I hope all of your offseasons have been going well. Myself? I've been looking at other sports and seeing how they compare to football.
I went to the Masters and followed the NBA playoffs with the Miami Heat. I just got back from Wimbledon. But I'm still convinced that the NFL is the best thing going.
It's almost time to get down to business. With the opening of the first training camp just two weekends away, let's take a look at the offseason's biggest upgrades on both sides of the ball.
1. Most improved offensive backfield
The Miami Dolphins added the premier running back in the draft (Ronnie Brown), and they have one of the premier running backs over the last five years coming back (Ricky Williams). So what the Dolphins had last year in the backfield isn't even close to the combination they'll have this year.
Also, Gus Frerotte is a better quarterback than what the Dolphins had at that position last season. I believe he will ultimately win the starting job over incumbent A.J. Feeley. Frerotte is more consistent than Feeley, who makes too many mistakes with the ball. Feeley puts the ball in bad spots and throws too many interceptions.
2. Most improved receivers
During Norv Turner's heyday in Dallas as the Cowboys' offensive coordinator, he had Michael Irvin and Alvin Harper as his starting wide receivers, and he used them in multiple ways. In his second season as the Oakland Raiders' head coach, Turner will be able to use Randy Moss and Jerry Porter in more ways because of Moss.
Moss gives the Raiders the deep threat that Turner and owner Al Davis love to have down the field. There also isn't a route Randy can't run. He's a little upset over the trade from Minnesota, and he has rededicated himself to getting into the best shape possible. In talking to him, I believe he has the same attitude he had coming into the league. He really wants to prove a point, and that's what he is going to do.
Porter is a good receiver, and he will be a very good No. 2. Playing with Moss will only make him better. Ronald Curry will push Porter, though, because Curry will be vying for playing time. He is a wild card after really emerging last year before he tore his Achilles tendon.
3. Most improved line
It has to be the Minnesota Vikings' defensive line.
The Vikings added a run stopper in Pat Williams, and they arguably got the best pure pass rusher in the draft in Erasmus James. Help to stop the run and rush the quarterback are two things the Vikings really needed, and those additions will free up Kevin Williams, whom I think is the best defensive tackle in the NFL.
Last year, the Vikings drafted defensive end Kenechi Udeze, so that rotation will give the Vikings one of the better defensive lines in the NFL. That's something they haven't had in Minnesota in a long, long time.
4. Most improved linebackers
Not only did the Kansas City Chiefs upgrade their linebackers through the draft with Derrick Johnson but they also improved the position through free agency by signing Kendrell Bell.
Bell was really bitten by the injury bug last season. He played only three games for the Pittsburgh Steelers because of a groin injury, but he still can be a superstar.
The Chiefs never expected Johnson to be available at No. 15 in the draft. Some think Johnson isn't big enough to play middle linebacker in the NFL, but they said the same things about Derrick Brooks. You just can't teach the things that Johnson can do – the knack for being around the football and making big plays.
Johnson and Bell will give defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham the ability to call any type of defense anywhere on the field.
5. Most improved secondary
The Minnesota Vikings have always struggled on the back end of their defense. They shouldn't anymore.
Not when you add a Pro Bowl-caliber free safety in Darren Sharper, who'll allow Corey Chavous to concentrate on his job at strong safety, and a potential shutdown cornerback in Fred Smoot, who is only going to get better and could be a Pro Bowler someday. I don't know if there's a better set of cornerbacks in the NFL than Smoot and Antoine Winfield.
6. Most improved team
We all know the Minnesota Vikings can score points with any team in the league. But when you add the kind of bodies and the kind of athletes they have added on defense – additions that include linebackers Napoleon Harris and Sam Cowart – defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell now has the option to do a lot of different things.
So are we talking Super Bowl contender? Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves. I'll save my Super Bowl picks for another column.
- Norv Turner