Y'all know what this is by now, so here it is: part four. We'll look at some older players this time.
Bart Scott: It's been well documented that he's coming off a down-year where he was really frustrated with his lack of playing time due to his poor coverage abilities. Rex is blaming it on how the coaches told him to gain weight so they could use him as a Blitzer more, which I suppose makes sense. It wasn't just his pass coverage that wasn't good last season, but I also noticed that he missed quite a few tackles and had some trouble getting off of blocks. So yeah, it wasn't Bart's finest year by any means. All reports are that he's lost a lot of weight and is having a lot of fun again. That's always nice to hear, I would think you'd be better at something that you're having fun with rather than something you're frustrated with. I still don't see him being a 3-down linebacker since while he's lost a lot of weight, he isn't getting any younger, although the weight loss should help him move better. I'm expecting a solid season out of him. Not his 2006 form or anything, but I'm hopeful that we'll see the madbacker of the first two years in green and white. Also, "CAN'T WAIT!!!". Sorry, I couldn't resist.
Calvin Pace: Well, if you want someone to set the edge, Calvin Pace does that very well as far as my eyes tell me. As far as rushing the passer goes, that's a totally different story. 4.5 sacks is unacceptable from someone making an average of $7 million a season. I don't know if I can really expect that to go up this season, since he's not getting any younger. I still do like this guy though, he does a very nice Job setting the edge in the run game, and he can generally get some push into the backfield, even if he seldom actually manages to get to the quarterback. He's a solid starter, and I think we'll see another fairly good year out of him. All that being said, his pass rushing ability really does leave a whole lot to be desired, but we're stuck with him for this season.
Bryan Thomas: If there was a player in our front seven that would really concern me as a full-time player, it's this guy. I know some of you guys who have followed this team for a while have long been frustrated by his unspectacular pass rushing skills, but he did a pretty good Job setting the edge when I watched him. I mean, he wasn't like a Jarrett Johnson-level run stopper, but he held the fort. However, he's now 33 years old, and is coming off an achilles tear. That's a brutal injury for someone his age, and he was never really a super-explosive player to begin with. So yeah, my expectations would be pretty low for him, and I really wonder how well he'd be able to handle being a full-time player. However, with the move to more four-man fronts, he probably won't see the field as much, making me worry less. He's still a nice guy to have around, but as i've said, i'll be worried if he sees the field a whole ton this year.
Sione Pouha: What a great year he's coming off of. He was one hell of an anchor in the middle of our defense, and I remember him really doing a great job clogging up the middle whenever someone tried to run through. Yeah, he's not much of a pass rusher at his age and with his size, but 3-4 nose tackles aren't really expected to give you much of a pass rush. Haloti Ngata getting 5 this season was nuts. Either way, he was quite possibly the best player on our D this past season not named Darrelle Revis. If we lost him to free agency, that would've been a big issue. Let's thank Tannenbaum for that if nothing else. He's getting old, yes, but his position seems to be moreso based on brute strength than speed, and he also entered the league pretty old, so it shouldn't be a big issue. I expect another great year from him. Maybe not quite as great, but still pretty high-caliber.
Dustin Keller: Okay, this is cheating since he's still right in the middle of his career,but i'm tired of people criticizing him, and i've really been wanting to make my case for him be known, so he's gonna get thrown into this edition too. Common points of criticism include below-average blocking, low catch/target ratio, drops, and inconsistency. I'm gonna be honest when I say that I think a lot of this criticism is brought upon him because two of the best tight ends in the NFL are just a train ride up north, and it makes us wish we had a tight end like that, which Keller isn't. Maybe that's not an immediate thought that comes to mind, but I think it's hard to deny that it's an underlying reason. Heck, even I won't deny it, I wish we had an elite tight end.
All that being said, lets take off the black glasses and put down the glass of hater-aid to look at the positive. How about the raw production? He's mismatch for both safeties and linebackers to cover. He gets targeted a lot because he gets open a lot. If Mark was more accurate last year, Keller is probably a 1000 yard receiver. 818 yards is pretty good for a tight end no matter how you slice it. Yeah, it gets overshadowed because of the tight-end palooza that was this season, but a year ago that would've been fourth in the nfl among tight ends. No, he's not an elite gamebreaker, but he is a very nice player, that i'd miss if he left.
Yes, there have been questions about how he'll fit into this new power offense. It's a good concern, yes, but i've said this before, and i'll say it again. Just because Sparano likes to use his tight ends to block, it doesn't mean he won't adjust to his personnel. I've heard about a lot of Keller TDs out of minicamp, so i'm guessing he's been running some routes. Do I think he deserves top 5 TE money, no. Do I think you can justify top 10 TE money or so? Sure. I'm gonna get a lot of mixed opinions on him, but i'm ready for that.
As always, feedback is encouraged.