Well, the Last one received a pretty warm response, which made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, so now we've got a part 2. Today I'll be projecting for the defense, although keep this in mind: I'm really bad with projecting tackle #s so just bear with me and try not to be too critical on the number of tackles for a particular player. Try not to weight the numbers too much this time around. In the words of the late, great Heath Ledger: "Here. We. Go."
David Harris: 115 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 Int. 2 forced fumbles
Harris underachieved last season. He wasn't the same super-elite inside linebacker that he was the two prior seasons. He was still good, yes, but I felt he should've been better. He admitted to coming into the season a little out of shape, and has reportedly worked to try and lose some weight. that's always good to hear. I really haven't heard much out of him this off-season, but I do expect a return to form for the Hitman. Also, I think he finally reaches the pro bowl. Someone like him is bound to get recognized sooner or later...you would think, anyway.
Bart Scot: 84 tackles, 2.5 sacks 1 forced fumble
CAN'T WAIT!!! C'mon, you guys had to have known that was coming, right? Seriously though, this is probably Bart's last year with the team, and I think he bounces back. He's reportedly moving a lot better, and while that doesn't necessarily mean he WILL stay on the field on third down, it'll help his cause. He's also apparently having a lot more fun again, running his mouth like he used to. That's the Bart we all know and love. I'm looking forward to watching him this season, I think the Madbacker goes out with a bang.
I can't really give any numbers since I honestly don't know how his sub-package role on defense and special teams tackles are gonna add up together. Either way, I think we'll see him quite a bit on 3rd down, either in coverage or in blitzing. I have high hopes for him as Bart's successor. Maybe he'll even find his way onto the field more and more as the season goes on.
Muhammad Wilkerson:58 tackles 7 sacks 2 forced fumbles
I think Wilk is going to emerge as a dominant force this year. He started to show flashes of it at the end of last year, and now he has an entire off-season under his belt along with the tutelage of Karl Dunbar. Rex even compared his preparation and dedication to his craft to the almighty Revis. Now, I don't expect him to be the Revis of defensive lineman, but that kind of comparison is worth something IMO, even coming from Rex. He'll play all over the line, and I think a lot of his sacks are going to come from the 4-3 when he's lined up as a DT in pass rushing situations. I think he makes his presence known.
Quinton Coples: 34 tackles, 5.5 Sacks, 1 forced fumble
I've said this many, many times, but I noticed that quite a few of the more successful d-lineman in this league don't produce huge numbers their first season or two, but then their numbers escalate afterwards. Look at JPP, Chris Long, Mario Williams, and Justin Tuck for examples. I think Coples follows a similar trajectory. He's apparently having a little trouble right now, which isn't too shocking. The d-line is a tough position to adjust to in the NFL. Also, enough with the Gholston Comparisons, let the guy play some games first.
Mike Devito: 45 tackles, 1 sack
DeVito is a great run-stuffer, but he doesn't offer much in terms of pass rush. Don't know what else to say really, I expect another solid season from him. He's been a good contributor in recent years.
Sione Pouha: 40 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble
What a great season he had last year. He is getting up there in age, yes, but he plays more of a strength-oriented position, and he came into the league at a late age anyway, so I don't think it'll affect him too much. I don't know if he'll be quite as good this season since it's tough to replicate that kind of success, but I do expect another great year from him.
Kenrick ellis: 21 tackles, 1 sack
I don't expect him to get onto the field a ton, since we've got a bunch of guys in front of him on the depth chart, but I think when he does get on, he'll flash that talent that he has so much of. This guy has the potential to be the next Kris Jenkins. But not this year I don't think.
Aaron Maybin: 18 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles
Oh yes, I'm drinking the Mayhem Kool-Aid. For the record i'm not letting his dominance in camp so far dictate my judgement right now, I just think that rex and mike are gonna unleash his pass-rushing speed on offenses from several different angles, which'll lead to him getting to the quarterback. I think we may use him in a similar way to how the Cowboys used DeMarcus Ware last year. No, I'm not saying he's the next DeMarcus Ware, but they moved Ware around their defense a lot so he could rush the passer from different angles, and I think Mayhem gets used in that kind of way. I'm looking forward to his 3 sack game against his former team on week 1 =)
Calvin Pace: 65 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
Pace had a really solid season last year, but his pass rush skills leave a lot to be desired. I don't really expect that to change given that he's in his 30s and he's probably not getting any faster now. I still think his solid play at the OLB spot continues.This is probably his last season with the team too, he'll be a cap casualty next year.
Bryan thomas: 37 Tackles, 3 sacks
I don't think he'll see the field a ton given his age, physical deterioration, and more 4-3 fronts this year, but he'll hopefully still provide a solid run-stopping presence when his number is called. He never did become the pass rusher everyone hoped for, but he has been a solid edge-setter over the years, and I'm hoping he can do it for just one more.
Darelle Revis: 43 tackles, 4 Int
Do I even have to say anything? Nah, not really. I'm glad he's willing to play this one year at a discount though. We'll have to give him his contract next spring.
Antonio Cromartie: 35 tackles, 5 Int
For all the commotion he's caused recently, he's a great player. He allowed under a 50% completion percentage at passes thrown his way and held QBs to a 72 passer rating IIRC. That's pretty darn good. And when you're playing opposite Revis, screwing up even a little bit is bad, since a lot of Quarterbacks are barely even going to look in Revis's direction. Yeah, he had some bad games last year, but i've been very pleased with Cromartie as a whole, and I expect more good play out of him. Although I feel like he's a candidate to get traded next year, since we have to extend Revis, and it's tough to pay 2 corners over 20 mil combined. Plus Kyle Wilson should be ready to take the #2 spot by then anyway. Speaking of which...
Kyle Wilson: 32 tackles, 3 Int
Wilson is a pretty under-appreciated player. He had a couple of really bad games last year, but was solid as a rock in all the other ones. Playing Nickel corner is tough, since you don't have the sideline to help you, meaning he's going to give up a lot of completions. It's more important in his case to just stop the chains from moving. As a result, the numbers may look kinda ugly, and PFF may not think much of him, but to hell with PFF. My eyes told me that Wilson did a very nice job last year. Although I'm not fully satisfied for some reason. Either way, like I mentioned above, I think there's a good chance he replaces Cro as the #2 corner next season. I think he may even be capable of that now, but Cro's still here.
LaRon Landry: 74 Tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 Int, 2 forced fumbles
I'm excited to have him on the team this year. He's one of the best safeties in the league when he's on the field. In 2010, Shanahan called him the best defensive player he ever coached. Yeah, the elephant in the room is that Achilles. For some reason I just feel like he'll last the season. Maybe just because if i'm not mistaken, he was on PUP for all preseason last year, and this year he was ready to go the first day of camp, even if he's on a pitch count. Also, Stem Cells are apparently pretty awesome. Okay, so let's say does stay healthy. This is a dynamic player to add to an already stacked defense, who we can send on blitzes, is an enforcer in the run game, and also has some solid coverage skills, which we're sure to use since he's probably the best coverage safety on our roster (that's why I gave him 2 INTs). Dirty 30 baby.
Yeremiah Bell: 70 Tackles, 2 Sacks, 1 Int
He's a solid, Veteran presence that should make a good addition to our secondary. He's certainly good in run support, although he doesn't offer too much in pass coverage. He should help us out quite a bit this year. Not sure what else to say, solid pickup Tanny.
Eric Smith: 40 tackles, 2 sacks
He'll be back where he belongs as a sub-package player. I think we all hate him after his awful performance in coverage last season, but I think some of us forget that he's a good sub-package player, and is also good on special teams. Quoting mike pettine, "you'll love eric smith at 300 snaps, you don't like him at 1000". If Landry healthy, Smitty stays off the field. Even if Landry doesn't stay healthy, the team may even throw out Antonio Allen. As long as he doesn't see the field too much, he's a solid player.
Phew, that took a while. Comment away, folks.
Update: overall predictions:
198 pass y/g allowed: 4th in NFL. 98 rush y/g allowed: 5th in NFL
296 y/g allowed: 3rd in NFL
41 sacks: t-10th in NFL. (I know it doesn't match the total for the players, but I guess I projected a bit too high)
I expect this defense to play excellently once again. It's only gotten better in the off-season, and they appear to be back with a vengeance from last season.