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Following the NFL Draft, there has been plenty of talk about which rookies will have the biggest impact in the NFL in their debut season and which teams ‘won’ the draft, but there has been little debate over which NFL veterans could benefit from their team’s recent additions. Here is a look at the NFL vets primed for a big season in 2013.
Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans
Johnson, or ‘CJ2K’, set the league alight in 2009 when he rushed for 2,006 yards, 14 touchdowns, and also notched up a useful 503 receiving yards, firmly establishing himself as one of the premiere running backs in the NFL. His last three seasons have been considerably less successful, however, and he has not been shy about laying at least some of the fault at the door of his offensive line.
It seems as if the Titans’ front office was listening. After signing one of the best guards in the NFL in the form of Andy Levitre, they went out and drafted Chance Warmack out of Alabama, a player that many had rated as the best guard in this years’ draft. They should help open up running lanes for Johnson up the middle, whilst fourth round pick Brian Schwenke will challenge Fernando Velasco for the starting center position, creating healthy competition on the interior of Tennessee’s offensive line. Throw into the mix two veteran tackles, Michael Roos and David Stewart, and Johnson has potentially one of the best offensive lines in the league to run behind.
There will be no excuses for ‘CJ2K’ this year.
Michael Huff and Lardarius Webb, Baltimore Ravens
Ed Reed may be gone, but the ‘ball hawks’ of the Ravens’ secondary could be primed for a big year. Injuries in Baltimore’s front seven last season often meant that they struggled to consistently pressure the passer. Premiere pass rusher Terrell Suggs was never at 100% after coming back from a potentially season-ending Achilles injury, while both Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee struggled with minor injuries throughout the season, leaving outside linebacker Paul Kruger responsible for getting to the quarterback. As a result, quarterbacks had more time to let receivers gain separation, and the Baltimore secondary had difficulty containing more explosive offenses.
The defensive line has been bolstered with the additions of Marcus Spears and Chris Canty, whilst Elvis Dumervil, one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, has also joined Baltimore’s ranks. If the likes of Ngata and Suggs can stay healthy, and emerging defensive stars like McPhee and Courtney Upshaw can continue their development, then both Huff and Webb could reap the rewards of the Ravens’ reinvigorated pass rush.
Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
It wouldn’t be too surprising if the Eagles ended up starting either Nick Foles or Matt Barkley ahead of Vick, but if the season started tomorrow, Vick would likely be the man under center for the Eagles. Last year Vick (and Foles) suffered from an offensive line bereft with injuries, and both struggled to stay upright and healthy when they faced teams with at least an average pass rush.
Their offensive line is healthy, at least for now, and has been bolstered by Lane Johnson, the fourth overall pick of the NFL Draft, who should fit a Chip Kelly offense perfectly. Johnson will most likely move to right tackle, opposite Jason Peters, allowing Todd Herremans to move inside, demoting disappointing first round pick Danny Watkins. Evan Mathis will retain his spot at left guard. Second-round pick Zach Ertz will compliment Brent Celek well, and give Vick more options in the passing game as both DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin stretch the field.
Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings
Bear with us on this selection. Adrian Peterson is potentially heading into this season fully healthy and gunning for a mind-boggling 2,500 yards, taking some pressure off of Ponder in terms of needing to put up the yards and points for the offense. Then there are the additions the Vikings have made on the offensive side of the ball: Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson. Both are playmakers and give Ponder a more dynamic receiving corps to target. Left tackle Matt Kalil, who had a very good rookie season, should also head into his second year as a more dominant lineman, and will give Ponder better protection from his blindside.
We are not suggesting Ponder will go on to post numbers worthy of mentioning him in the Tom Brady/Aaron Rodgers class, or even the Joe Flacco/Matt Ryan class, but he could go a long way towards proving himself a capable franchise quarterback for the Vikings.
Image credit: Tennessee Titans via Facebook