Football 2005 In Review: Top Surprises
This is the start of my look back on the season. Let's begin with the positive: pleasant surprises.
1. B.J. Raji. Who knew? Before the season, I knew we needed the D-line to step up and fill big shoes. I thought Bell might be the guy or maybe even Willis. Instead Raji was outstanding. His play was one of those things that I would appreciate the more I watched the games in slow motion. He really took up a lot of space and helped us shut down many runners. He is amazingly agile for someone his size. And he has a Kiwi like motor to follow the play downfield. He doesn’t have Kiwi like endurance. But if we keep him fresh, he will be a force next season.
2. Jazzmen Williams. Our corners take a lot of flack. But they can only do what they are told and Williams worked within the system better than any corner of the Spaz era. He became an above average cover man, good run stopper and probably our most consistent tackler. Like Raji, I didn’t realize how good he was until I watched the games back.
3. The second-team Linebacking corp. A constant position of need finally became a position of depth this year. The first team get a lot of the accolades, but the second-team guys came in for long stretches and in my opinion were often better than the starters. Kudos to Spaz for leaving them in there. The backups still need to work on their coverage skills, but they were all monsters against the run. Dunbar got deserved pub towards the end of the season, but I think Francois and Pruitt were nearly as good. The defense loses a lot of important bodies this year, but these guys, Silva, Toal and Raji leave me very optimistic.