But who would it be? What position would he play? At this point, the team needs include O line and defensive help. But the O line of last year, as bad as they were at times still managed to be 15th in the NFL in pts scored and 7th in passing yards. And, even if the exact same offense returned this year, which won't be the case, it's safe to say they'd be adequate enough. So, it would appear that player would have to be on defense. Well, we all know the defense has improved as well. They now have a better press corner than Newman, are younger and faster at ILB, and a will be working with a full off-season to better understand the Ryan system. So who really could be that one player to help propel the Boys into the Superbowl?
That player would be a pro-bowl caliber left defensive end able to play all 16 games during the season (and be available for the playoffs), capable of playing in the 2 gap system and hold his own vs. the run and capable of creating 3-5 QB pressures and 2 QB hits per game. And certainly someone who can produce in the neighborhood of 5 to 8 sacks a season as well as force 2 and recover a fumble. Really, this isn't too unrealistic of a desire for a 3-4 DE. Calais Campbell produced 72 tackles, 8 sacks, 1 forced and 1 fumble recovery. We all saw Justin Smith as a beast. JJ Watt had 56 tckls w/ 5.5 sacks as a rookie. Even that production would be a game changer.
The real question is - is that enough? Would increased pressure from the LDE make that much of a difference. I think so - here's why:
Rob Ryan's scheme is a pressure scheme. It's based on the anticipation of the QB of someone (anyone) getting to him. That pressure can come from anywhere and produced by anyone to include the D line, linebackers, safeties and even cornerbacks. This pressure is designed to make the QB distort, rush or stop the pass. The CBs are to play press coverage - that is bump-and-run technique at the line of scrimmage designed to "occupy" the WRs and keep them from getting into their routes and in and out of their breaks. The safeties generally play 2 deep coverage (outside of the occassional safety blitz) just in case the QB escapes the pressure and the CB can't cover the WR on a go route. The LBs (outside of Ware) do a myriad of tasks, much of which is designed to disguise their true intentions. Sometimes they show blitz but drop into zone coverage. Sometimes one of them picks up the TE or FB in man coverage. Other times, they blitz. Fairly straight forward and expected, but effective when other players are doing their part. Last year, the CBs tried to do theirs. Jenkins and Scandrick actually did fairly well but the D line pressure just wasn't there. And that pressure needs to be from the LEFT side of the line. The QB needs to be able to see and feel the rush and anticipate the impending hit.
So, after a little more thought, perhaps that poster was correct. Maybe, just maybe, if that stud LDE is found, he's the one player that could put the Boys over the top.