Sunday, July 27, 2008

Your 53-Man Roster Projection; Tying Loose Ends

Feels good, doesn't it? It's that time of year again. The start of a new NFL season, as the Steelers report to Latrobe for training camp. This is otherwise known as the unofficial end of the Pirates season.

What follows is a pre-training camp 53-man opening day roster projection. I'll do one more of these before the final cuts, after we see these guys play in some preseason games. Also, I've tied up a few loose ends regarding the Casey Hampton situation, as well as training camp previews for the offensive line, secondary, and wide receivers. Without further ado:


Quarterbacks (3): Ben Roethlisberger, Charlie Batch, Dennis Dixon

Runningbacks/Fullbacks (5): Willie Parker, Rashard Mendenhall, Mewelde Moore, Gary Russell, Carey Davis

Wide Receivers (5): Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward, Nate Washington, Limas Sweed, Willie Reid

Tight Ends (3): Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, Jon Dekker

Offensive Line (9): Marvel Smith, Chris Kemoeatu, Justin Hartwig, Kendall Simmons, Max Starks, Willie Colon, Jason Capizzi, Sean Mahan, Darnell Stapleton


Defensive Line (7): Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, Brett Kiesel, Travis Kirschke, Chris Hoke, Ryan McBean, Kyle Clement

Linebackers (9): James Harrison, James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley, Larry Foote, Bruce Davis, Arnold Harrison, Keyaron Fox, Mike Humpal

Cornerbacks (5): Ike Taylor, Bryant McFadden, Deshea Townsend, William Gay, Travis Williams

Safeties (4): Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Anthony Smith, Ryan Mundy

SPECIAL TEAMS (3): Jeff Reed, Daniel Sepulveda, Greg Warren

- The Casey Hampton situation is a little disappointing. The conditioning test itself is not all that hard… it’s eight 100-yard runs that are much more like jogs than sprints. For an NFL player who had all offseason to get in shape and end up failing this test… well, it speaks to his dedication. It was easy to see that Hampton was overweight towards the end of last season, and he obviously hasn’t done much since then except play beer pong at a Penguins tailgate party. This isn’t the first time Hampton failed the conditioning test, either. He failed it in 2003, as well, but he turned in his usual fine season that year. So, the hope is that this failed test lights a fire under him to get his ass in shape

- The offensive line has the potential to be better this season, even with the loss of Faneca. A healthier left tackle (Marvel Smith), a young guard getting his first crack at a starting job (Kemoeatu), a new center who’s better equipped to handle bigger nose tackles (Hartwig), and a well-compensated and hopefully more motivated right tackle (Starks) could elevate this line to where they need to be, if they all pan out. Of course, you still have a piece of shit (Simmons) at right guard, and should any of the interior O-lineman go down, Sean Mahan waits in the wings. For some reason the team has refused to try Colon at guard, which I find disappointing. I maintain that the best line we could field would be, from left to right, Smith-Kemoeatu-Hartwig-Colon-Starks. Instead, we’ll probably get Smith-Kemoeatu-Hartwig-Simmons-Colon.

- The secondary shouldn’t have much turnover. This might finally be the year McFadden unseats Deshea, but in this day and age the #3 CB is almost considered a starter so we’ll need them both. Ike will continue to provide solid coverage to go along with stone hands. Gay will provide very good depth as the #4 CB. The #5 CB spot (should the team decide to carry five) is wide open. I like Travis Williams, an undrafted free agent from East Carolina, to get the nod as of now. He has reportedly shown solid return and coverage skills thus far. At safety, competition for the starting free safety spot will be waged between Clark and Smith. Give the nod to Clark, who’s more conservative approach and veteran savvy is a better fit when paired with Troy. But I’m not giving up on Smith, who will only be in his 3rd year. People want to remember the New England game, but forget that he was playing very solid ball before that. I like Ryan Mundy to beat out Tyrone Carter for the final safety spot. Mundy has the smarts for either safety position; his ability to line up the West Virginia defense in his first and only season with the Mountaineers after transferring from Michigan speaks to his ability to quickly pickup a playbook and learn a defense.

- The wideouts, like the secondary, shouldn’t have much turnover. It’s pretty cut and dry. The starters will be Holmes and Ward. It’s unknown right now who will be #3, but I’d put my money on Nate, at least until Sweed becomes more comfortable with the position. Wide receiver is one of the toughest positions to learn, so patience is needed with regards to Limas. Many are tabbing Dallas Baker as the #5 guy, but I’m not giving up on Willie Reid. I really like him as a receiver. He’s sure handed, and he is super-shifty. He just needs to stay healthy. I also still hold out hope he’ll flash some return ability. One darkhorse to keep an eye on: undrafted free agent Micah Rucker, a 6’6’’, 220-pounder who runs the 40-yard dash around the 4.5 mark and hails from tiny Eastern Illinois.


Stanley said...

Jon Dekker? I thought the only reason he was around every training camp was because he was banging Cowher's daughter.

Stache: Which borderline player do you see creating the most yinzer buzz this year? You know, the player who makes a few nice plays against the Eagles 4th string quarterback and everyone thinks he will tear up the league if given a chance. I think Gary Russell won this award last year.

Dave Wannstache said...

Dekker gets a job because this team needs a third tight end and he's the best of the rest.

With regards to the borderline player creating a buzz, you gotta look at a skill position player. I think people are going to be intrigued by Micah Rucker, because of his measurables. He's fast, he's tall, and there is a track record for yinzers loving certain receivers in training camp (the fawning over Zamir Cobb a few years ago as an example). He's probably too raw right now, though, so I see practice squad at best for him.

Anonymous said...

Sweed will have an immediate impact. The 3-year rule is bullshit with tall receivers. All he has to do is jump, the man has been doing that since pee-wees. I see 7-8 TDs in his future.

Dave Wannstache said...

Sweed could definitely have an immediate impact in the red zone. I would be shocked if he gets 7-8 TDs this season, though.

As a receiver between the 20's, though, it's gonna take him some time for him to acclimate. Once he understands the playbook and learns his route combinations and can play without thinking, that's when you'll see him start making huge contributions. But like any receiver, it's going to take some time.

Anonymous said...

Let's see if 'stache can nail the 53 man roster like he nailed the first round of the NFL Draft

Jay said...

Come on Stanley, you dont actually believe that Dekker crap do you? Cowher would have had him swimming with the fishes if he was slamming his daughter.

And for the record, Limas Sweed will see minimal playing time IMO.

Pat said...

sounds like sweed wowed them at practice today though

Anonymous said...

Nick Eason and Trai Essex will make the team. We also have a 5 man reserve...