KEEP in mind, when these predictions come out, no one knows who will be drafted by which team. So this is an assessment of the team, as it is staffed by veteran players with track records.
While rookies may contribute heavily to their team, they don’t usually shake up the NFC East as a division. That being said, there’s a pretty good chance that what you see here, will be how it shakes out for the year.
If you’ve read all of the articles leading up to this, you’ll understand my conclusion. Good job! If you didn’t, you’ll likely be annoyed because YOU did a bad job of preparing. (Read the supporting articles!)
Now let’s look at 2022:
Offense, defense, special teams. Three units, multiplied times four teams, equals twelve total units in the division. Easy math, right? Out of twelve units, only three units across the division either stayed strong or got stronger. Nine units however, either stayed weak or got noticeably weaker during the free agency period. Put plainly, so far the NFC East is already weaker than it was in 2021.
Strongest Offense: DALLAS
They have all kinds of issues with their offensive line, but they have a real QB, and they have the most dangerous collection of skill players in the division. Philadelphia has a great offensive line situation, which allows for the smoke and mirrors, which they use to offset a lack of WR talent or a QB who can read a defense.
Weakest Offense: NEW YORK
Their offensive line is shit. It’s just shit! They have the least talented QB in the division. In fact, it can now be argued that he might not be as good as his new back-up (eventual replacement). Their RB clearly has his eye on the exit, and they lost their underachieving TE, and replaced him with- No. They’re about to draft a TE. They have to be. There’s no way they can be serious about going into 2022 with him as the starter.
Strongest Defense: PHILADELPHIA
This was the easiest call. In 2021 the Eagles surrendered fewer passing yards and fewer rushing yards than the Cowboys. The Cowboys allowed 21.1 points per game to the Eagles 22.6. From that, the Eagles added not just a pass rusher, but a sack artist, as well also upgrading speed at LB. The Cowboys lost a starting DE and a starting S, then replaced neither with a player of similar caliber. The other two teams aren’t even part of this conversation.
Weakest Defense: NEW YORK
New defensive coordinator, a soft secondary, and a bunch of edge players, but no real DE’s or OLB’s. This is the current state of the defensive side of the ball in New York. It’s a toolbox full of hammers and mallets, but no screwdrivers, pliers, wrenches or even a tape measure. And at some point in the next two weeks, a kid out of college will be expected to provide a spark of hope. Yikes.
Strongest Special Teams: PHILADELPHIA
Washington has the much better punting situation, but Philadelphia has a far superior kicking game. However, since punts never produce last minute wins, the edge goes to points.
Weakest Special Teams: DALLAS
New York’s punting situation isn’t “bad”, it’s more of a big question mark. The kicking situation in Dallas however, is pure comedy. This team does such an amazing job of fucking this up every year! They deserve a round of applause for the work they do. I mean c’mon, it has to be deliberate. No one is this bad, this long, without a supreme level of effort being put into it.
PROJECTED WINNER: DALLAS
You’re thinking “Philadelphia won two of these categories to Dallas’s one. So how can Dallas still be the favorite?!”
For the record I totally agree, except there’s two things nagging my mind:
The first thing is, 17 – 37, and 21 – 41. Those are the scores that Dallas has won by, in the two games Jalen Hurts started against them. Those aren’t just loses, they’re blowouts. While Dallas continues to dominate Hurts, picking the Eagles as the favorite is out of the question.
The second thing is, a two game sweep has an effective difference of four games. The make-up distance in a playoff race, between let’s say 4 – 6 vs 6 – 4, is four games. If the Cowboys sweep the Eagles again, that gap would be very hard to make up. Given that the last Eagles QB to beat Dallas was Carson Wentz, there is nothing in recent history to indicate that the Eagles will turn this around this season.
DARK HORSE WINNER: PHILADELPHIA
Overall, Philadelphia looks like the strongest team in the East. The issue is at their QB position. Which is huge. If Jalen Hurts were to take a a couple of steps forward in being able to read defenses, and utilizing his second WR, this Eagles team would sweep the division, and win it in a walk. However, until we see that for Philadelphia, QB is a huge question mark at best, and a liability at worst.
LAST year the Eagles went 9 – 8 and made the playoffs. The year started off with the team going 2 – 5. Then Head Coach Nick Sirianni started babbling about flowers, and how the team was flowers, and how flowers need to be watered daily, and we just knew that he was about to be fired. Instead, the players embraced their inner daffodils, and went on a 7 – 3 tear. What followed was a playoff exit so quick, that the Eagles should have just played the game in street clothes, with their luggage on the sideline. Should fans be excited about the Eagles immediate future, or was 2021 just fool’s gold?
With the NFL Draft just 13 days away, let’s get a look at the Eagles roster, as it stands today:
QB: Jalen Hurts (8 – 7, 61.3, 16/9) for all of his athleticism as a runner (784/5.6/10), he struggles with reading defenses and his timing. In fact, I called him a one read passer, months before anyone else began to talk about it. He can keep drives alive with his legs, but without being a better passer, he’s not maximizing his weapons, which by definition, is holding them back.
Gardner Minshew (1 – 0, 68.3%, 4/1) isn’t a back-up, he’s a second starter. His arm isn’t a rifle and isn’t laser accurate, but those same critiques have been made about the starter. Minshew is hyper-competitive and brings truckloads of swagger. Though he lacks Hurt’s mobility, Minshew can scoot and find the sticks when he needs to.
Though the two players at this position are different in their approaches, the overall effect (and we saw this in 2021 when Hurts was out), is that there isn’t a massive fall-off in efficiency, when either steps in. While this position isn’t remotely top ten, it gets the ball into the end zone reliably, and it’s super-stable. (+)
RB: Miles Sanders(754/5.5./0) didn’t score at all in 2022, but he was the second leading rusher on the team behind the QB, who had two more carries on the year than Sanders. Part of that was Sanders missing five games. The other part of that was that the QB wasn’t of much use if he wasn’t running.
The 5’6” 203 pound Boston Scott (373/4.3/7) was re-signed for some reason. His presence doesn’t make much sense, given that 5’9” 200 pound Kenneth Gainwell(291/4.3/5) is a younger, cheaper version of Scott, and he runs better routes. Also on the roster is 5’9” 193 poundJason Huntley(70/3.9/0), whose game is also very Scott-like.
Last year when the Eagles run game terrorized the league, they had a powerback in Jordan Howard (406/4.7/3) to wear down defensive interiors. Howard is no longer on the roster, and the Eagles no longer have a physical runner on the roster. Without a physical runner, they will not see the run game dominate that way it did in 2021. (-)
WR:Devonta Smith(64/916/14.3/5) set the all-time Eagles mark for receiving yards by a rookie. His numbers however, are misleading. In nine games (HALF) he caught 3 or fewer balls. In eight games (HALF) he had 50 or fewer receiving yards. In seven games his catch percentage was 50% or lower. These are not the marks of a number one receiver. If you want to argue that Smith isn’t the problem, then be prepared to point out exactly who is.
Quez Watkins (43/647/15.0/1) saw 3 targets or fewer, in ten of the seventeen games he played. He had 50 or fewer receiving yards, fourteen times. The under-use of Watkins is nearly a crime. Speaking of crime, Jalen Reagor(33/299/9.6/2) continues to steal the Eagles money, and murder fan hopes.
Free agent addition Zach Pascalwas added due to his familiarity with the Eagles coach, and system. Pascal isn’t a burner, and doesn’t have the best hands. While he may have been signed to add a veteran voice to the position, he doesn’t add an accomplished veteran voice. This position is a sloppy patchwork, and it needs some order put to it. (-)
TE: Dallas Goedert(56/830/14.8/4) Is the total package at TE. Not only is he a good in-line blocker, but he can also be a downfield threat.Jack Stoll(4/22/5.5/0) is a blocker who saw just 5 targets last year. If he can’t be developed into more of a receiving threat, his presence will make covering the other receivers easier.
Tyree Jackson (3/22/7.3/1) was making progress switching from QB to TE, then tore his ACL in the season finale. The Eagles love him, but he’ll likely be on I.R. into the season. Richard Rogers (2/11/5.5.0) was brought back (once again), to provide reliable depth as a receiver. (-)
OT: LT Jordan “IHOP” Mialatais just 24 years old. Massive, mobile, intelligent, and highly aggressive, Mialata is a people mover in the run game, and a brick wall in pass protection. RT Lane Johnsonhad another All-Pro season and even caught a 5 yard touchdown. The first of his career.
Andre Dillardwas once thought of as a bust, now he’s seen as sort of a luxury. Dillard doesn’t supply Mailata’s physical dominance in the run game, but when asked to fill in, he was more than up to the task. Le’Raven Clark is sort of a reclamation project. He was allowed some bad habits in Indy, but the Eagles think they can be cleaned up and net the team a steal. (+)
G: LG Landon Dickerson spent his rookie season putting on a show. He was a huge part of why the Eagles led the NFL in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. Jack Driscollis a super-versatile, work-pail guy. He stepped in for the injuredIsaac Seumalo, and had nine starts before his year ended on a high ankle sprain.
Nate Herbig isn’t the most athletic fellow, but he’s also not about to walked back into the QB. Sua Opeta is also serviceable. (+)
C: Jason Kelceis widely regarded as the best in the sport. Does that say enough? Depth? Jack Anderson is the back-up and he also plays G. (+)
In A Nutshell: The Offensive Line is the true engine of this unit. Ridiculously deep and versatile, it makes it possible for the team to platoon RB’s, trade TE’s mid-season, start a back-up QB, and still score without benefit of a well-conceived passing attack. There is no skill position that was upgraded during the offseason. (-)
DE:Josh Sweattied for the team lead with 7.5 sack last year. In past years he’d been a productive blindside rusher. However, when Brandon Grahamwas injured, Sweat stepped into playing as the strongside rusher, and he seemed over-matched. The responsibilities switch and physicality seemed too much for him initially, but as the year wore on, he picked it up.
Derek Barnett is actually a solid football player. The problem with that, is that he wasn’t drafted merely to be “solid”. As a result, he’s not judged by what he produces, but instead by what he doesn’t produce. That said, while it makes total sense for the Eagles to draft an upgrade over him, it also made sense to bring him back for 2022.
Graham has never been a 10 sack player. So it’s only natural to wonder what he has left at 34, and coming off the torn Achilles tendon, that cost him 2021. He’s been very good at getting pressure, and even better at setting the edge vs the run game. Tarron Jacksonwould surprise me if he makes the active roster this year.
This position is the epitome of what plagues the Eagles. At this (and other) positions, they Eagles have tons of “good solid” players, and “good solid” locker room guys. What the Eagles need is a player who gets actual sacks, not just pressures. A player who destroys plays, not just disrupts them. This position needs an impact player. (-)
DT: He doesn’t get to the QB like he used to, butFletcher Cox was brought back for one more year. Him being frequently double-teamed, at least opens things up for others. One of those others, isJavon Hargrave. Hargrave tied for team lead with 7.5 sacks, and had 18 QB hits (more than doubling his previous career high of 8). He also posted a career best 63 tackles, with 9 (career high) being for a loss.
Milton Williamsstarted two games in 2021. Both were against Dallas. Now let us never speak of that again. I’m kidding. Actually if you look at his stat line in both games, you’ll see that his numbers reflected the growth in his game. For example, in the first game he was tentative and waited for help. In the second game…
Marlon Tuipulotu played like trash, with a side order of ass last year, but then again I said he would. He’s too slow off the line. Slow motion in college, means you will be a still picture in the NFL. The Eagles added Renell Wren to the roster. Wren is a reclamation project with an injury history. Cincinnati junked him, but the Eagles think they can restore him.
We’ll see. (+)
OLB: Free agents Haason Reddickand Kyzir White were given nice contracts to come back to the region. Reddick is from New Jersey, but he played football in Philadelphia, in the Eagles stadium, for the Temple Owls. White is from a suburb of Allentown PA, which (depending on traffic on 76), is about an hour and half from Philly. Both grew up being Eagles fans.
Reddick has 23.5 sacks over the last two seasons, and was signed to bolster the pass rush. While the Eagles have had ‘backers who could pass rush, they’ve never employed a designated one in a 4 – 3 system. So this is historic. White reads like a smaller (just 216 pounds), faster version of cast-off Alex Singleton. Sort of a run and chase player.
Davion Taylor was drafted as a third round project two years ago, and aside from durability issues (both seasons ended on I.R.), his play is coming along nicely. This position gives the Eagles a scary Nickel, and a rock-solid base rotation. Patrick Johnson is listed at this position, but really, at 248 he needs to add 7 to 12 pounds, and put his hand on the ground. (+)
MLB: T.J. Edwards is so underrated that it’s nearly a criminal offense. His 130 stops were just seven behind the Eagles all-time mark of 137, (set last year by Alex Singleton). Edwards had six games with double digit tackles, and is now the Eagles signal-caller. He had to fight for his role and he won it, no question.
Old rumor on Edwards, was that he’s more Tackle to Tackle, than sideline to sideline. Initially the Eagles seemed to be listening to that, and took him out during passing situations. Despite starting 6 of 8 games, he played about 34% of the defensive snaps, and the Eagles were 3 – 5 for their troubles. Once the Eagles (suddenly!) started leaving him on the field for 95% of the snaps, they went 6 – 2. Then they sat him (and the other starters) for the 21 – 56 loss to Dallas.
Shaun Bradley has become a core Special Teamer, but he doesn’t add much value as depth, due to the fact that he’s only played 131 defensive snaps in 2 years. Incidentally, he and Haason Reddick were college teammates. Davion Tayloralso has some experience and value here. (+)
S: Culture change! With longtime mainstay, Rodney McLeod finding a new home in Indy, the Eagles are left with a number of question marks and short-term answers at this position. Expect to see the Eagles spend one of their first five Draft picks here. That said, let’s talk about who’s currently under contract.
Anthony Harris is returning after a less than stellar 2021. While he posted 72 tackles, he had just 1 interception and 3 passes defensed. Marcus Epps is the next most experienced player here, but he’s only started eight games in three seasons. Behind Epps, is K’Von Wallacewith six career starts in two seasons. Jared Mayden has no starts in his one year career.
While Epps has shown flashes in limited opportunity, Wallace has seemed slow to pick-up on NFL football. Epps could be very good with more seasoning, but he likely won’t see that opportunity. (-)
CB: The Eagles have seventy of these guys on the roster, but let’s focus on just the top four. Darius Slay posted five takeaways, and three scores, while allowing just 33 receiving yards per game. The guy simply went berserk in 2021.
Zech MacPhearsonplayed 179 defensive snaps as a rookie in 2021. He was targeted all of 17 times, only allowing 9 completions, for 96 yards. That’s 96 yards on 179 snaps. Opposing QB’s saw him out there and opted not to take their chances. He may be why the Eagles elected to let Steven Nelsonstroll off into the wilderness.
Avonte Maddoxhad five starts in the Nickel, and contributed 1 pick and 2 forced fumbles across his 2021 campaign. Andre Chachere is a bigger, more physical Nickel. He allows catches, but he looks to deliver the big hit. Which is why his missed tackle percentage was so high (21.1). A position switch would suit his level of aggression.
The Eagles are still trying to add top-shelf FA talent here. That said, this team could go into Week One with these guys, and it would be a solid group already. (+)
In A Nutshell: Linebacker and pass rush were seen as trouble spots for this defense, and so both deficiencies were addressed. While talent at Safety is a question mark, the players have played in the system , so they’ll know where they need to be, and will know how to communicate. (+)
K: Jake Elliott went 30/33 (90.9%) kicking field goals. All of which were career highs. He was a perfect 3/3 from 50 yards and out. He also hit all 44 extra points. Clutch. (+)
P: Arryn Siposs was having a great 2021, then things got shaky for him down the stretch. In four of the last five games, he averaged under 40 yards per punt. On the season he averaged 43.9, which isn’t bad, but it should have been better. (+)
In A Nutshell: The Eagles can depend on their legs to help bring victories.
Offensively this team doesn’t scare anyone passing the ball, and they won’t be as dominant running it this year. Given that the Eagles did nothing talent-wise to improve the Offense so far, it’s going to be hard to supply any sense of urgency to players on that side of the ball.
Defensively, there were a couple of low key changes, with one being a clear upgrade. Also the return of Brandon Graham’s on-field leadership, should pay very high dividends. This side of the ball stands a real chance of being much improved in 2022.
Last year the Eagles got to face a number of weak teams at the end of the year. They made it to 9 – 8, and snuck into the playoffs. Good news everyone! The Eagles get to play the rest of NFC East again this year. Most of which has weakened. So 9 – 8 is not only possible for the Eagles, but likely. Honestly, they are a couple of lucky bounces away from 11 – 6.
LAST year Dallas went 12 – 5 and won the NFC East. They earned a home playoff game. Then they proceeded to shit the bed 17 – 23, against a 6th seed 49ers team. People will want to critique how the last play of that game went down, but the fact is, the game shouldn’t have even been a contest. This has long been the story of the Cowboys. The larger, deeper issues are frequently ignored, in favor of shiny distractions. That said, is this the year they change the story?
With the NFL Draft being 13 days away, this is what the Cowboys roster currently looks like:
QB: Dak Prescott (11 – 5, 68.8%, 37/10) won his division, and posted career highs in completion percentage and touchdown passes. This included 13 TD’s and 0 interceptions over the final four games. He also had five games with 300+ yards passing, and five games with a completion percentage over 75.
Those stats point to him being back from the ankle injury that stole his 2020 season. Well, mostly back. One of the things that has helped Prescott in the past, has been being big and mobile, not just a big target. In an average year with 16 starts, Prescott averaged 60 rushes, 305 yards, 5.0 pyc, and 5 scores. Last season his numbers were (48 – 146 – 3.2 – 1). Keep an eye out.
Preseason Hall of Famer Cooper Rush (1 – 0, 63.8% – 3/1) added to his legend when he went undefeated in 2021. Filling in for Prescott during Week Eight, Rush put 325 yards on the Vikings, in a 20 – 16 Cowboys win. Seems that this position is worth every penny being spent on it. Ben “Bring It On” DiNucci is also still cashing his paychecks. (+)
RB: For the fifth year in a row, Ezekiel Elliott (1002/4.2/10) saw his rushing yards per game decline. He was held to fewer than 50 rushing yards in eight games last year. He only cracked the century mark twice. He did manage to rush for 1,000 yards though. That has to count for something. I guess.
Tony Pollard (719/5.5/2) is an average player. Fortunately for him, he seems to know it, so he hits holes as quickly as he can. He’s not a threat to break a 60 yard run, so he makes up for it by producing smaller chunk runs, more consistently. As long as his 205 pound frame is playing the “RB 1B” role, fans will wonder why he doesn’t get more than 8 carries per game.
Dallas also has three FB’s on the roster, most recently signing free agent Ryan Nall. They won’t keep three, so this is clearly an “iron sharpens iron” type of move. In any case, look for the team to flashback to the 1990’s, to re-emphasize lead blocking. Just the fact that they’ll be the only team doing it, will make them very hard to prepare for. Especially for a generation of defenders who wouldn’t be familiar with FB as a routine weapon. (+)
WR: I said last year that three was a crowd here, and I was right. However instead of ditching Michael Gallup (35/445/12.7/2), they traded Amari Cooper(68/865/12.7/8) to Cleveland. This means that CeeDee Lamb (79/1102/13.9/6) has graduated from Robin to Batman.
Over his first couple of years, even in a lesser role, Lamb has been plagued by drops and lapses in focus. Now that he’s going to have more intense attention focused on him, there have to be serious questions about if he’s mentally ready for the role.
Gallup lost nearly half of last year being on I.R with a calf injury. He then played in eight games before tearing his ACL, and going on I.R. again. His return goal is Week One. Which would mean no training camp. Steelers free agent James Washington (24/285/11.9/2), was signed to a one year deal. Essentially swapping out Cooper for Washington. That is clearly a step down.
There can be no arguing that this group is several steps back from what they were a year ago. That said, if Gallup can stay healthy in 2022, this trio could still be dangerous. (+)
TE: Boom! Dallas hit Dalton Schultz (78/808/10.4/8) with the franchise tag, before anyone else could take a shot at luring him away with a long-term deal. Schultz proved to be a sure-handed security blanket in 2021. While not an explosive athlete, his presence in the red zone will help provide the run game with more room to operate.
After cutting Blake Jarwin, there are bodies, but there really is no reserve talent here. Given the amount of traffic that will come Schultz’s way, this position will produce. However, if Schultz can’t stay healthy this season, this position is screwed. They are literally one player deep here. Just one. Uno. Single-ito! (-)
OT: At the moment LT Tyron Smith and swingman Terence Steele are the only real game in town. Smith hasn’t played a full season since 2015. Last year he played just 11 o f 17, and this year he’ll be 32. Not a good look! Steele has been more of a fill-in than a regular starter. Some weeks he played on the right, and when Smith was out, Steele played left.
While the talent is decent here, there is absolutely no consistency or reliability here. Making matters worse, there is no real depth. They have Isaac Alarcon, Josh Ball, and Aviante Collins. None of whom played a single down of football in 2021. (-)
G: All-Pro Zack Martin gives this line a rally point at RG, but he’s likely going to spend a good portion of 2022, helping the guy who will be working on his right-hand side. Babysitting doesn’t allow a player to operate at maximum ferocity. So expect the right-side of the line to suffer. At least early in the year.
Connor McGovern is still on the roster and started six games in 2021. However, it’s hard to pin down just how the Cowboys organization views him. At the moment he’s the clear LG, but a single flap of butterfly wings in China, might change that. Matt Farniok played a total of 23 offensive snaps, late in three games in 2021. The average score of those games: 50 – 14.
Right now it seems like there’s a weakened right, and the left is largely a question mark. Maybe the Draft is where an answer will come from, but as of this moment. This position is weak. (-)
C: Tyler Biadasz was the only lineman to start every game, so hooray for durability. He also had 9 penalties in 2021, which was second only to a guy who’s no longer a Cowboy. At this point no one seems entirely sold on Biadasz. That’s largely because he’s still being unfairly compared to Travis Frederick. A guy named Braylon Jones is the back-up. Iffy starter and no depth? (-)
In A Nutshell: The Cowboys have weapons, but right now, they lack reliable players on the offensive line. Employing a throwback wrinkle like routine lead blocking, might help the run game, but it’s going to hurt the passing game. There is no way to put a FB on the field, without taking some speed off the field. Should be interesting to watch. (-)
DE: DeMarcus Lawrence is no longer a premier pass rusher, but he can still get pressures. He also sets a pretty good edge vs the run, making things easier for those playing behind him. Free agent Donte Fowler looks to inherit the starting role vacated by Randy Gregory (DEN). Fowler had a couple of good years in 2017and 2019. The Cowboys are hoping to re-ignite that.
Dorance Armstrong will give a good effort, but is by no means a special player. Which is why Fowler was added. Tarell Basham is just a back-up. He plays from a two point stance, and at 6’4” that leaves his chest exposed at the snap. He also spends far too much time watching football, while he’s on the field. They also have some guy named Chauncey Golston. (-)
DT: Osa Odighizuwa got the fan base excited with how disruptive he can be, but his 280 pound frame seemed to wear down over just 14 weeks. No shame in that for a rookie, but this year he won’t be a rookie. Keep an eye on him. Carlos Watkins won’t cost any coaching staff a single wink of sleep. Yet Dallas re-signed him.
Neville Gallimore missed most of 2021, but once healthy, he took over for Odighizuwa, and was sort of “Meh”. Quinton Bohanna is a 360 pound gap plugger, who changes direction as well as an Applebee’s. This position is a cry for help. (-)
OLB: Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons is the total package. He pass rushes. He covers. He slices, he dices, is non-stick, and stain resistant! Parsons has been hyped as the next Lawrence Taylor, likely stemming from Parson’s 13 sacks as a rookie. That said, despite playing 904 snaps on defense, he only produced 84 tackles, and just two games with 10 or more tackles.
On the other side is Leighton Vander Neck. Sorry. Vander Esch. Injuries have rendered him half the player that he was as a rookie, which is why the Cowboys signed him to a one year “prove it” deal. Vander Esch hasn’t recorded 50 solo tackles since 2018, and playing outside in this system, will almost ensure that he doesn’t again in 2022. There is no depth here. (+)
MLB: I said last year, moving 211 pound FS Keanu Neal, to LB was stupid, and it turns out that I was right. AGAIN! Neal is now in Tampa, and now it seems that the middle will be manned by (drum roll) Luke Gifford?
Gifford played 32 defensive snaps in 2021. He only played 1 defensive snap in 2020. Maybe he won the coaching staff’s trust with those additional 31 snaps? It would not surprise me to see Vander Esch take over this spot. However until the subject comes up, I can only “speculate.” (-)
S: Jayron Kearse came into 2021 having played 73 games with just 12 starts. In 2021 he was given 15 starts, and had a pretty “meh” year. Just 2 interceptions, but he did lead the team in tackles (101). It was enough to convert last year’s prove it contract, into a two year pact.
Malik Hooker and Donovan Wilson are former starters who are under 27 years old. Both will likely compete for the other starting spot. Unless a player is drafted high here. (-)
CB: Trevon Diggs led the NFL with 11 interceptions. Cowboys fans would like for that to be the whole story, but it isn’t. He had 11 interceptions, because teams didn’t shy away from targeting him 103 times. Why not target a guy giving up 907 passing yards and 16.8 yards per catch? (For contrast the Eagles Darius Slay was targeted just 85 times, gave up 10.7 yards per catch, and just 535 yards.)
Anthony Brown’s first year under the new defensive system yielded 16 starts, 71 tackles, 3 picks and 17 passes defensed. All were career highs. Surely he’s looking forward to 2022. Jourdan Lewis started 13 games as the Nickle and also saw career highs in interceptions (3), tackles (61), and passes defensed (11). Kelvin Joseph rounds out the top four. How trash do you have to be to have played in 80 games with just 1 start, in your rookie year? Ask C.J. Goodwin. He knows. (+)
In A Nutshell: It’s the Cowboys. So whether they over or underachieve, you always expect to see a ton of talent on this team. So when looking at this unit, it’s amazing to see how hollow it is, right down the middle. Three positions: DT, MLB, and S, seem to be waiting to find salvation in the draft. Not wise. (-)
K: Chris Naggar is what people in sportscasting call, “a landmine”. Just one slip of the tongue… Dear Cowboys fans: You’ll be comforted to know that Naggar is experienced, and has never missed an NFL field goal attempt. He hit the 37 yarder that he kicked last year. He however, was just 1/2 (50%) on extra points. I have Brett Maher’s phone number if you want it… Hell, right now Bill Maher might be a better option than what you have. (-)
P: Bryan Anger was re-signed after averaging a career best 48.4 yards per punt, with 0 blocked, and opponents averaging just 6.5 yard per return (+)
In A Nutshell: I spent 4 years as a comedy writer, and even my twisted imagination couldn’t come up with something like the Cowboys Kicker situation. It’s pure comedy. For rival fans, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. (-)
The Cowboys are in trouble. They have spent so much money (QB, RB) and draft capital (WR’s, CB’s, LB’s) on peripheral players, that they haven’t made sure that they can win in the trenches. On either side of the ball. Unless something huge happens, Dallas is going to spend 2022 getting out-physicalled, and never really get a chance to find their footing in many games. The lack of quality depth (OT, TE, G, DE, DT LB, and S) means that when injuries start to hit, the drop-offs will be dramatic. This team feels 8 – 9, but we’ll call it 9 – 8 because New York is still in the division.
LAST year the Washington (insert name here), went 7 – 10 and finished third in the NFC East. The only thing more disgusting than the sewage that the stadium spewed on it’s fans, was the football that the team played on the field. Turns out that owner Dan Snyder was apparently not only cheating the fans, but the NFL shared revenue pool as well. Surely the Redsk- sorry, the newly named Commanders, have a lot to shake off.
In any case, this is what their roster looks like just 14 days before the Draft:
QB: The same Colts front office that thought they could do better than Peyton Manning (HOF), and then ran Andrew Luck out of football, has traded Carson Wentz (9 – 8, 62.4%, 27/7) to this team, after just one year with their team. Pundits are siding with the Colts (for now), but we’ll see how long that holds up.
Many question Wentz’s decision making (akaplaying “hero ball”) at times, but no one questions his talent. Posting the numbers that he did last year, given his weapons in Indy, (see above link) speaks to that. Oh, remember Wentz’s “injury prone” label? He hasn’t missed a game due to injury in 3 years now. For those keeping score, that’s 85 games played, with 8 missed to injury. Now he gets a shot to shake his “broken QB” label. Stay tuned.
Taylor Heinicke (7 – 9, 64.9%, 20/15) is an average athlete, with above average moxie. Despite having an average arm, he’s more of a gunslinger than a game manager. Translation: He’ll gamble with the football. That, more than any other reason, is why Washington felt the need to trade for Wentz. Still, there’s a ton of fight at this position. Both players have a “never say die” attitude, which could become contagious. That’s impossible to overlook. (+)
RB: Antonio Gibson (1037/4.0/7) led all NFC East RB’s in rushing yards. Unlike is rookie year, he didn’t miss a single game, and even saw incremental improvement as a receiver. He also led all NFC East RB’s in fumbles (6).
His hands and explosiveness are nowhere close to what you’d expect from a guy who played WR in college. In 16 games, he’s produced no runs longer than 27 yards. His game also seems to lack much physicality. Which might be why he continues to struggle with pass protection, and ball security.
Jaret Patterson (266/3.9/5) and J.D. MiKissic (212/4.4/2) give Washington two more backs who can catch. However, physicality, explosiveness, and creativity as runners, seem to be lacking thoughout this position. (-)
WR: Terry McLaurin (77/1053/13.7/5) is alone out there. Even with all the attention that he attracts from defenses, the next most productive players at this position, were Adam Humphries (41/383/9.3/0) gone.DeAndre Carter (24/296/12.3/3) gone. And thenCam Sims (15/211/14.1/2). You are looking at this team’s 2021 TOP four players at this position. (This is very similar to what Wentz just had in Indy.)
The Curtis Samuel (6/27/4.5/0) experiment from last season, was derailed by a groin injury. Washington has to hope that Samuel will bounce back, and 2022’s 3rd round pick Dyami Brown (12/165/13.8/0), can become a difference maker in 2022. Oh they also brought back Kelvin Harmon who spent 2019 with them, then was out of football until now. Ugh. (-)
TE: Logan Thomas (18/196/10.9/3) and John Bates (20/249/12.5/1) aren’t glamorous, but they’re stable building blocks. Thomas had his 2021 shortened by an ACL tear, but is expected back by the start of training camp. He’s not a scary receiver, but he’s reliable. He’s also a vicious blocker.
Bates saw a lot of action later in his rookie year, partly due to injuries to other players. Still, it’s valuable experience, and it gives Washington a solid knowledge base to improve the position from. Sammis Reyes is the team’s two year, lackluster experiment at TE. (+)
OT: In 2021 Washington added free agent LT Charles Leno, and he started all 17 games. On the one hand, their 2021 offensive production improved both in the run game (1,611 yards, 4.0ypc to 2,061, 4.3) and in pass protection (50 sacks to 43), from the prior season. On the other hand, letting stuff like this keep happening
shows that LT may still need some work.
Rookie Samuel Cosmi, outright won the RT job, during training camp. He however, was in and out of the line-up, due to hip and ankle injuries. Rookie Saahdiq Charles filled in during Week 8, and is all of their depth here. (-)
G: RG Brandon Scherff escaped via free agency. LG Ereck Flowers had the best year of his career, and he was still released. Jacksonville’s Andrew Norwell will fill his place, which is a laugh riot. Washington has fucked up here.
Wes Schweitzer filled in for Brandon Scherff during Weeks 3, 4, and 5. Saahdiq Charles got two starts in Scherff’s place during weeks 15 and 16. There are also a handful of young guys, but no one that the team is pushing to play. (-)
C: With Chase Roullier in the line-up, Washington averaged 230.5 passing yards per game. When he went down for the season, they averaged 177.4 passing yards per game, never once throwing for 230 during his absence.
Once Roullier was lost for the season, Tyler Larsen took over for a couple of games before being injured for two weeks during Week 11. At this point Wes Schweitzer took over. Aaand was hurt and put on I.R. in Week 12. Keith Ismael took over in Week 13. Then BEHOLD! Larsen is back to start Week 14, before being injured during that game, and lost for the year. Ismael would go on to finish the last four games as a starter. At least there’s depth. (+)
In a Nutshell: There is a ‘no quit’ vibe coming from the entire QB position. Washington had that last year, but they seriously upgraded their talent there. The interior of their line has been utterly decimated, and the edges aren’t very good. Making matters worse, most of their weapons don’t scare anyone. (-)
DE: Chase Young played just nine games before going on I.R. with a torn ACL. Up to that point however, he really wasn’t all that effective. With just 1.5 sacks, and 4 QB hits, he was on pace to achieve half of his rookie numbers. Worse still, with him in the line-up, Washington allowed 29 or more points, five times. With him on I.R. that only happened just once. Washington went 3 – 6 with him, 4 – 4 without him. Montez Sweat started off on a tear, but he ended up missing seven games, during which the team went 5 – 2. With him in the line up they were 2 – 8.
Behind Young and Sweat, Washington has Casey Toohill and James Smith-Williams. Laugh if you want, but when they both started in 2021, Washington was 4 – 0 and never allowed more than 21 points in a game. Might have something to do with Toohill and Smith-Williams playing the End position fully, and not just “pass rusher”.
In any case, Young and Sweat will be the starters for 2022. So the pass rushers will replace the Ends, and this defense will be less than it should be, leaving their fans scratching their heads over why it’s happening. Again. (-)
DT: While Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne “only” accumulated 13.5 sacks as interior linemen, they are responsible for 45 QB hits in 2021. Forty-five. As interior linemen! This is a two man wrecking crew. Provided they don’t wreck each other first.
That said, with the losses of Tim Settle and Matt Iaonnidis, Washington has gone from having top shelf starters and rock solid depth, to great starters and no depth. Seriously, the jersey numbers for the other two players are 64R and 68R. Camp bodies. The starters are All-Pro, but with no depth, they’ll wear down early in the year. (-)
OLB: Cole Holcomb played 1,021 snaps and had 142 tackles, with 2 picks last year. He’s not spectacular, but he’s a very solid player, who never comes off the field. Due to playing Landon Collins in a hybrid role, no other player saw much many snaps at this position. With Collins now gone, there is zero depth here. They are one Holcomb injury away from a complete disaster. (-)
ILB: Due to injury in 2021, Jamin Davis started 8 games, eventually fell out of favor and ended up behind David Mayo, who contributed 28 tackles. This position is doesn’t have players, it has staff members. (-)
S: Landon Collins was released because he wouldn’t take a pay cut, so that the team could afford Carson Wentz. In 2021,Kamren Curl saw 14 starts at SS, and allowed 59% of passes thrown his way to be completed, vs 73% in his rookie year.
The FS spot was manned by free agent addition Bobby McCain. McCain picked off 4 passes, defensing 9, and notched 63 tackles. All of which were career-highs. If Washington liked him enough to sign him in 2021, they will likely re-sign him for 2022. The starters (Curl and McCain) are decent and may even get better with time. (+)
CB: Kendall Fuller is the top player at this position, and he was essentially a scratching post for the first half of last season. He surrendered 60 yards or more in four of the first eight games, and allowed over 100 yards, in two of them. Things got better down the stretch, as he only allowed 60+ yards in two of the last nine.
On the other side, William Jackson gave up a touchdown pass in five straight games. He only played in 12 games. In reserve, Washington has a guy named Corn Elder, which is an absolutely terrifying name. It sounds like rape in an outhouse. (-)
In A Nutshell: Last year (during the preseason), everyone expected the defense to carry this team to the top of the NFC East. What happened instead, was that it completely collapsed. Like this.
The line has talent, but everywhere else is just loaded with depth issues, or starters who shouldn’t be. This however, is what Washington has to work with. At least for now. (-)
K: This should be Joey Slye’s job. He went 12/12 on field goals with a long of 55, and was 9/10 on extra points. Brian Johnson is also on the roster, but c’mon. Even Washington can’t cock this up. (+)
P: Tress Way averaged 48.5 yards, with no blocks in 60 boots, surrendering 9.0 yards per punt return. Not stellar, but far from bad. (+)
In A Nutshell: It’s not glamorous, but it should do. Slye gives them what looks like accuracy and range. The only question is can he do it over a longer sample period. (+)
As things stand right now, this offense is in trouble. As their QB gets to know his team, six times a year they get to go against teams that already know him. Two of those times, he goes against the team that built him. So there’s rough sledding ahead.
Defensively the coaching staff is basically the same, and we’ve already seen every trick that Washington knows. We saw it in 2020 to the tune of a 7 – 9 record. We saw it again it in 2021, to the tune of 7 – 10. In 2022, expect opposing receivers to be 7 – 11, and Washington to be 8 – 9.
LAST year the giants finished an ugly 4 – 13, and dead last in the NFC East. As a result, EVERYBODY was fired. The General Manager, the Head Coach, Gus the shoe shine guy… Everybody. The giants owner needed to find the right men to lead his organization. So he journeyed from New York, alllll the way to Buffalo and signed, it doesn’t matter. If the players are trash, the team won’t win. But are they still trash, or has there been improvement?
In any case, this is where the giants roster stands just 16 days before the 2022 NFL Draft:
QB: Let’s start with Daniel “Danny Dimes” Jones (4 – 7, 64.3%, 10/7). First the good news. Last season he threw just 7 interceptions, and his interceptions have gone from 11, to 10, to just 7 during his three year career. His fumbles have also gone down. From 19, to 10, to 7. He was third on the team in rushing yards (298), and tied for the lead in rushing touchdowns (2).
Now the bad news. His passing touchdowns have gone from 24, to 12, to 10. The team was 4 – 7 with him as the starter, marking a third straight year of being nowhere near .500 with him. He’s 12 – 25 as a starter. You know. On account of him being trash.
So the giants had to bring in somebody. Enter Tyrod Taylor (2 – 4, 60.7%, 5/5). Great move! Right away he’s the giants best player at this position. Yet he’s going to be their back-up, because starting him Week One, would be too much like making sense. If this team had a starter, they’d have excellent depth. (-)
RB: Coming back from his ACL injury, Saquon Barkley (593/3.7/2) led the team in rushing. Well he tired for the lead. Sorry, did I say tired instead of tied? I must have been thinking about the way Barkley looked in that game. Which game? Pick one. While I wouldn’t say that he’s washed up, he clearly doesn’t care about being a giant anymore.
Devontae Booker (593/4.1/2) had just as many rushing yards, and they released him. Which is hilarious. Both Booker and Barkley ran for 593 and 2 scores, but only only one them kept a job. They did add Matt Breida (125/4.8/1), who has demonstrated explosive speed in the past, but not really in the last two years. Their next most experienced player here is Gary Brightwell. He has 1 rush for 4 yards, and 8 career tackles. (-)
WR: Kenny Golladay (37/521/14.1/0) escaped Detroit, only to sign with a worse team.
He started 14 games, had a team-high 521 yards, and for the first time in his career, scored 0 touchdowns. Rookie Kadarius Toney (39/420/10.8/0) also scored zee-ro touchdowns. He also was in and out of the line-up, being inactive or just not playing for seven games.
Sterling Shepard (36/366/10.2/1) played just 7 games, intermittently throughout last season. He also took a pay cut in March to stay with the giants. Darius Slayton (26/339/13.0/2) spent two years looking like a solid #2, then absolutely cratered in 2021. Part of it can be attributed to the giants new look at the position, but part of it was Slayton just not converting opportunities (44.8% catch rate).
Robert Foster had a great 2018 season. Since then he’s been on five practice squads, including Washington (cut), and Dallas (cut). Now he’s in New York, and Philadelphia is waiting for it’s turn to cut him. Is there talent here? Yes. Is there enough talent to offset the deeper issues with this offense? No. Not remotely. (-)
TE: Ricky Seals-Jones totaled 90 catches, 1044 yards, and 10 scores. That wasn’t his 2021 season. That was his entire six year career. He’s on his fifth team in five years. He has all of fifteen career starts, and he’s a guy that the giants prioritized early in free agency? Either their front office is high, or I am. They have back-ups, but I’m not even wasting the keystrokes. (-)
OT: Andrew Thomas has been up and down during his two years in the league, but he’s more recently been up. Unfortunately, for a second consecutive year he’s needed surgery on his left ankle. Matt Peart is returning from an ACL tear that put him on I.R. He will be the starting RT, despite having never been a regular starter before.
Depth looks like well-traveled, career bench-warmer Korey Cunningham, as well as Matt Gono who warmed a bench for two years, then was out of football since 2020. This is the depth here and that’s it. No, I’m serious. This is all there is. This is everything they have here. (-)
G: New addition Mark Glowinski helped pave the way for the Colts run game for the last three years. Indy’s loss is the giants… gain? Shane Lemieux was the 2021 starter at LG, but he was lost for the year in Week One. He’ll likely reprise that role. Jamil Douglas and Ben Bredeson will keep the bench nice and toasty. (-)
C: Nick Gates was lost for year in Week Two. Gates himself said earlier this year, that he has no idea when he’ll be back. That, is likely why free agent John Feliciano was added. Though he’s been a G for seven seasons, there is talk of him moving to the pivot for New Yawk. It’s a plan that already reeks of desperation, and we haven’t even hit OTA’s yet. (-)
In A Nutshell: The new GM entered the building hitting walls with a sledghammer. Folks, this is what a rebuild looks like! Better yet, this is what a total teardown looks like. All of it. Just ripping it out. Quarterback, receivers, line, the hotdog vendor. Just all of it. So yeah, giants gon’ suck for a while. (-)
DE: Leonard Williams had 11.5 sacks in 2020, but came back down to Earth with 6.5 in 2021. In fairness he also plays the run pretty damned well. Sacks aren’t everything, but for an “Edge” player, it’s almost everything. It’s the reason Oshane Ximines was a third round pick in 2019. He had 4.5 sacks that year and not one since. He’s spent most of the last two years either on I.R. or being inactive.
Trent Harris has played fewer downs for the giants with every passing year. Enter Raymond Johnson, stage left. Maybe he steps into the vacated by free agent Lorenzo Carter. Playing a false 3 – 4 front, with nebulous designations is hurting the giants on the field, and likely keeping away defensive line free agents who could help them. (-)
(CORRECTION: The Washington QB is not named Bud Weiser. It’s Taylor Heiniken. Heinicke! Taylor Heinicke. Taylor?? Who names a boy “Taylor”?)
DT: Losing Austin Johnson was seismic. However, adding Justin Ellis was literally massive. Dexter Lawrence has been 3 sacks, 50 tackles, and 10 QB hits per year. Paired with a space eater like Ellis, that interior is going to make like hard on average run games. David Moa rounds out the depth at this position. (+)
OLB: Azeez Ojulari had 13 starts and led the team with 8 sacks, but produced just 49 tackles. Quincy Roche offers a pass rush option, to give Ojulari a breather here and there. Oshane Ximines (Edge) I suppose also fits here.
The problem here is, that the pass rushers are pass rushers only. They also have a handful of tweener players who really don’t excel in space. So they’re less like linebacker depth, and more like extra ends who can’t shed blocks. (-)
ILB: Blake Martinez is the genuine article. That said, he’s coming off of an ACL tear that cost him practically all of last year. Rookie Tae Crowder started every game, and racked up 130 stops, but he doesn’t seem like much of play-maker. Especially given that he played every defensive snap from Week Four until he cleaned out his locker. There is no depth. (-)
S: Xavier McKinney had 5 picks in his first year as a full-time starter. Julian Love is a part-timer here. This is it. The giants roster list only two players at this position and no one with a “DB” designation. That means any help/depth will be either rookie(s) or free agents found after the Draft. This team will probably lead the NFL in big plays surrendered. (-)
CB: James Bradberry gave up almost 300 more passing yards than in 2020. He was also targeted more, indicating that teams have found something on tape that they can exploit. Adoree Jackson recorded just the third interception of his 5 year career last year. To his credit, he only allowed 52% of passes thrown his way to be completed, and surrendered 50+ yards just once in his twelve starts.
While the giants would like Darnay Holmes to be a factor, he’s ended both of his seasons being injured. Which led to Aaron Robinson and Jarren Williams each getting two starts in the absence of Jackson. Both players ended up back on the bench, without being a serious part of a rotation. The starters are shaky, and the depth is a problem. (-)
In A Nutshell: Last year saw pass rushers hampered by the scheme, and a soft secondary victimized because of it. So they hired a new defensive coordinator in Don Martindale, formerly of Baltimore. Great. Problem is, he doesn’t have any tools to build with. Even worse, the new GM seems to be building with the old one’s blueprint. (-)
K: Graham Gano saw his field goal accuracy dip (29/33/87.9%), but this year he didn’t miss any extra points. Of course he only attempted 17 in 17 games. From 50+ he was 7/10, which is nothing to sneeze at. (+)
P: Ladies and gentlemen, for your viewing pleasure! Coming to the Big Apple by way of Cleveland, Ohio. Put your hands together for Jamie “The Scottish Hammer” Gillan! He enters this phase of his career with a 44.9 yard average per boot. That said, his average has dropped for two straight years (46.2, to 44.0, to 43.9). (-)
In A Nutshell: Given the slapdash approach this front office is so far showing the defense, it’s not a wonder that special teams also seems to be getting a shrug. (-)
BOTTOM LINE: The giants cleaned house at GM and head coach. They brought in Joe Schoen (from Buffalo) to be the GM, and he turned around and hired Brian Daboll (form Buffalo), who has been failing upward for almost two decades in the NFL.
Then they brought in a few former Buffalo players, but none of the good ones. And who cares?! None of this matters if Danny “March of Dimes” is still going to start eight or more games. Call it 6 – 11, with Tyrod Taylor winning four of those.
BACK in April, in my NFC East Pre-Draft Preview, I picked the Redskins to win the East, with the Eagles as my dark horse favorite. Given our strong nucleus of veteran leadership, our win in the trenches philosophy, and youth at skill positions, we have a lot of “win now” already built-in. However, a rookie coaching staff, and a second year QB, who himself was basically a rookie, left serious questions about our upward mobility.
Still, I took proper assessment of the pieces, and predicted the Eagles to push for the NFC East crown, and they did exactly that.
We’ve so far won 9 games. None of those were against teams with a winning record. Then again, it’s been half a season since we even FACED a team with a winning record. Hell, we didn’t make the schedule. We just beat who was put on it.
Also, in all fairness, three of the first six teams that our rookie head coach faced, have played in the last two Super Bowls (KC vs SF and KC vs TB). Of those three games, two were decided by just 6 points each. So maybe a little fucking slack would be appropriate here? I dunno. Seeing things in their proper context is sort of a fetish of mine.
My favorite was the NFL website itself. You know the one. The place that sometimes allows their journalists to post a headline, which is linked to a tweet. Yeah. That place. Before the season, this was their prediction for us:
I’m petty, so I screenshot that shit. I couldn’t guarantee us winning the East, but I knew that 5 win prediction was going to age like an Olsen twin, and I wanted to be able to say:
Which I’m doing now.
We destroyed their prediction, and even exceeded their ceiling for us. Right now, you could park a car in the shadow of my smugness.
LAST year the Philadelphia Eagles basically drowned in a toilet. We went 4 – 11 – 1 overall, and 2 – 4 in the division. The toilet I speak of, was the NFC East. We won just 4 games and it still took all of 14 games to eliminate us from playoff contention. Which of course was followed by a form of Front Office seppuku, because hey… why not, right?
Head Coach Doug Pederson was fired and Nick Sirianni was hired to replace him. Right now it has all the ear marks of a horrible, just horrible mistake, but… Either he’ll win us over, or we’ll just keep drinking until paper beats scissors.
So here is what the Eagles look like now, exactly a week prior to the start of the 2021 NFL Draft.
QB: Ignore all this nonsense about “guys competing for the starting job”. Jalen Hurtsis the guy. Whether or not he’s “The Man”, remains to be seen. However, unless we draft his replacement in 7 days, Hurts is the guy. He will not come into this season being a year wiser in the system. The new coach is bringing a new system, and no one has even seen it yet. So in a very real sense, Hurts will still be a rookie that everyone already has NFL tape on. While that tape shows a dynamic player, it also shows an arm that is questionable at times. Local productJoe Flacco,was signed to be just bad enough, to legitimize Hurts even to his detractors. REAL TALK: In a very real sense, Hurts has to start and play well,to save General Manager Howie Roseman’s job. If Hurts turns out to be a dud, then having traded away Carson Wentz, pretty much guarantees that Roseman will be escorted out of the building by security, before the New Year. In the meantime, while the Eagles have the most dynamic player at this position in the division, the coaching staff refuses to even name a starter. And I don’t give away free pluses. (-)
Miles Sanders has electrifying ability, but his durability and reliability have both been inconsistent. He went from a player who could be split out wide as rookie, to a player who couldn’t break a Swing pass in 2021. (Regardless of which QB played.) He missed 4 games in 2020, all of which were against division rivals. The Eagles were 2 – 2 without him vs the division, and went 0 – 2 with him vs the division. Boston Scott is at his best when catching passes (the game winner he caught from QB Carson Wentz to beat the giants, was a thing of beauty)
The Eagles however, seem to think he’s rotational back, despite him wearing down noticeably with increased use. The recent re-signing of Jordan Howardwas a stroke of pure genius! Provided the Eagles actually let the man play. He gives the team a legit lead back if Sanders were to get hurt, and also gives the team a tough between the tackles runner, who can make an opponent pay if he gets daylight. This is already very well-rounded group. Whomever they add as their fourth, will be a luxury. (+)
Travis Fulgham has good/not great speed, and good/not great size. He’s most dangerous on intermediate routes, and knows how to use his body to box-out defenders. He can however get downfield, and make huge plays when he sees favorable coverage. He’s a solid #2 that the Eagles tried to pass off as #1, unsuccessfully. Greg Ward in the Slot gets open quickly, so he led the team in catches in 2020. Unfortunately, many of his catches were for meager gains, so in 2021 he will likely take a back seat to a much more athletic Jalen Reagor. Reagor is said to be the team’s new Slot, presumably to take advantage of his ability to elude and break tackles. John Hightowerhas real speed to stretch a defense, and showed the ability to uncover quickly, but his 34.5% catch rate is a problem that may provide an opening forQuez Watkinsor J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. There’s a number two playing as a one, and a couple guys fighting over the Slot, but there’s no one in this group that scares anyone. With a legit #1, these five would be an interesting tool-kit. But without a hammer, you can’t say that you have legit toolbox. (-)
TE: The Eagles as an organization have decided that Dallas Goedert is the future at this position. In a 1-2 combination, Goedert is a great second option. As number one, he lacks elite traits, and may not be as necessary as many fans think. During the four games when he was on Injured Reserve in 2020, the Eagles scored 22 or more points in every game. In the eleven games when Goedert did play, the Eagles hit that mark just three times. It’s funny. Even from week one last year, everyone knew the Eagles Front Office was trying to sandbag Zach Ertz, and they did a great job of it. Now they want to trade him and SURPRISE! they aren’t finding any takers for a 30 year old, 12 million dollar player that they smeared, and essentially demoted. The irony is, he’s probably still better than 80 percent of NFL players at his position. Including Goedert. For the moment, it’s still a great 1-2 combo. (+)
OT: RT Lane Johnson had an awful 2020. He only saw seven games, and in those seven he was never himself, due to an ankle surgery that he didn’t let heal properly before coming back. When he’s healthy he’s one of the best in the game. Word is, he’s plenty healthy right now. LT Jordan Mailata made a bit of a name for himself last year, when he went from long-term project, to possible diamond in the rough.
Andre Dillard was drafted to inherit that LT spot, but he was lost for 2020 with a torn bicep. So expect ACTUAL competition on that left side in camp. Jack Driscollnotched four starts throughout his rookie year, before going on IR with an MCL injury. A perennial Pro Bowler on one side. Competition between experienced young players on the other side. Then a second year man, with a few starts under his belt already. It may not be what it used to be in 2017, but this group is the most solid group in the division. (+)
G: RGBrandon Brooks returns after missing 2020 with a torn Achilles tendon. When healthy, Brooks is a premier player at this position. Isaac Seumalo is the LG. He’s got above average movement skills, but lacks the aggression, power, or size that is generally coveted at this position. He also doesn’t always anchor well, and so he can be driven back into the QB more often than any coach should be comfortable with. Nate “Real Big” Herbig started twelve games and was serviceable. He could stand to turn some of his fluff into muscle, and to fire-out on his run blocks with more of a mean streak, but for a second year man, he’s great depth to have. Matt Pryormay make the 2021 roster due to his experience also playing OT, but he took a huge step backward in 2020. He had ten starts all over the line, but he seemed to struggle everywhere he lined up. Iosua Opeta notched two starts as a rookie. Without Brooks, this group is just slightly subpar. However, with him in the lineup, the Eagles interior has to be taken very seriously again. (+)
C: Not wanting to go out on a 4 – 11 – 1 record, Jason Kelce has decided to put retirement off for at least one more year. His presence will add solidity to a right side that could be dominant in 2021, and give the new coaching staff a platform to build on.Luke Juriga saw 14 snaps during the Cleveland game when Kelce had to go off with an injury. Kelce raised hell on the sideline and Juriga soon had his seat back. Nate Herbig can also play this position, as can G Ross Pierschbacher. While Pierschbacher is listed as a G, the Eagles depth there and his history of playing the pivot as a college senior, likely means he’s here to provide depth and versatility inside. While the Eagles won’t carry four during the season, they currently have an array of solid options to pick from for their back-up. (+)
IN A NUTSHELL: Kelce, Brooks and Johnson, will likely give the Eagles a dominant right side on the Offensive Line. It will be unlike anything Hurts had to work with, when he took over for final four games of the 2020 season. Better still, Jeff Stoutland is still the Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator. Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard and a running QB. If the Eagles can find a #1 WR, and if the new offensive system is any good, this team is going to turn heads hard enough to break necks. That said, while there is plenty of talent on this roster, the Eagles don’t have that #1 WR, and the new system hasn’t even seen a single practice yet. So again, passing grades aren’t free around here. (-)
DE:Brandon Graham started off hot last year. He notched 7 of his 8 sacks, 11 of his 16 QB hits, and 9 of his 13 tackle for losses, in the first eight games. Then he went cold as a dead man, posting 1 sack, 5 hits, and 4 TFLs, over the remaining eight games. In short, he disappeared when the playoff hunt began in earnest, making his first Pro Bowl nod feel hollow. After four seasons, Derek Barnett seems like a player who has maxed out his ceiling already. He produced 5.5 sacks while playing 49% of the defensive snaps in 2020. Yet he’s still making 10M$ in 2021. Josh Sweat on the other hand, seems to have a ton of upside. He had 6.0 sacks and 3 FF last year, despite playing just 38% of the snaps. Joe Ostman is a high-effort type, with a low athletic ceiling. In last year’s Wide Nine system, fresh players produced more results than individual talent. If this new system asks for a more classic approach, all indications are that the Eagles won’t fare well here. (-)
DT: Fletcher Coxmeans more than stats to this defense, but his numbers have spent the last two years trending in the wrong direction. Especially for a player making 24M$ in 2021. He had 10.5 sacks and 34 QB hits in 2018. He had 6.5 sacks and 9 QB hits in 2020. It’s not a three year slide, so he isn’t a has-been. Yet. However, this year those numbers need to tick up, or he’ll be on par with DeMarcus Lawrence.Javon Hargrave took a while to hit his stride as a new Eagle, but he settled in nicely near the end of the year. Perhaps the Eagles have found Cox the partner in crime that he’s needed for so long. Returning from a bicep injury that ended his 2020, is Hassan Ridgeway. Ridgeway was a solid, and highly disruptive rotational player who will likely see even more snaps with the departure of Malik Jackson. That is, if he can stay healthy. He’s missed nine games in each of his two years as an Eagle. Two good starters and a quality back-up. (+)
OLB:Alex Singleton, started last season as a Special Teamer. However due to Nate Gerry being injured, during Week four Singleton got an opportunity to play Defense. The result was that him being the difference in the Eagles first win of the season. Two weeks later he was a starter, and showing the NFL why he was the CFL Defensive Player of the Year (2017).
Now Singleton enters 2021 as a starter with a fresh new contract. America! Land of motherfuckin’ opportunity! Davion Taylor was drafted as a project, and so didn’t see much time as a rookie. That said, it’s hard to know if he fits in the new coaching staff’s plans, or if they’ll have the patience for a project. That’s especially true with the signing of free agentEric Wilson, formerly of the Vikings. Wilson put up 122 tackles, 3 sacks, and 3 picks last year. Which incidentally was his first as a starter. Did I mention that he’ll be just 27 this season? Suddenly the Eagles have two legitimate starters at this position for the first time since 2017. (+)
MLB:T.J. Edwards is said to have athletic limitations, because he’s a Tackle to Tackle player, and not a sideline to sideline player.
He’s a young, so he still has room to improve, but he already slips blocks well enough, wraps up, can get home on a blitz, and even pull down a pass. The biggest hole in his game, seems to be how often he’s subbed out for Nickel and Dime packages. Shaun Bradleyhas to learn how to get off blocks faster, and not let eye candy pull him out of position. He has a lot of energy and could be an emotional spark plug, but in his second year, he’ll have to be a more disciplined player. (+)
S:Rodney McLeodseemed a long-shot to make the 2021 roster, but at least for the moment, he’s still here. He has the eyes and mind of a seasoned veteran, but after suffering another season-ending leg injury (knee), it’s reasonable to question how much speed he’ll still have at age 31. Free Agent Anthony Harris comes over from the 38 – 7’s . Sorry, the Vikings. He has experience playing for new Defensive CoordinatorJonathan Gannon, when both were in Minnesota. With six years of NFL experience, Harris has only been a primary starter for the last three. Statistically, he looks like a ballhawk one year, and then an in-the-box player, the next year. Now with a new team (on a one year deal), he seems like a seventh year player who is still trying to find himself.
With three starts to close-out last season, Marcus Epps made a strong enough case for the Eagles to feel good about letting Jalen Mills leave via free agency. K’Von Wallace is the reason that Harris’s deal is one year. He’s expected to step up this year. Still, there are too many question marks back there, right now. (-)
CB:Currently the Eagles have ten players under contract at this position, but really only four or five of them matter. Darius Slayis coming off of his worst season as a pro. For over a decade now, I’ve been telling Eagles fans (first on Yardbarker, and then here onEaglemaniacal.com), that the Eagles Cover One/Cover Three look, has been making chumps of even the top CB’s. With Slay we saw it happen yet again,just last season. Doesn’t matter. New DC Gannon is said to be bringing a Cover Two look, that lets Corners play Corner. Slay still has his physical capabilities, so it stands to reason that in a scheme that isn’t working against him, he’s still at least better than average. Avonte Maddox was a feisty Nickel in his rookie year, but injuries and opponents taking advantage of his 5’9’’ frame, seems to have destroyed his confidence. He’s just out there going through the motions, and ending up being less than average. But hey, maybe a new system will enable him to recapture his swagger at Nickel. (I say ‘maybe’ because the Eagles will draft a Corner pretty early. Maddox won’t be the starter on the outside.) Grayland Arnold, Craig James, and Michael Jacquetall got a chance to play, and all them allowed completion percentages of 80 or higher. Again, there are ten players here and only one of them is worth starting. (-)
IN A NUTSHELL: Many of the players here, seem to have been picked for a defensive system that the Eagles are no longer going to run. The Wide Nine system is so specialized that it’s hard to see this unit being successful without a couple of high-impact changes at a couple of positions (DE, CB). (-)
K: Jake Elliottlooked like trash last year. He connected on just 14/19 field goal tries (73.6%), yet again proving useless from 50 or more (2/5, 40%). His extra point kicking 24/26 (92.3%) was a career-low, as was his 61.8 yard kickoff average. Worst of all, the moldy fondant on the over-priced wedding cake… was his (1/3) field goal kicking from 20 to 29 yards. (-)
P: Arryn Siposs is a 29 year old, ex-Australian Football League player, who’s never played an NFL game. He had a cup of coffee with the Lions before they cut him last year. His AFL highlights make him intriguing, but he’ll be impossible to me to co-sign until we at least see him a preseason game. (-)
IN A NUTSHELL:
There are no clutch legs on the team. So close games and defensive battles where winning field position matters, looks like it will be a problem this year. (-)
BOTTOM LINE: Right now, there is no aspect of the game(Offense, Defense, Special Teams) that the Eagles can be given a passing grade in. On the one hand, there so much change coming with a new coach who has never called plays in a game. Talent-wise, the roster isn’t awful at anything. It just isn’t great at anything. And you need to be great at something to win a division. If the newness of the Eagles gets traction, they could take the NFL by total surprise. That said, history is not on their side. Which you realize, makes the Eagles an underdog. And NOBODY on Earth loves an underdog, more than Philadelphia.
LAST year Dallas finished 6 – 10 overall, and 2 – 4 in the division. It can be said that they were derailed by a number of injuries, but that was par for the course for everyone in this division. So nope! No one gets a pass because of injuries in 2020. Hey, remember this?:
Dallas was just an expensive and over-hyped bad team. Period.
But that was last year! Here’s what Dallas looks like 8 days prior to the 2021 NFL Draft.
QB:Dak Prescott returns! But just how much of him is going to make it back? About a month the press got hold of some video of his rehab process. Take a look at it. Specifically his right ankle:
He’s all arm and no mechanics from the waist down. There is no dropback. No plant. No drive. No stepping into his passes. Worse than how he looks, is the fact that this is becoming muscle memory for him. For any of you who ever played a sport, you know how hard it is to unlearn a bad habit once you pick it up. As for picking up where he left off, he spent 2020 going 2-3 as a starter, with both wins being worthy of a shrug. His win over ATL was a product of the Falcons refusing to recover an onside kick. The win over the giants was a game he started, but didn’t finish. He could have easily gone 0 – 5. Behind him are Garrett Gilbert who battled PIT in Week 9 to lose by just 5; and Ben “Bring It On” DiNucci who in Week 8 was handed an ‘L’ by PHILADELPHIA. Preseason legend Cooper Rush has also found his way back onto the roster. Prescott will probably be present, but held out of anything on-field during OTA’s and mini-camp. His first real work might not come until training camp starts in July. That said, as of this moment, this moment right here, the Cowboy have as many question marks at this position as every one of their rivals. (-)
RB:Ezekiel Elliott (for the third straight year) saw his rushing attempts, rushing yardage, rushing yards per game, rushing average, AND receiving yardage, drop again. Only twice did he top 100 rushing yards, and he was held to fewer than 50, in six games. He had just 3 rushes of 20 or more yards, and his longest catch was for just 19. His last rush of 40 yards? That was back in 2018. In fact, that was his only one since 2016. This is why Dallas is making the slow pivot to a backfield tandem with Tony Pollard. Pollard was initially considered a change of pace runner. However, in an attempt to add some explosiveness to their run game, Dallas began increasing Pollard’s snap count after the midpoint of 2020. Pollard lacks many of Elliott’s tools (power, alpha mentality, expectation of greatness). However, if he gets a hole, he has the short-area explosiveness to exploit it, although he lacks the long speed to make himself an every down threat. Rico Dowdle and Sewo Olonilua are also on the roster. (+)
WR:Amari Cooperled the team in catches, and receiving yards while posting an impressive 70% catch rate, despite everyone in Texas getting to throw him a pass last year. Rookie Ceedee Lamb posted 935 yards, while coming in second on the team in targets and catches. Michael Gallup saw over 100 targets, but still was third fiddle with just 59 catches. All three caught 5 TD’s apiece. With Lamb’s presence, Gallup now becomes expendable. Though many will try to talk up a three amigos scenario, it’s more likely that Three’s A Crowd
Cedric Wilson and Noah Brown give the Cowboys two receivers who know their system, and thus represent at least schematic depth, if not depth of talent. This is currently the best group in the division. (+)
TE:Blake Jarwin tore his ACL in the first game of the season, and was lost for 2020. So in stepped Dalton Schultz. With 63 grabs and an average of 9.7 yards per grab, Schultz was a functional outlet, and someplace safe to dump the ball off. Which is exactly why he posted a 70% catch rate. He has plenty of value as a back-up, but as a starter… not being a threat as a receiver makes him a liability to the run game. Speaking of not being a receiving threat, I guess Dallas is playing Hollywood Squares because,
they added free agent, Jeremy Sprinkle for the block! Really, blocking is pretty much all he’s good for. This is a viable position, but it doesn’t scare anyone right now. “Right now” being the operative term. (+)
OT:Tyron Smith is back after having had season-ending neck surgery, to fix an issue that has cost him games over the years. While 31 isn’t ancient, paired with that neck surgery, it’s fair to wonder how much of Smith will be returning to the field. Filling in for Smith were Brandon Knight and Cameron Fleming (now in Carolina). On the right, La’el Collins missed nearly all of 2020 with what is vaguely reported as a hip injury. At 6’4” 320, and bending over to get into a three-point stance for a living, a hip injury is no minor thing. Especially when a hip injury is reported like it’s a “hip injury”, which indicates that it may be more than a hip injury. Filling in for Collins was Terence Steele. Knight and Steele played well enough for the Cowboys to run right out and sign free agent Ty Nsekhe, for more money than Knight and Steele are making in 2021. Combined. There is talent here, but it hasn’t been stable or reliable, and that has directly cost this team games and division crowns. Expect a day two draft pick to be spent here. (-)
G:Zach Martin finished 2020 on the bench, but that was after 5 weeks of being on IR with a calf injury. He comes back in 2021 as one of the premier players in the league at his position. On the other side is Connor Williams. While he can’t be mistaken for an All-Pro, he’s a three year starter in that spot, his line-mates know what to expect from him, and so they know how to play off of him. For those who know anything about offensive lines, please explain to your friends how valuable that is. Depth consists of Connor McGovern (not to be confused with Jets C Connor McGovern). McGovern is depth, provided the Cowboys don’t also move him to the pivot. For his part, he notched 8 starts last year on the left when Martin was injured, or was slid out to the edge due to injuries. Former giant Eric Smith enters his second year in a Cowboys jersey. That is, if a draft pick doesn’t beat him out for his roster spot. (+)
C: Second-year man, Tyler Biadasz started 4 games as a rookie, during which Dak Prescott was injured and 3 losses followed. Now he will be the man in the middle, unless something totally wild happens. Behind him is Adam Redmond. In 2018, Redmond saw 96 offensive snaps in 4 games, getting no starts, despite the Cowboys having deep injury concerns on their left side in 2018. Weird. When names like John Gesek, Mark Stepnoski, and Travis Frederick, can roll off of a rival fan’s tongue, you know Biadasz will not be getting the benefit of the doubt. He has lot to live up to, and is not off to a great start in doing so. (-)
IN A NUTSHELL:This team has weapons, but it needs a triggerman who can get the ball where it needs to be. Check that video again. That’s not the look of an NFL QB. That’s not even the look of a top college QB. Maybe Prescott will make massive leaps by training camp July, but that’s only 75 days away. Sounds like a lot. It isn’t. In any case, he’ll need to be kept upright, and right now 60% of his protection looks shaky, with no real depth behind it. This is why they had to have a potential Hall of Game G, slide out to play OT. Adding Nsekhe was a good first step, but alone he doesn’t fix this unit’s Achilles heel. With all the weapons they have, (all of whom they had last year), they still finished 17th out of 32 in scoring. (-)
DE: It’s official. It’s been three seasons in a row. DeMarcus “War Daddy” Lawrence is now a shadow of himself. Even with help on the opposite side, his sack and QB hits are consistently down, and he never seems to affect games anymore. Randy Gregory recorded no starts in 2020, but looked good on spot detail with 3.5 sacks in ten games. The Cowboys have their fingers crossed that he can play 16 games with his hand in the dirt. Tarell Basham comes over from the Jets to add some rotational pass rush. While he will definitely get pressure on a QB, he’s strictly a stand-up rusher. Being unable to play from a three point stance, means not being to consistently play against the run. This position is in trouble, and anyone in sports media will tell you, and has been telling you, the exact same thing. (-)
DT:Antuan Woods is the Cowboys best player at a position that produced 1.5 sacks TOTAL, in 2020. To his credit, Woods produced a sack. He specializes in neither rushing the passer, nor stuffing the run, but he’s still the tone setter for this position thus far. Starting nine games as a rookie was Neville Gallimore. That other half sack was his. Again, neither stuffing the run, nor getting to the passer seems like his calling card. The Cowboys may be hoping for a big rebound from Trysten Hill, who opened 2020 as a starter, before tearing his ACL in Week 5. No matter. His play to that point was unremarkable. That is, when he wasn’t drawing flags and fines for a helmet to helmet hit on QB Russell Wilson on one play, and twisting the knee of RB Chris Carson, injuring him after the yet another play had ended. Real talk? Hill’s ACL tear had all the earmarks of Karma. Hill also clashed with Cowboys coaching staff in his rookie year. It will be interesting to see what kind of player the Cowboys get back from his rehab. Justin Hamilton got two starts in 2020, (and FYI, the Cowboys won both games). No one is afraid of this group. (-)
OLB:Leighton Vander Esch gives an all-out effort, but his production continues to fall off, as he continues to miss games with big injuries. Last year a broken collarbone cost him four weeks early in the season, and he was inactive for the last two games of the year. (Sean Lee remains in talks with the team, but at this moment, is still unsigned.) Keanu Neal is leaving the secondary and switching to this position. This gives the Cowboys more flexibility with coverage underneath. But how ready can Neal be at 216 pounds, to spend most of a game taking on offensive linemen? He will no doubt be targeted heavily every week, by opposing run games. That said, the position is a lot more athletic than they were at year’s end. That’s an improvement. (+)
MLB:Jaylon Smith is the second best player in the division at his position. He’s reliable, doesn’t stick to blockers, and can play in coverage as well as fight the run. Luke Gifford played a single defensive down in 2020. So yeah. Jaylon is super-reliable. (+)
S: Understanding that this position needed gentrification, the Joneses went out and added Damontae Kazee to be specific. Donovan Wilson looks to be safe at SS. Kazee has a reputation for having sticky fingers, so he likely has the inside track over Darian Thompson on the other starting gig. At 6’4’’ 215 free agent addition Jayron Kearse is tall. Good for him! (-)
CB:Trevon Diggs turned a lot of heads as a rookie in 2020. He played with tremendous confidence, whether he was making a play, or getting juiced over a mistake. Nabbing 3 picks and getting his hands on a total of 14 balls, will make teams treat him different in 2021. Anthony Brown struggled with injuries, and only started eight of the ten games he played.In fact, in five seasons he’s never started more than ten. Due to the Cowboys starting a Nickel alignment, Jourdan Lewis picked up 13 starts. Mostly in the slot.
This is also why teams elected to run on them so much. And did such a good job of it. Opting out of 2020 due to Covid-19 was former Raven Maurice Canady. The Cowboys signed him last year, but never got to take him for a spin. So in their minds, he’s still an unapplied upgrade. (+)
IN A NUTSHELL: It’s always messy when a team decides to sign a guy to serious money, and then switch his position. Neal could be in for a pretty rough ride as an undersized LB in this division. Especially on a team that struggles to rush the passer. On most teams, Basham would be a sneaky good add, but the Cowboys already lack a DE who can stack the run. Adding one more as a back-up, seriously encourages opponents to run the ball on 3rd and short. This unit is so much faster than last year’s, but nothing about this side of the ball indicates that they can win in the trenches. (-)
K:Greg Zuerlein was pretty reliable 34/41 (82.9%) with 6 of his misses (3/9) coming from 50 or greater (33.3%). Otherwise he was 31/32 (96.8%) He was 33/36 (91.6%) on extra points. (+)
P:Hunter Niswander was the punter for the final 8 games of 2020. He had just 26 punts, so it’s a small sample size, but the sample had his average punt at 47.2 yards with a net of 42.0. If we’re going to nit-pick, of his 26 punts, 9 were returned for 95 yards (10.5 ypr), indicating that he’s totally over-kicking his coverage team. Given a training camp, he should be able to shave 3 or 4 yards off of that return average. What say we meet back here in a year, and discuss how he did? Aaaand out of nowhere, the Cowboys added 32 year old Bryan Anger, because Jerry Jones wanted to blow his stimulus money on a Texan antique. (See what I did there?) Anger is likely a camp body just brought in to keep a fire lit under Niswander this preseason. (+)
IN A NUTSHELL: The legs on this unit are here to not lose the game. Just keep it close is all that’s asked of them. Should be an easy bar to reach. (+)
BOTTOM LINE:The Cowboys need a big Draft. Offensively, the QB has weapons, but is coming back from injury. The RB has spent the last THREE YEARS, regressing every year. The once vaunted offensive line, is better known for injuries these days. Their defense couldn’t stop anybody last year (28th out of 32), and the only additions to the roster so far, are role players and experiments. There’s a new DC, but most of the Cowboys problem last year, was losing battles in the trenches, and they haven’t gotten better on either side of the ball. In fact, most of the returning starters, are the same guys who were taking those whippings. But hey!
LAST year the giants finished 6 – 10 overall, and 4 – 2 in the division. They went out whining. Crying like entitled toddlers because the Eagles, in their final game (against Washington) tanked for better Draft position. This gave Washington the division, whereas an Eagles win would have given the division to New York. (And lowered the Eagles Draft position in every round.) Pointing the finger at Philadelphia, instead of their own 6 – 10 record, isn’t a sign of a team that holds itself accountable. Which sort of explains the 6 – 10 record.
In any case, this is where the giants roster currently stands in the week prior to the 2021 NFL Draft.
QB: Daniel Jones has lost 9 games in each of his two pro seasons, for a career mark of 8 – 18. In 2020, his 10 interceptions were 2 fewer than in his rookie year. Unfortunately, his 11 TD’s were less than half his rookie year’s (24). While many things worked to trip him up last year,
he’s probably run out of benefit of the doubt, and has to produce 9 wins to remain the starter in 2022. Mike Glennon is the back-up. Over his 7 year career, he’s been on 5 teams, and when he plays, he’s been the human equivalent to waving a white flag. (-)
RB:Saquon Barkley is back from the torn ACL that ended a 2020 season that was already pretty bad for him. Prior to his injury, in two starts, he’d racked up 34 yards on 19 carries for a 1.8 yard per carry average. Everyone who filled in last year, is gone. The back-up this year is Devontae Booker. He’s a sneaky-smart addition who could be a problem for opponents as part of a 1 – 2 punch, or a credible first option, if Barkley has setbacks. Even with all the turnover at this position in 2020, Elijhaa Penny was trusted with just 6 carries.
Jordan Chunn is also on the roster. In any case, Barkley struggled even before being hurt, so this group gets a side-eye until they show better. (-)
WR: Darius Slayton is a solid number two, pushed into being a low-end one. Though he’s good for 745 yards per season, and 15 yards per catch, he adds more value than that. He has speed to threaten deep, and helps by opening things up behind him. Sterling Shepard is a possession receiver. He’s FAR better suited to the Slot than the outside, but until the giants can find someone for that other end, Shepard will keep being lined up out there. Which is likey why they added free agent, Kenny Golladay. He’s made some circus grabs over the years, but he’s going to find that landing on New Yorks cold ground is different than the controlled 70 degree dome in Detroit. He also doesn’t have Matt Stafford throwing to him anymore. Also added was John Ross, who is touted as having speed to burn. That said, he’s played in only 27 of a possible 64 career games, meaning he’s missed 37. That includes 13 missed games in 2020. All in all, the talent is credible here. (+)
TE: Remember when everyone was certain that Evan Engram would be the next Tony Gonzalez? Just in case you missed it, he posted a 57% catch rate last year. Newly added Kyle Rudolph’s blocking should help the run game. He also should add some value as a red zone threat. Due to volume of targets, Engram will produce numbers. However, there’s a real question now, of whether his targets would be better spent elsewhere. Put another way, folks are actively starting to wonder if he’s holding the offense back. (-)
OT:Nate Solder and Andrew Thomas comprise the bookends. Solder sat out 2020. Thomas was a 16 game starter as a rookie, playing 95% of the offensive snaps. Matt Peart is waiting in the wings, drafted as a project. However, this off-season’s re-signing of Solder to a 4 year deal, doesn’t indicate that Peart has captured the confidence of the coaching staff. After a bad 2020, this position has a lot to prove. (-)
G: As a rookie, Shane Lemieux started 9 games to finish the season. The question now is, with the release of Kevin Zeitler, does Lemieux stay at LG or slide to RG? Will Hernandez has seen his star dim recently, but a chance to play could brighten it up again. Zeitler’s departure all but guarantees Hernandez a role as a starter if he stays healthy. The question is, does he go back to LG, or is he a RG? Former Texan, Zach Fulton comes over to provide veteran depth, but given how often his last QB had to save himself from his protection, it’s shallow depth indeed. Especially since there no solid answer for who plays where. (-)
C:Nick Gates started 16 games at the pivot in 2020, and was the only lineman to play 100% of the 2020 season’s snaps. Also on the roster is recently signed, seasoned veteran Jonotthan Harrison. (+)
IN A NUTSHELL: Not all the pieces to this puzzle were ever meant to go together. That’s why over the years it keeps not fitting. Drafting a TE who doesn’t block, was a mistake. Drafting a big back who doesn’t run big, without giving him a dominant blocker at TE or a FB, was a mistake. Drafting QB because of personal history, was a mistake. The giants front office has been stacking unforced errors for nearly half a decade now. Now there’s going to be a shuffle in the protection directly in front of the QB. So much of this unit is broken at the conceptual level. That’s why it keeps failing. And it’s also why no draft pick can save this mess. (-)
DE:Leonard Williams racked up career highs of 11.5 sacks and 30 QB hits last year while notching 57 tackles. Dexter Lawrence isn’t a pass rusher, but at 342 he’s a big’un, and he’s too quick for opponents to get cute with their blocking assignments. To bolster the pass rush, the giants signed Ifeadi Odenigbo. At 258 Odenigbo may not line up at this position since they bill themselves as “Multiple”, but favored a 3-4 alignment last year. B.J. Hill is a big (311), veteran rotational player. He’s not top-tier talent, but he plays assignment sound football. (+)
NT: With the loss of Dalvin Tomlinson to Minnesota, Austin Johnson becomes the new man in the middle with Danny Shelton backing him up. While New York may pick up teaspoon of interior pass rush, they just lost a cup of run support. (-)
OLB:Kyler Fackrell is a situational player who saw too much playing time last year. He started off very hot for about 6 weeks. After which he got exposed, and then got injured. Lorenzo Carter played 5 games last year and then tore his Achilles tendon. He wasn’t exactly a star before his injury. Oshane Ximines started 3 games, played 110 snaps, and recorded a total of 5 tackles. Even if Ifeadi Odenigbo moves out here, the giants still lack a single player who can play backwards, not just forward. That means RB’s and TE’s are going to tear this team up. (-)
ILB: I still can’t figure out how Blake Martinez was allowed to leave Green Bay. This guy is the genuine article. Starts every game, makes tackles (151), adds pass rush (3 sacks), and is equally adept in zone coverage (5 passes defensed). Tae Crowder had an up and down rookie season, but that’s what a rookie season is for. While Devante Downs started the season as the starter, Crowder finished with the role. During a (failed) playoff push. This tells you who the organization is pulling for. Newly signed Reggie Ragland adds size to the second level and will help push Crowder. In any case, young guys who know the system, competing at a position, that usually helps sharpen the hell out of it. (+)
S:Jabrill Peppers recorded the 4th interception of his four year career last year. He also forced a fumble. Because he’s, you know…a difference maker. Logan Ryan made the switch from Corner to Free last year, and he pulled it off without a hitch success. In many ways 2020 was one of his worst as a pro. But it’s keeping him paid! So there’s that. Xavier McKinney started the last 4 games of 2020, playing an increasing percentage of the defense’s downs in every single game. He’s the reason one of the aforementioned players will be riding pine in 2021. Julian Love is a tweener who managed 6 starts in 2020. Expect solid run support from this group. You can also expect them to get routinely cornholed on intermediate routes over the middle. (-)
CB:James Bradberry earned himself a Pro Bowl nod, after having a career year, during his first as a giant. Isaac Yiadom started 10 games last year, and allowed QB’s a 120 passer rating when throwing his way. That’s 40 points higher than the 80 passer rating allowed by Bradberry. And so the giants added Adoree Jackson to shore up the other side. Whether that works out depends on with version of him they get. Since 2019, Jackson has been on Injured Reserve or deactivated 17 times in his last 25 possible games. Buyer beware. Julian Love is the top back-up here. At spots 5 and 6 are maybe Sam Beal and Darnay Holmes, both drafted by the team. That said, their spots are far from safe. They have a good one, but it’s just one. (-)
IN A NUTSHELL: Expect this team to be tough to run on, but to also hemorrhage passing yardage. The OLB’s are pass rushers (won’t have to cover), and the Safeties have trouble with speed. With passing on this team being so easy, opponents may not even opt to run the ball much vs the giants. That will artificially drive up the ranking on their rushing yards allowed, but it will be hollow, since they won’t face as many attempts. The flaws on this unit are glaring, and aside from possibly drafting a savior at CB or FS, this unit will regress in 2021. (-)
K:Graham Gano connected on 31/32 GF (96.8%) including 5/6 from 50 or longer. He did however, miss on two extra point conversions (21/23), and of his 73 kickoffs, only 30 were downed in the end zone. That means opponents attempted returns, nearly 60% of the time. (+)
P:Riley Dixon averaged a career-low 44.8 yard per punt, with a career-low 39.4 yards net. Though only 25 of his 65 punts were returned, the 232 return yards (9.2 avg) indicates that he’s giving return men time and room to pick their spots. (-)
IN A NUTSHELL: Gano is a liability to the Defense, but he was reliable as a point scorer. That’s no easy feat in Rutherford, New Jersey once the weather turns. Dixon is costing the giants the hidden yardage/field position battle. Neither his distance nor his hang-time are helping his coverage unit. As a result, whenever the ball is kicked to the opponent, the giants are doing worse than average. (-)
BOTTOM LINE: Head Coach Joe Judge has focused on coaching work ethic in his players. From a mental standpoint, the giants are clearly better as a team than they were at the end of 2019. So their front office, got the right man.
The problem is that, that same front office, hasn’t changed the method of how they build a roster. They have players who’s style and talent runs counter to other players on the very same unit. In short, this team is not complementary. It’s awkward. It’s misshapen. Grotesque.
Between a QB who hasn’t mastered throwing, and Safeties who cover more like Linebackers, the whole damned thing is a head scratcher. Before they can beat other teams to win the division, they’ll have to stop beating themselves. Otherwise, they’ll have to keep hoping for rivals to send them to the playoffs.
DOUG Pedersonis Eagles history now. That much we’re sure of. What we don’t know, is who will replace him. I’ll let you in on a secret: It almost doesn’t matter. We’re going to want the same things regardless. HAHAHA!!! Who am I kidding? This is Philadelphia. We’re going to DEMAND the same things regardless.
The first thing we’re going to demand, is a Defense that isn’t “bend but don’t break”. I’d personally like a style that defends every blade of grass, and fights you for every footstep. That said, I’m knowledgeable enough to know that the NFL will have a bitch-fit if we’re that good, that fast.
What I wouldn’t mind is a 4-3 system that uses the DT’s to penetrate and cleave, uses the DE’s to contain, and allows the LB’s to flow to the ball, or be used creatively. Instead of CB’s on 40 yard cushions, employ aggressive man coverage, backed up by split S’s.
If we play a team and an 8-man box is becomes necessary, THEN we go into a Single-high. But first we give our front seven a chance to show that they can handle business. Never assume failure. That’s the first step to winning anything. We won’t become dominant if we start from meekness.
The second thing we’re going to demand, is that our Offensive Line gets fixed. We can’t “fix” QB Carson Wentz if he’s getting beat to shit, all over again. RB Miles Sanderswill never see a 1,000 yard rushing season as an Eagle, behind spotty blocking. QB Jalen Hurts? Hell, he also took a lot of abuse when Wentz went out this year. To fix the Offense, start with fixing the O-Line.
The third thing, would be to (ahem) “fix” the QB. When Carson was at his best in 2017, we had a brutal, power based, run game. At Carson’s worst in 2020, we hardly ran the ball. Super Bowl formula or 4 – 11 – 1? Which formula works best for you? You want to fix Carson? Run the damned ball. You want him to stop playing superhero ball? Run the damned ball. You want to limit sacks, and be better on 2nd and 3rd downs (like in 2017)? Run. The. Motherdamnedfucking BALL!
The fourth thing we’ll demand, is to develop a WR. This inability to develop that position has to come to an end. It has to! The last WR we drafted and turned into a 1,000 receiver, was Jeremy Maclin. We drafted him in 2009, and it wasn’t until his last year here in 2014, that he had his first 1,000 yard season. He is in fact, the last Eagles wide receiver to reach 1,000 yards.
These are things we’re going to want regardless of who is calling the plays, or who is letting his coordinator call the plays. There are other things we’ll want: A big RB, a dangerous KR, a scary LB, a QB to finish 4 or more games without a grass or turf stain on his back… These would all be nice, but they’re not at the forefront of what the fans want.
We want someone to come in, recognize what’s broken, and fix that shit, FIRST. He can be clever about his scheme, or his system, or his philosophy later. Expect a brutally honest assessment of where the Eagles stand in my Pre-Draft Preview, coming this Spring.