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Division Links: Lots of focus on roster concerns, inconsistency and disappointments (with a dash of excitement) this week

Blogging the Boys

Three Cowboys that may disappoint you in 2021

LB, Leighton Vander Esch

When Vander Esch was on the field last season, his performance was up and down. The former first-round pick had a 50.6 defensive grade from Pro Football Focus, the lowest mark of his career. In just 10 games he missed 10 tackles and recorded just 24 defensive stops, according to PFF. In his rookie year in 2018, Vander Esch had a team-leading 62 defensive stops.

Vander Esch’s inability to stay on the field and find consistent success while on it contributed to the Cowboys deciding not to pick up his fifth-year option ($9.1M) back in May. This was shortly after the Cowboys spent two picks on linebackers, Micah Parsons (first round) and Jabril Cox (fourth round) in the 2021 NFL Draft.

OT, Tyron Smith

Let me make this clear. If Tyron Smith is healthy and on the field, he’s a top-five tackle in the league. There’s no question about it. Unfortunately for Smith, staying on the field has become a big problem in recent years.

The star left tackle was once again bitten by the injury bug last season, and he was forced to miss 14 of the Cowboys’ 16 games. Smith has now missed at least three games in every season since 2016. Over that five-year span, the Cowboys are a .500 team (13-13) when he’s been unable to suit up.

CB, Kelvin Joseph

The Cowboys made an outstanding selection taking Kentucky cornerback Kelvin Joseph in the second round. Joseph was one of the most physically talented corners in the draft and has the potential to be a number one corner at the next level. That being said, don’t expect him to come in and be successful from day one.

Joseph’s rookie year will likely look a lot like Trevon Diggs’ did last season. Diggs struggled in his first six games, allowing 25 receptions for 385 yards and two touchdowns. His average PFF coverage grade for the first six games was just 50.7.


Bleeding Green Nation

Eagles wide receiver corps features DeVonta Smith excitement, Jalen Reagor concerns

DEVONTA SMITH

So friggin’ excited to watch this guy dominate in camp before thriving in the regular season. Seriously, DeVonta has the potential to be pretty darn good from the jump. Not crazy to think he could be the best Eagles rookie receiver ever. He’s just so talented; there isn’t really a major weakness to his game. But what about his size?! You mean, the same size that hasn’t limited him in any meaningful way thus far? Yeah, not sweating that. Smith is easily the Eagles’ best receiver and should be their primary volume target. A trusty weapon for Jalen Hurts to work with now that the Alabama alumni are reunited.

JALEN REAGOR

A lot of excuses have been made for Reagor’s poor rookie season. Injury issues, bad coaching, bad player development, bad quarterback play, etc. And there’s some legitimacy to some of those points.

But one shouldn’t merely assume Reagor will be totally fine moving forward. There were real concerns about him coming out of TCU (many of which were also too easily excused) that were also apparent in the NFL last year. Look at this Michael Kist blurb from April 2020:

“His 2019 tape does raise some concerns even when taking into account the abysmal quarterback play. Reagor didn’t seem committed to selling decoy routes, blocking, or squeezing every yard out of his opportunities after the catch. That last concern comes up in the analytics, as his YAC average dropped considerably over the last three years (7.8 > 5.9 > 3.8) and he only broke a total of 5 tackles in ‘19. You can explain some of that away by arguing poor placement, but too many times Reagor was in self-preservation mode and sought out the sidelines.”

Sure sounds familiar.

Further, Reagor’s struggles are troubling when placed in a historical context. Not the best company to be keeping:


Big Blue View

Giants 2021 roster profile: WR Darius Slayton had inconsistent sophomore season

Slayton had a rough 2020 in many ways. His yards receiving per game dropped from 52.9 to 46.9. His catch percentage dropped from 57.1 to 52.1. His yards per target dropped from 8.8 to 7.8. His drops rose from two to six, with his drop percentage rising from 2.4 to 6.3. His passer rating when targeted dropped 98.3 to 79.8.

If there is a single player on the New York Giants roster other than quarterback Daniel Jones who stands to benefit greatly from the signing of Kenny Golladay it could be wide receiver Darius Slayton.

That is because Golladay, not Slayton, should generally be matched up with the opposing teams’s best cornerback. In zone coverages, if teams are going to roll their secondary toward a particular Giant receiver that figures to usually be Golladay.

That should help Slayton be more productive in his third NFL season.