LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
I recently read an article about a so-called “Eagles Team Expert” who stated that the Eagles are going to struggle with the departure of Correll Buckhalter. In doing so I guess that he forgot that they drafted LeSean McCoy who, unlike Buckhalter, has a skillset comparable to Westbrook.
McCoy was an all-purpose back in college, and with Westbrook’s history of injury and the desperate need to spell him, look for McCoy to be in the running for rookie of the year honors akin to the way that Felix Jones was in the running prior to injury last year. He might not start or compile the largest numbers, but his impact will be the largest.
Sean Jones, Philadelphia Eagles
A guy that many considered to be a top ten safety at one point, Jones was told he would have to fight with Quintin Demps and Quinten Mikell in order to gather a starting role in Philadelphia despite the immensely better resume. I guess it’s fitting that Demps was very high in the late Jim Johnson’s eyes, but Jones was something good in Cleveland when he was healthy.
Even if Jones doesn’t win the starting job he should make an impact as the third safety if the Eagles choose to employ their “Three-Safety-Look” that they used heavily last season.
Broderick Bunkley/Mike Patterson, Philadelphia Eagles
When you get the chance to please pay attention to these guys. They form one of the three best defensive tackle tandems in the National Football League and the thing to note here is that both will only be 26 years old at the end of the 09-10 season.
The Eagles defense, even without Jim Johnson, will always be predicated on pressure, with defending the run being an afterthought…but that’s okay with these two guys up the middle. With these two young tackles up the middle, guys like Stewart Bradley will look much better than they probably should, and thus the run defense will take care of itself without much coaching up.
The Eagles run defense should be pretty good this year as well because of these two guys.
Jason Peters, Philadelphia Eagles
Will the real Jason Peters please stand up? Who is the real Peters: the guy from 2007 that played pretty darn good and made a Pro Bowl or the guy from 2008 who played pretty darn bad and made a Pro Bowl?
Peters was a top five left tackle in the NFL in 2007 and was playing very motivated. Unfortunately in 2008 Peters went the way of the NFL diva and held out. When realizing it was to no avail he came back but was horrid in the first 8-11 weeks of the season. After readjusting to the speed of the NFL, Peters began to show signs of the 2007 season.
Now that he has gotten his payday, is Peters going to fall into a state of satiety and play like he did in 08, or is he now motivated to play like he did in 2007? If it’s the latter than you should start praying for Donovan McNabb.
Shawn Andrews, Philadelphia Eagles
Like Peters, Andrews is an interesting story along the Philadelphia Eagles offensive line which could be a top three unit next season, or could be downright horrid. Andrews was an elite guard in the two years he was healthy, but not because he was a dominant run blocker or pass blocker.
While he was good, not great, at either, what made him special was his ability to get out on screen passes. He won’t be pulling on as many of those screen plays anymore and won’t be as involved in the run game as when he was a guard. He will be asked to do more pass blocking, which he has been good to average at as a guard.
Not to mention the whole mental angle. Furthermore, how does playing next to his brother, who’s probably better suited being the tackle while Andrews is the guard going to affect him? Andrews has a lot of questions surrounding him next year which makes him an interesting watch.
Corey Webster, New York Giants
One year wonder…is that the word to describe Corey Webster? Despite the incessant claims of Giants fans, Webster did not have an outstanding 2007 postseason. Hence, Webster has only had a good 2008 season. In doing so, he had an outstanding pass rush to make up for his lack of flaws.
As a result, Giants fans were incredibly happy to shout about how great their young cornerback played, but managed to ignore that he was a benchwarmer for most of his career. This screams “one year wonder”. So the 2009-10 season is a time to watch Webster to see if his tremendous ’08 season was a fluke, or if he is to join the top five cornerbacks in the National Football League.
Osi Umenyiora, New York Giants
Osi Umenyiora is coming back from his second season-ending injury in the past three seasons. Umenyiora is arguably a top ten defensive end, and is one of the best pure pass-rushers in the league, so his presence is all-too important to the success of the Giants defense next year, but the question hovers over him about his health.
He had an entire season and off-season to rehabilitate so that’s in his favor, but the last time he returned from injury his consistency of producing sacks diminished, though his total didn’t. Will his consistency diminish again? More importantly will his total production decrease? Finally, how will he play alongside the amazing depth that the Giants now have at all four defensive lineman positions.
Michael Boley, New York Giants
I personally feel that the Giants got a steal in Michael Boley. Last offseason Boley was a consensus top five weakside linebacker, but at some point in the 2008 season head coach Mike Smith felt as if he wasn’t doing well enough to retain his starting position and placed him on the bench.
As a result his stock in the free agency market fell and the Giants were able to snatch him up for relatively cheaper than they should have gotten him for. Now Boley joins what many consider to be the best front four in the NFL along with Antonio Pierce and Danny Clark.
The other two linebackers are pretty average and should allow Boley to shine once again, and with that outstanding front four in front of him look for Boley to play with a chip on his shoulder and to show Mike Smith that it was a mistake to bench and then release him.
Albert Haynesworth, Washington Redskins
The $100 million man, as he has come to be known around NFL circles, is an interesting watch next season and everyone knows why. How will he play now that he has gotten his big payday? The NFC East centers aren’t as good as their AFC South counterparts so Haynesworth should have better success right?
Well not if he isn’t motivated to go all out on every snap like he has for the past two seasons. Also, how will he work with a different scheme in Washington playing with new players around him? He might not require as much watching as everyone else on the list, but I’ll be watching “Big Al.”
DeAngelo Hall, Washington Redskins
When DeAngelo Hall went to the Oakland Raiders last offseason I had mixed emotions. I was happy because I knew he’d be exposed as mediocre playing opposite of Nnamdi Asomugha, however, I was upset because he was going to be the highest paid cornerback in the NFL.
Well, things went as predicted and Hall was horrible, but he was so bad he was cut midseason, which no one saw coming. However, he used this as a launching point to play well, and when he became a Washington Redskin he began to play pretty darn well. So which DeAngelo Hall will we see? The guy who’s shown flashes of brilliance or the guy that is just horrid?
London Fletcher, Washington Redskins
London Fletcher is the league’s most underrated player. It’s just ridiculous how often people forget to place this guy as a top ten linebacker. What’s worst about this is that Fletcher might very well be a top three linebacker, and second best behind Ray Lewis.
He possesses a skill set that makes him a very good tackler and one of the few linebackers in the league capable of running with any halfback, despite his age. So watch Fletcher next year and see a linebacker with a complete skill set, and you’ll find why I feel he’s so underrated.
Roy Williams, Dallas Cowboys
Plain and simple, can Roy Williams finally become an elite wide receiver in the NFL? Despite what some might think, Williams has never actually been an elite wideout. Sure he had that 1,200 yard season, but it should be marked with an asterisk given it was in a Mike Martz system.
There are no more excuses for Williams. The Cowboys traded away a future Hall of Famer, with better production, for him and now he is the No. 1 wide receiver on a strong team with a good quarterback. If he doesn’t produce at least 1,100 and eight touchdowns this year then I’m willing to label him as a bust.
Igor Olshanksy, Dallas Cowboys
At one point I believed that Big Igor was better than his teammate Luis Castillo. Many might not have agreed with me on that stance, but I felt as if Igor Olshanksy was, for a short stint, an elite 3-4 defensive end.
While he’s regressed since then and has been shamed, he is now in Dallas. More specifically, he is the replacement for Chris Canty who was the place holder for DeMarcus Ware to rush the QB.
Can Olshanky hold his own and allow Ware to pursue that ever elusive single-season sack record that many analysts have him capturing this year?
Or will he play at a level reminiscent of that that resulted in the Chargers not resigning him despite their defensive woes?
Terrence Newman, Dallas Cowboys
Was last year a fluke or is Terrence Newman really starting the downslide of his career?
What few people don’t realize is that while Newman only has five or six seasons in the league, he is 31 years old. That means, barring extreme durability and athleticism, he is either going to become a free safety in a few years or won’t be in the NFL in a few years.
So Cowboys fans better hope last year was a fluke, and that the Newman from 2005 to 2007 resurges to the scene. So take some time to watch Newman out in coverage next year.