The Eagles had a dynamic offense last year. Can they repeat that? One thing that will help them is facing the mediocre to awful defenses of the NFC East.
Mike Tanier put together a rating system for the best front sevens in football. Two of the worst groups in the league belong to the NFC East.
29. New York Giants
Losing Linval Joseph and Justin Tuck is going to hurt. Joseph was a mountainous presence inside, and while Tuck’s competitive fire was starting to look like the barbecue pit after a long weekend, he could still ramp it up and dominate in short stretches. Youngsters Johnathan Hankins and Damontre Moore hope to step up, and Robert Ayers provides some depth as a rotation defender, but that is not a fair exchange, at least this year. Jason Pierre-Paul is either a Comeback Player of the Year candidate or vaporware.
The Giants line has gotten younger, but the linebackers have gotten older. The plucky late-round and free agent rookies of the 2011 Super Bowl run are still here — Spencer Paysinger, Mark Herzlich, Jacquian Williams — and they still would look much better as a special teams brigade than as regular contributors (though Paysinger has become a decent run defender). Jon Beason is back after his 2013 rebirth, while Jameel McClain arrives to test the theory that if your idea to improve your defense involves someone from the 2012 Ravens, you need a much better idea.
The Giants defense recorded just 33 sacks last year, 14 of them from linemen who are now gone. Most of the team’s rebuilding resources went to the offense. Maybe Hankins and Moore will pay dividends in a year or two, but they will need additional reinforcements, particularly at linebacker.
32. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys lost DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and (in the saddest, most ridiculous minicamp story of the year) Sean Lee from a defense that allowed 2,056 rushing yards and recorded just 36 sacks last year. Henry Melton arrives as a younger, more system-suited replacement for Hatcher, but everything else is a shambles. Bruce Carter, Justin Durant and DeVonte Holloman form the most anonymous linebacker corps in the league, and only Carter has any significant starting experience. Anthony Spencer may start the season on the PUP list as he battles back from microfracture surgery on his knee. And of course, the Cowboys are so cap-stressed that they wouldn’t be able to sign a veteran reinforcement, even if one becomes available this late in the offseason.
The wisest thing the Cowboys could do is insert rookies Demarcus Lawrence and Anthony Hitchens into the rotation quickly and let them learn on the job. The Cowboys did not get into this predicament by doing the wise thing. But they are so thin and talent-poor that they may not have a choice.
As for the Eagles…they didn’t get mentioned. Only the best and worst teams got covered. My guess is that they would have been middle of the pack (15 to 20).
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Sounds like Jerry Jones was just dying to pick Johnny Football. And life is never boring for DeSean Jackson.