I fully expect this post to get hammered due to the fact that its purpose is to go against the grain (not that I'm known for doing that...) by disagreeing with the seemingly popular hype of certain players on this team. So, I'll frame this into more of a question on why many of you regard these players are valuable. Consider it a challenge to validate your evaluations.
1) Domata Peko: For the life of me, I cannot figure out why everyone assumes he is our best defensive lineman. I have the feeling because he plays on the interior of the line which is hard to view, has the prototypical build of an all-pro DT, has long, flashy Samoan hair, and he's generally a well-liked guy in the community, people regard him as a stout defensive lineman who is our cog in the middle. But honestly, every time I focus on him, all I see is him tap-dancing with the offensive linemen without gaining any penetration. I can't even recall the last time I saw him in the backfield. In fact, going through highlights of him (notably during the Chargers game), I'll occassionally see him get completely blown off the line and out of the play by an OG. Seriously, can anyone show me a highlight of him blowing up the offensive line and disrupting a play in the backfield? Cause I don't see it - and don't tell me he's getting double-teamed. That doesn't happen on every play, and even the good DT/NTs in this league will fight through double teams.
2) Keith Rivers: Sometimes when I'm watching games, I like to keep a tally of how many times I see Rivers get blocked out of the way, miss a tackle, or shy away from one. It's actually quite entertaining. I think because he was a first rounder from USC and ended his rookie season before we really got a good glimpse of him, people automatically assumed he is legit. And since returning, many make excuses for him because he had his jaw broken. I could maybe see that in regards to him being tentative in hitting ball carriers, but not in his inability to shed blocks. I'll admit, he's pretty decent in coverage - and on a 3-4 defense, he might be well suited for the Farrior-type role where he mostly plays back in coverage. But on a 4-3, I am tired of seeing him get blasted out of the box.
3) Michael Johnson: He may have a decent future as a 3rd down specialist, but still not convinced he can be an every-down DE. I know it's cliche to claim he's too tall and lanky to play against the run - but still subscribe to it. Now, there was one play against the Ravens this last game where I actually saw him dominate Michael Oher by bull-rushing him back into the pocket and putting pressure on the QB (and I mention this primarily because I'm pissed off that Whitworth lost the probowl spot to him, most definitely because of a Sandra Bullock movie), though I think he had Oher off-guard and already moving backwards to pass-protect. I could still be convinced he will be a legitimate starter at DE, opposite of Dunlap, so I'd love to hear your critical thoughts on him, Cincyjungle.
4) Evan Mathis: For the last two years, I've been wondering why we don't see more of Evan Mathis. Then I saw him finally play against the Ravens this last game. My assessment is the next person to suggest that Mathis should be getting more playing time and possibly earn the starting job at LG next year needs to be
shot chastised. I don't think I have ever seen an offensive lineman get dominated as badly as Evans did on Sunday. And it wasn't even against Ngata or Redding either. There were DE's throwing him back into the QB or RB. I was surprised to actually see him playing in the beginning of the game, but noticed he quickly came out, and justifiably so. Livings on the other hand is probably underrated, but still think we need to upgrade there. I am tired of seeing Whitworth dominate his guys just to watch the play go nowhere because the LG gains no ground.
5) Rey Maualuga: Sure, he shows flashes of greatness and athleticism, but he reminds me of Odell Thurman a lot in the fact I constantly see him out of position or hitting the wrong holes as he flies right by the ball-carrier. There's been a lot of talk about him shifting over to middle LB, but I am skeptical on it, just based on his intelligence - or seeming lack-there-of. There's a reason why aging Dhani has maintained his starting role at MLB and I believe it is because of what he has upstairs in contrast to Rey. There's also a reason why he fell to the second round as well...