IF Ponder struggles, we will see what Cassel can do. He was pretty good that one year with the Patsies, with a good team around him. With AP taking the load, he wouldn't be asked to do too much, and may prove to be a good game manager type. Really, I think Ponder has a good chance of proving to be a good game manager too, so, looks obvious to me, that's the gameplan, and, I think it should be, after all, we have the best RB in the game today, and possibly ever, so why not give that man the damn ball!
The loss of Winny will be felt, however, as great as he is in run support, you have to admit that his size was a liability vs. the large WRs we face regularly in the NFC North: Calvin, Marshall, Jordy etc. How many downs was he right on his guy for the tackle, yet couldn't stop a jump ball catch for the first down!?? And, hate to say it, but he was beginning to regularly wear down late season.
And, Smith should be better in his 2nd year, and the Raymond-Sanford competition opposite him has also brought better play out of that side. Perhaps, better man-press coverage outside with some safety support inside can lead to improved pass defense, despite missing the mighty Winny...hopefully, maybe!?
As for the front of our D, I'm not thinking we're going to miss Brinkley, and our DL is all returning this year, and all playing for a new contract next year...my gut feeling, is that the DL is going to be extra fired up! Basically, I suspect our defense to remain strong, as long as our offense can get first downs and stay on the field.
Like it or not, old school, time of possession/field position football can still win games in this league, specially if you have a superstar RB, a solid Defense, and maybe even improving Special Teams!
Control the line, control the time, and give your D a chance to shine!!
"Balance it on end and thats the third side of the coin!!" -wookiefoot