(Editor's Note: This is the first in a countdown series for players that the Cincy Jungle team felt was ready to contribute in 2014. We will count these down over the next couple of weeks, based on who we feel is deserving and how big their impact could be.)
The term "breakout" is a relative one, when speaking about players in the NFL. When looking at a player like Bengals wide receiver Marvin Jones, it would refer to his ten touchdown grabs last season and his arrival as a viable NFL wideout. For others, it could mean simply being healthy and contributing on their respective side of the ball and/or making the squad and being a special teams ace.
If you were to ask Bengals fans about linebacker Sean Porter, the collective response might be something akin to "Oh, yeah. That guy--that's cool we have him back". Drafted in the fourth round in 2013 out of Texas A&M, Porter saw his season cut short because of an unfortunate shoulder injury. Before the torn labrum occurred, the coaches were impressed with his ability to play all linebacker positions.
The College Tape:
Porter must have been comfortable in all spots because he did a little bit of everything with the Aggies. In 2011 as a junior, Porter was a solid defensive player with 9.5 sacks, 17 tackles for loss and 79 total tackles. He also did some things against the pass with two passes defensed and added a forced fumble to the resume.
In 2012, the coaches asked him to play less on the line to rush the passer and it affected his sack totals. It also was a shock to the entire Texas A&M team to go from the Big 12 to the SEC. Still, Porter made plays in his final collegiate season. He had 66 total tackles (6.5 for loss), 3.5 sacks, an interception and a forced fumble.
Porter was a productive college player that slipped to the fourth for a variety of reasons. First, scouts probably had to wonder why there was such a dip in production from 2011 to 2012.. Secondly, though he did a number of things pretty well, there wasn't one aspect of his game that was truly dominant and teams likely wondered what position he was slated for in the NFL. It likely also didn't help that the Aggies defense wasn't exactly the top dog in the NCAA.
Why He Could Be Primed To Breakout:
The linebacker group is one in flux at the moment. Though he brought toughness and leadership, James Harrison wasn't a scheme fit and was released earlier this offseason with a year left on his deal. That likely paves the way for guys like Porter and Emmanuel Lamur to take advantage of playing time, even if it is on a rotational basis.
He'll have competition with the aforementioned Lamur, Vincent Rey, Jayson DiManche, J.K. Schaffer and others all scrumming for a roster spot. But, it's Porter's versatility that could win him a spot, as it is well-known how much the Bengals coaching staff covets that trait. If he also shows the ability to rush the passer like he did in college, that brings an element to the linebacker group that the others don't readily show.
Again, "breakout" could be a relative term to use with Porter in 2014. Aside from him needing to continue to show that versatility, Porter will have to be a willing and able participant on special teams as well. Perhaps that that is where his biggest impact will be in 2014, but that has to be looked at as a huge boost from his trip to Injured Reserve last year. Mum has been the word so far on Porter in workouts and practices, but that could change quickly.