By now, you may have read the Five NFL Teams Who Got Worse piece and thought to yourself, Jesus, this fella is fierce miserable. He doesn’t have a bit of optimism in his bones.
Well, fear not my comrades – I’m back with a bang to tell you which NFL teams have made serious strides in getting ever closer to a Super Bowl ring.
If you’re a Cleveland Browns fan peeking into this article, please try and contain yourself. You know this always ends in hysterics. And not the good kind.
As much as I’d love to troll you all, leave out Cleveland, then embrace the absolute outrage of all that comes with that, there’s absolutely no point in denying that Cleveland are the most improved team in the NFL.
The progression of Baker Mayfield in his second year would be enough to land them on the list alone, but they’ve had some key pickups over the off-season too. Starting with Odell Beckham – obviously you get him, but you also free up Juice Landry into single coverage. This could also benefit freak athlete David Njoku.
Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson make Cleveland’s front four depth even better, and Lamar Jackson is going to be in for a horrid time this season.
Oh, and did you know they’ve Kareem Hunt coming back in week nine? My, my.
Last year, the Steelers had Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown on their roster, albeit in mitigating circumstances. Now, a year on, they’re without them and I’ve to convince you they’re better off. They just are.
That kind of distraction level in locker rooms is a hindrance in lieu of any talent, and while the depth chart may look weaker, there’ll be a renewed focus about this team that otherwise wouldn’t have existed.
JuJu Smith-Schuster is ready to make his step up to be the next elite receiver and they’ve managed to retain their key offensive linemen. James Conner in a full season will be spectacular and a higher draft pick than usual meant they could snag Devin Bush. Finally, they’ve got a replacement for Ryan Shazier.
Green Bay Packers
For the longest time, the Packers have needed rid of Clay Matthews. Not because he’s not a supremely talented defender, but mainly because he’s wasted in this scheme. They never knew what to do with him.
They’ve got a true Mike linebacker in Blake Martinez and a solid edge rusher in Za’Darius Smith. Finally, pieces fit.
Also, when you take into account that Jaire Alexander looks set to become one of the NFL’s top cornerbacks following a year of learning, their defence is actually fairly good, top to bottom. The obvious issue is releasing Mike Daniels, but that’s a decision they’re comfortable with.
Their one-two punch of Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage looks good too – and this is before we even touched on the fact Aaron Rodgers has a new offensive mind to work with for the first time in his career. Fly, my pretty – fly!
You might argue that these are all unproven commodities and Larry Fitzgerald is no longer a commodity, but I’m telling you that Kliff Kingsbury’s air-raid offence is going to confuse a lot of defensive play-callers.
Obviously it starts with the quarterback, but they’ve brought in J.R. Sweezy to protect him as well as Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler through the draft. Michael Crabtree also signed last night.
Kyler Murray has looked as good as advertised in pre-season and if he plays at a functional level, he can rely on a defence that has seen an influx of some key pieces.
Darius Philon, Jordan Hicks, Robert Alford and Terrell Suggs give this defence a nasty element to it – something that has escaped this otherwise dull franchise for too long now. Zach Allen may also be the steal of the entire draft.
Well, I mean – it couldn’t have gotten any worse, right?
- Further Reading: 5 NFL teams who got worse during this off-season