Friday, February 9, 2007

Crowder, Brown, and Carey: Future Pro Bowlers?

Realfootball365 has posted a series examining the possible future Pro Bowlers on the Dolphins roster. They have showcased Channing Crowder, Ronnie Brown, and Vernon Carey as the young talents on the roster that have the ability to make it to future Pro Bowls. Let's take a closer look at each one of them:

Channing Crowder
As the sixth pick in the third round of 2005's NFL Draft, Crowder has certainly lived up to and exceeded most reasonable expectations of him. Coming out of the draft, he was criticized as being injury-prone, so it has been very nice to see him play in all 32 games of his two year career. In his rookie campaign he recorded a very respectable 85 tackles and this season he topped the century mark with 104. This is quite impressive for a second-year player playing outside linebacker next to the human-tackling machine named Zach Thomas. From what I have seen of Crowder, he plays with incredible intensity. One problem with his production thus far, however, is his lack of big plays. In his two years he has only notched one sack and two forced fumbles. He has yet to get an interception. Tackling alone will not get Crowder into the Pro Bowl. He needs to show that he can make the big play. With a sputtering offense, the Miami defense is often on the field for long periods of time. This has a tendency to catch up with the unit as the season wears on, slowing them down. The young guys like Crowder can help change that by forcing more turnovers. If he can find a way to get the ball back in the hands of the offense, then Crowder has a good chance of one day seeing the Pro Bowl. However, that is a big "if."

Ronnie Brown
Speaking of the offense, Ronnie Brown is its keystone. Big plays, particularly in the passing game, have slowed this unit down. Brown is leaned upon so much to get good yardage on first or second down to prevent the third-and-long situations. He is a tenacious player when he runs up into the pile, churning his turbine-like legs for every extra inch he can get. But he can offer this offense so much more than the tough yards that he gets so well. His physical tools are amazing, but they require a more efficient offensive system to truly blossom. Enter Cam Cameron. In no way am I comparing Brown to LaDainian Tomlinson, but Cameron sure showed that he knows how to best make use of a versatile running back. I expect Brown's catches out of the backfield to significantly increase this year since that is one of his strong points. He is this offense's biggest weapon, and thus it is important to get him the ball in a variety of manners. Ronnie certainly has Pro Bowl talent, but he has yet to post the numbers necessary to get him there. Last season he topped the 1,000 yard mark, but he will need at least 1,200 before he will get any serious consideration. His touchdown production will also need to improve. He has scored 5 TDs in both his seasons. There is no doubt that he is capable of much greater statistical numbers, but they will only come with more touches. Of course, if Ricky Williams is on the team in 2007, Brown will probably share significant touches with him (much more so than with Sammy Morris). This is not a bad thing for the team, only for Brown's Pro Bowl chances. Sharing the load with Ricky will increase Brown's longevity and increase his productivity at the end of the season as he will be running with fresher legs. So will Brown make it to the Pro Bowl? I think eventually he will, but not until he receives a lion's share of the carries and the offensive line proves that they can reliably open running lanes for him.

Vernon Carey
It has been a pleasant experience watching Vernon Carey rise up over the turmoil of his rookie season to become arguably the offensive line's best player in 2006. Dave Wanstedt really botched his progression as a rookie by moving him all over the line during the ugly 2004 season. There should be no question that Carey is a right tackle. That is where he is most comfortable and where he has played his best football. However, offensive line play more than any other unit in football requires the coordination of every member. This means that before any one lineman can be considered for such honors like the Pro Bowl, the unit as a whole has to prove that it is more than just average. Offensive line coach Hudson Houck has done a tremendous job with the talent he is given; he simply needs better talent along the entire line. Also, so much of getting to the Pro Bowl is name-recognition, which is hard for an offensive lineman, especially one on a unit like Miami's which has not shown itself to be anything more than mediocre. For these reasons, I don't see Vernon Carey making it to the Pro Bowl.

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