The long NFL offseason is finally beginning to come to a close, with teams participating in mandatory mini-camps and training camps just a month away. Still, though, there is a lot of time left before the 2018 NFL season really begins.
With that time it's always fun to rank things and put together lists. I mean, who doesn't love a good article ranking players? Over the next few weeks I'll be ranking position groups in the NFC East to see which team comes out on top.
Today we begin with the NFC East quarterbacks, arguably the most scrutinized position group in all of sports.
4. New York Giants QB Eli Manning
Though he is the most accomplished quarterback in this division, Giants QB Eli Manning comes in last in our current rankings. Manning has seen his play decline throughout the years, even being benched in favor of Geno Smith late in 2017.
With a healthy cast of pass catchers and rookie running back Saquon Barkley surrounding him, however, Manning could be poised for improvement in 2018.
The Giants offense might be the best in the league if each game was a 7 on 7 tournament, so it will be interesting to see how Eli Manning performs this season.
3. Washington Redskins QB Alex Smith
The newest starting quarterback in the NFC East is Washington's Alex Smith, and he comes in third in our rankings. Smith has gotten the reputation as a check-down artist throughout his career thus far, but when surrounded by the right talent he can be very effective.
Smith had arguably his best season to date in 2017 with the Kansas City Chiefs, but I just don't see Washington's offense being nearly as dangerous as those Chiefs were a year ago.
To me, Smith is at best a marginal upgrade over former starter Kirk Cousins, and won't bring too much of a difference over the long haul in Washington.
2. Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott
Second on our list is Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. The now third year quarterback is coming off a bit of a "sophomore slump" to end his 2017 campaign, though his first season and a half warrant him our number two spot.
I expect Prescott to look like himself in 2018, especially with the improvements the Cowboys made to their offensive line. Ezekiel Elliott should be available for all 16 games, and the turnover in the receiver group gives some cause for optimism as well.
Prescott is the former Rookie of the Year and has had a good start to his career thus far, but sorry, Cowboys fans, we can all admit Dak Prescott doesn't deserve the top spot as of now.
1. Philadelphia Eagles QB Carson Wentz
The top quarterback in the NFC East right now is Eagles QB Carson Wentz. Wentz was a legitimate MVP candidate in 2017 prior to his injury, and once returning to full health Wentz should be able to impress once again.
The Eagles offense was downright dominant while Wentz was healthy, and though they did win the Super Bowl without him, Wentz brings their productivity to another level.
And with arguably the best supporting cast of the entire division, Carson Wentz is poised for success going forward.
DL Kerry Hyder Helps Solidify A Re-Tooled Defensive Line
The Cowboys got off to a busy start to week two of free agency on Monday, and capped it off by signing defensive lineman Kerry Hyder to a one year deal.
The former Detroit Lion could be classified as a "one year wonder" of sorts, but when you look closer at his career arc, you see that Hyder can provide upside at multiple positions across the Cowboys' defensive front.
After having 8 sacks and 19 quarterback hits as a defensive end in 2016, Hyder missed all of 2017 with an achilles injury. Last season, under new head coach Matt Patricia, Hyder was moved out of position and forced to play as a nose tackle and 5-technique more often.
So, the last time Hyder was healthy and playing in the role in he will likely fill in Dallas, he was productive. Yes that was a couple of seasons ago but it makes Hyder worth the one year deal he received from the Cowboys.
What exactly is that role, though?
I see Hyder primarily as a rotational 3-technique for the Cowboys. At just 270 pounds Hyder isn't going to play over the center often, and won't be very useful as a 1-technique against the run. He's at his best when lining on the outside shade of an offensive lineman, where he can use his get-off and quickness to create pressure.
Kerry Hyder can also fill in at defensive end if needed, especially when the Cowboys go into a nickel package. Hyder is similar to Tyrone Crawford in his ability to move inside and out, but is a bit better of a pass rusher than Crawford when at his best.
Hyder is a high energy, motor, and character defensive lineman who will fit right in with a Rod Marinelli unit. If it all clicks for Hyder and he regains his 2016 form, the Cowboys will have stolen an impressive pass rushing defensive lineman who can win from multiple positions.
If Hyder is actually a "one year wonder" who is more of his 2018-self with the Cowboys despite being put in a better role to succeed, Dallas can move on rather quickly because he is only on a one year deal.
This is a smart signing by the Cowboys front office as they look to re-tool their defensive line, and avoid being pigeon-holed into over-drafting at a certain position this Spring.
New Cowboys WR Randall Cobb Announces His Signing With A Fantastic GIF
On Tuesday this week it became official the Cowboys would sign former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb to a one year deal worth an estimated $5 million. After his visit Monday morning, speculation around whether and when he would sign was swirling.
Cobb confirmed his intentions to join the Cowboys himself, and did so with some A+ GIF usage on Twitter.
In case you don't know, the GIF Cobb tweeted is Woody from Toy Story, emerging confidently and tipping his cap.
This was Cobb signaling that he his a Cowboy, and he appears excited to be joining America's Team. Cobb also received some social media love from his now former teammates in Green Bay, including wide receiver Davante Adams and quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Aaron Rodgers had some parting words for new Cowboys WR Randall Cobb
Clearly Randall Cobb made an impact in Green Bay, both on and off the field. Let's hope he can replicate some of that in Dallas now that he has joined the Cowboys.
Malik McDowell Is Well Worth The Risk For The Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys are reportedly brining defensive lineman Malik McDowell into The Star this week for a visit, as they decide whether or not to potentially sign him for the 2019 season.
McDowell is a former second round pick of the Seattle Seahawks, who fell to day two because of what scouts call "off the field" or "character" concerns. McDowell did not last long with Seahawks, as he was released in 2017 following an ATV accident in which he reportedly suffered "extensive brain and eye trauma" according to Charles Robinson.
None of us know much about who Malik McDowell is as a person, or what concerns their really should be with his health. But what I do know is that on tape at Michigan State, McDowell was a top 5-10 player in the 2017 draft class. He was a stud, and has the traits to continue to be a stud in the NFL.
The 2017 NFL Draft is chock full of talented, athletic, and productive defensive linemen. While most of the draft pundits have focused on EDGE rushers thus far, the defensive tackle class also possesses some of this year's top NFL prospects. Arguably the best of those defensive tackles is Michigan State's Malik McDowell.
Back in 2017 I wrote a full scouting report on McDowell, detailing why he earned such a high grade on my board. McDowell is a versatile linemen who is explosive off the ball, powerful and rangy against the run, and a skilled pass rusher who plays with a high motor. What more could you really ask for?
"McDowell is a patient pass rusher at times, setting up the blocker how he likes and then beating them with ease. McDowell’s ability to swipe hands off helps him greatly, but his quick swim is his most effective pass rush move.
On this play he uses that swim to perfection, forcing the center to power down to the right before swimming back to the other side."
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
When the Spartans went to a three man pass rushing front, McDowell moved to the EDGE often and made plays with his quick, active hands and impressive swim move. He was much more impressive on the interior, however, and could be a direct replacement for David Irving as an explosive and powerful 3-technique for the Cowboys.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
I love that the Cowboys are bringing McDowell in for a free agent visit. His price will likely be low, as he is yet to play in an NFL game over the last two years, but his ceiling remains very high if he is healthy. It's rare for a player with his college production, natural ability, and measurables to completely fail in the NFL.
Maybe all McDowell needs is a second chance to get his head right and prove that he belongs in the league. Maybe he flames out quickly and can't get on the field due to "off the field" stuff. Or, maybe he simply isn't healthy enough to contribute as an NFL player. Regardless, for the price he'll likely command, McDowell is well worth the risk if the Cowboys are willing to take it.
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