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Division Links: Talking about tackles, power rankings and lemonade

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Blogging the Boys

Cowboys’ Stephen Jones making lemonade for training camp

This year, the start of camp also means the start of the Cowboys’ latest appearance on HBO’s Hard Knocks series. Many are not too pleased given how the team’s previous two stints on the popular feature led to unsuccessful seasons. But for key member of the Dallas brain-trust Stephen Jones, it is not a bad thing at all, as he related in an interview with Todd Archer of ESPN.

“All these things leading up to the season are huge, whether it’s minicamps and OTAs, whether it’s training camp, whether it’s ‘Hard Knocks,’ whether it’s preseason games, all the things that go with this, I think is a big part of our game,” Stephen Jones said. “It’s a natural buildup to get our fans fired up about going to our football games. Obviously our world has been through a lot with the pandemic. You can’t just assume you’re going to flip the switch and everything is going to be fine.

“We feel a lot of buildup, including ‘Hard Knocks,’ is a good thing to get people fired up about reconnecting and rolling.”

Yeah, that’s certainly throwing some sugar in the lemon juice. Jones reveals his bottom line thinking with his focus on firing up the fan base. That leads to more ticket sales, moves the merchandise, and gets those eyeballs glued to screens, all of which just coincidentally adds to the revenues.

Camp is supposed to be about getting the team ready and evaluating the players to construct the regular season roster. In Jones’ defense, those things are more the province of the coaching staff.

This is a major year for Mike McCarthy and his coaching staff, as well as for many players such as the ones who could really cash in on new contracts in 2022. Several others are trying to prove that last season was not a true representation of what they can bring to the field.

Besides, what else was he going to say? Complaining about having to deal with the cameras and the tendency to edit things for dramatic effect would just have encouraged similar grousing from the rest of the team. It may not fool anyone, but this is one case where it might be good that Jason Garrett wasn’t the only one who liked a good glass of lemonade at times.

Bleeding Green Nation

ESPN’s NFL future power rankings ranks the Eagles 30th

Outside of a few optimists roaming around the Philadelphia region, most Eagles fans are not overly cheery about the fate of their football franchise as training camp approaches.

That’s understandable. The Eagles are coming off a dreadful 4-11-1 season in which their Super Bowl-winning head coach was fired and their franchise QB cratered, was benched, demanded a trade, was dealt to the Colts and then had his five-story banner ripped down from the stadium he used to call home.

However, ESPN’s yearly three-year power rankings of all 32 NFL teams is less-than-bullish on the franchise’s chances of emerging from the ashes within the next few seasons, ranking the Birds 30th out of 32 squads.

Biggest worry: Lack of philosophical alignment and relationship management between the coaching staff and front office is what sunk this team in recent years, and correcting it will go a long way toward getting this organization back on the path to competing for a Super Bowl. But do the Eagles have the right pieces in place? — Riddick

Ah yes, here’s something to grab on to... the Howie Roseman effect. Roseman is on his fourth head coach, an unheard-of number in the NFL. He probably should have been ousted along with Doug Pederson this off-season, but he’s still here, and there is real and genuine concern that he will be able to coexist with any head coach.

Big Blue View

Do offensive tackles improve over time?

it seems that a majority of Giants fans feel that the answer is “no.” Thomas was terrible in 2020, he’ll be terrible again in 2021. And while we’re at it, our other drafted OT, Matt Peart, was terrible after he came back from COVID-19, and he’s a 3rd round pick anyway, so no way can he be a good starting OT for us.

But is this really true?

I started with PFF’s list of the top 32 OTs entering the 2021 season, so basically the top half of starting OTs in the NFL. Regardless of what you think of PFF, if you look at their list you’ll probably find your favorite OTs on it, so they can’t be too far off the mark. In what follows I leave Penei Sewell (#31) out because he hasn’t played in the NFL yet.

A #4 pick should be an instant star.

Trent Williams, the 2nd highest ranked OT on the list, was Washington’s round 1 #4 pick in 2010. He graded 63.4 as a rookie, with 6 penalties and 11 sacks allowed in 870 snaps. (Thomas: 3 penalties and 10 sacks allowed in 978 snaps.) He’s been in the 70s, 80s, or 90s (yikes!) ever since.

Jake Matthews was drafted with the 6th pick in round 1. He scored 59.7 as a rookie. He’s been in the 70s or 80s ever since.

what are the odds of an OT getting significantly better after his rookie year?

Well, the fact that 12 of the 31 best OTs with NFL experience started out as poor as Thomas and Peart or worse gives us a hint that improvement is not a rare thing. It’s actually very common, among the originally mediocre ones as well as the better ones. Leaving out Sewell, as well as Tristan Wirfs (#6) and Mekhi Becton (#29), who only have one season under their belts, among the other 29 best OTs:

7 have had at least one season 10-14 points better than their rookie season in their first 5 years

5 have had at least one season 15-19 points better than their rookie season in their first 5 years

8 have had at least one season 20 or more points better than their rookie season in their first 5 years

So do offensive tackles improve over time? 7+5+8 = 20 of the 29 top OTs in the league with more than one season of experience say that the answer is yes. Of course this doesn’t mean that Thomas and Peart will have a similar upward arc. It just means that they should be given the chance to become top-flight players, and we shouldn’t be surprised if they do.