OMG! We lost Palmer! We lost Chad! We lost Joseph! And we lost Bratkowski (okay, maybe not so much him...). We're going to suck this year, right? The media and casual fans say so - so obviously this will be a rebuilding year tacitly geared for the Luck sweepstakes?
Headed into this season, I nearly felt that way. However, comparing this team to last year's along with our success against the Browns, I honestly think we've improved (almost entirely) across the board. AND we cost far less - providing more potential and hope for the future. Let's break it down, shall we?
QB: This may be a bold statement, but I trully believe Dalton is already better than 'pick-6' Palmer. It's nice to see a QB actually scanning the coverage & routes and making decisions with the ball - as opposed to staring down one reciever from the snap of the ball, letting the defense know where he's throwing to, and forcing it into double-covered receivers. I know, he doesn't have quite the arm strength, height, prototype build, USC background, and $118M contract... But seriously, just watch Dalton's head whenever he's in the pocket and tell me you miss Palmer's tunnel vision. If you do, I just feel sorry for you.
CB: Is Nate Clements as good as Joseph? No, but at least he's been on the field in contrast to the often-injured JJo. Certainly, the loss of Pacman hurt, but Clements can hold his own. And hopefully we'll get a healthy Pacman back in week 7.
WR: They may not be able to compete when it comes to reality shows, but Green & Simpson are an improvement over TOcho on the field.
LB: To my surprise, Rey has turned out to be a monster in the middle. With Lawson and Howard replacing him and the pinata Rivers on the outsides, our linebacking corps is vastly superior to Rey-Jones-Rivers.
FS: It seems as if Reggie Nelson has finally picked up the system and with his 1-sack/9-tackle performance against the Browns, it appears we finally have the solution at FS.
OL: Andre Smith, finally healthy and in shape for the first time, and the emergence of Boling should be able to cement the right side of our line (improving over the aging Williams and rotation of Lurch, Collins, & fat/injured Smith).
DL: Michael Jonhson looks very impressive (and bigger?) this year and should be able to provide a legitimate pass rush opposite Dunlap - with Geathers playing against the run. In the middle, Sims & Atkins have already superseded Tank. Along with Peko and the late-blooming Shirley, they should have a decent 4-man rotation.
OC: Though I was always hesitant to lay blame on Brat, feeling he was more hindered by Palmer, the offense this year actually resembles a NFL system as opposed to a high school playbook.
FB: We actually have one now (as brought up by peko'sponytail) - besides Peko.
Seriously, besides arguably CB, where have we gotten worse? And is it completely far-fetched to imagine a winning season this year?