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Golden Bears In The NFL: Pundits Predict Aaron Rodgers To Be MVP

The California Golden Bears currently have 31 players on NFL rosters. We'll track the progress of the best Cal players in the pros, including Aaron Rodgers, DeSean Jackson, Tony Gonzalez and Nnamdi Asomugha.

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The former Cal star quarterback looks to take the Packers all the way this year.
The former Cal star quarterback looks to take the Packers all the way this year.

People may not realize it, but the California Golden Bears currently have 31 players on NFL rosters. You could probably build a decent fantasy team with only players who've worn the yale blue and California gold. So this season we'll do our best to try and track the progress of the most productive Golden Bears at the next level at SB Nation Bay Area.

The Stars

Eight of nine SI experts predict Aaron Rodgers to be this year's MVP. So do seven of the sixteen ESPN experts. He's been quite perfect during the preseason, as ieeebear of the California Golden Blogs showed with his Week 1 and Week 2 highlight reels.

However, the most fun story about Rodgers this offseason came courtesy of Bill Simmons, and Aaron's disdain of his former "mentor", Brett Favre.

On a personal note, my affection for Rodgers increased exponentially at ESPN's Sundance party during the conference championships, when Rodgers and his buddies unabashedly rooted against nemesis Favre and the Vikings down the stretch and celebrated raucously when New Orleans pulled it out. Rodgers couldn't have been more delighted; he did everything but climb on the bar and start a "F--- YOU, FAVRE!" chant. I will always root for him after that. And yes, that story is 100 percent true.

DeSean Jackson is expected to keep on returning punts, and JasonB of Bleeding Green Nation sees no problem with that.

Some fans have expressed concern that putting your starters, especially one as valuable as Jackson might not be wort the the risk. Personally, I don't understand that logic. There's only 16 games in an NFL season(for now), you can't afford to not go all out to win every single one. If you aren't letting your best punt returner return punts then you aren't going all out to win. DeSean Jackson has game changing ability as a return man, if the Eagles lose a close game he might have been able to influence with a big return, then the fact that he may stayed healthy isn't going to mean much.

Dave Choate of SB Nation Atlanta predicts big things out of Tony Gonzalez.

If Tony Gonzalez doesn't haul in 60+ catches, 800 yards and at least 6 touchdowns, I will eat a bowl of cereal with some milk. I really would rather not eat my hat.

Gonzo's one of the all-time greats, and thanks to a diet of nothing but wheat germ, protein shakes and unicorn steak, he's still in awesome shape. He'll function as a high-end security blanket for Matt Ryan all season long, and teams simply can't afford to take him lightly. He and Roddy White will be giving defenses nightmares all season long.

The Falcoholic believes Thomas Decoud is a Pro Bowl-worthy player, but he needs to be on a Pro Bowl-worthy team to earn the reward.

Let's tackle Devitt's point first. He argues that DeCoud needs to work on his coverage, but is clearly an up-and-coming free safety with a ton of potential. The use of some advanced metrics, like those used by the indispensible Football Outsiders, suggest that he's actually about as good against the run as he is against the pass (31% stop rate in each case), unlike someone like Erik Coleman who has meaty 49% stop rate against the run and a putrid 23% stop rate against the pass. You can also go with more traditional metrics, which suggest he was an above average free safety but not an excellent one.

But here's the problem with this argument, in its most basic form. With the exception of skill positions on offense and the occasional defensive end, the Pro Bowl vote doesn't hinge on the most talented player at a given position. It hinges on whether you have a winning team.

Field Gulls raves about Brendon Mebane and talks about his move to the weak-side:

Mebane was a three-tech in college and a good one. He broke in with Seattle by filling in for an overtaking and making expendable Chuck Darby. Darby was a one-tech, but a Tampa 2 style one-tech. He was quick off the line and had active hands and did not anchor very well but did provide pass rush from a position teams rarely wring pass rush from. Mebane was Darby but better in almost every conceivable way. As an added bonus, the bulked-up Mebane proved pretty damn hard to move and so he became a quality anchor too.

What Mebane does is pretty simple: He is quick, strong enough and hard enough to block to force consistent, almost persistent double teams. Unlike most defensive tackles in the NFL, he survives and can even split a double team. Simple but rare and a huge boon for his surrounding teammates. A pass rush is typically four on five. Mebane accounts for two.

Nnamdi Asomugha isn't that interested in whether fellow feared corner Darrelle Revis wanted as much money as him (Revis didn't get it), and considers him a friend.

Asomugha and Revis struck their friendship at the 2008 Pro Bowl in Hawaii.

Asomugha says he isn't consumed by who makes more money, he only cares that a friend and fellow special talent who is passionate about football is back playing as soon as possible.

"I really could care less if they made him the highest-paid corner in the league," he says. "That's not the reason why I play the game. If that happened, that's fine and I applaud him.

"It's not going to change anything about our friendship. But people always ask me, 'Are you mad he wants this?' Of course not," Asomugha says. "I say it has nothing to do with me. I know it does indirectly."

The Up-And-Comers

Jahvid Best isn't quite as popular a pick as Rodgers to win offensive rookie of the year honors, but he's definitely on the short list with guys like Ryan Matthews and C.J. Spiller. Sean Yuille at SB Nation Detroit predicts Best will earn that award.

No. 4: Jahvid Best will win the offensive rookie of the year award.

The offense has many weapons, but perhaps no weapon is quite as dangerous as Jahvid Best. Okay, Calvin Johnson is probably more dangerous, but he won't be touching the ball 15-20 times a game like Best is expected to. Best showed his explosiveness at running back in the preseason, and we really didn't even get much of a look at what he can do lining up as a receiver. The Lions plan to use Best in many different ways this coming season, and assuming he stays healthy, I think his explosiveness will propel him to the offensive rookie of the year award.

Zack Follett has had his growing pains at starting linebacker, but the Lions are being patient with him. Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew provides his take.

On whether LB Zack Follett has grown into his role
"I think he has. He's still growing; he's still learning and he's still improving every day. He's a hard working guy; he's very committed, very dedicated. He's going to be successful. The process with him, like with all our young guys, is learning and developing into NFL-caliber players."

According to Nate Davis of the USA Today, Alex Mack is on his way to breaking out in 2010.

Eric Mangini got an excellent first-round center (Nick Mangold) in his rookie year coaching the Jets. Seems he got another one last season, his first in Cleveland. A heady player, Mack didn't miss a snap as a rookie in 2009. He and left tackle Joe Thomas look like the foundation of an offense that continues to take shape.

John Morgan at Field Gulls is unsure about current starting tailback Justin Forsett, who will be splitting the carries with at least one or two other backs. But that's for fantasy purposes.

Best case, Forsett wins the nominal starting job and totals around 250 touches. That makes him a fringe RB2 or Flex. Worst case, he is buried behind Leon Washington and proves less capable running in a pure zone blocking scheme than he did in the hybridized version Seattle was running last year. Too much hype, his total number of touches is too uncertain, and he has shown little in the preseason to support his status as an up and coming back. This is a risky pick and the upside is not nearly what some hope.

Both Lavelle Hawkins and Craig Stevens have patiently waited their turns to be Tennessee Titans starters. They could both get their chances in 2009.

The Hawk had a nice leap during the preseason.

Lavelle Hawkins 22 YD Run 8/23/10 (via GOBEARSON3123)

But now he could be striding toward the prize he really wants--starting wide receiver. Jeff Fisher threatening to deactivate Kenny Britt due to mental struggles would bode well for the Hawk's chances to be starting on opening day.

Tennessee's offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger says Stevens is the most indispensible player on offense, even over Chris Johnson and Vince Young. Stevens credits a former tight end great for his development.

Stevens spent the past two seasons listening and watching Alge Crumpler on the angles he used and how to set up defenders when blocking. He studied the offense, stayed busy in the weight room and waited for his time.

"I learned a lot from him,'' Stevens said of Crumpler. "Also, I had time to get comfortable with the system. I wasn't just thrown into it so it was good.''

Heimerdinger credits Crumpler, who signed with New England this offseason, of a great job helping develop Stevens.

"He's doing everything right. The most important thing for us was to get someone that could block at the point of attack when we lost Alge. Cat's done it. He's gained weight over the offseason, got much stronger, worked with (Steve) Watterson from Day One. He made every day in the offseason. He carries the extra weight well. He's still running well,'' Heimerdinger said.

Desmond Bishop hopes to grab a starting spot from A.J. Hawk. It looks like he'll start 2010 on the bench again though.

He's a potential free agent in 2011 (depending on a new labor agreement) and he's never been given a chance during the regular season. He's listed as the top backup at both inside linebacker spots, but he might never start unless he signs with another team. While he's not a huge improvement, I'd expect he'd be better than Hawk.

Tim Tebow is coming to Jacksonville (the player most Jaguar fans wanted), but he'll be on the bench. The actual Jacksonville pick, Tyson Alualu, will be on the field. Big Cat Country talks about the storylines of Saturday's game.

Sunday will find Tyson Alualu starting while Tebow sits the bench or becomes a specialty player. If and when he does take the field the opportunity will present itself, through action, to validate early on whether the appropriate gun was pulled from the armory. The future is yet to be harvested, but the present can feed us. There can be continued speculation, but if Tyson plays a role in victory, [GM] Gene [Smith] can add another line to that resume.

The Grizzled Veterans

Tully Banta-Cain tells Patriots fans not to read too much into New England's pass rush struggles this preseason.

"Obviously, that was an issue for us last year, so people are going to ask about it," said Banta-Cain, who led the team with 10 sacks. "Right now, it’s just a matter of us playing better as a team. I think the pass rush, the sacks, all that stuff comes as a result of us playing as a team. You can’t really point to one guy, or two guys. It’s really a matter of everybody being on the same page. And then you’ll see good results."

Andre Carter of the Washington Redskins is happy with the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker.

Outside linebacker Andre Carter believes he is on the road to a successful transition from defensive end. In fact, he says he enjoys his new position.

"I really do," said Carter, among the most optimistic athletes I have ever covered. "I like what we've been doing and I'm feeling more comfortable every day...We're definitely going to put ourselves in position to create more turnovers. That's what we want."

Lorenzo Alexander has also had to convert to OLB, and for now seems to have lost the battle with Carter for the spot. He will still be in the rotation though.

Said Alexander: "I'm figuring it out. From playing D-line where your first instinct is to get into the backfield, you just have to adjust and be more patient and see what's going on, if you need to rush, or drop back into pass coverage. I'm figuring it out ... I'm seeing a lot of nickel snaps, and doing all my same special teams stuff, so I just focus on doing my best at that. Whoever starts, starts."

One of the 53

Starting Seahawk offensive guard Mike Gibson needs work against elite competition.

Ryan O'Callaghan has an undisclosed injury and is not likely to start at right tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs on opening day.

Marshawn Lynch will be listed behind C.J. Spiller on opening day for the Buffalo Bills.

According to Daily Norseman, Ryan Longwell needs to improve his kickoff range, with only 5 touchbacks last season.

Dallas Cowboys snapper L.P. LaDouceur was profiled by

Syd'Quan Thompson made the 53 man roster of the Broncos after an impressive performance in the preseason against the Steelers, reports Mile High Report.

Cameron Morrah had a solid offseason with the Seahawks, but like most young NFL tight ends, he'll have to waith his turn. He's third on the depth chart.

Langston Walker's run blocking improves, reports Silver and Black Pride. Kyle Boller is going to have to battle Bruce Gradkowski to keep the backup Raider quarterback spot.

The Chargers went defense-heavy in their cuts, and Dante Hughes was a survivor.

Dante Hughes, in his fourth season out of California, expects to add depth behind Donald Strickland as the nickel back in the slot. Turner called him one of the team’s most improved players Saturday.

"I feel like we’ve got a good mixture of guys. I feel like everybody can play," Dante Hughes said. "It’s going to make the team that much better just in case anything happens and special teams."

Verran Tucker made the Chiefs practice squad. Worrell Williams joins his brother D.J. in Denver; he'll be on the Broncos practice squad.

Missed the Cut

Mike Tepper (Dallas Cowboys) & Chet Teofilo (New York Jets), Will Ta'ufo'ou (Chicago Bears) due to a sprained knee and propensity of tight ends who could play H-back. Nyan Boateng (New York Giants), Thomas Johnson and Matt Giordano (Atlanta Falcons), Devin Bishop & Brett Johnson (St. Louis Rams), J.J. Arrington (Philadelphia Eagles).

Thankfully, most of these guys (if not all) have their Cal degrees, so they'll have something to fall back on if this football thing doesn't work out. GO BEARS!