While the 2008 NFL Draft is in the books and minicamps are underway, there still are pressure points on a number of rosters.
It is impossible to expect free agency and the draft to satisfy all team needs. When a roster has questions surrounding a position or two and the team gets to May with little resolved -- or at least competition behind the incumbent -- then a pressure point is under the microscope. Can a veteran improve on his 2007 performance or will the team struggle in the same area in 2008?
Heading into the draft, a lot of people felt they had an idea of what each of the 32 teams needed. Now, after the draft and without some of the needs being addressed, they look at the rosters with some concern.
There are a number of reasons why things haven't changed for some teams. Those reasons need to be explained before I get into the pressure-point examples that jump out at me this late in the spring.
1. Some teams simply don't agree that the production and or the performance of the 2007 starters warrant a change.
2. Free agency didn't provide a viable alternative to what the team already had on the roster.
3. Club executives may feel there is a little-known veteran on the roster ready to make a competitive push for a starting job or provide the kind of depth we can't see yet.
4. The draft never lined up with a team's needs board and they refused to reach for a player or they couldn't get a deal done to move down or up in the draft.
5. The franchise felt it had greater needs at another spot and made the decision to resolve another problem.
6. Teams expect to be able to secure a veteran in the months following the draft at a cheaper price than they could have a few months ago.
7. Teams are frustrated they didn't get a pressure point fixed this spring and can only hope it doesn't break their 2008 plans to improve.
Here's a look at a number of teams that may still have some work to do, or feel the public was misinformed about their situation at a certain position.
It's hard to knock all the great work the Dolphins have done this offseason. They are projecting five new starters from free agency and two from the draft. Yet they went into the draft with a need at cornerback and were unable to meet the need. Right now Will Allen and Michael Leham are the starters. Even though Allen and Leham were full-time starters last season, guys like Reggie Smith (third round, 49ers) or Chevis Jackson (fifth round, Falcons) might have made sense for Miami to draft. But Bill Parcells & Co. weren't going to pass on a big defensive end candidate like Kendall Langford. So the Dolphins are left to play with what they have or inquire about a cornerback like Philadelphia's Lito Sheppard.
In the weeks leading up to the draft, it sure looked like the Falcons were going to select DT Glen Dorsey with the third overall pick. A quarterback usually trumps a tackle, but when the depth chart says the starting defensive tackles are Jonathan Babineaux and Trey Lewis and there were chances to take Trevor Laws at No. 37 or Pat Sims at No. 68, some might wonder why not take the defensive tackle? The problem with not taking a defensive tackle is that finding one on the street at this point in the offseason is next to impossible. Atlanta is a classic example of a team with too many needs for one offseason to resolve.
It was hard to resist running back Darren McFadden with the fourth overall pick, but here's another team that could have plugged Dorsey into the middle of the defense on Day 1. Defensive tackle Terdell Sands has to play better because there really isn't a player there to push him. Instead of going with defensive tackle Dre Moore, who the Bucs took 15 picks later, Oakland opted to go with cornerback Tyvon Branch with their second pick in the draft (No. 100 overall).
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs had 15 draft picks at one point and wound up selecting 12 players, none of which was a quarterback. It seems like there's a ton of pressure on QB Brodie Croyle at this point. The Chiefs could have selected former USC QB John David Booty (fifth round, Vikings) with the 105th overall pick but they really felt like Tyler Thigpen, who is already on their roster, was a better alternative. Croyle needs to come through or there will be some second-guessing in Kansas City.
Most people looked at the Bears' roster and expected them to select a guard, someone who could come in and unseat Terrence Metcalf, by the fourth round. Mike McGlynn (fourth round, Eagles) from Pittsburgh could have been just the type of guy to push Metcalf. The Bears selected tight end Kellen Davis at No. 158, one pick after the Rams selected G Roy Schuening from Oregon State. I like the Davis pick a lot but guard remains a question in Chicago.
Lots of people predicted the Cowboys would select a receiver early in the draft, but they never took one even though they had many opportunities to do so. The pressure point(s) in this decision fall in three places: 1. Can Terry Glenn stay healthy? 2. Can Patrick Crayton continue to grow? 3. Will Jerry Jones continue to look for a trade for a marquee player? Wideouts Early Doucet, Earl Bennett and Mario Manningham were still on the board when the Cowboys took tight end Martellus Bennett at the No. 61 spot. One of those players might have been able to help but maybe not enough to skip a player like Bennett, who will play in the Cowboys' two tight end sets. The best thing Dallas can do to relieve the pressure on the receivers is to find a way to make a trade before the season.
The Redskins finally had enough draft picks to inject some youth and talent onto their roster. Many people speculated that a defensive end or tackle would be selected early in the draft to add competition and depth. It didn't happen as the 'Skins took three offensive skill players with their first three choices. DT Trevor Laws (No. 47 overall, Eagles) and Calais Campbell (No. 50, Cardinals) were both picked one spot ahead of a Redskins' choice. We'll never know if they wanted either one those guys, but the defensive line could still use some talent and the Redskins might have to wait a year for some to show up. There is a lot of pressure on Philip Daniels, Cornelius Griffin, and Anthony Montgomery to play well in 2008.
While we always think of the pressure facing rookies who will have to start on Opening Day, there are a number of veterans who had the heat turned up on them because they have to come through now that the draft and free agency left them as the starters.