Blogging the Boys
Some question how much Dak Prescott can lift the team, or think Mike McCarthy is really on a hot seat. Others look at some of the players and see tremendous potential. That is certainly a positive sign. Here are some who are getting a lot of pre-training camp buzz.
Before he was injured, he was on a record-breaking pace throwing the football. While the debate about the Cowboys’ record in those games remains, others see him poised to make a triumphant return behind center. Some predictions about the MVP race have him as one of the top contenders, such as a recent one from ESPN. Bill Barnwell looked at just about every possible contender, and had Prescott in his group of established, effective starting quarterbacks.
Additionally, the oddsmakers in Vegas have him as the leading contender for comeback player of the year. That bodes well for the team’s chances as a whole. The offense is expected to be the real strength of the Cowboys, and Prescott is the obvious engine that drives it.
Like Prescott, Lamb is getting multiple favorable reviews. First up is the one from Bleacher Report, which named just one player from each position group in the league that was poised for stardom this year. This is their logic for selecting him.
Dallas Cowboys wideout CeeDee Lamb was electric as a rookie last year. The Oklahoma product caught 74 passes for 935 yards and five touchdowns despite playing the bulk of the season without starting quarterback Dak Prescott.
Lamb also returned 14 punts for 172 yards and had a kickoff return for a touchdown. When targeted on offense, he helped provide a quarterback rating of 100.2.
If the bracelet Lamb wore during offseason workouts is any indication, the second-year receiver has even more entertainment in store. According to ESPN’s Todd Archer, it read, “Get your popcorn ready.”
For a change, almost all the pre-camp buzz about the team’s star running back has been about his training regimen and how good he looks. After struggling through COVID in 2020, Elliott signed on with highly respected private RB coach and former player Josh Hicks. It certainly seems to be paying off.
Gregory has not only shown tremendous potential when on the field, his perseverance and hard work in overcoming his off-field and mental health issues is very admirable. Now he has a chance to show the NFL just what he can do when given a chance.
On paper, that is a lot of star power looking to shine for Dallas. For a long time, there has been a tendency, especially within certain parts of the staff named Jerry Jones, to overstate the talent of the Cowboys’ roster. This time, the high expectations are coming from outside the Star. That is a good thing, and we hope these writers and analysts have it exactly right.
Bleeding Green Nation
I’m actually going to go with Miles Sanders as my pick. By no means am I “out” on the Eagles’ third-year running back. I just think the perception of him tends to be greater than the reality. Sanders was an explosive runner last season with 5.6 yards per carry. But his struggles as a pass catcher and pass protector were troubling. Sanders’ fumble rate (1 for every 48 touches) was the worst in the league among qualified running backs. Sanders admitted his struggles after the season so there’s reason to believe the 24-year-old will be working hard to bounce back.
(Side note: There are those — including Wikipedia editors — who claim Sanders is a Pro Bowl running back. False. He made the virtual Pro Bowl last season via the “Madden 21 Video Game Numbers Challenge.”)
This was an easy pick for me: Darius Slay.
Before going any further, I feel the need to add a disclaimer here. “Overrated” does NOT necessarily mean “bad.” I am NOT saying Slay sucks. I am saying I’m not quite sure he’s as good as he’s rated to be.
Admittedly, Slay prevented the 2020 Eagles from being absolutely murdered by No. 1 wide receivers on a weekly basis like the 2019 Eagles were. But I’m missing how he was anything resembling an elite corner last year. We all saw how D.K. Metcalf and Davante Adams ate his lunch. Slay finished his first season in Philly with just one interception, six passes defensed, and a 111.9 passer rating allowed when targeted. He certainly didn’t do anything to transform the team’s pass defense, which actually ranked worse in 2020 than it did in 2019 (in terms of both DVOA and opponent yards per pass attempt).
And it’s not just like it was “one down year.” Pro Football Focus had Slay graded 64th out of 84 corners in 2019 before finishing 42nd out of 80 in 2020. Perhaps Jonathan Gannon, who helped revive Xavier Rhodes’ career, can get Slay back on track. But it’s not like cornerbacks age gracefully and Slay turns 31 in January.
Going to keep this one short since I’m sure there will be unanimous agreement: Nick Foles.
The Eagles’ only Super Bowl MVP! We’ll all love him for eternity.
But the idea of him as a long-term franchise quarterback? He was overrated in that capacity. His shortcomings elsewhere — leading him to get benched for the likes of Mitchell Trubisky, Gardner Minshew, and Case Keenum — have proven as much.
“But he just plays better in Philly!”
He sure has. And that’s why he’s forever a hero in this city! But there were also legitimate reasons the Eagles showed him the door...twice.
Big Blue View
Players: Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz, Richard Rodgers
At this point, Zach Ertz is still one the Eagles’ roster though he is likely on the way out soon. Dallas Goedert is an explosive backup plan, receiving a No. 5 overall ranking from Pro Football Focus. Goedert is the only tight end in the NFL with receiving and run-blocking grades of 80.0 or higher since 2018, per PFF. The Eagles also elected to bring back veteran Richard Rodgers on a minimum contract and he is a viable No. 2 option behind Goedert if Ertz doesn’t return to Philadelphia.
Players: Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, Kaden Smith, Levine Toilolo
In New York, the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to Evan Engram are the drops. His 25 drops in four years are two more than any other tight end in the league over that same span. Engram also posted the lowest PFF grade of his career last season at 60.5 and averaged a career-low 1.28 receiving yards.
One player the Giants added this offseason was Kyle Rudolph from the Minnesota Vikings. At 31 years old, Rudolph is a little past his prime but the Giants are hoping that he has enough left to make an impact this season. In 12 games last year, Rudolph recorded just 28 catches for 334 yards.
Players: Logan Thomas, Deon Yelder, John Bates
Logan Thomas was a pleasant surprise for Washington last season. The quarterback-turned-tight end bounced around for the first few years of his career, but came into his own in Washington in 2020. Thomas caught more than twice as many passes last season, 72, than the rest of his career combined, for 670 yards and six touchdowns. He was the only tight end in the NFL to play over 1,000 regular-season snaps last year, highlighting both his production and value.
While Thomas will be Washington’s no-doubt No. 1 player at the position, he will likely get less receptions next season due to the addition of receivers like Curtis Samuel and Dyami Brown this offseason. But he will still lead the tight end group as the next two players likely to make the team are Deon Yelder and John Bates. Yelder started just two games in his three seasons in Kansas City and Bates was a fourth-round pick out of Boise State.
Players: Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, Jeremy Sprinkle
Dalton Schultz, a fourth-round pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, stepped up in a big way last season in the absence of Blake Jarwin, who suffered from a torn ACL early in the year. Schultz recorded 63 catches for 615 yards and four touchdowns.
If Jarwin can return to top form, the Cowboys would be in good shape because Jarwin had the best season his his career in 2019 in which he recorded 31 catches for 365 yards and three touchdowns.