Twenty down, just eighty to go in this year's TPL100 rankings! We've already seen a plethora of rookies, but only 3 offensive lineman (what's wrong with us...!?). Here's hoping we redress the balance with players 80-71 below.
Remember to keeping checking back daily as we reveal one player per day in a countdown to the start of the 2013 NFL season, and then shout at us if you think we've taken our eye off the ball with one of our nominations! Hit us up in the comments below, on twitter @PullingLinemen, or on Facebook.
80. Daryl Washington, ILB, Arizona Cardinals (TD = 56, PG = --, GS = 77)
2012 Ranking: --
|P: Mark Runyon | Football Schedule|
Washington's talent is undeniable, and he is deserving of the 56th and 77th ranks that my TPL partners have given him, but much as I did with Brian Cushing in our rankings last year, I personally penalised Washington for his off-the-field issues, particularly the PED abuse, because to me that reduces his value as a player and tarnishes his career. If he can get back on the straight and narrow, Washington will likely go to 5+ more Pro Bowls in his career, and has the chance to be considered amongst the best in the NFL. But only if he can play 16 games a season. (PG)
79. John Sullivan, C, Minnesota Vikings (TD = --, PG = 97, GS = 36)
2012 Ranking: --
It's not always easy to quantify offensive linemen, given the lack of statistics for the position - though, of course, there is one OL stat that should be familiar to our readers by now - but a bit of qualitative exploration (or in simpler terms, "looking at the tape") reveals that in his fifth season, John Sullivan had become one of the best centers in the NFL. A late round draft pick out of Notre Dame, Sullivan took over the starting gig during 2009, snapping to one of the greatest in Brett Favre. Every season since, Sullivan has improved in every aspect of the game, becoming more solid in pass defense, more aggressive in run blocking, and despite being a younger lineman - he'll be only 28 heading into this season - he's been a rock to Christian Ponder, not just physically as a protector but by taking control of the protection calls and "Mike" identifications to ease the burden on his quarterback.
|P: Joe Bielawa|
78. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers (TD = 46, PG = 85, GS = --)
2012 Ranking: --
|P: Wikimedia Commons|
After his impressive rookie season there were many saying that Cam Newton would regress. That the league would catch up to his unique brand of football and the college-NFL hybrid offense the Panthers had put in place for him.
And to a certain extent that was what happened. Early games were far from spectacular for Newton, he had 2 multi-interception games in the first 5 weeks of the season, and 2 games where he failed to break a 60 QB rating, while one of his 2 impressive games came against the epically awful Saints defense. Hardly a stellar follow up to his award-winning and record-breaking rookie season.
It wasn't until November that Cam really came to the boil. He got the best of Robert Griffin in Washington, and after being unable to keep pace with Peyton Manning closed out the season with a 5-2 record, throwing 11 TD's to just 2 interceptions, completing 58.4% of his passes and rushing for over 6 yards a carry and picking up 4 more TD's on the ground.
By the end of the season Newton's numbers showed improvements in interceptions, yards per pass attempt and yards per rush attempt. Not only that but he continued to be the most exciting QB, perhaps player, for a neutral supporter in NFL to watch.
There are of course still some issues with Cam's game, he's taken a whopping 71 sacks in his 2 seasons in the NFL, and fumbled 15 times (10 of which were in 2012). But he also lacks the weaponry to really excel. His best, and only, wide receiver Steve Smith just turned 34 and while Greg Olsen is a good option at tight end he's not really the ideal number 2 target. The investments made in the backfield have handcuffed the Panthers when it's come to getting Newton more help on the outside, they've been waiting for Brandon LaFell to turn into a consistent threat, and it looks like he'll get at least one more year to do so after a defense-heavy draft this year. If LaFell can get open more consistently and perhaps start to even out the coverage on Smith we should see Newton's passing numbers take off. With former QB coach Mike Shula now taking over the reigns as offensive co-ordinator in part thanks to a good relationship with Newton, we'll hopefully see the performances become more consistent, and the results match the level of entertainment that Newton brings to the field every sunday. (TD)