Thanksgiving Day 2016: Washington Redskins v. Dallas Cowboys Preview

When the Dallas Cowboys sprinted out to a 9-1 record, deep in the heart of Texas, fans were ready to anoint this the NFC’s best team. Its a legitimate argument as they have the NFL’s best record. However a closer look shows a series of teams separating from the pack along with The Boys from Jerry World.

Cousins is killing it in a contract year.

Cousins is killing it in a contract year.

Do you realize the Washington Redskins are 6-1-1 in their last 8 games? They come into this turkey shoot with the NFL’s 2nd ranked offense (3rd in passing/10th in rushing) as Kirk Cousins has dazzled in a contract year. All of this is happening under the radar thanks to the large shadow cast by the Cowboys.

What the Cowboys have feasted on has been coming out, establishing the lead and lean on their running game. Ezekiel Elliott is just ahead of former Cowboy DeMarco Murray for the NFL rushing lead 1,102 to 1,000. This masks their deficiencies as a defense. Sure Dallas’ D is 3rd in rushing yards allowed, however a closer look reveals a 17th ranking allowing 4.2 yards per rush. Did you know the Redskins 10th ranked running game is 5th in the league averaging 4.6 yards per rush?? So what happens if they establish a lead in Dallas??

The saving grace for the Cowboys and The Great Wall II is the Redskins are terrible against the run allowing 4.6 yards per carry. The 2nd worst in the league… yup 31 out of 32 teams.

While Dak Prescott has played tremendous and has shown to be the future in Dallas, Cousins has become that in Washington. He has 3,091 yards while passing for 17 touchdowns which equals Prescott’s TD total.

The Garcon Crowder, Jackson combination has been lethal in the nation's capitol.

The Garcon Crowder, Jackson combination has been lethal in the nation’s capitol.

  1. Jamison Crowder 47 rec. 637 yards 6 TDs
  2. Jordan Reed 49 rec. 535 yards 3 TDs
  3. Pierre Garcon 48 rec. 593 yards 2 TDs

Once you realize each of these Redskin receivers is in reach of having 1,000 yard seasons it hits you: Where is DeSean Jackson?? Right behind them with 34 receptions for another 467 yards and 2 touchdowns. Keep in mind this team is 4-2 against opponents with a .500 record or better. It would be 5-2 if the Green Bay Packers weren’t falling into the abyss.

While it’s true the Cowboys are building a legitimate Super Bowl contender, they have to get out of their own division first. This is the best race the NFC East has seen since the 90’s with both the Giants and Redskins coming on as the season’s progressed. No one is talking about this Washington Redskins team…

The Chancellor’s choice in a rousing game is Washington winning a high scoring affair 36-24.

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2015 NFC East Predictions

One of the most perplexing aspect of picking the NFC East is what is going on with Jason Pierre Paul’s hand?? How damaged is it?? Is he really missing his thumb?? Today he showed up to the facilities and is about to sign his contract yet we haven’t been shown what his hand looks like. As the Giants “alpha dog” on defense, without him being what he had been could have a ripple effect on the Giants as a whole.

dez2015 NFC East

  1. Dallas Cowboys 9-7 *
  2. Philadelphia Eagles 8-8
  3. New York Giants 7-9
  4. Washington Redskins 4-12

The Dallas Cowboys will come down a peg now that they are running by committee. This is the first time since 1946 when the NFL’s leading rusher switched teams the following year. Here at Taylor Blitz Times we made mention of “The Great Wall II” and an offensive line is great for an era. We stand by that but we have to see how the often injured Darren McFadden and Joseph Randle will perform.

Cowboys brass has to have some reservations or they wouldn’t have traded for Christine Michael from Seattle. The penchant is there to revert back to the pass happy era we saw earlier in Tony Romo’s career. At least in a few games this can happen. The defense begins the season with Rolando McClain, Kevin Hardy and Orlando Scandrick beginning the season suspended and on the reserved injured list doesn’t bode well. Dallas will have a sloppy start to this season as they try to establish their running game and find defensive continuity.

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Sanchez will have to play for Bradford several times this season.

Interestingly the Eagles are coming into 2015 with something old and something new. The old?? Chip Kelly jettisoning off top shelf talent. Gone is RB LeSean McCoy to Buffalo and WR Jeremy Macklin to the Chiefs. The something new is swapping QBs Nick Foles for Sam Bradford from the Rams.

The often injured Bradford won’t remain on his feet for the entire season. We saw the hit Terrell Suggs put on Bradford in the pre-season. Chip Kelly’s offense will expose Bradford too additional hits and Sanchez will have to take his place several times this season. This kills offensive continuity and we know Kelly’s too arrogant to change his play calling.

Not only will the Eagles wear down but the Giants will remain too inconsistent to take the division. Eli Manning just inked a new contact extension and will play loose. However Victor Cruz is still rounding back into game shape and Odell Beckham is getting the business from defenders set to get after him in his sophomore season.

If Jason Pierre-Paul had showed up with 10 fingers the Giants win the division. With his being sent home without signing his contract something is definitely up. And without an index finger he’s rendered one of his hands to be useless to pull on jerseys in pass rush hand fighting techniques. Pierre-Paul won’t be the same player and the defense will take a big step back without it’s dominant pass rusher. Remember he was their franchise player… not any more.

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NFL Week 7: NFC East – Interesting Times In The Division

Pierre-Paul brings down Alex Smith for one of New York’s 6 sacks last week.

Well there is one old adage that still serves: If you want to become a champion you have to beat the champion. The San Francisco 49ers had spent the better part of two weeks dispatching AFC East also-rans, in the Bills and Jets, to the tune of 79-3. Everyone anointed them the best in pro football yet forgot their next game was against the defending champion New York Giants. Now that the Niners have beaten Seattle and held 3 of their last 4 opponents to 10 points or less, you begin to understand how strong the Giants 26-3 win in Candlestick was.

Not only did Eli Manning come through in another big win on the road, Ahmad Bradshaw ran with more thunder than usual (116 yards/1TD). The Giants defense was as forceful as it was opportunistic with 6 sacks and 3 interceptions. The pendulum has swung on expert ideas on who the best team in the NFL is.

Now at 4-2 the Giants have to start taking care of business in their own division. With losses to Dallas and Philadelphia, here comes the NFL’s newest ultimate weapon in Robert Griffin III coming into The Meadowlands. Just as the Giants are coming off a confident and very focused win out west?? Should be interesting… Lets take a look at the NFC East standings

East Division

W

L

T

PCT

PF

PA

HOME

ROAD

DIV

CONF

STRK

LAST5

New York Giants Giants 4 2 0 .667 178 114 2-1 2-1 0-2 3-2 W2 4-1
Philadelphia Eagles Eagles 3 3 0 .500 103 125 2-1 1-2 1-0 1-2 L2 2-3
Washington Redskins Redskins 3 3 0 .500 178 173 1-2 2-1 0-0 3-2 W1 2-3
Dallas Cowboys Cowboys 2 3 0 .400 94 119 1-1 1-2 1-0 2-2 L2 2-3

RG III eludes Viking defenders for 138 yards and 2 touchdowns in last week’s 38-26 win.

How can you not be impressed by the Redskins RGIII?? Most young quarterbacks rely on their running or scrambling ability as they get their understanding of the pro passing game down. Now most of these runs are of the 7-10 yard variety that are a nuisance to defensive co-ordinators, but what do you do when a QB can break a 76 yard TD gamebreaker?? Especially in the fourth quarter on a defense that has tired from chasing him all day. It happened to the Minnesota Vikings last week.

When asked before the season who would be better between RG III and Andrew Luck, it was this facet of his game that our CEO thought gave him the edge. Do you realize that in 6 games he has 379 yard rushing and 6 TDs. That projects to his becoming the second quarterback in history to rush for 1,000 yards (1,010) yards, and would break Cam Newton’s rushing touchdown record of 14 touchdowns with 16. All of this before we remind you he’s completing 70.2% of his passes for 1,343 yards and 5 TDs.

What makes RGIII’s season more remarkable is everyone thought the Redskins defense would be stout enough to allow him to make mistakes and ease into his role. No one expected a 27th ranked defense giving up 417 yards per game. We know the loss of Brian Orakpo was big, but Washington’s offense has to perform at a high level to bail out their defense.

This week they travel to New York to battle the Giants. The Redskins are a personal foul call away from being 3-0 on the road however this will be different than trips to New Orleans, St Louis, or Tampa. This front four can tee off with the most athletic defensive line in the NFL. Where everyone thinks the key is to stop RGIII first, is the wrong approach. Osi Yumeniora, Jason Pierre-Paul and that front need to stop RB Alfred Morris (538 yards / 5 TDs) first. Once they are one dimensional or forced into passing situations, look for delayed blitzes and combination coverages keeping the safeties in tight. They’ll need to be there when Griffin III can’t find his receivers and looks to run. Couple that with the crowd noise and you’ll understand why we take the Giants in this one.

Michael Vick’s 8TDs and 8ints. coincide with the Eagles record of 11-11 with him as a starter. Can he turn it around??

As for the tight-rope walking Philadelphia Eagles… can you believe the Eagles are thinking of benching Michael Vick?? They also fired their defensive co-ordinator and promoted Todd Bowles. Listen, when you see teams making moves like this, it’s a sign of desperation. The Eagles have lost 3 of 4 and two of those came against losing teams in the Steelers and Lions. So they are a bad 3-3. We hate to say it but you’re looking at the end of the Andy Reid era in Philadelphia. After the public comment by owner Jeffery Lurie ”That a year without making the playoffs is unacceptable” pressure is mounting by the week.

One thing they can do is get the ball into LeSean McCoy’s hands more. With 111 carries for 459 yards and 1 touchdowns, he’s getting 18 carries per game but they need to push the limit of what he can take. Sure they risk burning him out but if it comes down to he and a more stationary quarterback, defenses will focus totally on him and limit his effectiveness completely. The Eagles are caught in an ugly vice and it’s all on Vick to save his and Andy Reid’s jobs. Horrible time for a bye week…& the clock is ticking.

Speaking of coaches who’s job is on the line…keep your radar locked in on Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. Dallas is 1-2 on the road after giving away a game to the Ravens last week, but now they play 4 of their next 5 on the road. Uh oh!! Considering that they were 2-6 on the road last year with the same cast of characters, tells us this losing will continue. Garrett is in deep, deep, trouble.

As for more on the Cowboys and week 7 : https://taylorblitztimes.com/2012/10/14/nfl-week-7-turning-points-the-dallas-cowboys/

Time is running out on this era of inconsistent Cowboys football. We here at Taylor Blitz Times are always saying “At some point, you have to believe what you are seeing.” This is an average ball club with average personnel and very average results. In their last 200 games, the Cowboys are 100-100. They are a mistake prone bunch that will give games away like they did last Sunday. Constant mistakes at the point where they’re concentration should be at their best says something about the damaged psyche of this football team. Can they straighten themselves out before this season is over as Jerry Jones would have you think?? The Chancellor just left our meeting shaking his head.

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2012 New York Giants Preview

When we last saw the New York Giants, they were hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in Indianapolis. Lingering questions remained about the impending personnel decisions on RB Brandon Jacobs and DE Osi Yumeniora.  Which obscured the real reality: Eli Manning is on his way to becoming a Hall of Fame quarterback. One who will win more championships than his celebrated brother Peyton when it’s all said and done. He is also surrounded by several playmaking receivers in Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.

The Giants rely on a stout pass rush, and tactically sound defense and with the emergence of DE Pierre Paul on a relatively young team, it would appear that they’re not done competing for championships.  Tom Coughlin’s group won it all with the worst record ever at 9-7, yet proved an axiom that is becoming the NFL’s most prevalent theme: Just get hot going into the playoffs. It worked for the Giants last year just as it had with Green Bay the season before. Will the Giants repeat as champions or further frustrate their fans with spotty inconsistent play??

Quarterback: After another mind numbing last second drive to upend the New England Patriots in a Super Bowl setting, Eli Manning’s legend is growing and he has half of his career to build upon it. However Giant fans have to realize that Manning may never turn in a Joe Montana-like season where he just completes pass after pass for a 70% completion rating. Get used to it Giant fans, Manning is like a great “B” student. He will stumble on some assignments but he’s a great test taker and comes through in the end. Do you realize Manning is now 7-1 in postseason games away from the Meadowlands? He now has postseason wins over an 18-0 Patriot team in Super Bowl XLII, and an upset over a 15-1 Packers team in last year’s playoff.  He is the only quarterback in NFL history to defeat 5 postseason foes with records of 13-3 or better.  No one even comes close to that.

We here at the Taylor Blitz Times tried to prepare you of his ascendant potential before the NFC Championship last year. https://taylorblitztimes.com/2012/01/18/2011-nfc-championship-preview-eli-manning-the-silent-killer/  He just missed becoming the fifth quarterback in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards in a season with 4,933. That is the highest for a Super Bowl champion quarterback by the way.  For the season, he was 359 of 589 while throwing for 29 touchdowns to just 16 interceptions. You look at 61% completion rating and think “that’s not that high”, yet a closer look reveals he lowered his interception total from 25 the year before. Credit that to a more mature Manning throwing the ball away more.

His maturation as a quarterback was evident in last year’s playoffs.  He was in total command in both the NFC Championship Game as well as the Super Bowl.  When the season was on the line, he led his team to a 17-14 4th quarter lead gunning a 17 yard touchdown to Mario Manningham. Then the winning drive in overtime. If that weren’t enough.. in the fading minutes of Super Bowl XLVI, Manning got his team out of the shadow of their goal line with a 38 yard strike to Manningham.  Eli looked down the middle to hold the Patriot safety, subtly took two steps to his left (shortened the trajectory of the throw) and fired the best pass seen in a Super Bowl.  Complete command in that situation and again he was flawless in the 4th quarter. Remember last year before the season Manning was asked; “Are you an elite quarterback??” Everyone scoffed when he responded “yes” well he shut up a lot of critics. Even though he’s a great “B” student the Giants at quarterback get an A and is Super Bowl quality.

Offensive Backfield: Although they weren’t necessarily thunder and lightning, Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw were an effective tandem running the football. Yet this partnership has ended with Jacobs signing with the 49ers and let’s face it, at times he just didn’t run with the thunder a 264 lb running back should. Part of that was the fault of the coaches trying to run him wide. Other times he “beat his feet” before hitting a hole and could be stood up by a scraping linebacker.   Bradshaw had a good year and was the most versatile RB the Giants had. He ran for 659 yards and 9 touchdowns in spot duty, and also caught 34 passes out of the backfield for another 2 TDs. He’s a good space runner out of 3 and 4 receivers sets yet may have to handle pushing the pile at the goal line this year. Not sure he’s suited for that. In the Super Bowl he scored from a multiple receiver set in the final seconds. Who is going to be this team’s goal line runner??

The Giants brought in a potential playmaker in draft pick David Wilson out of Virginia Tech who was ACC Player of the Year. When you look at how he plays…he’s a quicker, shiftier version of Bradshaw with more of a burst. If he can pick up the blitzes he may be the starter by the time we get to September. During the draft just about every play showcasing his ability came from spread and multiple receiver sets. Think of him as a quicker, thicker Dave Meggett who can also return kicks. Running back is average  in New York and we have to find out who will be the 3rd & 1, 4th & 1 guy.

Receivers: This is one of the quiet strengths of this team. Last year’s emergence of Victor Cruz illustrates how well this position is taught in New York. Everyone forgets offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride used to coach the run and shoot in Houston. Along with Tom Coughlin being a former wide receiver coach we now understand how Hakeem Nicks caught 76 for 1,192 yards and 7 touchdowns in a supporting role. The star was Cruz who gathered in 82 asses for a whopping 1,536 yards and 9 scores. His average was over 3 yards greater than Nicks last season who was thought of as the team’s deep threat. At 23 and 25 years respectively, these two should terrorize NFC East foes for several years. No wonder Dallas drafted a CB #1.

Definitely this team is Super Bowl quality at receiver and that is before we get to draft pick Reuben Randle out of LSU. He will have to learn the routes just as an undrafted Cruz picked them up. You can clearly see Gilbride’s teachings when the Giants face zone. You will see their receivers hook in open spaces and then slide behind adjusting linebackers on intermediate routes. A complete run and shoot principle. These guys may go for over 1,300 yards each this season.

Offensive Line: This is an area of concern for this team. What came first the chicken or the egg?? What we mean by that is has this team become a passing team out of necessity or can they run the football?? According to NFL accounting it was out of necessity. The Giants were last in rushing with 1,427 yards and last in average with 3.5 yards per carry. That’s terrible and the worst ever for a Super Bowl champion. These guys just aren’t driving anyone off the ball…period. Otherwise the Giants wouldn’t have gone after two OT in this year’s draft.

Passing the football they fared pretty well ranking 7th with 28 sacks yet were middle of the pack getting Eli hit with 72 hits. This could be attributed to Manning’s quick decision making more than the line’s total performance because he took a lot of hits. We have to see what type of camp draftees Brandon Mosely (Auburn) and Matt McCants (UAB) have to see if one goes after Kareem McKenzie’s job. This line is in a state of flux and may need to meld the early part of the season. Right now the line is well below average.

Pierre Paul emerging from a sack of Alex Smith in the NFC Championship Game

Defensive Line: Clearly a strength and possibly the heart and soul of this team. The story of the 2011 campaign was the emergence of 2010 1st round pick Jason Pierre Paul, who impersonated Michael Strahan to the tune of 16.5 sacks. Incredibly he was third on the team in tackles with 93 total. That is a high tackle number for a DE. His combination of size and athleticism could be the finest ever seen in a defensive end. Remember the footage of him doing back flips before the Super Bowl?? Yikes! He’s just tapping into his potential and could have won NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors last year.

However it’s the total rotation package with fellow DE’s Justin Tuck and Osi Yumeniora that has opponents struggling with whom to focus the most attention on. Tuck has to bounce back from a season where his sack total fell from 11.5 in 2010 to 5 last year. Of course he missed four games with injury but going into this year he should see far fewer double teams with Pierre Paul on the other side. It’s still unclear if Yumeniora will return yet the Giants also signed 350 lbs Shaun Rogers to help plug the middle. Last year this team was 3rd in the NFL with 48 sacks. This year if they can return healthy they could hit 60. Defensive line is Super Bowl quality in Gotham.

Linebackers: Surprisingly this team didn’t go after a linebacker in free agency or the draft. Michael Boley seems to be the only complete linebacker of the bunch. He made plays all over the field and was 2nd on the team in solo tackles with 74. Mathias Kiwanuka did have a solid year but gets lost out there at times if his hand isn’t on the ground rushing the passer. Super Bowl hero Chase Blackburn was re-signed after a short trip through free agency. Aside from Boley, Kiwanuka, Blackburn, Greg Jones, and company are pedestrian linebackers each with clear shortcomings. Kiwanuka struggles in space where Jones, Blackburn can’t disengage if linemen get their hands on them. Hence the Giants can be run on…hence their 19th ranking against the run. They don’t have a true middle linebacker and until they do this is the only weakness of this defense. Linebacker is below average.

Corey Webster should become a Pro Bowl at corner in 2012

Secondary: The most versatile secondary in the NFL yet the loss of CB Aaron Ross would have been a greater impact had the Giants not drafted CB Jayron Hosely out of Virginia Tech. Truth be told the Giants run a lot of zone behind that pass rush. So this team should be good with current corners Corey Webster and Hosely if he can get into camp and develop quickly. One of the personnel packages that worked out well was when the Giants could use S Antrel Rolle, a converted corner, to drop down and cover a TE or 3rd WR as well as most corners. If Hosely isn’t ready and the G-men have to go with a veteran on corner opposite Webster. Speaking of Webster, he’s coming off his best season as a pro where he picked off 6 passes, returning them for 71 yards. Webster should make his first Pro Bowl this year. With a 3rd safety in Deon Grant seeing playing time the Giants were able to play with 3 safeties and gave extreme flexibility to their exotic coverages.

Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell utilized his backfield in a varitey of ways. They played a cat and mouse game in obvious passing situations as in Super Bowl XLVI. In the second half they lined up safeties Kenny Phillips and Rolle just 15 yards off the ball in what looked like a cover two. At the snap Brady read cover two yet the safeties DIDNT go deep, they stayed in the 15-20 yard zone right off the line of scrimmage and dared the slow Patriots to throw deep. Which they couldn’t and the Giants shut them down in the last two drives. They need rookie CB Hosely to develop or they’ll have to go more vanilla with personnel and play call manipulation. Early on there will be some defensive breakdowns and it’s imperative the pass rush shows up as the 2012 season begins to cover these shortcomings. The last line of defense is a “B” right now but can improve to Super Bowl quality if they can get the corner situation handled.

Overall: Again Giants fans will be frustrated by the Giants inability to roll up their fists and hit their opponent with a haymaker and win the game big. They will always play close to the vest affairs and should finish this season with a 10-6 record. Manning will have a great season and is unquestionably a leader on this team. In defensing their title, we believe they’ll make the playoffs yet lose in the divisional round after a typical late season push to gain the playoffs.

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Next up: San Francisco 49ers

2011 NFC East Previews & Predictions

Flying Eagle Desean Jackson

Well the NFL has turned on it’s axis. Gone is the smashmouth reputation of the NFC East as 3 of the 4 teams will take to the air like never before.  Only the earthbound Washington Redskins are going to root it out the hard way. Dynamic playmakers in space will be the norm as the Eagles with the receiving trio of Desean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Jason Avant will open up playbooks all over the division to keep pace.

One of the real reasons for this paradigm shift can be attributed to Michael Vick becoming the Eagles starter, and the Cowboys drafting of talented WR Dez Bryant to team with Pro Bowlers Jason Witten and Miles Austin. The Cowboys have a fleet of 3rd down back types in Tashard Choice, draft pick DeMarco Murray, and Felix Jones. That tells you Coach Garrett and Tony Romo will have the artificial sky at Jerry World filled with footballs. 

To keep pace in this space race, the Giants last year drafted super talented wideout Hakeem Nicks to team with and Mario Manningham,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       to have their own fleet of playmakers. Ironically it was the Giants who forsaw the change in the division playing style first. Last year they made the move to increase their ability to cover 3 receivers by bringing in former cornerback and current free safety Antrel Rolle (The U) formerly of the Cardinals. This allows the Giants to mix up their nickel coverages with 3rd CB Aaron Ross. They had growing pains last year yet figure to be more solid in the secondary this year. The Eagles copied this formula by winning the arms race for CB Namedi Asoumgha and acquiring CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to team with All Pro CB Asante Samuel. To win in the NFL in 2011 you must be proficient against 3 receiver sets. The Packers won it last year with their 3 good corners and this is trending across the National Football Conference. If you can’t defend 3 receivers in the NFC East, you’re going to be dead in the water. So where is this leading??

2011 NFC EAST PREDICTIONS

Philadelphia Eagles 12-4*

New York Giants 10-6

Dallas Cowboys 7-9

Washington Redskins 2-14

So why didn’t we address the Washington Redskins yet?? In a division where every team is going to assault their own record books in passing, the Redskins come in with last year’s 31st ranked defense against the pass. You remember that memorable Monday Night last year when the Redskins secondary took a ride on the Michael Vick Experience, losing 59-28, right?? Well to further enhance our reputation that Mike Shanahan is in over his head he only drafted one DB!! That wasn’t until the 5th round. After fumbling with the Donvan McNabb situation, releasing Clinton Portis (The U) who was slowing down, the keys to the offense are handed over to QB John Beck. Who?? Exactly! He’ll be handing off to ….zzz… sorry we want to keep you awake for the rest of this article.  This should be the swan song for Coach Shanahan as this team needs to get younger. During that type of transition a younger more dynamic coach is needed. One like John or Jim Harbaugh those players can relate to. The Redskins have been one of the most mismanaged organizations of the last decade and it’s embarrassing to watch. This once proud franchise whose games back in RFK that are so romantically revered, have to suffer through Daniel Snyder’s regime. We’re embarrassed for Redskins fans. Mike Shanahan?? One of history’s most overrated coaches whom the game has passed by.

Now on our facebook page it’s been fun to listen to Dallas Cowboy fans decry that the Super team from Philadelphia hasn’t looked like it in the preseason. All of the NFL will struggle this year with rhythm and timing early. The offenses will struggle until they gain they’re sea legs around the 4th week and after that we will be in for a season of high scores as defenses, who haven’t totally conditioned this offseason, start to tire.

As for Cowboy fans, there will be plenty of offense as Romo has to pass to keep the Cowboys in games and coming from behind with such a suspect defense. Romo is going to flirt with 5,000 yards this year. He’ll be forced to. Already he owns the all time Cowboys yardage mark for a season with 4,629 and the two highest touchdown totals with 36 & 29 respectively. Quit with the Troy Aikman comparisons already. He threw for over 20 TDs in a season just once. Romo needs to trust his new freak of a weapon in Dez Bryant. If he is one on one with a corner, chuck that ball deep and don’t settle for the 4 yard pass on 3rd and 17. What Romo needs is some daring. The Cowboys will come undone with the same formula as in 2010: inadequate pass rush, trouble stopping the run and a secondary that suffers from the lack of a rush. You can score so much but invariably you have to stop your opponent.

Justin Tuck

As for the New York “Football” Giants, they are the team with the total package right now. They can beat you running the football with Ahmad Bradshaw and a rejuvenated Brandon Jacobs or they can send a fleet of receivers into your secondary. They seemed to have smoothed things over getting Osi Umenyiora back to camp and should field a fierce rush. The question is can the secondary play as well as advertised?? The other question mark is the enigmatic Eli Manning who threw 25 interceptions last year. What is puzzling about his play is you can watch him quarterback on drives where he looks off the safety, then complete his footwork and deliver a 20 yard strike downfield. Then follow up with an interception where you’re shaking your head at home “Didn’t he see that linebacker sitting there?” He has to become more efficient with the football and not leave his defense out to dry so much. Yet it’s this “on again-off again” part of his character that will cost the Giants, and they will miss the playoffs again because of it.

Let the comparisons begin for the Philadelphia Eagles. Are they going to be the ’94 49ers who signed a slew of free agents then went on to win Super Bowl XXIX?? Or the 1995 Miami Dolphins who picked up 8 free agents in an attempt to get Dan Marino his ring, only to fall short once the team didn’t gel and stumbled to a 9-7 finish?? We’ll say closer to the 49ers situation.  It’s only a matter of time for this team to get open and scoring on offense. They brought in RB Ronnie Brown to aid LeSean McCoy in running between the tackles. They have WRs Sinorice Moss formerly of the Redskins and Steve Smith of the Giants to add further explosion if Macklin or Jackson get hurt. On defense, they pulled a coup when they signed Asoumgha. The fact they had Rodgers-Cromartie already in the fold from the Kevin Kolb trade was enough of a boost to the secondary. Now they can be special.

On defense, the Eagles linebackers were abysmal last year. Go ahead start both Casey Matthews from Oregon and Greg Lloyd out of UConn. Both are high motor guys and come with great pedigrees. Remember Pittsburgh Steeler great Greg Lloyd from the 90’s?? Yup thats his son and you remember Matthews who came up with a huge forced fumble in the 4th quarter for Oregon during the National Championship Game?? Yup, thats him! The younger brother of Green Bay’s Clay Matthews and son of Cleveland Brown great Clay Matthews. Put these guys on the field and let them run to what they see. The signing of free agents Anthony Hargrove (Saints), Cullen Jenkins (Packers), and Darryl Tapp (Seahawks) should provide some additional pass rush. They lost safety Quentin Mikell to free agency but I bet he regrets not entertaining a one year tender to play on this team. Can the City of Brotherly Love have a Super Bowl quality team?? This team is loaded for bear and once they jell they can be monstrous. Funny thing is we didn’t even begin to talk about Michael Vick yet. NFC East champ?? Easily. NFC or Super Bowl Champ? We shall see…

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Next Up: NFC Predictions                                                                                             

2011 Philadelphia Eagles Preview

That Andy Reid can come out smelling like a rose can’t he? First he exiled the franchise’s best ever quarterback for the heir apparent in Kevin Kolb.  Kolb proved ineffective during the preseason and was replaced after injury by a rejuvenated Michael Vick who played some of the most electrifying football seen in years.  Fast forward one year later and Vick wins the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year in a landslide and Kevin Kolb is being dangled as trade bait after the 2010 season.  The Eagles fell to the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers in the playoffs yet seemed poised to terrorize the NFC East with maybe the division’s most explosive offense ever.  With the Redskins and Cowboys foundering on rocky waters, all that remains is the enigmatic Giants to keep them from reclaiming their division crown.  The question for the Giants is: ” Have they sought help for the nightmares from DeSean Jackson’s punt return that flipped their season on it’s ear?”  So a little over a year removed from rumors that Reid may step down, followed by a press conference and possible wife induced decision to stay on, he comes into the 2011 season retooled and loaded for bear.

Quarterback: The “Michael Vick Experience” hit the City of Brotherly Love like a storm last year.  It was the perfect elixir for an underachieving Kevin Kolb who was outplayed by both Vick and rookie Mike Kafka from Northwestern in the preseason.  With the release of Donovan McNabb, the keys to the kingdom were turned over to Kolb.  So once conventional wisdom had Kolb start the season, with new contract in tow,  his play was marginal and then he went down with an injury.  Enter Michael Vick, who went on to have the best season of his career.  He ranked 4th with a passer rating (100.2), while throwing for 3,018 yards, and the best touchdown to interception ratio of his career 21 to 6.

His ability to supplement the running game with 676 yards and 9 touchdowns, made the Eagle offense the scourge of the league at the midseason point.  His feet have improved as a quarterback, he’s constantly on balance and ready to throw.  He showed a penchant to keep his head up and find receivers when he was evading the rush, and not always running it. Yet its this threat to do so that causes defenses to approach with a caution that is borderline fear.  As showcased when he danced through the New York Giants while leading the miraculous 4th quarter comeback that doomed the Giants season in game 14.  That 38-31 win kept Vick in the hunt for the NFL MVP Award, however it was his transcendent performance against Washington in a 58-29 blowout that started it.  That night was one of the greatest offensive performances ever and was exactly what Vick followers expected him to mature into.

Kevin Kolb came back and played well once Vick came off the field due to injury, yet his fate was sealed. He threw for 1,197  yards, 7 TDs, and 7 ints. which was not the best but he did respond once his job was threatened.  Andy Reid has a quarterback to trade and should get a number one and a second round for him.  He figured it would be Vick until the season began and now they have a quarterback in Kolb who could start for at least 10 other teams.  At quarterback the Eagles are Super Bowl quality at the moment…they have to keep Vick healthy.  Could use a draft pick here to prepare for the imminent departure of Kolb who should be traded by the regular season.

Offensive Backfield: Now statistics show you the Eagles have a strong rushing attack.  They ran 428 times for 2, 324 yards and 18 TDs which ranked 5th in the league for rushing totals. These numbers are skewed because of the Michael Vick factor.  Although he didn’t run as frequent as in year’s past he accounted for half of the teams rushing touchdowns with 9 and his 6.8 yards per attempt on 100 carries swelled the Eagles stat as a team to 5.4 per rush. In fact Vick was second on the team in rushing for 38 first downs to McCoy’s 48.  Yet they can run the ball effectively with LeSean McCoy who accounted for 1080 yds and 7 touchdowns.  Without Vick to contain teams honestly, bootlegs away from the flow of the play, McCoy doesn’t gain that type of  yardage.  Its like the Brian Westbrook saga all over again.  He can catch and run but can only do so in space without resorting to gimmicky plays like shovel passes, draws, and sprint draw plays out of 3 and 4 receiver sets.  Yet he was the Eagle’s leading receiver with 78 receptions for another 592 yards.  Many of which were plays where Vick began to scramble and found him on scat routes once the defense squared up to attack the QB.

This teams goal line offense is bootleg pass options with Vick. The Eagles would do themselves a service if they drafted another half back to provide some power between the tackles at times.  It would prove fruitful in the long run for both the Eagles ability to convert on short yardage and goal line, but also minimize the wear and tear on McCoy over a long season. At running back average at best yet superior totals adding Vick’s ad-libs.

Receiver: These guys are growing by leaps and bounds and should be better with a full pre-season to get accustomed to Vick as the starter.  This will be the Greatest Show on Turf East, with so many explosive weapons on the flank. DeSean Jackson, going into his 4th season, has emerged as one of the best deep threats in the league.  Once out in the open forget catching this lightning bolt from behind.  His 47 catches for 1,056 yards and 6 touchdowns were enough to make the Pro Bowl despite missing a game and a half due to a concussion.  In fact he became the first player in NFL history to earn his way onto a Pro Bowl roster at two different positions in the same year.  He made it as a receiver,and punt returner, while causing 80,000 in the New Meadowlands anguish with a punt return touchdown with no time on the clock.  Over his 3 years in Philadelphia,  Jackson has averaged over 47 yards on 26 career touchdowns including 14 from over 50 yards.  If he gets on top of your safety forget it.  The Redskins found this out on a Monday Night when he scored on a 91 TD on the Eagles first offensive play.  Going to be a deep threat for many years to come.

On the other side is Jeremy Maclin, who provides a similar skill set yet has the bigger body (6’0 and 198 yards) to go over the middle for the intermediate catches. He had 70 receptions for 964 yards and led the Eagles with 10 TDs.  Brent Celek is an emerging tight end who chimed in with 47 receptions.  By the time we put in Jason Avant from Michigan and his 51 receptions, this gives the Eagles 5 receivers with 40 or more receptions.  Who do you game plan for in stopping this passing game?  We feel this is the year that teams over play Jackson’s deep ball and Maclin has his breakout season with a 1,200 yard season and his first Pro Bowl berth.  Receiver is pro bowl caliber in Philadelphia and they should terrorize the NFC East this year as well.  All are in their prime and getting better…just dangerous.

Offensive Line: Hmmm, kind of mixed reviews here and hard to gauge this line in terms of their affectiveness.  Although this team is running a west coast offense where the staple is to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quickly, Eagle quarterbacks were hammered all year.  You do remember they got Kevin Kolb knocked out of game 1 which got Vick on the field in the first place, right? Even with Vick’s elusiveness, only 3 teams gave up more sacks than the 49 this Eagle line gave up last year….yikes! Couple that with a twin ranking of 29th in Philly QBs being hit 95 times and you see why Vick missed time last year as well as Kevin Kolb.  No wonder this team called a lot of half rolls off play action fakes.  They needed to slow down the opposing defense.

The numbers are better for this unit in the running game but again this comes with an asterisk.  The final stats show the Eagles ranked fifth with 2,324 yards rushing and 18 TDs which is ranked 4th.  Terrific, until you dissect this a little further.  Take away the 676 yards and 9TDs that came from Vick scrambles and the output plummets to  1,648 yards and only 9 TDs which would have ranked 20th and 24th respectively.  The lone offensive lineman that performed with distinction in 2010 was LT Jason Peters who made the Pro Bowl.  It wouldn’t be surprising if the Eagles put a few draft picks here to light fires under several of their lineman.  Another season like this and they could get their quarterback hurt and derail their 2011 season.  With that…this team is below average and needs to have better push on running plays.  They play too upright and need to get their knuckles in the dirt and fire off the ball.  This comes back to the coaches spending 80% of their practice time in passive pass blocking stances.  It shows on 3rd and 2 when you can’t power off tackle with regularity and the Eagles just don’t pass the eyeball test when it comes to running the football traditionally.

Defensive Line: One of the most enigmatic groups among the elite teams in all of football.  You here every NFL coach start off every press conference with stopping the run.  This group can be pushed off the ball and ranked 15th against the run giving up 1,766 yards and over 4.2 yards per carry.  Yet this front finished with 23 of the team’s overall 31 sacks which included 19 from the defensive end position.  Trent Cole accounted for 81 tackles and 10 sacks from the weakside, but can be run on and is smallish at 6’3 , 270lbs by today’s NFL standards.  Lets be honest, these DTs, Mike Patterson, Antonio Dixon, and Broderick Bunkley have to play more stout and quit getting shoved in the face of their linebackers.  They need to come off those blocks better as well…

This team relies on the offense getting a lead and allowing this defensive line to tee off on the opposing quarterback.  If they have to “sit in” and play honest against both the run and the pass this team can be overpowered.  They rely on exotic blitzes to force turnovers and missed blocks to mask their line deficiencies.  The Eagles should grab a DT or two in the draft and free agency since they are below average in holding their ground.  Teams will run at them to keep them off the field.

Linebackers: The Eagles starters are Ernie Sims, Stewart Bradley, and Moise Fokou who are marginal at best. They accounted for 4 sacks and only 1 interception.  Sims is an athletic defender who sometimes lacks instinct and gets gobbled up by blockers once he’s diagnosed the play.  An original 1st round draft pick by the Detroit Lions finished with 68 tackles and 5 passes defensed.  His play has slipped since his 1st two seasons with Detroit where he had 82 and 96 tackles.   Stewart Bradley was second on the team with 88 tackles yet made too many 5 yards down field. The linebackers suffer from the D-Line not holding up.  However this linebacking group is functional and not really instinctive. The Eagles would serve themselves well with a free agent pickup and or a few draft picks here.  The fact that they were running blitzes similar to those of the late Jim Johnson, this crew should have made more splash plays.

Secondary: This is one of the better secondaries in football.  These guys take chances yet have to stay solid with the defense sending blitzes in many situations.  The signing of Asante Samuel at corner has paid off handsomely.   The all time playoff interception TD return leader in NFL history has made several plays since his arrival from New England.  In 2010, he went to his 4th straight Pro Bowl after leading the NFC with 7 interceptions with 8 passes defensed.  Some have been critical of his not being a solid tackler in the running game and he only had 28 tackles….eh there could be something to that.  Yet this guy is a ballhawk and leads the league in interceptions since 2006 with 36 interceptions, which is what the Eagles really signed him for.

The other star in this secondary is S Quentin Mikell from Boise St.  Yes Melinda and Ray that same Boise St.  One of the Eagles that should have made the Pro Bowl after the 2010 season.  In fact he made the Pro Bowl in 2009, and last year still garnered 2nd team All Pro distinction with his play for a 3rd straight year.  Last year he led the Eagles with 111 tackles, defensed 14 passes while intercepting 3 passes.  This is the force member of the secondary on running plays along with the other cornerback in Dimitri Patterson who recorded 55 tackles and 4 interceptions.  Yet this is a solid tackling group.  Secondary is excellent however if we ran an opposing offense:  run sweeps and bubble screens on Samuel and force him to tackle more.  Try to get behind him with double moves afterward for he will gamble on intermediate (10-15 yard) routes where he jumps passes and gets most of his interceptions. The key is to get hits on his legs and make it easy to pass on him later.

Overall: In facing this team the first thing to remember is this team can definitely be run on and they will give up points.  Astoundingly this Eagle team isn’t as strong as defenses in recent years during the Andy Reid era.  Last year they gave up 377 points which ranked 21st in the league which was 3rd from the bottom of all playoff teams.  Although the Colts were missing Bob Sanders and linebacker Gary Brackett, their best players, and the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks who shouldn’t have been there.  This team  almost wins inspite of their statistics whether we look at the offensive line, defensive line, linebackers or defense as a whole which ranked 12th in yardage given up.  Stay to the ground as the Vikings did in defeating them in game 15; 24-14, feeding them Adrian Peterson for over 100 yards.

The key to playing them is to not become impatient and fast-break with them.  Run on this defense and keep Vick and that offense sitting on their hands and take them out of rhythm.  Even in the Giants game where they came from behind to win in the Meadowlands, they were cold for much of the game.  The Giants became deer in the headlights once Vick got going.  If the Eagles get into a rhythm on offense you could be dead in the water.  Keep your rushing attempts high and force a low scoring game and avoid the “Michael Vick Experience”.  How did he not get a single vote for league MVP?  Sigh…another subject for another day.  This team should repeat as NFC East division champion.

Next Up: Indiannapolis Colts