NFL Spotlight: Waiting in the Wings

Arizona Cardinals WR John Brown

John Brown flashed some stuff on Monday Night Football. Arizona’s 3rd receiver is a rookie that dazzled over the summer. Behind the great Larry Fitzgerald and number one pick/breakout player, Michael Floyd, Brown is in a good position to learn and excel.

Also, head coach Bruce Arians is the man that helped Antonio Brown develop in Pittsburgh, back when Ben Roethlisberger had his best days under center. And a couple seasons ago, Arians filled in admirably for Chuck Pagano, leading Andrew Luck and the Colts into the playoffs. Who stepped up when Reggie Wayne injured his knee? That would be T.Y. Hilton, who exploded for over 200 yards in a huge comeback win in Kansas City in the playoffs. Hilton is the same build as John Brown, coming off his first career game in prime time with a pair of catches and a touchdown.

With Fitzgerald likely on the outs because of a huge salary, his assumed departure will give Brown a chance to play opposite of Floyd. The good news, Carson Palmer is a gunslinger and all Cardinals receivers will get plenty of looks in 2014. Look for Brown to make an impact and start in 2015.

San Diego Chargers TE Ladarius Green

Ladarius Green should have played a lot more last season, and much earlier than the coaches thought to play him. He started to break out a little bit as the season progressed. Behind future Hall of Famer, Antonio Gates, Green got to play more snaps when the veteran got banged up with some wear and tear affect as well. Many jumped on Green’s bandwagon entering the 2014 season, only to see Gates command the majority of snaps in preseason and in the season opener.

Let’s put it this way, this guy has a similar build to his predecessor and gets to work with offensive gurus. Philip Rivers has made a few Pro Bowls and head coach, Mike McCoy, he’s going to ease him in and allow him to learn behind one of the tight ends that transformed the position. Gates still has some gas left in the tank, so don’t expect him to fall off the face of the earth just yet. Despite the emergence of rookie Keenan Allen, Rivers will continue to look to Gates with unconditional trust until he can run a route anymore.

Green will have his chances spelling Gates, might get some snaps in the slot, and will definitely get involved in dual tight end formations. You have to understand that the Bolts not only want to run the football, but they need to. To repeat last season’s success of reaching the postseason and winning a game, the offense has to control the clock and wear defenses down, if only to keep their own questionable on the sidelines. The time could very well come at some point this year, but most likely, Green will be crowned the new starter in 2015.

Atlanta Falcons WR Harry Douglas

Talk about a guy that got extensive experience and still has the luxury of playing with an elite dynamic dual on the perimeter. Last year the Falcons saw Julio Jones go down after just six games. Roddy White had already passed the torch to Jones, but become the go-to guy to rekindle old times in his absence. Future Hall of Famer, Tony Gonzalez, still played at a high level in his final season. The only issue with him, Matt Ryan was smart enough to look elsewhere since Tony G was constantly drawing double-coverage. Harry Douglas it the man that rose to the opportunity at hand, as he gained Matt Ryan’s trust to lead the team in receiving in 2013.

Coming into week one, Jones and White are healthy and Devin Hester signed to contribute on special teams, but offense as well. All three had plus performances in week one’s shootout, where they held home field against the rival Saints in overtime. Again, lost in the fold is Douglas, who mostly worked the slot to the tune of over 70 yards in the opener.

Ryan has quite the artillery at his disposal, and all four will supposedly be involved all season long. Without Gonzalez, Douglas will be a constant in the offense as the third target in the passing game. Atlanta doesn’t have the best ground game when you look at the backfield and O-line combination, so that led me to predict Ryan was going to air it out in 2014 for MVP consideration. Like John Brown mentioned earlier, Douglas is in an excellent position to produce while getting mentored at the same time. Recent memory has shown Jones and White to get nicked up, but even if that wasn’t the case, Douglas is still going to garner a handful of catches each week. It may be 2015, and it will certainly be by 2016, that this guy gets elevated to a starting role.

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