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Friday, July 8, 2011

NFLers who might follow in Mackey's groundbreaking footsteps

John Mackey revolutionized the tight end position. He turned it into a legitimate receiving spot and helped spur its development so players such as Kellen Winslow and Kellen Winslow II, Shannon Sharpe, Tony Gonzalez, Dallas Clark and so many others could capitalize.

Mackey played in the '60s and '70s, weighing about 225 pounds. At his size and with his ability, he had likely be an Andre Johnson-type wide receiver in today's game. Mackey was a trendsetter.

There are players in closely every generation who take things to a new point. Let's look at some current nominees who might be able to prompt change, at the very least in perception, if not the actual role of their position in the NFL.
Chris Johnson, RB, Titans

We have heard that speed kills, and Johnson has made that more than a myth. He's also beginning to shed the belief that workhorse backs have to be big, bull rushers who can dish out as much punishment as they absorb.

At 5-foot-11 and 191 pounds, Johnson has 925 carries and 137 receptions for more than 5,600 yards in just 3 seasons. Injuries have not been an issue. If he makes it through a 4th season carrying such a load -- and recent draft picks such as Kendall Hunter and Taiwan Jones prove serviceable -- more teams could look away from size and base evaluations of running backs on speed and durability.
Vernon Davis, TE, 49ers

What set Mackey apart from most tight ends throughout history was he was not just a chain-mover. He was a big-play receiver. Davis ventured into that category last season, averaging a whopping 16.3 yards per reception. That's simply not what tight ends do. The best typically average around nine or ten yards per catch. Only once has Davis averaged lower than 11.5 yards per reception.

Davis' power to stretch the field vertically and gain yards after initial contact set him apart from just about all other tight ends, except for maybe Indianapolis' Dallas Clark, who plays more like a slot receiver. If Davis can piece together a few more seasons with such sizeable averages, he might not only change how tight ends are used, but how defenses are played.
Maurkice Pouncey, C, Steelers

The fact that Pouncey received 2 votes for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, was named to the Pro Bowl and made second-team All-Pro tells you how special he was after only one season. An injury that kept him from playing in the Super Bowl was one of the top storylines leading up to the Steelers' loss to the Green Bay Packers.

At 6-4 and 303 pounds, Pouncey is one of those rare players at a position that's often overlooked. The fact he was such a difference maker along a shaky offensive line shows that the only player other than the quarterback who touches the ball on every play can be just as vital to the front as a guard or tackle -- especially in this era where 3-4 nose tackles, such as Green Bay's B.J. Raji and New England's Vince Wilfork, are becoming more dominant.

NFLers who might follow in Mackey's groundbreaking footsteps Rating: 4.5 Diposkan Oleh: Admin


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