Unlike college football, the NFL season doesn’t kickoff this weekend. Still, with the NFL season just around the corner, here’s a quick look at the season forecast for some former Notre Dame players.
Since there are quite a few former players to talk about, I’ll break this up into two parts and follow up with the rest of the Notre Dame alum later this week.
Ryan Grant – Green Bay Packers – RB
Grant burst onto the NFL scene in 2007 with 956 yards and 8 touchdowns in just 10 starts – much to the surprise of Notre Dame fans everywhere. Last year Grant was the go to back in Green Bay, but couldn’t quite recapture the same magic he had during Green Bay’s run through the NFC playoffs that brought the Packers within a game of the Super Bowl. Still, Grant managed to run for 1,203 yards and 4 touchdowns while starting every game.
At 26 years old, Grant should be entering the prime of his career and is set to be the feature back for the Packers again this season. A holdout and some nagging minor injuries slowed Grant last year, but he should be ready to bounce back. At least I hope he’s ready to bounce back – I selected him with the first pick in the 4th round of my fantasy football draft as my #2 back.
Julius Jones – Seattle Seahawks – RB
Jones is going to start the year as the #1 back for the Seahawks, but with Seattle signing former Pro Bowl running back Edgerrin James earlier this week there’s no guarantee he will end the season as the #1 back. Seattle signed Jones to be their #1 back last year, but he only ran for 698 yards and 2 touchdowns in 15 games. This year will most likely be Jones’s last chance for a big season as a feature back. He just turned 28 and won’t have many opportunities to be a feature back somewhere else next season if things don’t work out in Seattle this year.
Brady Quinn – Cleveland Browns – QB
Quinn is entering his third season in the NFL and could be facing a now or never season with the Browns. He was named the starter in the middle of the season last year, but a broken finger ended up costing him the rest of his season just two games later. Cleveland fired Romeo Crennell after the season ended, and new head coach Eric Mangini opened up a quarterback competition between Quinn and 2007 Pro Bowler Derek Anderson – the quarterback Quinn replaced last year.
Most reports have suggested that Quinn is the favorite to win the position in Cleveland this year, but with two weeks until the season starts, Mangini still hasn’t made a decision. Needless to say, this is a very critical season for Quinn and his future.
Maurice Stovall – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – WR
Stovall has been with the Bucs his entire career, but has had trouble moving up the depth chart. Stovall has hauled in just 20 passes for 213 yards and one touchdown in his first three seasons. As he enters his fourth season in the NFL, Stovall is challenging for the third receiver spot for the Bucs behind Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton.
Victor Abiamiri – Philadelphia Eagles – DE
Abiamiri has been plagued by injuries during his first two seasons in the NFL with the Eagles. Last season though Abiamiri started to come on strong during the second half of the season including a sack of Kurt Warner in the Eagles’s NFC Title game loss. Unfortunately for Abiamiri and Eagles fans, he started off training camp injured again this season. He’s been back at practice, however, and played pretty well in the Eagles most recent pre-season game. Abiamiri is in the mix for a lot of playing time in Philly this year and could challenge for a starting spot by the end of the season if he can stay healthy.
Trevor Laws –Philadelphia Eagles – DT
Like Abiamiri, Laws was slowed by injuries last season that ended up limiting his impact as a rookie. Like his former college and now professional teammate, he was also slowed by injuries earlier this summer. He too played in the Eagles most recent pre-season game and was impressive in making an athletic tackle for loss on Jacksonville’s Greg Jones. Laws won’t crack the starting lineup in Philly behind starters Broderick Bunkley and Mike Patterson barring injury, but the Eagles like to rotate their defensive tackles so Laws should play plenty if he can stay healthy.
Tom Zbikowski – Baltimore Ravens – S
Playing behind All Pro Ed Reed, Zbikowski isn’t going to be starting for the Ravens unless Reed gets hurt, but he is still expected to make a big impact on special teams this season. He was second on the team in special teams tackles with 23 in 2008 as a rookie and figures to be among the team leaders again this year.
Derek Landri – Jacksonville Jaguars – DT
Landri had a huge game in 2007 playoffs against the Steelers in the Divisional Round and played regularly in 2008 registering 2 sacks. He is in the mix for a starting spot next to Henderson this year. He bulked up this off-season to almost 300 lbs and so far this pre-season he’s been generating a good pass rush from the interior defensive line for the Jaguars.
Anthony Fasano – Miami Dolphins – TE
The Dolphins traded for Fasano last year and he responded with career highs in receptions (34), yards (454), and touchdowns (7) despite splitting time with David Martin. Fasano should improve on his stats this season with Chad Pennington as the QB in Miami again this year. Pennington does not have a big arm and will continue looking for the tight end again this season.
John Carlson – Seattle Seahawks – TE
Carlson was one of the few bright spots in Seattle’s otherwise disappointing season in 2008. He posted impressive numbers for a rookie with 55 catches for 627 yards and 5 touchdowns – all of which were team highs for Seattle. And that was with Matt Hasselbeck playing in only seven games. Hasselbeck is healthy in 2009 and Carlson should only get better in his second season.
Ryan Harris – Denver Broncos – OT
Harris enters 2009 as the starting right tackle for the Broncos after starting all 16 games in 2008. He was overshadowed a bit by Bronco left tackle Ryan Clady – an all pro in 2008 – but Harris has developed into one of the best young right tackles in the NFL. The Denver offensive line allowed just 11 sacks last season and Harris was a big reason for that success. With a less mobile quarterback to protect in Kyle Orton, Harris and his linemates will be hard pressed to replicate that success again this season.
John Sullivan – Minnesota Vikings – OC
With Matt Birk no longer in Minnesota, Sullivan enters 2009 as the starting center for the Vikings. He has some mighty big shoes to fill – Birk was a six time Pro Bowler and a two time All Pro during his 11 year career in Minnesota. Sullivan will be snapping to a Hall of Famer now that Brett Favre decided to make yet another return to the NFL this summer.
Chinedum Dukwe – Cincinnati Bengals – S
N’dukwe started all 11 games he appeared in during 2008 – his first season as a full time starter in the NFL. N’dukwe will be the starting strong safety again this year for the Bengals after registering three sacks and an interception last year.