As we head to training camp (roughly a month away at this point-thank God!), there are two positions that seem to be the cause of a lot of fretting and nail-biting that I just don’t understand.
WR2 and CB.
Now, I whole-heartedly agree that these two positions are of huge importance to the team’s chances for glory in 2012, and there are some reasonable concerns. I just don’t think it’s a problem. We will be ok.
Call me irresponsible.
Today, I’ll rant incoherently about the WR2 spot. Tomorrow, I’ll pass along what the voices in my head have to say about the corners.
First of all, why are we so worried that we won’t be able to replace the amazing Jerome Simpson? His mutant-like athleticism aside, his productivity as a full-season starter in 2011 was not exactly the stuff of legend.
Simpson compiled a mere 50 catches for 725 yards and 4 touchdowns. Trust me, Jerry Rice ain’t exactly shaking in his Nikes, and I don’t think the aspiring wide-outs on the team are either. I think they’re pretty confident they can replace that kind of production over 16 games.
The truth is that aside from a few draw-dropping plays, Simpson was a liability in 2011. After taking 3 full years to get to the point of being a regular contributor, Simpson was often out of position and underwhelming. He was blanked by the Steelers twice, and had 2 catches or less in four other outings. He failed to surpass 50 yards in receiving 13 of the 17 games the team played, including the wildcard loss to Houston.
Sure, I’ll remember him fondly for that highlight-reel somersault over the Cardinals, but I’ll also remember his obnoxious, “Hey look I got a first down” routine and his incessant jawing and scrapping with opponents on the field. It was clear his head wasn’t entirely in the game on many occasions and he was too much of an aspiring Ocho for me.
Whether your money is on vets like Brandon Tate or Armon Binns, or the rookies in Mohamad Sanu or Marvin Jones, any of these four can likely exceed—let alone match—Simpson’s production.
And even if they don’t, how important will that ultimately be? It may be by design, considering Jay Gruden is on the record as saying he’ll be installing more plays to take advantage of TE Jermaine Gresham’s talents. Rookie TE Orson Charles has dazzled so far as a receiver, making some even envision a Patriot-like attack with two tight ends on the field a lot.
Don’t discount the return of Jordan Shipley either. His play in the slot, (where he led all rookies in 2010) coupled with the potential slot work of Sanu and Andrew “Baby Hawk” Hawkins, gives the team another viable threat at receiver. And all of this is on top of the fairly safe assumption that the running game will be better in 2012 thanks to upgrades at running back (BJGE) and both guard positions (Wharton > Livings, Zietler > McGlynn/Boling).
Personally, I’m pulling for Binns, but I’m confident the position will be covered adequately no matter who wins out. No matter what they might like in experience, they seem to have a very dedicated, team-first attitude and the athleticism to play in the NFL. And I didn’t even mention Ryan Whalen, Vidal Hazelton, and the crop of undrafted free agents.
Ultimately, none of these guys are really any more unproven than Simpson was coming into last year, or A.J. Green, for that matter.
And after all, if the entire crop of potential replacements simply fall flat on their faces, there’s still the chance to add a veteran if need be. Braylon Edwards, Plaxico Burress, and a range of others are available now, and more will be as rosters get trimmed.
But that’s just me. I could be wrong.