Wednesday, July 31, 2013
The Guys You Don't Know (But You Should) NFC West Edition
Last season, this division more than any was affected by players you didn't think would make a huge impact. The two quarterbacks that may have caused the biggest frenzy in Russell Wilson and Colin Kapernick reside on rival teams in the NFC West. They were both not expected to play much, one being a third round pick behind a recently signed free agent and the other sitting behind a former number one overall pick who just took his team to the NFC Championship. They showed that this may become the most heated rivalry over the next decade. Chris Givens and Daryl Richardson both showed they can be something to build upon in the future for the Rams. Patrick Peterson may have become the best cornerback in the entire NFL, if Revis doesn't come back to the same player he was before his injury. Richard Sherman also threw his hat in the race, if not via Twitter but on the football field. This division is known to have a few breakout stars, and this year will be no different.
Arizona Cardinals - Calais Campbell DE
Campbell is a guy that everyone in the league should already know, but for some reason he has gone unnoticed. Darnell Dockett seems to take the headlines, even if he has not been nearly as good over the last couple of seasons. New defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is making minor changes that will only help Campbell pad his stats as he is teaching them to be more aggressive with getting past the tackles. Beyond that, he is keeping the defense as it was when Ray Horton was in charge. In two seasons under Horton he gained 14.5 sacks and has been consistent to those numbers throughout his career. Campbell was said to be "JJ Watt like" when it came to swatting down passes, a very nice compliment. He had 18 blocked passes at the line in the past two seasons. At 26-years-old, he is about to hit his prime in football, which can only mean good things based on his previous performances. This seasons, with a newly rejuvenated Dockett and an always here to play Campbell, the Cardinals defensive front may be one of the scariest in football. Expect him to finally break double digit sacks in 2013 and to show he is a force to be reckoned with for a long time to come.
San Fransisco 49ers - Ricardo Lockette WR
"There's just something about him that I am really fired up about," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. That is what he says about the undrafted free agent that has two professional catches. What makes him so special? Well, for one, he has been training side by side with Colin Kapernick since a week after the Super Bowl. You can't force the kind of chemistry they no doubt put together. They literally live together, so he has a 24/7 connection that is extremely rare in today's NFL. He isn't the most explosive player off the line, but if he gains a step on a player he isn't getting caught. He was seen to have no chance to take the spot left by Michael Crabtree's injury, but he has impressed coaches so far. Lockette's main strength is to stretch the field, which will go perfectly with the big arm of Kapernick. He went from a player that might not have made the team to a player that is all but assured himself a shot to replace Crabtree. He doesn't have to beat a player that is established, he just has to show that he is the best of the group. Harbaugh is known to make decisions based on what you are going to do for the team now, rather than what your pedigree or your pasts says. Lockette has been known as a hard worker and will not stop until he gets where he wants to be, and he wants to be a starter next to Anquan Boldin.
St. Louis Rams - Chris Long DE
Remember this guy? He was the other Long taken in the 2008 draft, after offensive tackle Jake Long (who is now a teammate). The first two years of his career seemed like he was going to be a bust, but he started to turn up the power in year three. Unfortunately, the world had already forgotten him and he was stuck on a middling Rams team that needs a turnaround. Jeff Fischer came in and kept a defense fighting, when their offense didn't give them much of a chance. While people just pay attention to the Sam Bradford saga, Long's arrival has happened to blind eyes. He has 24.5 sacks over the last two years. Playing against one of the best tackles in the game in practice every day will only help him jump to the echelon that puts him with the best defensive linemen in the game. Long is even willing to help out his team with his restructured deal he worked out in April. He has yet to miss a game in his entire career. He tries to play big in the big games, recording six sacks in games against opponents with winning records. Expect Long to finally make a name for himself now that the Rams defense seems to be on the verge of being very good. With young studs like Janoris Jenkins, James Laurinaitus, and Alec Ogletree, Long just has to worry about killing the quarterback. He will do a lot of that in 2013.
Seattle Seahawks - Brandon Browner CB
All the talk is about how Richard Sherman is the man that holds the corner in Seattle, but the guy on the other side is just as good. He has gotten past his PED suspension from a year ago and is ready to show his ball hawk status. He snared six interceptions in his rookie year and three in his suspension shortened season last year. Now that Richard Sherman has made a name for himself, that means quarterbacks are more likely to make most of their throws to Browner's side. More balls thrown his way only means more passes are going to get intercepted. On top of everything, Browner is playing for his first big contract. He got a small raise, but it seems like he is on a year long showcase for the rest of the league. He was a star in the Canadian Football League for the four years that he was there. He knows why he is a player, and the money is only an extra motivator. This is one of the best cornerback tandems that we've seen in years. His physicality is something you may not see from every other cornerback, and it helps throw off the receivers he faces. His burn percentage is high at 44 percent, he just needs to do a little better in the red zone. He is going to excel with a whole season ahead of him and Jim Harbaugh's mouth motivating him. He may lead the league in interceptions in 2013.