2011 AFC post-lockout grades
Grading every AFC team on how much it has improved since the lockout ended
After the monotony of the NFL lockout, free agency commenced July 26 with a flurry of signings and trades, which has slowed only in the past few days. Some teams (Philadelphia Eagles) made moves to push them to the brink of being a Super Bowl favorite. Others (Cleveland Browns) stood pat.
Matt Williamson grades all 32 NFL teams on their free-agent acquisitions and trades since the end of the lockout, beginning with the AFC. The NFC will come Thursday.
Analysis: I'm usually very reluctant when teams decide to switch their defensive personnel. But in this case -- seeing how Houston has handled it in the draft and free agency -- I am quite excited about the improvement that is coming on this side of the ball as the Texans make the transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Plus, Houston couldn't have gotten much worse than how it played on defense in 2010.
The team has filled needs extremely well while making this schematic transformation. Adding Joseph and Manning to a historically poor secondary is exceptional work, and both cover men have enough versatility in their game to allow Wade Phillips to run a wide array of coverages. Joseph is the bigger name player, but Manning had a very good season in Chicago last year. Brisiel is a vastly underrated player, and keeping him allows this excellent offensive line to create further continuity. The only big loss is Leach, who will deal a blow to the Texans' rushing attack. There are other lead blocking fullbacks in this league, but none like Leach.
Key additions: Vincent Jackson (franchised), Eric Weddle (re-signed), Takeo Spikes, Jeromey Clary (re-signed), Antwan Barnes (re-signed), Jacques Cesaire (re-signed), Scott Mruczkowski (re-signed), Travis LaBoy, Billy Volek (re-signed), Randy McMichael (re-signed)
Key losses: Brandon Siler, Jyles Tucker, Craig Davis, Malcolm Floyd, Darren Sproles
To see the grades for the rest of the AFC -- including which team got a D -- you must be an ESPN Insider. Sign up now!
MORE NFL HEADLINES
- Sources: Bell, Blount to play despite charges
- Backup Manziel says he needs to earn way
- Cowboys' Holloman (neck) career in doubt
- Packers fans declared NFL's best by Forbes
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
The NFL on ESPN.com
WEEK 1 PICKS
MORE NFL COVERAGE
2011 NFL PREVIEW
JOHN CLAYTON QB RANKINGS
- Josh Weinfuss retweeted
- Scott Brown retweeted
- Matt Williamson retweeted
- vaughn mcclure retweeted
- Terry Blount retweeted