Every fan, around this time of year, finds a few players in training camp that are "on the fringe" that they really like. I'm no different, and after witnessing one full practice I already have a list of guys that I'm pulling for to have great camps so that they can play a part on the team in 2010.
Some of these guys will make the team, and I'm just rooting for them to win a starter's spot. Some have no chance to make the team, but I'm hoping they leave a lasting impression on the team/fans anyways. Either way, I'll be keeping my eye on them and you should be too.
Vasher is competing for the nickel CB spot. What I saw from him yesterday is pretty much what I expected. He's not a very physical corner, preferring to play off the line and compete for the ball instead of for position, but he's smart and active. I like his speed, quickness and hands. What I liked most about him is the way in which he carries himself. I saw him being very social, always around one of the young guys teaching them what they're doing right or wrong. If he can stay healthy, I like Nathan as a nickel CB, backup outside CB and special teams guy.
I tried hard not to fall in love with Traye, for the simple reason that he's a real long-shot to make the team. Not only does he have 4-5 legitimate CBs in front of him, but he's also competing against himself as the shortest CB on the team (5'9"). However, he's currently got a streak going where he's grabbing at least one interception off of Philip Rivers each day of practice. He plays smart and tough, and his hands obviously need no work. I don't know what I'm hoping for from Traye, but he's made it impossible not to root for him.
One of my favorite draft picks from 2009. In drills, Vaughn looked average. Not particularly fast, quick or strong. However, put him on the line or in the Oklahoma drill (basically, give him a chance to hit somebody) and the guy turns into an animal. In his one shot at the Oklahoma drill, I blinked and his guy was on the ground with a shoulder in his gut. Wow. I've said before that I think a starting line of Luis Castillo, Cam Thomas and Martin would be my dream, and nothing I saw yesterday swayed me from that.
Part of the reason I'm rooting for Travis is the stuff he went through in the offseason with his daughter, sleeping in a hospital waiting room and waiting for word from the doctors that she had died only to have her miraculously get better, and also because he has a reputation as one of the nicest guys on the team. The other reason is that, as a veteran he could certainly be half-assing his way through practice and still get a spot on the team. What he's doing is the opposite of that, and it seems like he's found a home as a 3-4 DE instead of a DT.
"Baby Godzilla" is exactly that. I can see why the coaching staff is so excited, and already drawing comparisons to Jamal Williams. Although he seemed to be the biggest defensive lineman on the team, he also was clearly the quickest, strongest and had the best balance. Big things are coming for this kid.
An intelligent fan's favorite from 2009, Spillman just seems to get better as time goes along. My issue is that I don't see where Spillman fits on this team as anything but a 5th Safety. Eric Weddle and Paul Oliver are the obvious starter/backup combo at FS, and Darrell Stuckey and Steve Gregory are pretty much locked in at SS. I don't see Spillman taking a spot away from Stuckey or Gregory, and his only real shot to get on the field consistently will probably come in 2011. So I guess he should be hoping to open some eyes this year to get on the inside track for next season.
Not only will he get lots of attention for being a part of NFL.com's On The Fringe series, but Banks will open up a few eyeballs like he does seemingly every training camp with his work on Special Teams. Gary's a very good gunner and returner, and always looks eager to lay a big hit when he's offered the chance. I think he is competing against some of the UDFA WRs and young CBs (like Traye Simmons) for Kassim Osgood's spot as Special Teams standout and extra backup at his position.
Buster Davis (aka CBD)
There's no hiding my excitement for CBD. I have been fairly optimistic with him since Day 1, and while I have to occasionally forget about him (due to injury) I have never thought he was a bad player (unlike a lot of fans). In a nutshell, CBD is a mini-Vincent Jackson. He's big/strong and has great speed downfield. He doesn't get nearly enough credit for how good his hands are. Although sometimes his body fights him on it, he's tough as nails when it comes to taking a hit while making a catch. He might be the best YAC receiver on the team. After a year off, in what I think was a calculated move to get him healthy and confident, I am 100% confident that CBD is going to impress a lot of people this season and become a fan favorite.
Ernest Smith (aka Smokey)
Yes, yes, this is partly because me and him send each other messages on Twitter like we're BFFs. This is also because, at least during yesterday's practice, he was the most impressive rookie UDFA WR on the field. He was the only one that caught the punt return with coaches punching him in the back and throwing things in his face (seriously, that's a drill). He was the only one that beat the double-team on punt coverage (with some fancy footwork, I might add) to get down to the returner. The couple of passes he caught looked smooth and his speed looked good. Look for Smith, along with Jonathan Crompton (who looks like a steal and a half), to be impressive in preseason games.