NFL Training Camps 2012: Which Young Defenders Will Shine?
Five young defensive players are set to shine in 2012 NFL training camps.
This group consists of a controversial undrafted free agent desperate to prove wrong every team that passed on him in April, two second-year NFC East defensive linemen attempting to kick-start their careers following season-ending injuries in 2011, a second-round draft choice who may start at linebacker as a rookie and a third-year linebacker who is being asked to take on more of a leadership role.
Here are the five young defensive players who have the chance to shine.
Marvin Austin, DT, New York Giants
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Marvin Austin's rookie campaign was derailed by a torn pectoral muscle. The New York Giants' second-round pick in 2011 hasn't played competitively since 2009, thanks to a 2010 suspension while at North Carolina.
However, the 6'2", 312-pounder is full of potential and can add more dynamism to Big Blue's defensive-tackle rotation. The 23-year-old offers a combination of size and speed that the Giants simply don't have at the position. Austin faces competition in the rotation, but he has the ability to offer genuine pass rush from the interior.
Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Atlanta Falcons
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The 24-year-old Sean Weatherspoon is primed to emerge as a breakout star for the Atlanta Falcons defense this season. The 6'2", 244-pounder is a quick and physical playmaker who will replace Curtis Lofton as the focal point of the Falcons' run defense.
Head coach Mike Smith expects the former 2010 first-round selection to establish himself as a leader for the defense, according to NFL.com. Weatherspoon notched 115 tackles in 2011 and also showed some promise as a blitzer, recording four sacks. He will be a dangerous weapon in new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's schemes.
Mychal Kendricks, LB, Philadelphia Eagles
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Second-round draft pick Mychal Kendricks will build on the positive first impression he made at the Philadelphia Eagles' rookie camp. Kendricks wowed coaches with his athleticism in coverage and on the pass rush, according to Philly.com.
He is already a strong candidate for the starting spot on the strongside, reports Espn.com. A strong training camp can seal the job for the former California standout.
Jarvis Jenkins, DL, Washington Redskins
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It didn't take long for 2011 second-round pick Jarvis Jenkins to make an impact with the Washington Redskins. Heading into the preseason, the Washington Post reported that the ex-Clemson star was already impressing coordinator Jim Haslett and head coach Mike Shanahan.
Unfortunately, disaster soon struck, as Jenkins was lost for the season after sustaining an ACL injury against the Baltimore Ravens. Jenkins can solidify a run defense that ranked 18th in the league last season.
The Post has recently reported that Jenkins is working hard to regain peak fitness and that he has already impressed some of the veterans. With a strong camp showing, he will push capable starter Adam Carriker.
Vontaze Burfict, LB, Cincinnati Bengals
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Overly aggressive middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict endured a spectacular slide on draft day and was passed on by all 32 teams. The Cincinnati Bengals, that familiar haven for troubled players, decided to give Burfict a chance as a rookie free agent and the ex-Arizona State star has not disappointed.
Bengals.com recently reported that Burfict has worked hard to study the defense and is keen to learn good habits from incumbent starter Rey Maualuga. Working with coordinator Mike Zimmer will help Burfict channel his aggression and learn technique. He'll have a chance to make an early impact for the Bengals' defense.