Analysis of signings: Defense, specialists

Comments on major individual signings

Defensive end
Darren Howard (Philadelphia) –
If healthy and in the right mindset, Howard can be a dominating type of defensive end. With an explosive first-step, couple with good strength and athleticism, Howard has displayed the ability to run-past or fight through a blocker. Better pass rusher than run blocker, but is solid in all facets of the game. Became discouraged in New Orleans due to on-team and front office issues, along with injury. Lining-up in this aggressive Philadelphia should be a perfect match for Howard and the Eagles.

Trevor Pryce (Baltimore) – When healthy, Pryce is an explosive force. Injuries appear to have robbed him of his great quickness and strength off the ball. Pryce is a good fit in the Baltimore defensive scheme. The jury is out on this signing until Pryce proves he can play without injury issues.

Anthony Weaver (Houston) – Weaver made significant strides during the 2005 season. Point of attack play improved, and has shown the ability to get into the backfield. Plays the run reasonably well and will be expected to make plays in the Houston defensive scheme. Pass rush skills improving as he learns to play off blocks. Houston needed quickness and athleticism at the end position, and Weaver could be a solid starter for the Texans.

Aaron Kampman (Green Bay) – The Packers and Kampman worked long and hard to get a four-year, $20 million deal done prior to the start of free agency. Kampman, very good against the run and a better than average pass rusher, felt at home in Green Bay and didn't want to depart. Give credit to the Green Bay front office for stepping to the plate and retaining this popular and consistent lineman. If Kampman would have opted for free agency, he would have been in high demand.

Defensive tackle
Damione Lewis (Carolina) –
Lewis has shown flashes of excellence while a member of the St. Louis Rams, but his career has been marred by inconsistency. Has the size and strength to excel in the middle of the defensive line, either as a nose or defensive tackle, though tends to play at a lazy pace. Despite his size, Lewis has had trouble fighting off blocks and does not play aggressively. A change of scenery will do Lewis well, and Carolina head coach John Fox should be the perfect coach to get this young tackle to play to his potential.

Justin Bannan (Baltimore) – Bannan plays low to the ground and provides continuous effort. Displaying the ability to stay tough against the run and true against stunts and double teams, Bannan possesses the ability to maneuver his opponent. His aggressive nature and physical play are a solid fit within the Ravens defensive scheme.

Ted Washington (Cleveland) – Washington can still play the defensive tackle position well, though he isn't the same player he once was. As asset on first and second down, Washington will stuff the interior of the line, providing linebackers the opportunity to make plays. In Cleveland, the interior of the defensive line is a weakness, one which Washington will impact immediately.

Larry Tripplett (Buffalo) – Larry Tripplett is not the run-stuffing defensive tackle he replaces (Sam Adams), but he will give an all-out effort. Much more quicker than physical, Tripplett has the ability to penetrate at the point of attack. Will stand his ground and shed blocks, but can be overpowered at times. In need of a nose/defensive tackle, the Bills have adequately filled the need.

Gerard Warren (Denver) – Coming off a sound 2005 season, Warren played well for the Broncos after coming over in a trade with the Browns. Still displays the ability to penetrate the line of scrimmage, while playing the run well. For the first-time in his short career, Warren played to the potential expected of him for an extended period of time and should be a main-stay along the Denver defensive line.

Ma'ake Kemoeatu (Carolina) – Big, run-stuffing defensive tackle is physical at the point of attack and will certainly improve an already good Carolina defensive line. Kemoeatu was highly sought due to his ability to manhandle blockers and make plays. This is a very good signing for the Panthers.

Kendrick Clancy (Arizona) – Clancy came into his own during the 2005 season with the Giants. Plays the run well and displayed improved strength and quickness. Plays extremely hard and does not quit. Is not a factor rushing the passer, but has learned how to take up space and slide off blocks. Clancy provides a nice face-lift for the Cardinals run defense.

Chris Hovan (Tampa Bay) – Hovan turned his career around in Tampa Bay after being jettisoned from Minnesota. Still shows the ability to shoot the gap. His run-stopping ability improved once moving onto Tampa Bay. Did not disappear in games in 2005 as he had done in Minnesota. While not a top-quality defensive tackle, Hovan is better than average in the Buccaneers' scheme.

La'Roi Glover (St. Louis) – Glover remains a solid defensive lineman and should improve an already quick Rams front four. Undersized for the 3-4 in Dallas, Glover should excel in the familiar 4-3 which will be run in St. Louis. With ample speed and quickness as a 4-3 defensive tackle, Glover has the ability to penetrate the line of scrimmage and attack the quarterback, while playing the run well.

Linebacker
Matt Chatham (NY Jets) –
Chatham is yet another former New England Patriots linebacker that could evolve into a consistent performer, if given the opportunity. A superb special teams player, which is trademark of the Bill Parcells/Bill Belichick mode, Chatham could be a linebacker that can rush the quarterback coming off the edge of the defense. A good special teams player, Chatham possessed solid recognition skills in his limited playing time on the defensive side of the ball. In New York, the Jets are looking for a stabilizing presence, and a player which has the ability to add depth, and Chatham fits the bill.

Andre Carter (Washington) – If there is one thing Carter can do, it is rush the quarterback. With great speed and quickness for an OLB/DE, Carter has the agility and focus to fight off defenders due to his speed and hand-play. Average against the run, Carter can be consumed at the point of attack in the running game and has shown the tendency to run himself out of a play. Washington sought a pass rusher coming off the corner of the defense. Carter has had injury issues while a member of the San Francisco 49ers, but the pros outweigh the cons and he is a natural fit for Gregg Williams' defense.

Brandon Moore (San Francisco) – Moore was inconsistent during the 2005 season, but progressed nicely as the season wore on, his first under the direction of head coach Mike Nolan. Run awareness was improved, though Moore still tends to over-react to plays in front of him, leaving himself out of position. Tackles well, but does not make impact plays, while learning to play consistently. Moore's second season in the Nolan defense should be even better.

Scott Fujita (New Orleans) – Fujita is a solid outside linebacker which possesses better-than-average coverage skills and has displayed the ability to play the run. One knock against Fujita is he is rather non-descript, as he doesn't make many impact plays and can be neutralized when bodied-up. Fujita can rush the quarterback when called upon in passing or blitz calls, but can become too aggressive and miss on opportunities. New Orleans needs to improve its run defense, intermediate pass defense, and pressure on the quarterback from other than the defensive line. Fujita should be a solid acquisition for the New Orleans Saints.

Akin Ayodele (Dallas) – If the game didn't include the pass, Akin Ayodele could be one of the best in the league. He does not play the pass well, and has difficulty in the backpedal, which is surprising due to his athletic ability. Plays the run well, fights through blocks when engaged, which isn't easy for an offensive player due to his speed and quickness. Physically strong, Ayodele can penetrate the backfield and make impact plays. A well above average tackler, he will square-up on a ball carrier and drive the player back. Ayodele has the mentality and desire to excel in a blitzing role and is very effective moving toward the line of scrimmage. The Cowboys were looking for a physical defender to upgrade the overall look of the linebacker position, in Ayodele, Dallas has landed that player.

David Thornton (Tennessee) – Plays bigger than his size (6'2 230-lbs) and smaller than his size in pass coverage. A well-rounder linebacker, Thornton has displayed the ability to be very strong in covering a tight-end or back in the seam. His recognition skills are good and utilize his awareness to its fullest. Tends to wait on blockers to commit and slides around them, which can be detrimental at times. A solid linebacker which should play a significant role in the Tennessee defense.

Clint Kriewaldt (Pittsburgh) – Quality backup linebacker and special teams ace, Kriewaldt could have been a player to watch in free agency. Kriewaldt has the look and mentality to be a nice fit for the Steelers' defensive scheme. Locking up Kriewaldt provides the Steelers the opportunity to retain a player which is under-appreciated and relatively unknown outside of Pittsburgh.

Sedrick Hodge (Miami) – Hodge plays the pass much better than his productivity against the run. Displays the ability to drop in coverage and handle his responsibilities, while in run support Hodge can get lost in the flow and be neutralized by blockers. Has the quickness desired to rush the quarterback coming off the corner, which is an asset, and could be covered to minimize his average ness against the run. The Dolphins looking for depth sign a quality person and player that should fit into the scheme.

Will Witherspoon (St. Louis) – Plays larger than his size (6-foot-1, 230 pounds) and isn't afraid to stick a ball carrier. Will fight through blocks, though has some trouble when engaged and locked onto another player. Witherspoon is a sideline-to-sideline player, displaying very good speed and quickness. Has displayed the ability to be an asset dropping into coverage, but is a better talent in the open-field. The Rams needed help at linebacker and have arguably have signed the best available.

Ben Leber (Minnesota) – Ben Leber is a good linebacker and should excel in the Tampa-two type defensive scheme which will be utilized in Minnesota. With the ability to drop into coverage effortlessly, while playing the run on a better than average level, Leber will become an instant starter and player to be looked upon for his leadership qualities. This signing is one of the best from day-one in the free agent player signing period.

Shawn Barber (Philadelphia) – Barber returns to Philadelphia where he tasted his greatest success with the Eagles. If healthy, Barber's athleticism will be a welcomed addition to a Philadelphia defense which was seeking speed and quickness on the outside. The one-year deal Barber agreed to with the team is a safe offer for the team which could pay high rewards, not only for the Eagles, but for Barber if he is able to return to pre-knee injury form.

Cornerback
R.W. McQuarters (NY Giants) –
McQuarters is a solid run support type of cornerback due to his aggressive nature. In pass defense, he struggles due to a lack of speed and quickness, though he is adapt at recognizing the play and reacting. He has shown the tendency to be beaten in pass coverage due to inconsistency and a lack of speed. McQuarters is a serviceable player which should provide depth to a team like the Giants looking to improve a below pass defense.

Andre Goodman (Miami) – Goodman is an exceptional athlete that possesses coverage ability, but lacks the overall skills to become a top-notch talent. Goodman is average at best in run support, questionable tackler in the open-field, and does not sport the size and strength to fight through a receiver or blocker. An overall average cornerback, Goodman could be a fit in the Miami defensive scheme which is gearing towards extreme pressure on the quarterback and more support from the safeties against the run (less time in coverage).

Brian Williams (Jacksonville) – The Jaguars were looking for another solid cornerback to improve their defensive backfield. Williams, provides the Jaguars with a solid talent at the cornerback position that can play safety, if necessary. During the 2005 season, Williams solidified his position as a starting quality cornerback.

Sam Madison (NY Giants) – The Giants headed into the off-season looking to improve their below average defensive backfield. Madison has the ability to man-up on a receiver and at times demonstrates the skills to take a receiver out of the game. While not as dominant as in years past, Madison should be a quality upgrade over free agent Will Allen in New York.

Safety
Omare Lowe (Atlanta) –
Lowe is a former cornerback which has converted to safety at the professional level. Raw and inexperienced, Lowe is basically a depth and special teams type player at this point in his career, which is what the Falcons expect from him.

Dexter Jackson (Cincinnati) – Jackson depends on experience, solid recognition skills and quickness to be successful in the defensive backfield. Will contribute in run support and is a general in the backfield. Makes few mistakes, but can be too aggressive at time when looking to make an impact play. A consistent player, Jackson plays very well when the play is in front of him. Lacking overall speed, receivers can get behind Jackson if he is caught looking into the backfield. In all, a very strong signing for a Cincinnati club wanting to improve their overall talent on the defensive side of the ball.

Quentin Harris (NY Giants) – Quentin Harris is an asset as a safety playing the run. Physical and strong, he will attack to get to the ball-carrier, while maintaining a reasonable awareness of his surroundings. Has displayed an improving ability against the pass, but attacking the line of scrimmage is his strength. The Giants are looking to improve the play in the defensive backfield, Harris has displayed an improving resume which could warrant good things in New York.

Adam Archuleta (Washington) – Archuleta has displayed the skills set to be a strong player in run support. While his pass coverage skills are often overlooked, Archuleta has displayed the ability to cover some ground when put in that position. At times he can be too aggressive, causing him to be out of position or not primed to make potential big plays. Being a physical player, Archuleta has struggled with some nagging injury issues, but is expected to be a major contributor in the Washington defensive scheme, lining-up next to the athletic Sean Taylor.

Marlon McCree (San Diego) – Physical player that has the ability to play either the strong or free safety positions. Displays good quickness and recognition, but can be too aggressive and breakdown on plays in front of him at times. Very good in run support and better than average in pass defense, though pass coverage skills have improved. The Chargers were seeking an upgrade and physical presence in the defensive backfield, which is exactly what McCree provides.

Marquand Manuel (Green Bay) – Stepped in when starter Ken Hamlin was sidelined during the 2005 season and played well. Manuel is solid in run support and his pass coverage responsibilities did not overwhelm him. Not the swiftest of foot, Manuel is learning to play angles well and will step in and provide the Packers an upgrade over Mark Roman in the defensive backfield.

Corey Chavous (St. Louis) – Chavous remained a quality defensive back in the 2005 season and has shown little slippage. Still displays the ability to cover ground, doesn't make mental mistakes, and supports well against the run. Not overly quick nor fast, depends on his experience to be in position. A true upgrade for a questionable St. Louis defense.

Shaunard Harts (Seattle) – Harts is player which should provide depth to the defensive backfield of the Seahawks. Not viewed as a starting candidate, Harts could fill a reserve role in Seattle, and may have the opportunity to compete, especially with Marquand Manuel on the verge of testing free agency and Ken Hamlin recovering from injuries suffered in an off-field incident.

Kickers
Ryan Longwell (Minnesota) –
Remains a solid kicker, which should show improvement in accuracy and distance in signing with Minnesota due to the weather element taken out of the equation (home games). Longwell displays good elevation on kicks and accuracy. The acquisition of Longwell is a solid signing for the Vikings who intend to shore up the kicking game.

Matt Bryant (Tampa Bay) – Bryant came into his own during the 2005 season in Tampa Bay and would have been a highly-sought free agent if the Buccaneers wouldn't have re-signed him quickly. Displayed consistency and a better than average leg for the Buccaneers, but has had injury issues in the past which could be concerning.

Jeff Chandler (Cleveland) – Chandler has made his rounds through the league in his three seasons. In Cleveland, Chandler should be viewed as insurance for Phil Dawson, the Browns consistent kicker. This appears to be a move by the Browns to have an additional kicker on the roster heading into training camp.

Punter
Dave Zastudil (Cleveland) –
Zastudil is a solid, consistent punter that can handle holding duties on place-kicks as well as kickoffs. Possessing excellent hang-time on punts and is an adequate directional punter, Zastudil fills a legitimate Browns' need for an established punter.


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