Skip to main content

Burning roster needs not filled by the draft: Defense

The 2016 NFL Draft has come and gone, helping teams league-wide to fill a rash of roster holes.

The Los Angeles Rams turned quarterback into a strength by trading up for Cal's Jared Goff, while the Jaguarsjump-started their defense by landing both Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey and UCLA linebacker Myles Jack.

Not every need was addressed, though, with a handful of teams failing to add depth at key spots. On Monday, we looked at five position groups on offense still itching for help. Now let's focus on defense:

Falcons pass rush

We knew it, you knew it, the Falcons knew it: Atlanta needed to draft a pass rusher to help coach Dan Quinn's defense. Instead, the Falcons added a safety and two 4-3 linebackers, failing to address a group that netted an NFL-low 19 sacks last season. Part of the problem was a run on quarterback-chasers that saw Emmanuel Ogbah, Kevin Dodd and Noah Spence all gone when Atlanta hit the clock at No. 50. That puts plenty of pressure on Adrian Clayborn and second-year man Vic Beasley to generate more pressure come September. General manager Thomas Dimitroff insisted Tuesday that "we know what we are doing with our pass rush," but Falcons fans have heard it all before.

Broncos linebacker

Broncos football czar John Elway finally found his quarterback by trading up for Paxton Lynch out of Memphis. Denver had other holes to fill, though, starting at inside linebacker. Assessing the position before the draft, coach Gary Kubiak told The Denver Post: "We need to get better there. We need to improve our competition, which we'll do through the draft." Instead, the Broncos did the opposite, ignoring linebacker with all eight of their picks. After Danny Trevathan signed with the Bears, two in-house candidates -- the untested Todd Davis and Corey Nelson -- are likely to compete for a job next to Brandon Marshall. We trust defensive coordinator Wade Phillips to coach up his players, but filling Trevathan's shoes is a tall order.

Cowboys pass rush

Unlike most general managers, team owner Jerry Jones has the inherent job security to swing for the fences. The Cowboys did exactly that in the draft, selecting Notre Dame linebacker and super-prospect Jaylon Smith in the second round. It was an unorthodox move for a "win-now" team, with Smith battling nerve damage in his surgically repaired knee and not expected to play in 2016. I view the pick as a gutsy boom-or-bust decision by Jones, but the Cowboys paid a price, failing to land a pass-rusher before drafting Charles Tapper in the fourth round. The Oklahoma end will compete for starting snaps, but Dallas must figure out how to survive suspensions to both Randy Gregory and Demarcus Lawrence.

Browns cornerback

Even with a league-leading 14 picks, the Browns couldn't fully address their needy secondary. Beyond Pro Bowler Joe Haden, almost every cornerback on the roster was brought in by former coach Mike Pettine. A scheme change under new coordinator Ray Horton puts the entire group on blast -- especially the disappointing Justin Gilbert. The Browns added Trey Caldwell in the fifth round, but we still have questions about this unit. Haden is coming off an injury-plagued year -- highlighted by a dangerous concussion -- and veteran Tramon Williams is 33. Trading with the Dolphins for draft bust Jamar Taylor is hardly the answer. Look for Cleveland to add a veteran patch before September.

Rams secondary

Los Angeles sold the farm for Jared Goff, but the roster is far from "one player away." The Rams needed help in the secondary after losing cornerback Janoris Jenkins and safety Rodney McLeod to free agency. Instead, general manager Les Snead -- playing with limited picks -- ignored both positions. That leaves E.J. Gaines, who missed all of last season, penciled in at cornerback across from Trumaine Johnson. At safety, T.J. McDonald might ultimately pair with Donte Whitner, the free-agent backstop who met with the team last month. Whitner complained about the Browns waiting too long to cut him, but teams haven't exactly flocked the 30-year-old safety. Look for the Rams to bring in plenty of bodies to compete.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content