Here are some thoughts from practice during Organized Team Activities:
- I have to admit that I have been very critical of the play of Phil Costa, and I fully supported the front office making a move to try and upgrade the position. Costa managed to play a limited amount of plays against the Giants on opening night after missing the majority of the pre-season, then came back against the Ravens and played a significant role in the offensive output in that game before he suffered another injury the following week against the Panthers that ended his season. The front office did draft that center that I thought they needed in Travis Frederick and have put him in the lineup here day one. For Costa, it has never been easy, and despite the fact that he is running with the second line, he has honestly had reps in this zone scheme where he has been better than Frederick. The one trait that Costa has always had is his ability to play on his feet and when he is required to do that, he has been good. When Costa has been asked to play with power one-on-one, that's when you see him have the most trouble. From what I have observed in the way that this group is now trying to run the ball, he really is better suited to take a hard step play side, grab his man with his free hand, then hook him for position. There have been plays in pass protection where he has been helpful to these young guards in keeping his position on his set, not getting turned and keeping the front of the pocket square. To Costa's credit, you do see him working to finish blocks when given the opportunity which is far better than I believed that he could do.
- There have been plenty of folks on Twitter that have asked me what my thoughts were for this season's break out player which makes me always think about who I said last year's player was. Sean Lissemore was that player for me, but injuries robbed him of a great deal of his season. Still I am not trying to make excuses for him, but I really thought that he was going to be that rotational player that was going to play 25 to 30 snaps a game with plenty of pressures and tackles behind the line. For Lissemore, it was a struggle once he came back into the lineup and quite frankly wasn't the same player from the previous this season. Well this week, Lissemore was back in the mix and he looks healthy. The quickness and the power appeared to be back on several reps like it was two seasons ago when he played inside as a nickel rusher. What I have always liked about Lissemore is his ability to work his way up the field but using pass rush techniques and there were times last season where I didn't see that but it appears to be back. This scheme which is allowing him to play as a one is a much better fit than when he had to play as a nose. When he can line up on the inside shoulder of the guard and attack that gap instead of having to play with his hands and two gap, he is a more productive player. Maybe he will have that break out season that I expected in 2012.
- When the coaching staff changes were announced after the first of the year and I learned that there was going to be a switch to the 4-3 defense, I took the current roster to try and project where these players were going to line up. The one player I had the most trouble where there was going to be a fit was with Kyle Wilber. Depending on whom you asked in the front office or scouts, there seemed to be some questions as well. I heard that Wilber would compete for the SAM linebacker spot, then I heard he would be a defensive end, then back to linebacker. He really was a player without a position because at Wake Forest he had played as a defensive end before the team switched to a 3-4 scheme and he was moved to Will linebacker. Through the first five OTA practices, it looks like he has found a home as a defensive end backing up both DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. Where Wilber has seen the majority of his reps is on the right side as Ware recovers from his shoulder surgery. The good thing from an [embedded_ad] evaluation standpoint for the coaches is that Wilber is having to battle Tyron Smith each day, and that is making Wilber have to step up his game because if you rush Smith with less than your best, he will use his power and reach to stop you dead in your tracks or he will drive you up the field and to the ground like he has with Wilber. Where Wilber has become better is with his pass rush and his ability to separate. He has also put on some good weight going from the 240's to 255 and you can see this when he is playing the run to his side. Wilber looks more comfortable with his hand in the dirt than he did playing on two feet. If the scheme change was good for guys like Bruce Carter and Sean Lissemore, it appears to be even better for Kyle Wilber, because it allows him to rush the passer and that's a skill set he has.