Friday, May 25, 2012
One more thing before we go...
By Dan Graziano
Yeah, look. There's no point in trying to deceive anyone. I'm checking out for the weekend. This is one of my very favorite weekends of the year, and I'm going to get it started early. This is the last blog post I'm writing today, and other than a phone interview on NFL32 at 6 p.m., work is over for me for the week. But before I go off to a weekend of char-grilled relaxation, I wanted to do a "one more thing" post. What's a "one more thing" post, you ask? Well, it's something I just thought up where I go through each of our four teams and raise one issue we haven't been discussing very much on the blog. They're all going to be positive issues, because I don't want anyone to go into the weekend upset. We'll do them in order of how close each team's home stadium is to my house, because I just decided that as well.
New York Giants
Corey Webster should get more love. The Giants have question marks at cornerback this year, with Terrell Thomas coming back from injury and 2011 first-round pick Prince Amukamara still learning on the job. But what doesn't get mentioned enough when we talk about those two is Webster, who had an absolutely incredible year in 2011. The Giants asked him quite often to play the Darrelle Revis role of the corner who just plasters himself to the other team's best wideout and keeps him from making plays. Webster was, far more often than not, up to the task. He's 30 years old now and doesn't get mentioned with the league's best corners, but he played like one of them last year, and another year like that will make sure he's on the national radar.
I think the biggest thing working in Demetress Bell's favor as he works at the very difficult task of replacing Jason Peters as the Eagles' left tackle is the rest of the offensive line. Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins and Todd Herremans teamed with Peters last year to form maybe the best run-blocking line in the league. They are a confident, outgoing bunch of players who are eager to help, and Bell is certainly getting by-the-second lessons on Howard Mudd's blocking scheme from his new linemates. Bell doesn't have Peters' athleticism, and that's certainly likely to show up at times this year. But he's going to get a lot of help from some linemen who played extremely well together last year, and he's in a position to exceed expectations.
Don't rule out Pierre Garcon as No. 1 wide receiver material. No, of course he's never really been that traditional No. 1 we all think of when we think of guys like Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. But Garcon doesn't even turn 26 years old until August. He had 70 catches and 947 yards last year for a Colts team that was using Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky at quarterback. And after deciding that one of his top priorities this offseason was finding a No. 1 receiver, Mike Shanahan picked Garcon from among the available free agents. This was the guy he wanted. The Redskins signed him within the first five minutes of free agency. For his offense, Shanahan was looking for a receiver with the speed and athleticism to catch the ball on a slant route and take it the distance. In Garcon, he sees a young man who can be that guy. Garcon will play with a rookie quarterback this year, as you're all aware, but he'll also grow and develop along with that quarterback, and the Redskins believe they have plucked a future No. 1 wide receiver just as he's about to become one.
Sean Lee wasn't having a good year before his dislocated his wrist. He was having an eye-poppingly fantastic year. Wherever the ball was, there Lee seemed to be at critical moments, to make an interception, deliver a big tackle or break up a pass. He played fine after the injury, when he came back with that big old cast on his arm, but lost in the way the Cowboys' defense melted down at the end of 2011 was that Lee had been one of the best defensive players in the league for the first month. Assuming he's back to full health, Lee could be a monster player for the Cowboys in 2012 -- the kind of do-everything defensive leader they've lacked for so long. DeMarcus Ware is the best player on the defense (some say on any defense), and it's doubtful Lee will ever match him. But given Ware's preference for keeping to himself and out of the media spotlight, Lee's the kind of guy you can imagine emerging, assuming he plays the way he did early last season, as the face of the Cowboys' defense in the coming years. Last year's disappointment shouldn't dim the hopes Cowboys fans have for more great things to come from Lee.
And that's it for now. I really do mean it about this being one of my favorite weekends, and I hope it is for you too. Memorial Day is the day to remember the people who died fighting to protect us. People who literally died so that you and I could keep sitting here arguing about sports. I have no idea if I could die for my country, and as a result I am incredibly appreciative of the people who have done it and allowed me the time and freedom to keep wondering. Think about them as you enjoy the first weekend of the summertime, because we owe them that and much more.