Following a defiant seventh-round knockout of previously unbeaten Jose Pedraza (22-1, 12...
10 players on the verge of breaking out
He was far more explosive than Julius Jones, who was limited to fewer than 50 yards in more than half of his starts.FS Dashon Goldson, 49ers If San Francisco is going to compete for the NFC West title this season, it’s going to be on the strength of its defense. Goldson has Pro Bowl potential in a secondary that hasn’t made a lot of big plays in recent years. A fourth-round pick from Washington in 2007, Goldson needed time to learn his angles and assignments and got that as a backup to steady-but-unspectacular veteran Mark Roman. Now it’s the understudy’s chance to step forward. TE Jermichael Finley, Packers Green Bay fans know Finley well, so it’s not as if he’s toiling in anonymity. But he should garner his share of national attention this season, especially with the continued rise of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. After catching just six passes as a rookie, Finley beat out veteran Donald Lee for the starting job last year and finished with 55 catches, one shy of Paul Coffman’s franchise record for tight ends. Then, in the epic wild-card loss at Arizona, Finley turned in the second-most-productive game by a tight end in NFL playoff history. He caught six passes for 159 yards â€” seven fewer than San Diego’s Kellen Winslow amassed against Miami in 1982. OT Chris Williams, Bears Williams has moved from right to left tackle, where he’ll protect the blind side of former Vanderbilt teammate Jay Cutler. Tackles don’t get a lot of help in Mike Martz’s offense, so the Bears have to put a lot of trust into the guys they have at those spots. Williams is a good blocker with quick feet, and he probably picked up a few pointers from All-Pro Orlando Pace last season. A big test will come in Week 2, when the Bears play at Dallas and Williams will be responsible for keeping DeMarcus Ware at bay. CB Lardarius Webb, Ravens Webb, who’s coming off knee surgery and probably won’t be at full speed until late in training camp, is stepping into a high-pressure spot. Playing cornerback is tough anywhere, but it’s especially difficult in Baltimore with the way the Ravens leave their corners isolated. That doesn’t seem to be a problem for Webb, a third-round pick from Nicholls State in 2009 who started the final four games of last season.
He will likely get the starting job over Fabian Washington, also coming off knee surgery.LB Cameron Wake, Dolphins The Dolphins could have something special in Wake, who collected 5Â½ sacks last season even though he wasn’t on the field much. With Jason Taylor and Joey Porter gone, Wake, a two-time defensive player of the year in the Canadian Football League, should see his responsibilities increase in a big way. DE Calais Campbell, Cardinals The 6-foot-8 Campbell had seven sacks last season yet should have been in double figures. He let several quarterbacks wriggle away from his grasp, something that still sticks in his head. This could be a breakout year for him, especially after Arizona got stronger at nose tackle with the addition of first-round pick Dan Williams. With Campbell at one end and Darnell Dockett on the other, the Cardinals figure to be a worrisome sight for opposing quarterbacks.