2011 NFL Offseason Grades – AFC East

Sorry for the delay, without further ado, here are my offseason grades for the AFC East.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Nate Solder, OT (1-17); Ras-I Dowling, CB (2-33); Shane Vereen, RB (2-56); Stevan Ridley, RB (3-73); Ryan Mallett, QB (3-74); Marcus Cannon, OT (5-138); Lee Smith, TE (5-159); Markell Carter, DE (6-194); Malcolm Williams, CB (7-219)

Solder is a big, athletic tackle who can bolster the Patriot's line starting Week 1

I think the New England Patriots had a stronger draft than most people give them credit for.  The glaring hole that I see in their draft is that they failed to address the wide receiver position and waited until the 3rd round to address their running back need.  Nate Solder is a perfect fit for this line as he is a large athletic tackle that can be plugged in immediately.  I really like what the Patriots did in the 3rd and 4th round as much as anyone.   Stevan Ridley was a highly underrated running back in college who could be a strong addition to the backfield in another year or two.  I also think Ryan Mallett can be a starting quarterback in this league and I feel like the Patriots will soon pull a “Cassell” or “Kolb” and be able to turn this 4th round draft pick into more draft picks.  The best thing the Patriots did in this draft is set themselves up nicely seeing as they now have 2 first round and 2 second round picks in 2012.

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Logan Mankins, G (Patriots); Matt Light, OT (Patriots); BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB (Patriots); Albert Haynesworth, DT (Redskins), Chad Ochocinco, WR (Bengals), Shaun Ellis, DE (Jets)

KEY LOSSES: Marcus Stroud, DT; Tully Banta-Cain, LB; Ty Warren, DE; Nick Kaczur, OT; Alge Crumpler, TE

It's not unreasonable to think that Chad Ochocinco could hit double digits for receiving touchdowns in 2011.

The New England Patriots did not make the big splashes that other teams did but what’s important is they made the necessary one.  They were able to re-sign Mankins and Light so with the addition of Solder this is a solid offensive line going into next season.  They were able to bring back BenJarvus Green-Ellis who was able to provide a ground attack for the Patriots last season.  Most importantly, if Albert Haynesworth can return to Tennessee form the Patriots got him for a ridiculously good value and by pairing him with Vince Wilfork, the Patriots might have the tools necessary to shut down that dangerous running game of the New York Jets.  In addition they were able to go and get Shaun Ellis from the Jets to give the Patriots a great defensive line.  Chad Ochocinco was another great value trade who I think will have a great year in New England.  Not a ridiculous year but his presence should also open up the field for Wes Welker and those young tight ends.  I project a 9 – 10 touchdown, 1100 yard season for Ochocinco in this offense which makes this an excellent pick-up.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Muhammad Wilkerson, DE (1-30); Kenrick Ellis, DT (3-94); Bilal Powell, RB (4-126); Jeremy Kerley, WR (5-153); Greg McElroy, QB (7-208); Scotty McKnight, WR (7-227)

 

Greg McElroy has won everywhere he's been and provides an interesting developmental project for the Jets

Going into the draft, the New York Jets biggest concern had to be their defensive line – getting younger and more athletic at the position.  They finally gave up on bust Vernon Gholston and the aging Jason Taylor will not be back.  Additionally, they also lost Shaun Ellis to the rival Patriots.  I feel like Wilkerson will be giving quarterbacks in the East nightmares for years.  He is a tall, athletic, fast defensive end with great strength and instincts.  Kenrick Ellis could be a great force upfront for the Jets.  I do like the Greg McElroy pick in the 7th round.  A lot of times, draft experts talk about intangibles which really means “we don’t know what else to call it but we like it” or someone being a winner.  The difference between Super Bowl contenders like the Jets and teams like the Broncos – is the Jets took a quarterback who is a winner, but they grabbed him in the 7th round as opposed to trading up in the first.  Overall this was a really good draft for the Jets without a lot of picks.  The only downside is I feel like their linebacker corps could also use some help.

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Santonio Holmes, WR (Jets); Antonio Cromartie, CB (Jets); Mark Brunell, QB (Jets); Plaxico Burress, WR (Inactive); Nick Folk, K (Jets); Wayne Hunter, OT (Jets);  David Harris, LB (Jets); Derrick Mason, WR (Ravens)

KEY LOSSES: Braylon Edwards, WR; Shaun Ellis, DE; Jason Taylor, DE; Brad Smith, KR/WR/QB

Re-signing Santonio Holmes was a priority for the Jets heading into the 2011 season.

The New York Jets did some excellent things in the free agency period.  Braylon Edwards was a big loss but with his pending suspension, the Jets felt like Plaxico Burress was a better risk to take.  Re-signing Santonio Holmes was a must and then the addition of the ageless wonder Derrick Mason gives the Jets a strong receiving corps.  Bringing back Cromartie was necessary once they lost out on the Asomugha sweepstakes and since the kicker market was relatively weak, it was so important for the Jets to re-sign Nick Folk.  The big losses for the Jets are Shaun Ellis who left for the rival Patriots but the Jets anticipated this loss in their draft.  One really big loss for the Jets, that most don’t realize, was do-it-all Brad Smith.  His long kick returns, and ability as a wild cat QB was a big part of the Jets success the last two seasons and he will be missed more than most Jets fans realize.  Overall, the Jets did a great job in the offseason.

 

 

MIAMI DOLPHINS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT CLASS: Mike Pouncey, C (1-15); Daniel Thomas, RB (2-62); Edmund Gates, WR (4-11); Charles Clay, FB (6-174); Frank Kearse, DT (7-231); Jimmy Wilson (7-235)

 

Even though he played at Division II Abilene Christian, Gates has the speed, hands, and athleticism to be a successful slot receiver in the NFL.

For me, the Miami Dolphins draft was kind of a mixed bag.  But overall there were a few things I really liked about the draft for the Dolphins.  First off, I love the Mike Pouncey pick for him in the first round.  While it has been a slow process, the Dolphins have been doing a good job of building their offensive line.  They got their tackle in Jake Long a few years back and now they have the second most position in the line in a strong, athletic center in Pouncey.  I really am a fan of Daniel Thomas and think he could be a great addition to that backfield.  The fact that the first running back went off the board late in the first round makes almost any running back with starter potential, such as Thomas a good value.  The player I love in this draft for the Miami Dolphins is Edmund Gates.  Having watched several Abilene Christian games, I can tell you this about Gates – he’s got great awareness, excellent hands, and amazing athleticism.  He is a raw talent but when he gets in space, watch out – he was one of the fastest players in this year’s draft.  He is going to be compared to the Chicago Bears’ Johnny Knox (also from ACU) but I expect, with some development, that Gates will be better than Knox.  Great value pick in the 4th round. I’m intrigued to watch him develop.

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Reggie Bush, RB (Saints); Kevin Burnett, LB (Chargers); Matt Moore, QB (Panthers); Tony McDaniel, DE (Dolphins); Marc Colombo, OT (Cowboys); Ronald Fields, DT (Broncos); Jason Taylor, DE (Jets)

KEY LOSSES: Ronnie Brown, RB; Tyler Thigpen, QB; Channing Crowder, LB

The Reggie Bush trade should work out to be one of those rare trades that was a great move for both teams

I have not been big on Reggie Bush these past few years but I think this is a trade that makes sense.  He is a pass catching running back and a great athlete and may be the heir apparent to the now departed original Wildcat, Ronnie Brown.  He also gives the Dolphins a threat as an excellent punt returner.  The addition of Marc Colombo gives the Dolphins a pretty good offensive line and I like the additions they made on defense with Fields and Burnett.  Crowder will definitely be missed.  Of course the biggest question for the Dolphins in my mind is who is going to play quarterback?  I am not going to go as far as to say Chad Henne and Matt Moore are never going to be more than a number 2 but for a team that improved overall in the offseason, they actually took a step back at the quarterback position.  It’s a sad state of affairs when losing Tyler Thigpen actually weakens your QB position.  There were a number of serviceable starters available via trade and draft and I think the Dolphins should be calling Cincy around the clock to see what it would take to get Carson Palmer there.  While I believe he is retired for good, this is one of a small handful of teams that should be calling Favre and it might not hurt them to give Randy Moss a call either.

 

 

BUFFALO BILLS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT CLASS: Marcell Dareus, DT (1-3); Aaron Williams, CB (2-34); Kelvin Sheppard, LB (3-68); Da’Norris Searcy, S (4-100); Chris Hairston, OT (4-122); Johnny White, RB (5-133); Chris White, LB (6-169); Justin Rogers, CB (7-206); Michael Jasper, G (7-245)

 

Marcell Dareus is a strong, fast defensive lineman that could play either the nose tackle or defensive end position in Buffalo's 3-4 D

I don’t know if Buffalo really drafted the positions they needed but they drafted a lot of good players.  A lot of good teams have been built on the basis of B.P.A. (Best Player Available) and when you are as bad as the Bills were last season, the focus really does need to be on getting as many good players as possible.  While I will continue to argue that I believe Patrick Peterson was the best overall player in the draft, I believe Marcell Dareus was a perfect defensive pick for the Bills.  The Bills run a 3-4 defense and as a pass-rusher, Dareus could easily be converted into a defensive end.  I also love the Williams, Sheppard, and Searcy picks.  This defense should be much improved this coming season.  The biggest questions have to be though, why the Bills did not address their offensive line until day 3 or use a single pick on a wide receiver or tight end.

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Nick Barnett, LB (Packers); Drayton Florence, CB (Bills); Brad Smith, WR/KR/QB (Jets), Tyler Thigpen, QB (Dolphins)

KEY LOSSES: Paul Posluszny, LB; Donte Whitner, S; Lee Evans, WR

Barnett, while not Posluszny, was as good of a replacement as the Bills were going to find.

One of these offseasons, Buffalo is going to have to make a splash if they ever hope to compete with the Jets and Patriots.  Losing Paul Posluszny and Donte Whitner was significant.  But the Bills re-signed the guy they needed to in Drayton Florence.  Nick Barnett is a nice replacement for Posluszny and I could see this being a stout defense that now features the likes of Aaron Williams, Marcell Dareus, Shawne Merriman, Nick Barnett, and Jairus Byrd.   I also like the Tyler Thigpen signing as he is a solid back-up quarterback and it was a good move to take Brad Smith away from the rival Jets.  Gailey did some wildcat looks in Kansas City with Thigpen and in this offense he could find places for Thigpen and Smith.  However, the offensive side of the ball needs plenty of work.  The offensive line is non-existent and they traded away a highly underrated receiver in Lee Evans which I believe they will regret.  But if this defense can hold teams to 10 points a game, the Bills might just have a shot.

Overall the AFC East had a pretty strong offseason.  The New England Patriots definitely improved.  The Bills and Dolphins should field a better team than last season and the New York Jets look about the same to me.   As always this should be a very tough division and I expect great defense across the board from all four teams.

 

 

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ‘em!

2011 Offseason Grades – NFC East

Without further ado, offseason grades for the NFC East

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Danny Watkins, G (1-23); Jaiquawn Jarrett, S (2-54); Curtis Marsh, CB (3-90); Casey Matthews, ILB (4-116); Alex Henery, K (4-120); Dion Lewis, RB (5-149); Julian Vandervelde, C (5-161); Jason Kelce, C (6-191); Brian Rolle, OLB (7-237); Greg Lloyd, ILB (7-237); Stanley Havili, FB (7-240)

 

If Casey is half as good as his brother Clay, he will be remembered as an absolute steal in the 4th round.

Philadelphia had 11 picks in this year’s drafts and when I look at how they used it I see it as “honest”.  The Eagles were aware of their weaknesses and drafted position by position to tighten things up.  A lot of people considered Watkins a reach in the first round, but Andy Reid believes he can be a Week 1 starter.  Watkins has good strength and is an adequate pass blocker and run blocker.  The one thing I always noticed when he played at Baylor is he is a “play to the whistle” type player so I think he’ll fit in fine in Philly.  Jarrett was a good pick up to help solidify the safety position and Curtis Martin seemed like an obvious choice for a team that, at the time, was weak at cornerback position.  Making Alex Henery the first kicker off the board made it pretty obvious that Akers was on his way out (which surprised me).  They doubled up on centers late with Vandervelde and Kelce clearly acknowledging their need there.  Philly did a good job of drafting in positions of need, I just don’t know how many of these players will have an impact. I love the Casey Matthews pick.  He was a great player at Oregon and comes from a great line of impact players who were underappreciated in the draft.  If Casey is half as good as his brother Clay (who is a leader on the Packers’ defense) then he was an absolute steal in the 4th round.

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Nnamdi Asomugha, CB (Raiders); Ronnie Brown, RB (Dolphins); Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB (Cardinals); Cullen Jenkins, DT (Packers); Vince Young, QB (Titans); Steve Smith, WR (Giants); Jason Babin, DE (Titans); Ryan Harris, OT (Broncos); Akeem Jordan, LB (Eagles); Evan Mathis, G (Bengals); Jarrad Page, S (Patriots); Derek Landri, DT (Panthers); Anthony Hargrove, DL (Saints)

KEY LOSSES: Kevin Kolb, QB; Quintin Mikell, S; Brodrick Bunkley, DT; Leonard Weaver, FB; Ernie Sims, LB; Max Jean-Gilles, G; Dimitri Patterson, CB; Stewart Bradley, LB

Nnamdi Asomugha was the obvious prize of free agency but I'm a big fan of the addition of Ryan Harris to this Eagles' line

A lot has been said and just how unbelievable the Philadelphia Eagles’ offseason has been.  I have not seen this much hoopla about a team’s free agency since the 2007 Patriots when they brought in Moss, Stallworth, Welker, and Thomas, among others.  Last season the cornerback position was a glaring weakness for the Philadelphia Eagles but they shored up that position through free agency and trade by bringing in 2 of the top 10 cornerbacks in the league.  Mikell was a gigantic loss for the Eagles at the safety position but Page should make for a good replacement and I really do believe it would behoove the Eagles to, at this point, move Asante Samuel to the safety position.  Steve Smith was a nice risk to take given Maclin’s mystery illness.  I love the addition of Babin and Jenkins.  I really believe that they will benefit from Trent Cole in the same way Kevin Smith and Ray Edwards were able to benefit by the addition of Jared Allen.  Vince Young was a great pick up if for no other reason, then to do with him what they did with Kolb and McNabb – flip him on the trade market for higher value.  The most unsung of this group but maybe the Eagles’ best pick up was Ryan Harris at tackle who should solidify that offensive line for the Eagles but there still remain some questions at center.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Ryan Kerrigan, DE (1-16); Jarvis Jenkins, DT (2-41); Leonard Hankerson, WR (3-79); Roy Helu, RB (4-105); Dejon Gomes, S (5-146); Niles Paul, WR (5-155); Evan Royster, RB (6-177); Aldrick Robinson, WR (6-178); Brandyn Thompson, CB (7-213); Maurice Hurt, G (7-217); Markus White, DE (7-224); Christopher Neild, DT (7-253)

While I am not a fan of the Cornhuskers, I'm a big believer in what Roy Helu, Jr. can accomplish in the NFL

Mike Shanahan has a reputation as someone who can develop quarterbacks but where does this come from?  He inherited a first ballot Hall of Fame quarterback in John Elway and has not had a strong QB ever since.  That being said, QB is the most obvious weakness for the Redskins and I feel that they made a huge mistake in trading down when they could have drafted, who I believe to be, the best quarterback in the draft in Blaine Gabbert.  Any time you get the opportunity to draft a franchise quarterback, you need to take it and I feel like this is a mistake that will haunt Washington fans for years. However, the Redskins did get great value in trading down and Kerrigan and Jenkins should do wonders for their front four.  The pick that Redskins fans should be excited about is landing Nebraska running back Roy Helu in the 4th round.  This kid is a strong running back who in college could easily break tackles and can accelerate in the gaps.  I really think that Helu has a bright future as a number one running back in the NFL.

 

 

 

FREE AGENTS

KEY ADDITIONS:Barry Cofield, DT (Giants); Josh Wilson, CB (Ravens); Stephen Bowen, DE (Cowboys); Santana Moss, WR (Redskins); Chris Chester, C (Ravens); Jamal Brown, OT (Redskins); Jabar Gaffney, WR (Broncos); Tim Hightower, RB (Cardinals), Donte’ Stallworth, WR (Ravens); Kellen Clemens, QB (Jets)

KEY LOSSES: Albert Haynesworth, DT; Donovan McNabb, QB; Carlos Rogers, CB; Casey Rabach, C; Maake Kemoeatu, DT; Phillip Daniels, DE; Jeremy Jarmon, DT; Vonnie Holiday, DE

Given their draft, trading defensive end Vonnie Holliday for Tim Hightower was a move that could pay dividends for Mike Shanahan

Mike Shanahan got younger in the front four completely rebuilding it this offseason.  He addressed this need with the first two rounds of the draft and then went out in free agency and signed Barry Cofield, and Stephen Bowen who is one of the better young defensive ends in the league.  Re-signing Santana Moss was a necessity and the addition of Stallworth and Gaffney bolsters that receiving corps.  Chris Chester was a really solid pick-up as well to help strengthen a weak offensive line.  I will continue to say that I feel like the McNabb trade was a bad decision for Washington because after passing on Gabbert and trading Donovan, the Redskins are without a QB.  I do like the Tim Hightower trade quite a bit for Washington and between Hightower, Helu, and Torain, Shanahan should find a tandem that he can work with in his famous “running system”.


NEW YORK GIANTS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Prince Amukamara, CB (1-19); Marvin Austin, DT (2-52); Jerrel Jernigan, WR (3-83); James Brewer,  OT (4-117); Greg Jones, ILB (6-185); Tyler Sash, S (6-198); Jacquian Williams, LB (6-202); Da’Rel Scott, RB (7-221)

 

The Giants had to be excited to find a cornerback like Amukamara available to them at pick 19

From a value standpoint, the New York Giants had an excellent draft.  I really did not think that Amukamara would fall past the Detroit Lions at 13 but he fell to the Giants and they were wise to take him.  Marvin Austin should help out that defensive line of theirs.  He fell because he lacks consistency but he has the talent to be an elite defensive tackle.  The two late picks of the Giants that I really like for them is James Brewer in the 4th round who has the skills to be a servicable tackle and could help out their O-Line but I feel that they did not do enough to address their aging offensive line.  Tyler Sash was a good risk to take in the seventh round.  He was a standout safety at the University of Iowa and was a cornerstone of a great defense.  In college he was an aggressive player who was a great tackler and had an ability to get his hands on the ball.  He has some parts of his game he needs to tighten up to play at the pro level but has the potential to do well in that Giants defense.

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Mathias Kiwanuka, DE (Giants); Ahmad Bradshaw, RB (Giants); Ben Patrick, TE (Cardinals); Stacy Andrews, OL (Seahawks); Kevin Boothe, G (Giants); David Baas, C (49ers)

KEY LOSSES: Rocky Bernard, DT; Shaun O’Hara, C; Rich Seubert, G; Shawn Andrews, G; Steve Smith, WR

Re-signing Ahmad Bradshaw was the Giants' no. 1 priority going into the offseason

New York was so cash-strapped going into this season that they really couldn’t do much in free agency.  They were able to re-sign their top two priorities in Ahmad Bradshaw and Mathias Kiwanuka.  The Giants already had offensive line issues and now have lost Shaun O’Hara, Rich Seubert, and Shawn Andrews.  I do believe that David Baas is an upgrade for them over the aging O’Hara and I like the addition of Stacy Andrews but I feel this line has a long ways to go.  I do see the Steve Smith loss really hurting this team because, if nothing else, he took pressure off of Hakeem Nicks.  Overall the Giants were able to replace what they lost which still leaves the Giants looking pretty average in a much improved NFC.

DALLAS COWBOYS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Tyron Smith, OT (1-9); Bruce Carter, OLB (2-40); DeMarco Murray, RB (3-71); David Arkin, G (4-110); Josh Thomas, CB (5-143); Dwayne Harris, WR (6-176); Shaun Chapas, FB (7-220); Bill Nagy, C (7-252)

 

Some say Smith was taken too early but if he plays well, you can never take a Pro Bowl OT too high

A lot of people criticized Dallas for not trading out of their pick to try and get more value at the offensive tackle position but the Cowboys got the man they wanted in Tyron Smith and 9th overall and I believe he was a perfect pick for the Cowboys.  I believed that the Cowboys needed to fix their offensive line issues and so the fact that they waited until the 4th round to continue to do that was confusing.  The Cowboys also should have addressed the cornerback position earlier.  Given the departure of Marion Barber, the DeMarco Murray pick makes sense in the 3rd round.  The best value pick here was Dwayne Harris who is a small, speedy receiver with great hands that should do nicely in the slot for the Cowboys offense and provide a great target for Tony Romo.

 

 

 

 

 

FREE AGENTS

KEY ADDITIONS: Jason Garrett, Head Coach (Cowboys’ Offensive Coordinator); Doug Free, OT (Cowboys); Kyle Kosier, G (Cowboys); Marcus Spears, DE (Cowboys); Jason Hatcher, DE (Cowboys); Gerald Sensabaugh, S (Cowboys); Abram Elam, S (Browns)

KEY LOSSES: Marion Barber, RB; Roy Williams, WR; Leonard Davis, G; Marc Colombo, OT

The best offseason move the Cowboys made was removing the interim tag from Jason Garrett's title.

The Cowboys had a down year last year in a season where many had them pegged to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.   With Tony Romo healthy again and a new head coach, this is a team that hopes to bounce back in a serious way.  Jason Garrett was the only man for the job and as one of the hottest head coaching candidates available, the Cowboys were smart to hang on to him before he left to go elsewhere.  Then Garrett turned around and brought in one of the best defensive minds in the game in Rob Ryan to help that Cowboys defense regain old form. Like the Giants, the Cowboys were limited by their cap situation but that did not stop them from re-signing most of their important players.  Roy Williams was going to be gone regardless and the Cowboys are sold on the future of Felix Jones and Tashard Choice (along with DeMarco Murray) in that backfield.  Sensabaugh is a good safety but the addition of Elam at that position was a great move by Dallas.  The loss of Marc Colombo does hurt, but Tyron Smith should prove to be an upgrade at the position.


When I look at the landscape of the NFC East, it’s kind of a mixed bag.  A strong Philadelphia Eagles team drastically improved almost overnight.  The Redskins have gotten stronger at some positions and weaker at others.  The New York Giants look like a team that will once again, just miss a wildcard spot, and the Dallas Cowboys didn’t do much but they did fire their head coach and they do get their Pro Bowl quarterback back in the fold which should make a huge difference.  As always, this is going to be a fun division to watch. 

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ‘em!