Shipley is now a part of the offense’s young nucleus in Cincinnati. Shipley, who looks to fit in the slot next season, will get ample looks thanks to the Bengals drafting A.J. Green No. 4 overall. Shipley's 52 grabs for 600 yards in his rookie season showed a glimpse of his ability to find open space and make a reception.
Next generation of stars?
Last year, some players showed glimpses of brilliance. But who's ready to hit the next level? We list 10 who should become household names in 2011 — if there's a season.
Washington Redskins WR Anthony Armstrong
When Washington needed big plays it looked to Armstrong. He had 15 receptions of 20 yards or more and averaged just less than 20 yards a catch. If/when the Redskins get their quarterback situation cleared up, Armstrong could be mentioned in the same breath as the Steelers' Mike Wallace and possibly the Eagles' DeSean Jackson.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB LeGarrette Blount
Signed as a rookie free agent, Blount surprised everyone by taking control of the starting tailback job and rushing for more than 1,000 yards despite not really getting carries until Week 7. Blount, whose reputation is recovering after he punched a player after a college game, should produce big-time numbers as the full-time starter and could become a Pro Bowl player.
Oakland Raiders DE Lamarr Houston
Houston had a solid rookie campaign, contributing to an improved Raiders defense that ranked second in the league with 47 sacks. His five sacks displayed his relentless attack to the quarterback and will only blossom into a more polished defensive end. He is playing alongside one of the craftiest veterans in Richard Seymour and will be able to learn moves from one of the best.
Oakland Raiders WR Jacoby Ford
Ford had an immediate impact in Oakland, returning three kickoffs for touchdowns. The fourth-round pick from Clemson in 2010 set a Raiders single-season record with the returns, and isn’t worried about the rule change, which moves the ball up to the 35-yard line on kickoffs. Ford’s lightning speed was documented in Indianapolis, where he ran a 4.28 40-yard dash. The versatile receiver will be a solid contributor as a starter for first-year head coach Hue Jackson.
Green Bay Packers OT Bryan Bulaga
As a rookie, he was a key part of the Packers’ Super Bowl title run this past season. He struggled early, moving from left to right tackle, but Bulaga toughed it out. If he continues his development, has the ability to become a premier player.
Detroit Lions S Louis Delmas
His numbers appeared to dip last year (his second season), but Delmas is the real deal. He’s a solid player in the secondary and can make splash plays, evidenced by his two forced fumbles and two sacks last season. With Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley pressuring quarterbacks, look for Delmas to move to the next level of safeties.
Detroit Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew
The late first-round pick in 2009 should make the Pro Bowl if there’s football this year. He went from 30 receptions in his rookie season to 71 last year. With a healthy Matthew Stafford throwing him the ball, Pettigrew could have an outside chance at a 1,000-yard season.
Cleveland Browns S T.J. Ward
The Browns' 2010 second-round pick was critical in the success the secondary unit had. Although first-round pick Joe Haden received much of the attention, it was Ward who racked up 123 tackles and two interceptions. The addition of Dick Jauron at coordinator and the two high-end draft picks (Jabaal Sheard and Phil Taylor) will allow Ward a better opportunity of making his presence felt.