Earlier this week, I discussed five offensive players we should keep an eye on this summer and into September -- five players who may not be considered household names but who should show us some production and have us taking notice in 2009.
Here are five players on the defensive side of the football who could surprise us with their play this fall.
1. Jim Leonhard, SS, New York Jets
Leonhard finally got his chance to step into a starting role last season in Baltimore when starting safety Dawan Landry was injured, and he responded with 69 tackles and one interception in the regular season — then added 16 tackles, an interception and one forced fumble in the Ravens’ run to the AFC Championship game.
Now, he enters training camp in New York as a full-time starter, and we should expect him to produce in Rex Ryan’s system — one of the major selling points when Leonhard chose the Jets over the Eagles in free agency. Leonhard has the ability to play man-to-man on the slot in three-wide-receiver sets, can play the nickel corner in a pinch and has good enough feet to match up with tight ends in the AFC East. Plus, he should be a factor in the punt return game. Players like Leonhard — who haven’t been handed anything on a silver platter in their careers like many first-round picks — continue to work hard even after they’re given a starting role. Expect him to make some plays in this defense.
2. Mike Jenkins, CB, Dallas
Jenkins will start opposite fellow cornerback Terence Newman in his first year as a full-time player, and although I expect Newman to draw most of the tougher match-ups in the NFC East, expect Jenkins to see plenty of action on his side of the field.
One thing we have to remember about the Cowboys is that they’re a pressure team that sends players after the quarterback, and in return, they count on their secondary to play a lot of man-to-man coverage in blitz packages. The Cowboys totaled 59 sacks in 2008, and they should continue to be a defense that relies on pressure to create plays. Because of this, Jenkins will have plenty of opportunities to make some plays on the ball, and if Newman can continue to play at a top level, opposing offenses will look to try and exploit Jenkins. Lots of opportunities for Jenkins, and I believe he has the talent to get it done.
3. Glen Dorsey, DT, Kansas City
As with most players in the NFL, the biggest jump they have in development is from their rookie season to their second year, and I don’t see any reason we can’t expect the same for Dorsey, the former first-round pick of the Chiefs who was average in his first season.
Sometimes, coaching changes can light a fire under players, and this is the hope in Kansas City because we all know that Dorsey has the talent to be very productive at this level. I like the idea of the Chiefs using him as a DE in their 3-4 scheme and as a DT in the sub packages on third-down situations, where the former LSU star can use his quickness and explosion off the football to get to the quarterback and put some sacks next to his name. Dorsey should have a solid season in ’09 — and show us why he was a first-round pick.
4. Paul Posluszny, MLB, Buffalo
Posluszny had a solid season in ’08 for Buffalo, but the big plays were still missing. He totaled more than 100 tackles but only contributed one interception, one forced fumble and no sacks. Expect those numbers to increase in 2009.
The Bills are still a defense that uses the Tampa 2 as it core coverage, and against the run, the Mike linebacker is allowed to run freely to the football if the defensive tackles can keep blockers off him. Posluszny has the lateral speed to match running backs to the sidelines and the size to come downhill and take on lead blocks and ball carriers in the hole. But where he has to take that next step in on first- and second-down passing situations and run the middle of the field in the Tampa 2 and make plays on the ball — no different than what Brian Urlacher does for the Bears. I like Posluszny’s game, but he must take it to the next level and become more than a guy who racks up tackles. He needs to make some game-changing plays.
5. Will Smith, DE, New Orleans
The Saints added to their overall talent and depth this offseason in the secondary, but without some pressure up front, all those moves will go unnoticed as pressure always leads to plays in the secondary.
Smith’s ability has come into question the past two seasons as his sack numbers have declined from 10˝ in 2006 to seven in 2007 to only three last season. However, the Saints have a brand new system under new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, and not only will every player be held accountable for every single rep they play on Sundays, they will also be put in positions to make plays. Therefore, expect Williams to get the best there is out of Smith and run some stunts up front to put him in position to get to the quarterback. Turnovers are a key to any Williams defense, and I expect Smith to be taught that once he reaches the quarterback to get the football on the ground. I see a big year in New Orleans for the former first-round pick. http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/...-surprise.html
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5 Defensive Players Who Could Blow Up
Posted 05 July 2009 - 02:06 PM
Posted 05 July 2009 - 02:24 PM
3. Glen Dorsey, DT, Kansas City
We're doing a lot of square pegging on D-Line and a little in the LB corps this year. It's going to be an evaluation year this season for Dorsey and a lot of others, but maybe we'll win a few along the way.
Vegas has us at 5.5 overall( though how you win half a game I couldn't say ), and I think that's about right.
"And He Leadeth Them, To Suckage"...
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