NFC East Roundup: How Peterson News Affects Dallas

Brace Hemmelgarn / USA TODAY Sports

Brace Hemmelgarn / USA TODAY Sports

When 2014 rushing champ DeMarco Murray decided to sign with the Eagles a few months ago, many people speculated that a natural replacement for the Cowboys would be Adrian Peterson. However, with Peterson having reported to practice in Minnesota, many in Dallas have changed their stance. From David Moore:

A fringe element continues to insist that Adrian Peterson will somehow be wearing a Cowboys uniform when the team takes the field for the regular season opener on Sept. 13.

But let’s face it. Those are the same people who believe astronaut Neil Armstrong issued his famous quote about “one small step for man’’ from a NASA soundstage rather than the moon.

It should be apparent by now that Peterson has a better chance of rushing for 100 yards on the lunar surface than he does at AT&T Stadium this season, with the exception of Aug. 29 when the Vikings and Peterson make a pre-season visit.

Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News thinks if the Cowboys start the year without Peterson on their roster, this offseason will be considered a failure:

Peterson would have supplied a lot more meat for this offense. Barring a miracle, he’ll make his only Arlington appearance during exhibition play. Would the Cowboys have made a stronger bid for Murray had they known Peterson was off the table?

If the answer is yes, then this ranks as a failed bid to land a game-breaker.

If the answer is no, then their belief that last year’s running game success was all about the line will be severely tested.

Chris Wesseling of thinks the Giants have the worst linebacking corps in the entire league:

The linebackers have never been asked to do the heavy lifting on the defenses of the Tom Coughlin era. The disruption starts up-front with the defensive line instead.

This year’s unit is heavily reliant upon middle linebacker Jon Beason, who simply can’t stay healthy for 16 games. J.T. Thomas, a former special teamer in Jacksonville and Chicago, is penciled in on the weak side. Strong-side linebacker Devon Kennard, a fifth-round pick last year, showed intriguing pass-rushing potential once he hit the starting lineup in November.

Dan Graziano of ESPN New York reports that Giants first-round pick Ereck Flowers is prepared for a rocky transition to playing tackle in the NFL:

Flowers played left tackle in college at Miami, of course. But he just turned 21, and the consensus inside and outside of the building when the Giants picked him No. 9 in this year’s draft was that he’d require some seasoning before he could really be an NFL starter at that position.

[Will] Beatty changed things when he tore a pectoral muscle lifting weighs a couple of weeks ago and had surgery that will sideline him for five to six months. Now the Giants are going with Flowers at left tackle and free-agent signee Marshall Newhouse at right tackle and seeing whether that setup works.

Whether it works will depend largely on Flowers and his ability to handle a difficult transition. Playing tackle in college is far different from playing it in the NFL, and there are a few things Flowers must learn and understand about exactly why.

Rich Tandler of CSN Washington writes that Washington head coach Jay Gruden is still lukewarm on his quarterback, Robert Griffin III:

After the Redskins’ OTA session on Wednesday Gruden was still unable to generate much enthusiasm for Griffin’s play.

“I think he’s taking the right steps. It’s still OTAs,” said Gruden when asked about Griffin’s progress during the offseason. “Nobody’s sitting on all that good stuff. We are getting some great looks from our defense. We’re in shorts. We’re getting some good full-speed looks. There’s no contact obviously, but the timing, the rhythm of your offense still has to be intact. The defense hustling and getting to their zone drops has to be sound in what you’re doing. Decisions have to be made. He’s going through the process, re-learning everything, studying, going through the right progressions, making a mistake here and there, but we’re learning.”

Gruden went on to talk about the learning process during OTAs, learning the defense of new coordinator Joe Barry, learning the offense, and “all three quarterbacks” doing some good and some bad but gaining confidence with each rep.

Vegas is currently projecting Washington to win just 6.5 games, but Neil Greenberg of The Washington Post still thinks that’s too high:

Bill James, the noted baseball analyst, popularized a formula to calculate a team’s “true” winning percentage based on runs scored and allowed: (runs scored^2) / [(runs scored ^2) + (runs allowed^2)]. The thinking was teams that outperformed their “true” record got lucky and would regress the following year. For football, we can use points scored and points allowed with an exponent of 2.53.

Last season, the Redskins scored 301 points and allowed 438 so their “true” winning percentage was (301^2.53)/[(301^2.53)+(438^2.53)] = .279. Multiply that by 16 games and we would expect the 2014 Redskins, based on their point differential, to win 4.4 games — right about where they finished last year. Over the past five years, teams that finish within a win of their true talent level improve by 0.7 wins the following season, so that would project Washington’s record to be 5-11 in 2015.

On offense, Washington was four points per game worse than average after factoring in strength of schedule. Since 2010, teams that were that bad or worse won 5.1 games on average. The 2014 squad was 4.7 points per game worse than average on defense, which was common among teams who won 4.6 games during a full 16-game season.

So two different metrics indicate this was, at best, a five-win team that would need to see improvements on both sides of the ball to get to seven or more wins, a jump that one or two teams make per year