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Ear to the Ground

"The cosmos speaks in patterns" - Roger von Oech (paraphrase of Heraclitus)

"You can't block what you can't catch" - Montae Reagor (Colts DT)

"Winning is our business" - Bill Parcells (motto for Cowboys 2005 season)

The subject matter of ETTG is IDP with an emphasis on Dynasty leagues. Ear To The Ground was chosen for this column's title to convey a sense of detecting rumblings in the distance... an ability essential to project a prospect from college to pro and rookie to veteran. It will consist of four sections : Team Reports, a Defensive Rookie of the Year Meter, an In-Depth Profile and a strategy section called Cracking the Code. The team reports will be covered on a rotation (ARI - KC, MIA - WAS) every other week. The events that wash over the IDP Dynasty world and alter its landscape move at a slower rhythm and tempo and according to longer cycles than redraft leagues, making weekly coverage superfluous. IDP focus will be on the impact positions of LB, DE and S... exceptional DTs and CBs will be noted for leagues that differentiate DE/DT and S/CB. Dynasty content is geared towards youth. Like most successful working rosters that employ a blend of production and potential, there will be a balance of rookie and veteran coverage in the mix. FBG IDP content is complementary and interlocking. Upgrades/Downgrades and Strong/Weak Plays articles will by their nature see new names bubble up to the surface from week to week. Ear to the Ground will identify key players early on and can be thought of as a watch list for the whole season as it unfolds.

Team Reports

CHICAGO - The Bears defense continues to fire on all cylinders, drubbing the Packers 19-7. MLB Brian Uhrlacher (#20) and WLB Lance Briggs (#16) are the most devestating, explosive and athletic one-two LB punch in the NFL... and they are just 27 and 25. DE Adewale "Wally" Ogunleye has risen to #13 after a slow start, helped by 5 sacks in the two games before the GB contest Sunday. The AFC sack leader in 2003 is beginning to fulfill his considerable promise... he is tied for seventh in sacks (9) with Simeon Rice and Aaron Schobel. The former Indiana diamond in the rough (UFA) isn't a one-dimensional edge rushing threat, and he more than holds his own in run support... just outside the top 10 in tackles at his position (34). Just 28, he is entering the prime of his career. CB Charles Tillman (just 24) had another monster game (6-1, 1 sack, 1 FF, 1 INT). For context on what a great season he is having (#2 among DBs)... his 69 tackles would be just outside the top 15 among LINEBACKERS (right after young stud MLBs Andra Davis and Nick Barnett, as well as killer rookies Lofa Tatupu and Kirk Morrison)! He complements his hard nosed, LB-like tackling chops with the ball skills and big plays of an elite DB (1 sack, 4 INTs, 2 FFs & 1 TD... just missing a second TD with a 95 yard INT return that was probably the biggest turning point in the game). His counterpart, CB Nathan Vasher was thought by most scouts to be too small to ever be anything but a situational, nickle back. He has exceeded expectations mightily... only CB Deltha O'Neal has more than his 7 INTs. SS Mike Brown is fluorishing and thriving on the switch from FS. The former Nebraska second rounder and leader of the defense with Uhrlacher is just outside the top 10 (#11) among DBs. He is #5 at his position in tackles (63), and has been all over the field with 1 sack, 1 FF, 3 INTs (also among league's top safeties in that column) & 1 TD. Though a vet with six years of service under his belt, he is just 27. What is the secret to their success... is it the scheme... is HC Lovie Smith a brilliant tactician... do they have the best talent... have the defensive coaching staff including DC Ron Rivera coached their charges up... all of the above? One simple but effective and critically important factor that can't possibly be overstated is they are currently the best tackling team in the league, and don't give up YAC (yards after catch) and big plays. Like the Colts, their core defensive talent (including second year former first rounder and potential future Pro Bowl DT Tommie Harris) is young, for the most part already signed to long-term contracts and should be able to be kept intact for many more seasons... with the chance to grow with each other and get even better.

CINCINNATI - Defensive Rookie of the Year front runner Odell Thurman (though Lofa Tatupu is breathing down his neck, and this looks to be a two horse race for now... with Shawne Merriman a dark horse) is not among the league leaders in tackles but another INT Sunday in the huge divisional showdown victory against the Steelers tied him with Cato June for the league lead (5) among LBs... only two other LBs have as many as 3 picks (Mike Peterson and Keith Brooking)... and just a handful of DBs have as many pass thefts. The former Georgia star is looking like the top Bulldog in a class that included the top rated collegiate DE (David Pollack) and safety (Thomas Davis... now looking like he will make his mark as a LB at the next level)... Thurman is also leading all LBs in FFs (5)... as many as DE Dwight Freeney, and just one removed from the league lead (DEs Simeon Rice, Robert Mathis and Jared Allen each have 6). Thurman plays fast, is an explosive athlete and is flashing the ball skills of a former prep skill position player he was on a nearly weekly basis. Though he still makes mental errors typically associated with rookies, he makes them going full speed and hits people along the way. He definitely has a nose for the ball, has the combination of power and agility to get off blocks and sort through the trash, has an innate sense of angles and meets the ballcarrier with a surly disposition. Thurman reminded ETTG of Jonathan Vilma (2004 DROY winner) ever since seeing his highlight package on film... nothing that has transpired so far in his brilliant, stellar inaugural campaign has given cause to change that initial impression. He has surged all the way to #5 among LBs, largely on the strength of being a big play machine. Like fellow lead DROY candidate Tatupu, they should get props for spearheading a stunning turnaround of their team's respective formerly less than intimidating defenses, and have been instrumental in transforming the Bengals and Seahawks overall team balance and collective fortunes, to the point where both organizations are now recognized among the NFL elite... far from a given to begin the season, merely a few short months ago... and for dynasty leaguers, he is just 22 and should get nothing but better. Don't forget about FS Madieu Williams. Before being placed on IR earlier in the season, the good looking second year DB was one of the Bengals most consistent and best defenders.

DALLAS - SS Roy Williams (just 25) is easily putting together his best season since his sensational rookie debut (#6 among DBs). With better CB play, Parcells has been able to keep his promise to turn his superstar playmaker loose and fulfill his destiny as maybe the top safety in the game. Some scouts thought he was the top player in his draft class at any position, and if he continues to get the opportunity, he could flash HOF talent and ability more often. He is tied for sixth in tackles (60) at his position, tied for fourth in sacks (only Adrian Wilson, Adam Archuleta and Troy Polamalu have more than his 2.5 sacks), second in FFs with 3 (Brian Dawkins has 4), tied for fourth in PD (only B-Dawk, Darren Sharper and Sammy Knight top his 9), as well as adding 2.5 sacks and 1 TD. OLB DeMarcus Ware was a candidate for DROY earlier in the season. His dropping out of contention is less a reflection of diminished effectiveness than the surreal seasons that the luminously talented Thurman and Tatupu are having. Ware has Pro Bowl ability once he is able to stop thinking and let his natural athleticism and pure ability take over... he is the most talented pass rusher in his class along with Super Freak Shawne Merriman. Not only has he had to make the difficult transition (for any rookie) from college to pro, and also do it from the massive, chasmic jump in level of competition from tiny Troy State (he should be just fine if former teammate and fellow edge rush prodigy Osi Umenyiora is any indication... he is tied for #1 in the NFL in sacks with 11), but he has had to adapt to the transition of playing DE with his hand on the ground to being a stand up LB.

GREEN BAY - MLB Nick Barnett (only 24) and FS Nick Collins have been among the lone bright spots in the midst of a miserable down year for the Packers. The third year former Oregon Sate safety and WLB was the only LB selected in the first round of the 2003 draft (he shot past OLB Boss Bailey and MLB/ILB E.J. Henderson with a monster workout that included 32 strength reps to go along with a 4.6). Despite some questions leading into this season whether his physical traits and skill set made him an ideal fit in the middle, Barnett has answered them with a resounding YES (!!!) and is pacing to have his best season yet and lead the team in tackles again (he has all three years in the league so far). A Mike Peterson-like 6'2 230, they represent the vanguard of a growing trend of smaller but freakishly athletic and fast MLBs needed to combat the ever increasing speed of skill position players and the more exotic passing schemes which deploy more downfield receivers and pass catching RBs to put pressure on slower, less agile defenses. Maybe not coincidentally, but a reflection of this marked and pronounced trend, in the past two drafts, the top three LBs fit this profile... Jonathan Vilma (6'1" 230"), Odell Thurman (6'0" 235) and Lofa Tatupu (listed at a SS/WLB-like 6'0" 225... teammate Michael Boulware played WLB at Florida State, was converted to SS and plays at a listed 6'2 223). Barnett is a gifted, phenomenal athlete... literally. He was a prep sprinter and decathlete. While he still fails to break down at times and whiffs badly on some open field tackle opportunities, he for the most part shows good instincts and is a knee bender capable of exploding through ball carriers who plays fast but under control. He also flashes playmaking skills (1 sack, 1 FF, 1 INT and 1 TD). With improved concentration he could have surpassed his 1 INT, and his overall athleticism in general and safety background specifically suggest that he has what it takes to do just that looking towards the future. Featured in ex-Dolphins DC Jim Bates' scheme, he has the constellation of traits (measurables, talent & skills) to be a future Pro Bowler. Collins comes from football powerhouse and DB "factory" Bethune-Cookman (not really, but the brilliant and up 'n coming Rashean Mathis also hales from there... their parallel FS/CB background reflects similarly superb athleticism). Expected to be more raw than he subsequently has turned out to be, Collins is already contributing at a high level and is one of GBs top defenders (with Barnett and DE Aaron Kampman). Only Kerry Rhodes has more tackles among rookie safeties. The rookie second rounder (the first safety selected after high second rounders Brodney Pool and Josh Bullocks, and before high third rounder Oshiomogho Atogwe) has good size at 5'11 200, blazing sub-4.4 speed and is not afraid to stick his nose in for run support... his future looks as bright as the team's fortunes this season have been dim.

INDIANAPOLIS - Amidst talk that the Colts are possibly the team best positioned to go undefeated and finish a season perfect since the fabled '72 Dolphins, the upgraded defense has been a key to their rise to prominence. Just last season, on the plane ride home from another playoff defeat at the hands of the eventual Super Bowl champion Patriots, GM Bill Polian and HC Tony Dungy vowed to field a more physical, tougher and better tackling stop unit in 2005. For years now, the triplets-led IND offense has been championship caliber, only to be held back by a deficient D. The Colts college scouting and pro personnel brain trust should be commended for a string of astute draft picks and savvy FA signings in recent seasons that are now finally coming to fruition. Draft picks include... at DL - dynamic bookend DEs Dwight Freeney (25 years old), Robert Mathis (24) and DT Larry Triplett (26)... at LB - WLB Cato June (26) and SLB David Thornton (27)... at DB - FS Bob Sanders (24) and CB Marlin Jackson (22). Free agents include... at DL - interior forces Montae Reagor (28) and Corey Simon (28) and DE Raheem Brock (27)... and at LB - MLB Gary Brackett (25). This despite being hamstrung by salary cap constraints associated with having the extraordinary confluence of offensive firepower represented by Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison on the payroll, and having to allow Pro Bowl (or caliber) LBs Mike Peterson and Marcus Washington depart for FA and being forced to rebuild and start over from scratch at the critically important LB position several times in recent seasons. The Bears have been eliciting comparisons with the "Monsters of the Midway" '85 Bears on the strength of their league leading, miserly 10.6 points allowed per game. The Colts are right behind at #2 with 13.5 (the Panthers are the next closest at 16.2). So IND gives up a couple more points per contest... but gets to roll with one of the best offenses the league has ever seen instead of Kyle Orton (that is what you call a good tradeoff). IND is #9 in the NFL in rush defense (97.3 YPG) and only the Seahawks, Bears and Jaguars have allowed fewer than their 5 rushing TDs. It would be a natural assumption to find these impressive rush defense numbers an artifact of their stellar offense quickly gaining the lead on opponents and forcing them to pass an inordinate amount... yet they are also #9 in pass defense (185.3 YPG) and only five teams have allowed fewer than their 12 passing TDs. Brackett has been a revelation to IND and to IDP players alike (led the way on D in the 35-3 thumping of the Titans Sunday with a 7-4 boxscore). Inserted into the starting lineup for the limited and underachieving Rob Morris in a bit of an experiment by the defensive coaching staff, the former nickle package specialist obviously had superior speed and range to cover the deep middle of the field (a prerequisite for the MLB in Dungy's famed and much emulated Cover Two scheme), but there were questions about how stout he would be in run support at the POA. He is #19 among LBs in FBGs scoring system. While only around #20 in solo tackles, he is #12 in combined tackles with 96 (helped by being #7 in assists with 32)... for context, this is right behind Antonio Pierce and ahead of Jeremiah Trotter. He hasn't been a big play maven... no sacks or FFs, and no INTs since getting two in the first game. The former Rutgers gem unearthed by Polian and Dungy is in his first season as the starter and could have some upside. June was second on the team, turning in another fine performance with 7 tackles. The third year former Michigan SS has really come into his own this season after struggling with his consistency at times from the safety-LB conversion last year. He is #13 among LBs despite having near identical tackle numbers to Brackett, due to 5 INTs (tied with Odell Thurman for tops at his position - see above) and 2 defensive TDs (tied for the league lead among IDPs at any position). After a blistering, white-hot start (all 5 INTs and both TDs were in the first six games) in which June was garnering a lot of Pro Bowl buzz, his pace has cooled considerably. Like Brackett, he also has no sacks or FFs (in fairness, Dungy prefers to not blitz LBs if he can generate pressure on the QB from his front four... allowing the back seven to keep action in front, prevent big plays, smother the passing attack in coverage and swarm to the ball in run support). Freeney got 2 sacks and 1 FF (tied for fourth in the league with 9.5 sacks and second in FFs with 5) but we haven't heard as much Defensive Player of the Year talk in the second half... he has been somewhat inconsistent, and when he has an off game, it is really an OFF game (with two complete whiffs in the boxscore in the month following the bye week before Sunday). No doubt he is double (and in some cases triple) teamed on every play, but the great ones need to find a way to get to the QB no matter what blocking scheme-related obstacles are set before them. He is only #37 in tackles among DEs and may always have questions raised about his overall game until and if he evolves into a less one dimensional skill set. A start would be to cultivate the mind set to remember to tackle the ball carrier on the way to the QB. In what he does well, though, he does phenomenally well. As an speed rusher he is a prodigy and maybe without peer... he has the first step, instant acceleration, short area burst, explosiveness and suddenness of an elite skill position player or CB, an almost unfair matchup with the dancing bears he routinely faces across him on the OL. Fellow undersized DE Robert Mathis is actually having a better year statistically (of course his job is made easier by all the attention given to his more talented counterpart). In addition to being third in the league in sacks (10.5... he wasn't held without a sack in any game during the first half of the season) and tied for first in FFs (6), the third year fifth rounder from football factory Alabama A & M (how do they find these guys?) is also third in tackles at his position, behind only Michael Strahan and Aaron Kampman. The pain doesn't stop there for OLs... IND incredibly has the #3 and #6 DTs in the league in sacks, with Reagor (5.5) and Triplett (4). Sanders isn't putting up monster IDP points (#30), but he was a one-man wrecking crew in the huge victory over the Steelers two weeks ago (leading the team with 9 tackles), and has almost single-handedly transormed the personality of the overall defense and lent it a more physical dimension. The team feeds off the second year, former second round Iowa star's barbaric hits. Rookie first round pick Jackson is being brought along slowly but looks like the real deal and a future star. Note how virtually all of the Colts top defenders are in the prime of their career (and in many cases even younger)... a scary prospect for the rest of the NFL aspiring to Super Bowls in upcoming seasons. If the IND front office can somehow sign Edge and keep the offensive core intact (salary cap balloons up in 2006 and it could be a lot more doable than people think), the team has the look of a dynasty... with or without the presence of the already dynastic Belichick, Brady and Patriots in the crowded AFC.

JACKSONVILLE - The aptly named Mike (MIKE = MLB) Peterson is flying a little bit under the radar as Jacksonville isn't exactly a national media hub, but he has been playing all season at a level that should be garnering more Defensive Player of the Year recognition (#3 among LBs in FBG scoring, after only Jonathan Vilma and Donnie Edwards). The ex-Florida star and Colts WLB is tied for #6 in tackles and has been on a roll the past month and a half. His combined tackle log in that span (10, 10, 10, 11, 6 & 14) has been as consistent and dependable as the atomic clock, also adding all 4 of his sacks on the season (second most among MLBs after Uhrlacher) during that timeframe. The older brother of Bears RB Adrian also has 3 INTs (only aforementioned Thurman and June have more), 2 FFs and 1 TD. WLB Daryl Smith is quietly having a very solid sophomore season (after scout chatter that he was in a slump earlier in the season)... he also has 4 sacks, and has chipped in 1 INT and 1 FF. The ex-Georgia Tech star graded out as one of the top MLB/ILBs in the nation in the 2004 draft class after Jonathan Vilma, and his future could be there as the heir apparent and eventual successor to Peterson. The twin tower DTs made their presence felt... John "Hendo" Henderson (5-1 and 1 sack) and Pro Bowler Marcus Stroud (4-2 and 1 FF) are the top young DT tandem in the NFL, equally adept at collapsing the pocket so their teammates can make plays, getting after the QB themselves and stuffing the run. Many team insiders think that Hendo has actually outplayed Stroud the past few seasons... he is #2 among DTs in tackles (47) and #3 among DL, behind only Orpheus Roye and Michael Strahan (though only #18 among DL in scoring overall with just 1 sack and no FFs).

Defensive Rookie of the Year Meter

The Top 10 DROY Candidates (through Week Nine)
1 - Odell Thurman, MLB, CIN, 2.16, Georgia (6'1" 230)
2 - Lofa Tatupu, MLB, SEA, 2.13, USC (6'0" 240)
3 - Shawne Merriman, OLB/DE, SD, 1.12, Maryland (6'4" 245)
4 - Darrent Williams, CB, DEN, 2.24, Oklahoma State (5'8" 188)
5 - Kirk Morrison, OLB/ILB, OAK, 3.14, San Diego State (6'2" 240)
6 - Derrick Johnson, SLB, KC, 1.15, Texas (6'4" 235)
7 - DeMarcus Ware, OLB/DE, DAL, 1.11, Troy State (6'4" 232)
8 - Kerry Rhodes, SS, NYJ, 4.22, Louisville (6'3" 210)
9 - Leroy Hill, WLB, SEA, 3.35, Clemson (6'1" 225)
10 - Carlos Rogers, CB, WAS, 1.9, Auburn (6'1" 194)

Standin On The Verge Of Gettin It...
Antrel Rolle, CB, ARI, 1.8, Miami (6'1" 202)... ACTIVE
Thomas Davis, SS/OLB, CAR, 1.14, Georgia (6'3" 230)
Marlin Jackson, CB, IND, 1.29, Michigan (6'1" 200)
Nick Collins, FS, GB, 2.19, Bethune Cookman (5'11" 193)
David Pollack, SLB, CIN, 1.17, Georgia (6'2" 260)
Channing Crowder, ILB/OLB, MIA, 3.6, Florida (6'2" 240)
Barrett Ruud, MLB, TB, 2.4, Nebraska (6'2" 240)
Josh Bullocks, SS/FS, NO, 2.8, Nebraska (6'0" 205)
Eric Green, CB, ARI, 3.11, Virginia Tech (6'0" 197)
Justin Miller, CB, NYJ, 2.25, Clemson (5'11" 200)
Adam "Pacman" Jones, CB, TEN, 1.6, West Virginia (5'11" 185)
C.C. Brown, SS, HOU, 6.14, LA-Lafayette, (6'0" 200)
Jerome Carter, SS, STL, 4.16, Florida State (5'11" 220)
Chris Harris, FS, CHI, 6.7, Louisiana-Monroe (6'0" 205)
Dominique Foxworth, CB, DEN, 3.33, Maryland (5'11" 180)
Chris Canty, DE, DAL, 4.31, Virginia (6'7" 290)
Erasmus James, DE, MIN, 1.18, Wisconsin (6'4" 270)
Justin Tuck, DE, NYG, 3.10, Notre Dame (6'5" 261)
Marcus Spears, DE, DAL, 1.20, LSU (6.4 295)
Mike Patterson, DT, PHI, 1.31, USC (6'0" 285)
Shaun Cody, DT/DE, DET, 2.5, USC (6'3" 290)
Fabian Washington, CB, OAK, 1.23, Nebraska (5'11 180)
Brodney Pool, FS/SS, CLE, 2.2, Oklahoma (6'3" 208)
Kevin Burnett, OLB, DAL, 2.10, Tennessee (6'3" 235)
Alfred Fincher, MLB, NO, 3.18, Connecticut (6'1" 240)
Justin Tuck, DE, NYG, 3.10, Notre Dame (6'5" 261)
Matt Roth, DE, MIA, 2.14, Iowa (6'4" 270)
Bryant McFadden, CB, PIT, 2.30, Florida State (6'0" 180)
Corey Webster, CB, NYG, 2.11, LSU (6'0" 197)
Oshiomogho Atogwe, FS, STL, 3.2, Stanford (5'11" 220)
Ron Bartell, CB/FS, STL, 2.18, Howard (6'1" 213)
Jonathan Babineaux, DT, ATL, 2.27, Iowa (6'2" 280)
Stanford Routt, CB, OAK, 2.6, Houston (6'1" 195)
Lance Mitchell, MLB, 5.32, Oklahoma (6'3" 245)
Luis Castillo, NT, SD, 1.28, Northwestern (6'5" 305)
Travis Johnson, DE, HOU, 1.16, Florida State (6'5" 285)
Donte Nicholson, SS, TB, 5.5, Oklahoma (6'2" 216)
Daryl Blackstock, SLB, ARI, 3.32, Virginia, (6'4" 240)
Travis Daniels, CB, MIA, 4.3, LSU (6'1" 184)
Kelvin Hayden, CB, IND, 2.28, Illinois (6'0" 198)
Stanley Wilson, CB, DET, 3.8, Stanford (6'0" 190)
James Butler, S, NYG, UFA (only undrafted free agent on this list), Georgia Tech (6'3" 210)

In-Depth Profile

This section will draw from and point back to pre-season work, such as the IDP Rookie and Sleepers articles, as well as include new profiles in-season as events dictate.

Carlos Rogers, Washington Redskins CB

Overview:
Third of three Top 10 CBs in the 2005 draft, he was the ninth pick overall. WAS reportedly would have still taken the All-American and Jim Thorpe Award winner (nation's top DB) even if Pacman had been on the board. Gifted athlete that ran a 10.7 100m as a prep. Might be better in coverage than Rolle and more physical in run support than Pacman. The Redskins had compelling needs at WR and DE, yet passed on Mike Williams and the surging DeMarcus Ware and Shawne Merriman, indicating how badly they wanted Rogers. He could turn out to have a far superior overall game in terms of run support and blitzing (in addition to coverage) than the CB he replaces, Fred Smoot. Rolle-like in that he plays about 20 lbs bigger than his listed weight. Hits like a fist loaded with a roll of quarters. Squares up and uses great leg drive to explode through ball carriers. When he hits them, they generally go down... hard. Great leadership skills (called a coach on the field), he is a four year starter in the consistently tough SEC. Outstanding maturity (Pac-man had character concerns and off-field issues... see below), work ethic and motor. Nice size (6'1" 196), speed (4.4), and hops (40"+ VJ... 40 career PD), he is a quick-twitch athlete with exceptional burst, suddenness and ability to close on the ball carrier. Plays hurt, and was deserving of being one of the biggest climbers during the scouting process leading up to the draft. Though the sleeper of this list, he was on the All-American radar as a prep and early on at Auburn as well.

Fantasy Outlook:
DC Gregg Williams likes to blitz from all directions... if turned loose, Rogers has the rare skills to be a difference maker from the CB position. Has the athleticism, complete game and multi-dimensional skills to be one of the top CBs from this class, justifying his blue chip status and premium draft slot. His college stats might have been more impressive, but scouts accounted for the fact that he was rarely tested by opposing QBs. Rogers could offer compelling value. Though drafted within a few slots of Pac-man and Rolle in the actual draft, he is often selected after them in IDP leagues, in some cases several rounds later. Often times a league's collective attention span extends no further than two deep at a given position, especially in the typically de-glamorized CB position. Rogers gets the nod over the player that generated the bigger draft buzz (Pac-man) because on film his rugged run support skills roar off the screen. CBs with the potential to be studs in the tackle column can be gold (and in exceptional cases as valuable as many safeties and some LBs)... he is also a big time playmaker with tremendous aerial skills. Rogers' progress was delayed when he wore a protective boot through the first few weeks of training camp, after aggravating a badly sprained ankle first injured during the Senior Bowl (he still managed to look like the best CB in drills during his short time there). The savvy vet Walt Harris was expected to at least begin the year starting opposite Shawn Springs, who had a Pro Bowl-type 2004. A Harris injury necessitated the insertion of Rogers into the starting lineup in the team's second pre-season game against the Bengals. It was a typically mixed bag for a rookie, including impressive tackling skills and an early INT with a nifty run back deep into CIN territory, followed up by getting beaten badly in coverage twice in a row late in the game. Should get tested a lot lining up across from the rejuvenated Springs, who was a revelation. A key will be how quickly he beats out Harris. Williams brought Sean Taylor along slowly and didn't start him right away last season. Rogers is much more valuable in dynasty leagues, where he may have future Top 10-20 DB potential.

Cracking the Code - All Positions Have Value

Especially in bigger IDP leagues where you need to start two CBs and 1 DT. Just as obssessing over the RB and QB positions on offense at the expense of neglecting the WR and TE positions could lead to a dangerously unbalanced team, too much emphasis on the admittedly more sexy LB position (as well as DE and safety) can similary lead to catastrophic and dire consequences. While LB is admittedly hugely important (as are QB and RB), it is all about value and fielding the strongest, most balanced team you can possibly assemble. No two ways may be alike. Nearly everybody pays more attention to and is therefor more knowledgable about LB talent. A way to exploit this knowledge void at other positions and turn it to your advantage is to do your homework at the less exciting positions. This might have led to uncovering such hidden gems as Kyle Vanden Bosch at DE, Kerry Rhodes at safety and Ike Taylor at CB. All of these young, unaccomplished defenders were relatively obscure starting off the season, but have come on to be big difference makers in IDP leagues.

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