When the third time is the charm

Tully Banta-Cain said over the weekend that if outside linebacker Shawn Crable can stay healthy, he could make a great impact for the Patriots this season.

In the comments section of that blog post, “BruceAllenMedia” wrote: “Shawn Crable has become the butt of many jokes and scorn as of late, but I'm not ready to completely give up on him just yet. Yes, staying (and getting) on the field has been an issue for him, but I want to see him get the chance before closing the door on this guy.”

Crable, a 2008 third-round draft choice, has yet to appear in a regular-season game. A big part of that is because of injuries (shin, groin).

Because of Crable’s injury history, my feeling is that it’s risky for the Patriots to rely on him, so the best approach would be to build the roster not expecting much from him, and then if he delivers, it’s an added bonus for the team.

The question is how realistic that might be.

Here is a list of some players across the NFL who had Crable-like questions attached to them over the first two years before breaking through in Year 3:

Kelly Gregg (Ravens) – Nose tackle spent his first season with Baltimore on the practice squad in 2000, was a backup the following season, before stepping in as a full-time starter in 2002 and essentially holding the position down for the rest of the decade.

Fred Jackson (Bills) – Running back came from a small-school background at Coe College, starting four games over his first two seasons in 2007 and 2008 before breaking through last season with 11 starts and 1,062 rushing yards.

Robert Meachem (Saints) – First-round draft choice in 2007 missed his rookie season and had limited contributions in his second campaign (12 catches) before putting things together in Year 3 -- playing 16 games with seven starts and totaling 45 receptions.

Steve Smith (Giants) – Although he had 57 receptions in his second season, the 2008 second-round pick was still a bit of a wild card entering his third season. Not any more after totaling 107 receptions in Year 3.

Lawrence Timmons (Steelers) – First-round draft choice in 2007 started two games over his first two seasons, waiting patiently behind Larry Foote at inside linebacker. He became a full-time starter in Year 3.

Wes Welker (Patriots) -- Receiver was cut by the Chargers as a rookie free agent, landed with the Dolphins, and racked up a career-high 67 receptions in his third season.

DeAngelo Williams (Panthers) – First-round draft choice started only two games over his first two seasons, before tearing through with a 1,515-yard, 18-touchdown campaign in Year 3.