Defense – Secondary:
Bigby – B-. Bigby had a bunch of exciting plays and appears to be a developing playmaker in the secondary. He did make quite a few boneheaded plays too though, thus the B-.
Collins – C. Collins has been one of my major disappointments. I thought after his rookie year, he would be fantastic but he’s only been a little above average. I would give him at least another year to develop his unreal athletic ability before worrying too much.
Harris – B. Harris had his share of shut-down games taking on #1 receivers. Even one shut-down game against a #1 receiver should be a big deal, but for Harris we’re spoiled and have become used to it. However, he failed to show up in two of our biggest games (Dallas, Giants) and it hurt us. I’d say Harris has one more good year left.
Woodson – A-. Charles seemed to me to be playing hurt down the stretch and I think this affected him more than he let on. Still, he’s an exciting and opportunistic player who may still be effective for another year or two. He should be going to the Pro Bowl this year (not Harris), but Harris should have gone last year.
Tramon Williams – B+. Considering he came from nowhere, did some nice kick returning and filled in admirably as the new nickel back, he should get an above average grade. However, because he made the play of the year (tracking down Cason on that kick return on Thanksgiving), he gets an B+.
Jarrett Bush – C-. Some might have a problem with this grade considering how bad he looked at times. However, it is important to point out, he was phenomenal in the first few games of the season on both special teams and in the secondary (he won the Philly game for the Packers).
Peprah – C. Didn’t do much of note all season, but has a neat story (parents from Africa, went through a lot to be where he is).
Frank Walker – B. Didn’t play that badly when he was given the chance. Still think it was a bad coaching decision to make him inactive against his former team in the playoffs – any player would be pumped to play in that situation and he may have brought some missing fire to the defense/special teams.
Will Blackmon – C+. He showed some brilliant flashes of the natural athlete he apparently is, but he’s got to be more durable.
Aaron Rouse – B+. This guy had some injury issues, but he flashed serious potential with some big hits and some important picks. While Collins may still have the edge mostly due to his speed, Rouse definitely has to be considered for a starting role when all he’s done is produce effectively when he has started.
Defense – Linebackers:
Hawk – C+. Hawk plays hard, and apparently plays effectively in his role in the scheme, which is not a glamorous role – more the hardworking role. Still, he has not had many big hits or special plays and I’d by lying if I said I’m totally pleased with how this #5 overall pick has played in his career.
Barnett – A. He had a great season this year. He didn’t seem to overrun plays as much has he had before and seemed to also be quite good at shedding blockers to make important tackles. He should be going to the Pro Bowl outright.
Poppinga – D+. He tries hard and works hard. However, whenever I watch him make a good play, it almost seems like a surprise to me and even to him – sort of like the little kid on your son’s soccer team who runs around really hard all game with no real sense of what is going on and then suddenly he accidentally scores an important goal. He did play well against the Giants though and I will hold out for the possibility that he has developed some over this season. His pass coverage was heinous until about game 9-10 of the season when his gaffes at least became less noticeable. Bishop should be given the chance to replace him.
Bishop – B. For someone who didn’t have much opportunity, he had a few monster hits on special teams and brings an exciting quality that I believe would be best served as starting OLB.
White – A-. He is primarily a special teams player and because I’m not in the McGinn business of just handing out low grades for no real reason, he gets an A- because he was the leader of a strong special teams unit and he made a few disruptive plays.
Hunter – B-. Hunter had his moments this year, mostly on special teams. He’s a guy who has a motor and likes to be in the game, but I thought he’d surprise more people this year than he did.
Defense – Linemen:
Jenkins – C. He got his big contract and sort of Cletidused, if you like. He had a few strong games and I suspect he’s decent against the run (definitely better than KGB against the run), but he’s got to have a good year next year to justify the raise he got.
Kampman – B+. Kampman gets a lot of love from everyone (brother Steve, McGinn), but I am one person who wonders what happened to him in the last 6 games of the year. Was he constantly double-teamed? Was he injured? Was he busy being ticked off because people call him “hard-working”? For someone who was so vital to the success of the team early on, he really didn’t show up when it mattered most. He was one of the 4 veterans I felt failed to show up in the Giants game (along with Favre, Woodson and Harris). He was incredible in the first 11 or so games, no question, but truly great players finish strong and I don’t think Kampman did.
Corey Williams – B-. He played decently here and there, but he’s another guy who can play better than he did. His loss will hurt.
Johnny Jolly – B+. McGinn tries to point out some stats where Jolly was not up to speed, but my thought is that his injury really put a damper on the overall performance of the D-line. At 6’6”, he caused all sorts of problems for opposing quarterbacks – not just batting down 5 balls, but constantly interfering with their line of vision. Again, I think it’s not a coincidence that the D-Line was weaker when he got hurt.
Justin Harrell – C-. He didn’t do much. When making this grade, I think it’s important to remove expectation from the equation and just grade him on performance. Poor performance overall, but he did make a few intriguing plays I can remember where he penetrated effectively up-field.
Colin Cole – C+. His injury also could have affected the D-line quite a bit. He is solid, though he didn’t seem as effective when he played this year as he was last year.
Michael Montgomery – C-. He didn’t do as much as I thought he could do. I thought Montgomery and his Paul Pressey-like arms would help him be as disruptive visually for the passer as Jolly was, but I don’t think that happened. He had a few nice plays on the year, but I expected him to produce more considering the opportunity he had due to injuries.
Pickett – B+. He had a solid year against the run this year and he continues to draw the praise from most football analysts. However, maybe I’m missing something, but he doesn’t seem to plug up the middle quite as effectively as I thought Grady Jackson did. He is more mobile perhaps and can nicely close the pocket sometimes when the QB is passing, but I do feel like I need to see more from him before he gets into any sort of elite class.
Daniel Muir – C. Didn’t get to evaluate him very much as I didn’t see him in that often. Seems to work hard and is definitely a big body.