On defense, I see the team sticking largely with their veterans early in the season...not wanting to lose important games due to youthful miscues. They will integrate Lemonier, Carradine, Harylson and Dial into the front seven as the season progresses in anticipation of them using them much more at the end of the season.
The emphasis on developing a more persistent and broad based pass rush will lead to many more turnovers than we saw in 2012. Not quite as many as we saw in 2011...but better than 2012.
On offense, CK's skill sets will force opposing defenses to do two things: 1) try assigning a LB to shadow CK in order to give their secondary a chance to play man-to-man more. 2) Or they will try to get fancy in disguising their zone drops in order to confuse CK into making a mistake.
That being said, I think that even without Crabbs our receiving corps and Greg Roman's schemes wreak havoc on opposing defenses. I think with Crabbs out of the lineup most teams will initially play basic zones in order to limit CK's running skills...forcing him to beat them with his arm. He should achieve that in most cases as I think Roman's schemes will do more to confuse opposing defenses than they will ever be able to do to confuse CK.
On ST, Dawson's success will be somewhere between Akers 2011 and Akers 2012. He won't lose us any games, but I wouldn't count of him to win games on his own as Akers did a couple of times in 2011.
The off-season emphasis on strengthening the ST units (both receiving and covering) will pay off. I doubt we'll have touchdowns from returns...but we WILL win the battle of field position and likely not allow a return for a TD. I think if the 2012 team had this year's ST unit they go 14-2 and win the SB.
I think the Offense will outshine the defense this year simply because they will score so much and put the team in the lead so early that the defense will spend much of the game merely avoiding giving up big plays.
On personnel notes: I think VD and Roman redefine the TE1 position. Roman will move him all over the field, confusing defenses and leading to numerous TDs. I think our team ROY will be McDonald. He will make 45-50 catches and may find himself in the end zone half dozen times. Runner-up ROY will be Patton. He, Lockette, AJJ and KW will form an unbelievable rotation. No one will be a superstar...but like a great pitching rotation in baseball, they will push each other. Crabbs will be available to return late in the season but will make very minimal contributions as the team will be very cautious about pushing him too soon.
Neither Gore, Hunter or LMJ will rush for 1000 yards by themselves...but they will combine for over 2000 yards rushing...and probably closer to 2200.