According to more than one sportsbook, the NFC East will be decided between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys. The Eagles are just slightly favored, but the odds have both teams at practically the same odds. Last year, both were in the playoffs until the Divisional Round, when the two teams were sent home defeated by the L.A. Rams and the New Orleans Saints, who would battle it out in the NFC Championship Game.
On paper, both the Cowboys and the Eagles justify being the division's top dogs. They have plenty of talent both on offense and defense and promising young quarterbacks to lead their respective franchises in the future. Dallas has won the divisional title twice in the last three years. The one year they didn't, the Eagles did and went on to win the first Super Bowl in their history.
Meanwhile, the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants find themselves rebuilding their teams. Both spent first round draft picks on quarterbacks for the future and it doesn't seem like they'll be serious contenders in the 2019 season.
But are we underestimating them? They might not be as strong as the Cowboys and Eagles look right now, but there's a case to be made for both teams being tougher than expected. Let's take a look at each team.
Last year, when the Cowboys were crumbling, the Redskins had a clear lead in the division. Prior to week 10, the Redskins were 6-3. Then Alex Smith suffered a horrible injury on week 11 versus the Houston Texans, and the team finished the year with only one more win (7-9). This time though, it won't be Smith at the wheel.
Instead, we'll likely see the Ohio State product Dwayne Haskins in at quarterback. Washington also added Case Keenum in the offseason, but I doubt he gets the job over the first round rookie. Even if he does, he'll likely lose the job eventually. RB Derrius Guice missed his rookie season last year but should be back for 2019. Along with Adrian Peterson, this is a team that could have a decent running attack to help the rookie.
As far as the defense is concerned, I believe their defensive line is quite strong. Montez Sweat, another first round pick, will complement a group that already has Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and one of the league's most underrated pass rushers, Ryan Kerrigan.
The Redskins are far from having the talent the Cowboys and Eagles have, but I wouldn't be surprised if they become some sort of headache in the upcoming season. Of course, they'll have to heavily rely on Haskins having a very strong rookie year.
New York Giants
It can't get any worse for the Giants than it did a year ago, can it? With Eli Manning at QB, who knows. The thing is, New York also selected a rookie signal-caller in Daniel Jones. I don't believe we'll see much from him this season unless at some point on the year, the Giants decide they have no shot at a winning season and decide to test their future QB.
The selling point for the Giants has to be an improved offensive line. With the addition of G Kevin Zeitler and a more experienced version of La'el Collins, the unit doesn't look that bad anymore. We know what Saquon Barkley did with a terrible group blocking for him, he'll be an exciting player to watch with better offensive linemen. Manning hasn't been great in recent years, but with the right talent around him, he could do better.
Just like the Redskins, the Giants are not close to being the team Dallas and Philadelphia have. But it's worth keeping in mind that their offensive line has improved and that will lead to an even better year from Barkley. Defeating the Giants may not come as easy as some may think.
I believe the NFC East will indeed be battled between the Cowboys and Eagles and no one else. Philadelphia won't be easy to defeat in a heated race for the division title. On recent years, Dallas has had success against Philly but that shouldn't make Cowboys Nation feel comfortable. They're a pretty good football team. Fortunately, the Cowboys are too.
Tony Pollard, Supporting Cast or a Co-lead with Ezekiel Elliott?
Since the Dallas Cowboys drafted Running Back Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall in the first-round of the 2016 NFL Draft he's been the star of the show. Any of their other offensive weapons have been nothing more than supporting cast the past three years, but rookie RB/WR Tony Pollard could prove to be more than just supporting cast and become more of a co-lead in Zeke's show.
Suggesting Tony Pollard has a chance to be more than just supporting cast with Ezekiel Elliott is a lot to put on a rookies shoulders, but that's the kind of hype he's receiving already. He hasn't even put on the pads yet with the Dallas Cowboys, but he's already receiving Alvin Kamara type comparisons due to the versatility he's expected to bring with him to the NFL.
Living up to those Alvin Kamara comparisons might be even more difficult than becoming anything more than just an extra behind Zeke anytime soon, but it's doable. After all, Kamara immediately stepped in as a rookie and became a costar with Mark Ingram in New Orleans. It's certainly feasible to think Pollard can do the same.
There's of course only one problem with this way of thinking. Mark Ingram is no Ezekiel Elliott. And, no RB on the depth chart behind Zeke the last three years has been good enough to cut into #21's heavy workload. Is the hype surrounding Tony Pollard justified? Is he talented enough to cut into Zeke's playing time?
Those are some really big questions we don't have an answer to as of yet. Training camp could help determine the type of role Tony Pollard will have with the Dallas Cowboys in 2019 and beyond, but even that can be thrown out the window once games start to matter in the regular season.
Personally, I think Tony Pollard will be part of a supporting cast behind Ezekiel Elliott this year. I just don't think he's ready to step in and costar with Zeke just yet. I think he will be more of a comedic relief that will be used from time to time to keep things interesting. That's not necessarily a bad thing though considering his versatility to contribute in the running or passing game.
In time though, Pollard could prove worthy of an increase in playing time and become more of a co-lead with No. 21. It may very well be in his rookie season, but he's really going to have to prove himself and that will need to start this week when the Dallas Cowboys kick off their training camp in Oxnard, California.
What do you think? Is Tony Pollard supporting cast or a co-lead with Zeke?
Randy Gregory can Make the Perimeter Pass Rush Extremely Formidable
Randy Gregory showed flashes last season of the potential he has as a pass rusher. Even though he only managed one start he did see action in 14 games. Had registered 6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, 7 tackles for loss and 15 hits on the quarterback. That's very good production with limited opportunities. Now, this sets up the Dallas Cowboys on the edge getting to the quarterback, and here's how.
The Cowboys acquired Defensive End Robert Quinn via trade from the Dolphins back in March. He is set to start at right defensive end opposite All-Pro DeMarcus Lawrence. Gregory, who lines up on the right side as well, can potentially make said side a huge problem for offenses on 2019.
Let's just take a typical season from Quinn which is between 8-9 sacks. If Gregory can give at minimum what he did last season, that's around 15 sacks just between the two of them alone. Now, as we all know, Lawrence can be penciled in for double-digit sacks routinely at this point. So given this information that's a potential 25-30 sacks just from these three players. This is without including guys such as Taco Charlton, Dorance Armstrong, Kerry Hyder, and rookies Joe Jackson and Jalen Jelks (assuming they make the final roster).
Why is Gregory's potential impact so important? For me, it's simply where he lines up at defensive end, on the right side. Most quarterbacks are right-handed, which means when they drop back to pass they face left side defensive ends, with their backs to defensive ends coming off the right side. If you can consistently pressure a quarterback from his blindside the opportunities for sacks and fumbles increase. Regardless of how skilled a quarterback is you can't avoid what you can't see.
Of course, this all depends on what the NFL does regarding the reinstatement of Gregory. He was suspended indefinitely in February for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, a situation he is all too familiar with. My guess is Gregory and the Cowboys will ask for a conditional reinstatement like he was given by the NFL in 2018. What this would do is allow Gregory to participate in meetings and condition work until he's a full participant. He is set to apply for that reinstatement within the next few days.
The only thing Randy Gregory can do now is play the waiting game. The league is currently considering the possibility of softening their stance on marijuana use. If they are serious about it I can see Gregory getting reinstated even if it's on a conditional basis. If this is granted the Cowboys will be getting big-time pressure off the edge with Lawrence, Quinn, and Gregory in 2019.
CB Jourdan Lewis Getting Ready For Bounce-Back 2019 Season
For a third round pick, cornerback Jourdan Lewis sure did come to Dallas with his fair share of hype.
In fact, much of Cowboys Nation was more excited about Lewis joining the Cowboys than they were about either of the team's first two selections in that same draft, Taco Charlton and Chidobe Awuzie. But while Awuzie has soared to starting cornerback levels with Dallas during his first two seasons, Jourdan Lewis has been forced to take a back seat.
After a promising rookie season, Jourdan Lewis didn't get much playing time at cornerback in 2018. Anthony Brown took over as the starting slot corner, while Byron Jones and Awuzie manned the outside. This left Lewis as the odd man out, despite what many consider to be impressive cover skills.
Lewis is not allowing this down season to eat away at him too much, though. While speaking with the media last week at SportsCon in Dallas, Lewis gave his thoughts on how his year spent behind the other young Cowboys corners is only fueling him for the future.
"As a competitor it's always tough, especially as a rookie and you're playing all of the time. It's definitely when you take a step back it humbles you. Sometimes you gotta understand that you have to wait your turn and work on your craft. Understand that you always have to stay a professional no matter your situation. And that's what I learned last year."
Considered undersized by the standards typically used by Cowboys secondary coach Kris Richard, some have argued that Lewis was never given a fair shot to earn playing time once Richard took over in 2018. Whether or not this is true can't ever be said for sure, and the level of play Anthony Brown exhibited from the slot in 2018 didn't leave much room for substitutions either.
Still, Jourdan Lewis says he appreciates that time he spent on the bench, and he hopes that it will only drive him towards bigger and better things down the road.
"I appreciate the time that I sat last year honestly...Because it made me a better player, maybe a better person honestly."
The Cowboys cornerback situation didn't get any less crowded this offseason. Not only is Dallas bringing back all three of the aforementioned starters from a year ago, but they also drafted Miami's Michael Jackson in the fifth round of the 2019 draft.
That cornerback room is full of talent. Not only does this create a luxury for the Cowboys at one of the league's most important positions, but it also breeds immense competition between the corners come training camp.
Which, if you didn't know, begins on July 26th.
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