Finding a player that could find his way in the upcoming season always seems to be harder than finding a player that may still be lost. At least thats the way it seems to me. There are always those guys that leave me questioning "IF" this is what they should be doing or "IF" they are ready for the spot light.
Sometimes guys just take longer than others, and other times they are simply in the wrong profession. The latter is usually the heart breaker, because it means the team took a shot and missed. Busts are never ok. I can handle delayed progression, because those are usually the guys that make the most noise when it finally clicks, but a bust is a no no.
Lucky for us I don't see any busts. I only see issues with development and adjusting. I have already spoke of the "Leap of Faith" guys that I believe to be virtual locks to take the next step. This time around its all about the 'If Boyz'.
If Boyz- players I believe that could struggle to make a significant jump in their level of play.
Kendall Langford: Kendall Langford didn't show me diddly squat. I understand the switch from 3-4 to 4-3, and it's level of difficulty for some players. That movement in the alignment by about two feet makes a huge difference, it really does. Remember, this is a game of inches. So I get that. But he didn't show me one flash of whats to come when he finally gets it. I don't recall one play where he just dominated. It is more than a struggle to adapt, he just gets bullied. He litterally got pushed around in the trenches. He did look a lot better around week six, once Michael Brockers started to get fully healthy and the rust was gone. But even then I saw nothing.
The headache with Langford is that I saw what he was capable of with Miami. He has the ability and has proven that he is in the correct profession. Which leaves me to wonder if the issue is he has a new contract and now is half assing things, or he simply just struggles with progression and development more than the average player.
To bring things to light with him, I had to blow the dust off the books and reach for older stats and tape. I was not very impressed with the review, and finished wondering if we had signed a big (figuratively and literally) mistake. His best season statistically was 2010, but his best season overall was 2009. As a rookie he performed admirably, doing a solid job both rushing the passer and playing the run. But his last season in 2011, his fourth year, he gave piss poor effort on a regular basis.
That worried me because as a fourth year vet, in the same system, who has proved to be a player of good quality, one would expect a lot better tape and production. Langford has shown signs of a player with no motivation, and those are always the scariest guys to have on your team.
Darian Stewart: I actually like Stewart a lot. I think he is a very solid safety, and has the ability to fill the shoes of Quinton Mikell, as if they wear the same size. So why is he on this list instead of the other one? Simple, his inability to stay on the field. I believe Stewart has the ability to be a top 10 safety in this league. He has not great, but good, coverage ability. Way above average -for a safety- blitzing ability. He is also a solid tackler. He is one of those guys that is great at nothing, but good at everything.
'IF' only he can stay on the field. Even dating back to his rookie season he has been banged up. Go a little further and he even had issues in college. In three NFL seasons he has never played a full 16 games. This is especially bad for a guy like him, considering his rookie season he mostly played special teams only, meaning less snaps, meaning less opportunity for injury. But somehow he found a way.
At this point I do not question his ability on the field. Coming out of college, even though he went undrafted, Stewart was viewed as one of the top safety prospects both in production and athletically. Now it's about doing the little things to take care of your body. He has to prove that he can maintain good health before he can truly take the next step.
Brian Quick: I'm sorry guys, but something just does not sit right with me about Quick. There is no player I worry about more than Quick. There just seems to be something missing with him. He is supposed to be our future number one guy. But I honestly still feel like we don't have a one. We don't have that guy that lines up outside and dominates every week. We added speed and depth, but we are still missing the most important piece, Mr. Reliable.
This does not mean I believe he is a bust. As I have already stated, I don't believe we have one of those on our team. But I don't believe Quick will ever be that dominate receiver that every team want and need. Something about Quick just screams to me no more than 800 yards 8 touchdowns at any point in his career. Now if this is what he averaged for his career I am fine with that, because that is some very solid production. But it is not what he was drafted for.
Quick is suppose to become our version of Andre Johnson, Roddy White, Larry Fitzgerald, Hakeem Nicks, etc... He is suppose to be that dominate outside force that always comes through for the team when needed the most. I just don't see it though. He doesn't have that "IT" factor. I don't see the confidence that tells defensive backs without ever opening his mouth, "Hey!! I'm about to kick your ass!!". I just don't see it. He is talented and will probably become a decent player, but I don't expect any sort of major or significant jump in his level of play, especially not before his third season.
Offensive Line: I am a strong believer in games are won in the trenches. If your D-Line can beat up the oppositions O-Line, than chances are you will win. I look at our offensive linemen and say 'damn we have some good ones'. But, health remains an issue. All the speed we have added means nothing if they are trying to get vertical and the line is not giving enough time to allow that to happen.
It is very possible to go into the season with five starters, and all of them are coming off of injury. Jake Long had his triceps issue. Scott Wells had issues with both his foot and knees. Harvey Dahl biceps was turned into shredded cheese in week 15. Roger Saffold had problems with his knee and back. Then there is left guard. No one knows who will start, but if it's either Rokevious Watkins (ankle/weight), or Barret Jones (foot), then that would complete the list of a starting five where all are coming off of an injury.
Even if Chris Williams starts I would not be all that comfortable. Honestly he just is not that good. He is a solid back-up, not a starter. I would be most comfortable with Shelley Smith, he played very well in spot duty, and remained healthy.
No matter who the starting five is, 'IF' one of them gets hurt it can throw the entire thing off. What people fail to realize about an offensive line is that it is like a house of cards. It looks really cool and well built, built each card relies on the next. Because if you remove one of them, it all will come tumbling down. With all the calls and responsibilities, each player has to rely on one another more that any other position group.
If the blocking scheme for a specific play is a slide protection, and you are blocking on the backside and the entire line is moving, you get used to the speed and movement of the guys out there with you, which is key to a successful slide. If one of those guys go down and the back-up moves differently than the original and you are the back side, it can leave either a gaping hole, or a pile up allowing defenders to fly around the edge. Timing and responsibility is everything.
We need a healthy offensive line and this line has not proved to be that. Without their health the talent the line has, and we have as a whole on offense means nothing. If this offense is a car, then Sam Bradford is the driver, the receivers are the wheels, the running backs have to be the engine, but the line, is the starter. Because it all starts with them.
As always thanks for reading. Let me know if you have any other players in mind that probably should have or could have made this list. Looking forward to all comments. I know there will be some issues with Quick haha.