The Schein Nine  

 

Chris Johnson, Josh Freeman face pressure after 2013 NFL Draft

The 2013 NFL Draft is in the past. All of the moves -- from the controversial to the impactful -- are behind us. Now it's time to look ahead, Schein Nine style, shifting the focus to who'll feel the most pressure as a result of last week's decisions.

1) Chris Johnson

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The Tennessee Titans running back has slumped mightily the past few years. His magical 2009 season -- when he gashed the opposition to the tune of 2,006 yards and 14 touchdowns, averaging 5.6 yards a pop -- officially feels like a lifetime ago. Johnson followed that up with 1,364 yards in 2010. Then a selfish holdout marred 2011, as Johnson sputtered out of the gate en route to a pedestrian 1,047 yards (on a career-low 4.0 yards per carry). I thought Johnson would bounce back last year and win a rushing title. Instead, he contributed 1,243 rushing yards, six touchdowns and what seemed like an infinite amount of excuses. Johnson consistently blames his offensive line. Well, the Titans smartly signed free agent Andy Levitre and brilliantly drafted Chance Warmack to vastly improve the guard play. Warmack is an instant-impact player and a future All-Pro.

Yes, Jake Locker is still the quarterback. But the receivers are versatile and talented. Chris Johnson should have room to run.

Johnson is out of excuses. If he can't get back to his dominant form in 2013, you have to wonder if he ever will.

2) Josh Freeman

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are ready to rock and roll. I talked to general manager Mark Dominik after the trade for Darrelle Revis on my SiriusXM show, "Schein on Sports," and he echoed my sentiment that the Bucs have turned a huge weakness (pass defense) into a strength. In addition to trading for the All-Pro cornerback, Tampa Bay signed safety Dashon Goldson to team with Mark Barron in the back end.

There's also a positive development on the offensive side of the ball: Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks will be back on the line as they return from injury.

What does all of this mean? Freeman has to deliver at quarterback. He has the weapons and supporting staff, with Mike Sullivan calling plays. Remember, Greg Schiano inherited Freeman, which makes it easier to dump him. If Freeman doesn't even out his play and improve his leadership during a contract year, I think Mike Glennon, whom Dominik adroitly drafted over the weekend, will be in the mix for 2014, either as a starter or competing with another vet who isn't currently in Tampa.

3) Jeff Ireland

For the record, I loved the move to trade up in the first round and get Dion Jordan. I thought he was the best defensive player in this class. Obviously, the Dolphins did, too. I think Jordan is an Aldon Smith clone, and the Dolphins needed help rushing the quarterback in a division where they play Tom Brady twice a year.

But the Dolphins' general manager -- though he survived the Tony Sparano era (or error) -- hasn't exactly dazzled when it comes to picking talent during his stay in Miami.

Mike Wallace is a good player, but the free-agent addition was paid way too much money, as I wrote following the signing. And after Jason Collins became the first active player in one of the four major American professional team sports to announce that he is gay -- a great watershed moment in our country -- Wallace provided some ignorant and insensitive tweets. Wallace deleted those tweets after catching flak, and the Dolphins quickly went into damage-control mode, releasing an apologetic statement. But Wallace's recent pattern of behavior is disconcerting. Last offseason, the wide receiver selfishly (and fruitlessly) skipped out on training camp, a move that preceded an underwhelming contract year. Not surprisingly, the Pittsburgh Steelers didn't bother to offer him a new deal. I have my doubts about this guy.

I thought Ireland gave Dannell Ellerbe too much dough, too.

Also, Ireland didn't pull the trigger on a trade for Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Branden Albert, which was surprising, considering Jake Long left Miami for the St. Louis Rams.

I really like Joe Philbin as the Miami head coach, but he needs help. Ireland has been active, but has he done enough? Is he making the right moves? He needs results.

4) Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton

I loved the Cincinnati Bengals' draft, especially the first-round selection of Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert. That kid's a stud.

Credit Lewis and Dalton for making the playoffs in back-to-back years. But after a pair of quick and ugly postseason exits, whispers about how far this team ultimately can go behind this duo are so omnipresent, they're starting to sound like shouts.

Lewis deserves praise for guiding this franchise back to January football, but he hardly dazzles with game management on the big stage. Dalton has been awful. If he had hit a wide-open A.J. Green late in the wild-card round against the Houston Texans, Green would still be running.

Lewis might just be the third-best coach on his own staff, behind coordinators Mike Zimmer and Jay Gruden. I don't think Dalton will ever be elite with that lack of arm strength.

Cincy has a solid roster. The Steelers are down. It's a big year for Lewis and Dalton.

5) Sam Bradford

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Bradford felt relieved heading into this offseason, according to what Rams general manager Les Snead told me on SiriusXM on Monday: "Sam said to me, 'You know what's going to be great? I know the offense. I know what I need to improve on, where we need to improve, as opposed to learning a new language and memorizing a new offense.' " Yes, for the first time in Bradford's career, he will have the same offensive coordinator in consecutive years, with Brian Schottenheimer coming back.

Now the fourth-year quarterback has to get it done.

Snead did a great job in the draft, highlighted by a trade-up for speedster Tavon Austin. He signed Long to play left tackle, bolstering the offensive line. He brought in Jared Cook at tight end.

The Rams have a great opportunity to be a sleeper team, with Jeff Fisher's coaching, the underrated talent on defense and the big-time improvements they made this offseason. It's time for Bradford to live up to his status as a former No. 1 pick.

6) EJ Manuel

I talked to Doug Marrone on Monday morning, and the new Buffalo Bills coach was thrilled that he got his quarterback in EJ Manuel. As I wrote on Friday, I love the pick. Marrone and GM Buddy Nix didn't listen to the draftniks or media elite; they targeted a player and got their man. Marrone said he fell in love with Manuel's "height, weight, skill set, completion percentage of vertical passes, his ability to get out of trouble, his smarts and how eager EJ is." I totally get it. And Marrone gets it. The goal is to win games right away. You don't make moves for the future in today's NFL.

I think Manuel will beat out Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson. There will be pressure to win the job and win games this year, as Manuel looks to prove his worthiness as the top quarterback picked (and the only one picked in the first round).

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7) Dennis Allen

BREAKING NEWS: The Oakland Raiders have a plan! I loved Oakland trading down, accumulating more picks and drafting defense. Cornerback D.J. Hayden was a logical selection.

It's right to applaud GM Reggie McKenzie for his draft, but this team has to show improvement, heart and accountability in Year 2 of the Allen/McKenzie program. I don't think owner Mark Davis will be very patient if the Raiders are once again one of the three worst teams in the NFL.

8) Tyrann Mathieu

After getting kicked off the LSU team last year, "Honey Badger" was picked in the third round by the Arizona Cardinals. It goes noted that it was the Cards' great duo of GM Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians who picked him. These cats are football junkies and won't tolerate nonsense, as evidenced by the fact that the Heisman Trophy candidate reportedly will be subjected to weekly drug tests. The Cardinals are banking on their culture, on Mathieu being reunited with former LSU teammate Patrick Peterson and on the rookie knowing that this is his only chance. He needs to take his job seriously. Mathieu will play free safety after being a corner in college.

9) Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck

I loved the New York Giants' draft, which was rock solid as always under GM Jerry Reese and coach Tom Coughlin. They spent picks in the first three rounds on the offensive and defensive lines. The Giants didn't add to the back seven on defense, because they believe in a pass rush.

Last season, Pierre-Paul never came close to being as dominant as he was in 2011, drawing rightful criticism. Tuck, meanwhile, looked like a shell of his former self. The Giants' back seven is ordinary -- at best. But if Pierre-Paul and Tuck bounce back, the Giants are division champs. If they don't, it changes everything. All the pressure is on this D-line duo.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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