Monday, July 2, 2012
NFC East's 'dynamic duos'
By Dan Graziano
Our man Gary Horton listed his top 10 "dynamic duos" in the NFC last week. It's an Insider piece, so all I can really tell you is that Philadelphia Eagles defensive ends Trent Cole and Jason Babin, who combined for 29 sacks last year, ranked second on the list and New York Giants defensive ends Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul ranked ninth. My innate knowledge of the inner workings of the minds of my readers tells me that a percentage of you are already furious about this disparity and are suggesting that Horton be institutionalized.
Me? I think I'd rank the Giants' ends ahead of the Eagles' ends, but it's extremely close, and the key thing to remember is that these are four elite pass-rushers and the only four represented at all on Gary's list. If you had the second pick in a pass-rushing-duo draft, you'd be pretty fired up to know you were getting one of these two.
But anyway, that's all for my effort to impart perspective where it's often unwelcome. I'd rather move on, and examine the topic of "dymanic duos" more deeply as it pertains to the NFC East. I've got one for each team (other than the ones Gary picked) that fits the description of current dynamic duo and one duo that each team hopes can be the new dynamic duo of 2012.
Currently: Wide receivers Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. Austin was the No. 1 before Bryant hit the scene. Bryant edged in front last year during Austin's injury troubles. When they're both on the field at the same time, they give Tony Romo as dynamic a pair of downfield targets as there is in the game.
Hopefully: Cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. The Cowboys invested a great deal in their effort to upgrade at cornerback this offseason, signing Carr to a big free-agent contract and using their first two draft picks to select Claiborne. They're almost certain to be better than what Dallas had at cornerback last year, but the hope is that they can convert a brutal weakness into a strength, and soon become one of the best cornerback tandems in the league.
New York Giants
Currently: Wide receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. They combined for 158 catches, 2,728 and 16 touchdowns last year in the regular season alone. The only other team with two players in the top 12 in receiving yards for 2011 was the New England Patriots, and one of their guys was a tight end.
Hopefully: Running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and David Wilson. The Giants' first hope for their running game in 2012 is that Bradshaw can keep his feet healthy. Their second is that the offensive line has a better year blocking for him. And their third is that someone emerge from their group of relatively inexperienced backs to take the place of Brandon Jacobs as Bradshaw's backup. They'd love it to be first-round pick Wilson, who has excellent speed and would provide a nice change of pace on the edge to complement Bradshaw's tough running style. But like Claiborne in the Cowboys' section, he has to show he can handle the pro game.
Currently: Center Jason Kelce and left guard Evan Mathis. Okay, so interior linemen aren't necessarily "dynamic," but I couldn't do wide receivers again, right? And the way Mathis and Kelce played in 2011 was a critical part of LeSean McCoy's success in the run game. Mathis has the added responsibility this year of helping along new left tackle Demetress Bell as he learns Howard Mudd's blocking schemes and tries to replace injured star Jason Peters.
Hopefully: Safeties Nate Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett. Right now, Jarrett isn't even projected as a starter opposite Allen. They're probably going to go with Kurt Coleman, and they could look at veteran O.J. Atogwe if he proves healthy. But they drafted Jarrett in the second round last year hoping for big things, and I'm sure the Eagles would love for him to take a big step forward this year and team with Allen at the back of their defense for years to come.
Currently: Linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. The key part of the Redskins' 3-4 defense is the ability of the outside linebackers to generate pressure on the quarterback. And Orakpo and Kerrigan are two of the best young outside pass rushers in the game. Expect the sack numbers to improve in 2012, Kerrigan's second year in the league.
Hopefully: Wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan. Veteran Santana Moss is still in the picture as the starter opposite Garcon, and 2011 rookie Leonard Hankerson has promise. But the Redskins' sunk their early free-agency money into these two wideouts, and their hope is that they can form the backbone of Robert Griffin III's wide receiver corps for years to come.