Friday, July 29, 2011

questions at camp for the defense

Continuation of Wednesday's post in which we asked similar questions about the offense.  Here we'll look at the defense and what questions need to be answered in the coming weeks.

1. Can Rijo Walker seize the starting cornerback job opposite Chase Minnifield?

This is probably his big chance.  He's done some impressive work for the coaches in the past year, enough to be currently listed as the starter, but now he'll have to fend off two freshman phenoms, and compete with senior Dom Joseph besides.  Joseph is solid but limited, and freshmen, no matter how talented, end up torched by a wily senior receiver sooner or later.  Now that Walker's been around the block once, having him ready to get the bulk of the starters' minutes is probably the best-case scenario for the defense.  If he can't jump on the job this year, Demetrious Nicholson and Brandon Phelps may ensure he never gets another chance.

2. Is Cam Johnson a holy terror?

Every year with Johnson has been the same: we're pleased with what he's done this year and expect more next year.  Unless Jake Snyder has a few surprises in his hat, Johnson is the defense's only real shot at having a QB-terrorizing pass rusher on the end.  He's easily the best athlete on the line.  Chris Long almost singlehandedly dragged his 2007 team to a New Year's bowl game, so if Cam Johnson lives up to his best potential, he could be worth a win or two.  Truthfully, this question won't be properly answered until a few games into the season, but if Morgan Moses can't handle Johnson in camp, not many opposing tackles will, either.

3. Where will the freshmen get slotted?

There are a ton of DEs and DBs on the roster in the freshman section.  Camp will be the first step in figuring out where the best position for some of these guys are - guys like Kameron Mack, Anthony Harris, Marco Jones, and Rob Burns, among others.

4. Have we found a workable linebacker combo?

The switch to the 4-3 still hasn't seen much settling down in the middle, as the coaches have done some experimenting with the lineup over the past year.  Laroy Reynolds was switched to the weak side, Aaron Taliaferro moved to the outside from the middle, and Steve Greer still seems to be stuck in a platoon, the latter being much to the chagrin of many fans - including myself - who think Greer is good enough to be an every-down player.  Meanwhile, former starter Ausar Walcott is now a DE and LoVante' Battle was moved back to the secondary.  Certain other players are breathing down the necks of the nominal starters.  There's not a fluxier unit on the roster outside of the quarterbacks.

5. Can we run any semblance of a secondary at all if a ton of freshmen are involved?  Because it still looks awfully thin behind the starters.


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