NFC East Roundup: A Giant OL Problem
With the first week of preseason games wrapping up later today, let’s take a spin around the NFC East to see what’s going on in the division:
We begin in the Big Apple with the Giants. Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. both sat out Friday’s 27-10 Giants loss to the Dolphins, which also saw top draft picks Eli Apple and Sterling Shepard leave the game early with injuries. But as Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News writes, the Giants have a similar problem that the Eagles do with depth at offensive line.
The second-string O-linemen will look for a bounce back week starting with practice Sunday to prepare for next Saturday afternoon’s preseason game vs. Rex Ryan and the Bills in Buffalo.
What this does for the upcoming regular season, though, is place extra pressure on the Giants’ top-tier offensive line to make significant improvements from last season and above all to stay healthy.
Left tackle Ereck Flowers, left guard Justin Pugh, center Weston Richburg, right guard John Jerry and right tackle Marshall Newhouse are hopeful that their chemistry – all returning from last season’s roster – will be the glue that holds them together as an effective unit and an X-factor in both the run and pass game.
Behind them, several backups who played a lot on Friday helped establish a respectable run game led by running back Andre Williams (nine carries, 41 yards). But they did [Ryan] Nassib no favors when he dropped back.
So tackles Bobby Hart (35 snaps) and Byron Stingily (35 snaps), guards Ryan Seymour (32 snaps) and Brett Jones (43 snaps) and Emmett Cleary (19 snaps), and the likes of Adam Gettis (32 snaps) and Shane McDermott (12 snaps) are going to have to clean it up in a hurry.
Beckham’s moments against Josh Norman last season should make him a leader within the team, opines Steve Serby of the New York Post.
Beckham may have a Page Six moment or two over the course of the year, but football is his priority and first love, the way it is Manning’s priority and first love. Beckham is every bit as committed to excellence and to winning as his franchise quarterback has been from Day 1.
“I just love the feeling of being able to help,” Beckham said, “and sometimes guys will come to me with questions — not all the time, but they’ll come to me with questions and I would give them the advice I would give myself. And, with doing that, I hope that they could just take it, use it the same way that whatever technique they use, just do that, and add something into it.”
Beckham’s most important new pupil is rookie receiver Sterling Shepard, who is a partner-in-crime upgrade over Rueben Randle.
“I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but he’s gonna be a special player,” Beckham said. “Kind of want to keep him on the down low for right now, so that way he just jumps out the first couple of games and has some big plays, touchdowns, all of that. He’s developing, still learning, but he’s starting to pick up his learning speed.
The Giants make the trip to Buffalo to take on the Bills on Saturday.
Moving on to Washington, who fell to the Falcons 23-17 Thursday night in the Georgia Dome, which included Washington committing 14 penalties for 123 yards. One player that impressed Mike Jones of the Washington Post was rookie linebacker Su’a Cravens.
Cravens, meanwhile, displayed the high-energy, roving playmaking ability that defensive coordinator Joe Barry envisioned when he sold General Manager Scot McCloughan on drafting the USC product.
After appearing tentative at times during practices, Cravens flew around, making tackles, covering slot receivers or running backs out of the backfield, and making tackles in the open field and backfield.
On his first couple snaps, Cravens appeared to feel his way along, but he quickly adjusted and began find his way to the ball.
“It wasn’t the speed, so much, just the strength of everybody,” he said. “Everybody’s so big and athletic. I had to change my game and react fast now that I’m a smaller guy and on the inside. But after the first series, I felt like, ‘Okay, I’m all right.’ ”
JP Finlay of CSN Mid-Atlantic writes how the recent Tyrod Taylor deal with the Buffalo Bills will impact contract talks for Kirk Cousins.
While the playing styles are much different – Cousins relies on quick reads from the pocket, Taylor is mobile and makes plays on the run – the contract is very intriguing. Reports showed that the Redskins only offered $24 million in guarantees in a long-term deal for Cousins, just slightly more than his franchise tag would pay him. The guaranteed money is what matters most in all NFL contracts, and that remains unknown in Taylor’s deal at this time. His contract calls for an average of $15 million per year, with incentives that could drive the price higher.
In Redskins Park, the contract could be seen a few different ways. The structure is what’s most important from the team perspective, where the organization wants monetary outs shuld the QB begin to underperform.
Colin Kaepernick and Andy Dalton signed similar deals in San Francisco and Cincinnati, respectively, where their teams could release the players without accruing a significant salary cap penalty. While that may be what NFL teams want, obviously, players certainly won’t.
Truth is the Taylor deal likely means little for Cousins. What will drive Cousins contract talks next offseason – remember the Skins and Cousins cannot negotiate in season on a franchise tag – is his play on the field this year. If the quarterback repeats his performance from the second half of 2015, he will get paid with a contract comparable to the top passers in the league. If Cousins struggles, the door will be open to different types of deals, whether incentive driven or team-friendly with outs.
Washington hosts the New York Jets Friday night.
And finally to the Cowboys, who were a part of history as they took on the Los Angeles Rams in the first NFL game in L.A. since 1994. Although Dallas lost 28-24, one player that shined was rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, who went 10-of-12 for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News reacts to his performance:
On the one hand, it’s an exhibition game, a football friendly, with relatively little at stake. On the other hand, nearly perfect is still nearly perfect. And Prescott looked far more prepared than anyone could have anticipated after two weeks of practice up the road in Oxnard.
Let’s put it this way. No position in sports gets the pre-draft scrutiny of an NFL-bound quarterback. It involves years of tape and then months of workouts, interviews, inspection from head to toe. And, still, scouts never really know.
The quarterback picked at the top of the draft, Jared Goff, made his debut for the Rams and completed four of nine passes for 38 yards. He also threw an interception to rookie linebacker Mark Nzeocha.
The quarterback picked No. 2 by Philadelphia, Carson Wentz, went 12-for-24 for just 89 yards with an interception Thursday night. He also suffered a hairline fracture in his ribs that could set him back for a few weeks.
Now it’s just one night, and Goff and Wentz might have Hall of Fame careers ahead of them. Like I said, no one knows. But all we can see is that Prescott — selected 133 picks after Wentz — appears capable of making the transition from college spread quarterback in the SEC to dropback passer in the NFL faster than expected.
Right before last night’s game, the team announced they had reached an extension with center Travis Frederick. The deal is for six years worth $56.4 million, $18.2 million guaranteed, making him the highest-paid center in the league. Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star Telegram has more.
Frederick’s agent, Joe Panos, visited camp early on, and executive vice president Stephen Jones said at the time that they were working toward a mutually-beneficial extension. The Cowboys want to keep what many believe is the best O-line in tact for years to come, and made a similar move by extending left tackle Tyron Smith to an eight-year deal in 2014.
Right guard Zack Martin will be a candidate for an extension next year.
“I don’t know how many different ways we can say it, but it’s the strong point of our football team,” Jones said. “The amazing thing about it is it’s not only a strength in terms of on the field, but they represent everything we want in terms of the work ethic and what they do off the field. So just a great group to try and keep them all together.”
Frederick, the Cowboys’ first-round pick in 2013, has started all 48 games in his career and has been selected to the past two Pro Bowls. The Cowboys picked up his fifth-year option earlier this offseason, guaranteeing him $8.8 million in 2017.
Dallas hosts the Miami Dolphins on Friday night.