The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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196 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW the fall and hauled in 38 passes for 447 yards and a pair of touchdowns, his most in a single campaign since 2009, when he set a career high with three. He also tallied five catches in the NFC East champion Eagles' 26-24 loss to the New Or- leans Saints during the wild card round. 9. LaMarr Woodley, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers The pass rusher was limited to just 11 appear- ances in his seventh professional season due to a pair of calf injuries. Despite the five missed games, Woodley still ranked second on his team with five sacks, to go along with 36 tackles, a forced fumble and one pass broken up. 10. Chad Henne, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars The veteran signal-caller saw time in all but one game last year with 13 starts. He finished the year 305-of-503 passing (60.6 percent) for 3,241 yards with 13 touchdowns and 14 inter- ceptions. Henne ranked 18th in the league in aerial yards and recorded a passer rating of 76.5 on the season. Club brass has said numerous times they want quarterback Blake Bortles, who was picked third overall, to sit as a rookie, so this should be Henne's team for at least one more season. The unit should be much more effective with several offseason additions. ❏ Wolverines On The Mend Arizona Cardinals LB Larry Foote The longtime Steeler, who spent 11 of his first 12 professional seasons with the club, had his season ended after just one game last year due to a ruptured right biceps. The team released him in March to help get un- der the salary cap, and he was later signed by the Cardinals. It turned out to be a great move for both Foote and his new club. Arizona linebacker Daryl Washing- ton was suspended for the year May 30 because of a violation of the league's substance abuse policy. Washington helped the Cards rank sixth in the NFL in total defense and first in rushing defense. The franchise must also replace fellow starting inside linebacker Karlos Dansby, who left for Cleveland as a free agent. Second-year player Kevin Minter is expected to take one starting spot, but the other is up for grabs among Foote (the favorite to claim the position), fellow U-M product and former undrafted rookie Kenny De- mens, veteran free agent addition Ernie Sims and Lorenzo Alexander, a longtime backup in the league who shifted from outside linebacker to inside linebacker after Washington's suspension. Foote started all 16 games for the Steelers in 2012 and logged a career- best 113 tackles with four sacks, which tied his highest single-season total. The veteran has also been remarkably consistent and reliable — be- fore last year, he had missed just five games in his career, and he started every game for Pittsburgh from 2004-08. New York Giants S Stevie Brown Brown had a storybook season in 2012, getting his first big opportunity in his debut campaign with the Giants and finishing the season tied for second in the NFL with eight interceptions. As good as that fall was for the safety who had been waived at least four times before in his profes- sional career, 2013 was probably equally as bad. Brown was looking to build on his breakout campaign, but tore his ACL in a preseason game Aug. 24, 2013, and instead missed the season. While Brown was out, his replacement, Will Hill, shined and became one of the team's best defenders. When Brown became a free agent this offseason, it was far from a foregone conclusion that he would return to Gotham, but that is exactly what he did — and he wasted little time doing it. Hours after free agency opened on March 11, Brown re-upped with the Giants on a one-year deal despite the emergence of Hill. "I knew this was where I wanted to be," he told "Wherever I fell on the depth chart is where I fell." It turned out to be the right move for both parties. Brown returns to where he wants to play and it was announced in late April that Hill was facing his third drug-related suspension in three years. When it was determined that he would be suspended for the first six games of the campaign, the Giants cut ties and handed the starting job back to Brown. The former seventh-round pick will now help pilot a revamped second- ary in New York. The team added safety Quintin Demps and cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the offseason, in addition to bringing back their breakout star from two years ago. If Brown can regain his health and make even half of the game-changing plays he did last time he suited up for the Giants, New York will forget all about the player who filled in for a season when the former U-M stand- out was injured. Cincinnati Bengals CB Leon Hall Hall did not miss a game in his first four seasons after being selected by the Bengals 18th overall in the 2007 NFL Draft. He started 58 of a pos- sible 64 games and notched 258 tackles, defended 71 passes, tallied 18 interceptions and forced five fumbles. Over the last three campaigns, however, he has been limited to 28 contests — all of which he has started — and totaled just 90 tackles, 23 passes broken up and five interceptions. His per season averages of each statistic were more than cut in half as he battled various injuries. He played in a career-low five games last season while he battled a hamstring strain, and then his season ended with an Achilles tear Oct. 20. He previously suffered an Achilles tear on his other foot in 2011 and then missed two games with a calf strain in 2012. However, after Hall's first Achilles tear he was named the Bengals' re- cipient for the Ed Block Courage Award, which honors one player from each squad who shows "commitment to the values of sportsmanship and courage." He was given the honor because of his intense rehabilitation that al- lowed him to return ahead of schedule and in time for the start of train- ing camp in 2012 — another speedy recovery would again be of great benefit to the defending AFC North champions. Hall said in early May that he felt he was on pace to return for the starting of training camp. St. Louis Rams OT Jake Long Former No. 1 overall pick Jake Long has been in this position before — each of the last three seasons to be exact. After starting all 16 games in his first three seasons in the league, the last three have all ended with the big left tackle on injured reserve. He was named a first-team All-Pro in 2010 — just his third professional season — but then battled back troubles in 2011 before a torn right bi- ceps ended his campaign. He was still named to the Pro Bowl to become one of just four offensive tackles in the last 50 years to do so in his first four professional seasons. The following year, a triceps injury to the other side of his body ended his season after 12 starts. The Dolphins even let their blind side protector walk after the season — declining to match the Rams' four-year contract offer. It looked like Long was well on his way to proving Miami wrong and enjoying a fully healthy campaign in 2013, but then he tore his ACL and MCL in a December game and missed the season finale. Long is expected back to anchor the Rams' line when the season opens. St. Louis did, however, use the No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft on Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson, but he is actually slated to line up next to Long at left guard. The Rams' line was solid last year, but now they have a pair of top two draft picks protecting the blind side of former No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford. That group of highly drafted players might not be intact for much longer — the team also added former Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph this offseason — but it will be exciting to see what they can do together in 2014. Foote, who had missed just five games in his career prior to last year, suffered a season-ending ruptured right biceps during the opening weekend of 2013. PHOTO COURTESY PITTSBURGH STEELERS 194-197.NFL Wolverines.indd 196 6/19/14 2:16 PM

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