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These Five Struggling NFL Teams Are On The Path To 2023 Evolution

The 2023 NFL offseason has gotten off to an incredibly busy start, and with the draft coming soon, it’s just going to accelerate from here. 16 teams found themselves on the outside looking into the playoffs last year, but the offseason will offer an opportunity for them to elevate and address key needs. Here are five teams who are on the right path.

Detroit Lions

Detroit was absolutely playing at a playoff level last year. They were clicking on offense and being opportunistic enough on defense to beat basically anybody. Ultimately, they fell just short after a flurry of wins to end the season. This offseason, they’ve taken steps to address their gaps.

By signing David Montgomery, they assured one of the best RB duos in the NFL to add to an already prolific offense. Much more importantly, they made big moves to improve their weakest position group, the secondary, with CJ Gardner-Johnson adding major talent at safety, as well as Courtland Sutton and Emmanuel Mosely at cornerback. Take away their biggest weakness, the pass defense, and Detroit is looking awfully threatening. The draft should only help deepen the team, perhaps add some talent at other positions of need: tight end, defensive tackle, etc… Look for the Lions to make some serious noise in the NFL next season.

Houston Texans

The Texans’ improvement is probably much more of a long-term project, but they’ve started it out wonderfully. Whether replacing Lovie Smith with DeMeco Ryans was a good call will remain to be seen, but Ryans is being given the tools him and his team need to ascend up the NFL ranks slowly but surely.

Last year, the Texans simply seemed out of sorts on both sides of the ball, especially offensively, and a big reason was a pure talent void. They’ve made big steps to address that by adding excellent playmakers. Devin Singletary adds some serious firepower to the running back room, while Robert Woods is an underrated presence that should help replace the gap that the Brandin Cooks trade created at receiver, as is the recently emerging Noah Brown. Dalton Shultz at TE is a scary prospect who made a big name for himself last year in Dallas.

Furthermore, they are strengthening the trenches, a big problem area for them in 2022. Offensively, resigning Laremy Tunsil and acquiring Shaq Mason will aid heavily in QB protection and run blocking. Defensively, to address their brutal run defense issue, they signed DT Sheldon Rankins and talented linebackers Denzel Perryman and Cory Littleton, all of whom have had recently excellent seasons.

In the upcoming NFL draft, the Texans have 12 picks, including picks two and twelve in the first round, which should allow them to gain some major talent. Look for them to add one of the QBs in a pretty rich class to become the face of the franchise. Being so young and new, the new-look Texans won’t immediately become NFL contenders, but with good coaching and development of what will now be a very talented roster, they can get there in a couple of years.

New England Patriots

Most NFL fans, especially Patriots fans, will actually not agree with my inclusion of the Patriots on this list. After all, they still haven’t gotten D-Hop or the other big-ticket move fans are clamoring for. However, what the Patriots HAVE done is slowly but surely chipped away at the weaknesses that plagued them last year.

Arguably the biggest issues for New England last year were offensive play calling and the offensive line. They’ve addressed this in a big way by replacing the ineffective Matt Patricia with Bill O’Brien as OC and Adrian Klemm as OL coordinator and should improve their cohesiveness leaps and bounds by this alone.

Of course, no rebuild is complete without players. The Patriots needed WR talent, and made a big step there by signing JuJu Smith-Schuster, and by adding James Robinson and Mike Gesicki, made positive moves at RB and TE. By clearing out relatively big contracts of players like Agholor and Jonnu Smith who had been somewhat of dead weights this last season and signing JuJu cheaply, they give themselves cap space to make more signings, either around draft day or midseason at the trade deadline in 2023.

While Riley Reiff and Calvin Anderson are good depth additions at tackle, they need more there, and could still use a true WR1 type of player, as well as secondary depth. The NFL draft can come a long way in helping them address that. With the players they need and proper coaching to complement them, as well as the championship-level defense they fielded in 2022, and a franchise QB that is looking to make a year three leap, the Patriots could surprise a lot of people this year.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints last year remind me a lot of the post-Manning Broncos, about whom the dialogue revolved around “if only they had a QB, they’d be so difficult to beat”. They have a well-rounded roster, a suffocating defense, excellent coaching, and perform well in the trenches. Without Sean Payton, this third point will need to be revisited after new HC Dennis Allen has some time to do his thing. However, adding Derek Carr addressed the biggest roster issue for the Saints overnight. While he has his flaws, there’s no doubt that Derek has one of the best arms in the NFL and with the right weapons can make it happen.

By adding Jamaal Williams, the Saints gave themselves a truly fearsome RB duo with him and Kamara. Already in Michael Thomas and Chris Olave, the Saints have good weapons at receiver. They could use a TE and an additional receiver, as well CB depth in the draft, but they’re looking good roster wise. Coaching will be the biggest question mark, but in the easiest division in the NFL, they absolutely have a shot.

Chicago Bears

The Bears have a long way to go but, interestingly, by underachieving, they’ve put themselves in a good position for next year. They came into this offseason with the coveted number one NFL Draft pick and tons of cap space, all while having their franchise QB, Justin Fields, on a rookie contract.

They’ve addressed one of their biggest weaknesses, receiver, by adding DJ Moore and Chase Claypool to the talented Darnell Mooney. While they lost David Montgomery, adding D’Onta Foreman, their running back situation with him and Khalil Herbert looks well intact. Defensively, adding Tremaine Edmunds was an important piece to help replace Roquan Smith’s production, and the additions of Andrew Billings and DeMarcus Walker will be extremely helpful for their defensive line.

By trading their first pick to the Panthers, the Bears ensured some good draft capital for the next couple of years, while still holding onto the number nine pick and a couple of second rounders, with ten picks total this year. Chicago is still in need of a talented TE – even though they added Robert Tonyan – as well as improved pass protection, but they enter a draft rich with offensive line talent. On the defensive end, their secondary could use additional talent.

Like Houston, the Bears are more of a long-term project, but could make a big leap forward in the NFL ranks this year.

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