New year, new faces, and new chances to impress a very impressionable coaching staff. As a young player, it's a treacherous situation. You've got two new coordinators coming from outside the system and one chance to get on their good sides. Should you succeed, limitless possibilities are yours for the taking. Should you fail, well, you'll end up like Lavelle Hawkins
living under Jeff Fisher's porch not playing very often. So what's it gonna be young fella? Be ready when they call your number, it's time to go big or go home.
Sen'Derrick Marks, DT
You already know this was Rocker's boy before he even got here. If Washburn's successor can get some of the same production out of the big man that made him a worthy second round pick way back in 2008 then this D-line is set for years. To this point, Marks has been a disappointment. Yeah, I went there, anyone who disagrees should check out the mounting pile of evidence that supports this. He's got to start showing me more on the field. I don't think he's the got the typical "lazy fat guy" label associated with him, I think it's just a question of staying healthy. Here's to a strong 2011 from someone who I've wanted to see succeed from day one.
*note: Evidently, Rocker was not Auburn's line coach when Marks was a player there. I'm just full of misinformation tonight. Still, I bet he's jumping for joy at the prospect of coaching up a product of his alma mater.
Jason McCourty, CB
The bad news is Jason McCourty is the lesser of the McCourty twins. The good news is that he had a solid season and showed some very important growth that should contribute to his development as a quality NFL cornerback. While it's a small sample size, a baseball fan's favorite term, McCourty was 7th in the league when it came to how many yards opposing receivers gained on him per catch. I don't know how telling 42 passes is, but allowing receivers fewer yards is never a bad thing. It's hard to be down on a guy like this, if he ends up being any good at all he'll be part of one of the best groups of corners in the NFL; all of whom were drafted in the fourth round or later. Talk about value picks.
Gerald McRath/Rennie Curran, OLB
Yeah they're two different players, but we still really don't know who's going to be starting opposite Akeem Ayers, who I'm fairly certain will win the starting job in camp, and Will Witherspoon, who should be shifted over to the inside, and I like to think that both of these two have a chance to be the one to earn the position. Now, defensive coordinator Jerry Gray has expressed his desire to switch between a 3-4 and a 4-3 defense every few weeks in an effort to get funky with the D, so in any given week it could be both of them, and yes, the thought of McRath dropping back in a 4-3 scares the life out of me too, but who's starting in a week where they line up in a 3-4?
Something tells me, call it a premonition, that Curran will get the nod, but if that doesn't work out, McRath has got to be ready to go. And just so we're clear, I love the idea of Curran in the 4-3, an interesting little note on Curran coming out of college:
- Very adept in coverage, fluid hips, good in man coverage, and gets good depth in zone
Damian Williams, WR
Yup, I totally just proclaimed that Williams was part of the 08 draft class. Yup. Moving on! Williams was one of those picks that made me jump for joy last year. He fell to the Titans in the third** round despite speed, size, positively excellent route running, and having a first round grade from some. The Titans are going to need someone to line up opposite Kenny Britt (assuming he can stay on the field) and I'm fairly certain that Nate Washington is not a viable long term option despite being a pretty steady number two. Williams needs to come out and really impress in workouts early on in order to make sure that he makes a nice impression on Chris Palmer who could really use another weapon for Jake Locker's offense down the road.
Jared Cook, TE
As if this weren't obvious enough, Jared Cook needs to be huge this year. An offense with all of this potential cannot fail because it doesn't have a tight end to stretch the defense in the middle. So far, we've seen all the measurables, the ability to make big plays, and the knack for being better than Bo Scaife, but lack of playing time laid down by the always loyal Jeff Fisher (sorry Fish, couldn't resist) forced him to ride the pine for another year. He's been a trendy pick for "fantasy sleeper of the year", and needless to say, I expect big things out of Cook this year and think he has the best chance to break out among the players on this list.