Next year is a crucial year for Darelle Revis. He will either establish himself as the future of the position, being only 23-years-old, or he will fall flat on his face.
Well, Revis’ Jets have seven games next year that take place after 4:00 pm, meaning plenty of national exposure. With that national exposure comes playing against the likes of Andre Johnson, Marques Colston, Steve Smith, Reggie Wayne, Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens (twice), Lee Evans (twice), Antonio Bryant and a Tom Brady-coupled Randy Moss.
Last year Revis played at a level that was comparable to the elite five cornerbacks since '05: Asomugha, Woodson, Brown, Bailey and Newman, but the latter two had off-years. This means that Revis was a top four cornerback in 2008.
However, he didn’t exactly play against the best talent and did it in Mangini’s system. Now Revis will have to be the corner in Rex Ryan’s blitz-heavy system that is left on an island, because Lito Sheppard is going to needs tons of help rolled his way from Leonhard and Rhodes.
Look for Revis to either be exposed due to this new system, or to prove that he will be the best cornerback in the NFL in three of four years.
Dustin Keller, New York Jets
Everywhere I look I see people saying that John Carlson of the Seahawks is already a top 10 tight end in the NFL. Sure, the kid had some production, but I don’t think it was even top 10.
Heck, to be honest, I don’t know if he was even the best rookie tight end last year. Sure, he finished with superior numbers to Keller, but after the awkward NFL adjustment was over, Keller became Brett Favre’s favorite target and was, quite possibly, the league’s best tight end over the last five or six weeks.
Entering this year, however, Keller has the benefit of working with one of two young and inexperienced quarterbacks whose best friend will be their young athletic tight end.
Additional to this is the loss of Laverneas Coles, thus taking away a reliable second option at the receiver position for these quarterbacks, meaning Keller should be, at worst, the number two option for these guys.
Look for Keller to put up around 800 yards receiving if all things go his way.
Vernon Gholston, New York Jets
Believed to be an athletic freak when he was coming out of college, Vernon Gholston hasn’t impressed anyone since joining the NFL.
However, being a Steelers fan, I am well aware of the concept of sitting rookies for development, and thus, I don’t fault Vernon for that. But, it should be noted that because Calvin Pace will miss the first four games of the season, Gholston should get playing time based on sheer athleticism alone, even if Rex Ryan is saying he has to compete for the replacement role.
So why watch Gholston?
Simple: To see what the kid's got, because after Pace comes back, you might not be seeing Gholston taking 40 plus NFL snaps a game for a long while.
Pat White, Miami Dolphins
When White decided, vehemently, that he was going to be a quarterback in this league and not a converted wideout or halfback, it struck many analysts as odd. He then turned around and had the best combine of all quarterbacks, in my opinion, and clubs saw this and thought that maybe, just maybe, he could be utilized as a QB.
In came the Miami Dolphins, a team that brought the WildCat formation to fame when the Panthers couldn't, possibly because their personnel were better fit to run it. With it cemented that the Dolphins have announced Chad Henne as their franchise QB of 2010 and on, it's clear what White was brought in for.
If he keeps his roster spot, look for him to strike some new life into the Miami WildCat by offering it a legitimate ability to throw the ball. White should be a Hester-like player that isn't a "true" starter, but will be worked into the game plan in his Rookie season.
Tom Brady, New England Patriots
This one is obvious, as are the accompanying reasons why.
Tom Brady entered the 2008 season as the reigning NFL's "best" quarterback with a few major passing records to his name, some existing, some having since been thwarted. But what nobody expected at the start of that season was that the invincible Tom Brady could go down with an injury, let alone a season ending one...but that did indeed happened.
As this injury spurred, some claimed it was dirty, some claimed it was an accident, but a considerable amount of sports fans made the claim that it was "karma" for the belief that the Patriots ran up the score on opponents in 2007.
With Brady back at the helm of the incredibly prolific offense in New England, but no longer with Josh McDaniels, can he still produce 35 plus touchdowns or will he regress back to his 28 to 32 TD passes per season?
Additionally, does Tom believe the said "karma" explanation? If so, how will that effect the way he, and the Patriots, play this season with leads in comparison to their 2007 counterparts?
Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots
Jerod Mayo, despite winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award last season, wasn't exactly the most impressive player. I mean, he made tackles, and made a few more tackles, and then made a few more tackles...do you see what I'm getting at?
Alongside that, other than the OT thriller against the Jets, his tackle totals never popped up off of the page. This season, Jerod Mayo is expected to become a true leader in a Bill Belichick defense, and if Tedi Bruschi, Mike Vrabel and Ted Johnson have taught us anything, it's that New England MIKE and MAC linebackers don't have to be great; just capable of being a solid force in the middle, and they will get some stats.
However, people are saying that Mayo has immense defensive talent. One wonders that, if he does indeed have this amount of talent, he should be able to put up an All-Pro caliber season, but it remains to be seen if he will actualize this.
Lee Evans, Buffalo Bills
Do I really need to explain this one?
Evans has been a split end playing flanker his entire career, and despite that, has still managed to post two 1,000 yard seasons in his short five year career. He’s always at least posted 700 yards, and except last year, at least five touchdowns, despite being out of position.
Yet, despite being a flanker, Evans has posted a dominating 16 yards per catch. What exactly am I getting at?
Well, with Terrell Owens coming to town and taking over the flanker role, with its more intricate and shorter routes, Evans is free to finally just be the wideout that runs deep and outruns the defender for the long bomb. He can tone down his game to the split end skill set, which he is naturally more suited to.
As a result, he can look forward to a low amount of receptions, a high amount of yardage, and a high amount of touchdowns, all of which will make him look better than Owens on paper.
Brad Butler, Buffalo Bills
If you’re reading this article, then chances are, you’ve read my articles in the past, and know that this guy has been the second best right guard in the NFL for the past two seasons.
Well, he no longer is playing the position, as he is getting kicked back to his collegiate position, tackle, in order to allow the Bills’ rookies to play the much easier guard positions.
Butler has been both: An excellent pass blocker and an excellent run blocker over the past two seasons, but it’s easier to do both from the guard position than the tackle position.
This should be interesting to watch, as he has Mario Williams, Julius Peppers, and Robert Mathis to deal with at various points throughout the schedule this upcoming season. Can Butler transcend from top five at one position to top five at another in the span of one offseason?
Terrence McGee, Buffalo Bills
McGee is a vastly underrated cornerback. I would probably rank McGee just outside of the top ten cornerbacks in the NFL, and yet most people sleep on his abilities.
McGee’s image gets hurt by the fact that the Bills employ a Cover 2 Zone look as their base defensive call for their secondary, but the past three or four seasons have shown that playing in such a system does not guarantee you success.
McGee, however, has played amazing football over the past five seasons and has more than succeeded as the next guy in line after Antoine Winfield.
So I ask of you, if you get a chance to watch a Bills game this season, please watch McGee and how he does his job so effortlessly.