NFC East Offseason Review

Jon Bray

04/18/2016

Dallas Cowboys

  • Overview – After a very disappointing season marred by QB Tony Romo’s and WR Dez Bryant’s injuries and multiple close losses after a promising 2-0 start to the season, the Cowboys have seemingly taken the stance that a championship roster is already in place and the breaks are due to go their way in 2016.  That hope begins and ends with Romo successfully recovering fully from another couple of Clavicle bone breaks.  Romo has stated he will be fully healthy and ready for a full season.  Given that the Cowboys were 3-1 in his starts and 1-13 in games with lesser QBs at the helm, I think the Dallas season rides on this very thing.
  • Offense – Dallas returns what was rated by Pro Football Focus as the number 1 passing offensive line and also the number 1 run blocking offensive line in the entire NFL.  This is a remarkable feat and enough to always have belief that a Super Bowl effort is possible.  The Cowboys added a nice complement to RB Darren McFadden in former division rival Afred Morris.    The hope for Dez Bryant is that he is re-focused and recharged with Romo back at the helm.  He has dropped from consideration as the #1 Dynasty WR to fringe top ten in just 8 months time.
  • Fantasy Impact –   IF Romo and Bryant are both healthy again, then each returns to top tier status among the fantasy ranks.  Lance Dunbar also returns from injury and along with McFadden and Morris, this group collectively may make for a RB1 and a RB2 option many weeks behind that line.  TE Jason Witten keeps on plugging along and remains a borderline TE1 as well.
  • Defense – The Greg Hardy experiment has ended, and while not the crash-and-burn scenario many expected, he never-the-less wore out his welcome in a proficient manner.  This leaves the Dallas defense lacking for a solid pass-rush.  DT Cedric Thornton was signed away from Philadelphia and key LB Rolando McClain was retained, but these are both more significant from a run stop angle than from generating pressure on the QB.  The Cowboy defense projects to be middle of the pack in 2016.
  • Draft – First round: 4th overall selection; Second round: 34th overall selection
  • Coaching – No changes in the key coaching positions, another testament that the organization believes they are close.

 

New York Giants

  • Overview – After a season where the Giants boasted a top 10 offense (and substantial improvement over the prior year) under Bob McAdoo, but were saddled with perhaps the worst defensive unit in the league, it’s clear that all effort and money were both directed at remedying this issue.
  • Offense – It appears the entire starting offense will be back at it this season, save for the ever-inconsistent and underperforming Rueben Randall who signed with the division rival Eagles.  Victor Cruz hopes to be finally recovered from season-ending injuries each of the past two years.  If so, this could be a personnel improvement without making a move on the offensive side of the ball.  The team is also expected to make OL depth a priority in the upcoming rookie draft.
  • Fantasy Impact – The Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. led unit should remain at the top of the league as guys like RB Shane Vereen and LT Ereck Flowers meld further into McAdoo’s west coast system after a first year of experience.  Any offseason movement in the fantasy ranking tiers for the key contributors here should probably be upward only.
  • DefenseA lot of change here, mostly appearing to be marginal improvements on paper at a very pricey collective salary cost.  DE Robert Ayers is the biggest loss, though #1 offseason priority Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon was brought in from Miami.  Janoris Jenkins takes over at CB for Prince Amukamara (now with JAX), MLB Keenan Robinson will be on the new on-field defensive general, and adding expensive DT Damon Harrison no doubt upgrades the run defense.  How this all gels on the field won’t be seen September.
  • Draft – First round: 10th overall selection; Second round: 40th overall selection
  • Coaching – The departure of Tom Coughlin was a little bit of a surprise, and now McAdoo elevates from Offensive Coordinator to the new head role. 14 coaches remain from the previous regime including second year Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo who greatly underwhelmed in year 1, and former QB coach Mike Sullivan who moves to Offensive Coordinator with the mandate of simply keeping the ship pointed north.

 

Washington Redskins

  • Overview – This time last year, things were very up in the air on what QB would be leading the organization going forward.  RGIII is now a Cleveland Brown and the team is coming off a surprise playoff showing where the Kirk Cousins led aerial attack rated as the 3rd most efficient in the NFL.  As a result, it’s no surprise to see inactivity this offseason for the offense as the organization looks to establish continuity and continued development for the promising young offensive line.  The lack of change for the defense however warrants some concern as to whether this can be more than a wildcard caliber team again in 2016.
  • Offense – Alfred Morris was allowed to walk, opening the door for passing down specialists Matt Jones and Chris Thompson to garner more work.  Dangerous pass catchers DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed should all complete the offseason in a healthier state that what each has experienced the past couple of seasons.  All of this, combined with the unbalanced offensive success experienced in 2015 leads one to think the Redskins are moving to an “air it out” style going forward.
  • Fantasy Impact – Unless Washington targets a true running back prospect in the rookie draft, I think you can count on a large increase in passing volume in the upcoming season.  This should warrant increases in fantasy value for all of the aforementioned players above.  I particularly like the opportunity that will exist for Matt Jones and Jamison Crowder to make moves into the top tier or two for their respective positions, and also the very real likelihood that Jordan Reed could be the #1 fantasy TE in 2016.
  • Defense – Losing Keenan Robinson will be noticed in the center of this defense, and outside of the Ryan Kerrigan/Preston Smith outside rush position, there is little QB pressure generation to be found.  The Redskins will no doubt focus on the defensive end of things with their rookie selections, but early in the season at least it is very likely the team will be in some high scoring track meet type games.
  • Draft – First round: 21st overall selection; Second round: 53rd overall selection
  • Coaching –  Continuity here, which given the trend, is a good thing.

 

Philadelphia Eagles

  • Overview – For all the head-scratcher moves made during the Chip Kelly era, this offseason for the Eagles was one of logical moves….beginning with the termination of the aforementioned Kelly and his staff.  Underwhelming players with large contracts, such as Demarco Murray and Byron Maxwell are gone.  In their stead, the organization brought in high performing and perhaps underrated personnel at OG (Brandon Brooks) and S (Rodney McLeod).
  • Offense – While the offense may look very similar in regards to the two deep, as almost all contributors from 2015 return, the system will of course be quite different with the Chip Kelly offense being “Ore-gone”….get it?  Anyhow…Doug Pederson takes over and will return the franchise to some semblance of the Andy Reid era, having coached with Reid in Kansas City the past 3 years.  Murray’s departure to Tennessee frees up more carries for the more effective backs in 2015, Ryan Matthews and Darren Sproles, and the displacement of Matt Tobin by Brandon Brooks at Right Guard is a massive upgrade for both the run blocking and pass blocking efforts.  The passing game returns in full and adds 3rd and 4th WRs Reuben Randall and Chris Givens, which should be a marginal depth improvement but not much more.
  • Fantasy Impact – I can’t say there is a clear shift in prospects for anyone on the offense save for RB Ryan Matthews who gets a bump back into RB2 territory concurrent with the expected volume increase resulting from Murray’s departure to Tennessee.  It’s anyone’s guess where the passing game goes from here as on the one hand, you have Doug Pederson with his 3 years of running a KC offense practically devoid of aerial stardom amongst the skill position players and then on the other hand, you have Frank Reich in at offense coordinator and he helped contribute to very successful seasons for the Charger QB, WR1 and TE positions.  It’s worth noting that QB Sam Bradford, WR Jordan Matthews and TE Zach Ertz all finished the 2015 on a 3 week tear that “could” extend into 2016 if the offensive coaching philosophy so allows.
  • Defense – The Eagle defense was among the bottom 3 in almost every defensive category in 2015, and while some of that can be attributed to the strain that a Chip Kelly paced offense can place on the defensive side of a team, any offseason move was bound to be a positive move.  The team unloaded the very underwhelming Byron Maxwell at CB after signing him to a big contract away from Seattle where he showed much better.  Gone also is Kiko Alonso, acquired by Kelly after giving away LeSean McCoy for his services in hopes that Alonso would return to his rookie form after a season ending injury in his second season….this didn’t come to pass.  Leodis McKelvin replaces Maxwell and will be hard-pressed to perform worse.  McLeod brings an instant upgrade to the secondary manning the free safety position, and the Eagles will no doubt look to the early rounds of the draft for further bolstering.
  • Draft – First round: 8th overall selection; Second round: 43rd overall selection
  • Coaching There are mixed feelings among the community on whether Pederson is up to the task of a head coaching role, however the Kelly experiment had run its course in Philadelphia and if the 2016 offseason is any indication, the team is on the upswing from the disconnected locker room that resulted towards the end of the Kelly reign.

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