So if the COWBOYS have stayed about the same on a roster talent level from last season when you balance gains with losses has anyone in the NFC East made enough gains to challenge them for the division title.
I think the answer lies in the city of Philadelphia if you think CHIP KELLY is the mad genius of the NFL coaching ranks and has parlayed multiple off-season moves into a better team than he piloted last season. Clearly, the EAGLES roster is morphing into KELLY’s team as opposed to ANDY REID’s leftovers. But some of his moves have raised an awful lot of questions. Take the QB position for starters. Is the oft-injured SAM BRADFORD truly the answer at QB for this team? Clearly KELLY, with some serious input from OC PAT SHURMUR, who coached BRADFORD in St. Louis, thinks SAM is an upgrade over NICK FOLES. This move has the feel of a move high risk/high reward situation to say the least, given the back-up options right now are SANCHEZ & TEBOW.
We might need to write a book here to detail all the changes KELLY has made in his roster over the past 6 months. I count 37 new players on the EAGLES roster, which is high turnover indeed for a winning organization. Gone are a lot of players who weren’t buying into KELLY’s way of doing things, like Saturday practices during the regular season (McCOY), and players in their 30’s looking for contract extensions, despite multiple years left on their deals (EVAN MATHIS). To sum it up, let’s just say, in the Eagles organization it’s Chip’s way or the highway. If his way is wrong then he’ll be gone in a few years, but he won’t bemoan his demise as being a product of compromise and concessions to others, ala REX talking about his New York experience.
Logic says the running game shouldn’t miss McCOY a whole lot with DEMARCO MURRAY and RYAN MATHEWS taking over his departed touches. And did you notice that ‘ME McCOY’ parlayed the trade into more money from the BILLS?! Another immediate big plus for the Offense may be Rookie WR/NELSON AGHOLOR, who many feel was the most pro ready WR in the 2015 Draft class. Vet MILES AUSTIN/WR is seen as a plus if he can stay out on the field. Also watch for URFA JOHN HARRIS & DEVANTE DAVIS to make a run at roster spots in that receiving corps. Other than BRADFORD, the biggest offensive question mark would seem to be the OL, which now must replace both OG. Names like BARBRE, TOBIN, KELLY, MALCOLM BUNCHE/R will have to provide the answers at those two slots barring a Training Camp addition of some sort, which could happen.
DC BILLY DAVIS has even more rework to do with his troops. Topping the list is the secondary which is major work in progress. Clearly the coaching staff did not feel improvement was going to come from another year of working with the 2014 DB group so welcome to 9 new players out of the 16 listed in that position group. Probably the biggest names to keep an eye on in that secondary are BYRON MAXWELL/CB, ERIC ROWE/CB/R, WALTER THURMOND/CB, NOLAN CARROLL/CB, RANDALL EVANS/CB/R & JACOREY SHEPHERD/CB/R. The DL looks pretty stable but 3 Rookie DL will try to put some pressure on the returning back-ups, in the forms of MIHALIK, RACITI & McBRYDE. The only real question mark in the LB group is whether or not BRANDON GRAHAM is ready to replace TRENT COLE’s productivity on the outside. Otherwise, the additions of KIKO ALONSO(T), BRAD JONES(VFA) & JORDAN HICKS/R clearly upgrade the unit.
The EAGLES will be the team to watch in more ways than one this season, and their progress, or lack thereof, may be the clearest picture into the potential success of CHIP KELLY, long term, as an NFL Head Coach and top dog. But if the COWBOYS stumble this team looks like the best bet to step forward.
Despite all the buzz in the big Apple about last year’s Rookie sensation ODELL BECKHAM I do not see the GIANTS being in a position to exert serious pressure at the top of the division. In the name of family and loyalty I believe JOHN MARA has lost his sense of objective perspective when it comes to HC TOM COUGHLIN. COUGHLIN surely hasn’t been afflicted with blind loyalty when it comes to turning over his staff almost completely the past several years. IMO, COUGHLIN has turned into the top guy who will sacrifice anyone and anything below him to save his own position. The GIANTS truly need to move on from him, sooner rather than later.
Looking through the 2015 roster I perceive lethargy for the most part this off-season by the front office of the G-Men. Even though there are 35 new faces on the current roster only 16 are Rookies this time around. And the majority of those guys seem to be Training Camp fodder. The best VFA addition to the team may be SHANE VEREEN/RB who should provide the team with a quicker, more versatile run/catch option to compliment the big Backs JENNINGS & WILLIAMS. If VICTOR CRUZ can come back healthy he and BECKHAM would be a dynamic pair for ELI to work with. VFA/WR/DWAYNE HARRIS could be a surprisingly valuable pick-up. He’s an excellent return man, but could also battle RUEBEN RANDLE for the No. 3 WR spot. The team chose not to bring any new competition at the TE slot, clearly counting on LARRY DONNELL to continue to improve in his 4th year. The OL, which is an ongoing rebuild project suffered a serious blow when LT WILL BEATTY was pretty much lost for 2015 with an off-season injury. That puts big time pressure on R/ERECK FLOWERS/OT to step up and replace BEATTY as ELI’s most important protector. If he can’t handle it yet then shuffling of bodies may be a feature of the preseason. VFA addition MARSHALL NEWHOUSE could be the wild card/potential savior of this position group. His versatility and experience may come into play immediately at as many as 4 positions. Too bad he can only play one at a time.
Despite uncertainty on the OL the biggest rebuild job this season for the GIANTS looks to be coming at the S slots. ANTREL ROLLE and a few other vets were jettisoned and a very young, inexperienced group of players will battle it out for jobs. Anyone concerned about having experience at the S slots should be cringing looking at the current depth chart at S for the GIANTS. Here are their 4 legit S competitors: LANDON COLLINS/R, COOPER TAYLOR/3Y, NAT BERHE/2Y & MYKKELE THOMPSON/R. The situation is a bit better at CB, but suffice it to say that the secondary overall looks a bit shaky right now. What else is new for this team.
In front of those guys I continue to be amazed at the GIANTS current obsession with the DL at the expense of the LB group. Once again, not a single Draft Pick was used on a LB this year, unless OWI ODIGHIZUWA/R is able to convert to a standup position. OWI, looks to me to be a repeat of an athlete/project by the name of KIWANUKA, a great athlete who struggled for a decade trying to find a fit in the GIANTS D. But right now he is listed at DE. As is VFA pickup GEROGE SELVIE/DE, who had a nice couple of seasons in Big D the past two years generating some edge pass rushing pressure. KENRICK ELLIS/DT was signed away from the JETS and should help with the DT rotation. JPP, CULLEN JENKINS, ROB AYERS, DAMONTRE MOORE, KERRY WYNN, SELVIE & ODIGHIZUWA will all battle to provide pocket pressure. Maybe someone can be traded during Training Camp for a S or a LB. Excuse my silliness in even mentioning a trade by GM REESE. The team added 3 journeymen LB to fight for the WLB position in JT THOMAS, JON CASILLAS & VICTOR BUTLER. They may all help on Special Teams, but none would start on a Play-Off contending team. The team has to be hoping that JON BEASON stays healthy in the middle and SLB DEVON KENNARD shows solid improvement in his second pro season.
The GIANTS would be lucky to win 9 games with this cast and crew, and that is very unlikely to earn a Wild Card slot in the NFC this season. COUGHLIN’s charges will be playing the spoiler role and trying to stay ahead of the REDSKINS.
There is still much rebuilding to do in Old D.C., but I like the work of SCOTT McCLOUGHAN in the DRAFT and VFA. He looks to be adding solid players all over the roster, especially in the trenches on both sides of the ball. The real key for this team will be whether HC JAY GRUDEN and OC SEAN McVAY can get RG3 back on the right path as a developing young QB.
He looks to have the weapons in the passing game with JACKSON, GARCON and JORAN REED all back. Watch for WR/JAMISON CROWDER/R to make an impact in the receiving corps, primarily as a slot guy. He’ll need to step in to replace the departure of security blanket SANTANA MOSS. Fellow Rookie OWEN SPENCER/WR could be a sleeper and a great addition to Special Teams units. MATT JONES/RB/R should be a solid addition to the backfield with a running style much like starter ALFRED MORRIS. The biggest work in progress (beyond RG3) is still the OL. But the team has also cut ties with some journeymen players here, like CHESTER & POLUMBUS, and is likely to force feed some Rookie blood into the unit. BRANDON SCHERFF/R, ARIE KOUANDJIO/R & TAKOBY COFIELD/R all look like long range NFL starters. Can they hit the ground running? If 2 of those 3 actually earn starting jobs consider this OL as being on it’s way to respectability. Plus, don’t forget OT/MORGAN MOSES, who lost his 2014 Rookie season to injury. In reality, RG3 may need to spend a lot of time scrambling to buy time at least for one more season.
The Defense for DC JOE BARRY could be ready to make some major strides. Some solid vets were brought in and the starting 11 could see 5 new starters in DE/STEPHEN PAEA/VFA, NT/TERRANCE KNIGHTON/VFA, OLB/PRESTON SMITH/R, CB/CHRIS CULLIVER/VFA and FS/DASHON GOLDSON. SMITH will be making the transition from college DE to OLB, but has the athleticism to make it happen ala BRIAN ORAKPO, who left as a VFA. He has even greater size and length than ORAKPO. The team also added VFA RICKY JEAN-FRANCOIS/DE and JERON JOHNSON/SS to the depth chart. Watch for R/MARTRELL SPAIGHT/LB to earn some playing time and become a key component on Special Teams units.
31 players on the current 90-man roster are new to the team. Some older, dead wood has been pruned from the roster. It’s a lot to ask, but if a number of new pieces come through right away this team will be a legit spoiler and could even battle with the GIANTS to stay out of the NFC East basement.