1. Feels like a holiday Monday today, doesn't it? Even the #5OCC had the day off! (The rest of the week has been pre-scheduled.) With the football calendar getting into full swing, every day feels like a holiday. We have plenty to celebrate and be thankful for, but let's go good news/bad news today, to keep our feet firmly on the ground.
2. Good News: While we will never escape--not from now until the end of the 2016 season--the Kirk Cousins contract issue, it doesn't have to be as soul-numbing as I originally thought. To me, the two guys who are already doing the best jobs possible to contain and actually quiet this topic are Jay Gruden and of course Kirk Cousins himself. I know we could all just agree to shelve the discussion for a few months. We are, after all, experts in burying our head in the sand. How else do you explain the excitement over Trung Canidate? Jay Gruden has advanced the narrative that says if Kirk has a good year, he is here for life--in his own words. As for Captain Kirk, he is doing what you want one of your best players to do: he is going to work and letting his play do the talking. On one hand, that is pretty much the hand he has been dealt. On the other hand, the manner in which he deftly dodges the contract talk adds a layer of complexity to his job that could make his great season look even better! It's a good news day, Jim!
3. Bad News: Josh "Doc" Doctson is the worst doctor on the team. Weeks and weeks of rest and physical therapy have not allowed him to open camp on the field. His health at this point is...ummmm...kind of a red flag. (It makes you want to punch a wall.) While it is still a distinct possibility that we will see Doc get on the field this season and make a huge difference in games, that possibility shrinks with every day the rookie can't participate in his FIRST day of professional training camp. I know plenty of people that are smarter than me (a demographic that grows by the second) will try and reassure me that today's elite athletes don't need training camp and that Doctson is a polished receiver who can gain immensely from "mental reps." If it's all the same to you, I prefer to freak out when our number one draft pick can't participate in training camp. I do think we will need him this season and if he can't go, it is a huge loss to our offense. That opinion likely puts me in the minority, but I absolutely think he has to be a factor for our offense this year. Until he is cleared to play every day, I will be breathing into a paper bag.
4. Good News: Su'a Cravens looks like the beast we all thought he could be once we turned our full attention to his body of work after the draft. I do think the loss of Galette impacts his role--at least in certain situations. His hands are as good as advertised. While we won't know for sure until September, his game speed and nose for the ball seem to be beyond rookie levels. I have him as a 4/4 defender (four sacks, four interceptions), which as I said last week, is something only one guy did last season: Thomas Davis. In case you didn't know, Davis also came into the league as a bit of a safety/linebacker hybrid. He has settled into a role in the linebacking corps, but if you watch him play (he is fun to watch), you can still see his safety instincts. Davis is a classy pro, so it is unfair to compare Cravens to him at this point, but those are my hopes and expectations. I think you could call those hopes and expectations optimistic, but to me, the difference maker there is that Scot "McLovin" McCloughan drafted him. In the second round. He is expected to play, and at a high level, by the man we all trust to know such things.
5. Bad News: Looking around the division, I wanted to say one good thing about a team or player that we should have on our radar. That good thing is our bad news. I welcome the dissent, but I will repeat something I have said before and it gives me no pleasure to do so: Carson Wentz is a very, very good football player. The last place I wanted to see him end up was Philadelphia, because I very much wanted to be able to root for him and now I can't do that. I am pretty sure that Sam Bradford should beat him out to start the season, but only Tony Romo has a better chance of getting hurt during the season. The chances of seeing Wentz in 2016 are...high. I believe that once he takes the job, he won't relinquish it. Since I won't allow the Eagles to have the upper hand, let me just say that the dawn of the Wentz era comes at the same time as the dawn of the Breeland/Norman/Fuller/(Cravens) era. Nice try, Philly.
6. Good News:
Please continue sleeping on Jamison Crowder.
Listen--I am all in on our slot guy. I have a sizable bet with The Audible's Kevin Ricca that he will net 27 targets over the first three weeks of the season. (For those who think that is impossible, please recall that would be well in line with the amount of targets he received over a five week stretch after he came on strong against the Eagles in week four last year.) I understand that we have so many weapons, it is hard to imagine one getting this many targets not named Jordan Reed or DeSean Jackson. Hopefully, our running game is so successful that we will not be forced to throw the ball 50 times per game to win. We know that the slot receiver garners just under 20% of the targets in today's NFL passing game (here is one look at this over at numberFire that could help inform your fantasy draft). At 40 attempts per game, that's eight targets to the slot. So clearly, I am suggesting two things. First, I do see Kirk throwing it more than 40 times per game...more than the six games he did it in last season. I think he will be trusted to be the catalyst of this offense at times, and I would expect our win/loss rate to be higher in 2016 when he throws it over 40 times than it was last year. Second, I see Crowder as a player who will be playing off of both Jordan Reed and Pierre Garcon, causing defenses to make choices. Crowder is going to be getting open in places that Kirk is going to like throwing the ball. Further, Kirk throws a good YAC ball, and Crowder turns into a punt returner when he catches the ball. And on top of all of that, opposing defenses will have to dedicate their top cover guy to DJax, and will almost always have to put their #2 corner on Pierre. They are not going to just let Jordan Reed tap dance his way across the field without a dependable defender on him, leaving Crowder to either beat a defense's fourth-best cover guy, or find a hole in a zone designed to take Reed and DJax away from us. Needless to say, I like my chances.
I told you this is a good news day, Jim!!