Dallas Cowboys: 2015 Record: 4-12
2016 Projected Record: 9-7
Key Additions: Ezekiel Elliott (draft), Dak Prescott (draft)
Key Losses: Not really anyone
The Cowboys were excited to get Tony Romo back this year after he was hurt for the majority of the 2015 season. Unfortunately for the Cowboys Romo injured his back in the preseason & will most likely miss at least 6-8 games. Good thing for Dallas the guy who’s replacing Romo looked pretty good in the preseason. Dak Prescott played very well in the preseason throwing for 454 yards, 5 TDs & no INTs. I know it’s preseason but regardless that’s a pretty impressive stat line. If Dak Prescott plays well I don’t know if we’ll see Romo play again.
The Cowboys also drafted their future star RB in Ezekiel Elliott. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen someone run over Kam Chancellor but Ezekiel Elliott did it 2 times in the preseason. Ezekiel Elliott is definitely at the top of my list of guys who could win offensive rookie of the year. Behind the Cowboys offensive line Elliott could possibly rush for 1,500+ yards in his rookie year & I believe he could end up having a 2,000 yard season behind this line. The Cowboys are also excited to get Dez Bryant back from injury after being hurt the majority of 2015.
The defensive line of the Cowboys is very unproven. The ends are Jack Crawford & Benson Mayowa while the DTs are Tyrone Crawford & Terrell McClain. The Cowboys have a few suspensions that could hurt their pass rush. Demarcus Lawrence is suspended the first 4 games & so is 2nd year linebacker Randy Gregory. The Cowboy also have Rolando McClain who is suspended the first 10 games of this season. Cowboys are hoping Sean Lee can stay healthy because he’s had injury problems but when he’s been on the field he’s one of the best linebackers in the NFL.
The secondary of the Cowboys is pretty average. The Cowboys are happy to get Orlando Scandrick back from injury after being hurt in the 2015 season. Scandrick will be playing alongside Brandon Carr & Morris Claiborne at corner. Carr & Claiborne both had 0 INTs in 2015 while Scandrick was out so hopefully we see an improvement from them. The safeties are Barry Church & Byron Jones who is in his 2nd year. Jones was yet another Cowboys player that didn’t get an INT in 2015. There’s a lot of questions with this Cowboys but I oddly think this team will win division. I feel confident that Prescott will play very well & it’s definitely makes it easier on him with that offensive line, Ezekiel Elliott & Dez Bryant.
New York Giants: 2015 Record: 6-10
2016 Projected Record: 7-9
Key Additions: Janoris Jenkins, Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison
Key Losses: Jon Beason, Will Beatty, Geoff Schwartz
The Giants will still have Eli Manning as their starting QB. The Giants have the most experience at QB in the NFC East that’s for sure. The good thing for the Giants is that Eli Manning has yet to miss a start since being drafted in 2004. Manning had his best year in 2015 with 4,432 yards & 35 TDs. With the return of Victor Cruz & drafting Sterling Shepard hopefully the Giants can get some help for Odell Beckham Jr.
The running game for the Giants is one of their weaknesses. In 2015 Rashad Jennings only had 863 yards & 3 TDs. Jennings is now on the wrong side of 30 years old & he’s not Adrian Peterson so I don’t see him having a breakout year at 31. The Giants have one of the best WRs in the NFL with Odell Beckham Jr. but they’re hoping they get him some help with Victor Cruz & Sterling Shepard. Victor Cruz only played a few games in 2014 & has been out with injury until now. The Giants drafted Shepard in the 2nd round in hopes he can become a great WR alongside Beckham Jr.
The defensive line is much improved on paper with the additions of Olivier Vernon & Damon Harrison. The defensive ends will be Vernon & Jason Pierre-Paul. Pierre-Paul only had 1 sack last year after injuring his hand with fireworks. Damon Harrison has been a good run stopper at DT. Harrison had 72 tackles in 2015. The other DT is Johnathan Hankins. The linebacking corp of the Giants is an alright group with Devon Kennard, Kelvin Sheppard & Jonathan Casillas. Sheppard in 2015 with the Dolphins had 105 tackles.
The secondary is also much improved on paper. The CBs are Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, & either Eli Apple or Leon Hall at nickel corner. Jenkins was a turnover machine for the Rams having 10 INTs & 5 TDs in 4 years. The safeties of the Giants will be Landon Collins & Nat Berhe. Collins is going into his 2nd year after having a solid rookie year with 112 tackles & 1 INT in 2015. Berhe on the other hand will be starting his 1st game in 2015. There’s no doubt the offense of the Giants is pretty talented but I don’t know if their defense can match their offense & I believe the Giants will miss the playoffs yet again.
Philadelphia Eagles: 2015 Record: 7-9
2016 Projected Record: 6-10
Key Additions: Carson Wentz (draft), Rodney McCleod, Leodis McKelvin
Key Losses: Sam Bradford, Demarco Murray
The Eagles were never fully committed to Sam Bradford being their starting QB so they drafted Carson Wentz at the 2nd overall pick. And then the Eagles recently traded Bradford to the Vikings & have announced Wentz as their starting QB moving forward. Wentz looked average in the preseason & also got hurt. It’s unknown if Wentz is ready to start but Eagles feel confident in him being the starter so we’ll find out sooner rather than later.
The Eagles lost Demarco Murray in free agency so are now starting Ryan Mathews. Mathews is a pretty good RB if he’s healthy but he’s rarely healthy. In 2015 Mathews had 539 yards & 6 TDs as a backup. The Eagles still have Darren Sproles as a receiving threat so that helps their rookie QB. Sproles had 317 yards & 3 TDs rushing in 2015 while also having 55 catches for 388 yards & 1 TD too. The Eagle recently traded for Dorial Green-Beckham to add to their receivers of Jordan Matthews & Nelson Agholor. Matthews has been a very solid WR in his first 2 years. In 2015 he had 85 catches for 997 yards & 8 TDs.
The defensive line is definitely the strong point of the Eagles. The ends are Brandon Graham & Connor Barwin. Barwin has consistently been a solid pass rusher. The defensive tackles are Fletcher Cox & Bennie Logan. Cox has become one of the best DTs in the NFL. In 2015 Cox had 71 tackles & 9.5 sacks. The linebackers are pretty solid for the Eagles with Nigel Bradham, Jordan Hicks & Mychal Kendricks. Kendricks is one of the fastest linebackers you’ll see in the league.
The secondary of the Eagles is average. The corners are Leodis McKelvin & Nolan Carroll. Carroll had an alright year in 2015 with 57 tackles, 2 INTs & 1 TD. The safeties are Rodney McCleod & Malcolm Jenkins. McCleod has been a very solid safety since starting in 2013. Jenkins has always been a good safety having 109 tackles, 2 INTs & 1 TD. The Eagles have some talented players but I’m not too sure about Wentz being the starting QB already but we’ll have to see but if he plays how I expect him to I see a 5-11/6-10 season.
Washington Redskins: 2015 Record: 9-7
2016 Projected Record 8-8
Key Additions: Josh Norman, Josh Doctson
Key Losses: Jason Hatcher, Alfred Morris, Dashon Goldson
The Redskins are hoping Kirk Cousins can repeat what he did in the 2nd half of the season & be consistent. Cousins had a pretty good year in 2015 with 4,166 yards, 29 TDs & 11 INTs. Some people are still questioning why Redskins haven’t signed him long term but I think there’s one looming stat that blows my mind: in his 25 career starts he has yet to beat a winning team or a team above .500. That’s crazy to me & it doesn’t help when in those 25 starts he is 11-14 so I see why Redskins aren’t ready just yet to commit to him long term.
The Redskins will have to find a running game to replace Alfred Morris who’s been the workhorse for the Redskins the past few years. The Redskins are hoping that guy is Matt Jones. Jones in 2015 had 490 yards & 3 TDs rushing while he also caught 19 catches for 304 yards & 1 TD. The Redskins still have Desean Jackson & Pierre Garcon at WR which is still a pretty good duo. Jackson & Garcon are both speedy guys while Jackson is more of the “throw him the ball & let him make a play” type of player.
The Redskins defensive line is definitely a huge question mark for their team. The ends are Ziggy Hood & Chris Baker. It seems like Ziggy Hood hasn’t been a viable starter since leaving the Steelers. The DT for the Redskins is Kedric Golston who has been with the Redskins for 11 years but has mostly been a rotational guy but will start this year. The linebacker group is a pretty good one for the Redskins with Preston Smith, Will Compton, Mason Foster, & of course Ryan Kerrigan. Smith in his rookie year last year had 8 sacks so he can possibly be a great guy to pair with Ryan Kerrigan who’s been one of the most underrated pass rushers in the league.
The secondary is also a pretty strong group (on paper of course). With the addition of Josh Norman the corners are him & Bashaud Breeland. Breeland had a solid year in 2015 with 81 tackles & 2 INTs while Norman had his best year with 56 tackles, 4 INTs & 2 TDs. The safeties are David Bruton & Deangelo Hall. Hall of course is switching from CB to FS which is what older guys usually do because it’s a little easier to play safety than corner in the NFL. The Redskins have too many questions even with Kirk Cousins because it’s not a guarantee he plays like last year so for me they finish at .500.
Final Prediction: Dallas wins the division at 9-7. The NFC East is the best competitive/non-competitive division in the NFL (if that makes sense). In conclusion this division isn’t very good.
This concludes my series of articles of previewing each division & team now happy football season to everybody!
I will be making an article each week during the season breaking down each game & what happened so be on the lookout for that. Thank you for all the support on my first few articles I appreciate it!
I was wrong about Leighton Vander Esch
On Thursday, April 26, 2018, I sat inside my friend’s dorm in Commerce, TX, and stared anxiously at his television while the NFL Draft played.
Every year since 2014, Draft Day has been a holiday of sorts for me. I request the day off from my job, find a couple of friends, get some food together and enjoy watching 32 NFL franchises attempt to build the future of their team.
The Dallas Cowboys had just come off a disappointing 9-7 season that had fans and analysts across the country pushing for the firing of head coach Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
America’s Team held the 19th overall pick in the first round. Several names flew through my head as I thought about which rookie I wanted to don the Star in 2018: Vita Vea, Derwin James, Calvin Ridley and Harold Landry just to name a few.
These players all filled glaring needs for the Cowboys. Vea and Landry would cement the defensive line that had seen major improvements in 2017. Derwin James would allow Byron Jones to move back to cornerback and would give new defensive backs coach Kris Richard an amazing slew of talent to use. Calvin Ridley would give the offense a tall, powerful receiver that could learn alongside Dez – prior to his eventual release from the team over the summer.
Vea and James both went before Dallas was on the clock, leading to those of us in the room to argue over whether Ridley or Landry would get their name called. I was pulling for Landry, as I knew he was one of the best defensive talents in the game and our offense would be fine without a cat like Ridley.
One name did not come to mind, however, and that was the name that was announced by Roger Goodell.
“With the 19th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys select Leighton Vander Esch, linebacker, Boise State,” Goodell said.
First, there was shock. Then, there was disgust. Finally, there was sadness. Over the course of the next hour, I ignored the television and instead went to Twitter to let everyone know how upset I was.
I wasn’t alone, either. Most Cowboys writers, fans and analysts were upset with the pick. It seemed like a stretch.
Surely Vander Esch could’ve been drafted at a lower spot, right? What if they traded back a few spots and grabbed another second rounder? This was the third year in a row I was disappointed with Dallas’ first-round draft pick.
I didn’t like the Ezekiel Elliott pick at the time, but he proved me wrong very quickly, leading the Cowboys to a 13-3 regular season record alongside fellow rookie Dak Prescott.
I still don’t like the Taco Charlton pick. His production has been disgustingly low for a first-round draft pick, tallying four sacks, 25 tackles and a forced fumble in 24 games.
And now Leighton.
I didn’t want to blindly hate the guy, so I went to watch some film, and I found one glaring constant – he played softly. He couldn’t get off blocks, and if he did, he got trucked by the ball carrier. Exactly what the Cowboys needed: another soft defender.
I was unhappy about the pick for the next 5 months. When the season came around, he didn’t start, which I expected as much. Vander Esch’s first start came in Week 4 against the Detroit Lions. The Cowboys were 1-2 heading into the game and were without starting linebacker Sean Lee.
Prior to this game, Dallas was 1-7 in the past three years when playing without defensive captain Lee. That’s how big of an impact he has on this defense. Vander Esch’s six-tackle stat line wasn’t jaw-dropping, but it got the job done. The Cowboys won the game 26-24 and improved to .500 on the season.
In the following week’s loss to the Houston Texans, Vander Esch led the team in tackles with 14. This caught my eye. In Dallas’ second straight game without Lee, Vander Esch balled out.
Through the Washington Redskins game on Thanksgiving, Vander Esch has tallied 93 total tackles, two interceptions with 56 return yards, six pass deflections and two stuffs. He currently leads the Cowboys in tackles, 15 ahead of fellow linebacker Jaylon Smith. He is the NFL’s leader in solo tackles with 72. According to @BobbyBeltTX on Twitter, Vander Esch has only played 73.6% of Dallas’ snaps, making this even more impressive.
He is tied for the lead with safety Xavier Woods in interceptions AS A LINEBACKER. His two interceptions lead safety Jeff Heath, cornerback Anthony Brown and defensive lineman Demarcus Lawrence.
But, the stat lines don’t reflect just how well Vander Esch has played this season. His ability to recognize the play, change directions and make the tackle in open space is incredible. He’s much more powerful than his college film showed, stopping offensive players running full speed in their tracks.
Vander Esch has the potential to be the next General Lee, but hopefully with better hamstring and ACL health. If he can stay on the field, Vander Esch could be the best player wearing the Star for years to come.
So, this is my official statement on the matter.
I was wrong about Leighton Vander Esch.
Troy Aikman Rips Cowboys Organization, Calls for Overhaul of Organization
Former Dallas Cowboys signal caller, Hall of Famer, and current color commentator Troy Aikman has seen enough of the Cowboys ineptitude following Monday night’s embarrassing loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Aikman, who won 3 Super Bowl titles with the Cowboys, is calling for a major organizational overhaul in order to get things right.
“Go through the list and this team, over a long period of time, has been what it’s been,” Aikman said Tuesday on 1310 The Ticket, according to ESPN’s Todd Archer. “It hasn’t always mattered who the head coach has been. So to me, if you’re asking me, I’d say there has to be a complete overhaul of the entire organization.”
Aikman is probably like a lot of fans, and even analysts, who believe that changes are needed in Dallas, particularly along the sidelines that head coach Jason Garrett currently roams.
Change beyond that seems unlikely as Jerry Jones still rules supreme and has since the late 1980s.
Cowboys Cut Dan Bailey From Team
Over the weekend, when teams are finalizing their 53-man roster, the Dallas Cowboys makes Cowboys fans say… why? Why did you cut Dan Bailey?
Eight-year veteran kicker out of Oklahoma State Dan Bailey was released from the Dallas Cowboys. When Bailey arrived in 2011 as an undrafted free-agent, he became the highest scoring Cowboys player in multiple games. Also, during those six seasons, he has made at least 95 percent of his kicks becoming the second most accurate kicker in the NFL.
In 2017 during the San Francisco 49ers game, Bailey injured his groin and had to miss four games. When he returned he would miss at least one kick dropping his accuracy to about 70 percent.
During the 2018 off-season, the Cowboys cautiously signed Kicker Brett Maher. Maher kicked for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Ottawa Redblacks from 2014-2017. Since he is the only kicker on the roster, he is expected to start in week 1 when the Cowboys travel to Charlotte, NC to battle against the Carolina Panthers.
Now that Bailey is on the market and has cleared waivers, he is on the free-agent market. With that, he is expected to work out with the New York Jets this week.
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