In no particular team order, I have gathered up quotes about every team going into the 2014-2015 NFL season, and explained the significance of them...
San Diego Chargers: “We can win it all. We’ve added some pieces that we’ve needed both defensively, offensively… We’re a year better, a year better under (Mike McCoy’s) system… We play our best and we stay healthy for 16 games, we can beat anybody.”
- Eric Weddle, free safety
Brief explanation: The Chargers upgraded on both sides of the ball, and with another year under Mike McCoy, many are picking this unit as the underdog team in the NFL.
Arizona Cardinals: (on the defense) "Last year was like a Chinese fire drill. This year we had a different outlook. It's just a bunch of hungry guys. You can tell. It's totally different than last year.” - Tony Jefferson, strong safety
Brief explanation: The Cardinals boast a young, talented defensive unit that already proved to be lethal last season. Another year of experience could mean even bigger things this season.
Denver Broncos: "We want to be one of the best defenses ever, and we want to have some of the best defensive players ever on this defense... We want to be one and one-- the (number one) offense, the (number one) defense.” - TJ Ward, free safety
Brief explanation: By acquiring players such as cornerback Aquib Talib and defensive end Demarcus Ware, the Broncos have dramatically improved a defense that will now try to match the best offense in the league. The defense was the weakness of the team, and it was addressed with a statement. The Broncos may own the best of both sides of the ball if all goes to plan.
New England Patriots: "(We have) A lot of versatility. We have great backups as well. We have a lot of depth here at the cornerback spot and our safeties have range -- guys like Devin (McCourty), he has range over the top of us.” - Brandon Browner, cornerback
Brief explanation: It’s true. The Patriots’ secondary depth, including Browner, Derelle Revis and McCourty among others, is a unique ingredient that many teams do not possess. Having a deep secondary unit is vital towards success because of how most teams’ are pass-oriented in the modern-day NFL. Browner and Revis, both new acquisitions, make the Patriots an even scarier team than last year.
Miami Dolphins: "We moved the ball consistently the other night. But Bill and I talked and we want to be pushing the pace a little faster.” - Joe Philbin, Head Coach
Brief explanation: The Dolphins, in order to generate any kind of success, must keep the ball moving quickly. However, that will continue to be a struggle when your best target, Mike Wallace, thrives in down-the-field passes, and your secondary option Brian Hartline, is average in all aspects. There is no true possession threat to keep things rolling. Maybe if Knowshon Moreno or Lamar Miller excels, depending on who starts, the tempo will change.
Pittsburgh Steelers: "Heath is night and day from where he was last year at this time. He wasn't even ready to go that first game, and it took a while to get back to where he was close feeling 100 percent. He's 100 percent ready to go. I'm excited about him being out there for us." - Todd Haley, offensive coordinator
Brief explanation: This is great news for the Steelers. Miller is a big target, standing at 6”5, who will give Rothlisberger easy targets; easy targets he really didn’t have access to last year. He will make Rothlisberger look like a younger version of himself again. It should keep the passing flow moving and give rising star running back, Le’veon Bell, room to maneuver.
Baltimore Ravens: “It doesn’t matter whether they sleep or not. We’ll eventually wake them up one day. If they’re sleeping, they’re going to have a nightmare, because what we have planned to do this year, we’re going to surprise a lot of people.” - Pernell McPhee, outside linebacker
Brief explanation: Surely, this has got to be the mindset of all the Ravens players and coaches this year. They have nothing to lose; no expectations, little hope. But it’s those assumptions that can make the Ravens defeat the odds with a more mighty vengeance. In all honesty, they lack the players, especially defensively, to wake the doubters up. But this is the NFL. Remember that.
Chicago Bears: “Now we can get into all the hypotheticals: We don’t have a lot of experience. We haven’t played together. This is a new team. But 31 other teams are saying the same thing… There’s no doubt we’re a talented team.” - Mark Trestman, Head Coach
Brief explanation: The Bears offense is downright scary. A combination of Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey and Martellus Bennett almost isn’t fair. It’s one of the best offensive cores you will ever see. It’s really the defense that has the huge question marks. Trestman is telling the truth: there is little experience and chemistry between the defensive players, but apparently, they are all getting along and have great off-the-field chemistry. If the defense comes together, and it’s entirely possible it will because of the talent it has, the Bears, on paper, would look far-and-away the best team in the NFL, beating out the Broncos for the best two-sided team.
Green Bay Packers: "We’re not making crazy changes. We don’t feel that’s the right answer. We have a program, we have a process and I can promise you our team will be better this coming week against the Jets.” - Mike McCarthy, Head Coach
Brief explanation: This comes on the heels of a loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week One on Thursday night. But seen as these quotes are supposed to summarize all the teams’ specific mindsets heading into the season at large, this quote still applies in that sense. The Packers shouldn’t have to make any major changes. They are a great football team and with a healthy Aaron Rodgers, they will go far no matter what. If anything, their early loss will give them a preview of how the Seahawks do their business, the winning way. That could help them in the future with their own game plan.
Seattle Seahawks: “It wasn’t dominant at all. We have a lot of things to clean up. We missed some opportunities on some turnovers. We missed some tackles on key drives we could have stopped and we had some key penalties. These are all things we need to clean up because we have a really high standard.” - Richard Sherman, cornerback
Brief explanation: Like with the Green Bay Packers, the Seahawks are the only team with a general quote regarding their whole season after their first game has already been played. And, just like in the Packers’ case, this quote also summarizes them generally, too. It does so because these words explain just how meticulous the Seattle defense is. Even when they only surrender 185 yards to arguably the best quarterback in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers, and completely eliminate one half of the field for his throwing (literally, Rodgers didn’t once throw Sherman’s way…) Sherman still feels there is a lot of work to be done. And that…that is awesome. But also scary for every single other team. Yikes.
Buffalo Bills: “The question with EJ is right there for you. Does he have that elite ability to stand in the pocket and go through his progressions and make the right play? Does he have an Aaron Rodgers-like ability to dissect a defense? Obviously that’s a little much to ask from a guy right away. But you’d like to see that on occasion.” - Mark Gaughan, Buffalo News Beat Writer
Brief explanation: EJ Manuel, management hopes, is the future of the Bills franchise. At times he has played like it, but most of the time, he has not. Then again, he’s young. He’s entering his third season in the NFL. He is terrific on his feet and is able to squirm his way out of the pocket to create space, but he has yet to learn the art of composure and striking the open man when pressure is being applied. Once he learns that skill, he will be a true duel-threat quarterback. And he has a lot of time to learn; no one is expecting anything major from the team right away. Take your time.
Jacksonville Jaguars: “When you look at the really good teams, they’re experienced and fast. Some teams are experienced and slow, and that’s not ideal, or inexperienced and fast. We’re still pretty inexperienced, but from last year to this year, we’ve gotten more speed. We’re getting fast. So overall, you look at our team, we have inexperience, but we’re faster. For us, the challenge is we’re in this race to maturity, to become an experienced, fast team as quickly as possible.” - Gus Bradley, Head Coach
Brief explanation: If they want to slow things down, I have three words of advice for the Jaguars management and coaching: start Blake Bortles. Yes, he’s a rookie, but during his preseason outings he already proved how special he is. He is NFL-ready in more ways than one; he is strongly built, he has an accurate and powerful arm, but arguably more impressive than anything is his phenomenal poise in the pocket. He would instantly slow the game down for everyone else, and would combine his quick outlets with a methodical and free-flowing throwing game. I’m a believer. Do what the Oakland Raiders are doing with their rookie quarterback, Jaguars. What do you have to lose anyway?
Carolina Panthers: “That’s a testament to Luke that he makes people around him better. That’s what leaders and great players do. He pulls everyone up to his level compared to him playing down to some others.” - Sean McDermott, Defensive Coordinator
Brief Explanation: It all starts with the defense for the Panthers, and the defense starts with Luke Kuelchy. He is the heart and pulse of the Panther defense. He is a lockdown defender, but his best quality is his ability to improve the performance of his fellow defensive players. Only leaders have this effect on others. He is undoubtedly a leader. With Cam Newton already establishing himself as a relentless leader on the offensive end, the Panthers have the rare commodity of possessing two absolute leaders on both sides of the ball. Every team has their best offensive player and their best defensive player, but to have two true leaders, ones who elevate others… it’s just an entirely different story, and it’s also why the Panthers will again contend this season.
New York Giants: “We’re a work in progress. Let’s face it.” - Tom Coughlin, Head Coach
Brief explanation: Thanks for being honest, Tom. It’s looking just like last season, except with dampened and forced expectations that all “believers” really know deep inside should be very, very low - because the Giants aren’t good enough. The defense is unestablished, and the offense won’t do anything until Eli Manning learns how to throw the ball for more than two-hundred yards again. But I do love seeing the Giants do well. Prove me wrong.
Minnesota Vikings: “There’s a lot more runs out of the gun. That’s different. I really didn’t run the ball out of the gun a lot last year. Even in single-back or with the fullback in front of me, we have some different runs that we’re going to be able to (implement) when the season starts.” - Adrian Peterson, running back
Brief explanation: Really, it’s incredible that Adrian Peterson is able to do anything when each opponent he plays stacks nearly all its guys in the box. …What’s that? Oh, that’s right. He’s a superhuman. Imagine what he could do with a capable quarterback and a diverse offense? He deserves it at some point. But this year, he has a couple things leaning more in his favor: Firstly, what he mentioned, which is a newly implemented offensive system that compliments his style. And secondly, an upgraded offensive line that is strong and will give him room to run. That’s all he needs. Peterson will probably be the best running back in the NFL again this season. He doesn’t need Chip Kelly or Andy Reid to help him out.
Philadelphia Eagles: (On Nick Foles): He won’t do what he did last year, that just won’t happen. I see him being maybe a 25 touchdown, 8-10 interception guy. They’re trying to have in the mind of Nick Foles, you don’t have to take chances all the time… Foles isn’t known for his ability to get out of the pocket.. But with his size he does a great job moving in the pocket and getting the ball out, getting it to his guys quickly.”
- Donovan McNabb, Ex-Eagles starting quarterback
Brief explanation: Harsh words coming from McNabb, but he addressed the burning question (just with slight negativity): What should we expect from Nick Foles this season? Some say as highly as a top three QB in the league, others say he will fail miserably and many fantasy owners will spend each Sunday crying in their rooms. While McNabb is right in the fact that no one should expect him to do what he did at the end of last season, when he officially took over the starting role, we shouldn’t count out a very strong year either. His range is matched by few, and he is sturdy in the pocket, even if his speed is equivalent to that of a turtle. Plus, Chip Kelly is an offensive maestro and could literally take any slouch and turn him into a solid quarterback. Double plus, Foles has a good set of receivers to throw to in Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper and Zach Ertz. Without coming to specific conclusions, it seems likely that Foles will succeed this season.
Kansas City Chiefs: “I’m OK with playing young players. There’s nothing wrong with that. They have to grow up fast. They got a tremendous amount of reps up in St. Joe during camp and now they’re just getting their legs back and getting ready to go…” - Andy Reid, Head Coach
Brief explanation: The Chiefs do have a flurry of young faces in their squad, offensively and defensively, and Reid will not be afraid to use them. Safe to say that Reid knows what he’s doing, so we’ll trust him. This quote perfectly defines who Andy Reid is as a coach. He’s different. He likes to explore alternative options. If it means substituting Jamaal Charles with the young and talented Knile Davis at times, so be it.
Detroit Lions: “It’s great to see coach allows him (Matthew Stafford) to sometimes put him in position to make a call, to call a play and then put us in the best position he feels he can put us in. That’s pretty awesome to see, because that’s some stuff that you see Peyton Manning do all the time at the line, check out of something into a totally different play that wasn’t in the play call that coach may have called in.”
- Calvin Johnson, wide receiver
Brief explanation: This is a step in the right direction for Matthew Stafford, and this is what Stafford never had under former coach Jim Schwartz. Sure, he was told to pass a lot, but he was never given this kind of liberty to make instinct decisions by himself and dissect defenses based on how he sees the defense lined up. Not only will it give Stafford and his receiving corpse confidence, but it will also progress Stafford as a thinker and a football player. Great news for the Lions.
Cincinnati Bengals: “Until we win one (a playoff game), people are going to keep saying that we haven’t done it, and we can’t do it. That’s definitely the goal of this team.” - Andy Dalton, starting quarterback
Brief explanation: It’s gotta happen. This year is the year! We all want to see you make it past the first game of the playoffs, but Andy, you’re going to have to do better than throw for one touchdown and six interceptions through four playoff game tries. The defense is there, the offense is there, the coaching is there. It all comes down to mentality for these Bengals. In terms of talent and personnel, they rank in the upper third in the league. They have to find a way to get it done, and hopefully a matured Andy Dalton will help the cause.
Atlanta Falcons: “I’d lose a lot of sleep if we were getting our ass kicked in pass protection, but we’re not. We’re not going to be a run-first team, so we’ll get the runs cleaned up. We’ve just got to keep protecting that quarterback. The one thing they won’t be, they won’t be pinked over anybody.”
- Mike Tice, Lineman Coach
Brief explanation: It is so vital that the Falcons’ offensive line performs, because of it does, the offense will be a dream come true. The offensive line has always been something of a concern, and now it’s all patched up through different acquisitions and roster changes. This year, assuming Julio Jones stays healthy, the Falcons could break their way through. Hard Knocks was definitely entertaining to watch this summer, but their actual games should trump the TV show if the offensive line shows up for Matt Ryan.
Dallas Cowboys: (On starting cornerback Morris Claiborne): "Well, he’s there. He’s our starting corner. That’s the confidence. He’s gotta go do it.” - Rod Marinelli, Defensive Coordinator
Brief explanation: Well…that doesn’t sound like very much confidence. But what should we expect? The Cowboys defense is a disaster. They really don’t have any standouts or impact performers. The secondary guys will continue to be abused and the front line will be trampled on. The Cowboys offense, as usual, should be explosive between Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and Demarco Murray, but it won’t mean much when your defense is letting up twice as many points.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: “I expect to be the best in the league (defensively). First, you have to have potential. We have that. We have great players. Now it’s putting it together. If we’re going to play our version of Buc ball, we need to have dominating defensive play.” - Lovie Smith, Head Coach
Brief explanation: Big statement from new coach Lovie Smith, but it’s not impossible. They boast a core of talented young guys and Lovie has always been known for his defensive scheming. The Buccaneers won’t give the defense much help, but Lovie’s enthusiasm and determination will be welcomed with open arms.
New Orleans Saints: (On starting tight end Jimmy Graham): “One of the challenges with a player like him is the attention that is drawn, so within the framework of your offense it will take coverage off of certain or loosen coverage off of other guys or take pressure off of other players at times and yet at the same time formationally you are looking for ways to eliminate the hard bump and run at the line of scrimmage.” - Sean Payton, Head Coach
Brief explanation: Jimmy Graham, maybe even more than quarterback Drew Brees, influences everything, because he drags defenders to certain areas which completely changes up the way the rest of the game is played. The coverage on Graham will result in Drew Brees’ decision making play-by-play. That’s why he’s so valuable; it’s not just for his incredible athleticism and catching ability. good this year.
Cleveland Browns: “…People have asked me about potentially a two-quarterback system (between Brian Hoyer and Jonny Manziel) and having a package for him. That is on the table” - Mike Pettine, Head Coach
Brief explanation: I don’t think anyone knows who’s the starting quarterback, officially, for the Browns. They have come out and said it’s Brian Hoyer, but that can change so quick that we shouldn’t even consider it official. A two-quarterback system is a really interesting prospect for the Browns, and it would make the offense completely unpredictable. Manziel is better on the ground, and Hoyer is a better pure pass-thrower, so the Browns could play to the strength of each depending on the situation. It’s a system we don’t currently see in the NFL, but it’s a smart idea that could give the Browns the best chance of winning until they decide on a permanent full-time starter.
New York Jets: "(Eric) Decker, in my mind, was your fourth option in Denver, and that’s the talent I think he has. I think he’s a marginal Number-two at best. The worst cover guy you have on your defense is assigned to Eric Decker every week.” - Mark Schlereth, former Denver Bronco and current ESPN analyst
Brief explanation: Poor Eric Decker. Those are some pretty choice words. I suppose everybody has an opinion on Eric Decker; people either think his success was a byproduct of Peyton Manning, or they think he’s a legitimately good receiver that can create his own offense with a strong upper body and great hands. We will have to let his play do the talking, but Decker’s performance this season could directly influence whether the Jets prevail or exhale with a sigh of defeat.
Indianapolis Colts: Trent (Richardson), he needs to answer the bell and do his job to the best of his ability. We’re all accountable here. I will say this, there are a lot of backs last year that wouldn’t have got (2.4 yards-per-carry) considering the amount of people he had in that box and the amount of bodies that were hitting him before he even seemed to get the ball sometimes. He’s such a hard runner, we know how tough he is, but he’s got to produce just like all these guys do on this final 53.”
- Ryan Grigson, General Manager
Brief explanation: Trent Richardson definitely lost a step last year— out of nowhere, too. He seemed to be on such a good path, and then it just suddenly went down the drain. He has shown all of us his talent…over a year ago. He needs to prove that talent wasn’t a fluke. He fits in well with the Colts’ offense; they need him to bruise out yards most of the time. They don’t need him to be Chris Johnson-flashy. However, they’re gonna need quite a lot more than 2.4 yards-per-carry. If Trent Richardson returns to his former-self, the Colts will be very dangerous. They need him baldy.
Washington Redskins: “Let’s stop beating around the bush. Kirk Cousins has played much better at the quarterback position than Robert Griffin III has… Right now, Robert Griffin III is his quarterback. Now, if there was a quarterback competition, it wouldn’t be a competition. Kirk Cousins would be the man I believe he would have to go to.” - Joe Theismann, Redskins legend
Brief explanation: No one thought it could ever possibly come down to this, but the Redskins are in a position where Kirk Cousins could be a legitimate option to replace RGIII at quarterback. Cousins has top-shelf talent, and Griffin III has been dipping slowly for months, ever since the beginning of last season all the way to this season. But, from what seems apparent from several reports, they are going to stick with RGIII. He should be grateful to keep his job right now, and he needs to award management with an MVP-type season that his talent is capable of. He’s a year off knee surgery, so he should also run with more freedom. Run with more freedom, RGIII. Do what you can do, for the sake of the Redskins organization.
St. Louis Rams: “I think that’s the other really frustrating part is that we finally had every thing going in the right direction around here. I think this is as talented a team as I’ve ever been a part of on both sides of the ball. I was just so excited to get back out on the field and play with these guys from what we were able to do in OTAs and in training camp, I guess not knowing how it would have turned out this year is probably something that is going to eat me up for a while.” - Sam Bradford, starting quarterback (out for season)
Brief explanation: The Rams sadly lost Sam Bradford for the year, but they still have bright spots in phenom running back Zac Stacy and second-year wideout Tavon Austin. The franchise is definitely moving in the right direction, but now, it’s unfortunately going to be a year-delayed. At least for Sam Bradford. The biggest victory Rams’ fans could want right now is evident progression from Stacy, Austin, and their formidable defensive front line this season while Bradford recovers.
San Francisco 49ers: “We’ve been struggling a little bit…once we get rolling, then it’s all downhill after that. We can do whatever we want, whatever we put our minds to. But it’s just about getting into that zone.” - Vernon Davis, Starting Tight End
Brief explanation: They didn’t have a very good preseason, and it’s caused some concerns. But they’ll be just fine. They’re too good on both sides of the ball to suddenly collapse. However, Davis coming out and expressing his dissatisfaction must speak volumes about how the 49ers are feeling in the locker room right now, even though it was only the preseason.
Oakland Raiders: (On starting quarterback Derek Carr): “I’ve said it from day one, the guy’s comfortable in the huddle. The game’s not too big for him… I don’t think the game’s too fast for him, which a lot of times is a concern with a rookie quarterback.” - Greg Olsen, Offensive Coordinator
Brief explanation: Excellent decision by the Raiders. He is NFL-ready now, and why not start a quarterback who is going to be the future anyway, with nothing much on the line this season? Matt Shaub, who was thought to be the starter, should be an excellent mentor for Carr. That’s a plus.
Houston Texans: “Arian (Foster)’s going to play a lot. After that, we’ll see how it goes. I believe at some point you’ll see all three of those other backs: Jonathan Grimes, Alfred Blue and Ronnie Brown in different situations. But Arian will get the bulk of the playing time.” - Bill O’Brien, Head Coach
Brief explanation: The Texans are an odd mixture of young, promising, developing players and veterans or well or slightly past their prime. Arian Foster sits right in the middle: He is in his prime now. Foster’s return will draw the most excitement from Texans fans and his “comeback" will be one of the bigger stories to start off the season. He is going to play a lot and he has garnered excellent reviews in practice. It’s going to be fun watching him play.
Tennessee Titans: “We haven’t installed everything. We’ve got a lot of plays in the book that we haven’t put in. But we have to start somewhere. We have to install what we think our core is and build off of that.” - Ken Whisenhunt, Head Coach
Brief summary: New coach Ken Whisenhunt admitted that the Titans are not as prepared as he’d like them to be, but just like with some of the other bottom teams, he can take his time to organize everything, and he should use this year to develop young players like running back Bishop Sankey. The full playbook will come later. Nevertheless, with a talented new coach and an equally talented set of young players, the Titans should be looking towards the future.