Is Ted Ginn Jr. ready to be the Dolphins' No. 1 receiver?
An outstanding receiver and return specialist at Ohio State, Ginn was viewed as a disappointment last season as a rookie when he only tallied 34 receptions for 420 yards and two touchdowns. His reputation as a big-play threat took a hit as he made only one reception over 40 yards. In addition, the sizzle he was supposed to bring to the Dolphins' return game never materialized. Though he had a spectacular 87-yard punt return touchdown, he averaged 9.6 yards a return on punts and had a 22.7 average on kick returns, which placed him outside the top 10 in each category. Therefore, some were ready to label the ninth overall pick in the 2007 draft as a bust heading into this season.
"Last year, he didn't put up the type of numbers that you would like to see from a player taken that high in the draft," said an NFC personnel director. "You would like to think that he would be able to make more of an impact on your team.
Ginn's beginning to make amends. During a Dolphins' win streak that is now at four games, Ginn has made 18 receptions for 331 yards and a touchdown. He torched the Bills for 175 receiving yards on seven receptions, including two over 40 yards. Against the Broncos the following week, the Dolphins used the threat of the speedster getting over the top of the defense to set up Greg Camarillo for his career day. Ginn set the tone against the Seahawks by hauling in a 39-yard touchdown pass off a flea flicker. And his 40-yard reverse against the Raiders helped the offense find its rhythm early.
"He is beginning to make an impact," said an NFC personnel director. "He has the speed and explosiveness to score from anywhere on the field, and they are beginning to give him touches in a variety of ways."
Some contend it is unreasonable to view the second-year pro as a conventional "go-to guy."
"He will never be a 90-100-catch guy," said an AFC receivers coach. "He is not built to be that kind of receiver. He should play the role of a vertical playmaker. With his speed and quickness, he needs to be used on the outside, running an assortment of go-routes, comebacks and posts. He won't tally big catch numbers that way, but he should average about 17-18 yards a catch and have a high number of touchdowns."
It's important to note that several top receivers entered the league with the same set of skills and developed into top receivers for their respective teams. Terry Glenn and Joey Galloway are the best examples, both finding their niche as down-the-field targets for their respective teams. Glenn's career average of 14.9 yards per catch included 34 receptions over 40 yards (an average of three big receptions per season), and Galloway's career average of 15.7 yards per catch includes 50 receptions over 40 yards (an average of almost four big receptions per year). In addition, both Pro Bowl receiver averaged 50-55 receptions a season when participating in most of their teams' games. Thus, it appears Ginn can still make a significant impact on the Dolphins' passing game without racking up gaudy numbers from a reception standpoint.
"I think that something happened with Teddy a few weeks ago when he had that big day in Buffalo," Dolphins' offensive coordinator Dan Henning told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "He's played better. He's played faster. He's played with more confidence."
If the Dolphins are to snatch a postseason berth that is surprisingly within their grasp, the team will need Ginn to continue to play at the level that has helped bolster the offense the past four weeks.
If you live outside Charlotte, you may not recognize the name of one of the league's best young linebackers. But Jon Beason, the Panthers first-round pick in 2007, is clearly the unsung leader of the league's eighth-ranked defense. He leads the team in tackles (84), which has him ranked seventh in the league in total stops. He also has two interceptions and a fumble recovery through 10 games.
"He is an impact player," said an NFC personnel director. "He plays fast and has a strong nose for the ball. He is one of most instinctive players that I've seen at the position."
Beason started the first four games of his career at outside linebacker before replacing oft-injured former Pro Bowler Dan Morgan in the middle. He set a franchise record for tackles (160) during his first season, and finished as runner up for the league's Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Although the 49ers' Patrick Willis has been routinely dubbed as the league's best young linebacker, some scouts believe Beason deserves to be included in that conversation.
"Both are outstanding players," said an NFC personnel director. "They are fast, instinctive and tough. They make plays all over the field and are explosive on contact. I think that they are so close in their abilities, that you would be happy to have either one of them."
Rest assured, fans in Carolina are very happy with Beason.
After watching Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie put on a spectacular performance against the Seahawks, it is apparent the rookie deserves to remain in the Cardinals' starting lineup. The former Tennessee State star has made two interceptions and defensed six passes in the past four weeks. His coverage has been exceptional, and scouts are touting the rookie as the team's best corner.
"He is their top guy," said an NFC personnel director. "He is not quite as polished as their other guys (Eric Green and Rod Hood), but his speed, athleticism and burst makes him a superior player."
While the Cards drafted Rodgers-Cromartie to be a legitimate lockdown corner, they wisely resisted the urge to rush the No. 16 overall pick into the lineup. By having Rodgers-Cromartie hone his craft as the team's nickel corner during the first half of the season, the team introduced the former Div. 1-AA All-America to the pro game without overwhelming him. Although he suffered a few mishaps in coverage (surrendering touchdowns to the Bills' Lee Evans and the Cowboys' Miles Austin), he gained confidence with each snap and eventually flashed enough potential to merit more time in the base defense.
"He is going to be a very good player," said an NFC personnel director. "His instincts and ball skills are excellent for a young corner. They have brought him along at the right pace, and he looks like he is ready to take on the challenge of being a starter."