Eight in the Box: Rookie eye-catchers
June, 7, 2013
By Jamison Hensley | ESPN.com
A first-year player who has turned heads in OTAs/minicamps:
Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman Brandon Williams: When a player comes from Division II, the natural assumption is he'll need a season to develop. That's not the case with Williams. The third-round pick out of Missouri Southern State looks like he will make an immediate impact based on what he has shown during offseason workouts. Of course, the true test for any lineman will come when teams put on the pads for training camp. After watching Williams practice, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said Williams is better than the Ravens thought. Williams will compete for the starting nose tackle job against underachieving Terrence Cody, or he will try to earn a backup spot if Haloti Ngata switches to nose tackle.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard: The second-round pick from North Carolina was the first running back taken in the draft, and he already has made an impression in Cincinnati. Coach Marvin Lewis said Bernard is ahead of Ray Rice in terms of stature when he entered the NFL, and Bernard compares favorably to Maurice Jones-Drew and Doug Martin. Bernard stands out because of his speed and strong work ethic. The Bengals are looking for Bernard to generate big plays, so they're giving him the ball in space. This offseason, Cincinnati has been working on screen passes to Bernard. He isn't expected to bump BenJarvus Green-Ellis for the starting job, but Bernard also won't be relegated to being a third-down back.
Cleveland Browns linebacker Barkevious Mingo: No one should read too much into the fact that Mingo is working with the second team behind Jabaal Sheard and Paul Kruger. The first-round pick from LSU is still regarded as a special talent by the decision-makers in Cleveland. One reason the Browns might be bringing Mingo along slowly is his transition from college defensive end to NFL outside linebacker. This is unlike past seasons for the Browns, who have pushed first-round picks into the starting lineup because they lacked depth. Mingo's long arms and fluidity have shown up in practices. He has broken up passes when dropping back, and some believe his basketball prowess will speed up his development. There's a chance his role could be limited to situational pass-rusher. Aldon Smith began his career the same way, and he's now considered one of the best young defenders in the game.
Pittsburgh Steelers safety Shamarko Thomas: The Steelers wanted Thomas so much that they traded a 2014 third-round pick to the Browns to get the Syracuse star in the fourth round this year. He isn't the biggest guy (he's listed at 5-foot-9) but he certainly doesn't play that way. His physical playing style has drawn comparisons to Bob Sanders. In offseason practices, Thomas has shown athleticism and closing speed. His role this year should be backing up Ryan Clark at free safety and playing special teams. Thomas should get a chance to crack the starting lineup next season. Clark turns 34 during the season and is entering the final year of his contract.
Nice to see this. Haven't seen much stuff about Shamarko Thomas and the other draft picks so far.
Can't wait till TC and the FANS reports on the players.
In the past, there have been plenty of 1st yr Steelers who quickly showed starting capability. Then, shortly thereafter, they were worked into the lineup.
Thomas will not replace Clark. He's a SS, not a FS IMO. I think the likely candidate to replace Clark is Robert Golden. He's a sleeper but apparently the Steelers like what they see.
He could get some PT in the nickle/dime. At this point, can he add more value than Gay or even be used next to Timmy in place of a LB in passing downs. In this new passing league, any athletic freak that can cover and hit like Shark should get on the field somewhere. Even if it's not a traditional position.
Going to make a prediction now... Shamarko will see the field as much as Will Allen did last year.
Steelers nickel package could take on another look with Shamarko Thomas
By Neal Coolong on Jun 10 2013
Shamarko Thomas is a key draft pick, and could find himself contributing in a new variation of the Steelers' nickel package this season.
There's an increasing need for NFL defenses to stay on top of heavy passing offenses that employ single back sets.
The Green Bay Packers, among others, are known to run a lot of 3WR, 1TE 1RB (known as "Posse") sets. Teams can struggle to defend this offense in a base package, so they can remove a linebacker and bring on another defensive back - their nickel package.
But teams like the Packers show they can run out of this formation if that nickel package is too pass defense-oriented.
The Steelers utilized what they called their "Big Nickel" package last year, setting four players on the line with two linebackers and five defensive backs. This can help counter a run-oriented Posse package.
Adding in a team's ability to utilize a bigger, more physical tight end is still a concern as well. Teams - particularly the Giants in 2012 - used different nickel backs, including a safety instead of a traditional cornerback.
The Steelers drafted Shamarko Thomas out of Syracuse with the idea of keeping that physical run-stopping presence on the field but still being flexible enough to cover seam-running tight ends.
What Thomas lacks in size he makes up for in strength. The Post-Standard did a piece on Thomas in April highlighting his work ethic and desire simply to get on the field.
While the Steelers spent an unexpected amount on free agent CB William Gay, presumably to come in and fill the nickel back role, it wouldn't be surprising, as the Steelers full team minicamp gets underway Tuesday, to learn of them working on another variation to their nickel package that involves the liberal use of a safety in the slot.
Perhaps that will be Thomas. It could be second-year S Robert Golden. However they divvy it up, it's another wrinkle Dick LeBeau is likely to have been forging in the lab this offseason.
The DB's on the field in nickel will be Troy, Clark, Ike, Cortez, and Gay. Shark may get a shot to join them in the dime package if he impresses in camp.
He's got good enough coverage skills and intelligence to play either safety position (as shown by his covering WRs in college)... Don't misunderstand - just cuz a guy is a hitter doesn't make him a FS (see Clark). IMO, his talent leaves the team in a really nice place because he could play either...
Originally Posted by steelz09
Hopefully the team sees something in Golden, because I was surprised when they took Landry Jones when ball-hawking FS Philip Thomas was available with our pick in round 4 to go with hard-hitting SS Shamarko Thomas earlier that round (and we all now how this team likes to use back-to-back picks at the same position).
Originally Posted by steelz09
My point is that I'd prefer not to have a 5'9 starting FS. I like Thomas but I think he's getting a bit overhyped right now. I can't wait until traning camp and preseason to see him in action. I didn't watch him play at Syracuse except for the USC game and his "highlights".
Originally Posted by SteelerOfDeVille
He's a freak athlete and attacks the ball with a lot of speed but I saw him play a bit out of control. For example, I thought he was prone to overrunning plays especially when he comes up to make a tackle when the ball carrier is facing him such as a running back. IMO, they would juke hiim relatively easily because he's coming up to the play so fast the the RB/WR will just cut back to the inside and his momentum just carries him right past the ball carrier.