The most dynamic aspect of the team today was the wide receiving corp. Mike Tomlin asked Hines to be a coach today, and for good reason. The competition for the third spot and beyond is as fierce as any position this summer and the staff wants to see as much as they can to make good decisions. Giving Hines reps would not help that cause; thus his inactivity thus far in camp.
Limas Sweed definitely looks like a different guy this year. There is no bigger learning curve than from year one to year two, and the most important thing Sweed has learned is that no one is going to hand him anything. He was one of those college guys whose talent carried him to elite status. The last 12 months have taught him that when everyone is special, no one is special. Another motivation for him is the fact that he longer has a free pass. Being a high-draft rookie, he knew he wasn't going to get cut. Sitting behind Nate Washington, he was sufficiently insulated from pressure. This year, sans Nate, much has changed. You can clearly see Limas's motivation, sense of urgency, comfort zone and better knowledge of the NFL game.
Sweed's sense of urgency is prompted by four hungry players, none of whom give a tinker's damn about Limas's expectations. Shaun McDonald has been around the block and it shows. He looks sharp and quick and knows how to use his hands. He's getting a good look from the staff and he did not disappoint today. After practice I asked Maryrose which player she was most impressed with. She said "I can't answer because I don't know who that #87 guy is." True she's a kid, but if McDonald caught her eye, it surely caught everyone elses.
Next on the list was Martin Nance. You can see the rapport between him and Ben from their college days. Nance had a good day today. It's still hard for me to see a seat on the bus for him, but his presence is raising the stakes at the table for all the others to take notice and step up their game. Nance got alot of reps today and you wonder if Ben didn't lobby the staff to give him a fair shake.
Mike Wallace looks like this year's Limas. Raw talent, doesn't look ready, but protected by his valuable draft position and future promise. Wallace also has the added weapon of kick return potential. If Sweed and McDonald continue their ways, and all four (Hines and Tone) stay healthy (of course), Wallace won't be counted on to catch any passes this season. Again, this year's Sweed.
Dallas Baker is still in the mix, and hasn't looked bad lately, but it is awfully difficult to be the seventh guy on the charts. The Steelers have hung onto this guy for a reason, but there are too many cooks in that kitchen these days. I wouldn't be surprised to see Baker on another team this season. His time on our practice squad has run out.
It's early, of course, but for whatever it's worth, the biggest difference to me this year in camp, compared to last year, is the high-level and energetic competition we are having at the wide receiver corp. From Latrobe, over and out.