May is minicamp season in the NFL, which means hope and optimism are permeating the air as teams go about their work in shorts and helmets, confident improvement is well within reach, if not inevitable. But we all know reality is coming, and sometimes it bites.
Even amid the happy talk that prevails in the spring, it's often easy to see a storm clouds forming around a team from miles away (think Atlanta, circa 2007, or the post-Super Bowl Eagles in 2005). But sometimes trouble can slip up an organization, and a disappointing season can result from issues that only become obvious after it's too late to fix them (the surprising struggles of the 2009 Titans and Steelers come to mind).
Flash back to this time last year, and hopes were high everywhere as well. But that make-or-break season that seemed to be on the horizon in Buffalo? Well, it broke, and the fissure opened even before the games started counting, with the Bills firing offensive coordinator
In hindsight, the same can be said about the early and telling missteps committed by the new head coach-general manager tandems that went to work last year in Kansas City and Tampa Bay; sure enough, before the season was out, the Chiefs and Bucs had combined to win only slightly more games (seven) than the number of coordinators they had canned (four). And don't forget the first-year coaching and front-office struggles experienced by
So which clubs seem headed for setbacks and disappointment in 2010? With a pessimistic eye peeled toward the upcoming season, we measure the vibes emanating from around the NFL and take our best guess at the eight teams that have reason to worry in 2010:
It just looks like more of the same for the Bills, who have been running in place for so long now that it's hard to detect any motion at all. And this time around they don't even have a
As if that's not enough of an omen, the Bears went out and dominated early in free agency this year, signing the likes of
It's hard to see where real improvement is supposed to come from in Jacksonville, given the Jaguars still don't have enough receivers to make trouble for AFC defenses. They play in one of the deepest divisions in the game and their schedule this season happens to be the fifth-toughest in the NFL (a .535 opponents' winning percentage). Looking back, last year's 7-9 mark might have represented overachievement.
The Saints are undoubtedly still loaded and should again be the class of the NFC South. But there are factors that should make them wary. For one, Super Bowl champs seem to consistently underestimate the impact of having the shortest offseason in the league, and in New Orleans, where the victory parades seemed to roll on into March, that disadvantage might be even more acute this year.
And then, of course, there's the potential elephant in the room. I can't help but think it's not a positive development to be dealing with the specter of New Orleans coaches
Given the Roethlisberger and
The Panthers are suddenly a pretty young team in a host of spots -- just four players on their roster are 30 or older, and two of those are kicker
I like some of what Holmgren and Co. have done so far, but I'm still not sold on Mangini being the right fit in Cleveland. And why is it again the Browns decided to seemingly tie their 2010 fate to Delhomme at quarterback? By all accounts he's a heck of a good guy and a great teammate, but the ex-Panther's game really never recovered from that January 2009 playoff meltdown at home against Arizona and I see no way he plays well enough to keep his job for all 16 starts this year.
And while we're at it, who exactly will Delhomme be throwing to? The Browns receivers amount to
And here's my take on the team's five-man competition at quarterback this spring: It's basically phony and all for show. Barring injury, Jason Campbell will start, and