Former Michigan University staffer Mark Ouimet comments on Ernest Shazor, the Wolverine safety he…
U-M's Free Agents: Shazor, Curry, Dudley, Manning
Cardinals' Depth Chart at safety:
Aaron Francisco (undrafted free agent)
The word is that the Cardinals are going to try Shazor out at free safety, if so he could have a much harder fight on his hands than if he played his natural strong safety spot. Veteran Robert Griffith was brought over to start at free safety; Griffith still has a good nose for the ball and instincts in pass coverage, but his deteriorating athletic ability has limited him in some regards. Ifeanyi Ohalete is one of the players I used to compare Shazor to; he's a bigger safety who does his best work in the box but has been marginal in coverage the past few seasons. Obviously Griffith's is a locked spot; Ohalete won't be easy to beat out but it can be done. Quentin Harris is a project: he has good size and speed but his lack of experience shows, and he has never impressed me in pass coverage. Clarence Curry won't make it very long with the team once the preseason hits. Aaron Francisco, an undrafted free agent from BYU, has good size and run stopping ability; however, he's rather stiff and doesn't really show much more than average awareness in zone coverage. Overall it's apparent to me the Cardinals haven't put a premium on speed or coverage skills at free safety, so I can see why they want to try Shazor there. However, Ohalete will be tougher to unseat as the No. 2 guy, and there is a lot of competition there.
At strong safety, I see Shazor's chances to stick with the team much better. Adrian Wilson was the exact player I compared Shazor to in my draft previews, and at 6-foot-3 he's another linebacker-type safety. Wilson has been the starter at strong safety the past few seasons with the Cardinals, so his spot is a lock. Adrian Mayes as the No. 2 guy is vulnerable: he didn't impress me at LSU in 2003. In my opinion his only shot to keep a roster spot is on special teams. Ditto with Jermaine Hardy: his workout numbers look better than his on-field performance. He's a decent safety, but he will look to stick as a special teams player.
Overall, it's obvious that Shazor has the most potential of any of the players outside of the two starters Griffith (FS) and Wilson (SS). Wilson, Griffith and Ohalete are all very average in coverage and do their best work against the run, as does Shazor -- so you can see why they targeted him. If the Cardinals are smart they will realize Shazor will work best at strong safety; if he gets moved there I believe he will make the final roster. If he gets placed at free safety, he will have a tough fight to get a roster spot.
San Diego Chargers
Chargers' Depth Chart at cornerback:
Abraham Elimimian (undrafted free agent)
Gabe Franklin (undrafted free agent)
There is only one, or at the most two, corner spots open on the Chargers. Quentin Jammer, Drayton Florence, Sammy Davis and Jamar Fletcher are the locked spots at corner. Markus Curry will have to battle for a job with practice squad returnee Jonathan Cox, as well as fellow undrafted free agents Abraham Elimimian and Gabe Franklin. Elimimian from Hawai'i may get a look at free safety, but he is a decent cornerback. At 5-foot-8 he has size limitations, but has an attitude a coach would love. He's a very hard worker who plays more physical than you would think for his size, and I like his short area quickness and ball skills. The downside to Elimimian is his lack of true burner speed, plus he doesn't turn well and doesn't have that make up type second gear. As with Kevin Millhouse last year, cornerbacks from Hawai'i have a difficult time adjusting to the NFL because they'll have to play primarily man coverage and very little zone, as in college. Gabe Franklin from Boise State is a player I like: he reads action very well, has good enough speed to play deep zone and has good break on the ball skills. The downside to Franklin is his back pedal is rather slow-developing and he's not very quick. He also has size limitations, and played against WAC opponents as did Abraham Elimimian. Markus Curry is in the same mold of the type of cornerback the Chargers like: smaller, physical and quick. Curry certainly has his weaknesses, but if he can regain some of the form he had his junior year, he will have a decent shot at a roster spot. I think he can beat out Elimimian and Cox, but if it comes down to only keeping five cornerbacks, Gabe Franklin would be my bet to get the spot. A lot of Curry's chances depend on how many corners the Chargers decide to keep, and if they want to bring in any veteran corners in the offseason. Franklin and Curry have the most upside and skill of the players fighting for the open spot(s) behind the four locked in players so watch for those two.
Falcons Depth Chart at fullback:
Kevin Dudley has a fight on his hands if he wants to stick in Atlanta. Starter Justin Griffith is a prototypical West Coast Offense fullback who offers the versatility needed in that offense; his spot is assured. Fred McCrary is on the downside of his career; he isn't nearly as physical as he once was and his athletic ability is not a strength anymore. He still has ability as a receiver, and a finesse blocker, but he's falling out of capability with the offense. McCrary is probably in his final year. Carey Davis is in his second year after coming from Illinois. Davis is a project but he has good speed and receiving ability which fits the offense well. He lacks a lot in the size department, however, and he isn't much of a blocker. Davis has upside but the team may wonder if he will ever become even an average blocker. Dudley doesn't offer much proven versatility; I think he has some potential in this area but he wasn't used much as a runner or receiver at Michigan. Generally in a West Coast Offense you want someone who can block and catch the football; if they can run the ball that's a bonus as well. Kevin was the best blocking fullback in the draft but is still raw as a receiver. Dudley can give Davis a run for his money if Kevin proves he can be versatile. The key for Dudley will be beating McCrary out, which won't be easy. Overall, Dudley doesn't fit the offense very well; however, if he can show potential as a receiver, he could hold a spot.
Green Bay Packers
Packers Depth Chart at linebacker
Brady Poppinga (4th round draft pick)
Zac Woodfin (undrafted free agent)
Ike Emodi (undrafted free agent)
The Packers are a team that is looking to add depth to the linebacker core, and have brought in plenty of players to compete at the position. Michigan linebacker Roy Manning will have his work cut out for him in order to stick with the team. Raynoch Thompson, backup at WILL, was brought over from Arizona and is the exact type of linebacker Green Bay is looking for -- a space player who is fast and can cover. Paris Lenon, backup at SAM, was re-signed because of his athletic ability, and he's been solid for them the past few seasons. So those two spots are safe. The competition will be behind them for the remaining spots. The Packers like John Garrett because of his pass rushing ability, but he doesn't have ideal range, and is a below average player. Brady Poppinga was drafted in the fourth round; he's an OLB/DE tweener but will play outside linebacker for the Packers. Obviously Poppinga has his foot in the door for a roster spot, and I'm sure the Packers will be patient with him moving positions. Ike Emodi is an under-bulked linebacker from East Carolina who has some upside if given time on the practice squad. Shawn Morgan has been out of football since 2002 so, needless to say, he's a long shot to make the team. Kurt Campbell is another undersized player who had durability issues in college; he will compete on the outside. Zac Woodfin from UAB was a good undrafted signing, he could provide depth in the middle if needed. He lacks size and speed but has a great nose for the ball and is a very aggressive.
So as you can see, there isn't much room in terms of roster spots. Diggs, Barnett, Navies, Thompson, Lenon and Poppinga are most likely the shoe-in's for spots, leaving one, maybe two open. In my opinion, Woodfin would be the choice because he can play middle linebacker the best of the rest, and there is a large need for depth. Manning doesn't fit well at middle linebacker because he blows assignments and is hesitant at reading and reacting to the play. Physically he has what it takes, but you will likely see him allocated to the practice squad, where he can develop and hopefully compete for a spot down the line.
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