Last week, we squinted at Lawrence Sidbury's remarkable 2010 disappearing act. This week, we're looking at a different man, but one whose smiling mug is next to the word "project" in most dictionaries. In fact, when he was first drafted, I called him as close to the dictionary definition as you can get.
I'm talking about Spencer Adkins, former Miami Hurricanes linebacker and one of the most intriguing players on the Falcons today. I know the term "freakishly athletic" has jumped the shark like Henry Winkler, but that's exactly what Adkins is. He came into the NFL as unpolished as IKEA furniture and having started only five games in four years at Miami, but the Falcons saw what he could offer.
A big-time hitter and a relentless pursuit athlete, Adkins has gotten some run on special teams, but his contributions on the defense have been sporadic at best.
Full disclosure: You're not going to get me to write objectively about Adkins. I've been a believer since the Falcons drafted him, and I still firmly believe he's going to be, at minimum, a terrific backup at linebacker. His tools make it possible that he could be a starter down the line.
In 2010, however, he played in parts of nine games and posted only six tackles. A large part of that is the limited run he was given, but at 23-years-old, the Falcons clearly aren't convinced he's ready to take a leap forward yet. Two seasons may not be enough to properly develop a guy whose resume at the position would read "knows how to tackle" and "runs fast."
And that's okay. Really. Adkins is still only 23, and with Mike Peterson still tottering toward the abyss that is a career's end, he's got some time to make his case to be a starter. At the very least, I expect the Falcons to start giving him a little more time on the field in 2011, the better to determine if he's a long-term answer somewhere on the depth chart.
But as with all good projects, we don't yet know what Spencer Adkins will become. Let's hope for a beast.