From the FanPosts -Primetime
Who's hot and who's not?
With our first mandatory Mini-Camp in the books, it is time to re-shuffle the deck and see where we are at with our new 3-4 defense. Let me first apologize to all the 4-3 Under advocates out there. It is obvious that we will run a lot of different looks with Pendergast in charge, but it is also true that we are learning and setting up in the base 3-4 in the Offseason Training Activities. I have updated an earlier version of our guesstimated depth chart using the 3-4, and moved some people who I thought would originally play another position, such as Turk McBride and Derrick Lokey. I also removed one of last season's 7th round draft picks because he was cut (new rule in Kansas City, come to camp in shape. Period.) I have no idea how close I got to the real thing, or if a depth chart even exists at so early a stage, but I find it interesting to speculate on it nonetheless. I have noted if someone's stock is on the rise, could go either way, or is on the decline. Feel free to Shout Out if you see it another way...
|↓||R. Price||↓||R. Price|
|↔||J. McGraw||↔||D. Morgan|
|↑||J. Page||↑||B. Pollard|
|Free Safety||Strong Safety|
|↑||A. Studebaker||↓||C. Smith||↔||D. Robertson|
|↔||T.McBride||↓||C. Mays||↓||J. Belcher||↑||M. Beisel|
|↑||T. Hali||↔||D. Williams||↔||W. Dacus||↑||M. Vrabel|
|OLB||↑||D. Johnson||↔||Z. Thomas||OLB|
|↓||J. Bates||↓||T. J. Jackson||↔||D. Gales||↓||L. Fryar|
|↔||R. Colclough||↑||B. Greenwood||↑||D. Lokey||↔||W. Gilberry||↔||D. Washington|
|↑||M. Leggett||↑||A. Magee||↓||R. Edwards||↑||A. Boone||↓||T. Daniels|
|↑||B. Carr||↔||G. Dorsey||↑||T. Tyler||↑||T. Jackson||↑||B. Flowers|
|Cornerback||Def. End||Nose Tackle||Def. End||Cornerback|
The Safety position probably comes in with the least amount of controversy, as our returning starters should earn their spots and keep improving with more playing time. I feel like Page and Pollard are still acsending players with bright futures. Morgan is more of a question mark this early in his career, and McGraw is a better locker room presence and leader on special teams. UDFA Price will find it difficult to earn a spot. There has also been a "hint" of signing veteran Safety Mike Brown, and I say if you can upgrade your team in any way, go for it.
Can we really be deep at Cornerback? For one of the most critical positions on the football field, it is amazing that we seemingly have so much depth. With the "Big Three" of Flowers, Carr, and Leggett leading the way, this position group is set. I think a lot of us also have high hopes for physically gifted Donald Washington, who may find himself on the field a lot ,either as a nickel back or special teamer. But I will temper my expectations for this season since he has yet to participate in any offseason work. Coclough is a guy who has never realized his potential, and I don't see that changing much this season. Daniels will contribute mostly on special teams if he makes the 53, and our two UDFA will likely be gone by Sept 2.
The defensive line group is a bunch of guys who could play inside or outside, the trick is finding out which one they do best. It is pretty obvious to me why Pioli felt the need to spend the first two draft picks this year on guys who project as 3-4 defensive ends. How could you argue that Jackson and Magee's stock is not rising? These two look to play an important part of our defense this year. The biggest question mark is, and will continue to be, whether or not Dorsey can be an effective starter at the end position? That question will likely not be answered until the season starts. A lot of people wish we had drafted Raji with our #3 overall pick instead of Jackson because of the high value the 3-4 places on Nose Tackles. But I believe that Pioli knew exactly what he was doing, and Tank will be fine. Edwards is a big body that can be a decent back up at the nose, but at this point in his career I see him as descending. Boone might actually see some time here as well. It has been interesting to me that young guys like Greenwood and Lokey have been playing with the second team. It is definitlely too early to read anything into that, but I think it goes to show that there is opportunities to earn a roster spot for these young guys as they are getting a chance to prove themselves.
And finally the linebackers. We all should have seen the switch to the 3-4 defense coming as soon as we saw Pioli signing every able-bodied linebacker he could find. I really like the veteran signing of Zach Thomas, but at his age I don't think we should expect Patrick Willis like production, but we can expect Ray Lewis like leadership. Mike Vrabel has to been seen as huge upgrade, but once again we are looking at a guy in the twilight of his career. Luckily, we have Monte Beisel to back him up. Derrick Johnson has all the talent in the world, I will leave it at that. And the Tamba Hali Experiment (as he shall forever more be called) is fascinating to say the least. Along with converted defensive end Turk McBride, he will be trying hard to learn to play in space. I have to say that it doesn't make me feel great that Demorrio Williams and Wes Dacus are the back up ILBs. These two could not find much playing time last year, even as bad as our LB unit was, so I have to question our depth. Robertson, Studebaker, and Walters could all make a name for themselves in training camp. I am really looking forward to seeing those training camp battles for sure.
It wasn't a huge surprise to me that the defense appears to be off to a better start this off season, as it is usually easier for the defense to be aggresive early in the season as the offense works on their timing and continuity. But considering that last season our Defense was ranked 31st in the league, I will take what I can get. I also noticed that we currently have only one rookie starter in Jackson, so this defense cannot use youth as an excuse. I am excited to see all the "Ups" on this defense, but it is too early to say how good this unit can really be. It usually does not help to be in the first year of changing systems, coaches, etc. Any improvement over our #31 rank will be considered a success, but something tells me that is not what this unit is shooting for. Zach didn't sign with us because he thought we "might" be ok, and Vrabel has too much championship experience for some of it not to rub off. If you look at all the high draft picks that we have playing along the line, you would think this is a top ten defense. Well, just maybe, it is time to start playing like one.