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The 1 position each NFL team should be worried about heading into the 2018 season

The Patriots need pass rushers. The Eagles need secondary help. What else?

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NFL: Super Bowl LII-Philadelphia Eagles vs New England Patriots Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 NFL Draft has come and gone, and many teams are pretty well set when it comes to their 90-man rosters heading into the preseason. But plenty of bargain bin free agents remain, and every team in the league still has positions of need that have to be addressed. In some cases, the weaknesses are glaring. In others, they’re fairly minor.

Here’s a look at each team’s biggest need as preseason camps get underway.

Arizona Cardinals: offensive tackle

Arizona hasn’t had its starting quarterback play all 16 games since 2015, and an offensive line that ranked 25th in the league in sack prevention played a major role in that. Adding Justin Pugh in free agency addressed a hole in the interior of the line, but former Bengal Andre Smith isn’t much more than a stopgap fix at right tackle. D.J. Humphries remains a talented but inconsistent prospect after playing just 18 games in his first two seasons. The Cardinals are thin along the edges of their line, which could be disastrous with injury-prone Sam Bradford taking the reins behind center in 2018.

Atlanta Falcons: fullback

This would’ve been defensive tackle, until the Falcons (who lost Dontari Poe from the center of their defensive line) added Terrell McClain late last week. So that leaves fullback, where they’re still missing Patrick DiMarco, who signed with the Bills over a year ago. Now, Atlanta will let a couple of undrafted free agents duke it out and will have to hope one of them can pick up those tough yards when the offense needs it — or help out on special teams, like DiMarco and Derrick Coleman did before them.

Baltimore Ravens: offensive line

The Ravens lost starting center Ryan Jensen to the Buccaneers and backup Luke Bowanko to the Patriots, leaving Baltimore thin between the tackles up front. While draftees Orlando Brown and Greg Senat are high-upside blockers at the edges, the team has less flexibility at center, where Matt Skura can move inside to fill the void — but not without leaving a difficult spot to fill at right guard.

Buffalo Bills: wide receiver

The Bills’ offense could be extremely bad in 2018. The team’s quarterback will either be AJ McCarron, Nathan Peterman, or first-round pick Josh Allen. That trio won’t get much help from a depleted receiving corps. Kelvin Benjamin can be a dynamic talent, but he had just 16 receptions in his first six games with Buffalo last season. Zay Jones was one of the NCAA’s most prolific wide receivers, but an inconsistent rookie season failed to inspire confidence he could smoothly transition from East Carolina to the NFL. Behind that pair, the team’s top WR may be Andre Holmes ... who had 13 catches last season.

Carolina Panthers: wide receiver

Devin Funchess began to fulfill his potential as a No. 1 wideout last fall, and first-round pick D.J. Moore will add some athleticism to the Panthers’ starting lineup. After that pairing, the leading returning receiver on the Carolina roster was Russell Shepard, who had a whopping 17 catches in 2017 before asking for and receiving his release Monday. If Moore struggles as a rookie, it will limit Cam Newton’s list of viable targets. Adding a veteran receiver — a low-risk signing like Eric Decker or Dontrelle Inman or Jeremy Maclin — would help take the pressure off Funchess and Moore at the top of the depth chart.

Chicago Bears: offensive line

Mitchell Trubisky was sacked on nearly 9 percent of his dropbacks as a rookie, a number that could derail the development of the 2017 first-round pick. They also lost veteran guard Josh Sitton this offseason. To address that, Chicago added Earl Watford, a right guard who started just 22 games in four seasons with Arizona, and drafted James Daniels, who played center for all but two games in college (and he’ll have to move to guard if he’s going to play as a rookie). Charles Leno and Bobby Massie are useful bookends at tackle, but there’s lots of room for improvement up front for the Bears.

Cincinnati Bengals: linebacker

Drafting OL Billy Price and safety Jessie Bates in the first two rounds took care of two of the Bengals’ biggest needs, but also left the team’s depth chart weak at linebacker. They’ll have one year of Preston Brown and ultra-productive Texas standout Malik Jefferson to rely on, but that duo will be counted on to bolster a unit that struggled covering the run from sideline to sideline in 2017 and got underwhelming returns from Vincent Rey and Nick Vigil, whose waning athleticism left Cincinnati vulnerable to speedy tight ends.

Cleveland Browns: left tackle

Future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas was the best thing about the Browns’ last decade, and now he’s retired. There’s no panacea to replace what he brought to an embattled blindside, but 2018 signees Donald Stephenson and Chris Hubbard will be given the chance to supplant Spencer Drango on the left side. Cleveland still has a lot of work to do to get on a winning path, but figuring out how to replace one of the most valuable players in franchise history may be the team’s most important step.

Dallas Cowboys: defensive tackle

The Cowboys did a good job of filling some of their biggest needs through the draft by getting solid talent at linebacker (Leighton Vander Esch), offensive tackle (Connor Williams), and wideout (Michael Gallup) in the first two days. While Vander Esch will help the team’s flagging rush defense, Dallas could use more help up front. David Irving and Maliek Collins have been a useful young duo in the middle of the line, but Collins just broke his left foot and will be out indefinitely. Some veteran, run-stopping talent would be a boon for Jason Garrett’s team. A young secondary could also be cause for concern for the Cowboys, though a trio of heralded draft picks — Byron Jones, Jourdan Lewis, and Chidobe Awuzie — may be talented enough to turn that weakness into a strength in 2018.

Denver Broncos: running back

No returning tailback on the Broncos’ roster averaged more than four yards per carry in 2017. While Devontae Booker was useful in spurts, the club could use a high-efficiency runner who can take some pressure from the shoulders of new quarterback Case Keenum. The draft brought third-round pick Royce Freeman and seventh-rounder David Williams to the roster, but there’s still a strong current of concern running through the team’s backfield.

Detroit Lions: defensive line

Keeping Ezekiel Ansah was a high enough priority for the Lions that it made sense to use the franchise tag and its $17.143 million price. The problem is that Ansah doesn’t have much help around him. The only additions to the Detroit defensive line was fourth-round pick Da’shawn Hand and former Broncos and Titans run-stuffer Sylvester Williams. Both should be a boon to the Lions’ run defense, but an underwhelming pass rush didn’t get any better and there just isn’t much premium talent in the trenches.

Green Bay Packers: pass rusher

Clay Matthews is dangerously close to aging out of the athleticism that’s made him a borderline Hall of Famer, and Nick Perry’s 2017 didn’t inspire confidence that he could sustain his level of play from a breakout 2016. Green Bay added Muhammad Wilkerson on a one-year make-good deal from the Jets to add some more punch up front, but a draft that focused on a needy secondary rather than the team’s trenches leaves concerns about whether or not the Packers will be able to get to the quarterback with regularity.

Houston Texans: offensive line

Protecting Deshaun Watson will be the Texans’ top priority in 2018, but a series of trades left them without first- or second-round picks and excluded them from the top tier of blockers at this year’s draft. They’ll have to hope third-round pick Martinas Rankin can contribute to an overhauled line of good, not great free agents. Zach Fulton, Senio Kelemete, and Seantrel Henderson will give Houston plenty of warm bodies up front — but whether they’ll be cohesive enough as a unity to keep Watson upright remains to be seen.

Indianapolis Colts: cornerback

With five of the first 64 picks in this year’s draft, Indianapolis addressed holes on its offensive line and at linebacker. That’s good! Unfortunately there are still a bunch of weaknesses on the Colts’ roster, none potentially as glaring as the team’s needs in the secondary. Rashaan Melvin was a surprisingly strong starter for Indianapolis in 2017, but left to join the Raiders in free agency. Now general manager Chris Ballard is banking on a big season from second-year corner Quincy Wilson, who will lead a depth chart filled with other teams’ castoffs and late-round picks.

Jacksonville Jaguars: linebacker

The duo of Telvin Smith and Myles Jack give Jacksonville a solid pairing, but there’s a hole in the Jaguars’ upper-tier defense. Paul Posluszny retired after 11 seasons in the league, and now his former franchise needs someone to step up and take his place. After passing on opportunities to add linebacking help in free agency or the draft, it appears the club will turn to 2017 fifth-rounder Blair Brown to fill the void. Either that or a whole lot of nickel defense, which may not be a terrible idea in today’s NFL or when its coupled with a defensive line as good as Jacksonville’s. Still, the linebacker depth has to be a concern.

Kansas City Chiefs: cornerback

Kansas City was confident enough in the young combination of Eric Murray and Steven Nelson to trade All-Pro Marcus Peters to the Rams in exchange for a pair of draft picks. Murray was useful, if inconsistent, in his first season as a rotational piece and Nelson is still growing as a player, even if his 2017 was a step back from a solid sophomore NFL campaign in ‘16. They’ll be counted on to make major strides as the team’s presumptive starters; the Chiefs added David Amerson, Kendall Fuller, and sixth-rounder Tremon Smith to their cornerback rotation this offseason.

Los Angeles Chargers: right tackle/guard

A defensively focused draft eliminated some concerns along one side of the ball, but there’s still room for improvement when it comes to the team’s blocking up front. Mike Pouncey brings veteran stability to the interior of the Chargers’ line, but Los Angeles may regret not finding an upgrade for right tackle Joe Barksdale or right guard Kenny Wiggins, who signed with the Lions in free agency. It’s not a major need — Los Angeles protected Philip Rivers better than any other quarterback in the league last season — but it’s an area of focus for an ascendant offense lined with explosive playmakers.

Los Angeles Rams: linebacker

Lost in the good feeling of the Rams’ 2017 revival was the fact their run defense was one of the league’s worst. Los Angeles gave up 4.7 yards per carry thanks to a depleted linebacker corps, and didn’t add much help this offseason. Joining Mark Barron, Matt Longacre, Samson Ebukam, and Bryce Hager will be the $705,000 signing of Ramik Wilson and fifth-round draft pick Micah Kiser. That’s going to put a lot of pressure on a dynamite defensive line that added Ndamukong Suh to disrupt blockers up front.

Miami Dolphins: outside linebacker

The Dolphins weren’t able to produce much of a pass rush last fall, and that was with Suh absorbing blockers in the middle of the line. While Cameron Wake remains a top talent, he’s 36 and needs support — preferably from the kind of edge rusher who can scare quarterbacks into his arms. No Miami linebacker had more than one sack last season, and third-round pick Jerome Baker looks more like a run-stopping man in the middle than the kind of player who can collapse pockets from the outside.

Minnesota Vikings: offensive line

The Vikings are pretty well stocked for a run in 2018, but probably needed to do more to protect their prized free agent acquisition, Kirk Cousins. The only significant additions to the roster along the offensive line were second-round tackle Brian O’Neill, sixth-round guard Colby Gossett, and cheap free agent addition Tom Compton who’s on his fourth roster in as many years. Minnesota allowed just 27 sacks last year, but it was partly because Case Keenum managed to wiggle his way out of danger often. He was pressured on 39.3 percent of his dropbacks, according to Pro Football Focus, the third-highest rate in the NFL. Cousins may need to do the same behind the Vikings’ line.

New England Patriots: pass rusher

The Patriots still fielded a top 10 pass rush after generating sacks on nearly seven percent of opponent dropbacks in 2017, but there’s a clear need for a singular pocket-collapsing force in Foxborough. Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise are an emerging pair of bookends, and free agent signee Adrian Clayborn and 2017 draft pick Derek Rivers should add viable depth up front. Even so, there are a lot of questions among New England’s pass rush that will need to be answered.

New Orleans Saints: wide receiver/tight end

Michael Thomas is a game-changing presence at the top of the depth chart, but there’s no sure thing behind him. Ted Ginn has revived his career as a deep threat late in the game, but he just turned 33 years old. Former Illinois State backup quarterback Cameron Meredith is an under-the-radar signing who should slip into the starting lineup, but he’s also coming off a severe knee injury that may have robbed him of the explosiveness that made him effective in Chicago. The rest of the lineup gets pretty thin after those three, especially after the Saints opted not to match the Ravens’ offer to Willie Snead. And that’s also not counting a depleted tight end corps that just cut underwhelming 2016 signee Coby Fleener loose.

New York Giants: cornerback

The Eli Apple era has been a disaster in the Meadowlands, and while the young corner still has time to turn his career around, it makes sense for the Giants’ rebuild to include some insurance in the defensive backfield. Injuries prevented Janoris Jenkins from following up on his 2016 Pro Bowl performance, and he doesn’t have much help elsewhere on the team’s depth chart — especially with aging cover corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie no longer on the roster. Unless you consider Teddy Williams or B.W. Webb waaaaaay under-the-radar starters from this year’s free agent haul, New York needs help.

New York Jets: offensive line

New York’s move from No. 6 to No. 3 paid off handsomely when Sam Darnold fell into the team’s lap, but the cache of second-round picks needed to scoop the USC product ultimately kept the team from plugging holes along its offensive line through the draft. New York signed or re-signed a whopping 22 free agents this spring, but only Spencer Long looks like a sure-thing starter on the offensive line. There’s room for improvement at the team’s other four positions up front — but no one to take that spot. If Darnold sees the field as a rookie, he could wind up spending a lot of his time in the pocket scrambling for his life.

Oakland Raiders: pass rusher

Despite getting double-digit sacks from Khalil Mack in each of the past three seasons, Oakland has ranked no higher than 23rd in the league in sack rate since 2015. Bruce Irvin had eight sacks last season, but he can be released at the first sign of a decline at a salary cap savings of more than $8 million. P.J. Hall and Maurice Hurst were both uber-productive defensive linemen in college, but Hall has to prove his skills will scale up from Sam Houston State and Hurst has to overcome a heart issue that dropped him to the fifth round of this year’s draft. Contributions from either in 2018 would help fix a major hole in Oakland.

Philadelphia Eagles: defensive back

The Eagles are world champions, but they’re also the team that gave up 505 passing yards in the Super Bowl. Jalen Mills outperformed expectations last season, but Ronald Darby (eight games last season) and 2017 draftee Sidney Jones (one game) will both have to recover strongly from injury to bolster a relative weakness for a very good team. Fourth-round pick Avonte Maddox will also work to instill a youth movement in the Philadelphia secondary.

Pittsburgh Steelers: linebacker

Ryan Shazier won’t play in 2018, and it’s reasonable to consider whether he’ll ever set foot on a football field again. The Steelers’ replacement for him this offseason was ... Jon Bostic. Bostic started just one game between 2015 and 2016 before finding a role with a depleted Colts’ defense last fall. He’ll man the middle of an otherwise fierce defense alongside Vince Williams, who will have to replicate his breakout 2017 to keep the revived Steel Curtain intact.

San Francisco 49ers: offensive guard

Adding Mike McGlinchey gave the 49ers the draft’s meanest blocker, but the Notre Dame product is a tackle for a team with pressing needs at guard. Joshua Garnett didn’t play at all last year due to an injury. Brandon Fusco departed in free agency, Zane Beadles was released, and Lions’ castoff Laken Tomlinson has failed to live up to his first-round billing from 2015. Jonathan Cooper, another former first-round pick who was given up on by both the Cardinals and Patriots, was signed from the Cowboys to fill Fusco’s shoes, but there’s a limited amount of talent on either side of Weston Richburg in San Francisco.

Seattle Seahawks: offensive line

Seattle made one of the most surprising picks of the 2018 NFL Draft by selecting Rashaad Penny with the 27th selection, but the San Diego State tailback might have his rookie ascension stunted by the Seahawks’ lack of blocking. Duane Brown will have his first full season with the team after being acquired via trade in ‘17, but he’ll be 33 years old in August. After acquiring him, the club failed to sign any blocking help this spring and didn’t draft an offensive lineman until Day 3 of the draft. Seattle needed plenty of help at its guard positions this offseason. It got Jamarco Jones in the fifth round of the draft, who brings some upside to the offensive line — at tackle.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: offensive line

The Buccaneers ran for just 3.7 yards per carry and Jameis Winston was sacked on nearly seven percent of his dropbacks last season. While both of those depressive stats can be explained by outside factors — a lack of electric tailbacks and Winston’s uncanny ability to run into pressure rather than away from it — a slipshod offensive line is the unifying factor between the two. Adding Ryan Jensen is a major upgrade, but he’s the only surefire upgrade to make it to Florida this offseason.

Tennessee Titans: wide receiver

There’s a lot riding on Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor in 2018; the two second-year receivers will be counted on to bolster Rishard Matthews atop the team’s depth chart at wideout. Eric Decker wasn’t retained after last season’s one-year deal, and the team’s biggest WR addition this offseason was Ravens special teams ace Michael Campanaro. Third-year receiver Tajae Sharpe could be a boon after missing all of 2017 due to injury, but there’s not a lot of established pass-catching talent on the Titans’ roster this summer. The linebacking corps, which lost Avery Williamson to the Jets this offseason, is another position of need.

Washington: left guard, center

Brandon Scherff and Trent Williams put together Pro Bowl seasons, but the rest of the Washington offensive line could use some help. Shawn Lauvao will be 31 this season and has missed 22 games the past three seasons. Chase Roullier was a sixth-round pick last spring who left room for improvement as a part-time starter at center. The club failed to add any outside help at either position in free agency or this year’s draft, unless they plan to move third-round selection Geron Christian from tackle to guard.