- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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Welcome to the weekend, and to the weekend mailbag, where I try to round up some of your more interesting questions from the week and answer them the best I can. We shall get right to it.
Dave from Brookfield, Conn., would have picked left tackle Will Beatty for the New York Giants' entry in Friday's "Pressure Point" series. I went with Ahmad Bradshaw, as you can see if you click on that link.
Dan Graziano: That's a great call, Dave, and probably a better one than Bradshaw. The offensive line's play (particularly as a run-blocking unit) improved dramatically last year after Beatty's eye injury knocked him out for the season. And while that might have been a coincidence or the result of other factors, it did happen, and questions do still remain about Beatty after he struggled in his first season as the Giants' starting left tackle. The Giants still believe in Beatty and will continue to give him the opportunity to show he can do the job, but they're not convinced yet, and if he struggles again it could be a position they have to address moving forward beyond 2012.
Matt from San Diego asks: "Assuming Fletcher Cox has a solid rookie year, could the Philadelphia Eagles have the best [defensive] line in the league?"
DG: There are some great ones out there, Matt, including the one that's up the highway in N.J. defending the Super Bowl title. But yeah, the Eagles have a remarkable depth of talent on their line. They have the great bookend pass-rushers in Trent Cole and Jason Babin, a versatile defensive tackle in Cullen Jenkins and plenty of depth behind the starters inside and out. They drafted Cox because they believed he could be an impact pass-rusher from the get-go at the defensive tackle spot, and they have their fingers crossed that 2010 first-round pick Brandon Graham can finally stay healthy and contribute to the defensive end rotation. If they get contributions from Cox and Graham, the Eagles will be in that discussion.
David from Fairfax, Va., (and a number of other people) have challenged my repeated answers to the question of whether the Washington Redskins' Robert Griffin III could have a rookie year similar to the one Cam Newton had for Carolina in 2011. I don't believe they're similar players, but part of my stock answer has been, "He doesn't have a Steve Smith in his wide receiver corps." David agrees, but thinks the overall talent level of the Redskins' wide receivers is better than what the Panthers had last year behind Smith.
DG: It is, David, and Griffin will have a wider array of options than Newton had last year. My point is that the Newton-Smith hookup provided the Panthers with a number of long, explosive plays that helped drive up Newton's incredible rookie-season numbers. Because of the lack of anything that approximates that, I don't see Griffin approximating Newton's rookie numbers. But Griffin could have a very excellent and successful rookie season without coming close to Newton's numbers, which were unprecedented. I think there are a number of differences between the two players, though, and the way they play. And I think you'll see what I mean once you watch Griffin operate a multi-faceted offense that isn't likely to rely on him to do quite as much as the Panthers relied on Newton to do last year.
Daniel in San Antonio, Texas, disagrees with the notion that the Dallas Cowboys can replace No. 3 wide receiver Laurent Robinson with some sort of committee of what they have on the roster already. To make his point, Daniel asks: "How many games over the last two years have Miles Austin and Dez Bryant missed due to injury?"
DG: Well, Austin missed six games last year and none the year before. Bryant missed one last year and four the year before. So the answer to your question is 11, and your point is well taken. Robinson really exploded onto the Cowboys' scene last year because of how well he played in place of Austin during Austin's hamstring-injury problems. If Austin and Bryant and Jason Witten are healthy, there's really not much need for a No. 3 wide receiver in Dallas. But even if Austin (or Bryant) should have to miss games again, the Cowboys could surely get by with a replacement who doesn't produce the way the starter did. Most teams do, when it comes to injury. Robinson was a surprise exceptional case, and because of the way he played he got more looks. If he hadn't looked as good as he did, those looks likely would have gone to Bryant or Witten, as they likely will if similar circumstances arise in 2012.
Finally, Justin from B-More has a procedural complaint. He thought doing the daily breakfast links according to the division standings during the season was fine. But as someone whose last name begins with Z, he has a long-held hatred of simple reversion to alphabetical order. He's also a Redskins fan, and doesn't like seeing his team listed last in the links every day.
DG: Your point is well taken, Justin, and in the interest of fairness, here is what I propose: From this point forward until the season starts and we do them in standings order again, I will change the order of the breakfast links every day from Monday through Thursday, so that each of the division's teams is listed first at least once per week. And I will devise some sort of reader contest to allow one reader to determine the Friday order each week. Something like, whoever sends me the best printable joke in the mailbag that Thursday, or whoever answers a trivia question first on Twitter. Details to follow, but the new system goes into effect Monday. We'll call it "The Justin from B-More Doctrine."
Enjoy the rest of your weekend, folks.