Toeaina has chance to make impression
August, 13, 2012
By Jeff Dickerson | ESPNChicago.com
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Matt Toeaina is not the kind of person to make excuses, By Toeaina's own admission, his fifth NFL season is off to an uncharacteristically slow start after he started a combined 22 games at nose tackle the past two years. The veteran defensive lineman has been practicing with a fractured hand since camp began in late July, but he refuses to blame the injury for his shortcomings on the field.
Bob Donnan/US PresswireMatt Toeaina is looking for the explosiveness he displayed in previous seasons.
"My hand is feeling better, but it's not because of my hand that I haven't been the player that the coaches need me to be," Toeaina said. "But my hand is better so hopefully I put something better out there [for the coaches to see].
"They want to see more of a sense of urgency ... like when I came out two years ago and had a good camp. I just need to continue to show that powerful, explosive player that they know I can be."
Statistically speaking, Toeaina's best season came in 2010 when he played in all 16 games a recorded 33 tackles and 2.0 sacks. Although he started a career high 12 games last year, Toeaina's numbers declined after he missed four games due to a sore knee. Still, Toeaina did open camp as the starting nose tackle until he got passed up by 2011 second-round draft choice Stephen Paea in the week leading up to the first preseason game.
But with a sprained ankle expected to sideline Paea for the next 1-2 weeks, the door is open again for Toeaina to improve his standing on the defense.
"I just need to get better," Toeaina said. "Stephen deserves the No. 1 spot, so I know what I need to do to try and get back there. If not, at least get in the rotation. We're going to have a strong rotation. But I know I'm going to be receiving more reps with the first team, so it's definitely a good time for me to get better."