For the first time in his career, Sherrod Martin will be tested in 2012. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Our biggest questions series continues today with the 4th most important thing to watch in Spartanburg
Charles Godfrey-- he'll arm tackle, he'll get caught out of position, and there are times where he'll miss a play so badly you'll want to throw your remote though your TV screen. For all those frustrations there are scores of times he amazes; the critical third down stop, the interception out of no where, and the big hit that sets the tone for the entire defensive series. Godfrey is not a complete safety, but his high notes are such that he's worth having in a starting lineup, so long as you can mitigate his weak areas.
The plan worked perfectly on paper. Sherrod Martin wasn't an eye-popping player, but in 2010 he was reliable. He should have been the perfect foil to balance out the secondary. Sadly in 2011 he fell apart. Martin matched Godfrey's deficiencies, but didn't show the high notes. Fans were hoping for a Godfrey/Martin tandem under Sean McDermott to become one of the best young units in the NFL, but they lagged behind and looked lost throughout the year.
Enter 2012, and two players who are starving for a starting job. Haruki Nakamura and Reggie Smith have been biding their time in Baltimore and San Francisco respectively. They were unable to break the ceiling stuck behind mammoth talents the likes of Ed Reed and Dashon Goldson, but now in Carolina they look to make their mark and win a job they've been so desperately waiting for.
More after the jump
Both products of the 2008 draft, Nakamura and Smith have waited almost five years to find a place to get a foothold. They were special teams standouts, but the leap they're looking to make is far bigger. On the one hand with have the conventional Smith, a 6'1", 200lb archetypal safety with the big college resume. A former third round pick, Smith got caught in the fluctuating 49ers coaching changes and never managed to show enough to live up to his high billing when he came out of Okalhoma.
On the other side we have Haruki Nakamua. Standing 5'10" he's hardly what teams look for physcially, but in his time in Baltimore he showed astounding heart. Couple that with a ludicrously high football IQ that always seemed to put him in the right place and the right time, and you start to understand why the Ravens didn't want to lose him as a specialist.
Both will have ample opportunity to unseat Sherrod Martin, but it's important we don't count him out just because he had a bad 2011. My prediction for the position is that Sherrod Martin will hold off Nakamura and Smith, retaining the FS position. Not every position battle will be a shocking upset, and in this case I feel that being pressured will work wonders for Martin who hasn't had his position challenged since entering the league.
Right around 36 hours to go folks!