Nice article on OG Will Campbell. The Jets love his potential...
Jets Lineman Crosses to the Other Side
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. —
Will Campbell loved football, and he loved Warren Sapp, and he stood 6 feet 5 inches and weighed over 300 pounds. So he played on the defensive line. He was a top talent in Michigan, among the best tackles in the nation, a cornerstone of the Wolverines’ formidable 2009 recruiting class.
As projected four years ago, Campbell reached the N.F.L. this season. He plays for the Jets — as an offensive guard. His transition began in earnest April 27, when they chose him in the sixth round and informed him that he would be switching positions.
Evaluating Campbell before the draft, they considered his assets: toughness, hand strength, natural power and athleticism. They also considered his weaknesses: a lack of every-down potential, limited pass-rush skills and anchor ability that was not on par with that of prototypical nose guards.
“And then it clicked for me,” Jeff Bauer, the Jets’ director of college scouting, said in a telephone interview. “It’s just something you see and you feel.”
He added, “Obviously there’s a lot of chance when you project guys, but I thought he would be a great offensive lineman someday, or at least a very good one.”
On the surface, it was an unusual request by the Jets: few players shift positions at the N.F.L. level, and fewer still succeed. But the Jets are familiar with such matters. Bauer’s first year scouting for the Jets was 2002, when they converted another Big Ten defensive lineman to guard, Brandon Moore, who went on to start 137 consecutive games for them before retiring in August.
As part of his education, Campbell, who has been deactivated for all three games, has watched Moore’s game film. He also speaks regularly with the former N.F.L. guard Dave Szott, the Jets’ director of player development, who went through a position change at Penn State. Mostly, though, Campbell learns on the field.
Each day after practice, the Jets’ offensive line coach, Mike Devlin, works with Campbell to refine a particular skill. The tutorials range from hand placement to staying lower to the intricacies of neutralizing tackle-end stunts.
Campbell peppers center Nick Mangold with questions about the playbook. Many times Devlin has reminded Campbell about the importance of staying patient in pass protection, of harnessing his instinct to be aggressive.
“There’s a controlled aggression to offense that Will’s getting used to,” Devlin said. “If you just came out going a thousand miles per hour and not thinking, then the defense will just kill you.”
When offensive linemen fizzle coming out of college, Bauer said, scouting reports are often laced with comments like “too soft” and “not aggressive enough.” Defensive linemen tend to have a nasty on-field disposition, Bauer said, and if a team can put someone with that attitude on the offensive side of the ball, “you’re very excited.”
“You see that with Will,” Bauer said.
It was Devlin who corroborated Bauer’s initial impressions, putting Campbell through a rigorous workout before the draft. At the end of it, Campbell asked if he could snap a few. Sure, Devlin told him. Then Campbell asked if he could snap a few more. His enthusiasm delighted Devlin.
“When you’ve been successful at one side and then you move over and start all over again, it can be frustrating,” said the Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who can empathize with his former pupil. Mattison’s son, Bryan, switched to guard from defensive end with the Baltimore Ravens in 2009.
“Unless you believe and have confidence in yourself, you won’t do it,” Greg Mattison said.
Campbell embraced the change from the outset, primarily because he realized it afforded him the best opportunity to play in the N.F.L. He regrets allowing laziness and weight problems to stunt his development at Michigan, keeping him on the sideline to the point that he asked to move to the offensive line in the second half of his sophomore season.
“I thought he was a natural at it,” said Greg Frey, who was then the Wolverines’ offensive line coach.
When Brady Hoke replaced Rich Rodriguez as coach, Campbell returned to defense, and it was then that he regrouped and took control of his career. He shed about 50 pounds. He improved his work ethic. He was named an all-Big Ten honorable mention as a senior.
The defensive techniques he polished at Michigan have aided his transition. He has trained himself to think like an offensive guard who has not forgotten his past. From how and where a defensive lineman sets up, Campbell has a sense of how to defuse him. He looks for “cheats,” for “tells” and for tricks he used.
“I used to try to hide all that stuff,” Campbell said, “but now I try to exploit it.”
He has, with varying degrees of success. His struggles in training camp — he yielded four quarterback hurries in 63 snaps in the Jets’ preseason finale, according to ProFootballFocus — seemed to foretell a developmental season on the practice squad. Instead, like the team’s other six draft picks, Campbell made the 53-man roster.
“You’re trying to develop some young guys and realizing that not everybody is going to be a polished product at the end of the day,” General Manager John Idzik said recently.
Idzik could have said the same thing 11 years ago about Moore. Campbell might evolve into an N.F.L. starter. Or he might not. Either way, the Jets are willing to wait and see.
“He’s a project,” guard Willie Colon said. “But he’s a project worth dealing with.”
After "Snacks" what is there about this type of story not to believe?
The unsaid portion of this story here is that the guys ahead of him on the depth chart have been doing so well that we can afford to "hide" a project on the 53 man roster. The OL has turned around rather quickly.
They must love his potential to have him on the roster, while possibly be inactive for the whole season.
Hopefully they can skate without him getting into the game other than on specials. He seems to be a guy that they don't want to lose to another team on waivers but also seems like he's not quite ready for gametime action yet. As long as there isn't a rash of injuries, that's fine.
Would love to see this work, the game is much more interesting for me when I have a good feel for a players background and how he got to where he is, I usually dont have the time to get into all that when getting used to new players.