Posted January 3rd, 2009 by Mike
Filed under: Feature, Football

The NFL is now littered with former Texas players from the [tag]Mack Brown[/tag] era. It seems like every game involves a Longhorn in the starting lineup. The biggest impacts appear to be on both lines and in the secondary while linebacker is without a doubt the weakest position. Injuries affected a few of the players 2008 season, but the program should be proud of what these guys are accomplishing.

[tag]Justin Blalock[/tag] – The Atlanta Falcon’s made the playoffs behind a great running game and solid quarterback play. The unsung unit on the team was the offensive line. Blalock has cemented himself as a starter on an upcoming team by starting all 16 games after playing in 14 last season. At Texas, Blalock played tackle, but in the NFL he has been able to slide back to his natural position of tackle. Blalock was even able to score a touchdown on a fumble recovery.

[tag]Tarell Brown[/tag] – The forgotten member of the 2005 secondary has become a solid nickel corner in the NFL for the 49ers. Brown played in 15 games and started in one. He recorded 30 tackles and two interceptions.

[tag]Cedric Benson[/tag] – The beginning of the season didn’t appear good for Benson. After being cut by the Bears it appeared no one would request his services. The Cincinnati Bengals fell apart and came calling four games into the season. Benson started 10 games, gained over 700 yards, and scored two touchdowns on the ground. He also added 20 receptions. “EL Ced” finished with two huge games; making the chance he is offered a longer deal by the Bengals a real possibility.

[tag]Tim Crowder[/tag] – Crowder struggled with injuries and the depth chart all season. He played in six games, starting zero, and recording one tackle on the whole year.

[tag]Jamaal Charles[/tag] – Charles had a rookie season that has to be seen as a success. Charles sits behind Larry Johnson on the depth chart, but made plays when given the opportunity. The speedster averaged 5.3 yards per carry and added 27 receptions. His only touchdown of the season came on a reception. If Johnson isn’t retained by the Chiefs, Charles may get a look as an every down back.

[tag]Leonard Davis[/tag] – The offensive line for the Cowboys underachieved this season. Davis will go to another Pro Bowl but o-line selections are based on reputation more times than not. It was not all Davis’ fault but he did not perform at the level he did the previous year.

[tag]Phil Dawson[/tag] – Dawson was once again a lone bright spot for the Cleveland Browns franchise. He went 30/36 with a long of 56. He was perfect on extra point, but the 18 attempts magnify the struggles of the Browns offense.

[tag]Derrick Dockery[/tag] – Dockery is one of the higher paid linemen in the league, but is never as dominant as his salary would warrant.

[tag]Jermichael Finley[/tag] – Finley had a hard time getting started this season. He ended up playing in 14 games while starting one of them. The rookie finished with 6 receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown on the season.

[tag]Cedric Griffin[/tag] – Griffin has turned into a solid starting cornerback for the Vikings. He gets a lot of action playing opposite of Pro-Bowler Antoine Winfield but holds his own pretty well. Griffin plays with excellent enthusiasm and competitiveness which makes him an eager corner in run support. He played in all 16 games for the second straight season and recorded 91 tackles and a pick.

[tag]Mike Griffin[/tag] – Michael Griffin had the type of year that have made many hail him as the best defensive back to come out of the 2005 group. Griffin is a Pro-Bowl alternate after recording seven interceptions and a sack on the year. He is quickly becoming one of the best safeties in the league. His play has allowed the Titan defense to become one of the best in the league. Griffin also returns kicks for the #1 seeded Titans.

[tag]Ahmard Hall[/tag] – The former Marine has established himself as one of the last true fullbacks in the game. The Tennessee running game is one of the best in the league behind the duo of Chris Johnson and Lendale White. The two split carries with mirrored success, and the one constant is the presence of Hall. He has also become a weapon in the flat out of the backfield, recording two touchdown receptions this year.

[tag]Casey Hampton[/tag] – Hampton had a tough season as he struggled to get on the field with health and conditioning problems. When Hampton can play he remains the best 3-4 nose tackle in the game. He recorded one sack in 13 games that he was rarely able to make it all the way through.

[tag]Michael Huff[/tag] – The Thorpe award winner hasn’t lived up to his draft status so far in his career, but it is still early. Huff lost his starting job and didn’t record a sack, interception, or forced fumble on the year.

[tag]Quentin Jammer[/tag] – Jammer had another great year in San Diego. He is one of the most physical corners in the league and continually gets matched up with the opposing team’s biggest and best receiver. Jammer recorded 88 tackles, two interceptions, and three forced fumbles for the playoff bound Chargers. It has been amazing to watch the turnaround of Jammer’s play after struggling for the first few years in the NFL. The pressure of being a high pick has subsided and Jammer’s play has risen.

[tag]Derrick Johnson[/tag] – DJ has moved inside and performed well for the Chiefs. The knock on the former Texas star coming out was his unwillingness to take on blocks, and after a few years as a pro the criticism still exist. When playing in space he excels, but at the point of attack he has remained a liability. Johnson has been up and down, but has shown flashes of potential. He ended the year with 85 tackles, 1.5 sacks, one interception, and four forced fumbles. If/when the light turns on for DJ the sky is the limit.

[tag]Frank Okam[/tag] – Okam may have earned himself a roster spot for next year with his play down the stretch. He lacks the motor and intensity most coaches want out of an interior defensive lineman, but he has the tools to become a solid player in the league if he ever turns it on.

[tag]Cory Redding[/tag] – I feel bad for Cory Redding. I feel bad for any player, coach, trainer, and journalist (except Rob Parker) in Detroit. Redding was the heart and soul of their defense (if that is possible), and if he ever gets out of Detroit he may have a chance to make some noise. Until then, he’ll be rich in Detroit. He got three sacks on the year.

[tag]Brian Robison[/tag] – Robison plays behind Jerod Allen so his snaps are limited. When he is on the field he shows up and makes plays. He managed 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble in 15 games.

[tag]Shaun Rogers[/tag] – Shaun Rogers is the most disruptive interior lineman in football today. The guy is just huge and unstoppable when his motor is turned on. He took over games at points this season in spite of double and triple teams. Rogers will be in the Pro-Bowl again after turning in 76 tackles and 4.5 sacks. He has Hall of Fame type talent when it is all clicking for Rogers.

[tag]Aaron Ross[/tag] – He may not be the best athlete in his marriage, but the Thorpe award winner has become a better than average cornerback in a tough place to play. Ross started in every game he played, 15, and grabbed 3 interceptions, including one that he returned for a touchdown. Ross has the ability to be a shutdown corner as his technique and confidence continue to grow.

[tag]Bo Scaife[/tag] – Scaife has emerged as a very productive tight end even in the face of losing his quarterback and his team bringing in a big name free agent in Alge Crumpler. There were a few games where Kerry Collins completely forgot about Scaife, but he finished with 58 receptions and two touchdowns. Scaife has also become better as a blocker which allows him to stay on the field in all situations.

[tag]Lyle Sendlein[/tag] – People tend to forget about Sendlein when discussing the better offensive lineman Mack Brown has put into the NFL. Sendein has started every game of the season for a playoff team. Not too bad.

[tag]Chris Simms[/tag] – Simms is the number three quarterback on Tennessee’s roster.

[tag]Kasey Studdard[/tag] – Studdard remains a reserve lineman for the Houston Texans. He hasn’t been able to crack the starting lineup.

[tag]Limas Sweed[/tag] – Sweed is listed as the 4th receiver on the Steeler roster. One would think Sweed will contribute more after a full off season.

[tag]David Thomas[/tag] – The Patriots use a lot of tight ends in their offense, so none of them have numbers that are going to blow you away. Despite that Thomas has been able to get on the field a lot so far in his career. He pulled in nine receptions for 93 yards, but was never able to reach the end zone.

[tag]Nathan Vasher[/tag] – Injuries rendered the 2008 season a wasted one for Vasher. He played in eight games, recording one interception, before being placed on injured reserve.

[tag]Ricky Williams[/tag] – The former Heisman trophy winner and league pariah has made his comeback has a productive back in the Miami system. He was one of the many bright spots on a team full of them this year. Williams is able to make plays without being relied on to carry the full load because of the presence of Ronnie Brown. Ricky scored four touchdowns on 659 yards rushing. He may have made his biggest impact as a receiver out of the backfield where he averaged over seven yards a catch on 29 receptions.

[tag]Roy Williams[/tag] – The losing ways of the Lions followed Williams from Detroit to Dallas. Roy was never able to make an impact for the Cowboys for reasons that still remain unclear. He has proven to have the ability which leaves work ethic and injury as the two other reasons for his lack of production. Williams has unfortunately been criticized for both a lack of work ethic and inability to stay healthy in his career. He will need to have a huge year next year to justify the trade and contract Jerry Jones awarded him.

[tag]Selvin Young[/tag] – Young was another Longhorn that struggled with injury. Denver is notorious for alternating backs, and with the addition of injuries Young was never able to stay on the field. When he was healthy he produced so it will be interesting to see what the new coach in Denver decides to do with Selvin.

[tag]Vince Young[/tag] – 2008 was not a good year for VY. The greatest player in Longhorn history lost his job after one game and a knee injury, and never was even given the chance to win it back. It now appears Jeff Fisher made the right choice as Tennessee earned the #1 seed in the AFC. While they did it with defense and running the ball, Collins has done a good job in a Trent Dilfer type role. This season may end up being the best thing that has ever happened to Vince as a professional if he uses the experience in the right way.

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After the first day of the draft saw four Longhorns find NFL homes, three former Horns were drafted in rounds 4 through 7 Sunday. The seven total Texas players drafted were the most for the school since the draft was scaled back to seven rounds in 1994.

Defensive end [tag]Brian Robison[/tag] was taken by the Minnesota Vikings with the third pick of the 4th round. Teams get to contemplate the the first picks of the 4th round for about twelve hours so they’re some of the most thought out picks of the entire draft. There was a lot of talk about Robison being selected as a possible outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, but the Vikings run the more traditional 4-3 so Robison will stay at end.

Corner [tag]Tarell Brown[/tag] was selected in the 5th round by San Francisco. If not for his off field issues, Brown would have likely gone in the 2nd or 3rd round. He’ll probably be the nickel corner for the 49ers his rookie year and should have a chance to compete for one of the starting spots.

The Houston Texans picked up offensive guard [tag]Kasey Studdard[/tag] in the sixth round. Studdard was one of my favorite Horns during his time at Texas, just a mean SOB that had fun and played hard every down. It might not be as a rookie, but he’ll have a chance to play for the Texans because as their offensive line is terrible.

Second day picks are pretty much a crapshoot and a lot of them don’t make the final roster cuts, but I think all three of the Horns should have a good shot. Robison and Brown could see some good playing time this year for their teams and Studdard adds much needed depth. Or maybe they’ll all get cut and end up on the Titans, that would be okay too.

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The NFL Draft is flooded with talented college tandems, including three pairs of Longhorns.

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