NFL Training Camp- Shattered Dreams (Literally)

If you seen tonight’s episode of ‘Hard Knocks‘, you seen what happened to undrafted free agent defensive tackle Larry Black. On a play in practice he was being blocked his cleat got caught, he got leg whipped on accident by a teammate and broke his leg and dislocated his ankle all at once. Now he may be able to come back from the injury but it’s a long shot at best.

I’m writing this piece because it brings me back to training camp last season for the Philadelphia Eagles. A young man from my hometown was on the team WR Ronald Johnson. He had this exact same injury last year, as Black did this year.

http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/inq-eagles/Ronald-Johnson-carted-off-practice-field-with-apparent-ankle-injury.html

This was probably the most talent kid to come from Muskegon, Michigan since Curtis Adams. Ronald, also known as, RoJo was recruited by EVERYBODY. Michigan, Michigan State, LSU, Florida, Alabama, ect. RoJo ended up playing for the University of Southern California. Played his full 4 years for the Trojans and was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2011. They cut him and he was picked up by Philadelphia almost immediately, He spent the season on the practice squad and really put in the work to make the 53 man roster in 2012. Sadly I doubt he’ll ever fulfill his NFL dreams. Being a wide receiver your legs are your livelihood. I don’t know as a fact but I’m guessing football is no longer an option for Ronald but he’s a good young man and got his degree and I’m sure he’ll be a great asset to whatever community he chooses to live in.  It’s the tough reality of the NFL and the injuries that come along from it.

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2013 NFL All Underrated Team-NFC

Arizona Cardinals- While Darnell Dockett gets all the press, Calais Campbell is most definitely the underrated player of this team.

Atlanta Falcons- While the offense gets all the attention and the defense has names like Osi Umenyiora and Asante Samuel, William Moore is the guy who is the difference maker.

Carolina Panthers-  Jonathan Stewart while he and DeAngelo Williams splits reps and basically are about equal in talent and production, Stewart gives them a great two back backfield.

Chicago Bears- Amongst NFL fans this guy is known but he should be known much more. Charles Tillman is the best player and has been on the Bears for years. His ability to play coverage and the run is at a rare level. His ability to force fumbles is incredibly underrated by mainstream fans.

Dallas Cowboys- This was a hard one because they have young up and coming guys but they’re coming off injuries and you never know the value of a guy until he plays again. That said, Dwayne Harris is an underrated kid. Solid in both kick and punt returns and on coverage. Not to mention he is a good 3rd or 4th WR.

Detroit Lions- Without a shadow of a doubt Detroit’s most underrated player is Cornerback Chris Houston. Houston has been a very good player since his arrival to Detroit and deserves more recognition around the league.

Green Bay Packers– Among all the weapons in Green Bay’s arsenal the most underrated and undervalued player by far is John Kuhn. He plays a dying position, fullback, and is very versatile. Blocks well, catches and runs at critical times for first downs and has had his share of TD’s as well.

Minnesota Vikings- With Jared Allen on one end, on the other is Minnesota’s most underrated player. Brian Robison in the past two seasons Robison has 16 and a half sacks and 6 forced fumbles. Very much the benefits from Allen and Kevin Williams on that line.

New York Giants- Many good candidates on this team but the one who stands out to me is Safety  Stevie Brown. He has really stepped up and filled a hole in the back-end of that defense.

New Orleans Saints- Drew Brees and Darren Sproles get all the publicity but the underrated player on this team is Pierre Thomas. Thomas has been so good that he has made Mark Ingram virtually expendable.

Philadelphia Eagles- While the offensive line gets a lot of heat one guy stands out. Todd Herremans he has played every position except Center and while he’s not a great player that kind of versatility has helped Philadelphia immensely with all the injuries along that line in recent years.

San Francisco 49ers- While Colin Kaepernick and the defense get most of the credit and press coverage the glue and fiber of this team is Vernon Davis. Yes the same guy who was told to leave the field, game in progress, by former Head Coach Mike Singletary. Not only has he grown up as a player but he puts the team first even if that means sacrifice in his own statistics.

Seattle Seahawks- By far the most underrated player on this team is Red Bryant. He plays a 2 gap technique and can play both Defensive End and Defensive Tackle. He has been the rock of their defense and allows the rushers and coverage players to make plays.

St. Louis Rams- Without question this was the hardest team to find an underrated player on. They either have good established guys like Courtland Finnegan, Chris Long, or a bunch of bad players but I did find one guy who was very good for them last year and helped them win games. Kicker Greg Zuerlein. The kid had a league best 13 fields goals past 50 yards in his rookie campaign. While his overall field goal percentage wasn’t spectacular it was not bad either. I think, they found themselves a nice contributor for years to come.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers– Not a lot to work with on this roster either but Mason Foster seems to be the best candidate for the Bucs. A solid tackler and hard worker this 3rd round pick in 2011, has earned the starting spot at middle linebacker and now we’ll see if he is the player most draftniks thought coming out of the University of Washington.

Washington Redskins- Quick, who was the best rookie running back last year? Alfred Morris that’s who. Once again Mike Shanahan found himself a stud running back at the bottom of the draft in 2012. Morris never had a fair shot at Rookie of the Year with Luck, Wilson and RGIII but he was by far the most consistent and best player for the Redskins last season. RGIII got the media coverage, Morris stole the show.

I’ll be posting my AFC All Underrated Team soon.

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