I have done extensive viewing on our first three preseason games and we look good on The D Line.
I would like to explain what I mean by extensive viewing, I watch the game straight through once and then I go back and watch it again, but this time I rewind every play to look at each player, which means I watch every play about seven times, and yes, it takes a while.
First I will rank the players,
Probowl caliber; Jason Ferguson, Kendall Langford
Quality NFL starter; Randy Starks
Solid contributers; Paul Soliai, Phillip Merling, Tony McDaniel
Decent back ups; Rod Wright, Lionel Dotson
Project; Ryan Baker
Probowl caliber, I'm not saying they're going to the probowl, just saying that they play at a high level, worthy of probowl consideration.
Fergy is just as good as he's always been, they say the first thing you lose when you get older is speed, good thing for Fergy he never had any to lose, they say the last thing you lose is strength, dude is a beast.
What has surprised me though is his agility, he still has it in spades, the aging process has not hit him full force yet and he is still our best lineman, he still eats double teams and sheds blockers, he is just a tough guy to move from a spot even with double teams and he sheds blocks like only an old pro can, and he can move across a field littered with bodies just as fast as he can run the 40, a real testament to his agility.
There's only a couple of guys in the league that are better NTs than Fergy, he is a top NT in this league and has been most of his career.
Langford has been a beast this preseason, prototype 3-4 left DE, strong at the point of attack and good pass rush ability, has improved on a very good rookie campaign, and by the end of the year may be our best lineman.
Langford's upside is huge and I wouldn't trade him for anyone right now, he is playing like he wants to be the best, fire and consistency is how I would describe his play right now, to me this is exciting.
Quality NFL starter, could start on most NFL teams.
Starks is still getting better and is a handful for O-lineman, he may be our best pass rushing lineman and is strong at the point, not quite the base of Langford or Fergy but a tremendous motor for a big guy so he makes it tough for O-lineman to stay on him, and versatile enough to play every line position, a valuable commodity and only getting better.
Solid contributers, maybe you don't want them starting but they provide solid reps in a rotation.
Soliai has made tremendous strides in his bid to be the heir apparent to Fergy, he has that strong base you want in a NT, he, like Fergy and Langford, is a load to try and move, and he is showing more push this year, Sparano said "he finally gets it", and I know what he is talking about.
He is playing with a drive he didn't have last year, he is playing with that urgency that we always hear about, and I think he is just about there when talking about being a starter, I feel much more comfortable at that oh so critical to the 3-4 NT position then I did after the draft, I was not convinced about Soliai, now I'm impressed, I just hope he keeps it up.
Merling is a bit of a mystery, he looks dynamic on one set of downs, then ordinary on another, I've watched him stand up an OT, ride him down the line and just dump him and make the tackle, and do it with a WOW factor, then watch him be pushed out of the play at other times without a fight, what gives?
He has very good technique, he has all the physical tools, yet at times he just disappears. if he can correct that he would be a Probowl caliber player, and he is still young so there is time.
McDaniel is most likely our most physically gifted lineman, he is strong and agile and fast for a man his size, and he gives O-lineman fits at times, but here comes the bad part, he does not maintain technique, if you get under his pads, he's done, and you can see him kinda give up once they have him, he'll come back just as strong on the next play though, it's just in a play where he does that.
His physicality will give O-lineman enough to think about though, and will give us some quality reps in the rotation, but he is farther away from starting then Merling or Sloiai IMO.
Decent back ups, not quite ready for prime time players, but in a pinch can get into the rotation and not be embarrassed.
Wright is a Langford jr. type player who gets better every year and he is pretty solid in his technique, he is a fringe player for us though and may not make the team, but he is fairly solid.
Dotson is a Starks jr. type player and is at about the same level as Wright, to me it will come down to which type of player they want to keep, Langford type or Starks type, I have no problem with either.
Project, self explanatory.
Baker will most likely end up on our PS if some one doesn't scoop him up, he definitely has some promise, but is raw and needs some work.
So what do you guys think?