So many young players have played this year for a variety of reasons. Who's been the biggest surprise as someone who you could see as a starter for two, three, four years? Or at the very least, a solid contributor? — MICHAEL SMITH / AUSTIN, TX
Rob: I'm not surprised by Randy Gregory's ability. He's a gifted player; we've known that for five years. I'm a little surprised by how seamlessly he's come back and consistently been a factor in the pass rush. He only had two weeks of practice before returning to the lineup at the end of October. That's after a year and a half away on suspension. Credit him for staying prepared all that time, even when his reinstatement process might have seemed bleak or frustrating at the very least. When you think about players the defense can build around going into next season, he's right there.
David: I was at least a little bit dubious that Tyler Biadasz was going to step into the lineup and be good right away. As excited as we were about the pick, he was still a fourth-round selection. Now, I'm not quite ready to say he's Travis Frederick 2.0 — at least, not yet. But he has had a very solid rookie season, and I totally believe he's capable of being this team's starter for the foreseeable future.
As disappointing as this season has been, one shining spot appears to be our O-Line coach Joe Philbin. Are you of the opinion that great coaching can make any team competitive in the NFL? — LES HOFFMAN / PELL CITY, AL
Rob: Depends on how you define "competitive." I don't think great coaching can step in and make just any team a Super Bowl contender. At the end of the day it does come down to having really good players. But I would say that great coaches can, at the very least, maximize a team's potential and in many cases help them overachieve. To your point about Coach Philbin, he's done a tremendous job handling all the different combinations on the offensive line. We're seeing improvement from several young linemen this year. Also give credit to offensive coordinator Kellen Moore for adjusting game plans around different lines and quarterbacks in the lineup this year.
David: It's pretty remarkable the way the offensive line has managed to stabilize despite a slew of injuries, so yes coaching can clearly make a big difference. At the same time, there were several curious decisions from the coaches, too. Such as the decision to roll with Terence Steele from Day 1, or the reluctance to move Zack Martin earlier in the year. It all goes hand in hand into the overall picture.
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