The following quotes are from NFL scouts, coaches and front-office personnel, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
• “New England, I think, is going to dry up. The quarterback (Tom Brady) is on his way down and I don’t think he’s surrounded by the same amount of talent he was earlier in his career. The other one to me that is on the downswing is New Orleans. We’ll see if (Drew) Brees is worth everything they put into him. There are a lot of good teams out there. It was a different game last year with the lockout — and it favored teams like the Patriots and Saints.”
• “(Browns GM) Tom Heckert is on borrowed time. He was pushed out of Philadelphia when Joe Banner was in charge, and now Joe is coming over as part of the new ownership group (in Cleveland). He is going to clean it up fast. You don’t think they knew what they were up against when they traded up for (Trent) Richardson, selected a quarterback early (Brandon Weeden) and gave up a second-round pick (in the supplemental draft) for that issue receiver (Josh Gordon). They have had enough time to get it right — look how fast San Francisco cleaned it up last year. If the Browns don’t get it done this year, that group won’t be around much longer, and it may not matter how they do.”
• “Everyone knows how good (Bill) Belichick is. John Harbaugh has come into Baltimore as a special-teams coach and done an outstanding job. We saw (Bears special-teams coach) Dave Toub get head-coaching consideration in Jacksonville last year. His special-teams units are one of the best in the league year after year. He’s a former strength coach like (Bears GM) Phil Emery. The Bears went into their pipeline to find the new GM. I’m not so sure the next head coach is not on staff already. You've got two coordinators (Mike Tice, Rod Marinelli) who have done it, but the one who hasn’t, I think, may be the most ready.”
• “We’ll see if the Colts made the right decision on Andrew Luck. (Peyton) Manning went 3-13 his first year. You could see how intelligent Luck is. If he can read a defense like Manning, he’ll be fine. I thought the Broncos took a big gamble on a guy that was nearly paralyzed. Peyton is pretty tough. I think he wants to play, but I still don’t know if his body will hold the test. Everyone is going to be gunning for him like they were with (Brett) Favre. He is quick to release it and everyone knows it, so when he does get hit, he is usually getting hit hard. I don’t know if he will hold up, but having him there to help the rookie (Brock Osweiler) develop was very smart.”
• “Back in the day, (Bill) Belichick was the only one running the two-deep zone (coverage). Everyone was playing man coverages. The run-and-shoot came out and just crushed it — it was Jerry Glanville in Houston and Mouse Davis in Detroit. No one knew how to stop it. The NFL had to go to the college level to figure out how to stop it. I still remember interviewing an offensive coordinator who ran it — he thought he was interviewing for an offensive position, but it was really a stroke of genius. We had all of our defensive coaches in the meeting listening. You had to know how it worked if you wanted to stop it. I have seen the evolution of coverages in the NFL from man to zone. I think it’s going to start going back the other way.”
• “It’s easier to know who to block when you are facing a four-man front, and that ultimately translates to better quarterback play. As an offensive guy — I can tell you — the 3-4 (front) is more difficult to play against. I think you see a lot more quarterbacks with the deer-in-headlights look when they’re dealing with ‘30’ fronts. It’s more difficult to decipher. Why do you think (Peyton) Manning has the hardest time with the Chargers? It helps if your secondary can be great window dressers, showing three deep and playing two, but there is no disguise as effective as surprising quarterbacks with the rush. … The trend moved toward the 3-4 a few years ago. Now it’s trending back toward the ‘40’ (front).”