False start on Wheatley?

Commenters on the Patriots blog raise interesting points on this morning's "free-agent fit" entry focusing on cornerbacks.

In particular, "Lurker8008" penalized me for a false start on declaring that 2008 second-round draft choice Terrence Wheatley is entering a make-or-break year: "Calling it a make or break for Wheatley may be a bit premature. Asomugha for the Raiders did not emerge as elite until his 4th season I believe. It sounds more like a typical media make or break rather than coaching."

I'm not sure Nnamdi Asomugha is the best comparison as he started eight games over his first two seasons before emerging as a full-time starter in his third season, but I think it's a fair question to ask, "Is this really a make or break year for Wheatley?" I'm sure we could find some corners who didn't emerge until their fourth season, and one example that came to mind is former Buffalo Bill and current New Orleans Saint Jabari Greer.

As for why I went the make-or-break route, my opinion was influenced by New York Jets coach Rex Ryan and something I heard him say at the NFL combine.

Ryan was asked if this was a make-or-break year for 2008 first-round draft choice Vernon Gholston, who at this point has been a disappointment as the No. 6 overall selection.

“I think that is an accurate statement," Ryan responded with little hesitation. "Generally by the third year, you got to see a guy really making strides and I expect Vernon to really make strides this year."

In the case of Wheatley, we saw him appear to take those strides during his rookie season. When he sustained a season-ending wrist injury that year in Indianapolis, his confidence seemed to be rising. But this past year, he played in just five games (no starts) and was on the field for just 21 defensive snaps.