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Don't expect too much from rookie DLs

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; http://www.nfl.com/news/story/6599990 Don't expect too much from rookie DLs By Pat Kirwan Special to NFL.com (Aug. 28, 2003) -- One of my main objectives this summer on my training-camp and preseason-game tour around the NFL was to get a good feel ...

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Old 08-29-2003, 12:49 PM   #1
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Don't expect too much from rookie DLs


Don't expect too much from rookie DLs

By Pat Kirwan
Special to NFL.com

(Aug. 28, 2003) -- One of my main objectives this summer on my training-camp and preseason-game tour around the NFL was to get a good feel for all the defensive linemen who were taken in the first two rounds of the 2003 NFL Draft.

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If you recall, 11 defensive linemen went in the first round, and four more went in the second round. The 2003 draft always will be remembered as the "defensive line draft."

My travels gave me the opportunity to watch 11 of the top 15 defensive linemen practice or play, and I studied the other four on preseason game tapes. The good news is they all can play in the NFL, the bad news is the fan and media expectations for most of these young players far outreaches what these rookies can do, or should be able to do, at this point in their careers.

Before I get into my view of the rookie defensive linemen, a little history lesson is in order: Here are the rookie statistics for many of today's most recognized NFL defensive linemen.

Rookie production
Player, team, rookie season Starts Tackles Sacks
Defensive tackles
** Warren Sapp (TB, '95) 8 17 3
Keith Hamilton (NYG, '92) 0 15 3½
Anthony McFarland (TB, '99) 0 9 1
** Gary Walker (HOU, '95) 9 22 2½
** Kris Jenkins (CAR, '01) 11 27 2
** Richard Seymour (NE, '01) 10 25 3
Defensive ends
** Michael Strahan (NYG, '93) 0 1 1
** Trevor Pryce (DEN, '97) 3 16 2
** Jason Taylor (MIA, '97) 11 30 5
** -- Means they were picked for the Pro Bowl this past season. Not bad for a group of guys with not-so-startling rookie production.

I think most would agree these are not the greatest of numbers. I would like you to look closely at Jenkins (Carolina) and Seymour (New England). Both of these young players made the Pro Bowl in their second season this past winter. In talking with Bill Belichick about Seymour and 2003 first-round pick DT Ty Warren, he pointed out how hard it is to evaluate how good a young defensive lineman can be coming out of college, especially after seeing what Seymour has done in such a short time.
I agree. Seymour is a special player, but 25 tackles and three sacks as a rookie present the reality of what first-year production might be -- even for those who turn out to be great.

Dewayne Robertson will have to overcome some obstacles before he can become an impact player.

Sapp is considered the best inside player in the game and the Jets' first-round pick, Dewayne Robertson, has been compared favorably to him. I'm willing to bet if Robertson has the same kind of season Sapp did as a rookie, the media and fans will consider it a failure.

Many insiders consider Strahan to be the best defensive end in football, but if Chicago's Michael Haynes or Philadelphia's Jerome McDougle close out 2003 with Strahan's rookie numbers, lots of people will condemn the pick. It's hard enough to meet expectations as a first- or second-round pick. All I'm saying is -- know what the expectations should be before you evaluate the young players.

Here's a quick peek at the 15 young linemen in the order they were drafted as they enter the final week of preseason. Defensive linemen can be sorted into four categories -- 1) starter; 2) in a rotation; 3) backup; 4) situational player. Some overlap into more than one area but I will place them where I think they are at this point.

1. Dewayne Robertson, New York Jets -- Starter. His stats are low after four preseason games, and members of the media are talking about him as a questionable pick. I've watched him practice and play -- he'll be just fine. His motor never stops, he should have better rookie production than most of the above and he needs to turn a deaf ear to things said about him.

2. Johnathan Sullivan, New Orleans -- Starter. Another guy with low numbers but very active on the field. He has a tremendous club move and will cause problems inside for most offensive lines.

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Old 08-29-2003, 04:52 PM   #2
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Don't expect too much from rookie DLs

Regardless of how either of these guys progress, I still say that it was at best a questionable move for a Saints team that needs to get better RIGHT AWAY to have given up two first round picks to draft Sullivan. Honestly, it doesn\'t matter to me if he\'s good in 3 or 5 years. We need him NOW. Think about this - we drafted Glover and Johnson... where are those guys now? Not here. We could have signed a guy like McGlockton for what we gave Sullivan. Who would make a bigger impact now?
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