Without further ado, offseason grades for the NFC East
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)
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.
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
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.
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)
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.
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
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
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)
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.
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
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.
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)
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.
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 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.