We started our players most likely to regress series with Aaron Rodgers a couple of weeks ago, which probably made some people unhappy. Honestly, people like this team so much that the other four selections are probably going to make people mad as well, but I figured we'd get the tough one out of the way first. Today, we flip to the positive side: Players most likely to progress.
M.D. Jennings would be higher on this list if there wasn't so much competition at the safety spot, and if we didn't expect to see so many one-safety sets with Charles Woodson in the game. With Charlie Peprah struggling with injuries, Jennings played with the first team defense during OTAs and impressed. Coaches had positive things to say about him after both OTAs and minicamp, and he'll go into training camp with a chance to beat Peprah, Jerron McMillian and Anthony Levine to a job.
M.D. Jennings' stats in 2011: 15 games, 7 tackles, 0 INT, 0 passes defensed - As a rookie undrafted free agent, Jennings wasn't expected to contribute too much last year. He became a primary backup when Nick Collins went down, but Peprah played most downs. He's on this list because there's nowhere to go but up.
Why I might be full of it - Because Peprah, even though he's no superstar, hasn't really done anything wrong. He was serviceable, if unspectacular last year. If he performs well in training camp and preseason, the coaching staff might not have a good reason to hand over the reigns to a more talented, but more raw and inexperienced player like Jennings or McMillian.
Projected stats for Jennings in 2012 - 60 tackles, 7 passes defensed, 3 INTs - I'm expecting Jennings to start, but to play less total downs than Peprah did last season. Because it'll be his first year playing regularly and because I don't expect him to play quite as much as Peprah, I'm bringing his projected numbers down a bit from what Peprah did last year.
There's no reason he can't do better than this, though. Jennings had a fantastic senior season in college, albeit against very average competition in the Sun Belt. At 6'0" with a 36" vertical and a 4.60 40-yard dash, he has the physical tools to be a very good starting safety in the NFL. I like him to win the job this year and perform very well.