I look at our team as a group of units, and basically just speculate on how the units might change from last year to this.
QB/RB: Newton may have more potential than any QB we've ever had, but he's had no chance to develop it, and I don't think he'll get one before the season begins, because of the lockout. The best evidence we have to date says that Clausen will be the starter. We may lose DeAngelo, and if we do I do not believe the dropoff will be extreme because of our depth. In a nutshell, and in spite of the hype I see only a marginal improvement at the QB/RB tandem.
WR/TE: With Shockey coming on board, and Rivera's familiarity with TE pass plays ala Antonio Gates, along with a reasonable dose of physical development for LaFell/Gettis, I feel more confident that this unit is on the path to incremental improvement and success.
OL: If we are optimistic about Otah's health, Wharton's longevity, and Kahlil's next career move, then perhaps this unit will improve on last year's deplorable performance. If instead, we are pessimistic about any of the three factors, then things could get very ugly again on the line which would likely result in another season of low scoring games. If they do, Newton's chances of starting before he is ready escalate because of his perceived physical ability to escape pressure and move the chains forward if only slightly. Skilled physically capable offensive lineman take years to develop, and the Panthers are at least one year behind schedule going into this year, next year we will be two years behind schedule. The addition of Shockey indicates less help blocking on the line, not more. This unit totally frightens me.
LB: Considering the talent we have at this position, and that we play a 4-3, I think we are probably the best in our division at this unit when healthy. I do not believe we will decline from that in 2011. Thomas Davis should known now that he is in an urgent make/break situation, and he has to perform this year...or else.
DB: We have declined in this unit from previous years, but at least we've developed some players along the way. Gamble is losing a step and we are losing Marshall. This is another unit that needs an infusion of talent, and the receivers in our division are going to rub that point in. One cause for optimism is that Rivera has a long history of favorable turnover ratios. Can he create turnover and blitz opportunities for our DB's and do they have soft hands?
DL: It was amusing to hear the ignant analyst insist we needed to replace the 20million dollar Peppers during the offseason. Hopefully some of our rivals will make the same mistake and underestimate us there. We threw 2 early picks at tackle, and it'd be fair to probably assume that one of them will be better than one of last year's starters. We may not dominate there, but we will have improved. That should be most apparent in the 4th quarter of games. We will make some comebacks, because our D-line will have more depth & stamina than our opponents expected.
Coaching: Unwise to speculate on my part, and fortunately for us also unwise for any opponent to do so either. Rivera will get a chance to bring creativity to our offense on his honeymoon, so we should see lots of entertaining unfamiliar stuff. If Armanti can ever be worth anything in the NFL, this is his shot while the team identity is still in flux. If the O-line is healthy, the TE position finally has a chance to develop. If instead the O-line repeats 2010, then Shockey will be miserable here. Are we going to bring back the corner blitz? I'd like to see us try. We've got some hard to tackle QB's in our division, and while some are fast, none are quick. We've got some speedy, quick, and nimble DB's who can get in a QB's face and be disruptive if they are given the chance.
We will not be the worst team in the league this year, and I personally would bet against us being the worst in our division, though I would not choose another team specifically in our division to say will be behind us. Every team in this division is one QB injury away from being out of the race, except maybe us. It wouldn't make a huge difference for us, if any of our QB's was out because we have to plan for any of the three to start. We have no clue at all who that will be.
only thing I disagree with is the first part
QB/RB - There is really no way Jimmy starts. You either start Cam or the vet you bring in.....I just don't see how Rivera couldn't logically start a season w/ Clausen. That means instant improved QB play....which also improves the ground attack in comparison to last year.