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We shouldn't forget the draft picks from last year, either..
Another positive aspect of adding fresh youth, speed, depth, competition, and talent is the fact that we also have a couple/few players from last year that will be joining the immediate impact players that were taken yesterday and Thursday.
While they may not all be considered 'rookies,' we have not seen many live game reps from the majority of them, and they will be added to this year's picks to give us a whole new perspective on several different positions for the 2012 season.
We still have guys such as Ras-I-Dowling as a physical press CB with good size and instincts. Considering the fact that he started from day one last year, and played pretty decently in the first 2 games for a rookie seeing his first action ever, I think we should be optimistic about his addition.
Shane Vereen was the board's consensus as one of the top 3 RB's last year, and can add to the passing game too. I would also expect that he will be battling for KR duties as well.
We haven't seen much from Stevan Ridley as of yet, so there's another potential RB who really didn't see much action or contribute to the SB losing team too much last season. When we did see him, he offered the 2nd highest ypc average behind the kid from Dallas, and broke off several 20+ yard runs. Those are certainly positives for our running game. While true that he may put the ball on the ground a few times this year (the boards' biggest worry and knock on him--also complete speculation for 2012) we should see a much quicker, shiftier running game then we've seen with BJGE lately.
Obviously, looking ahead down the road we still have a decent QB prospect in Ryan Mallett that we should be excited about. He will certainly see some action in the preseason, and we all know about his high upside and rumors that he could've just as easily gone in the 1st round last year.
Marcus Cannon will be offering us more 1st-2nd round talent, and he's one more young prospect who overcame all of the questions about his health problems that dropped him into the later rounds. He is another great pick that we really didn't see a great deal from.
Sterling Moore came on late to add depth and versatility to our secondary last year, and while many here still question whether he can be any good on a consistent basis, he did show us something at times with a couple of INT's, a TD return, and many passes defended. Obviously there were also "rookie" mistakes too, but he seems as though he can offer depth and CB/S competition that is improved from Nate Jones, James Ihedigbo, and Antwan Molden.
Jeff Tarpinian showed us that he is probably our best cover LB, who provides even more depth and competition for the core. Although we didn't see much of him, he certainly is a prospect to keep an eye on.
Add in the 2012 draftees, and we should have immediate starters in Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower. I would expect Tayvon Wilson to be added in a bit more slowly with situational reps as the season progresses, but we may be pleasantly surprised with what he may add in training camp too. Jake Baquette may be an immediate impact, but I'm guessing that he also may be blended in a bit more. Either way, we've drastically improved the front seven so far.
Free agent acqusitions such as Brandon Llyod, Will Allen, Robert Gallery, Jonathon Fanane, Trevor Scott, Donte Stallworth, Steve Gregory, Anthony Gonzelez, etc should also provide some added talent and give us a whole other dimension for 2012.
Taking the optimism one level above, (and possibly also 'reaching' a bit too far) would be the prospects of Chad Johnson, Jermaine Cunningham, and even guys like Markell Carter and Malcolm Williams offering contributions on at least some level too.
And the greatest thing about all of it is, we're not even close to being done yet. We still have the potential to grab another guy or two in the draft, and also have UDFA's too. With the roster expansion to 90 training camp invitees this year, there will be cuts down to 80, and then from 80 to the final 53 man roster. There will be almost 900 NFL players who are cut in the last week or so of training camp--and they can offer a guy or two to round out the roster's competition.
And of course, there's still the thinking that we have over 15+ million in salary cap available for the right trade, should one present itself--although I believe that we'll be carrying about 10 million or so into next year, which will add to the NEP 2013 salary cap to help to sign guys like Vollmer and Chung.
These aspects should all be considered before anyone starts b!tching about the supposedly 'poor' draft day #2 or #3 decisions. The team continues to add competition on many levels, and it's looking pretty good as far as being a fan is concerned.
Patiently waiting to defend the next "bubble" player in this summer's training camp.....
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I would say that he took the double dipping a bit father this year, grabbing three guys that seen to fit a few positions each. Jones at DE/Olb, Hightower at Ilb/olb/DE type role, then this last guy at de. None of them seem to fit the typical 34 DE role, I'm thinking we see more of a stout two interior base with a more fluid unpredictable linebacker/43 de making up the rest of the final five.
I think we are about to witness the birth of a new BB hybrid. Two gapping from Vince, and player two be named, with some one gapping penetration coming from all over. Spikes has shown some ability to get it done on the blitz, and I certainly expect it from Hightower. I think we may see a whole lot more walking around and stalking (remember the "amoeba?") this year than we have in a long time. Think if the experience and leadership out there. Even spikes seemed to get it done when mayo was out, and I think he is a bit of a head case (and Hightower may prove to be his ticket out of town, not saying cut in camp, but ride out his contract and let him chase money when it's up...), now mix in a guy that lined up all over the damn place (and seemed to be doing a bit of directing/diagnosing during the 'ship) for the best d in the NCAA...
Dare I say it, but we may get to see the defense stifle teams whistle to whistle this year. Only time I can think if that happening recently was the game the titans forfeited when they saw the weather report...
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Right. A sort of 'hybrid' 3-4/4-3 with different responsibilities for different players depending upon the playcall, and situation.
This may be one of the reasons why we saw that in the picks this year, as woolster22 pointed out.
Versatility is a must on this team, and Belichick seems to be bringing that to a whole different level.
As usual, he may already be a step or two ahead of the curve.
I would say that no matter what--we will see an improved defense this year, and I think a lot of people will be pleasantly surprised. It may not be the defensive production from the 2003 and 2004 seasons, which was stifling...but it will certainly be something closer to it than last year.
Re: We shouldn't forget the draft picks from last year, either..
This team is being rebuilt on the fly, and despite all the changes we have not gotten worse... if anything our team has been getting better, certainly much deeper. This team has a lot of moving parts, and our defense will defy traditional description...
Think about how lucky we are, having had consistently winning seasons and going to the Super Bowl 5 times in the past 10 years.... we are spoiled. That is a good thing.
__________________ "Being the best doesn't mean you always win. It just means you win more than anyone else".. tweet from Kurt Warner to Tom Brady.