It’s always a fun debate about which team or player is the best in the NFL every year. One of growing popularity is the best unit as well. Who has the best core of running backs, receivers, defensive ends or linebackers? Based on current projections, which teams have a chance to surprise in 2014?
Running Game – St. Louis Rams
Jeff Fisher has always been a coach who love to build his offense around the running game. It controls the clock, keeps the defense fresh and the quarterback from taking too many hits. Through some lucky finds like Zac Stacy (973 yards in 2013), a possible steal in Tre Mason and a beefed up offensive line the St. Louis Rams suddenly have the look of a classic NFC West team that will pound the ball. If Fisher stays committed to it, this team could reach similar heights to their division rivals in Seattle and San Francisco.
Receiving Corps – Indianapolis Colts
Teams like Chicago, Denver and Atlanta have built some outstanding groups of wide receivers. So is there anybody in line to join them this NFL season? One group that isn’t getting a lot of attention is the Indianapolis Colts. Already boasting rising star T.Y. Hilton and savvy veteran Reggie Wayne, Indy added potential free agent steal Hakeem Nicks and drafted Ole Miss standout Donte Moncrief in May. Throw in Andrew Luck as the quarterback and this group has a chance to rate among the best.
Offensive Line – Tennessee Titans
It seems fitting that a head coach who was once an offensive lineman knows how to build a quality offensive line. That is what Mike Munchak may have accomplished for the Tennessee Titans prior to getting fired. Their interior is fortified by 2013 first round pick Chance Warmack, high priced free agent Andy Levitre and solid center Brian Schwenke. Throw in rookie first round pick Taylor Lewan and former Raven Michael Oher and the Titans have a group that boasts size, athleticism and power. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt has done more with a lot less.
Pass Rush – Green Bay Packers
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers knows his job is on the line for the Green Bay Packers in 2014. Luckily the team worked hard this NFL off-season to help him. A key part of their effort was improving the pass rush. Having gone too long without a serious presence across from star linebacker Clay Matthews, they made a rare venture into free agency to sign eight-time Pro Bowler Julius Peppers. That tandem together with defensive end Datone Jones and reserves Mike Neal and Nick Perry give the Packers a capable rotation of rushers. The key to everything will be health, but if it holds, this group will drop a lot of quarterbacks in 2014.
Secondary – Cleveland Browns
Sometimes the easiest way to build a great unit is to throw top draft picks at it. That seems to be the policy upheld by the Cleveland Browns. After investing a 1st round pick in star corner Joe Haden, the team went back to the well again in May and scooped up top corner prospect Justin Gilbert. This corner tandem is loaded with speed, athleticism and playmaking ability. Throw in safeties Tashaun Gipson and Donte Whitner and the Browns have a group high on talent, upside and experience rolled into one.