For some reason, this morning when I woke up I got this wild hair idea to give you my NFL ranking of teams from 32-1. Six hours later, I'm done writing.
So with no further delay, the Salguero NFL 2010 pre-training camp rankings:
32. Tampa Bay: Gerald McCoy is an upgrade for the defensive line, but folks in Tampa will soon see he's not in Warren Sapp's league -- good not great. The quarterbacking is suspect, they've exchanged experienced WR talent for inexperienced and untried WR talent, the running game is pedestrian, and there is nothing about the coaching staff or front office that induces confidence.
31. St. Louis Rams: Improvement! They were the NFL's worst team last year but the truth is until and unless the Sam Bradford pick takes hold, this team will be struggling near the bottom of the pack. Sorry, Lou, but A.J. Feeley can be a lockerroom killer. And, yes the offensive line will be somewhat better with Rodger Saffold, but the DL, 27th versus the run last year, is a leaky dike.
30. Buffalo: Very few folks with other options want to go to Buffalo -- not bigtime coaches nor players. It's the reason the franchise has struggled since the start of free agency in the mid-1990s. The quarterback situation is unresolved, the defense is transitioning to the 3-4, they dismissed one of their more effective playmakers in Terrell Owens, and everyone else in the division is good. That is no formula for success.
29. Jacksonville: The big free agent signings were, wait for it, a special teams player (Kassim Osgood) and a defender (Aaron Kampman) that had 3.5 sacks last year. They reached in the first round on Tyson Alualu, nobody is showing up to games, this is a train headed in the wrong direction.
28. Detroit: The Lions scored core players in the draft's first round (Suh and Best) while continuing to shore up the secondary in the third round (Amari Spievey). Kyle Vanden Bosch will bring veteran professionalism to the locker room and some solid production to the field. But look out for the biggest jump to come from the quarterback (Matt Stafford) and wide receiver (Calvin Johnson) positions. This team has stopped declining.
27. Oakland: They actually had a good draft! Cryptkeeper Al Davis didn't over-reach or make any head-scratching gambles -- those have backfired in recent history. But this team is still overcoming the mistakes of its recent past (JaMarcus Russell) and the coaching is simply not stellar outside of passing game coordinator Ted Tollner.
26. Cleveland: The Browns have straightened out their front office -- largely by raiding the Dolphins front office -- and are well on their way to returning to, um, mediocrity for the short term. Mike Holmgren and Tommy Heckert Jr. have done fine work turning the CB spot from a weakness to a strength by trading for Sheldon Brown and drafting Joe Haden. If T.J. Ward can stay healthy, the deep secondary is also taken care of. But the Cleveland offense, No. 32 last year, still reeks. Jake Delhomme is highly paid but highly inconsistent. And that will be this offense's story in 2010.
25. Arizona: To recap, they've lost Kurt Warner, Antrel Rolle, Karlos Dansby, Bertrand Berry, Bryant McFadden, and Anquan Boldin. And while I love Dan Williams and Daryl Washington as their first two draft picks, adding aging vets Joey Porter and Alan Faneca is not about getting better but plugging leaks poorly. The Cards, a Super Bowl team in 2008 and division winners in 2009, will be fighting Seattle for third place in the NFC West.
24. Seattle: Leon Washington (if healthy), LenDale White (if motivated) and Russell Okung (if he lives up to his draft status) should help the running game improve on last year's terrible (26th overall) rating. That should also take pressure of Matt Hasselbeck and perhaps help him stay healthy. Simply, if the QB is healthy, the Hawks can vie for mediocrity. If the job falls to Charlie Whitehurst, a talented but inexperienced career backup, it's going to be a looong season.
23. Washington: They were perhaps the most active team this offseason, hiring an outstanding new coach, trading for a future Hall of Fame quarterback, and adding more horses at running back than a stable at the Kentucky Derby. All that is well and good, but the quarterback is not everything. Donovan McNabb can't do it all. The offensive line, and secondary are question marks. The drafting of Trent Williams will solve some of the OL problems once he gets over his rookie growing pains.
22. Carolina: One does not get better by losing Julius Peppers, having a coach enter a season as a lame duck, having no first round draft pick, and using the second-round pick on a player (Jimmy Clausen) who probably will not play as he learns the NFL game. As horrible offseasons go, Carolina is right up there. Their best move might have been picking Brandon LaFell in the third round because at least he might start in 2010.
21. Denver: Josh McDaniels acts like he knows things no one else does. So he's traded away a franchise quarterback, a franchise wide receiver, gotten rid of a fine defensive coordinator, reached for Tim Tebow in the first round, traded away his starting TE, and pieced together an offensive line with a ton of question marks and one major injury -- the patellar tendon tear to left tackle Ryan Clady's left knee. McDaniels will also learn that there is a reason Akin Ayodele was cut.
20. Kansas City: New England Midwest got significantly stronger in the defensive backfield this offseason with the drafting of Eric Berry and Javier Arenas, who will be a fine nickel player. The rest of the defense, putrid against the run last year, is still a work-in-progress. The offense should be better with the addition of running back Thomas Jones and center Casey Wiegmann. Both are in the twilight of their careers, but serve as upgrades for this team nonetheless. It'll be interesting to see what new OC Charlie Weis can do for QB Matt Cassell.
19. New York Giants: Yes, this is a surprise but this team is starting to age and not very well. Despite an emphasis on the defensive line, opponents were able to run the ball quite well last season. Adding rookie Linval Joseph will probably only make up for the loss of Fred Robbins. Jason Pierre-Paul is a project player who as a rookie has the feel of a wonderful athlete but only an average football player. He needs much work. The Giants have no backup quarterback, having replaced David Carr with Jim Sorgi. If Eli Manning breaks down, this is a cellar-dwelling team. Otherwise, welcome to third place in the NFC East. Again.
18. Chicago: They were 7-9 despite the fact Jay Cutler threw 26 interceptions. Twenty-six interceptions! If new OC Mike Martz can get Cutler to cut that number in half, the Bears win 10 games this year. The expensive addition of Julius Peppers will work only if the player feels he has to live up to his salary -- something that hasn't always been the case. The return of linebacker Brian Urlacher will help but the release of Alex Brown remains a head-scratcher. Former Dolphins seventh-round pick Devin Aromashodu seems on the verge of stardom.
17. San Francisco: They added a future Pro Bowl player in Mike Iupati but reached badly for Anthony Davis. Safety Taylor Mays will remind the Bay Area of Ronnie Lott in the manner he hits, but definitely not in the manner he covers. The team also improved its return game by getting Ted Ginn for a fifth-round pick -- a good trade for them. But let's face it, the 49'ers look set at most of their positions save quarterback. If Alex Smith can finally become a solid NFL starter, this team wins its division. If Smith continues his roller coaster career, this team once again struggles to win eight games.
16. Pittsburgh: They want to go back to their old pounding running game personality because quarterback Ben Roethlisberger won't be around for at least four games and possibly up to six games. The addition of Maurkice Pouncey to the offensive line will help that. Santonio Holmes is gone so the air around his former hotel room on the road has cleared. But that means second year player Mike Wallace needs to become the star his rookie campaign suggested he could be. The defensive front and linebackers are solid but the cornerback play is still a concern despite the re-aquisition of Bryant McFadden.
15. Houston: Signing a kicker and former Dolphins offensive tackle Wade Smith in free agency, while losing standout cornerback Dunta Robinson is not the way to improve a team. The Texans seem to be forever treading water around the 8-8 mark and this year bodes no differently as the defense seems weakened by the loss of Robinson and coming suspension of Brian Cushing. The offense has made no significant improvement. Matt Schaub will once again have to throw for nearly 5,000 yards to keep the Texans above .500
14. Tennessee: They are counting on this draft to help immediately and last year's draft to finally help because it certainly didn't contribute much in 2009. The Titans are obviously also banking on Chris Johnson being able to continue his torrid rushing pace which could be a reach because he simply doesn't have the size to carry 720 times in two years -- particularly not if he sits out most of the offseason and preseason in a contract squabble. The picking of Derrick Morgan should deaden the pain of losing Kyle Vanden Bosch.
13. New England: I'm sure there will be angry e-mails from Massachusetts. Too bad. Tom Brady is still great, but honestly, he's not working as hard these days as he once did. Wes Welker probably will not be around early in the season and it might take a while before he's 100 percent. The team doesn't have an offensive coordinator or a defensive coordinator and that's just weird. The cornerback spot is still a weakness despite the selection of Devin McCourty in the first round. And the running game ... well, what running game?
12. Philadelphia: The good news: Brandon Graham will be 2010's defensive rookie of the year and he will not fail any drug tests. Nate Allen will be solid in the deep secondary and Ricky Sapp will seem like a bargain if the Eagles let him rush the passer on a situational basis. The bad news: One does not improve by getting rid of a great quarterback and sending him to a division rival. The bet here is Kevin Kolb will not have a better season in 2010 than McNabb had in 2009. And trading away Sheldon Brown will not result in a net gain.
11: Cincinnati: If Antonio Bryant stays healthy and tight end Jermaine Gresham, a tight end with deer speed, is recovered from his knee injury, the Bengals slow-developing offense will finally give quarterback Carson Palmer weapons to work with. The prediction here is that Jordan Shipley will also become a favorite of the veteran quarterback. Cincy's defense is intact and actually improved the depth at corner with the addition of Brandon Ghee. Adam "Pacman" Jones? Special teams help. Nothing more.
10: Miami: They've come a looong way this offseason. Seriously. The addition of Brandon Marshall means the Dolphins finally have a consistent playmaker in the passing game. Adding inside linebacker Karlos Dansby and moving Randy Starks to nose tackle will help solidify the run-defense that fell from No. 10 in 2008 to No. 18 last year. The secondary remains a major question mark with the free safety spot a huge concern. If Chad Henne develops into a top-tier quarterback, this team should be back in the playoffs. If he doesn't, 8-8 here we come.
9: New York Jets: Yeah, they're making Super Bowl noises but that's just what it is -- noise. The Jets didn't improve by switching out Thomas Jones and Leon Washington for Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson. They took a step back which isn't the best way for a running game to go. Their pass-rush, nearly non-existent last year, will be better with the addition of Jason Taylor, and Antonio Cromartie improves the secondary. But left guard is a concern as is at least one defensive end spot.
8: Minnesota: Will he? Won't he? And how is his ankle? All the questions about the Vikings revolve around Brett Favre and whether he'll play his 20th season or not. I believe he'll play. I also believe age will begin catching up to him. Simply, it is hard to expect another 33-TD, 4,200-yard season from a soon-to-be 41-year-old. The Vikings still have an excellent offensive line and running game and can bring pressure on defense, but they don't scare the elite teams with a diminished Favre or Tarvaris Jackson at QB.
7. San Diego: The Chargers upgraded by adding rookie running back Ryan Mathews, who will retrun dowhill running to the San Diego offense. But there is no visible upgrade in trading out Antonio Cromartie for Nathan Vashar and Donald Strickland, who are nothing more than backup players at this point. The idea of eliminating a player that's motivated only 75 percent of the time is a good one, but only when he's replaced by someone as talented and more motivated. The Chargers failed in that regard. This is still a highly talented roster, led by perhaps the NFL's best quarterback.
6. Dallas: The Cowboys have plenty of talent at all positions with the possible exceptions of left tackle and safety. Yes, Alex Barron is now in town and will compete with Doug Free to protect Tony Romo's blind side, but can he stay onside? The team cut Ken Hamlin, who is still on the market, but hasn't really replaced him. Owner Jerry Jones took a huge gamble in drafting Dez Bryant, who is clearly still out of shape after missing most of 2009 at Oklahoma State. But the kid has great potential and seems to be in the right place because he'll get advice from Michael Irvin.
5. Green Bay: The Packers needed to keep their talent early this offseason and did exactly that by re-signing offensive tackle Chad Clifton and rewarding playmaking safety Nick Collins. The other major assignment was shoring up the offensive line and GM Ted Thompson did that by selecting tackle workmanlike Bryan Bulaga with the first overall selection. The rookie might play at guard initially. The Packers are so solid they used their second and third round picks to address possible future needs.
4. Atlanta: They have the franchise quarterback. Matt Ryan reminds of a young Tom Brady. The passing game and running game are in great hands. The secondary is better with the addition of Dunta Robinson. First round pick Sean Weatherspoon is going to be a star in the NFL someday and will be in sub packages as a rookie. The Falcons will also get an added punch by the return of 2009 first-round pick Peria Jerry to the lineup, after he missed all but two games with a knee injury. This team has the feel of a comer.
3. Indianapolis: The left guard question remains and there are questions about the return to health of safety Bob Sanders and receiver Anthony Gonzalez. But the Colts don't seem to be sweating the Gonzalez injury based on the expected improvement of Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie. On defense, Colts fans are going to love Jerry Hughes and Pat Angerer, who might become core players on the defense for the next decade. Oh yeah, Peyton Manning is pretty good.
2. New Orleans: Charles Grant is gone, but younger, better Alex Brown replaced him. Running back Mike Bell also left via free agency but the bad news is the Saints might have to pass more. Let's face it, the only things that can derail this team are complacency or a wave of injuries. Quarterback Drew Brees is likely to work toward preventing the former. That latter is a matter of fate.
1. Baltimore: Anquan Boldin gives them an answer for third-down and crunch passing situations. Donte Stallworth comes with a new view of life after spending the past year on suspension. They drafted talented tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson to offer yet more large targets for quarterback Joe Flacco to hit -- assuming Todd Heap isn't on the field, of course. Derrick Mason is back. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed haven't slowed down. Terrell Suggs is healthy again. And while house-sized defensive tackle Haloti Ngata recovers from pectoral surgery, the Ravens will give lots of training camp snaps to condo-sized Cory Redding and mansion-sized Terrence Cody at defensive tackle. Oh, almost forgot, if Suggs and Jarret Johnson and Antwan Barnes aren't getting to the QB enough, the Ravens will probably throw top draft pick Sergio Kindle in the mix as well. They're loaded!
[BLOG NOTE: I'll be off until next Wednesday, so I'll post again then. You have plenty to chew on until then, I'm sure. And remember to read my Sunday column in The Herald or online at on the Herald site because it will explain why I ranked the Jets and Dolphins practically together.]