Expectations for a player can be dangerous. A first round pick at WR who puts up an average of 40 catches for 500 yards and 2 TD's is seen differently than a 5th round pick who does the same. A 7th round DE who totals 7 sacks has parades thrown in his honor while a 1st rounder who puts up the same numbers can be seen as a disappointment. Gaines Adams, Jimmy Wilkerson and Stylez G. White know this, the coaches know this, and the fans certainly know this.
When you are the 4th pick in the draft and brought in to replace one of the best pass rushing defensive ends (Simeon Rice) expectations are raised. Changing your name from Greg White to Stylez G. White puts you in the spotlight, garners more stories on you, and with more publicity comes higher expectations. Having ESPN name you the breakout player on the team thrusts you into the limelight and put you in a place where an average season suddenly becomes a disappointing season. All three of these players have had expectations raised by things take took place off the field. Not typically a good sign.
I find myself more excited than years past to see what these guys can do. I'll admit, I was never a fan of the Gaines Adams pick. I root for him, I hope he does well, but leading up to the draft I was hoping the Commish would announce a different name. It's a tough place to be in as a fan; you want your team to do well, but you don't necessarily agree with the pick (Sound familiar 2009 #17 pick?).
When he came out and pseudo-underperformed, I thought "This is what we drafted? A "dominant" end who can't get to the QB and who takes the outside rush every play?" But with the hiring of Jim Bates and bringing in his 4-3 Run Contain scheme and coaching that has produced big numbers for pass rushers in the past, I actually look forward to seeing what Gaines and crew can do. Worst case scenario, they don't play well, but at least then we know what we have and know that defensive end is a need. I'm not rooting for that, but I'd rather know what we have in a player than go in blindly year after year. Best case scenario, the defensive ends turn into clones of Jim Bates' past.
Jason Taylor had 2.5 sacks, and he (Bates) went in there and had 14.5 and 17. Trace Armstrong went from single digits to 16.5 in his only Pro Bowl year. Adewale Ogunleye came in and had 16.5. Aaron Kampman went from single digits to 16.5- from an interview with the Pewter Report
Without taking a technical look at the ends, or previewing years past, I think we all can say we expect more out of that group. More pressure, more sacks, more fumbles. Everything on defense starts with pressure.
So going into the 2009 season, the bar has been raised simply by hiring a new coach, a name change, a brief article on ESPN and continued expectations based on a draft slot. What does this mean? Hopefully we see these players destroy those expectations, but I'd be happy with this group just meeting them. Gaines will be challenged to live up to his draft status and paycheck and become a game changing defensive end, one who teams have to gameplan on how to stop him. Stylez (it's beyond ridiculous to type that out) will be faced with trying to live up to his flashy demeanor on the field and prove that the coaching staff can rely on him after a name change and motorcycle accident. Wilks needs to show up everyday and play and show he is worthy of being an every down player. Expectations are there, challenges have been issued, how till they respond?
With the new season just around the corner, what are your expectations for our defensive ends?