Tales from the SunnySide: Andre’ Goodman

Andre' Goodman has come a long way from Greenville, SC. He was born there on August 11, 1978; Goodman was born a Leo and has the heart of a lion. He brings that fierce quality to his play on the field.

He was an all-state selection in South Carolina and was rated the state's 20th-best prospect and 10th-best receiver after only two years of football. He was a top performer in track and ran a 10.5 in the 100-meter dash. In NFL terms, he ran a 4.36 40 before being drafted. That’s a lot of speed. And we all know that you can’t coach speed.

His high school ambition was to become an NBA player. He still idolizes Michael Jordan and has a Jordan jersey, posters and several items from Jordan’s clothing line. He also has a basketball card collection of over 3,000 cards from the 1990s, with his most prized card being a Michael Jordan Defensive Player of the Year card. But he never grew beyond 5’10" and Allen Iverson aside, there aren’t a lot of NBA players at that height. He decided to start playing football his junior year of high school and was an immediate success. In a state where football is second only to the Baptist Church, no one could catch him. It assured him of a scholarship to South Carolina.

Once he arrived at South Carolina, Andre's new coaches decided to convert  him to defensive back. If he couldn’t be a receiver, he could certainly take the ball away from those who were, and in that role he excelled. He accumulated 86 tackles, 4 interceptions and 20 pass deflections during his four-year career with the Gamecocks. It’s worth noting that he started at free safety before converting to cornerback halfway through his junior year. Maybe that was where he learned to deliver bone-crushing tackles. In his junior year alone, he registered 35 tackles (28 solo), returned an interception 71 yards and ranked second on the team with 11 pass deflections. Eventually, Goodman was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the third round (68th pick overall) of the 2002 NFL Draft.

His pro career started slowly. He was forced out of the November 10th game against Green Bay with a broken thumb, but returned for the final game of the season against Minnesota, finishing with career-high nine tackles (six solo) and his first career interception, despite playing with a cast on his right hand. The following year, he dislocated his shoulder and went on IR on September 25th. For him, it was a short season.

He suffered a thigh injury early in 2005, but started the final four games, filling in for the injured Fernando Bryant. He had recorded a season-high six tackles, two passes defensed and an interception in the season-opener at Chicago (9/12) before sustaining a thigh injury that would sideline him for the next four games. Injuries were a part of his early years in the pros. Bryant had also been injured for the October 2 game against Tampa Bay. Goodman came in and promptly recorded 6 total tackles (6 solo) and 1 pass defense on the game.

He was an unrestricted free agent when his rookie contract ran out, and moved on to the Miami Dolphins. Injuries again played a role; cornerback Travis Daniels went down with shoulder and ankle injuries and gave the maturing Goodman another chance to start. He did well. Following the 2006 season however, he decided to make a break with the past and switched from jersey #29 to #21. The change didn't hide the fact that his shoulder was injured, though. He had problems with it again in 2007, and had an arthroscopic debridement of the left shoulder joint (using a small scope to clear out material that interfered with normal range of motion).

It worked. He put forth his best season as a pro last year, started all 16 games for the Dolphins in 2008. He led the team and set a career high with five interceptions. He also recorded 39 tackles and a career-high 19 pass deflections during the season.

How then, do you look at the career of such a man? Goodman is solid in stopping the run, has superb leaping ability and excellent field vision to keep track of the ball in flight. Since he was not always a starter and did suffer some injuries that kept him off the field, he also has ‘low miles’ in the modern parlance. He is, without question, a late bloomer and a man for whom experience has been a constant teacher. No one has suggested that his 4.36 straight-line speed is anything but well matched with his speed on the field.

Now that his speed is married to the kind of vision and anticipation honed over the seasons, it is a weapon that is increasingly producing higher rates of interceptions; 8 over the past two seasons. He’s comfortable on special teams and had a three-tackle game (ST only) in November of 2004 against Indy. He’s even stepped in for return work if asked. He seems to be a solid pro, good in the locker room as well as on the field. Is he an improvement over Dre' Bly? Just consider that he had a top-tier 19 passes defensed last year (11 more than Bly), which tied him for 6th-best in the NFL.

The downside? The average age of Denver's probable starting DBs (Goodman, Champ Bailey, Brian Dawkins, and Renaldo Hill) will be 32 on opening day. None of the four is under 30. Rotoworld joked that the Broncos' secondary couldn't be much worse than it was last season, but it's significantly older. Fair enough.

There is no substitute for a powerful and effective defensive front seven. If anything, the past few seasons taught the Broncos faithful that. But this is a defensive backfield that does two important things; it greatly upgrades both positions and buys us some much needed time to develop younger talent.

Few believe that the Broncos will be a contender next year. The most exuberant fans look at 2010 as the next possibility. Josh Barrett and Josh Bell need mentoring and seasoning; the players are in place for that. The Broncos can now add certain players through this draft and again in 2010, and those players will be shown the work habits, attitudes and techniques of successful and effective players. That will help our team nearly as much as the coaching changes and the upgrade (we hope) in the schemes.

Champ leads by example, while Dawkins leads both vocally and by example.  Hill was with Miami for three years; he and Goodman know each other well and play well in unison. The Dolphins actually tried to bench Hill in favor of a younger player, but had to immediately bring him back to stabilize a shaky defensive backfield. Hill did just that. Goodman did an excellent job last year, and is a mature and effective CB whose 5 interceptions outdid any player on the Broncos last year.

One of the downsides of building through free agency is taking a chance that the disparate parts that you put together will merge, mesh and integrate into an effective unit. In this case, we already know that two of them have done exactly that.

If Goodman, along with Champ Bailey can mentor Bell, Jack Williams and whomever else the Broncos bring in, the defensive backfield could be effective for years yet to come. This is a solid pickup that brings a great deal to the Denver table that was missing last year.

Bring on training camp! Despite the recent setbacks, the Broncos really are getting better by the day.

Originally posted on MHR

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