Ell’s NFL Preseason Rankings Part 1 #32-#29
Strength: Pass Rush. The Bears are loaded with pass rushers in Pernell McPhee, Leonard Floyd, LaMarr Houston, and Willie Young, which are the key to this active unit, but consistency and avoiding injuries will be the key. If these guys can get going, then the Bears should have a solid defense to rely on.
Weakness: Quarterback. Mike Glennon has been given the job and he has very limited experience and hasn’t been a full time starter since 2014. However, Glennon will be expected to give the same steady results he gave that year, but with improved completion percentage and impact plays; that’s a lot to ask, but that’s what he was paid to do.
Impact Rookie: Mitchell Trubisky has been picked to be the franchise of the team and whether they are rushing his progress or not, he will be expected to make an impact at some point based on his high draft pick and the fact they traded up.
Strength: Front 3/4. Leonard Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson, Steve McLendon, and Sheldon Richardson are the key to this defense and despite their youth Wilkerson and Williams are viewed as leaders. Richardson’s health will be the key to this unit taking things to another level.
Weakness: Quarterback. Josh McCown is the starter with no real competition to take his job from him based on experience; however he is 38 years old. Christian Hackenberg has been high touted for his potential and arm, but it will be telling if he can’t take the job from McCown. Bryce Petty is viewed as an after-thought after not showing much last season.
Impact Rookie: Jamal Adams. Adams was a highly rated safety with hard hitting ability and the ability to make plays in coverage. He will be expected to be an enforcer in the back and a leader of the defense; if he can gain control of the back end of the defense, then the Jets could be one of the better units.
Strength: Offensive Line. The Browns picked up G Kevin Zeitler from the Bengals and C J.C. Tretter from the Packers; Zeitler is one of the top Guards in the league and Tretter has been a consistent piece for the Packers. Joe Thomas remains the best LT in the league and a future Hall of Famer, Joel Bitonio is a Pro Bowl caliber Guard, and Shon Coleman and Cameron Erving will compete for the RT spot with the hope that Erving takes it.
Weakness: Quarterback/Wide Receiver. The team is depending on Cody Kessler, a 2nd year player with good accuracy, but does he have what it take to be a full time starter, veteran Brock Osweiler disappointed in Houston, and rookie DeShone Kizer has potential. At WR, the Browns allowed top WR Terrelle Pryor to walk, but picked up veteran Kenny Britt who proved he can play with any QB which is great for this team. Corey Coleman proved to be a playmaker last season, but needs to stay healthy, but the team needs someone, anyone to step up after that.
Impact Rookie: Myles Garrett/David Njoku. Garrett gives the Browns a long term star at DE after going #1 in the draft; he should be a double digit sack pass rusher and help stop the run. Njoku is an athletic TE that the Browns haven’t had in years and he should be a go to target from Day 1.
Strength: Defensive Line. The defensive line consists of two mammoth defenders both standing at 6’7 in Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner who can both play inside (DT) or outside (DE) in any scheme along with addition NT Earl Mitchell who can take up space, rookie DE/DT Solomon Thomas as a pass rusher, and DE Tank Carradine who plays with good athleticism and power.
Weakness: Cornerback/Secondary. The 49ers are very young and inexperienced at the CB position with last year’s find in CB Rashard Robinson starting across from a field of young CBs while he isn’t too experienced himself taking on the #1 role. The Safety position is led by inconsistent, but talented S Eric Reid and converted safety Jimmie Ward, with athletic Jaquiski Tartt waiting in the wings.
Impact Rookie: Reuben Foster/Solomon Thomas. Foster dropped on many boards due to his off the field behavior, but his on the field talent was never a question and he has continued to impress; he will help the 49ers LB core grow into a physical unit. Solomon Thomas has the ability to play multiple roles as a pass rusher and he is too talented to be kept off the field.