By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
Top Guys Who Need To Show Me Something In 2007
PHILADELPHIA — When looking at the upcoming NFL season and projected where the NFL soap opera will lead us, I always like to look at individuals that have something to prove.
Whether a player is a highly touted incoming rookie, a veteran fighting for his job, or a player recovering from an injury, training camp and preseason are extremely important to getting off to a good sustainable start for the upcoming season.
I have compiled my list of the 10 players that need to “show me something in 2007″.
- Donovan McNabb, QB, Philadelphia Eagles: Everywhere that I go Eagles fans want to know will McNabb be healthy and ready this season. No one has a crystal ball, but I have a feeling that McNabb will answer his critics that say he is washed up after being hurt three out of the last five years, ending two on IR (Remember, he had 2,647 yards and 18 TDs in 10 games in 2006). If he doesn’t show us something by coming back, it may signal the end of his Eagles career. He is above the Birds’ magical 30-year old mark and they drafted “quarterback in waiting” Kevin Kolb this past off season. He should have a lot of help from Brian Westbrook who now seems to be the focal point of the Eagles new “Ground Marty” game plan.
- Adam Carriker, DT, St Louis Rams: People maybe saying why would you put a rookie in your list. Carriker who comes in as the 13th overall pick in the 2007 draft has been tasked with playing a new position (DT), replacing 320-pounder Jimmy Kennedy (traded to Denver), and providing run support for a smallish line. I am not sure what D-Coordinator Jim Haslett is thinking with moving the angular Carriker inside. He’s a Nebraska high-motor player in the mold of Van den Bosch and Grant Wistrom, who are both edge pass rushers. In having 20.5 sacks and 41 tackles for losses in his career at Nebraska, Carriker has shown explosiveness, but is he stout enough at 285 pounds and some change to take on Guards and Centers. They are counting on his technique to make up for his size, but he has to show me that he can play with the big boys and stay healthy.
- Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati Bengals: Palmer proved that he could come back from a devastating knee injury (ACL) in the playoffs in 2005, but the Bengals did not reach the playoffs as they struggled with off the field problems. We are looking for Palmer to show us something in terms of leadership. He has to be the captain of this team that says “enough” when it comes to teammates acting the fool. Sure going to the Pro Bowl and throwing for over 4,000 yards is good, but winning is how you are remembered. The Bengals are talented with weapons everywhere with Ocho Chinco (Chad Johnson), Rudi Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and a solid O-line, but was the 2005 Division Title the peak for this team and Palmer.
- Brandon Jacobs, RB, NY Giants: It seems that the Giants are full of questions marks going into the 2007 season. The lack of consistency from franchise quarterback Eli Manning is one of the bigger questions along with who is going to replace Tiki Barber’s over 2,000 yards of offense including over 1,600 yards rushing. The player that needs to show us something at running back is Jacobs. The third year player is a huge man at 6-feet-4, 260 pounds, but we are not sure that his high running style is going to make an immediate impact. For his career he only has 134 carries for 522 yards with 3.9 ypc and has only caught 11 passes. Now that he is the featured back of the Giants, Jacobs needs to show that he can carry the ball 20 to 25 times a game and have at least a 4.0 yards a carry number and no fumbles. Sure he has excelled at the short-yardage situations and at the goal-line (16 TDs), but now he will be a marked man on offense. Also I am not sure if Jacobs will be able to succeed in Kevin Gilbride’s ball control offense, because catching the ball and picking up a blitz are huge assignments for his featured backs. Obviously the Giants have their doubts too as they traded for Reuben Droughns from the Browns as an insurance policy. Droughns is an inside bruiser, who has been a 1,000 yard rusher in the past for the Broncos.
- Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers: Big Ben came off a magic carpet ride in his first two seasons in the NFL, where he led the Steelers to the playoffs and won Super Bowl XL. The shine fell off Roethlisberger big time in 2006 as he and the Steelers struggled with being defending champs on their way to an 8-8 record. Roethleisberger started out the off-season crashing on his motorcycle causing him to miss mini camps, then suffered an emergency appendectomy to start the season, and was never comfortable in the pocket on the way to throwing 23 picks with only 18 TDs. He seemed very tentative in the pocket and was not his same “riverboat gambler” self. He will need to show me something by forgetting last season and returning to his winning ways. There have been whispers that the departed Bill Cowher and he did not have the best of relationships and that is why Big Ben faltered, but I believe he was not the same physically or mentally after his accident. With new rookie head coach Mike Tomlin and new O-Coordinator Bruce Arians on the job, Roethlisberger will need to return to his executing ways of managing the team and passing efficiently in the Steelers run-first offense.
- Chris Gocong, SLB, Philadelphia Eagles: Some may say what kind of pressure does a guy replacing underachiever Dhani Jones have to worry about. I believe that the Eagles and new linebackers coach Sean McDermott are looking for Gocong to make a major impact at a position that has been lacking playmaking ability for some time. The Eagles linebackers need to improve on their disappointing 3.5 sacks and two picks from last year and Gocong (6-feet-2, 263 lbs.) is considered the key. They are looking for him to play the Mike Vrabel (New England Patriots) hybrid linebacker role that has become vogue in the NFL. The Eagles believe that the smart energetic 2006 3rd pick can provide the versatility to play in coverage and get after the passer. The Eagles liked him so much coming out of Cal Poly that they moved up to grab the high motor 1-AA sack master (22 sacks in 2005) in the draft. Gocong however had the enviable task of learning Jim Johnson’s technical defense and switching from small college DE to professional SLB. He was slowly learning the strongside techniques of covering the TE one on one and playing the run when he suffered a “stinger” (spine injury) in camp and was placed on injured reserve for the year. He will need to show me something by proving that he is an NFL caliber LB and staying healthy. The Eagles have also brought in Stewart Bradley in the 2007 draft as insurance and they have versatile player Omar Gaither in the wings.
- Matt Schaub, QB, Houston Texans: Schaub is coming into a situation where he is being asked to guide a rudderless ship after only starting two games in his NFL career. The Texans and Head Coach Gary Kubiak placed their hopes on him by flipping first-round picks with the Falcons and trading second-round picks in 2007 and 2008. That is a lot to trade for a player who has seen only part time duty in the NFL serving as Michael Vick’s backup. Did I mention that he only threw 27 passes in 2006 and that the Texans invested a $48 million contract in the fourth year pro. We will now see if Schaub, who was a 2004 third-round pick and has prototypical size (6-foot-5, 237) can make the jump from comfy backup to first string franchise quarterback. He will need to show me something so he doesn’t look like a Tommy Maddox type. Maddox was better as a reliever coming in for short stints for the inconsistent Kordell Stewart rather than having the spotlight and pressure of being the starter. Schaub will have RB Ahmad Green and Pro Bowl WR Andre Johnson to lean on, but I am not sure that will that be enough to keep him from joining a long list of backup players that failed as starters.
- Cedric Benson, RB, Chicago Bears: Ever since Benson came into the NFL in 2005 spouting off that he liked the ways of troubled but talent runner Rickey Williams there have been questions about him. Benson has always been aloof to some teammates and some questioned his dedication to the game in the past. That is why it was surprising that the Super Bowl runner-up Bears would take a huge chance by trading underrated RB Thomas Jones to the New York Jets for a 2nd round pick swap in the 2007 draft. Jones had finally seemed to find the right fit for him on the Bears (3rd Team) running for over 1,200 yards and carrying them to the Super Bowl, but Benson seems to be Lovie Smith’s choice. Benson will need to show me something in that he only has 919 yards on 224 carries and 6 TDs in an injury plagued 24 game career. He also had only 6 catches in a system that emphasizes screens and I won’t even bring up the Super Bowl where he left the game early with a sprained left knee after carrying for minus-1 yard and losing a crucial fumble. Lovie better be right, because an inconsistent passer like Rex Grossman needs to have a RB who can carry the load and keep blitzers off of him.
- Dwayne Jarrett, WR, Carolina Panthers: By moving enigmatic but tough WR Keyshawn Johnson off the field and into the booth, questions will be asked of Jarrett. Jarrett is coming in as a high 2nd Rd pick and O-Coordinator Jeff Davidson will be asking him to replace one of the hardest working blocking WRs in recent NFL history and provide an inside threat to keep double teams off of Pro Bowler Steve Smith. Jarrett has the size at 6-feet-5 and 220 pounds to be an inside slot WR in the NFL, but many have questioned his stopwatch speed (4.65 range) and have compared him to Lions flameout Mike Williams. Jarrett will need to show me something in camp by pushing Drew Carter and Keary Colbert out of the lineup and proving that he is willing to be a blocker on Johnson’s level for a run first team. He has the credentials from USC where in 38 games he set the school career record with 216 receptions and the Pac-10 Conference all-time mark with 41 touchdown catches, gaining 3,138 yards (14.5 avg.). But remember the NFL is not the Pac-10 and we have seen many WRs never make the transition from the pass happy league (ex. Reggie Williams).
- Mario Williams, DE, Houston Texans: It had to bug Williams during the 2006 season watching the highlights of Vince Young and Reggie Bush week in and week out. The Texans passed on Bush and Young for Williams making them the butt of countless radio callers and message board participants. Some may say that is harsh treatment for a rookie trying to make it in the NFL, but this is a “what have you done for me lately” league. Everyone saw Young beat the Texans in OT in Houston on the way to the rookie honors and Bush after a slow start flashed his game breaking skills weekly helping lead the Saints to the playoffs, while Williams struggled with a toe problem and only had 4.5 sacks. His sack total would not have been bad for a 5th rd pick, but as the 1st overall player selected in the 2006 draft everyone expected more. Williams did not provide the consistent pressure that everyone expected and in 2007 he will need to show me something by posting double digit sacks. Williams already possesses the size, speed and athleticism to be a dominant player in the NFL, but he needs to show he has the desire. This season the D-line should get some more help from this year’s 1st round pick Amobi Okoye, which now makes three first rounders on the unit (Travis Johnson ’05, Williams ’06, Okoye ’07). Williams showed flashes with 3.5 sacks in October, but I need to see more.
Others that need to show me something:
- Steve McNair, QB, Baltimore Ravens: Needs to prove he is not too old (35) after throwing for less than 200 yards with a redzone INT in a bad home loss to the Colts in the Divisional playoffs.
- Marlin Jackson, CB, Indianapolis Colts: With the Super Bowl Champs losing both starting cornerbacks
- DBs Nick Harper (free agent, Tennessee) and Jason David (restricted free agent, New Orleans): Jackson needs to step up. He is a first-round draft pick from 2005, so now is the time.
Travis Henry, RB, Denver Broncos: Will be on his third team. Can he run in the Broncos zone blocking scheme and was his 1,211 yards with a healthy 4.5 ypc and seven touchdowns in 2006 a career year.
- Cadillac Williams, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Entering his crucial 3rd year, can he stay healthy. At 5-feet-11, 204 pounds there are durability issues. Struggled with injuries and was limited to only 798 yards with a bad 3.5 ypc and one TD in 2006.
- Fred Taylor, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: Is he too old to get it done at 32 and was ’06 his last year over 1,000 yards? Will be splitting time with mercurial Maurice Jones-Drew in 2007.
- Warrick Dunn, RB, Atlanta Falcons: Now may finally be the time for this smaller older back to step aside and let Jerrious Norwood take over. Did have 1,140 yards rushing in ’06 but will be likely be out for three-to-four weeks coming off back surgery
- Rickey Williams, RB, Miami Dolphins: No. 1, he will need to prove that he can leave the “chronic” alone. If he is re-instated, you have to wonder if some will take a chance on this over 7,000 yards in his career rusher at age 30.
- Marcus Thomas, DE, Denver Broncos: Will need to show me and the rest of the NFL that his “character” issues are behind him. I hope for Mike Shanahan and the Broncos’ sake that he is not another Maurice Clarett, because they traded all of their day two picks to move up and select him in the 4th round.
- Devin Hester, WR/DB/KR, Chicago Bears: Is he the next Deion Sanders causing havoc in all three phases of the game or will his NFL Record six returns for a touchdown as a rookie be his entire career.
- Matt Millen, GM, Detroit Lions: Will need to show me that he should keep his job after three head coaches, a 24-72 record, several 1st Rd misses, and no playoffs.
- Justin Medlock, K, Kansas City Chiefs: Rookie will need to replace veteran Lawrence Tynes, who was traded to the Giants.
- Chad Greenway, OLB, MinnesotaVikings: Never played in 2006 due to knee injury. Needs to justify 1st round draft status from 2006.
- Nate Clements, CB, San Francisco 49ers: Free Agent signed to a eight-year, $80 million contract with a 20 Million signing bonus, enough said (live up to your wallet).