Lets look at these situations, Steve smith ALWAYS did his best when he was doubted and playing with a chip on his shoulder. I doubt he'd be having the camp he's had this year and had the offseason he had without wanting to prove the panthers wrong and playing with a chip on his shoulder. You'll see a nice little "resurgence" in his career this year, then he will slowly come back down to earth. Regardless of feeling, he only has 2-3 years left in the NFL tops. I love Smitty, but the truth hurts.
As for Lafell, it has been the Brady way over the past decade of making very average, very plain receivers look good. There's a reason why when receivers leave New England, they never have the same amount of success. The only exception I can think of is Welker, but then again, he went from The 2nd best QB in the NFL to the best QB in the NFL. I still think regardless of how "great" of a camp lafell has had, he's gonna get ripped by Brady multiple times because his issue has never been his training camp, it's when the lights come on and its for real. Lafell was an average receiver that played below average when all the pressure was on him. That will not change just because he's in New England.
Our receiver group has been fantastic, and I'm really liking the direction we're going. If KB will be a great #1 and Cotchery and Avant will very well fill the #2 and 3 slots. Where we look the best though is deeper down, Bersin and King have looked impressive, and I want to see them get some time earlier in the game with the #1's. Our future is getting brighter, and without question, it is brighter than it would be with 89 and Lafail still on our roster. Sad to say, but sometimes the truth hurts.
We don't need a spot for a returner. Look at the stats below from teamrankings dot com/nfl/stat/kickoff-touchback-pct. Pilares and Barner are both capable of catching kickoffs. I was actually impressed with Pilares last night.
Pulling for Stewart. When healthy he is our best option. A lot of people have him hell for the Tampa game last year but Marshawn Lynch would not have done any better that day. Best true running back we have.
Don't pull too hard...he might pull a hammy, groin, or bicep because of it.
I've been saying for a while, Brees is getting older, I thought last year was the Saints last hurrah to make a real run at the super bowl. Brees is getting to the drop off age of QBs, and that Defense lost a ton of pieces and there's a book on Ryans defense now in the NFL south. Saints will be decent but not amazing like the pundits are predicting. If our O-line holds up, I think we can be the class of the south yet again.
I'm not buying into the Bucs, Saints, and Falcons being all world all of a sudden like all the taking heads are predicting. I'm going to have to see it before I believe it.
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I don't buy the Falcons being any good, still weak lines on both sides of the ball, they are very beatable.
I don't buy the Saints progressing as much as their predicted, there is now more of a book on the Rob Ryan defense, let me see if they maintain this level of play. They'll be good, but not unstoppable. Also, I think this is where Brees will finally start to show some of his age, he will have a decline at some point and 35-36 is where the decline really starts.
The Bucs are the team I do have some fear of. They now have a competent coach and great pieces around the team. If Josh McCown is decent, they will be pretty good.
All this said, I like the way the panthers line up a lot, Barring injury, I think we can win the division again. I think defensively we'll be as good if not better with another year under our belt. I think Cason/White/Godfrey/Benwikere is as good as Florence/White/Midget. As a safety, I think Mitchell is good, but he was also aided alot by the dominance imposed by our front 7. Thomas Decoud, Robert Lester, and (ugh...) Roman Harper will be serviceable. On offense, we can only go up. I'm not the kind of person that thinks you get better by doing the same thing, and this applies here. Our receiving options were bad, and we have a new crop to try out, and I think they will be an improvement over last years crop. O-line is the biggest concern on the entire team. They will be the difference in the success of the team, but then again, the script on Seattle last year was "Strong defense, weak receiving options, bad O-line" and we know how that story played out.
I respect him as a player. Making the team and earning playing time as a UFA is a great accomplishment. But there are reasons he went undrafted. The odds of a long and succesful career are against him. I hope he improves, I would love him to be a star for us. But history has taught me to keep low expectations for undrafted guys.
He may not blossom into a #1 corner, and may not be the guy we think he is, but it's unfair to say all other rookies or young players will improve, except him, especially when he is kept in the same role that he maintained last year. He earned the respect of a lot of the players on the roster last year. I remember in particular, Smitty speaking very highly of him because for the better part of the season, he was the player picked on the most on defense, and while he may not have been a stud, he held his own more times than not. He's not a #1, but I do think he will prove to be a very good #2 barring injury next year. Remember the guy did have comparable numbers to every other rookie CB, so let's not just completely dismiss him just yet.