Josh McDaniels and company caused a lot of controversy this weekend by not adressing what many of us armchair experts proclaimed was our biggest need: defensive line. Instead, we loaded up on secondary guys and some offensive players. To me, this signifies that either McD was very low on this year's D-line class, or that he felt that we already have the pieces in place there to be effective on D this year.
At first, I discounted the second notion as ridiculous, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I don't really know much about a lot of the guys we have in the trenches. And when I did a little research, I realized that we actually do have a lot of guys there who are big, strong, and talented.
I by no means consider myself a defensive expert, so don't take my littl
Here's a quick rundown of our guys:
Matthias Askew, NT, 6'5", 302. Veteran guy, signed last year, I don't know much about him. Didn't play much last year, figures to be depth if he makes the cut this year.
Nic Clemons, DE, 6'6", 300. Young guy, talented, I think his skill set is perfect for 3-4 DE. Big and strong, good size for a 3-4 end. I think he could be a very nice surprise in camp.
Tim Crowder, DE/OLB, 6'4", 275. Projected as a 3-4 OLB out of college. A good pass rusher. Was invisible last year, but could produce this year off the bench. I could see him put on 15-20 lbs. and become a 3-4 DE, but he most likely projects as a rush OLB or out of town.
Elvis Dumervil, DE/OLB, 5'11", 260. Undersized for DE, but could blow up as a rush OLB. Most likely a liability in coverage, but could rain hell on opposing QB's on third and long from a standing-up position.
Ron Fields, NT, 6'2", 315. Our only true NT. Nolan liked him so much when they worked together in SF that he was the first player Nolan targeted in free agency. Very talented and capable of taking on double teams. Could become the next Casey Hampton if he develops.
Ryan McBean, DE, 6'5", 290. Another guy I know absolutely nothing about. He appears to have good size for a 3-4 DE. I believe he is still able to be put on the practice squad, which may be the best place to develop him.
Jarvis Moss, DE/OLB, 6'6", 265. I saw him live and up close in KC, and 265 is a very generous estimate of his weight. Looks more like a basketball player than a football player. That being said, he could surprise everyone and take the rush OLB spot from Dumervil. He will most likely only be used on third and long.
J'Vonne Parker, NT, 6'4", 325. Yet another unknown quantity, he has the size and ability to play nose tackle. Will most likely end up as depth if he makes the cut. Has never played much, if at all, in the NFL.
Kenny Peterson, DE, 6'4", 300. Played well in the 3-4 Bates experiment last year. Has great size and adequate skill set to play DE in a 3-4. Another player that I think will surprise in training camp, and I think he will see the field a lot in '09.
Carlton Powell, DE/NT, 6'3", 300. I could see him fit in at NT or DE. Excellent run stopper in college, perfect skill set for 3-4 D-lineman. Is basically a rookie this year. I believe he could be a very welcome surprise in camp, and may beat out Marcus Thomas for a starting job.
Darrell Reid, DE/OLB, 6'2", 288. Very good athlete. Special teams demon. High motor. Figures to be more of a special teams player than anything, and there is nothing wrong with that. I think he may be a specialist on D, but I think he is our next Keith Burns.
Marcus Thomas, DE, 6'3", 305. Another guy that played well in our 3-4 experiment last year. I think he will easily adjust outside and probably start at LDE (the offense's strong side.) I love his talent, and I can't wait to see him in camp.
And the rookies:
Robert Ayers, DE/OLB, 6'3", 270. Versatile enough to play OLB or DE in a 3-4 or even DT in a 4-3. Listed weight of 270 at Vols website is likely too low, and I think he willl put on more this year. Compares to Adalius Thomas in his heydey with the Ravens. Probably won't start, but will contribute more than expected.
Everette Pedescleaux, DE, 6'6", 305. Big body and very athletic. Excellent size and skill set to play 3-4 DE. Good initial burst. Tackling machine with 62 his senior year, and had 6.5 sacks as well. Could be a good pass rusher and run stuffer. Potential future starter who will likely see some time this year.
Chris Baker, NT, 6'2", 326. Great size to play NT. Very athletic and productive, most of his issues seem to come from maturity problems and off-the-field issues. That said, I love his talent and I think he has a great shot to make the team and move Carlton Powell outside. I can't wait to evaluate him in camp.
And there you have it. We have 14 guys on our team listed as D-linemen, 4 of which will probably see most of their time at OLB. While many of these guys are unknown quantities (enigmas), I believe that some of them have to pan out. I mean, there are 10 guys competing for this, and if 6 or 7 end up being good, or even just above average, we could have a decent defense next year.
I also think that there are many combinations of players we can use for our starting rotation, which will be good for depth and conditioning.
RE: Thomas, NT, Fields, LE: Powell.
RE: Peterson/Ayers, NT: Fields, LE: Thomas/Powell.
That's 5 combinations right there, and that's not even counting the possibilities of unknown quantites of Clemons, McBean, Parker, and Reid. Or the possibilities of what would happen if we went 4-3.
I will close with this: Most of the 4-3 DT's we were clamoring to draft on day 2 are pretty much clones of what we already have. And Powell is essentialy a rookie this year, so getting him healthy is almost the same as spending a pick on a guy in the 4th-7th rounds. And I'm with McDaniels on one thing: you do not draft a guy at a certain position for the sake of drafting that position. I like his BPA approach, and I think he took good players at positions of need across the board. At least each of his picks makes sense, which is more than could be said for many of Shanny's picks.