Robert Ferguson is competing for a starting job this season
Every team has a big-name star or two — players who grab most of the headlines and are expected to propel their clubs to victory. Others, however, fly under the radar and end up surprising. NFL.com has chosen one or two up-and-coming players from each team, and explained why they may become household names before the 2002 season is in the books.
CHICAGO BEARS - WR David Terrell
After catching on late in 2001, Terrell should get a chance to make more of a contribution this season. Standout WR Marty Booker is set to be the key figure in Chicago's receiving corps, but with Marcus Robinson still recovering from an ACL injury, Terrell may become one of QB Jim Miller's main targets if he exhibits more maturity and consistency in his second year. Selected as the team's first-round draft pick in 2001, Terrell possesses size, strength and speed and showed signs of promise last season. Additionally, he has the confidence of head coach Dick Jauron. If the University of Michigan product makes a difference on the field, Chicago's record will reflect it.
DETROIT LIONS - FS Brian Walker
Walker will get a chance to significantly improve Detroit's aging and depleted secondary. Although he only picked off only one pass with the Miami Dolphins last season, he notched a career-high 99 tackles. In 2000, he picked off a career-best seven interceptions. The Lions hope the six-year veteran will bring both (tackles and INTs) to the table in hopes of improving their 25th-ranked pass defense of a year ago.
GREEN BAY PACKERS - WR Robert Ferguson & DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila
Despite playing in just one game and making no receptions during his 2001 rookie campaign, the Packers will give Ferguson a chance to start this season. The second-round pick out of Texas A&M is a big, physical receiver who will play opposite Terry Glenn and give QB Brett Favre another solid passing option. He'll get an opportunity namely due to the departures of Antonio Freeman and Bill Schroeder, but now is the time for the former second-round pick to carve his niche in the Packers receiving corps.
Gbaja-Biamila compiled an impressive 13½ sacks in 16 games last season despite not making a start. While Packers fans should see more of the young speed rusher in 2002, he'll have to compete for playing time with veteran newcomer Joe Johnson and young standout Vonnie Holiday. The Pack is deep on the defensive line, but Gbaja-Biamila has the tools to continue his emergence.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS - RB Michael Bennett
For Bennett, 2002 means "take two." While he enjoyed a lot of playing time (13 starts) as Robert Smith's replacement in 2001, his production wasn't what the Vikings envisioned. Heading into his second season, the 2001 first-round pick should be more comfortable with the NFL level and will benefit from a monstrous offensive line that includes rookie tackle Bryant McKinnie. Bennett has excellent speed and word is that Mike Tice's staff is formulating plays that suit Bennett's strengths, so look for significant improvement.