Tag Archives: NFC East

NFL 2019: NFC Preview

Eagles-QB-Carson-Wentz-says-his-back-isnt-fully-healed

If Carson Wentz is healthy, the Eagles could be serious contenders in the NFC this season.

 

By: Elias McMillan

 

NFC EAST

It seems like things will never change in the NFL’s “glamour” division. The NFC East hasn’t seen a repeat champion in 15 seasons and I think that tradition will remain the same in 2019. The Dallas Cowboys have come the closest to bucking that trend as they have won the division three times in the last six seasons. But if you’ve been paying attention to that franchise, you should know that they usually disappoint after a successful season. Usually. If you look on paper, the Philadelphia Eagles probably has the most talent in the division from top to bottom. A lot is going to depend on the play of the QB. Nick Foles almost lifted Philadelphia again in the 2018 postseason, winning on the road in Chicago and almost upsetting New Orleans. With Foles now in Jacksonville, Philly will be depending on Carson Wentz to return to his 2017 form where he was a MVP candidate. He’ll have plenty of help this season as the Eagles are deep at the skill positions. At WR, DeSean Jackson returns to Philly joining Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor. The Eagles should have an improved backfield this season as well. They acquired RB Jordan Howard from Chicago and drafted speedster Miles Sanders from Penn State. On defense, DT Fletcher Cox leads a loaded group on the defensive line. Veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins also returns though Philly’s secondary seems to always be a weakness year in and year out. The defending champion Cowboys also return with a talented roster in 2019. A lot of the talk during the offseason with Dallas has been about the contract situations of QB Dak Prescott, WR Amari Cooper, and star RB Ezekiel Elliott. I’m sure all three will get their deals, respectfully, especially Elliott who is easily the most important player on the roster. Despite all the talk about the offensive side of the ball, the real reason why Dallas made a run to the postseason last year was their defense. I think Dallas will be strong defensively again in 2019. LB’s Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch are the cornerstones for this defense right now and for the future. The Cowboys should be able to get after QB’s this season with DE’s Demarcus Lawrence and newcomer Robert Quinn. Dallas needs to find an answer in the middle of their run defense as they absolutely killed them in their playoff loss against the Rams. In the secondary, they have promising young talent. Safety Xavier Woods could have a breakout season. CB Byron Jones made the Pro Bowl last season but he gives up big plays in crucial situations. I don’t see Dallas extending his contract unless his interception numbers improve. He has 2 in four seasons as a pro. If Washington didn’t get derailed by injuries on both sides of the ball last year, they probably would have won the division. They enter the 2019 campaign with holes in their roster due to injuries and losses in free agency. The QB position is still reeling after injuries last season to Alex Smith and Colt McCoy. They may have to lean on Case Keenum to start this season but if he’s shaky, the cries for rookie Dwayne Haskins will get louder. What else might not help is the absence of OT Trent Williams. Without him, it may not even matter who Washington starts at QB. I really liked Washington’s defense at the beginning of last season. I think losing LB Preston Smith will hurt them this year though they did draft a possible replacement in Montez Sweat. Washington has young talent on their defensive line but that unit has to stay healthy this year. The secondary already has CB Josh Norman but they should receive a boost with the addition of safety Landon Collins. No one is expecting much out of the New York Football Giants this year as they lost Collins and Odell Beckham Jr. in the offseason. Surprisingly, QB Eli Manning returns in what should be his swan song. The Giants used their top pick in the draft on QB Daniel Jones from DOOK and I expect that they do plan to play him. The leash on Manning this year should be short. If trading away OBJ wasn’t bad enough, the WR core turned into a complete dumpster fire right as training camp began. Injuries and suspensions will leave the QB’s with not a lot of reliable options in the passing game. RB Saquon Barkley will be tasked with literally carrying this offense. The Giants defense is in full rebuild mode. They could surprise some teams but they have a lot of young and unproven talent. Rookies CB Deandre Baker and DT Dexter Lawrence will have to grow up quickly in their first seasons. Projected Finish: 1) Eagles, 2) Cowboys, 3) Washington, 4) Giants

NFC NORTH

The Chicago Bears had zero buzz entering the 2018 season until they made an acquisition that completely turned their franchise around. Trading for edge rusher Khalil Mack made Chicago into a contender in the NFC and he’s a difference maker that could keep Chicago atop this division for a couple years. Chicago’s defense really didn’t have an identity since Brian Urlacher retired. Now, they feature one of the top front sevens in the league that specializes in getting to the QB. On offense, the Bears will be looking for QB Mitch Trubisky to continue to improve as a down the field passer. The backfield will look different this year, as Jordan Howard was send away to Philly. RB Tarik Cohen could have a breakout season and rookie RB David Montgomery has impressed so far in the preseason. Minnesota will be looking to rebound after a disappointing 2018. QB Kirk Cousins will be forever criticized in the media because of his contract but I believe he’s a much better player than people let on. The emergence of WR Adam Thielen has been a huge help for Cousins and the passing offense. Thielen and Stephon Diggs form one of the top 1-2 punches at receiver in the league. Minnesota is still waiting for RB Dalvin Cook to breakout as he has a ton of ability. The Vikings defense took a step back last season. They’ll be looking to bounce back in 2019 with many returning starters including LB Anthony Barr who almost left in free agency. I think Green Bay is going to go through some growing pains this season as they are rebuilding. Replacing familiar names with young talent could actually workout for them in the long run especially on the defensive side. LB Clay Matthews is gone but free agent signing, LB Preston Smith, is a younger, talented replacement. On offense, everything will be tied to all-world QB Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is still the top passer in the league but the Packers need to do a better job at protecting him, as he isn’t getting younger. WR Davante Adams has solidified himself as one of the best WR in the league and as Rodgers’ top target. Every year it seems like Green Bay will be waiting for somebody to breakout at the RB position. Maybe it will be RB Aaron Jones who scored 9 times last season. In Detroit, it’s looking more and more like the Matt Patricia experiment will be ending soon. This could be a make or break season for him as Detroit has a roster than shouldn’t be in the NFC North basement. I feel bad for QB Matt Stafford who is on his way to being the latest star player to have his career wasted at Ford Field. If Detroit doesn’t have a great season, I wonder if he would try to force his way outta there though it would be hard because of his massive contract. Stafford will have decent talent around him this year. WR Kenny Golladay had a breakout 2018 season and RB’s Kerryon Johnson and C.J. Anderson should be a formable duo in the backfield. I think Detroit’s defense could be good enough to keep the Lions in games this season. They had a top 10 secondary last year and upfront, they added DE Trey Flowers from New England and DT Mike Daniels from Green Bay. I’m not sure what Daniels has left in the tank but I love the revenge factor of him signing with Detroit after being cut by the Packers. Projected Finish: 1) Bears, 2) Vikings, 3) Packers, 4) Lions

NFC SOUTH

In recent years, I have picked the Saints to come out of the NFC because on paper, they appear to have the best or one of the best rosters in the league. The same could be said again going into 2019. The way the Saints’ season ended last year should serve as enough motivation to see the team atop this division again. On offense, they return elite talent at the QB, RB, and WR positions. RB Alvin Kamara will have a new partner in the backfield this year in Latavius Murray. Drew Brees will also have a new weapon in the passing game, TE Jared Cook. New Orleans’ defense was pretty decent last year and I think the addition of DT Malcolm Brown from New England will make them stronger. I think the Carolina Panthers had a great offseason but their success will be tied to the health of QB Cam Newton. If Newton is back to 100%, Carolina could be a sleeper in the NFC. I still think Newton doesn’t have enough help on the offensive side of the ball. RB Christian McCaffrey proved himself to be a legit threat behind the tackles as a runner and as a receiver. WR D.J. Moore needs to have a similar breakout season in 2019. I really like how Carolina improved their defense in the offseason. They have a nice mix of young talent (rookie DE Brian Burns) and veteran leadership (DT Gerald McCoy). The LB group will miss Thomas Davis but they still have Luke Kuechly, Shaq Thompson, and newly acquired veteran Bruce Irvin. The Atlanta Falcons did reach the Super Bowl a few seasons ago but they seem to reach expectations. As long as they have QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones, they are going to put up big numbers. But Ryan isn’t getting enough help from his offensive line. Atlanta addressed that in this past draft but those young blockers are going to have to grow up fast. RB Devonta Freeman returns to the backfield for Atlanta but without Tevin Coleman who left in free agency. Atlanta defense has been seen as a weak point on this team but they do have great individual talents in LB Deion Jones and edge rusher Vic Beasley. Tampa Bay has a long way to go in order to be competitive in this division again. But I really like the hiring of new head coach Bruce Arians. Him and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich will be tasked with saving the career of QB Jameis Winston who is running out of favor in the organization. Winston still has the tools to be a successful QB in this league but he hasn’t been able to put it all together. Hopefully, the coaching change will help.  The reliable WR Mike Evans returns to provide big plays in the passing game. Tampa also resigned OT Donovan Smith to help keep Winston upright. Tampa’s defense is going through a transition, marked by the sudden release of long time Buccaneer, Gerald McCoy. They added veteran Ndamukong Suh to the defensive line but the real newcomer to look for will be rookie LB Devin White. I would be surprised if this Tampa team won a lot in 2019 but this season will be really all about fixing Jameis Winston. Because if they are picking high in next year’s draft, they probably be looking for a new QB. Projected Finish: 1) Saints, 2) Panthers, 3) Falcons, 4) Buccaneers

NFC WEST

The LA Rams made a surprise run to the Super Bowl last season and they could be in line for a return visit. QB Jared Goff will look to keep improving and the return of WR Cooper Kupp from injury should help. Kupp will return to an already talented group at WR that includes Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods. RB Todd Gurley is the real engine that keeps this Rams offense running. His health has been concerning recently but if healthy, he’s the best back in football. The Rams have the best defensive lineman in football in DT Aaron Donald. On the edge, they traded for DE Dante Fowler late last season and that move paid off greatly for LA. He returns to a Rams defensive line that should be the tops in the NFC. The Rams also added a pair of veterans on defense looking to prove that they still got it: LB Clay Matthews and safety Eric Weddle. Last season, we learned that no matter how many faces change on both sides of the ball in Seattle, they’ll always have a chance with QB Russell Wilson behind center. Wilson will be without reliable target Doug Baldwin this year but he will be expecting big things from rookie WR DK Metcalf. Outside of Metcalf, WR Tyler Lockett proved to be a playmaker in the offense last season. On defense, Seattle traded away their best pass rusher in the offseason. They’re going to need someone on the defensive line to step up. The strength of Seattle’s defense is still intact as long as they have LB Bobby Wagner in the middle. San Francisco has accumulated so much young talent in recent years, I feel like they could be a surprise team this season. A lot is going to depend on the play of QB Jimmy Garoppolo who has not looked great so far in preseason. San Fran is also really missing a big play WR. In the backfield, they are loaded with returning starter Matt Breida and free agent signee Tevin Coleman. I think this 49ers team has promise because of their defense. They acquired DE Dee Ford from Kansas City and picked up the top pass rusher in the draft, Nick Bosa. If the 49ers do one thing well this year on defense, it will be getting after the QB. San Fran also signed LB Kwon Alexander who was a playmaker in Tampa Bay. I’m not sure what CB Richard Sherman has left in the tank but it would be nice if this defense saw contributions from him in the secondary this season. Arizona is starting back at square one this season after firing their head coach after one year. They brought in Kliff Kingsbury to coach the team despite having zero NFL experience and they drafted a talented young QB first overall who will be tasked with fixing an offense that was pretty bad last season. This experiment in Arizona is going to be a great success or a great disaster. QB Kyler Murray will have enough veteran help around him in WR Larry Fitzgerald and RB David Johnson. Great pass rushers, Chandler Jones and newcomer Terrell Suggs will headline Arizona’s defense. I like the addition of LB Jordan Hicks who made a lot of big plays in Philadelphia. CB Patrick Peterson returns to the secondary, which was one of the best in football a season ago. Arizona will be hurt without Peterson as he will be suspended for the first 6 games of the season. Projected Finish: 1) Rams, 2) Seahawks, 3) 49ers, 4) Cardinals

 

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NFL 2018: NFC Season Preview

NFC EAST

Will the Eagles suffer a Super Bowl hangover? Probably. The health of QB Carson Wentz will be a concern. The guy played at a MVP level last season before his major leg injury. I think he can return and be the same player but circumstances have changed from last season. The Eagles lost pieces at the RB and WR position in the offseason. I think Philly still could win this division because their defense will once again be really good. But then again, it’s a tough road to become back-to-back champions in this division. The Cowboys did not help QB Dak Prescott in this offseason. They unceremoniously cut WR Dez Bryant and TE Jason Witten, who wasn’t a difference maker any more anyways, suddenly retired. Dak Prescott and the passing game in Dallas as a whole struggled last season and you can’t just blame that on one player. You can blame it on the awful play calling but also this: Prescott just has to play better. I think he can have a bounce back season but who knows. He’s going to have to prove it. But the bottom line is that this offense is reliant on RB Ezekiel Elliott and the running game. The Cowboys do not have a reliable big play target in the passing game and that is going to hurt them. On the bright side, for the first time in a while, there is real optimism surrounding this defense. They brought back DE Demarcus Lawrence on the franchise tag and he was a terror on the edge last season. Also, things are looking up in the secondary with the young corners they have. Dallas is one “Earl Thomas trade” away from maybe having an elite defense. I think the Giants made a mistake placing their faith into QB Eli Manning again this offseason. QB’s don’t grow on tree and Manning has the look of someone who is done in the league. But the draft pick of RB Saquon Barkley has many optimistic in New York. The Giants made an effort to improve their offensive line and they return a talented receiver core led by recently contract extended Odell Beckham Jr. New York will have concerns on defense. They traded away Jason Pierre-Paul and replaced him with no one. I like the trade for ILB Alec Ogletree though. Washington chose trading for Alex Smith over re-signing Kirk Cousins. That is such a Dan Synder move. So, vanilla. I mean, Alex Smith can be go but he isn’t nearly as dynamic as Cousins. At least, when it counts. Washington has many issues before the season has even started. Injuries at RB mean they may have to lean on an aging RB Adrian Peterson. The WR group is really average. TE Jordan Reed is really good but he can’t stay healthy. Washington desperately needs to improve their defense, which they have tried through the draft. They have plenty of young talent on that side of the ball but they need to start paying dividends sooner than later. Projected Finish (Playoff Team in BOLD): 1) Eagles, 2) Cowboys, 3) Giants, 4) Washington

NFC NORTH

Minnesota is great shape in 2018 because once again, they will be strong defensively. The Vikings were the big winners in the offseason, signing the top QB available in Kirk Cousins. If history can serve as a reminder, signing that the big name free agent QB can back fire or not exactly work out as planned. I don’t expect Minnesota being able to plug in Cousins and have a real dynamic passing attack. But Cousins doesn’t have the bar set high for him. He was really has to run the offense and not make mistakes. Minnesota has talented receivers but they are really more suited to run the ball. So, needless to say, I’m excited about RB Dalvin Cook who had his season cut short last year due to injury. Again, Minnesota should be pretty tough on defense. They are solid across the board on the defensive line, at linebacker and in the secondary. Green Bay’s success will once again be tied to the health of QB Aaron Rogers. Green Bay is not a good football team on paper but Rodgers just seems to lift this team out of mediocrity time and time again. The Packers don’t have consistency at RB or at the WR position. TE Jimmy Graham might prove to be a huge addition though. Green Bay’s front seven on defense looks old and not nearly as good as they once were. There is hope in the secondary though. 2018 draft picks, CB’s Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson, have looked really good in preseason. Detroit was mighty neutral in the offseason. They really didn’t do much to improve. This tells me that new head coach Matt Patricia is in the process of starting a massive rebuild. And that kinda stinks for QB Matt Stafford because he’s really good but his team is in no shape to compete. I think RB LeGarrette Blount will provide some stability at that position if he stays healthy. Two extremely under rated guys in Golden Tate and the emerging Kenny Golladay leads the Lions at WR. Detroit actually has a decent defense but they aren’t good enough to close out games. I feel like Stafford usually has to blame this team out a lot, much like Rodgers in Green Bay. I think the Bears could be on the verge of turning their franchise around but a lot is going to depend on QB Mitch Trubisky. He is going to have to show some sizable improves in his second year. The Bears have great talent at the skill positions on offense. RB’s Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen should form a great duo in the backfield. Chicago made efforts to improve the WR position in the offseason with the additions of Allen Robinson and rookie Anthony Miller. It will be even greater if WR Kevin White can finally stay healthy. The Bears might be held back by their defense in 2018 as they are still a work in progress. Projected Finish (Playoff Team in BOLD): 1) Vikings, 2) Packers, 3) Lions, 4) Bears

NFC SOUTH

The New Orleans Saints are legit Super Bowl contenders in my eyes. It’s amazing how fast they were able to turn around their defense. Now, it looks like they may be able to give QB Drew Brees a farewell swan song that he deserves. He will once again lead an explosive offense. RB Alvin Kamara is special player from out the backfield and WR Michael Thomas is one of the better receivers in the league that no one talks about. I also like how the Saints did not rest on their laurels during the draft and traded up to grab one of the best pass rushers. From top to bottom, the Atlanta Falcons probably have one of the best rosters in the entire league. It was true last season and it may be true again in 2018. That tells me their coaching stinks or the players are really lacking in the area of execution. Let me just run of some names from the top of my head: Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Devonta Freeman, and Tevin Coleman. That’s a solid group of talent to have on offense. Atlanta’s defense has plenty of talent as well especially at the LB position with Deion Jones and Vic Beasley. I’m afraid that Carolina’s window is slowly closing. Since the Super Bowl lose, they have refused to improve their offensive line and I think that will bite them again this season. Cam Newton can’t be Cam Newton if he is running for his life or worse, injured. I never was a believer in RB Christian McCaffrey as an every down back but he has looked the part early during this pre-season. Carolina is also missing a big play WR. Maybe WR Devin Funchess can be that guy or maybe newcomer D.J. Moore. Carolina’s defensive front seven will be solid this season as look as they stay healthy. Their secondary remains to be a weak spot. Tampa Bay is in a tough spot thanks to the Jameis Winston suspension. He is going to have to come back and perform at a high level if he hopes to stay in the team’s future. The Bucs have a lot of unproven talent at the RB position this year but that could prove to be a good thing. WR Mike Evans is one thing Tampa can count on offensively. Tampa has a chance to be really good up front on defense with the addition of DE Jason Pierre-Paul. They made an effort to improve their defensive line in the offseason and they may see that pay off sooner than later. Tampa also has a good group at LB. Their secondary needs work as they lack playmakers at corner. Projected Finish (Playoff Team in BOLD): 1) Saints, 2) Falcons, 3) Panthers, 4) Buccaneers

NFC WEST

The LA Rams were the offseason champs of 2018. That’s usually bad news but the NFC West isn’t as tough as it use to be. In recent history, this division was led by tough defenses in Seattle and San Francisco. Now, it looks like Los Angeles has turned into a haven for defensive talent. The defensive line was already good with Aaron Donald but they went ahead and added Ndamukong Suh. The Rams will also added a pair of playmakers in the secondary in Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. The Rams were let down in the playoffs by their offense so I think the pressure will be on that side of the ball to continue to get better. RB Todd Gurley will continue to be the tone setter for the offense. QB Jared Goff had a decent second season in 2017. He must show that he can continue to improve. The Rams bring with them in 2018 a talented collection of receivers led by Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp. Arizona is starting anew at head coach in 2018. They started the offseason with a clean slate at QB and they decided to go with the often-injured Sam Bradford. That decision may come back to bite them though they were able to draft Josh Rosen who may be the QB for the future. Whoever is at QB, they will be able to lean on RB David Johnson. Arizona is lacking a young playmaker at WR though Larry Fitzgerald is still capable at his age. On defense, the Cardinals will be tough to deal with up front. DE Chandler Jones led the league in sacks a season ago. Arizona has a good group at LB and the secondary could be better this year despite losing safety Tyrann Mathieu. There’s a lot of hype surrounding San Francisco this year but I don’t think they are ready to return to the playoffs. QB Jimmy Garoppolo has created most of that optimism around the franchise but they still need to add more pieces around him if they hope to be successful with him. I’m not sold on Jerick McKinnon as a led back in this offense and they are also in the market for a big play wide receiver. I like the collection of young talent they have in their defensive front seven. CB Richard Sherman is going to learn this season how hard life is without playing with the Legion of Boom. Thinking of the Legion of Boom, Seattle might stink this season. It might get so bad that coach Pete Carroll might be a guy who could be looking for an escape by the end of the season. QB Russell Wilson will be carrying this offense again with a lack of a running game and protection from his offensive line. The Seahawks will look mighty thin at receiver this season outside of Doug Baldwin and Brandon Marshall. The biggest difference for Seattle this season will be on defense, as they will look entirely different. Meaning, that they won’t be really good. Projected Finish (Playoff Team in BOLD): 1) Rams, 2) Cardinals, 3) 49ers, 4) Seahawks

NFL 2017: NFC Preview (Condensed)

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Dak Prescott has the keys to the castle in Dallas. What will he do with it? And can Matt Ryan get over what happened in the Super Bowl?

By: Elias McMillan

 

NFC East

New York Giants – I think the Giants have the best defense in the NFC East. They are strong up front with two passing rushing vets (JPP & Vernon) and a big run stuffer (Damon Harrison). I think they are weak at the LB position but they are loaded with talent in the secondary. New York should also have a sound passing attack on offense. Eli Manning will have a wide array of weapons to choose from this season with Beckham Jr, Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, and rookie TE Evan Engram. The Giants do have question marks with their running game and offensive line. But I think they can outlast the competition in a tight NFC East race. Prediction: 10-6 (NFC East Champs)

Dallas Cowboys –For whatever reason, the Cowboys haven’t been able to string together back-to-back successful seasons too many times since the 90’s. And after blowing a great opportunity the change the narrative last season, they return this season with little or no improvements. I think the offense will be okay. I think Dak Prescott will not fall into a sophomore slump. There are some changes on the offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott might miss the start of the season but I think the run game will still be strong. And the Cowboys do return many weapons in the passing game led by Dez Bryant and the leadership of Jason Witten. On defense, all eyes will be on LB Jaylon Smith who missed all of last season due to injury but the Cowboys are expect big things out of. Outside of that, the Cowboys return a defense that cant create pressure and are featuring wholesale changes in the secondary. At this point, I feel bad for Jason Witten. I feel good about Dallas in 2018 though. Prediction: 8-8

Washington – I like what Washington has on defense. If they could just find some consistency on offense they could be a sleeper team in the NFC East. QB Kirk Cousins is a mixed bag but I like his gunslinger mentality. Many are expecting a big year from free agent signee WR Terrelle Pryor. Washington also had a nice big target for Cousins in TE Jordan Reed if he can stay healthy. Much like New York, offensive line and running back are where the question marks lie. Like I said earlier, I like many of the pieces on this Washington defense. They have already suffered some injuries on the defensive line and at LB but they wisely prepared for this in the draft. I’m interested in seeing how rookies DE Jonathan Allen and LB Ryan Anderson develop in their first years. Washington may have some weak spots in the secondary but they at least still have CB Josh Norman. Because of what they have defensively, Washington might surprise a bit this year. Prediction: 7-9

Philadelphia Eagles – Some have Philadelphia as a sleeper team in this division. I just don’t see it. Is Carson Wentz going to turn out to be a baller in his 2nd year? Maybe. He’ll have pretty weapons this year at WR with Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. The Eagles are still reeling at the RB position from the LeSean McCoy trade. Do they really expect LeGarrette Blount to be their #1 back? Philly’s defense will be pretty much the same from a season ago: decent front seven, trash secondary. I like DT Fletcher Cox and rookie DE Derek Barnett. In a best-case scenario for this team, I don’t even see them making it past 8 wins. Prediction: 6-10

 

NFC North

Green Bay Packers – I really don’t see how this Packers team got better in the off-season. A lot of familiar faces from the last couple seasons are gone. The Packers are in the transition of getting younger on defense with OLB Clay Matthews the lone veteran holdover. They let Eddie Lacy go in free agency. Ty Montgomery is talented but can he really be an every down back? But as last year proved, because they really weren’t that good either, as long as they have Aaron Rodgers behind center, they’ll be okay. Prediction: 10-6 (NFC North Champs)

Minnesota Vikings – I like this Minnesota team because Mike Zimmer has himself a tough defense on this squad. It was the defense that led them to a hot start to begin 2016. Eventually, they fell apart down the stretch but as long as that same defense returns, they’ll be in a lot of games this year. Obviously, there are plenty of questions on offense especially at the QB position. QB Teddy Bridgewater may not be ready until the middle of the season so they will have to ride it out with Sam Bradford for now. Minnesota will also be dealing with a couple of new starters on the offensive line. But I think they will have a better run offense this season even with the departure of Adrian Peterson. I’m expecting big things from rookie RB Dalvin Cook. Prediction: 8-8

Detroit Lions – I don’t even remember that the Lions made the playoffs last year. They really didn’t make any dramatic changes in the offseason. QB Matthew Stafford will give them a chance to win every week. The Lions are still missing consistency in the run game. Stafford has pretty good targets to go to in the passing game. This has to be the season where TE Eric Ebron proves himself as a legit TE in the league and not just an athlete. Detroit will be solid defensively, at least up front. First round pick LB Jarrad Davis will be counted on early in his career. And you could say the same about second round pick CB Teez Tabor. I think the Lions are a running game away from challenging Green Bay in the division. Prediction: 7-9

Chicago Bears – The Bears are still rebuilding but with a veteran head coach. Weird. I’m wondering if John Fox will be around to see the final product. After spending money on QB Mike Glennon for some reason, the Bears went ahead and traded for QB Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky has shown promise in the pre-season and Chicago might as well stop wasting everyone’s time and insert him into the lineup. RB Jordan Howard is returning after an impressive rookie season. The Bears have question marks at WR. Kevin White is healthy and he will receive plenty of opportunities this year. Chicago’s defense is a mess. They need to build that side of the ball up as soon as possible if they want to climb out of the basement in this division. Prediction: 5-11

 

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons – There’s a lot of talk about the blown lead in the Super Bowl and the hangover from that. I know that Super Bowl losers, especially in this fashion, usually have a hard time getting back but I think Atlanta may have something going. I think this way because I liked what I saw from their defense last season and I like the additions they made in the offseason. Atlanta has a legit pass rush with Vic Beasley and I think rookie Takkarist McKinley could make an impact up front as well. I’m a big fan of the young LB’s they have especially Deion Jones who had a great rookie season. Atlanta will also see reinforcements in the secondary with the return of Desmond Trufant who missed most of last season. Everyone knows about what Atlanta has on offense with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, etc. But I think the improvements on this young defense will really make this team dangerous in the NFC again this season. Prediction: 13-3 (NFC South Champs)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – For the first time in a while, the Bucs enter a football season with some momentum. This team will be led by QB Jameis Winston who has really taken on a leadership role in that locker room and the team has brought in. Winston will be surrounded by probably the most talented he’s been around in his career. Tampa is loaded at WR with Mike Evans and newcomer DeSean Jackson who can really stretch the field. TE Cameron Brate impressed last season but the team decided to really maximize the TE position with the first round selection of TE O.J. Howard. I’m worried about the suspension of RB Doug Martin but this Tampa offense will be about what Winston can do in the passing game. Tampa returns a solid defense led by DT Gerald McCoy. I really like their LB core. They are missing playmakers in the secondary though. I think Tampa should be good enough to make that jump in the post season in 2017. Prediction: 9-7 (Wild-card)

Carolina Panthers – The Super Bowl hangover was real in Carolina in 2016. I think Carolina is in a position to rebound and maybe return to the playoffs but they need to do two things. First and more importantly, they need to ensure that the defense can stay at the level they were in during 2015. And secondly, they need to get Cam Newton better protection and younger players at the skill positions on offense. They did the latter in this offseason and I’m afraid that wasn’t the direction that this team needed to go. I think Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel will do good things in their rookie seasons but I prioritize the line scrimmage over the flashy skill players. I think Newton will be able to use those young guys effectively but I’m worried about his protection especially that he is coming off off-season surgery. On defense, Carolina is starting to look old. They gave up on Kony Ealy and brought back an ancient Julius Peppers. I really like Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly but they both have injury concerns. Carolina may slightly improve from 2016 but they need to do a better job at protecting their franchise QB and getting younger talent on defense. Prediction: 8-8

New Orleans Saints – There isn’t much buzz surrounding the Saints going into 2017. We know they will pass the ball well with QB Drew Brees. Its too bad that they couldn’t make it work with Brandin Cooks but they did bring in Ted Ginn Jr. to take his role as the speedster at WR. RB Mark Ingram is the established back in this offense so, I don’t understand why they brought in an aging Adrian Peterson. Defense remains the main issues on this team. DE Cameron Jordan can only do so much. The Saints did make an effort on improving their secondary through the draft this offseason. I think the Saints will compete. But they wont be on the same level as the three other teams in this division. Prediction: 6-10

 

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks – The Seahawks are still in the mist of a decent run in the NFC as consistent title contenders. But I get the feeling that their window is starting to get smaller. Which is supposed to happen in the NFL. You can’t resign and keep everyone for only so long. But Seattle should be in pretty good shape in 2017. QB Russell Wilson returns and Seattle continued their efforts in the off-season to improve his offensive line. I think the Eddie Lacy signing could improve the run game if he can stay healthy. And that’s a big “if”. WR Doug Baldwin is massively underrated and TE Jimmy Graham can still take over a game when called upon. This team will continue to be led by the defense though. The front seven is tough and can pretty much do it all. Pass rush, run stuff, etc. The Seahawks also still have the three major cogs in the L.O.B., Sherman, Thomas, and Chancellor. Prediction: 11-5 (NFC West Champs)

Arizona Cardinals – Arizona massively under performed last season and they return in 2017 with a supremely talented roster. On offense, RB David Johnson established himself last season as one of the top RB’s in the league. Arizona’s passing game is still dependent on QB Carson Palmer’s health. Head coach Bruce Arians doesn’t think much of the WR’s on the roster but WR Larry Fitzgerald is still as good as they come. Arizona has recognizable names on defense but they need to become an elite unit if Arizona hopes to make the postseason. They will miss Calais Campbell up front but Chandler Jones is still a pretty good pass rusher and first round pick Haason Reddick could develop into a difference maker. I feel that Arizona secondary under performed last season but that should change as long as Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu can stay healthy. I think the Cardinals have too much talent to miss the playoffs for a second straight season. Prediction: 10-6 (Wild-card)

Los Angeles Rams – The Rams hired a 30-year-old coach to lead the team in 2017. Maybe that youth can energize a team that hasn’t done anything note worthy in a while. Can second year QB Jared Goff show that he is worth his top selection in the draft a year ago? Can RB Todd Gurley return to form? Can the Rams finally get some consistency out from their recievers? Will the newly acquired Sammy Watkins keep the number 2 as his jersey number? Has the only player worth a damn on this roster (DT Aaron Donald) ended his holdout yet? Too many questions. Prediction: 5-11

San Francisco 49ers – Nothing quite says “we’re rebuilding” like saying “we’re rolling with Brian Hoyer as our QB this year”. San Francisco should be a complete disaster offensively this season. Its fitting that the offensive coordinator that blew it for Atlanta in the Super Bowl is now the head coach. On the bright side, San Fran is building a defense that might become a problem real soon. They basically have an all-Pac-10 defensive line and I liked the late addition of veteran pass rusher Elvis Dumervil. LB NaVorro Bowman returns and he’ll get a chance to groom rookie Reuben Foster who dropped right into the 49ers lap in the draft this pass April. Foster should have been a top 15 pick. The secondary leaves much to be desired but that front seven might end up being one of the best in the league. But with Brian Hoyer at QB, that tells me that this team must be tanking for one of the top signal callers in college. Prediction: 3-13

 

NFC Playoff Picture Prediction

  1. Atlanta Falcons – 13-3 (NFC South)
  2. Seattle Seahawks – 11-5 (NFC West)
  3. New York Giants – 10-6 (NFC East)
  4. Green Bay Packers – 10-6 (NFC North)
  5. Arizona Cardinals – 10-6 (Wild-card)
  6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 9-7 (Wild-card)

NFL 2016: NFC East Preview

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It’s now or never for Tony Romo and the Cowboys. And its looking more and more like “never”.

By: Elias McMillan

 

NFC East

New York Giants – The Giants has such a disappointing 2015. In the offseason, they only had one main goal: improve the defense. With the free agents and draft picks brought in, I think the Giants will be improved on that side of the ball. I think those improvements will go a long way on taking pressure off the offense. The Giants offense will be pretty much the same in 2016. They will be powered by Eli Manning and the passing game. One difference on offense this year is that the depth at receiver got better. Odell Beckham Jr is one of the best receivers in football right now but last season, the Giants struggled at finding someone who can make an impact opposite of him. WR Victor Cruz hopes to stay healthy in 2016 but he may never return to the Victor Cruz of old. However, I’m a big fan of rookie receiver Sterling Shepard out of Oklahoma. Shepard has the skill set as a rookie to eventually take over the number 2 receiver role from Cruz. The Giants have a decent offensive line but they have been inconsistent at times when it comes to pass protection and run blocking. The Giants are deep at the RB position but they are not a strong running team. Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen are serviceable veterans but I actually think that the younger guy, Andre Williams, deserves more opportunities in this offense. Like I said earlier, the Giants made it a point to improve that struggling defense in the offseason. On the defensive line, I think Jason Pierre-Paul will be focused after a seemingly quiet offseason. Pierre-Paul will receive a boost this year with free agent acquisition, DE Oliver Vernon. Vernon received a big pay from the Giants after some successful seasons in Miami and he’ll help provide a good 1-2 punch for the Giants pass rush. The Giants have struggled at stopping the run for years now and I think that might continue to be a problem in 2016. DT Jonathan Hankins is a good run stuffer but that defensive line receives zero help from a lackluster LB group. I think LB Devon Kennard might develop into something one day but that unit just doesn’t have enough talent. LB Jasper Brinkley is a career journeyman and he might be expected to start at middle linebacker. The Giants also had one of the worst pass defenses in the league last year. I think their secondary will improve in 2016 because the pass rush will be better but also they will have better talent out there. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a talented player but he gambles a lot and gets beat. You could say the exact same thing about free agent acquisition, CB Janoris Jenkins. They did draft CB Eli Apple in the first round and he might rise quickly as one of the better young corners in this league. At safety, Landon Collins is the hard hitter in run support and rookie Darian Thompson will get the opportunity early in his career to prove himself as a pass defender. I don’t think that this Giants team will be that much different from the team that went 6-10 last year. But I feel that if they improved the defense, even a little bit, that would help win some games that they would have lost a season ago. I like that the front office had a plan and they executed it through free agency and the draft. I believe that the Giants improved more than the other teams in this division. Prediction: 9-7 (NFC East Champs)

Dallas Cowboys – Even though the Cowboys went 4-12 last season, they were playing with house money going in the offseason. They had a season where just about everything when wrong but there was a silver lining. They were going to have high draft picks. They were going to have key veterans returning from season long injuries. They didn’t have a lot of cap space but there was a possibly where they could have been players in free agency. And more importantly, they were going to return with the best offensive line in football. Despite all of that, the Cowboys amazingly had an underwhelming offseason where they didn’t really improve at all. Despite that, it was always my belief that the Cowboys would win this division in 2016 as long as Tony Romo played in at least 12 or more of the regular season games. Romo is the most important player in the division and the proof pretty much speaks for itself. Before last week, I had the Cowboys winning this division because Romo was set the return and was “healthy”. As it turns out, he broke another bone in his back and he might miss 4 to 6 games to start the season. This may not mean doom for the Cowboys in 2016 but history says that it indeed does. Now, the backup QB situation in Dallas was a mess last season as Romo struggled to return from injury. Despite that, the front office didn’t really bother to bring in a new veteran at the position. Instead, they were going to see what they had in Kellen Moore and rookie 4th rounder Dak Prescott. Now, I didn’t like what I saw in Prescott coming out of Mississippi State but so far in the preseason, he looks like he might be the young arm that this team has been looking to develop for years now. But we have to realize that preseason success really means nothing and we don’t really know how good Prescott will be until Romo returns. Two things are going to help Prescott, 1) he is confident after a pretty solid preseason and 2) this offense is set and ready to go. I already mentioned the offensive line but along with that unit, the Cowboys are deep at the RB position. Did they need to take a RB with the 4th overall pick in this past draft? Probably not. But RB Ezekiel Elliott looks the part of a future franchise back in this league. Elliott will get every opportunity in the offense despite the wealth of talent at the position. Darren McFadden was the 4th leading rusher in the league last season. Alfred Morris is a veteran who can get the tough yards. And Lance Dunbar will be a valuable piece as a receiver coming out from the backfield. That’s a lot of talent at one position. In the preseason, Prescott has already developed a good relationship with star receiver and team leader Dez Bryant. Bryant also missed most of 2015 with an injury but he is back and is already looking like his normal self. The Cowboys will return a decent group at the pass catching position led by Jason Witten, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, and kickoff specialist Lucky Whitehead. Even if Romo wasn’t injured currently, I always believed that this team would only go as far as the defense will take them. Tony Romo would be Tony Romo but the defense needs to figure out a way to get stops in order to win the playoffs. This defense is basically unchanged from a season ago and I see no reason why they’ll improve in 2016. The Cowboys struggle mightily at pressuring the QB and that will continue this season. DE DeMarcus Lawrence is the best pass rusher but he was suspended for the first 4 games of the season. Starting opposite of him will be a collection of guys that you never heard of. The plan was to maybe start last year’s second round pick, Randy Gregory but he is facing a major suspension while he is currently in rehab. Inside on the defensive line, DT Tyrone Crawford is decent player and they brought in Cedric Thornton to be an upgrade from last years starter. Crawford and Thornton will excel at getting up field and creating pressure but they are not the run stuffers that this defense needs at defensive line. At linebacker, Sean Lee is coming off his first Pro Bowl season but he is the lone standout at this position. Jerry Jones decided to bring back an unreliable player in Rolando McClain who is currently suspended. Jerry could have let him walk but he didn’t and now the LB depth is in a rough spot. Even worst, the Cowboys decided to spend this year’s second round pick on one of the best LB prospects in the draft but the player they took is coming off a major knee injury and will certainly miss the entire 2016 season. And they knew this as a possibility going into the draft. And they still took him. I don’t understand the decisions made by this front office in this past offseason. The Cowboys will return the entire group from a secondary that was surprisingly in the top 5 in the league in pass defense. The issue is that the unit doesn’t create many turnovers. Last year’s first round pick, Byron Jones, is making the move to safety and his skill set will serve him well at that position. Jones is an athletic freak who can fly to the football and they are hoping that he will be the change that will help this secondary collect more turnovers. The group of corners on this team is very average but I really don’t want to rip on them because they would be so much better if they played in front of a defensive line that could consistently create pressure. Like I said earlier, Romo injury or not, this team didn’t improve in the offseason and the ceiling was always going to be a divisional winner that wasn’t going to go far in the playoffs anyhow. I don’t know how many games Tony Romo is going to miss. I do know that it is very sad and depressing that the Romo era could possibly end this season without him and Jason Witten getting even a sniff at a championship. That, in my book, is Jerry Jones’ legacy. Prediction: 8-8

Washington – Was last year’s run to the division title a fluke for Washington? I don’t know. Maybe. But despite of the problems of the other teams in the division, you have to give Washington credit for taking advantage of the opportunity. Repeating in this division is always a tall task but I think Washington has a better chance than what people believe. QB Kirk Cousins returns after his best season as a pro. He is basically playing for a more secure future as he signed that one-year franchise tender. Cousins looked great at times last season but there was other times when you saw why this franchise didn’t want to commit to a long-term deal with this guy. Having a repeat of success in 2016 will be a tall task for Cousins, I think. The whole situation was screams what Philadelphia went through a few years ago with Nick Foles. One thing that won’t help Cousins in 2016 is that his offensive line has been so inconsistent. They don’t really have a solid situation at RB right now. RB Matt Jones is a speedster but there isn’t much depth behind him at the position. Plus, that offensive line really struggled at creating lanes for whoever was running the ball a season ago. What will help Cousins in 2016 is that Washington has good talent at the receiver positions. Veterans DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon still have plenty left in the tank and younger guys, Ryan Grant and Jamison Crowder, also have plenty of ability. At the TE position, Washington has one of the best in football with Jordan Reed. On defense, Washington wasn’t good last season at stopping the run and they hope to improve this year. They brought in DT Kendall Reyes from San Diego to join a veteran heavy group at defensive line. I think Washington’s strength on this defense will come from the LB position. They have a decent group on veterans playing at the inside positions. I loved the draft pick of Su’a Cravens who will serve the role as a tweener player on this defense. He’ll be much like Thomas Davis on the Panthers. Cravens could develop into a guy that can cover TE’s but also provide major run support. OLB Ryan Kerrigan is the veteran pass rusher on this team. But also look out for second year guys, Preston Smith and Trent Murphy. Washington has had a bad secondary for years I feel like but that unit will definitely be improved in 2016. CB Josh Norman comes over from Carolina and he currently has the rep as the best corner in football right now. I don’t know if Norman will be as good as he was in Carolina playing in front of that defense but I know he is better than what Washington had a season ago. I expect rookie CB Kendall Fuller to rise fast on the depth chart as well. I’m disappointed that DeAngelo Hall is still on this roster some how. He hasn’t been good for at least 5 years but his speed and athleticism has allowed him to stay in the league. I think Washington may quietly have the best defense in this division. But the lack of a run game and counting of Kirk Cousins will only bring you so far. But even I have to admit that I think Washington shouldn’t be written off this season. Prediction: 8-8

Philadelphia Eagles – The Philadelphia Eagles spent the offseason deleting any traces of the Chip Kelly era off this team. You might want to call it addition by subtraction but I’ll choose to call it what it is: rebuilding. The Eagles are rebuilding under Andy Reid understudy and former Eagles player, Doug Pederson. This seems like a move backwards in order to go forwards because we all say the way they forced Andy out of town. But Reid was very successful in Philly and is currently in Kansas City. Its going to take some time but the Eagles need to give Pederson enough time to build up this roster again. That being said, this current Eagles roster is not ready to compete in 2016. QB Sam Bradford, who was very inconsistent last season, received a contract extension in the offseason. Then, Pederson decided to bring over his top backup from Kansas City, Chase Daniels. After solidifying the QB position, the Eagles still decided that they needed a signal caller for the future so, they traded the farm to move up in this years draft to take QB Carson Wentz from North Dakota State. These are not the moves of a football team that is looking to improve immediately. They have a lot invested in that one position while other areas on that side of the ball could have needed some help. The Eagles are hurting on the offensive line. Starting tackle Lane Johnson is facing a lengthy suspension and the group is coming off a season where they struggled mightily at run blocking. In the matter of two seasons, the Eagles lost two premier running backs in the league. LeSean McCoy was traded away and DeMarco Murray was terribly mismanaged and sent to Tennessee. Now, they are left with an injury prone Ryan Matthews and an aging Darren Sproles. There will be a lot of pressure on the QB position this season for the Eagles as the WR core is extremely average as well. Jordam Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff and Dorial Green-Beckham have ability but neither are clear cut “#1” receivers. The Eagles most consistent receiver this season may be TE Brent Celek. On defense, the Eagles will bring back a pretty active front seven led by DT Fletcher Cox. Cox is clearly the team’s best defender as a run stopper and pass rusher. The Eagles can get pressure on the QB from the outside but they need to get younger at that OLB position. Former First round pick, Marcus Smith, has not worked out so far but Connor Barwin and Mychal Kendricks are solid starters. In the secondary, the Eagles are lacking young talent. Safety Malcolm Jenkins is a good player and a veteran leader but there isn’t much around him. CB Leodis McKelvin was surprisingly let go by Buffalo in the offseason and we’ll see if he has any more left in the tank. And I know its only preseason but CB Nolan Carroll has looked like an impact player already this season. This Eagles team is rebuilding but it will be interesting to see how the QB situation plays out. Prediction: 5-11

2016 Dallas Cowboys Offseason: I DIDNT LIKE MOST OF IT

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By: Elias McMillan

After ending a season that saw them go 4-12, you would think that there wouldn’t be much optimism surrounding the Dallas Cowboys going into the offseason. But once you consider that the 2015 season was one of instances were a lot went wrong with injuries and etc., you could feel optimistic about the Cowboys having a great offseason to improve, get healthy, and be ready to compete in 2016. But months later after the season has ended and now on the eve of the 2016 campaign, I feel that the Cowboys really disappointed me this offseason. I do think that this team will compete in 2016 if they stay healthy but I was looking forward to seeing moves that would improve this team greatly. After the great success of the 2014 season, I feel that the blueprint was set for this team to not only just compete but to become title contenders. Going into 2016, I see Dallas as a team that isn’t on the cusp of being a contender but a team that will just “compete”.

I didn’t expect the Cowboys to be major players in free agency but the club did end up bringing a lot of players back that I didn’t expect back. Looking at the defensive secondary first, where I thought the Cowboys were preparing to move on from first round pick disappointment Morris Claiborne and free agent disappointment Brandon Carr. Claiborne was a free agent who they could have let walk and Carr was a candidate to be released due to his lack of production and his large cap number. Instead, Claiborne was brought back on a one-year deal and Carr took a pay cut to stay with the team. I didn’t hate these moves but I didn’t see them coming. And to Claiborne, Carr and the rest of the secondary’s credit, they can probably play a lot better football than what they’ve shown last season. That unit suffered through injuries (Scandrick) and an inconsistent pass rush. Going into this season, the secondary is a healthy, close group that will probably play better if the defensive front four is improved.

I totally understand why Greg Hardy was not brought back. He didn’t really handle himself well last season and he wasn’t the beast that he was in Carolina. But he does deserve a lot of credit for bringing out the most from line mate DeMarcus Lawrence. Hopefully, Lawrence can be the player that he was last season without Hardy. In terms of free agency, the defensive line was the only place where the Cowboys made any type of significant move. DT Cedric Thornton was brought in from Philadelphia and he should be an upgrade from Nick Hayden. Thornton and Tyrone Crawford should form a formable duo inside for this defense but defensive end still remains a major question mark. The Cowboys got word that Lawrence may be facing a suspension before the draft so that might affect their plans in April. Outside of Lawrence, the Cowboys were counting on Randy Gregory to have a solid offseason after a tough rookie season marred by injuries and suspensions. Also, the Cowboys brought in Benson Mayowa who seems like the forgotten man in the offseason. Mayowa was a restricted free agent but Oakland didn’t fight to keep him because their defense is going through a personnel change from 4-3 to 3-4. Mayowa showed some flashes as a Raider and the Cowboys are hoping he can truly flourish in a 4-3 defense as a pass rusher. The situation involving Lawrence and Gregory ends up taking a turn but I’ll hit on that later.

Jack Crawford and Kyle Wilber are underrated pieces but neither player is really great and I thought the Cowboys could aim to easily replace them both. Instead, they were both brought back on small mid level deals. I guess both players could prove to be valuable in terms of depth and on special teams. LB Rolando McClain was a starter for most of last season but he was a guy that I felt that you really couldn’t rely on. When McClain is at his best, he was a big part of the defense’s success. But with all of the big hits he provided, there were also a lot of plays where he would just miss, take a bad angle, or just tune out completely. LB’s are kinda like RB’s in the league currently in where it isn’t hard to get production out of a free agent for a year or so. For that reason, I didn’t expect McClain to be back but he was brought back on a one-year deal. My problem with that is that the team would be depending on an unreliable player to start again in 2016. And this guy doesn’t want to show up on time for mini camp or work out during the off-season reportedly. And when asked about it, the team gives a “family issues” excuse for him. The entire situation just seemed fishy from the beginning. Why would Jerry Jones want a guy like that back with his history of suspensions and just overall flakiness? Well, maybe the Cowboys can give him one more chance and draft his replacement in April. We’ll see.

On offense, the Cowboys were able to retain OG Ronald Leary, which will prove important for depth purposes. Last season, we saw how important in the backup QB position is. Since Dallas pretty much bottomed out because of that situation, I thought that finding a new, veteran with experience at backup QB would be a priority. The Cowboys did look but they clearly didn’t look hard enough. The one guy I knew would get called in was Matt Moore who is very familiar with head coach Jason Garrett and the Cowboys organization. Moore is up there in age but he is plenty experienced and would have been an upgrade from Kellen Moore, Matt Cassel, and Brandon Weeden. Moore visited with Dallas and left Valley Ranch without a deal. Days later he signs back with Miami. The backup QB situation is dire. Tony Romo is great and so is his offensive line. But he is 36 years old. Old QB’s tend to get injured playing in the NFL. Matt Moore should not of been able to leave Dallas without a deal. Instead now, the Cowboys are going to go forward with what they got, Kellen Moore and Jameill Showers. Two guys who are short on talent and experience. It is as if the organization didn’t think backup QB was an issue last season.

At running back, last season proved that with this offensive line, you could have success no matter who’s running the ball. Darren McFadden exceeded expectations in 2015 but I understand if the team didn’t want to fully count on lightning striking twice with him in 2016. Joseph Randle totally lost his mind and Lance Dunbar is a free agent who is coming off of an injury. I expected Dallas to bring someone in that the position. Alfred Morris signed on a two year and I felt that this could be a real underrated signing by Dallas. Morris is a veteran like McFadden but he is younger and probably has a lot more left in the tank. Plus, Lance Dunbar was brought back on a one-year deal. Dunbar was an important part of the passing game last season before he got hurt so I like that was brought back. With 3 veterans in the fold, I fully expected Dallas to take a younger RB in the draft but I definitely didn’t want one in the first round.

So, now lets talk about the draft where the Cowboys basically did everything I didn’t want them to. The player I wanted at pick #4 overall from day one was DE Joey Bosa. Not only he would have filled a need for Dallas but also his production in college warranted a high selection. Bosa goes to San Diego at #3 so there goes that plan. I never was on board with Jalen Ramsey because I didn’t see a fit for him on this defense. Especially since Dallas brought the entire secondary back in the offseason and they took a CB/S in the first round last year. I absolutely didn’t want a RB at #4 so I thought I would have found a team to trade down with. Shaq Lawson or Leonard Floyd could have been options in a trade down scenario where Dallas could have addressed the team’s greatest need. The Cowboys were in the position that they’re in this offseason because they’ve drafted so safely in recently history. Taking a RB that high in the first round is the opposite of drafting safely. It is a flashy, Hollywood draft pick and it doesn’t make much since to me. And if you listen to Jerry Jones and others who follow the team closely, it wouldn’t have mattered if my guy (Bosa) were available at #4. Ezekiel Elliott was the guy they wanted all along. RB wasn’t a big enough need to address with pick #4. There are plenty of examples in this league of how you can find young quality RB’s anywhere in the draft. Which is probably why they went ahead and took another RB in round 6. I understand the pluses of the Elliott pick. The Cowboys need to maximize the RB position to help Romo stay healthy and to return to the ball control style of football that we saw in 2014. But the Cowboys ran the ball pretty well last season without a young stud a RB. The Romo injury was the difference. So, maximizing the run game is more so to help Romo to stay healthy. Ok, I get that sort of. But then, they take it a step further and say that the ball control offense is going to help the defense stay fresh. I normally would agree with that situation but I don’t see enough talent on that side of the ball. Average talent that is resting up on the bench is still going to be average when they hit the field. Resting the defense will mean nothing if the talent level on that side of the football is not improved.

So in round 2, lets improve the talent on the defensive side of the football with a pass rusher or an impact linebacker that could replace Rolando McClain soon. They take LB Jaylon Smith who if healthy, would have been a top 10 pick overall. Instead, Smith suffered a serious knee injury and will probably miss the entire 2016 season. I get if the Cowboys see Smith as that top-10 prospect that will be a big time player for the team in the future. But the defense needs help sooner rather than later. Because of the smart draft decisions from recent years, the Cowboys have a realistic window to become title contenders. But with the first two selections from this draft, the Cowboys completely failed at maximizing those selections. And the Smith selection looks even worst now that McClain will miss more than half of the season due to suspension. Jaylon Smith might turn into an All-Star but how does that help Dallas in 2016? We cannot count on having impact players next year. We should be trying to field that best team possible as soon as possible. Thinking about the next season before this one starts is a loser’s mentality.

The Cowboys did address the front four in the 3rd and 4th rounds but how can we expect those picks to turn into major pieces this season? Dallas even took the QB that I didn’t want them to take. Dak Prescott was a great college QB at Mississippi State but if you watched him against top defenses in the SEC, you saw that he is limited by his arm strength and his decision-making under pressure. I didn’t feel great about Prescott’s pro prospects going into the draft and now I’ll get to see that process first hand as Dallas did indeed draft him.

After the draft, we’ve learned about how the Cowboys defense would be missing multiple players due to suspensions. DeMarcus Lawrence will miss the first 4 games after his appeal was denied. I don’t think Lawrence’s violation of the substance abuse policy was marijuana related so I’m not overly worried about him. Though, not having him for the first month of the season will hurt big time. Another DE, Randy Gregory, is also facing multiple suspensions. Gregory has a history with marijuana issues, which allowed him to fall into the Cowboys lap in the second round of the 2015 draft in the first place. Gregory was suspended last season for a violation and he was facing another 4 game suspension for this upcoming season. Last week, Gregory checked himself into rehab as he failed another drug test and is facing an even longer suspension now. Rolando McClain will also face a lengthy suspension this season. The entire situation is just frustrating. I think Lawrence might be able to bounce back from this but I don’t feel great about the other two. With Gregory’s history, I think it might be safe to say that his Cowboys career could be over. I completely understand why the Cowboys took a risk on Gregory in the first place. The defense needs quality pass rushers and they still do especially now. I don’t understand why the Cowboys took a chance on bringing back a guy like McClain though. And then they draft a potential replacement for him that cant play until next season? I just don’t like it at all. We could have and should have just allowed McClain to walk away. But instead now, our depth at LB behind Sean Lee looks mighty weak.

With the talent of the offensive side of the ball, I think the Cowboys will be fine on that side of the football. Getting back a healthy Tony Romo and Dez Bryant will pay huge dividends. If the great depth at RB paired with the offensive line does it job, Dallas will have one of the top offenses in football. But I’m afraid that this wont be enough to make this team into title contenders. A lot of people are saying how in 2014, the Cowboys had a worst defensive situation and they still got so close from making the NFC Championship. Well as a fan, I don’t want to “come close” anymore. “Coming close” is no longer a goal. Tony Romo is 36 years old and this team needs to maximize its chances right now. In 2016. We can’t just use 2014 as an example of success because it wasn’t. It was a great season but it ended in failure. We lost. How can we be a better team in 2016. I think the offense will be at the level. Maybe. But look at the recent champions and contenders. You can have a flashy offense but if you don’t have a defense that can create stops, you are not going to be a contender. I feel that there were several decisions this offseason that will keep this team from being a contender in 2016. And its frustrating to me because this team needs to maximize the years that Tony Romo has left. I feel that this team has done the opposite this offseason. If Romo can survive the season, I still think that this Cowboys team can win the NFC East. But anything past that, anything in terms of making the ultimate goal, remains a huge question mark.

2016 NFL Draft Grades: NFC

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Is Ezekiel Elliott really worth a top 5 pick?

By: Elias McMillan

 

NFC EAST

1. Washington: (Team Needs: DE (3-4), CB, S, RB, OLB (3-4), C, NT) – WR wasn’t a need position for Washington entering this draft but they took Josh Doctson with their first selection. Doctson might prove to be a smart selection as the team might be preparing for life without DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garcon. Love the selection of Su’a Cravens who will play that “tweener” position of Safety/Linebacker. CB Kendall Fuller is a steal in the third round. Fuller has a great NFL pedigree and he probably should have been drafted sooner if there weren’t questions about his health. I feel like Washington missed out on opportunities to address the positions on the line of scrimmage. They needed offensive and defensive line help. Plus, I think they should have drafted someone to help with the pass rush. But their top three selections are pretty strong. Grade: B

2. New York Giants: (Team Needs: CB, LB (4-3), OT, WR, S) – CB Eli Apple will help this secondary that was the worst in football a season ago. But the Apple pick at 10th overall is a bit of a reach. I had Apple going closer to the second round. I absolutely love the second round pick of WR Sterling Shepard. Shepard is a speedster and a playmaker in the slot. He’ll do big things in this offense and he might help push Victor Cruz completely off the roster eventually. Safety Darian Thompson was another smart pick for the Giants. They need all the help they can find in the secondary. The fifth round selection of RB Paul Perkins was strange to me because the Giants backfield is already kinda loaded. The Giants didn’t draft for any offensive line help but they still did a decent job. Grade: B-

3. Philadelphia Eagles: (Team Needs: CB, RB, OG, LB) – Wow. I don’t have much positive things to say about this draft for the Eagles. You don’t trade up to the top of the draft for a QB especially when you already have money invested in your veteran starter and when you signed one of the top backups in free agency. I also have to mention that this was not a great draft for QBs. Carson Wentz will have the chance to prove that he is the QB for the future but coming out of a FCS school and with the QB situation in Philadelphia, he’ll have a long climb to the top. I like that they addressed the interior of their offensive line in the third round. But they should have taken a RB earlier. I think Jalen Mills in the seventh round could be a steal that will help out in the secondary. Grade: C-

4. Dallas Cowboys: (Team Needs: DE, DT, OLB (4-3), CB, S, QB, WR, RB) – Ezekiel Elliott might eventually be one the best RB’s in the league but in today’s NFL, you don’t take RB’s in the top five of the draft. Ever. If the Cowboys wanted to build towards being a contender, they needed to address their god-awful pass rush situation in the first or second round. They did neither. The Elliott will prove to be very important. The Cowboys should be able to unleash a power running game that will help the offense become very efficient and at the same time take the pressure off of their 36-year-old starting QB. But in terms of contending for championships, a power running game really isn’t that important. Having players at the line of scrimmage on defense is much more important. So in 2016, we could see a great Cowboys offense but we also could see a team that wont contend for a title without the players needed on defense on the line the scrimmage. In the second round, they took LB Jaylon Smith who is one of the best prospects in this draft. The problem with that pick is that Smith is coming off of a massive knee injury and will probably not suit up at all in 2016. I don’t think this Cowboys defense can afford to wait a year to get am impact player on that defense. I like that they thought that a LB was a need position but it would have been better if they took someone who could have helped them this season. DT Maliek Collins might be my favorite pick of the bunch as an inside pass rusher. I absolutely hated the Dak Prescott pick. I’ve seen Prescott play numerous times and I don’t see a future backup QB. I see someone who needs a ton of work as a passer and with a similar skill set as a Tim Tebow. He was the one QB I didn’t want Dallas to take. DE Charles Tapper might become a rotational guy, as a pass rusher but again, this position should have been focused on earlier in the draft. To end the draft, they took a TE who hasn’t played football in years. There are some qualities to this draft class for Dallas but there are just too many things that I don’t like. Grade: D

NFC NORTH

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Georgia’s Leonard Floyd is a pass rusher in a wide receiver’s body.

1. Chicago Bears: (Team Needs: OLB (3-4), ILB, DE (3-4), CB, WR) – The Bears had the most solid of a draft out of anyone. Leonard Floyd could be the future pass rusher that this 3-4 defense needs. Cody Whitehair was one of the top guards in the draft and he’ll help this offensive line right away. I felt that DE Jonathan Bullard could have gone in the first round. The Bears were able to get him in round three. He will be a great interior defender against the run or the pass. LB Nick Kwiatkoski is a tough tackler who will help the middle of the defense. I also liked the selection of a couple of small school products. CB Deiondre’ Hall is a playmaker in the secondary and WR Daniel Braverman could have a future in the league as a slot receiver. The Bears pretty much hit all of their needs and drafted quality players. Grade: A

2. Minnesota Vikings: (Team Needs: WR, DE (4-3), LB, DT) – Minnesota really lucked out and maybe gotten the best receiver in the draft. Laquon Treadwell really legitimizes the WR core in Minnesota and will definitely help the progression of QB Teddy Bridgewater. I thought CB Mackensie Alexander was good enough to be a first rounder but Minnesota stopped his fall in the late second round. I thought that the Vikings needed to address the inside linebacker position and Kentrell Brothers will definitely help that department. There wont be a more interesting rookie than WR Moritz Boehringer from Germany. I think Minnesota missed out on addressing the DE position but they still did a solid job with this draft. Grade: B+

3. Detroit Lions: (Team Needs: WR, DE (4-3), DT, LB, S, CB) – The Lions were very conservative with this draft class. Addressing the offensive line is never a bad thing and Detroit did so with all three positions early in the draft. In the second round, they got a steal out of DT A’Shawn Robinson who will definitely help Detroit stop the run. There is a lot of buzz surrounding safety Miles Killebrew and it’s not just because of his awesome name. Killebrew is a heat-seeking missile as a tackler and he’ll definitely make his mark as a special teamer. Considering Calvin Johnson retired, I’m disappointed that they didn’t address the WR position. Also, Detroit didn’t look to draft an edge rusher to put across from Ziggy Ansah. Grade: B

4. Green Bay Packers: (Team Needs: WR, NT, DE (3-4), ILB, CB) – The Packers needed a B.J. Raji replacement and they made of gotten it in first round pick DT Kenny Clark. I like the second round pick of OT Jason Spriggs. He’ll provide some much needed depth on that offensive line. I don’t know if Blake Martinez is the middle linebacker the Packers need as a starter. I see Martinez more as a special teams contributor. The Packers pretty much hit most of their needs except for in the secondary. Nothing really jumps out about this draft class. I think Kenny Clark will be a good one though. Grade: C

NFC SOUTH

1. New Orleans Saints: (Team Needs: DE (4-3), DT, CB, OG, WR) – DT Sheldon Rankins is a huge disruptor and will be a great fit for the Saints. WR Michael Thomas should serve as an eventual replacement to Marques Colston. Thomas, much like Colston, is a big possession receiver that will be a nice complement to Brandin Cooks. Safety Vonn Bell is a pick that was needed once you consider how bad the Saints secondary has been. The Saints addressed all of their need areas on defense. Which is really their entire defense. I think they should of brought in some offensive line help. Grade: B

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Vernon Hargreaves will be a fan favorite in his hometown of Tampa Bay.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: (Team Needs: OT, DE, LB (4-3), CB, S) – The Buccaneers got the kid they wanted all along in the first round in Tampa native, Vernon Hargreaves. Hargreaves might be the best “pure” corner in this draft. Tampa needed DE help but I’m not sure if they’ll get it out from Noah Spence. Spence is a dynamic pass rusher but he needs to get bigger to play in a 4-3. Everyone is criticizing Tampa decision to trade back up into the second round for a kicker. But kickers are not important until you need them. Roberto Aguayo will definitely get the opportunity to prove that he’s worth it. Tampa did a decent job at hitting all of their need areas. Grade: B-

3. Atlanta Falcons: (Team Needs: DE (4-3), WR, LB, TE, S) – Atlanta was dead last in the league again this past season in sacks. So, I can’t understand why they passed on Shaq Lawson for a safety. Keanu Neal is a good player but Atlanta had greater needs and the pick was a reach. I really like LB Deion Jones though. Jones has all the skills that a linebacker needs in a 4-3 defense. Atlanta waited until the seventh round to take a receiver and they released Roddy White earlier this offseason. TE Austin Hooper might prove to be a smart selection as the Falcons are still looking for that big TE target since Tony Gonzalez retired. Nothing too spectacular from this draft class though. Grade: C

4. Carolina Panthers: (Team Needs: WR, OT, RB, DE, CB, S) – It’s hard to criticize Carolina’s draft because they were drafting at the bottom of each round. But they pretty much did their own thing and ignored some of their obvious need areas. Carolina has enough quality defensive tackles but they took another one in the first round. CB Josh Norman was shockingly let go weeks ago so, I understand if Carolina was going to draft a CB. But they drafted three of them when they could have addressed other needs. Just a very strange draft for the reigning NFC Champs. Grade: C-

NFC WEST 

1. Seattle Seahawks: (Team Needs: C, OG, OT, RB, DT, DE (4-3), LB) – I got to pat myself on the back again for correctly predicting Seattle’s first round pick. Germain Ifedi’s versatility will help the Seattle offensive line. DT Jarran Reed probably could have been a first rounder but Seattle was able to get him in the second round. Reed will prove to be a great pick for Seattle who needs some fresh body’s to replace those who they lost in free agency. Seattle loaded up at RB with the selections of C.J. Prosise in the third round and Alex Collins in the fifth. I like Nick Vannett as a TE prospect because of his great size. I’m glad Seattle understood how serious the situation is on their offensive line. They did a good job addressing that area. I think Seattle should have addressed the edge rusher and inside linebacker positions. But overall, they had a productive draft weekend. Grade: B+

2. San Francisco 49ers: (Team Needs: WR, RB, OT, ILB, OLB (3-4), DE (3-4), CB) – San Francisco had a boatload of picks and they made the most out of them. After taking an Oregon defensive tackle last season, they repeated the action this year. DeForest Buckner along with fellow Duck, Arik Armstead, will form a good duo on the 49ers defensive line. Trading back in for an offensive lineman is weird but so is Chip Kelly. Joshua Garnett was one of the top guards in the draft and the 49ers definitely need the help on the offensive line. I’m a fan of CB Rashard Robinson who is one of the most athletic corners in the draft. DE Ronald Blair is a quality pick in the fifth round. Blair is a big body who will fit well inside on the defensive line. I like the 49ers final pick because his name is “Prince Charles”. Grade: B-

USC v California

Jared Goff is Hollywood’s newest leading man.

3. Los Angeles Rams: (Team Needs: QB, WR, DE (4-3), LB, CB, S) – Considering what the Rams gave up to get to the top of the draft, they really couldn’t draft anyone of significance in the later rounds. But they still did okay. Jared Goff isn’t the best player in the draft but the Rams needed to take him number one because they have a talented roster and they’ve been a QB away from being contenders for a while now. Goff isn’t the top player in this draft but he is the best passer. TE Tyler Higbee probably would have gone before the fourth round if it wasn’t for some legal issues but he might be a guy that Goff can look to in the passing game early in his career. WR Pharoh Cooper is an underrated prospect that might have a chance at making the roster. The Rams should have done more to address their defense in this draft. Grade: C

4. Arizona Cardinals: (Team Needs: C, DE (3-4), OLB (3-4), OT, CB) – Arizona’s draft was completely underwhelming. Maybe just because I don’t recognize a lot of the names. In the first round, they took a chance on DT Robert Nkemdiche. Nkemdiche isnt a risk because of his on the field work but if he can just stay out of trouble, he’ll be a great player in this league. Nkemdiche probably should have gone in the top half of the draft. Arizona addressed the secondary with three picks in the draft and I believe that was needed. Guard Even Boehm might be a replacement to Jonathan Cooper who was traded away months ago. Grade: C-

NFL 2015: NFC East Preview

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By the end of the 2015 season, Chip Kelly will either be called a genius or labeled as the goat in Philadelphia.

By: Elias McMillan

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys – No one could have predicted the season that the Cowboys had last year. Because of last season’s success, this upcoming season will be the first time since 2008 where Dallas will have realistic title contention expectations entering a season. The NFC East will be tough again but Dallas has enough veteran leadership and young talent to repeat as division champions. Unfortunately, they suffered what could be a huge setback by losing DeMarco Murray in free agency. Murray caught lighting in a bottle last season as he was finally able to stay healthy and was able to lead the league in rushing. I don’t think Dallas has a guy on their roster right now that could come even close to achieving what Murray was able to do a season ago. They brought in vet RB Darren McFadden who could replenish his career after suffering in Oakland for so long. But I think Dallas will end up depending on RB Joseph Randle. Randle made a huge jump last season, as he looked completely lost as a rookie. Randle’s progression last season was so noticeable and he’ll have even more opportunities this year. It will also help the running game and the offense as a whole that Dallas will be returning that great and young offensive line. Tony Romo benefited from the running game last season but he benefited even more from the time given to him by that offensive line. Romo had a great 2014 and now he’s back and a lot healthier than a year ago. Romo is getting up their in age but still has enough left in the tank to continue to power this Cowboys offense. WR Dez Bryant got his big contract in the offseason and he’s looking forward to picking right up from his 16-touchdown performance from a season ago. I like the depth at WR as well as Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley can both show big play ability. And I almost forgot about the ageless wonder TE Jason Witten who is still Romo’s most reliable target in the passing game. The running game will be a huge question mark going into the season. The drop off from not having Murray will be noticeable but I believe that the blocking up front by this offensive line will be good enough where the running game will be serviceable for the offense to operate effectively. The Cowboys defense really stunk last season, especially in the post season. They were an over achieving unit and some how got by. Once again, I think the great running game from last season was a reason for this because the offense was able to go on long drives that kept the defense rested. With the drop off of the running game I think we’ll see this season, the Cowboys defense has to be improved. And I think they will be with the moves they were able to make in free agency and in the draft. First, lets look at that defensive line. The Dallas pass rush has been embarrassingly bad for a while now but I think a change is coming. A lot is going to be expected out of second year DE Demarcus Lawrence who only scratched the surface last year as a rookie. Thinking of rookies, Dallas received a gift in this draft this year when DE Randy Gregory dropped all the way down to the second round of the draft. Gregory was a top-15 draft prospect until questions about his drug use arose. If Gregory can stay on the current path he is in now, he’ll be a true difference maker for this defense as a rookie. Gregory is a bit skinny and he needs to get stronger but his quickest and speed around the edge will be a huge upgrade for this Dallas pass rush. Dallas fans should also be excited for DE Greg Hardy who will miss the first four games due to suspension. If you watched Hardy in Carolina, you would know that he is an absolute pass rushing terror that plays with unrivaled aggression towards the offense. We might not really see it until after a month in the season but this Cowboys pass rush should be vastly improved this season. With the improved pass rush, DT Tyrone Crawford maybe a candidate to be a breakout player on this front four. I think Crawford will be able to make more plays in the backfield this season but I have concerns about his run stuffing ability. Dallas does not have a true run stuffer on that defensive line and it will hurt them again this season I think. At linebacker, Dallas has one player with star potential and its Sean Lee. Sean Lee is basically DeMarco Murray from last season. Like Murray, Lee has shown potential to be a big time player in this league but injuries have continued to bother him. Last season, we saw what Murray was able to do when he was healthy for all 16 games. This season, the Cowboys need Sean Lee to have a “DeMarco Murray” like season on the defensive side of the ball. Also returning at linebacker will be Rolando McClain who will also be suspended for the first four games of the season. Other than Lee and McClain, I don’t like the Cowboys depth at LB. They brought in a couple of vets in free agency but the drop off from Lee and McClain will be noticeable. Younger guys like Anthony Hitchens and rookie Damien Wilson will have to grow up quickly this year, I think. The secondary has been another issue on this defense who awhile now and things could be worse since CB Orlando Scandrick has already been lost for the season due to injury. Scandrick was easily Dallas’ best corner last season so that group will need to step it up. Dallas will need more consistent play from CB Brandon Carr this season and CB Morris Claiborne will be playing for his last chance to rid himself from the “bust” label. Some bright spots might be CB’s Corey White and Tyler Patmon who have looked good in training camp. Also, Dallas drafted CB Byron Jones in the first round this year. Jones is a heck of an athlete but he’ll need to prove that he can translate that into success on the football field. So, the Scandrick injury will hurt but Dallas has decent depth at corner. At safety, Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox will return as starters but they are both average at best. I do believe that with an improved pass rush, the secondary could look better this season. If you would of asked me to make the trade of a drop off from the running attack on offense for an improved pass rush on defense, I would have made that trade. And it appears that is what Dallas did in the offseason. I don’t know if Dallas will look as strong as they did last season but I don’t think anyone in this division has made enough improvements to knock Dallas off from the top spot. Prediction: 11-5 (NFC East Champs)

New York Giants – The Giants had a disappointing 2014 season but if some guys can stay healthy, they could be able to bounce back and challenge Dallas for the division in 2015. In both meetings with Dallas last season, the Giants lost close, competitive games. The Giants have made some changes internally and they could surprise some people this season. Eli Manning returns for another season and he actually had low interception numbers last year. Not only should Manning feel good about that but also his receiving core will be really good this season. The breakout star from last season was WR Odell Beckham Jr. who literally catches anything close to him. Pair with a now healthy Victor Cruz, the Giants will have the top pass catching duo in the division. The Giants will also have great depth at the RB position. Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams are good runners and they signed Shane Vereen who will be valuable as a receiver from the backfield. I think the Giants will be solid offensively and it will help even more that they’ve invested another top draft pick to the offensive line. The defense on this team terribly under performed and that caused some coaching changes to be made. Steve Spagnuolo returns this season as defensive coordinator and he was able to have great success as the coordinator on the Giants’ Super Bowl winning teams. Spagnuolo will find out however that this defense will have a ways to go before performing at that high of a level. He’ll first notice that the defensive line will look really different. There are literally no standouts at defensive end except for DE Jason Pierre-Paul. JPP is a star player for sure but the guy was franchise tagged in the offseason, blew off one of his fingers in the offseason, and has yet to report into training camp. The status of JPP will really affect how good this defense will be. The Giants do have a nice mix of youth and experience at defensive tackle though. Johnathan Hankins and Jay Bromley and nice young pieces to have along with vets like Cullen Jenkins and Kenrick Ellis. At linebacker, the Giants have a couple unproven young guys who will need to make a name for themselves this season. Jon Beason is a proven playmaker in this league but he is coming off a serious injury. The Giants also need improvement in the secondary where CB Prince Amukamara is their lone standout. Rookie London Collins will play right away at safety and should be a great replacement for Stevie Brown. New York will have plenty of question marks defensively but I think the offense will be good enough to carry the team into playoff contention at least. Prediction: 9-7 (Wildcard)

Philadelphia Eagles – The team that made the most headlines in this division during the offseason was the Philadelphia Eagles. And as history has shown that is hardly ever a good thing in this division. The Eagles made a lot of changes and it is unknown if these changes will be beneficiary for the immediate future. And could spell big trouble for Chip Kelly. After all the headlines and all the changes, Philadelphia wants to see results and that may not happen fast enough. In Chip Kelly’s defense, when the Eagles had all that proven talent, they weren’t contending for championships anyway. But Chip Kelly doesn’t see this as a rebuilding project. He believes that the Eagles will be able to compete this year. But I just don’t see how you can dump all that talent in a short amount of time, replace them with rookies, and compete for championships right away. I could be wrong. Kelly could be a visionary. But if he’s wrong, the Eagles and him will be in for a long season. I do think that the Eagles could get better QB play this season. They traded Nick Foles away for Sam Bradford who is the better player. Bradford’s issue is that he can’t stay healthy. Bradford’s health will be a constant news story this season because the Eagles wont want to depend on Mark Sanchez or Tim Tebow for that matter if he gets hurt again. Because of the situation with Bradford, the Eagles better have solid offensive line play. But that unit has been broken apart as well due to Chip Kelly’s changes and some injuries. The question marks at offensive line will not only impact the QB but the running game as well. They signed away DeMarco Murray from division rival Dallas which will actually hurt Dallas more than it will help their own team. Along with Murray, they’ll also have great depth at the position with newcomer Ryan Matthews and veteran Darren Sproles. Murray, Matthews, and Sproles is an amazing group to have a running back. But there’s just one problem: either one of those guys are LeSean McCoy. I have no idea why Kelly traded away McCoy but he was the guy that kept the running going and they’ll miss him. It will be interesting to see how they use this group of running backs. Murray will be the lead guy but after getting all that run a season ago, I have to imagine that Kelly will give him less carries in order to keep him healthy. Two seasons ago, the Eagles had supreme talent at the WR position with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Now that Kelly has ran off both players, the Eagles WR unit is a group of underwhelming veterans and unproven young guys. Can Jordan Matthews have a breakout season? Can rooke Nelson Agholor replace Jeremy Maclin? What about Josh Huff and Riley Cooper? All I see are a lot of questions. I think Jordan and Agholor will eventually be the playmakers that the passing game needs but can they both perform at a high level sooner than later? One thing that is without question is that the Eagles will have the best defense in the NFC East. But then again, that might not be saying much. The Eagles had a great front seven last season and they may have gotten better in the offseason. On the defensive line, Fletcher Cox is their run stuffer and overall playmaker. They brought back OLB Brandon Graham to help round out the pass rush along with Connor Barwin and Marcus Smith. They got back LB Kiko Alonso in the LeSean McCoy trade. Alonso had a great season in Buffalo but he has some issues with staying healthy. Along with Alonso, the Eagles already had DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks so they’ll have great play from their middle linebackers this year. Philadelphia’s secondary was their weak point on the defense and I think it will continue to be this season. The one corner they had who was half decent was Brandon Boykins and Kelly had him traded away too. They brought in Byron Maxwell from Seattle in a free agency move that has “BUST” written all over it. In Seattle, Maxwell played opposite of shutdown corner Richard Sherman so he had a lot of balls thrown his way. And I’ll give him credit. When called upon, Maxwell made some big plays in that secondary. I just doubt very much that Maxwell can be the top dog and cover number one WR’s in this league. They will still have safety Malcolm Jenkins who at least has a knack for being around the football. And I do like rookie CB Eric Rowe who is a great athlete that will be called upon this his first season. I think the defense will be tough up front but the secondary will let some games get away. The Eagles might start off hot but like last season, they’ll slowly fade away. I could be wrong. Maybe Chip Kelly is a genius. Why did the Eagles organization give him so much power anyways? Because he won the Pac-12 and his offense is really fast? Depending on how this season goes, Kelly’s honeymoon in Philly could go south real quick. Prediction: 8-8

Washington Redskins – In the offseason, you could what Washington was trying to do to improve their football team. And for the most part, I think their plan is solid and it may pay dividends this season. But it wont be enough for them to make the post season. There is some buzz on the offensive side of the ball because they were able to bring in coach Bill Callahan and he has a great track record with improving the running game and the offensive line. They also drafted an offensive lineman in the first round, Brandon Scherff. But Washington already had a good rushing attack led by RB Alfred Morris. I guess that Callahan system could make things better for Morris. There is very little depth behind Morris in the backfield so, also look for rookie RB Matt Jones to get a lot of run. While I’m on the topic of the offensive line, I must that the unit looks awful so far in the preseason. QB Robert Griffin III is trying to have a bounce back season but he is already just getting crushed out there. I doubt that he’ll be able to survive another season in Washington and if so can QB Kirk Cousins really be the short-term answer. Washington has decent talent at WR with DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon, and Andre Roberts. Jackson, Garçon, and Roberts are speedsters that can stretch the field but neither are possession receivers. Washington’s top three WR’s pretty much only do one thing. It’s a good thing that TE Jordan Reed has started to come in his own in this offense as a big target for the QB. I like the improvements Washington made on their run defense in the offseason. They brought in DT’s Terrane Knighton and Stephen Paea and they’ll both really help this team’s run defense. In terms of pass rushers, OLB Ryan Kerrigan is the only proven one starting for them right now. OLB Trent Murphy must prove himself this season that he can replace Brian Orakpo. In the middle of the defense, LB Perry Riley is a leader and a playmaker as the team’s leading tackler. Washington’s secondary will suck again this year. HOW DOES DEANGELO HALL KEEP GETTING WORK? The only good things I can see on this football team are the running game and the improved run defense. If the problems with the offensive line continue, it won’t matter who will start at QB for Washington. Prediction: 5-11