You guys seem to like this Series, so it continues. Today we're gonna look at some young, unproven guys that need to make some contributions for us this year for us to be successful.
Joe McKnight: One of the first players that comes to mind when reading the description above is Joe McKnight. He's overcome that really disastrous start during his rookie year, and emerged as one of the league's best kick returners. Now, we need him to become a better running back, which he has all of the potential to be, because of all of his speed and natural athletic ability. I'm assuming that he'll be the team's primary 3rd down back, and all indications seem to be that he's doing pretty well physically. I'm not really that worried that he'll do fine in his job. The weight he's apparently added oughta help him with pass protection and some more physical running. That being said, his contribution will be extremely important, since we can't just one capable runner on the entire team. We need his big play potential. Big year for the guy, and my feeling right now is that he'll answer the call.
Bilal Powell: I've seen some people mention that he should be cut...seriously? It's been one year. Yes, that one year was incredibly unimpressive, but all you need to do is look one paragraph up to remind yourself that players can improve. As mentioned before, we need more than one capable runner on the team, and for a team like us, you want at least three. This kid was a fourth round pick, so he needs to be able to give us some contributions in terms of being a backup runner, and if he shows nothing in Mini-camp in the next couple days, I think we may need to look for a veteran free agent to add to our squad. Someone like Cedric Benson. What are my expectations for Powell this year? That he improves. I don't know by how much, but i'll be happy if he can be a capable no. 3.
Vladimir Ducasse: I've seen the bust label thrown around a lot for this guy, and i'm not too surprised considering how impatient some of us are, and how little he's added in his first two years as a second round pick. Some people say that he should stay at one position so that he can learn it more easily, but unfortunately we don't have the luxury of waiting our dear sweet time for him. He needs to be able to play at more than one position as a backup lineman. He's another one of those guys that we need to step up this year. Now, let me remind y'all that this guy is actually a physical freak. He's pancaked guys before when he's gotten in the game. Watch this play as an indication of that. All indications are that Sparano's offense is much simpler, and that Vlad's doing just fine filling in as the starting left guard as of now. I don't see that as a bad thing that the coaches are willing to put him in as a guard. Rex also seems genuinely impressed with how he's doing so far. I'm hopeful that he manages to make some strides this year and prove that he's not a bust, but i'm not too sure what really to expect.
Jeff Cumberland: What specimen this guy is. 6-4 260 while running a 40 in the 4.4-4.5 range. He's only had one important catch in his NFL career, but it was a big play. It's a shame that he had that achilles injury early last season, it put Mulligan on the field a lot more (let's not revisit that). He's a converted wide receiver, so he obviously doesn't have much blocking experience, but we actually still haven't acquired a blocking tight end, so we may need him to actually do some blocking for us this season, since Keller isn't very good at that. He's bigger than Keller, so I imagine he could make an okay blocker if learned how to. I think Costello had a report a few days ago where he mentioned that Cumberland is 100% now and is really working on trying to improve his blocking. I don't expect him to be an awesome blocker or anything, but it would be beneficial for him to be able to hold his own. He does certainly have the tools to be a good no.2 tight end in terms of being a receiver, however. I'm hopeful, but like with Ducasse and Powell, not sure what to expect.
Jeremy Kerley: This was added in as a late edit since I figured he fits the description too. This young man was probably one of the few bright spots of last year's campaign. He actually played quite a bit of a role despite being a 5th round pick. He did a good job as a punt returner, finishing in the top 10 or 11 in avg. yards per return I think, and really came along as a receiver towards the end of the season. He really tore it up down in Miami in what was otherwise a bit of a disastrous game. I think if Tanny knew how good Kerley was gonna be as a number 3 ahead of time, he wouldn't have bothered picking up Derrick Mason. His quickness is very good, and he actually got deep a couple of times too, so he certainly has quite the potential to be a dangerous weapon out of the slot. Maybe he can be a slightly better version of Davone Bess in this offense. All that being said, we can't realistically expect a ton of production out of a number 3 receiver in a run-first offense that already has plenty of guys that we want to get the ball to. I still really like the guy though, and I think he'll make a very fine gadget player for us. Also, if not for you-know-who, he would've been the wildcat QB (presumably) adding to his awesomeness.
As always, your thoughts are greatly encouraged. I write these things because I like to please readers :). Next time, we'll look at some veterans.