- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 3, 2008

10 UP

Bill Cowher, former Steelers coach - This is the second season Cowher will be warming a chair on CBS´ NFL Today. The longer he waits to return to coaching, the more his price goes up. He could probably have his pick of next year’s vacancies (of which there are likely to be several).

David Garrard, QB, Jaguars - Suddenly, at 29, Garrard turned into a terrific QB. If Jacksonville can get a full season out of him - he missed four games last year - he’ll go to his first Pro Bowl.

Julius Jones, RB, Seahawks - Mike Holmgren´s running backs (Edgar Bennett, Dorsey Levens, Ricky Watters, Shaun Alexander) have always been very productive. Jones, marginalized in Dallas by Marion Barber, will be no different - provided he can handle the load.

Anthony Gonzalez, slot receiver, Colts - In a year or two, with Peyton Manning throwing to him, this kid could be Indy´s version of Wes Welker. He´s faster than Welker, though - and even faster, no doubt, on the artificial turf in the Colts´ new dome.

Jeremy Shockey, TE, Saints - The high-maintenance Shockey needed a change of scenery, and the Giants obliged him. In Sean Payton´s wide-open attack, he should pass last season´s totals (57 receptions, 619 yards, three TDs) by Thanksgiving.

Nate Burleson, utility man, Seahawks - Only 11 players in the league scored more touchdowns in ´07 than Burleson (11). He went 94 yards with a punt, 91 with a kickoff and had 50 receptions for nine TDs. Keep an eye on him.

Justin Tuck, DE, Giants - Had 10 sacks last season despite starting only two games. (Or, to say it another way, he puts the Tuck in the Tuck Rule.) The Giants, not known for throwing money around, thought enough of his efforts to give him a five-year, $30 million extension.

Amobi Okoye, DT, Texans - Just a hunch. I mean, as a 20-year-old in ´07, Okoye had 5 1/2 sacks. Frame of reference: Eric Swann came into the league at (barely) 21 in ´91, and he didn´t have that many sacks until Year 4.

Patrick Willis, LB, 49ers - Despite the Niners´ wretchedness, Patrick went to the Pro Bowl a year ago - as a rookie, no less. With Mike Singletary coaching him, there´s no telling how good he can become. Plays the position the way another Willis - Bruce - would play it.

Antrel Rolle, CB, Cardinals - The eighth pick in the ´06 draft, Rolle finally began playing like it last season. He returned three of his five interceptions for scores (55, 54, 47 yards) and, in time, may develop into the best cornerback in the NFC.


Jon Gruden, coach, Bucs - Since winning the Super Bowl, Gruden´s Tampa Bay teams have gone 36-44 with zero playoff victories. His once-vaunted offense, meanwhile, is built around 99-year-old quarterback Jeff Garcia. One more losing season and he´ll be joining Brian Billick on the golf links.

Brett Favre, QB, Jets - With a new team and a short training camp, there´s no way Favre will match last season´s numbers with Green Bay (4,155 yards, 66.5 percent completions, 28 TDs). If he does, well, I wouldn´t want to be Packers GM Ted Thompson … or Aaron Rodgers.

Fred Taylor, RB, Jaguars - Taylor rushed for 1,202 yards and made his first Pro Bowl last year at 31. It´s gotta be all downhill from there, right? Still, he´s one of the most underappreciated players of his generation.

Brandon Marshall, WR, Broncos - Marshall celebrated his breakout second season (102 receptions, 1,325 yards, seven TDs) by violating the league´s conduct policy and drawing a three-game suspension. Denver will be lucky if he´s back on track by the second half of the schedule.

Tony Gonzalez, TE, Chiefs - It´s hard to imagine Gonzalez catching 99 passes for 1,172 yards again. Heck, it was hard to imagine him doing it even when he was doing it last year. He´s 32, after all, and his quarterback isn´t exactly Len Dawson.

Matt Light, OT, Patriots - A good guy to talk to after games if you need a quote, but I´m not sure how good a lineman he still is. Tom Brady got lots of pressure from the backside - Light´s side - in the playoffs last season.

Devin Hester, utility man, Bears - As a rookie, he set an NFL record by returning five kicks for touchdowns. As a second-year man, he broke his own record by returning six kicks for TDs. He can´t possibly keep it up … can he?

Mike Vrabel, LB, Patriots - Vrabel, long a solid player, had a career year last season. Sorry, but only one career year to a customer. He´ll go back now to being the steady/heady ´backer he was before, not a 12 1/2-sack monster.

Asante Samuel, CB, Eagles - So many players have left New England and never been quite the same: Lawyer Milloy, Damien Woody, Deion Branch, David Givens, Daniel Graham. That also figures to be the case for Samuel.

Adam Vinatieri, K, Colts - He didn´t make a field goal longer than 39 yards in ´07, and his miss from chip-shot range cost Indianapolis a game against San Diego. Very un-Vinatieri-like. Kickers often have several lives, but you wonder if we´ve seen the best of this clutch performer.



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