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2009 NFL Preview: Selecting All-Breakout Team a challenge


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2009 NFL Preview: Selecting All-Breakout Team a challenge

Vinnie Iyer

Tuesday, Sep. 8, 2009 - 10:24 a.m. ET

Coming up with a team of breakout players is a difficult task. The first question is, which players qualify? Include no rookies, and go with players with at least one year of experience who either haven't quite reached their potential or haven't received the recognition they deserve.

Locating such blooming talents in 32 NFL camps takes a wide eye, so it was necessary to collaborate. Sporting News enlisted the help of former NFL lineman Brian Baldinger, now an astute NFL Network analyst, to help compile the list.

On Offense

QUARTERBACK

Matt Ryan, Falcons. Ryan is the reigning Rookie of the Year, was a Pro Bowl alternate and led Atlanta to an 11-5 record during his first NFL season. But his statistics were modest: 16 touchdown passes, 11 interceptions. With a year's experience and an elite tight end, Tony Gonzalez, look for Ryan to become an elite QB.

Baldy's take: "Expect him to throw for about 25 TDs this season."

RUNNING BACK

Ray Rice, Ravens. The second-year back makes up for his smallish frame with great quickness. He beat out Willis McGahee to be the featured runner, and he also should contribute often as a receiver.

Baldy's take: "He has the benefit of running behind an outstanding offensive line."

FULLBACK

Leonard Weaver, Eagles. He was an underrated offseason pickup. His versatility stands out: He is capable of blocking, carrying the ball and receiving, all at a high level.

Still just 22 years old, DeSean Jackson is a good bet to improve on his '08 numbers (912 yards, 2 TDs).

Still just 22 years old, DeSean Jackson is a good bet to improve on his '08 numbers (912 yards, 2 TDs).

Baldy's take: "The Eagles are one team that still makes good use of a fullback."

WIDE RECEIVERS

DeSean Jackson, Eagles. For the first time since Terrell Owens, Donovan McNabb has an elite receiver.

Baldy's take: "An easy pick."

Vincent Jackson, Chargers. He just had his first 1,000-yard season but is ready to jump to upper echelon at the position.

Baldy's take: "This guy's a beast. He can be a dominant big receiver like Plaxico Burress was."

TIGHT END

Greg Olsen, Bears. This athletic freak figures to be Jay Cutler's favorite target.

Baldy's take: "You or me could be a pretty productive receiver with Cutler throwing to us often."

TACKLES

Jared Gaither, Ravens. Baltimore has its longterm replacement for Jonathan Ogden.

Baldy's take: "He is big and strong and the anchor for their outside running game."

Eric Winston, Texans. Yes, it's true, with Winston and left tackle Duane Brown, Houston finally is solid outside.

Baldy's take: "Alex Gibbs has done a great job with that offensive line, and they'll be able to run the ball well all year."

GUARDS

Harvey Dahl, Falcons. He is one mean and nasty run blocker.

Baldy's take: "When you've been cut as many times as this guy, you're going to play with fire."

Jahri Evans, Saints. He is equally good at run blocking and pass protection.

Baldy's take: "It's time the guys in front of Drew Brees got their due."

CENTER

Jamaal Jackson, Eagles. A bit of a late bloomer, he now anchors a good young line.

Baldy's take: "He's a quiet, soft-spoken guy, but he just gets the job done."

On Defense

ENDS

Haloti Ngata, Ravens. Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed are headliners, but Ngata is key up front. Just watch the big guy rush the passer or make an interception.

Baldy's take: "He could really be a Pro Bowler at any position: End, tackle, outside linebacker."

Ray Edwards, Vikings. He's just another fine Minnesota defensive lineman, following Kevin Williams, Pat Williams and Jared Allen.

Baldy's take: "He is ready to take full advantage of playing next to those guys."

TACKLES

Sedrick Ellis, Saints. It always takes a year or two for defensive tackles to blossom.

Baldy's take: "His improvement could be huge for their defense."

Brandon Mebane, Seahawks. Matt Cassel isn't the only quarterback who will get a close look at Mebane.

Baldy's take: "He's really surprised some people in Seattle."

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

Keith Rivers, Bengals. He was on track to a special rookie season before his confrontation with Hines Ward.

Baldy's take: "Solid."

Anthony Spencer, Cowboys. Working opposite All-Pro DeMarcus Ware, Spencer is ready to contribute to the pass rush.

Baldy's take: "He's in a great position to succeed."

MIDDLE LINEBACKER

David Harris, Jets. The addition of Bart Scott next to him and the influence of Rex Ryan should help him realize his talent.

Baldy's take: "He's a guy you have to put on here."

CORNERBACKS

Leodis McKelvin, Bills. Buffalo has a knack for developing good cornerbacks, and McKelvin follows Antoine Winfield, Nate Clements and Terrence McGee.

Baldy's take: "Another great pick."

Eric Wright, Browns. Cleveland's bright spot is at cornerback, as it was a tossup between Wright and ballhawking teammate Brandon McDonald.

Baldy's take: "A tougher pick to make."

SAFETIES

Charles Godfrey, Panthers. With good health, he should build on a strong rookie year. Playing next to Chris Harris helps.

Baldy's take: "He's both strong and fast."

Kenny Phillips, Giants. The University of Miami produces physical and fundamental safeties.

Baldy's take: "He hits like a ton of bricks. Just an unbelievable talent."

On Special Teams

KICKER

Dan Carpenter, Dolphins. He faced some camp competition but survived.

Baldy's take: "He's got a strong leg, and is good on kickoffs, too."

PUNTER

Michael Koenen, Falcons. He's the ultimate hang-time boomer.

Baldy's take: "Without a doubt. He set the record for fewest punt return yards (49) allowed last season."

KICKOFF RETURNER

Andre Caldwell, Bengals. He's been decent but has the potential to be great.

Baldy's take: "Also watch him as a slot receiver."

PUNT RETURNER

Davone Bess, Dolphins. He gives Miami a speedy double threat. Watch for him on kickoffs, too.

Baldy's take: "Along with Carpenter, you can see how much the Dolphins value special teams."

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Thats a surprisingly good and accurate article. I think Dahl is slightly overrated on the basis of his nastiness, when Tyson Clabo outperformed him for most of last season in my opinion.

The one major one to argue with is Leonard Weaver. He's a useless blocker. Decent enough with ball in hand and receiving, but as a full back he's nowhere near the top blockers.

I wouldn't have Ryan either, he broke out last year :)

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Thats a surprisingly good and accurate article. I think Dahl is slightly overrated on the basis of his nastiness, when Tyson Clabo outperformed him for most of last season in my opinion.

The one major one to argue with is Leonard Weaver. He's a useless blocker. Decent enough with ball in hand and receiving, but as a full back he's nowhere near the top blockers.

I wouldn't have Ryan either, he broke out last year :)

Perhaps...but I wanted to cut Clabo myself after watching him get completely owned in the ARI game last season...at that time, I thought no way he comes back as a starter...

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