7. A Real Defensive Line. Speaking of zones, Patrick Kerney has now reached the Grant Wistrom zone. He’s overpaid for his production, at least a step slower than he used to be, and doesn’t hold up on the run at all. His backup, Nick Reed, is a great player with a great motor, but he’s still a little slow and very undersized to play on the line in the NFL. Darryl Tapp has great flashes of brilliance that are coming more often and Brandon Mebane is the stud workhorse of the line. It’s all downhill from there as Lawrence Jackson and Cory Redding are average at best and Colin Cole is a waste of space as a big man that can be single blocked out of any play.
8. A Real Running Back. I’ve never been a big fan of Julius Jones. He has speed, size, and power but he has no vision. Time and again I’ve watched him run right up the back of his blockers while a hole sits wide open just to his right. Justin Forsett has great vision and speed but his size holds him to only being a Maurice Jones/Drew and Darren Sproles style pocket rocket. Since Shaun Alexander’s fall off of a cliff, Ruskell tried his shotgun band aid approach to replacing him with average draft choices and cast offs. This approach seemed to be a real sticking point with Holmgren who saw the players he wanted to use, like Maurice Morris, get elbowed out for people Ruskell wanted, like TJ Duckett.
9. Real Wide Receivers. Initially I agreed with the Deion Branch deal. It made sense that any wide receiver you picked up in the draft wasn’t going to be as polished and professional as a Super Bowl MVP. Branch has been unable to stay healthy and has looked more like another Super Bowl MVP, Larry Brown, than Jerry Rice. Maybe that’s unfair, maybe the injuries have been the mitigating factor. Whatever the reason, the wide receiving corps was the strength of the team and now scares no one.
10. Real Corners and Safeties. Deon Grant and Marcus Trufant are the best of the bunch. Josh Wilson is short but fast and makes more plays than he misses. Jordan Babineaux makes plays but takes horrible angles and Ken Lucas hasn’t come back to the starting lineup after getting hurt in Dallas. Kelly Jennings is another Ruskell first round draft choice that wouldn’t start on any other team in the league. Actually, he did his best work as the long snapper against Tampa Bay after Kevin Hauser suffered a collapsed lung. Yes, your 190 pound first round draft choice from 2006 had to become the emergency long snapper and that was only after Mora held auditions on the sideline during the game.