Eye On the Enemy: NFC East Roundup

Cowboys Line

The Cowboys lack an elite pass rusher, something they’ve had in their best years.

For the next several Sundays, we’ll take a spin around the NFC East to check in on what’s going on with some of the Eagles’ division rivals.

DALLAS COWBOYS

Jon Machota of SportsDayDFW.com says who he thinks will be Dallas’ biggest defensive playmaker this season:

[Bruce] Carter will certainly be in position to make a lot of plays but I’m going to go with DeMarcus Lawrence. I think he’s going to be pretty good at getting to the passer in his first season. Who knows, maybe he’ll pick up 5-6 sacks, force a few fumbles and pressure the QB into throwing a few interceptions.

A star pass rusher is what the Cowboys are missing this year, according to Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com:

All that’s left is defensive end George Selvie, coming off a career-high seven-sack season, 2014 second-round pick DeMarcus Lawrence from Boise State and most likely Henry Melton at defensive tackle, coming off ACL surgery.

None of these players has the star power of Ware, who was the Cowboys’ No. 1 defensive player for numerous seasons.

Watkins says Dez Bryant isn’t a top-three receiver in the NFL in his Twitter mailbag:

Here’s my Top 3: Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall and Calvin Johnson. Fitzgerald might have slowed down a bit, but he remains a solid route runner and is one of the best at just snatching the ball. Marshall and Johnson are big targets who demand double teams. Dez Bryant is great at snatching the ball from defenders, and I expect his route running and his abilities to read defenses to improve. You saw last season he was able to make adjustments as the game progressed. He’s a physical freak of nature, and he’s tough and plays hard through nagging injuries. I expect another big season from Bryant.

NEW YORK GIANTS

Jordan Raanan of NJ.com gives statistic expectations for first-round draft pick Odell Beckham:

“[Draft picks] better all contribute right away, whether it be on special teams, defense, offense, whatever it is they’re going to be,” coach Tom Coughlin said after the first round. “There’s no waiting around in this game today.”

Given Coughlin’s statement and Beckham’s draft position, the general assumption is that he will immediately jump into the spot vacated by Hakeem Nicks (beating out Jerrel Jernigan for a starting spot) and won’t miss a beat. In fact, most seem to think he’ll immediately do better than Nicks’ disappointing 2013 season. Nicks had 56 receptions for 896 yards and no touchdowns last year.

Cornerbacks coach Peter Giunta thinks this is the deepest group he’s ever had, Conor Orr of the Star-Ledger notes:

“We’ve got 10 quality corners right now in the program,” he said. “Trumaine [McBride] did a tremendous job for us starting the second half of the season. Prince [Amukamara] had a very good year for us. Bringing in two guys that started in the Super Bowl obviously helps. Zack Bowman started on Chicago’s defense, a very good defense. There are five guys that have a lot of NFL experience on good defenses and good football teams so that is huge. And Jayron [Hosley] played a number of snaps for us, so did Charles James so we have great depth and we have some good young kids, Travis Howard, we have Ross Weaver, we drafted Bennett Jackson. We have great depth at that position, the deepest I’ve ever had in my years in the league.”

Dan Graziano of ESPN.com on the linebacking core minus Jon Beason and more in his latest Twitter mailbag:

With Jon Beason nursing a foot injury, the starting middle linebacker in training camp (and probably for Week 1) is going to be Jameel McClain. He projects as the starting strongside linebacker if Beason’s healthy, but he’s taking over in the middle while he’s not. Jacquian Williams is the front-runner for the starting weakside linebacker spot, and the strongside position should belong to either Spencer Paysinger or rookie Devon Kennard, who impressed coaches with his minicamp performance.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

CSNWashington.com’s Redskins experts think Roy Helu and Niles Paul will be Washington’s breakout players this year:

I suspect [Jay] Gruden is going to find a way to get the ball into Helu’s hands (a lot) more often, particularly through the air. Why? Look at Gruden’s history with the Bengals. Last season, dual-threat running back Giovani Bernard was a focal point of the Cincinnati offense, hauling in 56 passes for 514 yards and rushing for 695 yards on 170 carries. I’m not saying Helu is as good as Bernard or that Helu can replicate Bernard’s numbers. But Gruden loves players that he can get creative with, and Helu has proved in the past that he can thrive when deployed properly.

Robert Griffin III was at fault for nearly a quarter of his sacks last season, Mark Bullock of the Washington Post writes:

Having rewatched every sack from the past season, I credited [Tyler Polumbus] with five allowed, which did rank worst along the offensive line (Trent Williams and Will Montgomery both gave up four, to give some perspective). However, failed protection schemes accounted for eight sacks, and I had Robert Griffin III at fault for 10 of the total 43 allowed.

Many of Polumbus’s problems in pass protection come from his hand placement. He can struggle to get his hands on the chest of the defender to control the block.

John Keim of ESPN.com addresses whether Redskin fans should be concerned about Griffin’s accuracy:

Concerned? Not sure I’d go that far. I don’t think he’s going to turn into a Peyton Manning pinpoint accuracy guy (have said this before, but one general manager I spoke to before the ’12 draft was worried about Griffin’s intermediate accuracy). Griffin can succeed without being that sort of quarterback because of his ability to extend plays. He also can be a big-play quarterback with his ability to throw deep (which was not a strength last year, but was in 2012). But I think the concern would be if the Redskins want him to become just a pocket passer. They said that’s not the case, and though that’s what they did this spring, part of that was done because he needs to develop in this area.

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