As has been discussed at length, this team has a number of holes and it is unlikely that free agency and the draft will be enough to adequately fill all of them. That means management is going to have to make a wager or two on guys currently on the roster stepping up. Follow the jump for my take on who is most likely to see a larger role and be successful.
Even Money Bets – These guys stand a pretty good chance of being successful with a larger role.
Sean Lissemore NT/DE – He showed a lot last year in limited snaps and he still has not had a real NFL off season. The prospect of this guy getting to work with Mike Woicik for several months to improve means his upside is even higher than what we have seen. Coming out of college this guy had freakish athletic numbers. (4.8 – 40, 26 reps, 30 inch vertical, 4.27 short shuttle, 7.57 3 cone drill, 9’ 3” broad jump) I have high hopes for this guy, we need to see much more of him and less of Coleman. Possible Starter Stats – 4-6 sacks. Downside stats - 2 sacks.
Victor Butler OLB – He makes plays when he is in the game. He has not received extensive playing time which seems to indicate an issue not readily noticeable to the general public. I am not sure if he can’t be counted on to carry out his assignments or if there is just a belief that he is a much lesser player than Spencer and Ware. It has been pointed out that he gets a lot of time in relief of Ware and not so much in Spencer’s spot. I am hoping Spencer gets an offer he can’t refuse from someone else and we get a chance to see what this guy can do full time. My guess is we give up a little in run defense versus Spencer but gain a playmaker. Possible Starter Stats – 6-8 sacks, 2 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles, 1 int. Downside stats - 5 sacks, poor run D.
Bruce Carter ILB – I hope this guy works. He has all the physical talent you could ask for, but can he make the switch from college outside backer to inside in the pros. He will see a lot more traffic and will have to engage and shed, it is yet to be seen if he can do that. Lee should be able to make up for some of that in the run game. In pass D is where this guy should excel, he will be a welcome sight to those of us tired of watching Brooking and James chasing guys from behind with little hope of catching them. He has the wheels to keep up with receivers in the short middle zone, and he should actually make a few plays on the ball. Possible Starter Stats – 2-3 sacks, 2-4 pass defensed, 2 forced fumbles, 2 int. Downside – Run D suffers.
Orlando Scandrick CB – He has essentially been a starter as the third corner, so they kind of know what they have. He has the wheels and seems to keep up with receivers, but doesn’t seem to make a lot of plays on the ball. I have seen it said here that he plays better without his back to the QB. One play sticks out in my mind supporting this notion, the long third down completion to the middle of the field in the last Giants game, he was right there and just never made a play on the ball as his back was to the play. Can he play at least as well as Newman, likely, is he an upgrade, 50/50. Possible Starter Stats – 2-4 int, many more successful tackles than Newman Downisde – Still need a 3rd corner, and Scandrick might be a better safety.
John Phillips TE – I think of him as Witten lite. A couple of years ago he appeared ready to make a move for an expanded role, then he tore his ACL. Last year he did well but nothing really impactful. This year he should have an expanded role in the offense with the departure of MartyB. His blocking is not the same level as MartyB, but he won’t be having passes clang off his hands to defenders the way MartyB did. He will see essentially starter like reps given the number of two tight end formations employed. Projected stats – 25-30 receptions, 2-3 TDs. Downside – run game suffers.
Josh Brent NT – Has had a few injury issues, but like Lissy, he hasn’t had a full off season working with Woicik either. He has a real solid base and holds his ground well. He is not likely to get a lot of pressure in the pass game, but he can stand in at nose or DT in four man fronts. He should be a solid rotation guy. His stat sheet won’t look like anything special, but taking reps at the nose allows Lissy and Rat to take snaps at DE. Downside – No middle push, can’t stay healthy.
Not great odds, but worth a small bet – You better have some contingencies in place, but they have a shot.
Barry Church S – He seems to be an in the box safety, good at run support, not the greatest against the pass. I think he is what he is, which is a nickel D LB and special teams guy, asking him to start at safety doesn’t seem like a good idea.
Danny McCray S – Like the man whose number he wears, he is likely to be a standout special teams guy and fill a role similar to Church in the pass game.
Nagy, Arkin, Kowalski OL – I lump them all together here as that is how I think of them. None of them individually are highly likely to be solid starters, however the odds of one of the three developing into a solid starter are really not that bad. An off season with Woicik and we will have a better idea of what we have.
Dwayne Harris WR – He flashed in pre-season and then disappeared. He came back and did fairly well returning kickoffs, never really showed much on punt returns. He has some promise, he isn’t a burner but he is pretty quick. His top end is likely slot guy and return specialist, there look to be a lot of quality options in this years draft for that role, so he may get some competition.
Alex Albright LB – They saw something in this guy that they liked. He must be a quick study as he played both ILB and OLB as a rookie. He did see a reasonable amount of playing time for a free agent rookie and he didn’t stick out for his poor play. He could develop into a solid starter, perhaps.
Longshots – These guys certainly can’t be the first option but maybe, just maybe, they could come through.
Jeremy Parnell OT – All athletic potential at this point. He moves well, has a good frame, just doesn’t really know how to play. This is another Woicik project, fill him out over the off season and see what we have. Can he do it, longshot, but sometimes longshots win.
Clifton Geathers DE - Similar to Parnell in that he is a great athlete (36” vertical) with good size (6’7”, 320). Never really produced much in college, but if the light goes on for this guy, he could be special.
Raymond Radway WR – He had a spot wrapped up before breaking his leg. He reminded me a Mike Sherrard in the pre-season, I hope he doesn’t have the same leg bones. He has the speed and the height, we’ll see what he has this summer.
Mario Butler CB – Looked good in the pre-season last year. He is limited athletically, but he seemed to make plays on the ball, something our current CBs have trouble with. He will get a shot this summer as well.
Orie Lemon ILB – Another pre-season standout who is limited athletically. I liked what I saw of this guy last year, I think he has a shot. His problem will be lack of speed, but as a run down thumper he would be good.
Robert Calloway NT – Big guy from a small school. Originally signed with Detroit, but the Boys picked him up during the year. Woicik is being given a lot of projects and this is another one. We’ll see what happens, lots of potential here.
Andre Holmes WR – Huge numbers at a little school, great size, good speed. They called him up even though injured just to keep him around. Loads of potential.
Unfortunately, the talent in the pipeline does not match all of the team needs (Interior O-line, DB, and pass rush). I think they are likely to get one interior line starter out of this batch, more than that and the football Gods are smiling on big D, so you have to look outside for help there. None of the DBs on this list offer a high likelihood of filling the needs, so you look outside. There are some D lineman that can help on this list, but is it enough? Looking at all the WRs here makes me wonder if they are going to low ball Robinson, I certainly hope not, but we’ll see. It is also interesting to note that all the WRs look the same physically except Harris, he is the only shorter quick guy in the bunch. It also looks like they are trying to recreate the success they had in developing Austin, one of these guys may actually replace him in a year or two.