This past Sunday, we all witnessed Titans wideout Kenny Britt explode against the Eagles, catching 7 passes for 225 yards and three TDs. Giants wideout Hakeem Nicks, who will play tonight against the Cowboys, has 36 catches for for 417 yards and six TDs so far this season.
Also this past Sunday, we saw tackles Eben Britton and Phil Loadholt protecting the edges for the Jaguars and Vikings, respectively. We saw Patrick Chung start at safety for the Patriots. We saw Eric Wood start at right guard for the Bills. We saw Cardinals back Chris Wells rumble for 54 yards and a TD against the Seahawks.
What do all these players have in common, and why the f*#k am I bothering to mention them?
While Brown has battled injuries and inconsistent play in 2009 and (so far) in 2010, these other guys are making noticeable impacts for their teams as (for the most part) starters.
And while fourth year wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez is not so much a 'bust' as he is a 'disappointment,' his presence on the Colts roster was likely a factor in Bill Polian passing on players like Britt and Nicks in 2009. After watching seven weeks of football this season, it's pretty obvious Britt and Nicks are better than Gonzo. The most TDs Gonzo has ever scored in one season is four back in 2008.
Britt has seven already this year. Nicks has six.
With injuries sidelining key Colts players like Joseph Addai and Austin Collie for several weeks, and with Dallas Clark already on the shelf for 2010 with a wrist injury, if ever there was a time Donald Brown and Anthony Gonzalez needed to step up and prove they were worth the first round money they were paid, that time is now.
I'm not writing this to simply bash these guys for fun, or to suggest, right now, both are 'busts.' But, the reality of the NFL is that if you are drafted in the first round, at some point you should be a starter. This is the expectation, fair or unfair. When the position is running back, which for most teams is the easiest position on the roster to learn, you should probably be the starter at no later than your second year.
Remember, the biggest leap anyone ever has is from their first year to their second. So far, I see little 'leaping' from the 2009 Donald Brown to the 2010 Donald Brown. If anything, I see regression.
The fact that Brown has not supplanted Addai as the starter, when he is faster and more explosive than Addai, has more than a few people around the NFL whispering that Brown should not have been taken over players like Chung, Nicks, and Britt. Add to this that 2008 sixth round pick Mike Hart, in just about every way, has out-played Brown in 2010. Brown has 81 rushing yards and a TD in 2010 so far, averaging 3.5 a carry. While Hart's numbers look comparable to Brown's (93 rushing yards and a TD, averaging 3.6), you'd be a fool to suggest that those comparable numbers prove Brown is doing just as well as Hart. Without Hart's hard running in the fourth quarters of the Chiefs and Redskins games, the Colts are likely 2-4 at this point. Not 4-2.
Hart also is a very good special teams player. Brown does not play special teams.
Again, Hart lacks Brown's speed, agility, and overall big play ability. Yet, Hart is outplaying Brown. Hart's a sixth round pick. It's not good when a sixth round pick outperforms a first rounder.
In the same leaky boat with Brown is Anthony Gonzalez. He complained publicly prior to the season that he did not get a fair chance to compete for his old starting job after losing it to 2008 sixth round pick Pierre Garcon. Even though he has battled injuries all throughout his career, Gonzo entered 2010 hoping to prove he could last a full season without missing a game. Gonzo promptly injured his ankle Week One against the Texans, and hasn't seen the field since. Meanwhile, players like Garcon and Collie have been making circus catches and big plays left and right. Again, Garcon is a sixth rounder from Division III Mount Union and Collie is a 2009 fourth rounder from BYU.
Next Monday night, against the Houston Texans, Austin Collie and Joseph Addai are likely out for the Indianapolis Colts. Both are recovering from nagging injuries, Collie especially. He had surgery last week on a hand injury, and could be out until December. This means that both Brown and Gonzo absolutely must step up, because there is no excuse not to. The Texans sport the worst defense in all of football. They surrender an average of 410 yards a game and nearly 28 points per game. This including 104 rushing yards per game and a 4.2 yards per carry average. Their DBs have allowed over 1,800 pass yards and 14 touchdown passes. Receivers average 11 yards a catch against them.
Quite simply, if Brown and Gonzalez do not produce against this putrid excuse of a defense, both players will do little to justify their draft stock and place more holes in Bill Polian's rather spotty draft record since 2007.