In most of the GameThreads this year, I've often joked that when someone does something horrible, they should be added to the Ducasse Column in John's game recap. This is, if you didn't know, a reference to OT Vladimir Ducasse's supreme ugliness and some of the brutal pre-season plays he's had. Despite this, and despite many fan's constant mocking, I think Ducasse is better than most fans give him credit for. This is not in response to any specific criticism lately. It's just a topic I've been thinking of a lot lately and wanted to address. Join me below the jump as I explain my reasoning.
Let me begin by qualifying this endorsement of Ducasse. He is a second-round pick, and despite being viewed as a developmental project from the beginning, really has to start contributing by next year. If he doesn't, then I revoke my support.
Bear in mind that Ducasse moved to the U.S. in 2002 and has only played football for nine years (age 15). This is in comparison to most players who have been playing since they were children. In addition, Ducasse played at the University of Massachusetts, a smaller school which would have made the transition to the NFL even more difficult.
Ducasse was originally projected to replace LG Alan Faneca. He lost his rookie training camp battle to LG Matt Slauson, who has been one of the most dependable linemen as of late. It's not like he lost out to some schlub. Since then, Ducasse has been rotated at LG, RG, and RT. In the pre-season, he took snaps at all three positions. This is a developmental project, and the FO decided to try him out at three positions, when he hadn't mastered one. Good idea!
Since then, it seems that Ducasse has been allowed to focus at RG and RT, specifically RT. Whenever he's been inserted into games as an extra TE, he has mauled in the run game. There obviously aren't any stats I can point to on this, just what I've seen from watching film. Literally every single time he's been allowed to focus on a single position, he's done very well. I don't believe Ducasse is ready yet for the pass protecting role that RT will require of him, but I do believe that with another off-season, he'll be ready to compete with Wayne Hunter. There have been many more first-round prospects that we've given plenty of slack to. Ducasse is a second-round pick, developmental from the start, and has tremendous upside. We've all seen what Aaron Maybin has done with time to develop, and Ducasse is no different. To all the non-believers, cut him some slack and let him learn.
What do you all think? Am I being too generous, or is my assessment accurate?