Throughout the offseason there are certainly times on the NFL calendar that can be slowed to a halt. After the NFL Draft until training camp starts would certainly be one of those times. This is the time of the year when people long for Power Rankings and opinion articles just to give them something to talk about.
You could chalk a recent NFL.com article into such a category as they asked 5 experts which second-year defender they thought was ready for a breakout season. The experts all had their own selection of who they thought would take the next proverbial step towards stardom, and all the names are worth noting.
Names like Ronald Darby, Byron Jones and Eric Hendricks were all discussed, but one expert -- we will talk about who the expert is in a second -- suggested Steelers' OLB Bud Dupree.
See what was said about Dupree and his potential leading into 2016:
"From the Pittsburgh Steelers' coaching staff to the players, Bud Dupree is a main topic of conversation. He is ahead of the game and doesn't know how good he can be. A year ago, Bud didn't know his strengths, but he started to come around toward the end of the 2015 season. He's watched veteran guys around him like James Harrison for an entire year and learned from them. He saw Harrison's work ethic in the weight room, on the field and in the film room."
Before analyzing the thought of Dupree being a dominant force next season, it should be noted the expert who stated the above is former Steelers CB Ike Taylor. While some will cry "Homer!", if there is someone who knows the inner workings of the Steelers, the staff and the team...it is Taylor. Taylor was with the organization during their minicamp and OTAs in 2015 to help with the defensive backs and defense as a whole. He certainly has the inside information to be able to gauge Dupree and his potential future success.
As for Dupree's actual chances of being a more dominant force in 2016, evidence shows there is a strong possibility of this happening. Dupree jumped onto the scene as a rookie in 2015 by garnering 4 sacks in his first 5 games as a professional. Although Dupree failed to be credited for another sack for the rest of the 2015 season, his improvement was noticeable.
Going from a backup to Arthur Moats to being the starter at the left outside linebacker position saw Dupree make major leaps in run support, coverage and even rushing the passer. Dupree might not have actually brought down the passer after his surge to start the season, but he was disruptive.
Is there room for improvement? No doubt there is, but there is also a great foundation being built for Dupree to truly show off his athleticism and raw skills next season. As Taylor suggested above, Dupree being around James Harison is an invaluable resource from an assignment and responsibility stand point. Harrison is passing down what was passed down to him from players like Jason Gildon and Joey Porter.
Will Dupree be the next great Steelers outside linebacker? He absolutely has the skills, but will be be able to refine his craft enough to be a force in his second season? Only time will tell, but after watching the way he finished 2015 I have no shame in saying I can see Dupree not only leading the Steelers in sacks in 2016, but being a dominant force on the left side of the defense -- something the team hasn't seen since LaMarr Woodley's time with the team.