015. And beyond that, there are four low-expectation players who have caught a combined zero NFL passes.

    That's far from ideal, especially if new offensive coordinator Joe Brady utilizes his tight ends as heavily as he did at LSU.

Chicago Bears: Nose Tackle

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    We could have thrown quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles under the bus here, but Chicago Bears nose tackle Eddie Goldman spared his teammates of that embarrassment by opting out and creating a huge hole at that position entering the 2020 season.

    The 26-year-old standout run-stuffer has missed just two starts the last three seasons. With veteran Nick Williams also gone, the Bears will be quite thin up front. Akiem Hicks, Bilal Nichols and Roy Robertson-Harris are good players, but none can throw their weight around like Goldman.

    The only other established option right now is John Jenkins, who is 31 and has started just seven games since 2016. So even though they've got some interior defensive line depth and Hicks is a star, Goldman's sudden absence doesn't bode well for Chicago's run defense this year.

    And that was only a middle-of-the-pack unit in terms of DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) at Football Outsiders in 2019.

Cincinnati Bengals: Offensive Line

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    The Cincinnati Bengals are allowed to believe that left tackle Jonah Williams is the future at the position despite the fact that the 2019 No. 11 overall pick missed his rookie season because of a torn labrum. But Williams is still a wild card, and a bad offensive line didn't improve enough elsewhere while parting ways with veteran Cordy Glenn this offseason.

    Presumed starting right tackle Bobby Hart is a swing-caliber player at best, 2018 first-round center Billy Price has yet to remotely deliver, fourth-round pick Michael Jordan experienced a disastrous rookie season at left guard in 2019, and underwhelming 29-year-old free-agent pickup Xavier Su'a-Filo isn't likely a savior.

    There's room for Williams, Jordan and somewhat promising center Trey Hopkins to grow, but offensive line coach Jim Turner will still almost certainly have his work cut out for him in 2020. And that's a shame, because rookie quarterback Joe Burrow's chances of succeeding early will probably depend on continuity and consistency from his offensive line.

    Right now, while Burrow will be surrounded by some stellar backs and receivers, that support from the line looks like a long shot.

Cleveland Browns: Linebacker

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Now that the Cleveland Browns have proactively addressed the offensive line issues that plagued the offense in 2019, this is a toss-up between the only two positions in which Cleveland isn't close to stacked: linebacker and safety. 

    But while there's some hope for rookie second-round pick Grant Delpit alongside veterans Karl Joseph and Andrew Sendejo at the safety spot, the linebacking corps has become a shallow mess. 

    With vets Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey gone, the Browns—who largely ignored the position throughout the offseason—are down to rookie third-round selection Jacob Phillips, disappointing and/or unproven sophomores Mack Wilson and Sione Takitaki and one-dimensional offseason addition B.J. Goodson at linebacker. 

    There's nobody worth mentioning beyond that, which could be hugely problematic if those youngsters can't step in and/or stay healthy. 

Dallas Cowboys: Strong Safety

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The Dallas Cowboys might be stressed about who will replace retired center Travis Frederick, but at least potential successor Joe Looney started 16 games in that spot when Frederick missed the 2018 season, and there's a chance rookie fourth-round pick Tyler Biadasz could deliver.

    Instead, we'll focus on the Cowboys' well-publicized need for a box safety.

    They essentially swapped out so-so veteran Jeff Heath for the more talented Ha Ha Clinton-Dix this offseason, but Clinton-Dix and fellow safeties Xavier Woods and Darian Thompson are all best suited for deeper, coverage-based roles.

    The Cowboys will either need one of those three to make significant changes to play more of a traditional strong safety role, or they'll need 2019 sixth-round pick Donovan Wilson to make a huge jump as a sophomore. If neither scenario plays out, Dallas could really suffer against the run in 2020.

Denver Broncos: Offensive Line

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    The reinforced Denver Broncos look ready to compete on both sides of the ball, but the offensive line was oftentimes a problem in 2019, and the decision by veteran right tackle Ja'Wuan James to opt out of the 2020 season could be a bad omen for what's to come.

    Left tackle Garett Bolles has yet to live up to expectations as a 2017 first-round pick, it looks as though they'll be relying on a rookie in third-round pick Lloyd Cushenberry III at center, and now there will be a fight for the spot left behind by James.

    So while Denver looks jacked at the guard spots with Dalton Risner and Graham Glasgow in place, and while Bolles is by no means a bust yet, there's a lot up in the air surrounding the group that will be tasked with protecting quarterback Drew Lock in his first full season as a starter.

    That's far from ideal considering the lack of preparation that has gone into this weird season for the Denver offense.

Detroit Lions: The Secondary

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    It's officially the post-Darius Slay era for the Detroit Lions' defensive backfield—a reality that is likely to scare those who saw what happened to that unit following last season's Quandre Diggs trade. Throw in that they've moved on from veteran safety Tavon Wilson and that's a lot of change for a unit that won't have much time together before the 2020 season kicks off.

    The offensive line and the pass rush also could cause problems in Detroit, but the Trey Flowers-led rush at least has some continuity, and the O-line is quite talented despite potential fears related to an acclimation period.

    At cornerback, the Lions will be relying heavily on rookie No. 3 overall pick Jeff Okudah (who could need time) and veteran Desmond Trufant (who might be running out of it). Justin Coleman is coming off a rough debut season in Detroit and does most of his work in the slot, while the safety group is riddled with question marks beyond promising third-year talent Tracy Walker.

    This was the fourth-worst pass defense in football in terms of DVOA last year, and there's not a lot of compelling evidence it will be significantly better in 2020.

Green Bay Packers: Tight End

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    A lot of folks might immediately point to the problematic wide receiver spot for the Green Bay Packers, but at least Davante Adams is a star and there's some reason to believe in either Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown or Jake Kumerow.

    The Packers are much worse off at tight end following Jimmy Graham's departure.

    Marcedes Lewis is 36 years old and has caught just 18 passes the last two seasons, while no other tight end on the roster caught more than 10 passes last year. There's a chance second-year third-round selection Jace Sternberger or the 26-year-old Robert Tonyan emerge, but neither has accomplished much in the NFL.

    That's far from ideal for a team in win-now mode with a Hall of Fame quarterback who is running out of time to make another championship run. The Packers were foolish to neglect that position this offseason, but at least they now have an exciting backup quarterback!

Houston Texans: Bill O'Brien

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    Even without DeAndre Hopkins, the Deshaun Watson-quarterbacked Houston Texans have enough depth at receiver, newfound talent along the offensive line and the skill on defense to make a playoff run in 2020. The AFC South should be up for grabs, and if J.J. Watt and Co. can stay healthy, there are no glaring holes on the Houston roster.

    Still, we have little reason to trust head coach Bill O'Brien.

    He's a terrible decision-maker, a worse clock-manager and an even worse challenger (he lost seven of his eight challenges in 2019). Now, as the team's general manager, he's bungled multiple personnel decisions (the Hopkins trade was widely lampooned), causing onlookers to become even more concerned about his acumen.

    One betting site gave O'Brien the worst odds (along with Doug Marrone and Matt Patricia) at winning Coach of the Year in 2020. He's a liability on the sideline, and everyone knows it.

Indianapolis Colts: The Secondary

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    As you can see, good defensive backs—or at least those who can keep up with the quickly evolving passing game—are hard to come by right now. The Indianapolis Colts are one of several teams who are at their worst on the back end of the defense.

    There's no questioning cornerback Kenny Moore II's prowess in the slot, but Indy is loaded with secondary question marks beyond that.

    High draft picks Malik Hooker and Rock Ya-Sin have yet to emerge at safety and corner, respectively, but both will play major roles in 2020. So too will second-year safety Khari Willis (the jury's still out), 30-year-old vet Xavier Rhodes (who was routinely destroyed in coverage last year) and 30-year-old T.J. Carrie (joining his third team in four years).

    There's still plenty of hope for those young safeties, but even if Ya-Sin emerges after an ugly rookie season, it's hard to imagine Rhodes and/or Carrie holding it together in coverage. This is a flawed unit on a talented, well-balanced team.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Quarterback

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    Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

    Frankly, the secondary was a prime contender for the Jacksonville Jaguars as well. But C.J. Henderson looks like a stud, D.J. Hayden has revived his career, Rashaan Melvin is a solid vet, and we're holding out hope for third-year safety Ronnie Harrison.

    So instead we'll point out that the Jags are foolishly rolling with a second-year sixth-round pick at quarterback, with basically no backup plan following their decision to trade Nick Foles (who will still cost them $18.8 million in 2020, according to Spotrac).

    I know Gardner Minshew II had some magical moments as a rookie, but the element of surprise is gone now. It was also gone in December, when he took over following a failed run from Foles and completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes and averaged just 6.1 yards per attempt while posting a sub-90 passer rating.

    Players drafted as low as Minshew almost never pan out. There's always a chance he'll be a Tom Brady, but there's a much, much better chance he'll be a Spergon Wynn, a Colt Brennan or a Ryan Lindley.

Kansas City Chiefs: Interior Offensive Line

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    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    The defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs could be stronger at linebacker and cornerback, but those aren't significant holes compared to the one left behind by guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who opted out of the 2020 season this summer. 

    Without the steady Duvernay-Tardif, and with key 2019 fill-in Stefen Wisniewski now a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that was already a tad shaky at guard and center is really crossing its fingers regarding the interior offensive line entering 2020. 

    Center Austin Reiter is coming off his strongest season yet but is by no means a star and takes his share of penalties. Meanwhile, Nick Allegretti and Andrew Wylie are uninspiring options at left guard, and 31-year-old pickup Kelechi Osemele might not have much left coming off season-ending surgery with the New York Jets.

    This soft spot might not prevent the Chiefs from another successful season, but the margin for error is low when you're defending a championship.

Las Vegas Raiders: The Pass Rush

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    It's not as though the Las Vegas Raiders haven't invested in their pass rush of late. They used a first-round pick and a fourth-rounder on edge defenders last year and signed Carl Nassib this offseason.

    And it's not as though they haven't seen some production as a result. That fourth-round selection, Maxx Crosby, put up 10 sacks as a rookie.

    But No. 4 overall pick Clelin Ferrell disappointed with just 4.5 sacks in 2019, and Benson Mayowa was the only other Raider to hit the five-sack plateau as the defensive front posted the sixth-lowest adjusted sack rate and sixth-lowest pressure rate in the NFL. Swapping out Mayowa for Nassib (who's never had a seven-sack campaign) won't likely make this rush good.

    That unit has improved, as have the Raiders in general, but it remains an obvious potential Achilles' heel on the brink of the 2020 regular season.

Los Angeles Chargers: Quarterback

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    With a recent influx of young talent at linebacker and fresh blood along the offensive line, the balanced Los Angeles Chargers' most glaring potential problem spot for 2020 is under center.

    That's where they're expected to hand the reins to Tyrod Taylor as Philip Rivers' successor, even though the 31-year-old Taylor has thrown just 91 passes the last two seasons and has a sub-90 passer rating dating back to 2016.

    He should be viewed as nothing more than a solid backup at this point, but because the Bolts are likely playing it slowly with Justin Herbert following an extremely limited offseason, Taylor will almost certainly be tasked with filling Rivers' shoes first.

    That doesn't mean Herbert won't eventually get a shot, and there's rightly plenty of hype surrounding the rookie No. 6 overall pick. But the mistake-prone, somewhat raw Oregon product shouldn't be thrown to the wolves without much practice or any game time under his belt.

    So for now, the quarterback position is the top liability for the Chargers.

Los Angeles Rams: Offensive Line

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    When the Los Angeles Rams went to the Super Bowl less than two years ago, their offensive line was a major strong suit. But since then, that has completely changed.

    Venerable left tackle Andrew Whitworth took 14 penalties during an age-38 2019 campaign that revealed just how quickly he's declining. Meanwhile, right tackle Rob Havenstein earned a horrible PFF grade thanks to a variety of penalties and sacks allowed, guard Austin Blythe failed to stand out in his second year as a starter, while interior O-linemen Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen were unimpressive when healthy and couldn't remain on the field.

    With 2019 middle-round draft picks Bobby Evans and David Edwards also in the mix along with former Browns disappointment Austin Corbett, there could have at least been some good competition for starting spots this summer. But with everything severely limited because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rams might have to wait to get clarity on the fly.

    That's never a good thing with regard to an offensive line.

Miami Dolphins: Offensive Line

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Same deal for the Miami Dolphins, who have invested deeply in their offensive line ahead of the Tua Tagovailoa era but are likely to deal with disarray as a new-look group seeks continuity and familiarity under the tutelage of a new offensive coordinator following a bare-bones offseason.

    Maybe first-round pick Austin Jackson is the long-term answer at left tackle, but can he comfortably win the starting job without any preseason work? If not, it'll probably be the mistake-prone Julie'n Davenport again. Also new? Second-round rookie Robert Hunt, fourth-round freshman Solomon Kindley and veteran offseason additions Ereck Flowers and Ted Karras.

    Incumbent right-side starters Jesse Davis and Michael Deiter could at least return to their roles, but neither performed particularly well in 2019, and they're learning a new offense now anyway.

    Put it all together and you realize why the Dolphins might prefer to wait for Tua's debut.

Minnesota Vikings: Cornerback

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    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    It's all about one specific position for the Minnesota Vikings, who got dreadful performances from their cornerbacks in 2019, promptly gutted practically the entire corner depth chart and are now hoping a rebuilt unit can hold up on limited preparation in 2020.

    Gone are veterans Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander (the only corners on the roster who played 500-plus snaps last season), leaving still-evolving 2018 first-round pick Mike Hughes to work with first-round rookie Jeff Gladney, third-round rookie Cameron Dantzler, fifth-round—you guessed it—rookie Harrison Hand and returning reserve Holton Hill.

    There's lots of potential within that group, but nobody on that list has been a regular NFL starter. Now they'll have to deal with Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Deshaun Watson, Dak Prescott, Drew Brees and Tom Brady.

    Growing pains could cause issues.

New England Patriots: The Front Seven

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    For the first time since George W. Bush's first term, there are loads of options here for the New England Patriots, who by way of free-agent departures and opt-outs have become an utter shell of their former selves.

    We could look at an offensive line that is hoping Isaiah Wynn can emerge at left tackle while attempting to replace Marcus Cannon following his opt-out on the right side. We could look at a pass-catching corps that wasn't strong to begin with before losing Phillip Dorsett (free agency) and Matt LaCosse (opt-out).

    But instead, the state of New England's front seven is a mess that deserves the spotlight in this case. Not only did the Pats lose their most active linebackers in Jamie Collins Sr. and Kyle Van Noy along with the established Elandon Roberts and underrated interior defender Danny Shelton, but Pro Bowl linebacker Dont'a Hightower also opted out this summer.

    Now, Patriots fans are praying that Bill Belichick can work his magic with unknowns like Ja'Whaun Bentley, Shilique Calhoun, rookie second-day picks Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings and disappointing veteran Brandon Copeland. It's extremely far from ideal.

New Orleans Saints: Interior Offensive Line

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    John Cordes/Associated Press

    This is the ultimate nitpick, because the New Orleans Saints roster is stacked front to back and across the board. No obvious weak spots, no major opt-outs, no significant injury concerns for now.

    And it's not as though the interior offensive line doesn't contain four talented players in Andrus Peat, Erik McCoy, Nick Easton and rookie first-round pick Cesar Ruiz. But Peat lacks consistency and had no business on the Pro Bowl roster in 2019, the 22-year-old McCoy is still only 16 starts into his career, Easton hardly saw action and struggled when he did last year, and obviously the jury is out on Ruiz.

    McCoy needs to cut down on his penalties, while PFF was not kind to either Peat or Easton in 2019.

    Those guys might not cost the Saints a Super Bowl, but injuries or a continued lack of consistency could make life tougher than you'd like for 41-year-old quarterback Drew Brees.

New York Giants: The Offensive Tackle Spots

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    We could have easily given you the pass rush or the secondary for the New York Giants, but veteran Nate Solder's decision to opt out cements the offensive tackle position as Big Blue's biggest concern.

    It's a damn good thing New York spent early draft picks on Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart, and at least there's a veteran option in Cameron Fleming. But this is quarterback Daniel Jones' first season as a Week 1 starter, and he's coming off a rookie campaign in which he took 38 sacks and committed 23 turnovers in 13 games.

    Ideally, he'd have an established player protecting him on at least one edge. But now, it'll either be a pair of rookies who have played zero preseason games coming off a limited offseason or (more likely) one rookie and Fleming, who has never been a regular NFL starter in six seasons.

    So while they could use another corner to work with James Bradberry, another established safety to work with Jabrill Peppers and another edge defender to work with Markus Golden, the focus right now has to be on the tackles charged with protecting the franchise quarterback.

New York Jets: Adam Gase

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    Among those who remain employed, Adam Gase was the worst head coach in the NFL last season.

    That's based on a formula utilized by HeadCoachRanking.com, which grades in-game performances of head coaches based on play-calling, personnel usage, game planning, in-game adjustments and clock management.

    The Jets are in trouble at right tackle if they think George Fant is a viable starting option, at linebacker due to C.J. Mosley's opt-out, and in the secondary after the Jamal Adams trade. But the biggest liability on the team right now might actually be Gase.

    The dude is a supposed offensive guru, yet his offenses have ranked 24th, 25th, 31st and 32nd in his four seasons as an NFL head coach. He's overly combative, and he may or may not have lost the respect of his players last year. That earns him the weakest link nod in New York.

Philadelphia Eagles: Linebacker

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia Eagles are pretty much shored up across the board, but there's a significant element of the unknown at the linebacker position.

    This wasn't a strong point even before they moved on from veteran Nigel Bradham and lost Kamu Grugier-Hill. Now, Nathan Gerry is the only linebacker on the roster who played 300-plus snaps in 2019. Beyond that, there's former Chargers role player Jatavis Brown, former Falcons role player Duke Riley, unproven undrafted sophomore T.J. Edwards and rookies Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley.

    That leaves room for growth, of course, but there's also a severe lack of linebacker experience beyond Gerry, who isn't exactly grizzled as a 25-year-old with 15 career starts under his belt.

    There are concerns about their durability at receiver (where at least there are plenty of options) and about changes to the offensive line (ditto), but the linebacker corps is loaded with more question marks than any other part of the 2020 Eagles roster.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger's Throwing Elbow

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    Gene Puskar/Associated Press

    No crassness intended. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is the key to the Pittsburgh Steelers' 2020 season, and he's coming off major surgery to repair three torn flexor tendons attached to the elbow on his throwing arm.

    Big Ben did state earlier this month that his right arm "feels really good," but we're talking about a 38-year-old who led the NFL in interceptions in 2018, was one of the league's worst deep passers in 2018 and early 2019 and is coming off a season that was almost entirely lost to injury after an ugly start.

    Roethlisberger at his best is by no means a weak link, but it's been quite some time since he was last at his best. That's why his body itself is the weakest link on a team that is stacked on defense, solid elsewhere on offense and has Super Bowl potential if it can avoid having to use Mason Rudolph and/or Devlin Hodges in 2020.

    That elbow—along with the rest of Roethlisberger's joints, muscles, bones and tendons—has a lot riding on it.

San Francisco 49ers: Jimmy Garoppolo

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Jimmy Garoppolo is both a good quarterback and his team's weakest link, which is an indication as to just how strong the San Francisco 49ers are. The defense is jacked at every level, the offensive line has undergone plenty of change but remains loaded with talent inside and outside, they have a superstar tight end and they're outrageously deep at running back and wide receiver.

    And while Garoppolo was often steady, sometimes superb during his first full season as an NFL starter in 2019, it's now Super Bowl or bust in San Francisco, and it's tremendously concerning that Jimmy G posted a mere 75.9 passer rating in last year's playoffs.

    Particularly troubling was a dud Super Bowl performance in which Garoppolo posted a zero rating in the final 10 minutes, missed on his final five pass attempts and was 3-of-11 with an interception in the fourth quarter.

    Until he can redeem himself for that, questions will remain about his ability to lead the 49ers offense.

Seattle Seahawks: Offensive Line

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    The offensive line has become a perma-weakness for the Seattle Seahawks, who have veteran stud Duane Brown locked in at left tackle but are a mess everywhere else.

    It's not as though they haven't tried to shake things up. They parted with Justin Britt, Germain Ifedi, D.J. Fluker, George Fant and Joey Hunt this offseason, but a line with the league's ninth-worst adjusted sack rate in 2019 didn't appear to get much better despite the house-cleaning.

    It's hard to get excited about newcomers Brandon Shell (five penalties and seven sacks allowed in 2019, per PFF), Cedric Ogbuehi (a bust who hasn't started a game since 2017) and B.J. Finney (13 starts in four seasons with the Steelers). Meanwhile, 2017 second-round pick Ethan Pocic has been a disappointment, and the jury is completely out on recent middle-round draft picks Damien Lewis and Phil Haynes.

    The Seahawks could use pass-rushing help and a boost in the secondary, but the O-line remains in complete flux.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Secondary

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are hoping to make a Super Bowl run with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski joining Bruce Arians' offense, but a team that is otherwise stacked in the receiving corps and up front on defense and is solid along the offensive line could be sunk by its spotty, developing secondary.

    There's promise with third-year second-round pick Carlton Davis coming off an improved sophomore campaign at outside corner, and 2019 second-rounder Sean Murphy-Bunting has room to become a quality presence in the slot, but young Day 2 picks Jamel Dean and M.J. Stewart have seen limited action (and now Stewart has been released).

    There just isn't much experience there or at safety, where they're loaded with options but have no obvious standouts among a group that includes Justin Evans, Mike Edwards, Andrew Adams, Antoine Winfield Jr. and Jordan Whitehead.

    There's a lot up in the air and little time to settle matters with training camp limited and the preseason nixed.

Tennessee Titans: The Edge

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    This could easily go to a Tennessee Titans secondary that has moved on from Logan Ryan and might find that Malcolm Butler and Johnathan Joseph are running out of gas. But instead we'll look at a near-barren unit that could compensate for those defensive backfield concerns.

    The rising Harold Landry III was the only member of the Titans with more than five sacks last season, and the team's need for pass-rushing help has only been exacerbated by Jurrell Casey's departure and uncertainty regarding newcomer Vic Beasley Jr.'s future.

    Beasley hasn't been a special player since leading the league in sacks in 2016 anyway, and it's hard to get fired up about Kamalei Correa (five quarterback hits in 16 games last year) or Reggie Gilbert (one sack in 11 games in 2019).

    It all explains why the Titans have been linked to Jadeveon Clowney for much of the offseason. They need more talent on the edge in order to take some pressure off the rest of the defense.

Washington Football Team: Left Tackle

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    Mark Tenally/Associated Press

    The Washington Football Team missed star left tackle Trent Williams dearly in 2019, and that isn't likely to change now that Williams is officially off the roster in 2020.

    Veteran Donald Penn struggled mightily in place of Williams during the seven-time Pro Bowler's season-long holdout, but Washington essentially neglected the position while letting Penn walk and trading the disgruntled Williams this offseason.

    That likely leaves just third-year third-round pick Geron Christian Sr. (who has 189 career snaps under his belt) and 29-year-old journeyman Cornelius Lucas (who has 16 starts in six NFL seasons) to battle for one of the most important jobs on the roster.

    Considering how critical this season will be for second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins' maturation, that's far from ideal.