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Gaines Adams set for a make or break year

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We've come to expect more from a top 5 pick in the draft.  The 12.5 sacks in 2 years, while it leads all NFL players at his position in his draft class, is not up to the expectations.  Gaines Adams has been a solid player, but a complementary one.  Not demanding double teams, being average against the run, and with no real inside move, Adams hasn't struck fear into the opposing teams.  Yet.

We've mentioned the raised expectations for the whole defensive line, but it's a bit different with Adams.  The Bates' scheme has a history of elevating pass rushers to the "dominate" category.  But all of the rewards in gametime come from an offseason of work and dedication.  I'm pleased to see Gaines doing the offseason work outside of OTA's, training camp and any other team affiliated activities.  In fact, Pewter Report had a nice look at what Adams did with his summer and former pass rushing great, Chuck Smith.  (It should be noted that Kyle Moore also attended). 

But for all the work, for all the expectations, for what we as fans want to see, the pressure is coming from the top.  Head Coach Raheem Morris has made it crystal clear how Adams will be judged.

Double-digit sacks. That is what he is going to be graded on. There is no secret about it. I have no problem telling Gaines, ‘Hey Gaines, if you don’t do it this year, then you are going to be considered a bust.' I told him that in the team meeting. I tell him that every once in a while when we walk out together. He can’t wait. He is embracing it, and he is going to come out ready to play. There is no other thing that is going to define Gaines Adams more than his sacks and production. Production speaks volumes. That is how we have always lived.

- Raheem Morris via Pewter report article

That's pressure.  Coaches generally don't give predictions, let alone specific benchmarks they want a player to hit.  It's a high bar for Gaines, but one he needs to achieve as a third year player and former top 5 pick. 

Gaines knows what is riding on this year.  His reputation as a professional and as either a potential game changer, or bust.  He's putting in the time, he's learning new upfield and inside moves (finally), and it seems he's doing what he can to set himself up for success. 

The bar has been set.  16 games.  More than 9.5 sacks.  Bust or Bust out Year.  By the beginning of January 2010, we'll know where Adams stands.