Michael Lombardi
Friday August 15th, 2008

How is Jake Long going to play? How does Darren McFadden look? Everywhere I go, I'm always asked about this year's rookies. That said, I thought this would be a good time to take a break from the 2008 draft and evaluate how the 2007 first-round picks are shaping up as we get deeper into the preseason. Here is a look at the top 10 picks, followed by the rest of last year's first round divided into appropriate categories.

1. JaMarcus Russell, QB, Raiders: Physically he is impressive -- slim, fit and looks like he could play running back. He is still sorting his way through the offense, and the key for his success will be the Raiders' finding out what he does best. Oakland needs a deep receiver to highlight Russell's arm and a passing offense to highlight his talents.

2. Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions: He tends to really slow down before breaking into his route and everyone in the NFL plays him for the vertical routes. He needs to improve his change of direction and route running, but in a play-action offense like the Lions are running, the deep ball is needed and Johnson can flat out fly deep.

3. Joe Thomas, OT, Browns: He has the look of recent Hall of Fame inductee Gary Zimmerman in that he's athletic, patient and confident.

4. Gaines Adams, DE, Bucs: Running Monte Kiffin's defense effectively requires a great weakside linebacker, an explosive "three-technique" tackle and an excellent pass-rushing right end. Adams looks like he is going to be able to handle that last role. He appears to have gotten stronger and more physical. I expect a big year from him.

5. Levi Brown, OT, Cardinals: If the Cardinals make the playoffs this year, it will be in large part because of their offensive line. Brown, who protects the blind side of left-handed quarterback Matt Leinart, has been impressive. Arizona's line as a group looks much improved.

6. LaRon Landry, S, Redskins: He impressed as a rookie, but has been slowed this camp with a hamstring injury. There will be some debate about whether he is the best rookie safety of this first round, as the Jaguars' Reggie Nelson is an explosive player with rare range.

7. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings: OK, I know even my kids know he is a great player. So how did he slip this far? Any excuse given would be a bad one, so I will leave it alone.

8. Jamaal Anderson, DE, Falcons: He is very athletic and appears to have gotten stronger. He'll need that strength to improve on a rookie season in which he didn't record a sack. This is the year Anderson has to change from being an athlete to a football player.

9. Ted Ginn Jr., WR: Dolphins: Miami, desperately looking for a wide receiver, worries Ginn is too inconsistent catching the ball. He does not have the initial lateral quickness and explosion to separate and tends to build speed as he goes. This is a critical year in Ginn's career and all those people who gave former head coach Cam Cameron grief for this pick may be right.

10. Amobi Okoye, DT, Texans: The 21-year-old is looking as good this year as he did in the early part of his rookie season. Okoye has good quickness and power. He and Mario Williams will give the Texans a physical and talented defensive front.

Patrick Willis, LB, 49ers (No. 11 pick in 2007 draft): He made his presence felt last year and he appears poised for another great season.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills (No. 12): He was solid last year, and I'll be surprised if he doesn't take a huge step this season.

Reggie Nelson, S, Jaguars (No. 21): Fast and physical, Nelson was sensational last season other than a poor playoff game against New England. He will be a Pro Bowler soon.

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs (No. 23): Had he gone to a passing offense last year, he would have produced bigger numbers. He has size and deceptive speed and can make plays.

Joe Staley, OT, 49ers (No. 28): The 49ers' offense has been hard to watch on tape so far this summer, but Staley is a real player and he will be a fixture in San Francisco no matter what style of offense they run.

Jon Beason, LB, Panthers (No. 25): He'll show marked improvement this year -- and he was great last year. Many linebackers in their second year in a system take a big leap.

Aaron Ross, CB, Giants (No. 20): After playing well as a rookie, he looks even more confident and poised this year.

Robert Meachem, WR, Saints (No. 27): He committed himself to becoming a player, putting in the time and effort to get back on the field after missing all of last season. He is an explosive player with great speed and playmaking ability. Meachem will emerge this year playing in a pass-happy offense.

Lawrence Timmons, LB, Steelers (No. 15): Now that he is comfortable in Dick LeBeau's defensive system, he can use his talents and skills to make plays. His speed and quickness will pay huge benefits.

Michael Griffin, S, Titans (No. 19): Settling on a position (at safety) will help him, and he'll be able to use his speed and athletic ability to make more plays. The Titans need him to emerge.

Greg Olsen, TE, Bears (No. 31): He's in a perfect situation with the Bears. While Desmond Clark is an effective blocker at tight end, Olsen can use his receiving skills and create mismatches.

Anthony Spencer, LB, Cowboys (No. 26): As a rookie, he didn't have the suddenness and explosion needed to be a big-time rusher. He is having a better camp so far this year and he will be a key component for the Dallas defense.

Adam Carriker, DT, Rams (No. 13): His play last season was the main reason the Rams passed on Glenn Dorsey in this year's draft. Carriker is big and strong and gives the Rams some power down the middle of the defense.

Leon Hall, CB, Bengals (No. 18): I know this sounds strange, but the Bengals' corners are solid and will be able to show improvement if their defensive line can muster a pass rush.

Darrelle Revis, CB Jets (No. 14): He suffered through the team's lack of a pass rush last year. No player can benefit more from the Jets' offseason spending than Revis.

Ben Grubbs, OG, Ravens (No. 29): The Ravens' offensive line is a mess and may take some more time in the preseason to sort through. But Grubbs looks like a good player who will benefit from the new running game offensive coordinator Cameron is installing.

Brandon Meriweather, S, Patriots (No. 24): He's smart and versatile and can run, all things that will make him a contributor this year. He will add speed to New England's back seven.

Craig Davis, WR, Chargers (No. 30): Davis can fly and the Chargers will pick their spots with how they use him this season. But he has showed great talent and skill.

Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Colts (No. 32): He will benefit the most when Marvin Harrison is back and healthy. Year 2 working with Peyton Manning is always beneficial, too.

Jarvis Moss, DE, Broncos (No. 17): Moss looks lost, hesitant and unsure in his play. He needs to get bigger and stronger if he is ever going to be the pass rusher the Broncos envisioned when they drafted him.

Justin Harrell, DT, Packers (No. 16): When durability is the issue in college, and durability is the issue in the pros, then there is some huge concern. Harrell has enormous talent but can't stay out of the training room.

Brady Quinn, QB, Browns (No. 22): This is not his fault, and in fact, I thought he looked very good in his preseason opener. But with Derek Anderson in front of him, it will be hard for Quinn to get in the game.

• Packers coach Mike McCarthy to the Green Bay Press-Gazette on Aaron Rodgers' debut: "I thought Aaron did a number of solid things. There was a lot of productivity on offense. I didn't like the start of the whole offense as a unit with the first [two] series. We had a false start, had a mental error that resulted in a sack and had the dropped ball for the interception. But I thought other than that I liked the tempo, I thought the productivity was there."

It's is going to take some time and there will be a few bumps in the road for Rodgers, but as long as he can get the ball to the best set of yards-after-the-catch wideouts, he will make the offense function well. The real challenge comes Week 1 when the speed of the game will change greatly and the schemes will be complex.

Brett Favre to the New York Daily News: "I hate to study and, at times, I hate to practice, but I love to play. I know I need to study, I know I need to practice. I know how important it is, but it doesn't mean I have to like it. The question I have to ask myself is, am I willing to do that? The answer is yes. There's no substitute for Sunday."

As Bill Parcells used to tell me, the reason we are in the business is for the sounds of silence when you win on the road in the NFL. Look for Favre to be in shotgun and spread offense for the early part of the Jets' season. The Jets have to give Favre freedom to change plays -- it is one of his greatest assets as a player.

• If I were looking for a wide receiver, I would call the Saints about the availability of Devery Henderson, since Meachem is starting to emerge. Henderson, who has a one-year contract worth $2 million, would be a good addition.

• If I were the Cincinnati Bengals, I would be happy with the way Chris Perry ran in the first preseason game, and would make sure he was running with the No. 1 group this week.

• If I were the Dallas Cowboys, I would spend less time with Hard Knocks and more time having special teams practices. That is the one area of the team that does not look very solid.

• If I were a Cowboy fan, I would hope that Adam Jones can make plays returning kicks this season. For some reason, there is a belief that Jones is a shutdown corner, which he isn't. Jones will always get beat on double moves and he struggles to be consistent. If he can give them a legitimate punt return, then the trade will have been worthwhile.

My prayers and best wishes to Redskins offensive line coach Joe Bugel and his family. Bugel left the team earlier this week to be with his daughter, Holly, who is battling cancer.

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