Shuler's arm strength, accuracy and athletic ability have convinced the Washington coaches that they drafted the right guy, and now they're preaching patience. "People are calling this a rebuilding year," says Shuler, who doesn't anticipate anything as gruesome as the 1-15 season Aikman endured in his rookie season with the Cowboys. "But I can see progress coming. The game's starting to slow down for me. People say I don't have enough experience. Well, I don't know too many rookies that do. That's why they call us rookies."
Willie McGinest, New England Patriots.
Here's what it's like to be a rookie under Bill Parcells: McGinest was drafted fourth overall, out of USC, to provide the Patriots with a pass rush. In his first preseason game the 6'4", 255-pound outside linebacker had three sacks against the New Orleans Saints. When asked afterward about the rookie's performance, Parcells called McGinest "clueless" and complained that the sacks were the only three plays he had made all night. When McGinest chalked up his first interception, on Aug. 18 against the Redskins, the only thing Parcells noted was that after catching the ball, all McGinest did was fall down.
Deep down, though, Parcells has to be pleased with McGinest's progress. "He's trying," Parcells says. "He's determined. I'm glad I drafted him."
Stepping in right away for Andre Tippett, a veteran who hung up his cleats rather than take a deep pay cut brought about by the salary cap, McGinest has the size and explosiveness to solidify a defense that was ranked sixth in the AFC last year. Right now the rookie is being used in all passing situations, but as soon as he gets his coverages down, he may fill a role similar to the one that Parcells's favorite player, Lawrence Taylor, did for the New York Giants.
Parcells is quick, though, to dispel comparisons between Taylor, a future Hall of Famer, and McGinest. "Nothing about McGinest reminds me of LT," he says, nearly recoiling at the suggestion. "Nothing. LT was a different guy at that age altogether. They're two completely different people." Time will tell if they're completely different players.
Sam Adams, Seattle Seahawks.
The Seahawks allowed more passing yards than all but two NFL teams last year, a situation the coaching staff blamed, at least in part, on the lack of a pass rush. Former Texas A&M defensive tackle Sam Adams, the eighth player drafted, was chosen to help rectify that shortcoming. At 6'3" and 285 pounds, Adams, the son of former Patriot guard Sam Adams, will play alongside All-Pro tackle Cortez Kennedy in nickel situations.
Paying Adams perhaps the highest compliment he can think of, Kennedy says, "He reminds me of when I came in as a rookie." Adams has shown tremendous quickness off the ball—he had 10½ sacks last season for the Aggies—and that should make opponents reluctant to double-team Kennedy. "It's hard for those interior linemen to get a lot of sacks," says Flores, "but Sam's expected to create a lot of things. He's a penetrator."
Adams, who credits his father with teaching him all the sleazy tactics that offensive linemen have at their disposal, has already penetrated the end zone in the preseason, recovering a fumble and carrying it 17 yards for a touchdown.