One of the upsides of some of the injuries on defense is that we have been able to see some of the younger back ups getting playing time. It has been a mixed bag in my book. I thought it might be worth while to take stock in what we have seen thus far from the young back ups.
Will Davis: I like what I have seen. He is very active on pass rush and seems physical enough to set the edge well. His coverage of backs needs to be improved. Forsett had gained 6 yards before Davis closed on him. That may improve in time but at least for now, he seems to be able to impact the game as much as Berry has traditionally done. 2010 starter? We'll see if they resign Okeafar another year but I think Davis will be in the rotation, especially on 3rd down.
Ali Highsmith: Highsmith is basically a slower, heavier, less athletic version of Adrian Wilson. His special teams impact has declined this year although he isn't bad. He got eaten up in traffic inside, and wiffing twice on open field tackles doesn't look good on a resume either. Teams with any sort of a power running game will target him in the future. More often then not, rather than filling the holes he has been bending back and taking angles like a safety would. The upside to Hayes' injury? We now know that Highsmith can not be the heir-apparent should Dansby walk.
Reggie Walker: I know he is off everyone's radar but from what little I have seen of him on goal line this past game, I like what I have seen. He is around 240 and 6'. He seems to be thumper (like Hayes) which I tend to like in a 3-4 ILB. I would like to see more of him but thus far, he seems to have potential. Is he a future starter... that is probably a stretch.
Rashad Johnson: Ughh... Underwhelming, underachieving, underperforming... any other words that go along with that train of thought? I know it is only his rookie year etc... but he has shown nothing. He looks nervous. The game is still too fast for him and he is worried more about making a mistake than making a play. I havn't seen athleticism either. He was drafted to provide a backup and leverage for contract talks with Rolle but right now he looks to be able to provide neither. I will be honest, (and said so after the draft) I was not a fan of the pick. I wanted the Cards to pick Jasper Brinkley (ILB 250ish 6'4" was picked up a dozen picks later by Vikings) but the Cards had Johnson ranked high. Time will tell but I wouldn't place money on Johnson being an impact player in 2010
Greg Toler: I was also skeptical of Toler in the draft. He was a complete unknown to me, but, unlike in the 3rd round, there weren't other players I would have prefered so his draft didn't bother me. He has shown potential. In the Giants game he looked nervous but he held his own although he wasn't tested much. He has played well on special teams and, unlike R. Johnson, he has made an impact. I think he has potential to replace McFadden in 2011.
Kenny Iwebema: Injuries, tumors, conditioning... it has been a hard year for Kenny. Yet he still has managed to play well on special teams and is effective in rotation on the DL. The draft may bring more competition for DL spots next year but I would bet that Iwebema will be back in 2010 and will provide effective depth.
I left out Ware (who I have come to like and hope they resign) and R. Brown (who I have never been a fan of) simply because they are veterans and will be FA. They are a known package and if they are brought back it will be to fill holes. I am not looking to them to be the promise of the future.
I know we'll do all of this speculation again in the off season but what's your take now?