Last year, after the season was over, we came up with an all-star team of guys that we felt deserved more playing time in 2010 based on their 2009 performance.
With the regular season now blessedly but a few days away, it seemed like a good time for a revisit.
Many of our chosen few are getting their shot, while some apparently didn’t impress their teams as much as they impressed us. Having already revisited the offense, we switch now to the defense.
DE: Victor Abiamiri (Philadelphia) In his second year, Abiamiri jumped from 20 successful QB attacks in 265 pass rushes (7.5 percent) to 23 in 215 (10.7 percent). More importantly, he went from -0.8 in run defense to +5.0. Unfortunately for him, his snaps were cut in half after a knee injury in season, and microfracture surgery followed. He is still recovering.
DE/DT: Mike Devito (New York Jets) Looking at Devito’s game-by-game grading chart from a year ago would silence Kermit the Frog in a hurry — he made it look easy being green. Devito only had one bad game, and was a monster in the playoffs (+1.1, +4.9, +1.5). He was pretty consistently getting between 20-30 snaps a game last year behind/next to Shane Pouha. With Kris Jenkins back at DT, Devito and Pouha look to split time at the spot vacated by Marques Douglas.
DT: Darell Scott (St. Louis) He was a part-time starter for the second half of the Rams’ season as a rookie, and he graded out +6.6 in run defense. He managed to grade out progressively worse in each of his final four games as his snaps increased, which might be one of the reasons the Rams brought in the more known quality of Fred Robbins. Don’t look for much of an uptick in Scott’s time, at least at the start of things.
DE/OLB: Cameron Wake (Miami) Wake was a one-of-a-kind player in 2009. He did almost nothing but rush the passer in his 167 snaps (133 pass rushes), yet had 7 sacks, 6 hits and 20 pressures. Who does that? No one. Wake looks like he’ll get the snaps he deserves; the frustrating/fading Joey Porter is gone and Wake is the likely starter in his place.
OLB/ILB: Jamar Williams (Chicago) The Bears didn’t see what we saw in Williams a year ago. The only time he played as a full-time linebacker came in Week 13 vs. St. Louis, where he played every snap had the game of his life— a +8.5 rating, 12 tackles, 7 stops. His reward? A return to the bench, playing behind Nick Roach (who also had a good season). The Bears then traded him to Carolina for S Chris Harris, and Williams is set to make his Panther debut Saturday night. He’ll be competing with James Anderson at OLB in Carolina, and with Na’il Diggs and Thomas Davis (injury) gone he’ll get his more snaps.
ILB: Brandon Siler (San Diego) Siler was the best member of San Diego’s four-man rotation at ILB a year ago, grading out at +15.3 and doing it with consistency. He was the opposite of veteran Stephen Cooper (-10.1), who saw the most snaps with 973. Cooper is known for his leadership, but as an undrafted player who’s on the wrong side of 30 it’s improbable that he’ll get three times the snaps of Siler again this season.
CB: Lardarius Webb (Baltimore) Well, if Webb was worried about getting more snaps in 2010, his concern now might be getting too many. With Domonique Foxworth out for the year, Webb (367 snaps last year) will almost certainly be slated for 1,000+ as the new No. 1 CB. He was good in his four full-time starts (+3.6, +1.5, +1.4, +1.1) and will need to be for 16 if Baltimore has Super Bowl intentions.
CB: Jacques Reeves (Houston) Reeves was a solid full-timer in 2008, but only saw 499 snaps in 2009 as he recovered from an injury and then went in and out of the starting lineup. From preseason reports, Reeves appears to be insurance behind second-year man Glover Quin and rookie Kareem Jackson — even though he was better than Quin in coverage and against the run last year.
S: Michael Mitchell (Oakland) Mitchell impressed as a rookie, especially against the run (+6.9 in just 217 snaps). He doesn’t seem likely to supplant starters Tyvon Branch or Michael Huff in 2010, but the Raiders might have struck gold with their wild-card pick from 2009.
S: Darcel McBath (Denver) He only saw 128 snaps at safety while serving as special teams stud (11 tackles), but impressed when he saw the field. With starters Brian Dawkins and Renaldo Hill more than 30 years old, it’s a fairly safe bet McBath will get a longer look in 2010.