Friday, June 7, 2013
Eight in the Box: Rookie eye-catchers
By Paul Kuharsky
A first-year player who has turned heads in OTAs/minicamps:
Receiver DeAndre Hopkins, the first-round pick, and safety D.J. Swearinger, the second-round pick, have both impressed. Swearinger won’t get as much time and opportunity when Ed Reed is healthy and on the field. So we’ll go Hopkins here. The Texans are counting on him to have a productive rookie year and to be a factor in their passing game starting from opening night. And he has been a confident player in his early days in team work with the Texans, making athletic catches and showing good hands while catching everything.
When a first-round pick plays a position that's able to stand out during OTAs, he should be notable at OTAs. Colts outside linebacker Bjoern Werner, who’s moving from a college defensive end to an NFL 'backer, has done that. So far the transition seems to be going well. As all rookies do, he said the overall speed and athleticism of the people he was going against was a surprise, but he got increasingly comfortable as things went further along. General manager Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano like high-motor guys, and they have one in Werner.
Second-round safety Johnathan Cyprien has looked the part from the start. He has looked comfortable and has known what he’s doing near the line of scrimmage and in the deep middle of the field. One local writer said veterans regularly rave about Cyprien even when they aren’t asked about him. I spoke to Cyprien in May and he sounded mature, confident and knowledgeable. The Jaguars need leadership across the board, and this rookie looks like a player who can provide it quickly while being a productive contributor.
Right guard Chance Warmack has been the best, but that’s expected and it’s hard to stand out as an offensive lineman at non-contact sessions. Third-round cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson has looked like he knows what he is doing and added to the expectation that the Titans will have good camp competition for roles at cornerback. Incumbent starter Alterraun Verner could be pushed out of that role by Tommie Campbell or Wreh-Wilson, with Verner becoming the full-time nickel. Or Verner could remain opposite Jason McCourty while moving inside in nickel with Campbell or Wreh-Wilson taking over on the outside.