Dallas Cowboys: Ryan Kerrigan

Looking at the picks: Rounds 1-3

May, 8, 2014
May 8
9:00
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IRVING, Texas -- After looking at the history of the selections the Dallas Cowboys have in Rounds 4-7 on Wednesday, here is a look at Rounds 1-3.

Click here for the late-round review.

First round (No. 16)
2009 LB Larry English, San Diego
2010 DE Derrick Morgan, Tennessee
2011 LB Ryan Kerrigan
2012 LB Quinton Coples, NY Jets
2013 QB EJ Manuel

Notable: Manuel was something of a surprise pick last year but had some moments as a starter before getting hurt. Morgan’s rookie season was cut short by a knee injury, but he’s recorded 12.5 sacks the past two seasons. Kerrigan is solid. Coples is something of an enigma after his first two seasons but has some pass-rush ability.

Second round (No. 47)
2009 S Mike Mitchell, Oakland
2010 LB Daryl Washington, Arizona
2011 TE Lance Kendricks, St. Louis
2012 LB Bobby Wagner, Seattle
2013 TE Gavin Escobar, Cowboys

Notable: Escobar is the third second-round pick the Cowboys have used at tight end since 2006 and caught just nine passes as a rookie. He needs a huge 2014 season. Wagner was on the Cowboys’ radar in 2012 but the trade up for Morris Claiborne ended that chance. Mitchell was a controversial pick but found a home last year in Carolina and signed a lucrative deal with Pittsburgh in the offseason.

Third round (No. 78)
2009 OL Louis Vasquez, San Diego
2010 WR Brandon LaFell, Carolina
2011 WR Austin Pettis, St. Louis
2012 TE Michael Egnew, Miami
2013 WR Marquise Goodwin, Buffalo

Notable: A track standout at Texas, Goodwin caught 17 passes for 283 yards and three scores last season. Pettis has been a solid backup receiver with 95 catches for 916 yards and eight touchdowns for his career. LaFell signed with New England in the offseason after catching a career-high 49 passes in 2013. Vasquez made his first Pro Bowl last year after signing with Denver.

A look at the 16th, 17th pick

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5
11:05
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys will not know until a coin flip at the NFL scouting combine if they or the Baltimore Ravens will pick 16th or 17th in the first round of the May draft.

The only time the Cowboys used the 16th pick in the draft came in 1961 when they selected E.J. Holub in the second round. They have not taken a player with the 17th overall pick since cornerback Kevin Smith in 1992. Before that? In 1990 they took Emmitt Smith, who is now the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.

What type of player has been available at Nos. 16 and 17? Here’s a look at the past 10 years.

2013 – EJ Manuel, Buffalo; Jarvis Jones, Pittsburgh
2012 – Quinton Coples, New York Jets; Dre Kirkpatrick, Cincinnati
2011 – Ryan Kerrigan, Washington; Nate Solder, New England
2010 – Derrick Morgan, Tennessee; Mike Iupati, San Francisco
2009 – Larry English, San Diego; Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay
2008 – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Arizona; Gosder Cherilus, Detroit
2007 – Justin Harrell, Green Bay; Jarvis Moss, Denver
2006 – Jason Allen, Miami; Chad Greenway, Minnesota
2005 – Travis Johnson, Houston; David Pollack, Cincinnati
2004 – Shawn Andrews, Philadelphia; D.J. Williams, Denver
2003 – Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh; Bryant Johnson, Arizona.

Polamalu is by far the best player selected in either spot. He will be in the Hall of Fame. There are quality players in there like Williams, Greenway, Rodgers-Cromartie, Iupati, Solder and Kerrigan. Andrews had a pretty good short run as well. Kerrigan is solid and has done some good things versus the Cowboys. Coples has showed some pass rush his first two seasons. I expected more from Kirkpatrick, who was on the Cowboys’ radar in 2012.

The Cowboys held the No. 18 pick in 2013 and traded down to No. 31 with the Niners where they took Travis Frederick. They felt they were in a position to trade down and still pick up a quality player. When they saw Eric Reid, Justin Pugh, Kyle Long and Tyler Eifert go off the board in the next four picks they were left sweating it out until they got Frederick.

Cowboys ready for anything from Redskins

December, 20, 2013
12/20/13
2:45
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IRVING, Texas -- In the middle of a six-game losing streak, there is little for the Washington Redskins to play for.

And that could make it more difficult to get ready for the Redskins.

The Cowboys will have to get ready for just about everything from fake punts and kicks to going for it on fourth down. Last week Mike Shanahan elected to go for two after scoring a touchdown with 18 seconds left. The conversion attempt failed and Washington lost to the Atlanta Falcons.

“They’re an aggressive team anyway,” coach Jason Garrett said. “They’re aggressive on offense. They’re certainly aggressive with their defense and their overall approach. That’s an element to this game, there’s no question about that.”

The Redskins would also like nothing more than to possibly ruin the Cowboys’ season. Longtime linebacker London Fletcher is most likely playing his final home game with him being “99.9 percent” sure he will retire after this season.

“They’ve got a lot of proud players,” tight end Jason Witten said. “[Brian] Orakpo is playing, in my mind as good as I’ve seen him play. They have good leadership. I know defensively Fletcher, Orakpo, [Ryan] Kerrigan, they’re going to rally the troops and play well. It’s always a fight in this league and especially when we go against them. I think we anticipate anything or even more because their mentality is 'we’re out of it but we’re going to build on this.' We’ve got to be ready for this fight.”

Cowboys need to handle Redskins' blitz

October, 12, 2013
10/12/13
2:00
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Last December, Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett had the Dallas Cowboys' number.

He dialed up several blitzes involving the strong-side and middle linebackers that threw the Cowboys' offense for a loop.

As a result, Tony Romo had a season-low in completion percentage (54.1), a season low in yards (218) and was intercepted three times. The Redskins had only two sacks, but the pressure was bothersome all night.

“I know how good this defense is,” Romo said. “It’s a great challenge for us. Tough to score points on. We’ve got to be able to do some things that they’re not prepared for. I know they’re going to have new pressure packages. They’re going to be ready to bring it after us. We’re going to hopefully have some things up that will give them some trouble.”

The Cowboys spent a good chunk of the offseason trying to protect Romo better against blitz looks. The biggest change came on the interior of the line, with three new players in Ronald Leary, Travis Frederick and Brian Waters.

The return of Brian Orakpo changes some of the Redskins' defense, but they still expect a lot of pressure from Haslett to slow down a passing game that went off for 506 yards last week.

“You go back a couple of years ago, when the game was on the line, I think it was a third-and-23 and he still brought the house,” tight end Jason Witten said. “That’s the mentality of the way that defense plays. They bring pressure, they have success bringing pressure and they bring pressure with a lot of different guys. It’s not just all [Brian] Orakpo and [Ryan] Kerrigan. They bring it with secondary players and corners. Just stay on top of it and be alert so that you can have answers when they do bring it.”

Eight in the Box: Playing for a contract

June, 1, 2013
6/01/13
11:00
PM ET

NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at a player entering a contract year on each NFC East team who must deliver in 2013.

Dallas Cowboys: Playing on a one-year franchise player deal for the second season in a row, defensive end Anthony Spencer is key to the Cowboys' transition to a 4-3 defensive front. He and fellow pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware will switch from the 3-4 outside linebacker position they've always played to a 4-3 defensive end position that will put them closer to the offensive line and likely require them to be more physical in their efforts to get to the quarterback. Spencer took a huge step forward in 2012 as a pass-rusher and was, for much of the season, the best player on the Cowboys' defense. He had 11 sacks, and his previous career high had been six. If he can make the transition to his new position and follow his best season with another excellent one, he'll likely be able to get the long-term deal he seeks. If he can't, the Cowboys will be looking for a new pass-rush anchor next offseason.

New York Giants: Sticking with the pass-rush theme, defensive end Justin Tuck is the Giants player under the most pressure this season to perform the way he used to perform. After racking up 11.5 sacks in 2010, Tuck has collected just nine, total, in the past two regular seasons. The Giants' pass rush took a step backward last season and lost Osi Umenyiora to free agency. They'll replace Umenyiora by moving Mathias Kiwanuka back up to the line from the linebacker spot he played the past two seasons, but their pass rush would function best with Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul as dominant bookend starters. Another lackluster season could mean the end of Tuck's decorated career with the Giants. A return to early-career form could transform the Giants back into a championship contender.

Philadelphia Eagles: Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, the Eagles' 2009 first-round pick, has averaged 65 receptions, 863 yards and 6.5 touchdowns in his first four seasons in the NFL. His numbers are actually pretty consistent, year to year. But what the Eagles had in mind when they drafted Maclin was a No. 1 wide receiver. And while he's flashed that ability at times, he hasn't been able to maintain that level or develop his game. The Eagles have fellow wideout DeSean Jackson signed long term, but they will have the money and the cap space to sign Maclin next offseason if they choose to do so. Whether they will want to depends on how Maclin plays in the new Chip Kelly offense and, likely, whether he looks as though he can be counted on to carry the load as a true No. 1.

Washington Redskins: I still think it's possible linebacker Brian Orakpo gets his contract extended before the season starts, but if he doesn't, he'll enter the season carrying the pressure of a contract year along with the pressure of having to kick-start the Redskins' pass rush. A pectoral muscle injury in Week 2 ended Orakpo's season, and fellow outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan struggled without Orakpo on the other side to draw the attention of opposing blockers. The Redskins' 3-4 defense is designed around the idea of former first-rounders Orakpo and Kerrigan getting to the quarterback. They need Orakpo to stay healthy and to produce like one of the best pass-rushers in the league.

5 Wonders: A second tag for Anthony Spencer?

November, 27, 2012
11/27/12
11:28
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IRVING, Texas – After the Thanksgiving break it’s time to bring back Five Wonders as the Cowboys welcome the equally disappointing Philadelphia Eagles to town this weekend.

On to the wonders:

** I’m beginning to wonder if Anthony Spencer is going to be too expensive for the Cowboys to keep. And if he does, I wonder if they use the franchise tag on him for a second straight offseason. He has been the Cowboys best defensive player since Lee was lost for the year. He has established a career high in sacks with five games to go. He plays the run terrifically. Teams have a difficult time setting the edge against him and only do so if he chooses to go under a block, which can be maddening. He can cover. He can close on quarterbacks, runners, receivers and tight ends. I keep thinking something with a $7 million average will keep Spencer around but it’s quite possible he could get more. If they tag him again, it would cost the Cowboys $10.6 million or so for 2013. They don’t want to do that, but they could be in a squeeze against the cap, especially with Tony Romo’s cap figure jumping to $16.8 million in 2013. Spencer has earned a long-term deal with his play, but circumstances might force the Cowboys to think about a second straight year with a franchise tag.

** Since last week was about piling on Doug Free for his poor performance against Cleveland, this week should be about praising his work against Washington. I wonder if anybody really noticed. Free was much firmer, to steal a Jason Garrett term, in his pass protection. He did a great job against Ryan Kerrigan for most of the game. In a terribly unscientific way of grading from me in which I just doled out pluses for good, minuses for bad or zeroes for neither, Free had 53 pluses, nine minuses and 10 zeroes. Kerrigan got him for a second-half sack but that could be viewed as a coverage sack. There was few times in which Free received any help, which is not a surprise when Jermey Parnell is making his first start at left tackle. Free did a good job passing off twists inside. It’s difficult to evaluate the run game since they didn’t run it much, but he was good there too. If the Cowboys get that kind of effort from Free for the rest of the year, then maybe he’s in the future plans.

** Here are a couple of things I just find ridiculous and wonder if you will too: It took Bruce Carter five games to surpass Sean Lee as the team’s tackle leader despite the fact that Lee has not played a snap. It just speaks to what type of season Lee was having before a toe injury forced him to have surgery. Lee had 77 tackles in the first six games. Carter had 40. In the five games needed to overtake Lee, Carter averaged eight a game. Here’s something more ridiculous: Lee remains tied for the team lead in interceptions. Opposing quarterbacks have thrown 152 passes in the five full games Lee has missed and no defender has been able to pick off more than one pass? Here’s something I find most ridiculous: It took Felix Jones six games to become the Cowboys’ leading rusher over DeMarco Murray. At the time of his injury Murray had 330 yards on 75 carries. Jones now has 335 yards on 94 carries this season. How pitiful has the run game been?

** Mike Jenkins has a chance to add some value to his marketability in the offseason with five games to go. With Orlando Scandrick out for at least a few weeks and possibly the season, Jenkins will get a look inside playing the slot. He never did it before Thursday’s game against Washington at any level. He admitted the game was much faster inside than outside and looked for help from Gerald Sensabaugh in certain cases. If Jenkins can show he can play the slot, then that will help him in the offseason when he’s an unrestricted free agent. Teams want players with versatility. The more Jenkins can do, the more money he could command. As it is, he’s not going to get the deal he once envisioned. He has not played that much this year. He’s coming off shoulder surgery. He turns 28 in March. If he shows he can handle the slot, I wonder if there’s a chance to Cowboys attempt to keep him going forward. It’s a stretch, I admit, but you can’t just give up on talented corners and Jenkins has talent.

** L.P. Ladouceur will be a free agent after this season and I wonder if the Cowboys will bring him back for a ninth season. If they don’t, then I think they will be making a mistake. Ladouceur has been perfect since coming to the Cowboys in 2005. The cost, relatively speaking, will be minimal. Over the last few years the Cowboys have attempted to bring some competition for Ladouceur - in other words, cheap, undrafted rookies – and he has answered the challenge every time. He will turn 32 in March and has not been beaten up despite his work through the years. On a team in transition, which the Cowboys are even if they fail to publicly recognize it, having a fool-proof long snapper is a must. Think of what it means for kicker Dan Bailey or whoever has punted the ball here. He might be something of a luxury and you would like for the long snapper to play another position, but peace of mind matters more.

All-NFC East Team: Week 8 update

October, 31, 2012
10/31/12
10:29
AM ET
None of the NFC East's quarterbacks played especially well this weekend, so there's no change at the most scrutinized position on our All-Division Team. We did have some changes this week, including an interesting one at outside linebacker and the first in quite a while on the offensive line.

More on all of that later. First, the disclaimer that no one will read: This is an All-Division Team based on overall season performance to date. It is not -- repeat, NOT -- simply a rundown of the best individual performances from the past week. That's why Cedric Thornton isn't on it.

Here's this week's update to the team, and my explanations are at the bottom:

Quarterback: Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins (Last week: Griffin)

Running back: Alfred Morris, Redskins (Morris)

Wide receiver: Victor Cruz, New York Giants; Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys (Cruz, DeSean Jackson)

Tight end: Jason Witten, Cowboys (Martellus Bennett)

Fullback: Henry Hynoski, Giants (Hynoski)

Left tackle: Trent Williams, Redskins (Williams)

Left guard: Evan Mathis, Philadelphia Eagles (Mathis)

Center: Will Montgomery, Redskins (Montgomery)

Right guard: Chris Chester, Redskins (Chris Snee)

Right tackle: Todd Herremans, Eagles (Herremans)

Defensive end: Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants; Jason Hatcher, Dallas Cowboys (Pierre-Paul, Hatcher)

Defensive tackle: Cullen Jenkins, Eagles; Linval Joseph, Giants (Jenkins, Joseph)

Outside linebacker: DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, Cowboys (Ware, Ryan Kerrigan)

Inside linebacker: Sean Lee, Cowboys; DeMeco Ryans, Eagles (Lee, Ryans)

Cornerback: Prince Amukamara, Giants; Josh Wilson, Redskins (Amukamara, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie)

Safety: Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown, Giants (Rolle, Brown)

Kicker: Lawrence Tynes, Giants (Tynes)

Punter: Sav Rocca, Redskins (Rocca)

Kick returner: David Wilson, Giants (Wilson)

Punt returner: Brandon Banks, Redskins (Rueben Randle)
  • How good are the Cowboys' linebackers? They occupy three of the four linebacker spots on this week's team, and one of them didn't even play this week and is out for the season with a foot injury. Lee won't be on this list forever, and the guy who's pushing hardest for his spot is Washington's Perry Riley, but his overall body of work this season is still better than that of any inside linebacker in the division but Ryans, so in spite of his injury he keeps the spot.
  • As for outside linebacker, yeah. Kerrigan was one of the best defensive players in the league in September. He was not the same player in October, and Spencer has played at an extremely high level. He still doesn't get as much pressure on the quarterback as you'd like your 3-4 outside linebackers to get, but he's a wonder in the run game. And with Lee out, especially, that's invaluable.
  • Austin has kind of been threatening Jackson's spot at wide receiver for a while now, and with the Eagles' passing game going nowhere Jackson (who's having perhaps his finest season as a receiver) slips behind him. They have an identical number of catches (34), and Austin has 37 more yards and three more touchdowns.
  • Washington's Darrel Young was a fixture at the fullback spot last year and early this year, but what Hynoski is doing as a blocker in New York is on another level. He and Bennett have been huge in the run game, though Witten takes over Bennett's tight end spot this week due to the rapidly increasing gap in their relative productivity as receivers.
  • Been thinking for a while about Chester at right guard, and watching his performance against the Steelers on Sunday finally convinced me to pull the trigger. Almost pulled it at left tackle, too, where the Giants' Will Beatty has been excellent.
  • Josh Wilson got his cornerback spot after Rodgers-Cromartie's lousy game Sunday. Wilson overall has been much better this year than that one play at the end of the Giants' loss showed. He lost his spot last week to Amukamara, and now he's back at the expense of another September star whose October was less inspiring.
  • If I needed a big kick made and I had to pick someone in the division, I'd pick Dallas' Dan Bailey. He's also better than Tynes is on kickoffs. But Tynes has attempted 12 more field goals, made 11 more field goals and kicked 10 more extra points than Bailey has this year. He's almost doubled him in each category. Tynes is having an excellent season, and the sheer volume of opportunity he's received and cashed in puts him well ahead of the rest of the division's kickers.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

All-NFC East Team: Week 7 update

October, 24, 2012
10/24/12
1:16
PM ET

Not a lot of changes this week to the All-Division Team. Only two, I think, and neither one is the quarterback. Both Robert Griffin III and Eli Manning are playing at an extremely high level right now, and yes, I thought about using the fact that Manning won the game against Griffin's team as the tiebreaker. But as I watched that game Sunday, for those three hours, the best player on that field was not the two-time Super Bowl MVP. He got the last laugh, sure. And everyone who reads this blog regularly knows how I feel about Manning. But as of this moment, he's a notch behind Griffin for the starting quarterback spot on the All-NFC East Team. I think this is the first week all year in which they haven't switched places, so it's that close.

Before we go on, the disclaimer that no one will read: This is an all-division team based on overall season performance to date. It is not -- repeat, NOT -- simply a position-by-position list of those who played the best this week. That's why Santana Moss isn't on it.

So as I said, only two changes this week. Not the most exciting week we've had with this. I'll explain those two changes, and offer some insight on which players nearly changed my mind, after I give you the team:

Quarterback: Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins (Last week: Griffin)

Running back: Alfred Morris, Redskins (Morris)

Wide receiver: Victor Cruz, New York Giants; DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles (Cruz, Jackson)

Tight end: Martellus Bennett, Giants (Brent Celek)

Fullback: Henry Hynoski, Giants (Hynoski)

Left tackle: Trent Williams, Redskins (Williams)

Left guard: Evan Mathis, Eagles (Mathis)

Center: Will Montgomery, Redskins (Montgomery)

Right guard: Chris Snee, Giants (Snee)

Right tackle: Todd Herremans, Eagles (Herremans)

Defensive end: Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants; Jason Hatcher, Dallas Cowboys (Pierre-Paul, Hatcher)

Defensive tackle: Cullen Jenkins, Eagles; Linval Joseph, Giants (Jenkins, Joseph)

Outside linebacker: Ryan Kerrigan, Redskins; DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys (Kerrigan, Ware)

Inside linebacker: Sean Lee, Cowboys; DeMeco Ryans, Eagles (Lee, Ryans)

Cornerback: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Eagles, Prince Amukamara, Giants (Rodgers-Cromartie, Josh Wilson)

Safety: Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown, Giants (Rolle, Brown)

Kicker: Lawrence Tynes, Giants (Tynes)

Punter: Sav Rocca, Redskins (Rocca)

Kick returner: David Wilson, Giants (Wilson)

Punt returner: Rueben Randle, Giants (Randle)
  • Bennett had the big game catching the ball, yes, and Celek was off, but Bennett was close behind to begin with. What he and Hynoski are doing as blockers, in the run game and the passing game, is absolutely invaluable to the way the Giants are playing right now.
  • And yes, Amukamara is the best cornerback in the division at this moment. Wilson is having a fine season, the final play of Sunday's game notwithstanding, but Amukamara has done absolutely nothing wrong since returning from his injuries. With Corey Webster having a down year and the Giants' secondary in need of a boost, he's performing like a first-round pick.
  • Williams holds down his spot at left tackle after holding off Pierre-Paul all day Sunday. He's playing left tackle as well as anyone in the league. His closest competition in this division is the Giants' Will Beatty.
  • Looked at Nate Livings for left guard and Chris Chester for right guard, but I still have each a notch below the guy listed at his spot. Herremans hasn't been great, but you don't have to be to beat out Doug Free, Sean Locklear and Tyler Polumbus. I did think Polumbus played a good game Sunday. But again, year-long list.
  • Thought about Miles Austin over Jackson at that receiver spot but didn't pull the trigger. Another big Ahmad Bradshaw game could have threatened Morris at running back, because of what Bradshaw brings as a blocker. But Morris is the clear running back leader in this division right now.
  • Kerrigan's had two kinda bad games in a row, and I thought about putting Dallas' Anthony Spencer there instead. (He got a sack!) Will monitor this in the coming weeks to see if Kerrigan returns to his dominant early season form.
  • I didn't think Rolle or Brown looked remarkably impressive Sunday (Brown's interception notwithstanding), but I really don't see who deserves to have taken the spots from them. Maybe Nate Allen? Meh.
  • And finally, Lee is obviously not long for this inside linebacker spot, as he's out for the year with a foot injury. The leading candidate to take the spot at this moment is Washington's Perry Riley, but we'll see how the potential replacements play in the coming weeks. It's not ridiculous to think that Lee could hold the spot for a week or two without playing. That's how good he's been.

As ever, I welcome your thoughts.

All-NFC East Team: Week 5 update

October, 10, 2012
10/10/12
9:43
AM ET
Not a lot of changes this week to the All-Division Team, which now includes nine Giants, nine Eagles, six Redskins and three Cowboys. The most significant are at quarterback, where the Redskins' concussed rookie lost his spot to the guy I think is playing the position better than anyone else in the league right now, and at outside linebacker, where Mychal Kendricks' first bad game as a pro was enough to cost him his spot and force all of you DeMarcus Ware fans to find something else to yell at me about this week.

Before we get to the list, the disclaimer that no one will read: This is an All-Division Team based on overall performance in the season to date. It is not -- repeat, NOT merely a position-by-position list of the best Week 5 performances. That's why Ahmad Bradshaw isn't on it.

That out of the way, I present this week's edition of the team, with some explanatory notes at the bottom.

Quarterback: Eli Manning, New York Giants (Last week: Robert Griffin III)

Running back: Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins (Morris)

Wide receiver: Victor Cruz, New York Giants; DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles (Cruz, Jackson)

Tight end: Brent Celek, Eagles (Martellus Bennett)

Fullback: Darrel Young, Redskins (Young)

Left tackle: Trent Williams, Redskins (Williams)

Left guard: Evan Mathis, Eagles (Mathis)

Center: Will Montgomery, Redskins (Montgomery)

Right guard: Chris Snee, Giants (Snee)

Right tackle: Todd Herremans, Eagles (Herremans)

Defensive end: Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants; Jason Babin, Eagles (Pierre-Paul, Babin)

Defensive tackle: Cullen Jenkins, Eagles; Linval Joseph, Giants (Jenkins, Rocky Bernard)

Outside linebacker: Ryan Kerrigan, Redskins; DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys (Kerrigan, Mychal Kendricks)

Inside linebacker: Sean Lee, Cowboys; DeMeco Ryans, Eagles (Lee, Ryans)

Cornerback: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Eagles, Brandon Carr, Cowboys (Rodgers-Cromartie, Carr)

Safety: Nate Allen, Eagles, Antrel Rolle, Giants (Allen, Kenny Phillips)

Kicker: Lawrence Tynes, Giants (Tynes)

Punter: Sav Rocca, Redskins (Rocca)

Kick returner: David Wilson, Giants (Wilson)

Punt returner: Rueben Randle, Giants (Randle)
  • Yes, I consider LeSean McCoy a better running back than Alfred Morris. No, I do not think McCoy is having the better season. Morris has more yards, more yards per carry and more touchdowns. He deserves the spot for now.
  • Bennett had been holding off Celek for the tight end spot because of his blocking. But Celek's blocking has also been tremendous, and for me he surpassed Bennett this week.
  • Will Beatty of the Giants is one more very good week away from passing Trent Williams at left tackle, and that's no knock on Williams, who's having a very good year. Beatty is playing that well.
  • Feel free to help me out at safety. Almost no one's playing that position well. Almost left Phillips in there even though he's out for the foreseeable future with an injury. Weak spot this year in the division.
  • Got a lot of grief last week for ranking Jenkins over teammate Fletcher Cox at defensive tackle. I think Cox has played well, but I see what I see. Jenkins moves all over the line and does more. I went back and looked it all over again, watched last week's game tape and this week's over to see if I was nuts. And I feel good about the pick.

As ever, I welcome your thoughts.

All-NFC East Team: Week 3 Update

September, 26, 2012
9/26/12
10:23
AM ET
Yes, we have a change at the quarterback position this week, and that's the position about which everyone seems to get the most excited. But it wasn't that difficult a decision, really. Through three games, Eli Manning has 264 more passing yards, a marginally lower completion percentage and one more touchdown that Robert Griffin III. He's thrown three interceptions to Griffin's one, but these things happen when you actually throw the ball down the field. He has also taken five fewer sacks. It was close last week and remains close this week, but Manning has surpassed the rookie in terms of overall body of work in 2012.

The tougher call was actually at running back. By now you all should know about the disclaimer that no one ever reads: This is an All-Division Team based on overall season performance to date. It is not -- repeat, NOT -- simply an All-Star team based on the previous week's performance. This is why Ramses Barden is not on it.

However, the team's running back is the Giants' Andre Brown, who has only played a game and a half. He won out over the Eagles' LeSean McCoy and the Redskins' Alfred Morris, each of whom has been a starter for all three games this season. Brown's addition to the team would seem to fly directly in the face of the aforementioned disclaimer, and in order for him to make the team I would have to be convinced that his six-quarter performance was more impressive than what Morris and McCoy have done in their 12. Fact is, I was.

Brown has 79 fewer rushing yards than Morris and 77 fewer than McCoy. But his yards-per-carry average of 5.6 is far better than their 4.3 and 4.5. He has three touchdowns, which ties Morris and is two more than McCoy. He has no fumbles, and neither does Morris, but McCoy has two. It was Morris, and not McCoy, who was Brown's closest competition for this week's honor, and the simple fact is that I think Brown has been the better runner this season. It was a difficult call, and with the return of Ahmad Bradshaw likely this week, I have to imagine this is Brown's only appearance on this list, but I thought he deserved it based on the overall performance of everyone in the division in the first three weeks of the season. Had either of the other two been performing at a standout level, it would have been impossible for Brown to overtake them after a game and a half. But neither is (and yes, I know you can argue that McCoy's issue is one of limited opportunity), so Brown gets the nod because he has.

Here's the team, which this week includes nine Giants, eight Eagles, five Redskins and five Cowboys, and I have some more observations down at the bottom:

Quarterback: Eli Manning, New York Giants (Last week: Robert Griffin III)

Running back: Andre Brown, Giants (LeSean McCoy)

Wide receiver: Victor Cruz, Giants; Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys (Cruz, Hakeem Nicks)

Tight end: Martellus Bennett, Giants (Brent Celek)

Fullback: Darrel Young, Washington Redskins (Young)

Left tackle: Trent Williams, Redskins (Williams)

Left guard: Evan Mathis, Philadelphia Eagles (Mathis)

Center: Will Montgomery, Redskins (Montgomery)

Right guard: Chris Snee, Giants (Snee)

Right tackle: Todd Herremans, Eagles (Herremans)

Defensive end: Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants; Jason Babin, Eagles (Pierre-Paul, Jason Hatcher)

Defensive tackle: Cullen Jenkins, Eagles; Rocky Bernard, Giants (Bernard, Fletcher Cox)

Outside linebacker: Ryan Kerrigan, Redskins; Mychal Kendricks, Eagles (Kerrigan, DeMarcus Ware)

Inside linebacker: DeMeco Ryans, Eagles; Sean Lee, Cowboys (Ryans, Lee)

Cornerback: Brandon Carr, Cowboys; Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Eagles (Rodgers-Cromartie, Josh Wilson)

Safety: Kenny Phillips, Giants; Gerald Sensabaugh, Cowboys (Phillips, Sensabaugh)

Kicker: Lawrence Tynes, Giants (Billy Cundiff)

Punter: Chris Jones, Cowboys (Jones)

Kick returner: Brandon Banks, Redskins (David Wilson)

Punt returner: Damaris Johnson, Eagles (Brandon Banks)
  • Carr takes his place at cornerback, supplanting Wilson after Wilson's tough game against Cincinnati. Wilson is actually having a very good season overall, but Carr hasn't had one bad play that I've seen, and he gets good-teammate bonus points for moving over to safety once Barry Church went out. Carr has shut down opposing receivers in all three games, and his work against Tampa Bay's Vincent Jackson on Sunday was his best yet.
  • Sorry, Jason Hatcher. It might be unfair, but as a 3-4 defensive end you almost have to be over-the-top great to hold off the 4-3 sack artists. Hatcher barely beat out Babin (and fellow 3-4 end Stephen Bowen) last week, but Babin's three-game tape is simply more impressive. Could be because of the difference in the position they play, but dem's the breaks.
  • On the flip side, Ware hasn't looked like his usual horrifying self yet this season, and while I imagine he'll come back and take his spot, Kendricks deserves this mention for the way he's played consistently as a 4-3 outside linebacker in all three Eagles' games. Along with Ryans, he's a huge part of the reason for this season's defensive improvements.
  • Bennett has been a monster blocker and has caught a touchdown pass in all three games. Cowboys fans can scoff, and justifiably doubt whether it will continue. But through three games, he's been a difference-maker at tight end for the Giants.
  • Trent Williams left Sunday's game with a knee injury in the first quarter, which would have opened up this team's left tackle spot if anybody had been close behind him. But no one has been, as tackle continues to be a huge problem division-wide. Will Beatty of the Giants played it the best this week, but that was only one game, and Williams was excellent in the first two.
  • The kicker decision wasn't easy, as Cundiff continues to hammer touchback after touchback and has made every one of his field goal attempts inside 62 yards. But Tynes is 10-for-10 on field goals, and for me that's better by enough than Cundiff's 5-for-6 to overcome Cundiff's proficiency on kickoffs.

That's what I've got for this week. I welcome your thoughts, as always.

All-NFC East Team: Week 1 Update

September, 12, 2012
9/12/12
10:00
AM ET


One of the in-season features I really liked last year was our weekly, running All-Division Team, where we'd pick the best player at each starting position in the division and continue to update it as the weeks went along. Over the course of the year, some things changed from week to week (I could never seem to figure out cornerback, mainly because very few NFC East cornerbacks were having good years) and some players solidified their positions with consistent excellence (LeSean McCoy jumps to mind).

Anyway, it's back. We'll do this every Wednesday. And while it is meant to be an All-Star team based on cumulative season performance to date, each team has so far played only one game. So for this week only, yes, this All-Division Team is based only on the performances of the past week. This week's team includes nine Eagles (they did play very well on defense), seven Redskins, five Cowboys, five Giants, one DeMarco, one DeMarcus, one DeMeco and a Dominique.

I'll give you the team and then offer some comments at the end. Enjoy.

Quarterback: Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins

Running back: DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys

Wide receiver: Kevin Ogletree, Cowboys; Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles

Tight end: Martellus Bennett, New York Giants

Fullback: Darrel Young, Redskins

Left tackle: Trent Williams, Redskins

Left guard: Evan Mathis, Eagles

Center: Jason Kelce, Eagles

Right guard: Chris Snee, Giants

Right tackle: Todd Herremans, Eagles

Defensive end: Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants; Jason Hatcher, Cowboys

Defensive tackle: Rocky Bernard, Giants; Fletcher Cox, Eagles

Outside linebacker: Ryan Kerrigan, Redskins; DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys

Inside linebacker: Sean Lee, Cowboys; DeMeco Ryans, Eagles

Cornerback: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Eagles; Josh Wilson, Redskins

Safety: Kurt Coleman, Eagles; Antrel Rolle, Giants

Kicker: Billy Cundiff, Redskins

Punter: Chas Henry, Eagles

Kick returner: Brandon Banks, Redskins

Punt returner: Brandon Banks, Redskins
  • Quarterback was obviously very close between Griffin and the Cowboys' Tony Romo, who both had excellent games in big road victories. Griffin edged out Romo because of his rushing yards and a little bit of added degree of difficulty for the venue in which he won. Both quarterbacks excelled at keeping plays alive and finding success downfield in difficult circumstances. Each handled the rush well. Could have flipped a coin.
  • Maclin was a close call over Washington's Pierre Garcon for that receiver spot, but Maclin played more and caught more passes, so he got the nod.
  • Bennett might or might not continue to catch passes for the Giants, but regardless of whether he does, he's going to merit a look here each week. That guy can seriously block.
  • Williams' and Kelce's were the only performances among the offensive linemen that I thought were particularly strong. The other three offensive linemen were kind of best-of-a-bad-bunch selections on a week in which none of the lines played very well. The Eagles' linemen do stand out at bit when you watch the games back, though. I wonder how much of that is the difference between Howard Mudd's blocking schemes, which require linemen to push upfield and establish new blocking points, and a more standard scheme. Washington's line played okay, and I thought about Will Montgomery at center over Kelce.
  • Defensive end was tricky. Pierre-Paul didn't get a sack, but he was clearly the most disruptive player among the 4-3 ends this week and required an overload of attention from the Cowboys. Hatcher gets the other spot over Jason Babin, which I admit is rare -- a 3-4 end beating out a 4-3 end on a team like this. But that word "disruptive" again is the best to describe Hatcher's night against the Giants.
  • Ditto Kerrigan at outside linebacker. What a game he had.
  • Rolle played the run very well, which is something the Dallas safeties didn't do in the same game. Now, maybe they weren't asked to. I understand that's possible. But Rolle's individual performance deserves the recognition.
  • Fine debut for Cundiff, who showed on kickoffs why they got him. Six of his nine kickoffs were touchbacks.

So that's the first one of these. I welcome your thoughts.

2012 NFC East predictions: Giants repeat

August, 30, 2012
8/30/12
1:11
PM ET


You asked for it, you got it. Our season predictions roll out today, and I hereby present to you that for which you have been asking me since before the draft: My predictions for the NFC East. Now, as you read these, I will go hide for five days and wait for it all to blow over. See ya.

1. New York Giants (12-4)

I'm not buying the tough-schedule stuff. We don't know which teams are going to be good. No one thought having the 49ers on your schedule last year was going to be tough. I say the Giants have the coach, the quarterback, the wide receivers and the defensive line to beat anyone in the league in any given week. Will they look worse at times than they should? Of course. Could they go through another brutal stretch like the one that nearly sank them last November? Anything's possible. But what the Giants showed us all last season is that they have as much ability to handle and rebound from adversity as any team in the league. And on the presumption that every team will have to handle adversity at some point, I'm casting my lot with the team that handles it best.

For me, this came down to a choice between the Giants and the Eagles, and in the end I went with Eli Manning, who plays every game, over Michael Vick, who's in danger of being knocked out for a month on every play. When I went through the schedules, I had the Giants and Eagles tied at 11-4 going into the final week. And while I know full well that the Eagles have had the Giants' number over the past four years in the head-to-head matchups, I'll take the defending champs at home for all the marbles.

2. Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)

Top to bottom, the most deep and talented roster in the division. If Vick is healthy and on the field for all 16 games, they could be the best team in the league. I think their defense will play better this year with DeMeco Ryans in the middle of it. I think their defensive line gives the Giants' defensive line a run for its money as the best in the league, and that it probably has more depth. I love LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin and what I think DeSean Jackson can do if he really is more focused and serious this year. (We'll see on that.) I think they have, easily, the best offensive line in the division, in spite of the absence of star left tackle Jason Peters. I just feel like the gap between best-case and worst-case scenarios at the quarterback position is significant enough to merit a slight downgrade in preseason predictions. I still have the Eagles making the NFC playoff field as a wild card, and one no one would want to play if they go in healthy.

3. Dallas Cowboys (8-8)

Just too flimsy in too many spots for me, this year's Cowboys. I like what they're building on defense, and you know I like their skill-position players on offense, including (heck, maybe especially) DeMarco Murray. But all of those guys, including Tony Romo, come with a history of health question marks, and there's very little behind them in terms of proven talent. There's also very little in front of them in terms of offensive line, and I think that has a way of wearing down and frustrating players like Romo, Murray, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten even if they manage to perform in spite of it. On defense, yes, they should be much improved at cornerback. And I think they look really good at linebacker, too. But I have to see what they bring up front in terms of a pass rush this year to complement DeMarcus Ware before I believe it. They seem to think being better at cornerback will help the pass rush. I think that works better in the other direction (See: Giants, New York). But we'll see. Overall, I think this is a team looking more down the road than it is at 2012, and I think if you see guys like Murray, Sean Lee, Morris Claiborne and of course Bryant take big steps toward stardom this year, that's about the best for which Cowboys fans can hope.

4. Washington Redskins (8-8)

No, I don't have RG3 fever. I like rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, and I think he's going to be a very good player. I also like wide receiver Pierre Garcon and tight end Fred Davis, and I think they'll find something at running back. But the reason this prediction is so much more optimistic than a lot of what you're seeing on the Redskins right now is that I really like their defensive front seven. I mean, a lot. With Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan as the pass-rushing outside linebackers and London Fletcher and Perry Riley as the inside guys playing behind a deep, huge, strong rotation of defensive linemen led by Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen, Adam Carriker and Jarvis Jenkins, I think this is a defense that will put pressure on quarterbacks, physically beat up offensive lines and be strong against the run as well. What holds me back from liking them even more is that there are questions in the secondary, especially at cornerback. But the Redskins don't isolate their corners in coverage very much, and I think they can do some things with their safeties and linebackers to minimize the exposure. They should give up some big plays, but I think they're going to be physically very tough for people to handle this year, and I think they'll surprise a lot of people. I have them beating each of the other three teams in the division once.

So there you go. One year after no one in the NFC East won 10 games, this year no one finishes under .500. Maybe I'm nuts. Maybe preseason football has finally got to me. But I thought a lot about this and looked at it a lot of different ways. And I put it off as long as I could, in spite of all of your requests. Now that it's here, I hope you have enjoyed my division prediction. Check out my picks for the rest of the league, as well as those of all of our other fine NFL scribes, on our NFL page today.

NFC East Top 20: No. 14 Brian Orakpo

August, 22, 2012
8/22/12
10:00
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In the final 20 days before the start of the regular season, we are counting down the top 20 players in the NFC East. For a full explanation, see this post.

No. 14 -- Brian Orakpo, Redskins LB

In another division, one not overstuffed with so many of the game's elite pass-rushers, Orakpo likely would be more appreciated. He's racked up 28.5 sacks in his first three years in the league -- years that have seen him transition from a college linebacker to a professional defensive end and back to a professional 3-4 outside linebacker. He's one of the few holdovers in Washington from the pre-Mike Shanahan days, and he's one of the leaders of a group that's emerging as one of the better young defenses in the NFL.

Sacks aren't the only part of Orakpo's game. He's shown disruptive ability in pass coverage (which is where he was when he got injured in Saturday's preseason game), breaking up passes and forcing fumbles. He's been a sure tackler in the open field. He has the versatility to do whatever's asked of him in Jim Haslett's scheme. But he'll make his mark in the pass rush, and last season he graded out as fifth-best 3-4 outside linebacker in the league in that area. He can fight through a double-team or absorb blockers while Ryan Kerrigan gets free on the other side, and there are and will continue to be times when Kerrigan looks like the better player. The pair will, in the Redskins' ideal scenario, feed off of each other and excel as a team for years to come.

But Orakpo's the one who's been doing it longer, and while his stats may not rank him among the pass-rushers above him on this list, this is a very tough division in which to stand out as a pass-rusher. Orakpo is a dirty-work guy whose numbers are fine and poised to get better. And the complete package of what he brings to his defense makes him worthy of his spot in the NFC East Top 20.

Rankings so far:

15. Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys

16. Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys

17. DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles

18. Osi Umenyiora, DE, Giants

19. Evan Mathis, G, Eagles

20. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants

NFC East: State of the pass rushes

May, 18, 2012
5/18/12
12:29
PM ET
Jason Pierre-Paul, DeMarcus Ware and Jason BabinGetty Images, US PresswireJason Pierre-Paul, DeMarcus Ware and Jason Babin had 54 of the NFC East's 181 sacks in 2011.

The 2011 season was not the most, well, beastly season in NFC East history. It was the first time in a full, 16-game season that no team in the division won at least 10 games, and for much of the year the talk around the division was that it wasn't what it used to be.

Buncha baloney if you ask me. Even forgetting for a second that an NFC East team won the Super Bowl, this division still does one very important thing better than any other: rush the passer. The NFC East's 181 sacks led all NFL divisions in 2011, and by quite a bit. (The AFC North, which had three playoff teams, was second with 160). The Eagles tied for the league lead with 50. The Giants tied for third with 48. The Cowboys tied for seventh with 42, and the Redskins tied for 10th with 41.

SportsNation

Which team in the NFC East has the best pass rush?

  •  
    47%
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    16%
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    24%
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    13%

Discuss (Total votes: 29,232)

Look deeper, into the film-based, number-crunching stats from Pro Football Focus -- stats that take into account more than just sacks when evaluating the extent to which teams rushed, hassled and affected opposing quarterbacks, and the division still rules. The Eagles rank No. 1 in PFF's 2011 team rankings, the Cowboys No. 3, the Giants No. 6 and the Redskins No. 9. No division prizes this critical aspect of the game more than the NFC East does, and it shows up in the numbers.

So, as we slug our way through a slow news month in the NFC East, I thought it'd be a good idea to check in on the pass rushes of our four teams and see how they're doing -- what they've done to get better or worse, what their 2012 prospects look like from this far out and yes, how they rank against each other. You guys asked for more polls, and I promised I'd listen, so there's one right here for you to vote on. After you finish reading, of course. I'm addressing them in order of how many sacks they got in 2011, in case you're wondering how I decided. Seemed fair.

Philadelphia Eagles

Key contributors: DE Trent Cole, DE Jason Babin, DT Cullen Jenkins. PFF ranked Cole the No. 1 overall 4-3 defensive end in the league last year. Babin ranked 10th overall and third in pass rush, finishing third in the league with 18 sacks. Jenkins ranked as the No. 4 pass-rushing defensive tackle, and Derek Landri was No. 10. Defensive line coach Jim Washburn and defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, each of whom is entering his second season in his current position with the Eagles, believe the front four is responsible for the pass rush. And while they got a lot of publicity for how wide they like to line up their defensive ends, they like to get pressure from the defensive tackles as well.

Newcomer: DT Fletcher Cox. The Eagles traded up in the first round to pick Cox because they believed he could be an impact pass-rusher from one of those interior spots right away. They need to toughen up against the run, and that will have to be part of Cox's game. But what appealed to them was his ability to get to the passer. Rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks could conceivably factor in here too, but the Eagles don't ask their linebackers to rush very much in the new scheme.

Stock watch: UP. The addition of Cox, as well as the possible return to full health of Mike Patterson and 2010 first-round pick Brandon Graham, give the Eagles incredible depth at a position at which they were already very strong in 2011. It's possible they'll rush the passer even better in 2012.

New York Giants

Key contributors: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, DE Justin Tuck, DE Osi Umenyiora, DE/LB Mathias Kiwanuka. No one's roster goes as deep as the Giants' does in terms of star-caliber defensive ends. Pierre-Paul was fourth in the league with 16.5 sacks in just his second NFL season. Umenyiora had nine in just nine games. Tuck turned it on at the end and in the playoffs, and Kiwanuka is a defensive end playing linebacker. The Giants believe a strong pass rush is their heritage and their key to being an annual contender.

Newcomer: DT Marvin Austin. The Giants didn't really bring in anyone this offseason who looks like a 2012 pass-rush contributor, but their 2011 second-round pick missed all of last season due to injury, so we'll call him a newcomer. The Giants would like to get more help from inside. Linval Joseph was their best pass-rushing defensive tackle in 2011, according to PFF's rankings. A healthy Austin could be a difference-maker.

Stock watch: DOWN. Not by much, but a little, because of the loss of reliable, underrated reserve DE Dave Tollefson. If Tuck and Umenyiora have injury problems again, or if Umenyiora holds out, they could get kind of thin at defensive end pretty quickly without Tollefson there to fill in this time. Now, this is the Giants, and they'll probably figure it out. The addition of linebacker Keith Rivers could allow them to move Kiwanuka back to end in case of injury. But it's worth pointing out that they did lose a somewhat important piece of the pass rush and didn't replace him.

Dallas Cowboys

Key contributors: LB DeMarcus Ware, LB Anthony Spencer, DE Jason Hatcher, NT Jay Ratliff. There's no one like Ware, who rang up another 19.5 sacks in 2011. That's nearly half the team total, and the conventional wisdom says he needs more help. But PFF ranked Spencer its 11th-best 3-4 outside linebacker in the pass rush and Hatcher as its eighth-best 3-4 pass-rushing defensive end. Add in Ratliff, who can generate pressure up the middle, and the Cowboys look better in this area than we tend to think.

Newcomer: DE Tyrone Crawford. Dallas' third-round pick is looked at by many as a project, but as one that can eventually help with the pass rush whether he ends up as a 3-4 end or standing up as an outside linebacker. Whether he can help in 2012 remains a question, but the Cowboys didn't see a first-round or second-round pass-rusher they liked better than Spencer, so they focused on the secondary instead and picked up some down-the-road guys for the pass rush.

Stock watch: EVEN. They're bringing back basically the same group, and while there's a theory that the improvements at defensive back will help the pass rush by giving it extra time to get sacks, we have yet to see that in action. Spencer must play with more aggressiveness if this unit is to take a step forward into the upper tier with the Eagles and Giants.

Washington Redskins

Key contributors: LB Brian Orakpo, LB Ryan Kerrigan, DE Stephen Bowen. The Redskins' pass rush is all about those young outside linebackers, and they are fearsome. But with only 16.5 sacks between them in 2011, their numbers have a ways to go to get into the big-time stratosphere we're talking about in the NFC East. PFF did rank Orakpo fifth and Kerrigan ninth among pass-rushing 3-4 OLBs in 2011, so they do a lot of things well in that area. Bowen had six sacks and DE Adam Carriker came up with 5.5.

Newcomer: DE Jarvis Jenkins. Just as we did with the Giants, we'll go with a 2011 second-round pick who missed his rookie season due to injury. Jenkins may not be a pass-rusher, but adding him to the defensive line rotation could help free up more room for the linebackers and maybe help the other linemen get to the passer more often as well.

Stock watch: EVEN. This is really all about how much and how quickly Orakpo and especially Kerrigan continue to develop as elite pass-rushers. They've both shown flashes of incredible raw ability, and they have to continue to hone their craft so they can play at the level of the other pass-rushers in their division. Ware, Cole, Pierre-Paul and the rest of these guys are setting a high bar, and the Redskins know they have to have their own pass-rush monsters if they want to hang with them year in and year out.

Does Dwight Freeney fit in the NFC East?

March, 10, 2012
3/10/12
4:47
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Peyton Manning may not be the only superstar mainstay the Indianapolis Colts can no longer afford. Adam Schefter is reporting that the Colts are entertaining trade offers for defensive end Dwight Freeney, one of the dominant NFL pass-rushers of the past half-decade. It's not a slam-dunk that they can deal Freeney, as he's 32 years old and scheduled to make about $14 million this year. But he's a big enough name that it's worth imagining whether he'd fit with the teams about which we care.

Freeney
Freeney is a 4-3 defensive end, and the only two teams in the NFC East that play 4-3 defenses are set at defensive end. Sure, if the New York Giants traded Osi Umenyiora, they might look to replace him, but they have their own salary-cap issues and it's unlikely they'd look for an expensive 32-year-old replacement when they could just slide Mathias Kiwanuka back up front to supplement Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul. The Philadelphia Eagles start Trent Cole and Jason Babin at end and have some depth, including the ability to play defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins there. The Eagles' needs on defense are at linebacker and safety, and maybe in the middle of the line.

The Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys are 3-4 defense teams, and the Redskins like their young outside linebacker pass-rush duo of Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo. That leaves Dallas, which needs pass-rush help but may not be a fit. I doubt it's reasonable to acquire Freeney in the hopes of making him either a 3-4 defensive end or a standup outside linebacker. Guys have done it, but at this point in Freeney's career it's hard to know whether he could make the transition. Plus, the Cowboys just franchised outside linebacker Anthony Spencer, which likely limits their ability to pursue expensive pass-rushers on the free agent or trade market.

So maybe Dallas kicks the tires on Freeney if they have some creative idea about how to use him, but the likelihood is that the Colts don't have an NFC East suitor for him.

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