Saturday, January 19, 2013
Twitter mailbag: New defensive alignments
By Dan Graziano
Hey, we didn't do a Twitter mailbag last week because I was taking a long weekend. That's on me. But we're back up and running this week. Remember, you can send in a question at any time of the week on Twitter just by using the hashtag #nfceastmail. You do not have to wait until I ask. Here are some examples from this week.
@ourfamily385: Dan, which should the Cowboys concentrate on first and more often in the draft, OL or DL?
@ESPN_NFCEast: Two weeks ago, if asked this question about the Dallas Cowboys, I'd have said offensive line without hesitating. However, with the hiring of Monte Kiffin as defensive coordinator signaling a change to a 4-3 defensive alignment, there are circumstances brewing that could make defensive line the correct answer. Anthony Spencer is going to be a difficult re-sign for the Cowboys given their salary-cap issues, and if he goes elsewhere, a pass-rushing defensive end to play on the side opposite DeMarcus Ware becomes the biggest need on the entire team. There are some who worry that Ware won't be as dominant a player with his hand on the ground as he was as a 3-4 outside linebacker, and he's shown serious signs of wear each of the past two seasons. If defenses don't have anyone to worry about on the other side, it's hard to see how Kiffin could get the pressure he needs to get on opposing quarterbacks from his down linemen. Now, none of this means the Cowboys don't have serious needs at guard, tackle and center. They do. But in terms of a first-round pick, losing Spencer might force them to focus on a pass-rushing lineman.
@paulzuk_81: Ideas on how the redskins can rebuild their mediocre secondary?
@ESPN_NFCEast: We discussed this on the blog the other day, and I think the biggest need for the Washington Redskins is at safety. They like the way Brandon Meriweather fits the strong safety spot in their system, but he's coming off a season's worth of knee injuries, and they might not be able to count on him. And they need to upgrade from Madieu Williams at free safety. So I think they need to get a safety in free agency (Pittsburgh's Ryan Mundy feels like a realistic name who'd be a fit) and seriously think about one with one of their first couple of draft picks. They could find a starting-caliber safety in the second or third round, especially if they think Meriweather's going to come back healthy and the pick has time to develop. We also raised the idea of cornerback DeAngelo Hall moving to free safety, which I think could work if he's up for it and will take a pay cut. That would create a need at cornerback, but they kind of need to upgrade from Hall there anyway.
@EricLB52: Do you think the eagles will do the switch to a 3-4 D-front? If so, you think they have the right personnel to do it?
@ESPN_NFCEast: Other than what new Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly said in his introductory news conference, everything I have heard since he got hired has said he wants to run a 3-4 defense. And since the things coaches say in news conferences are not always true, I am inclined to believe the other sources. However, I do not think in any way that they have the right personnel to do it. Trent Cole and Brandon Graham would become stand-up outside linebackers, and we have no proof either could make that transition smoothly. Fletcher Cox and Cullen Jenkins would become 3-4 defensive ends, which would probably be fine, but they'd need a nose tackle. Middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who was the best defensive player the Eagles had in 2012, was a poor fit in the 3-4 in Houston, which is why the Eagles were able to get him so cheaply. Basically I don't see how anyone in the Eagles' front seven would benefit from the change. Some might surprise and make it smoothly, but I don't think it makes any of them better. Also, a change like this likely would take at least two years before it worked effectively, as recent examples in places like Green Bay and Washington have shown. Do the Eagles and their fans have the patience to wait and suffer through the inevitable first-year struggles?
@EAZY41: What is the single biggest area that the Giants must shore up going into next season?
@ESPN_NFCEast: The New York Giants have a lot of areas to address this offseason, including the offensive line, running back, safety and cornerback. They have contract issues with several of their current players at those positions that must be resolved before they can determine what they need to do in free agency and the draft. But in a vacuum, I think their biggest position of need is linebacker. This is not an area the Giants have made a high priority in recent years, and if you asked them they might tell you cornerback and defensive line are more important areas of current concern. But inconsistent linebacker play was a problem this season, Chase Blackburn and Keith Rivers are unrestricted free agents and Michael Boley could be a salary-cap casualty. The three guys who were rookies during the Super Bowl season -- Mark Herzlich, Jacquian Williams and Spencer Paysinger, each have shown flashes, but might not be ready to start. Mathias Kiwanuka could have to move back up to defensive end full-time with the presumed free-agent departure of Osi Umenyiora. I think they need a leader and a thumper at the middle linebacker spot, and in limited duty so far Herzlich has not shown the ability to be that at the NFL level. Maybe he will, but if I were the Giants I'd be on the lookout for some proven help for at least one of my three starting linebacker spots.
Thanks for all of the questions.