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[Game Preview] Week 1 - Philadelphia Eagles(0-0) at Washington Football Team (0-0)
Philadelphia Eagles (0-0) at the Washington Football Team
The 2020 Philadelphia Eagles season is the franchise's 88th season in the National Football League and the fifth under head coach Doug Pederson. The Eagles will try to improve on their 9–7 record from 2019 where they made the playoffs, but lost in the NFC Divisional game against the Seattle Seahawks. They will begin that journey Sunday afternoon as they take a trip down 95 to face off against the division rival with a new name Washington Football Team. To go with the name they also have a new coach in Ron Rivera who is looking for a fresh start after spending the last nine years as the Head Coach of the Carolina Panthers. Rivera inherits a defense that has 4 first round picks on the defensive line that will be facing off against an injury riddled offensive line of the Eagles as they will be without starting LT Andre Dillard and starting All-Pro RG Brandon Brooks. The Eagles bought back former LT Jason Peters who will look to protect Carson Wentz’s blind side. IF the Eagles OL is able to give Wentz time, he proved last year against the WTF that he has great chemistry with Jackson who has torched his former team in the past. Defensively Eagles fans will get their first look at their revamped secondary which will include Pro Bowler Darius Slay and Jalen Mills at safety. They will look to keep Terry McLaurin under control as he burnt the Eagles secondary in both games last season with long TDs. If the Eagles can get a lead early, I think their defense should be able to keep Dwayne Haskins under control and force the second year QB into some turnovers. Always fun to start the season vs a division rival and happy to have some football again in these crazy times. Go Birds!
Calling the game on 94WIP and the Eagles Radio Network will be Merrill Reese, the NFL’s longest-tenured play-by-play announcer (44th season). Joining Reese in the radio booth will be former Eagles All-Pro wide receiver Mike Quick, while Howard Eskin will report from the sidelines.
94.1 FM and 610 AM
Atlantic City/South Jersey
Salisbury/Ocean City, MD
Salisbury/Ocean City, MD
Salisbury/Ocean City, MD
Salisbury/Ocean City, MD
Philadelphia Spanish Radio
Rickie Ricardo, Macu Berral and Gus Salazar will handle the broadcast in Spanish on Mega 105.7 FM in Philadelphia and the Eagles Spanish Radio Network.
October 21st, 1934 at Fenway Park in Boston, MA. Boston Redskins 6 - Philadelphia Eagles 0
The Philadelphia Eagles lead the Washington Football Team (3591-3386)
Doug Pederson: 6-2 against the Washington Football Team
Ron Rivera: 3-2 against Eagles
Coaches Head to Head
Doug Pederson vs Ron Rivera: Tied 1-1
Carson Wentz: Against the Washington Football Team: 5-2
Dwayne Haskins Jr.: Against Eagles: 0-1
Quarterbacks Head to Head
Carson Wentz vs Dwayne Haskins Jr.: Wentz leads 1-0
Records per Stadium
Record @ Lincoln Financial Field: Eagles lead the Washington Football Team: 10-7
Record @ FedEx Field: Eagles lead the Washington Football Team: 14-6
Rankings and Last Meeting Information
AP Pro 32 Ranking
Eagles No. 11 - Football Team No. 30
Football Team: 0-0
Last Meeting and Last Meeting at Site
Sunday, December 30th, 2018
Eagles 37 - Washington Football Team 27
The Eagles looked to keep their playoff hopes alive and and opened up the scoring with a Jake Elliot FG in the first quarter. The lead was short lived as Dwayne Haskins hooked up with Terry McLaurin for a 75 yard touchdown pass. The Eagles went into half-time trailing 10-14, but took back the lead in the 3rd quarter on a Miles Sanders TD reception that put the Eagles up 17-14. The Eagles and Washington Football Team traded TD passes in the 4th quarter before the Washington Football Team regained the league with a pair of Dustin Hopkins FGs put the Washington Football Team's up 24-27. Carson Wentz answered the call leading the Eagles on a four and half minute 75 yard touchdown drive that culminated in a Greg Ward TD reception. The Eagles defense forced a fumble on the ensuing drive which was returned for a TD by Nigel Bradham for a nail in the coffin putting the Eagles up 10 with no time on the clock to give the Eagles the win.
Washington Football Team’s HC Ron Rivera was the Eagles linebackers coach from 1999-2003.
Washington Football Team’s QB coach Ken Zampese worked as an offensive assistant for the Eagles in 1998.
Washington Footbal Team’s CB Ronald Darby played the previous 3 seasons with the Eagles.
Eagles LS Rick Lovato briefly signed with the Washington Football Team during the 2016 season for two weeks.
Eagles WR Desean Jackson spent 3 seasons with the Washington Football Team (2016-2018) after he was released from the Eagles.
Eagles backup QB Nate Sudfeld was drafted by the Washington Football team in the 6th round of the 2016 NFL draft and played one season for them before being cut in 2017.
Eagles backup TE Richard Rodgers was signed with the Washington Football Team this past offseason before being released Sept. 5th and signing with the Eagles.
2020 Pro Bowlers
DT Fletcher Cox (Starter)
P Tress Way (Starter)
OG Brandon Brooks (Starter)
G Brandon Scherff
C Jason Kelce (Starter)
LS Rick Lovato (Starter)
TE Zach Ertz
SS Malcom Jenkings (1st Alt)
OT Lane Johnson (1st Alt
Referee: Brad Rogers
The Eagles have won each of their last 6 games vs. Washington, marking their longest such streak since 12/16/01-12/12/04 (7 games). Philadelphia is 14-9 (.609) all-time at FedExField.
Carson Wentz has posted a 5-0 record vs. Washington since 2017, completing 128-of-185 (69.2%) attempts for 1,460 yards (292.0 per game), 14 TDs, 3 INTs and a 111.1 passer rating.
Fletcher Cox has 12.5 sacks in 16 career games vs. Washington, which are his most against any NFL team and the most by any NFL player vs. Washington since 2012. Only four players have more sacks vs. Washington since 1982: Lawrence Taylor (19.0, 1982-93), Michael Strahan (17.0, 1994-2007), Justin Tuck (15.0, 2005-13) and Simeon Rice (14.0, 1996-2005).
The Eagles have won 8 of their last 9 season openers, which are the most opening day victories in the NFL since 2011.
Philadelphia is 4-0 in season openers under head coach Doug Pederson (since 2016). Pederson is one of two head coaches in team history to win 4 straight season-opening contests, join-ing Greasy Neale (6, 1942-47). The Eagles are one of only five NFL teams to start the season 1-0 in each of the last four years, joining Baltimore, Green Bay, Kansas City and Minnesota.
WR Jalen Raegor
DE Chase Young
QB Jalen Hurts
RB Antonio Gibson
LB Davion Taylor
OT Saahdiq Charles
S K’Von Wallace
WR Antonio Gandy-Golden
OT Jack Driscoll
C Keith Ismael
WR John Hightower
LB Khaleke Hudson
LB Shaun Bradley
S Curl Kamren
WR Quez Watkins
DE James Smith-Williams
OT Prince Tega Wanogho
LB/DE Casey Toohill
Notable Off-season Additions
S Will Parks
QB Kyle Allen
DT Javon Hargrave
CB Ronald DArby
CB Nickell Robey-Coleman
LB Thomas Davis
CB Darius Slay
RB Peyton Barber
S Sean Davis
WR Cody Latimer
CB Kendell Fuller
RB JD McKissic
G Wes Schweitzer
Notable Off-season Departures
S Malcom Jenkins
QB Case Keenum
CB Ronald Darby
CB Josh Norman
RB Jordan Howard
CB Quinton Dunbar
WR Nelson Agholor
TE Vernon Davis
OL Halapoulivaati Vaitai
WR Paul Richardson
LB Kamu Grugler-Hill
TE Jordan Reed
RB Darren Sproles
OT Donald Penn
DT Timmy Jernigan
CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
LB Nigel Bradham
CB Kayvon Weber
G Ereck Flowers
LT Trent Williams
Eagles QB Carson Wentz (97) needs 3 passing TDs for 100 career passing TDs.
Eagles TE Zach Ertz (35) needs 1 TDs to move up to 7th on the Eagles all-time receiving TD list all-time tying WR Jeremy Maclin
Eagles WR Desean Jackson (6276) needs 192 yards to move up to 3rd on the Eagles all-time receiving yards list all-time passing his mentor WR *Mike Quick
Eagles WR Desean Jackson (34) needs 2 TDs to move into a tie for 7th on the Eagles all-time receiving TD list tying WR Jeremy Maclin
Eagles DE Brandon Graham (51) needs 3.5 sacks to move to 4th on the Eagles all-time sack list tying DE Hugh Douglas
Eagles DT Fletcher Cox (48) needs 2.5 sacks to move up to 6th on the Eagles all-time sack list tying DE Greg Brown
Eagles DE Vinny Curry (27) needs 1 sack to move up to 19th on the Eagles all-time sack list passing DT Darwin Walker
Washington Football Team OLB Ryan Kerrigan (90) needs 1.5 sacks to become the Washington Football Team's all-time leader in sacks passing Dexter Manley (91).
Pro Football Focus Matchup Charts courtesy of PFF Edge (join.profootballfocus.com/edge/)
[Threshold = QBs with at least 20% snap count of the QB with the highest snap count of Play Action for the season] In the 2019-2020 season, no QB had a worse completion rate via Play Action than WFT’s Dwayne Haskins at 54.9% and only 2 others had worse such Passer Rating. For comparison, the Eagles’ Carson Wentz was at the top of the bottom 3rd in both metrics. Whereas has Wentz fared near the top of Play Action % of snaps during his NFL tenure and his completion % and Passer Rating have both ranked near the top in each of ‘16-‘18, in 2019 he did not do well in that respect. How Wentz performs in Play Action with injuries at the OL and WR positions, as well as how much the coaching staff will even ask him to turn his back to this particular DL and keep it...I’m not sure.
Matchups to Watch
Washington Defensive Line vs Eagles Offensive Line
NFL battles always start in the trenches and this is perhaps the biggest advantage the WFT has against the Eagles in this Week 1 tilt. Washington always had a formidable front that lead to intriguing battles between the two teams but the addition of Chase Young and the injuries the Eagles have already sustained make this match up concerning for Philly. The Eagles projected Week 1 starting OL prior to the injuries was, from left to right: Dillard, Seumalo, Kelce, Brooks, and Lane Johnson. Now, the Eagles will start: Peters, Seumalo, Kelce, TBD, TBD. Lane Johnson has practiced everyday this week in a limited capacity which makes me believe that he'll start but it's an uneasy feeling knowing he's working his way back from injury too. The logical guess at RG is Matt Pryor, but they've also tried out Nate Herbig in practice. Either way, the Eagles have a massive downgrade at RG with Brandon Brooks out. Fortunately, the Eagles may have accidentally upgraded in the short term with Jason Peters at LT but the depth in the trenches is already spread too thin. The Eagles are lucky to be as deep as they are on the OL given they aren't totally screwed (yet) but the current state of line makes this a very formidable match up for the Football Team (get a damn team name, jerks) to take advantage of. Additionally, they aren't just deep at EDGE, they are deep at DT as well. Payne, Allen, and Ioannidis are very stout and capable of dominating opposing OLs. Washington's roster is very thin but it isn't on the defensive line. They have more than enough ammunition to put the Eagles in difficult situations. This mismatch will force the coaching staff to be creative in their run designs and how they give help to the OL in pass protection.
Washington Secondary vs Eagles Passing Attack
The Eagles much beleaguered WR room went through a mini-makeover in the offseason and a lot of new, young, and fast faces were added to the mix. What they lack in proven talent, outside of DeSean Jackson's return, they make up for in athleticism. One thing Howie Roseman said this offseason was he was frustrated with the lack of speed on the team. It took him a while to understand that athleticism does matter. It's not just that the new group of receivers are fast, but they all have strong overall athletic profiles. But as previously mentioned, this is an unproven group going up against a very weak opposition. WFT brought back Kendall Fuller this offseason, who was a real good jack-of-all-trades player in the secondary for the Chiefs last season. His status for Sunday is questionable given his limited participation this week in practice. Opposite him is former Eagles favorite Ronald Darby. If I'm Doug Pederson, I make it a point to go after him all day. Even when Darby is at his best, which isn't often these days, he has absolutely zero ball skills. Washington may play Fabian Moreau if Fuller can't go, which is another defender the Eagles should target. Jimmy Moreland and Landon Collins are quality players, more so the latter, but they can't hide the deficiencies that should be easily exploitable by the Eagles. Remember, Philly put up over 30 in week 15 last year with less in the WR room than they currently have against a secondary that really isn't better than it was then. If Jalen Reagor is able to go, that would add another dimension to this offense the Eagles have lacked for a long time. If the Eagles can do a good enough job slowing down Washington's front, they are more than capable of picking apart a subpar secondary. And I didn't even talk about Ertz and Goedert! Or Miles Sanders through the air!
Washington Offensive Line vs Eagles Defensive Line
Despite the current injury limitations on the Eagles defensive line, this is a matchup that heavily favors the Eagles. Haskins finished 2019 on a positive note in his last 3 starts prior to his ankle injury; one thing he's never been known for is his pocket ability and ability to avoid taking sacks. Put a statue behind a bad offensive line and you are going to have issues. Trent Williams is now gone having finally forced his way out and his logical replacement, rookie Shaadiq Charles, isn't likely to play in week 1. Wes Martin, their starting left guard, is a below average player himself. The only player on the Washington Football Team's offensive line that is good is Brandon Scherff. While the Eagles aren't 100% on the defensive line, they are one of the few teams in the NFL with likely more talent and depth on their defensive line than the Washington Football Team's. Barnett has been limited in practice and has missed the last few weeks with another injury and his status is questionable while Hargrave is likely to miss a couple games as well. The Eagles still have Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, the return of Malik Jackson, and a lot more to throw at this beleaguered unit. Additionally, this is a defensive front that is always stingy against the run under Jim Schwartz even when the DL isn't at peak health. There are a lot of matchups to exploit and Schwartz has a lot of options to exploit them. For his faults as a coordinator with secondary scheming, Schwartz is a God at maximizing the talents of his pass rushers. Given the current state of the Washington OL and Haskins own difficulties under pressure, this is a juicy match up for Philly.
Washington Passing Attack vs Eagles Pass Defense
Washington is incredibly thin and young at the skill positions but that isn't the sort of thing that has deterred the Eagles from allowing big plays in the past. This is a secondary, and really a pass defense in general, that went through a major shake up this offseason and for good reason. The Eagles defense was pretty average per DVOA which was encouraging given what they had, but they consistently allowed big play after big play in 2019. Opposing WR1s absolutely shredded Philadelphia last season as they were automatic monsters against an overmatched, elementary secondary. Darius Slay and NRC were added to the mix and should provide immediate help to this unit. Avonte Maddox will start at CB2; while this is an iffy move, the additions of Slay and NRC should allow the Eagles to help him out a bunch. The Eagles finally have players that can play in man coverage and one of the best CBs in the league in shadow coverage. Schwartz has admitted that he will allow Slay to shadow receivers but likely not 100% of the time. This makes sense as it should be a matchup-specific thing... this is that time. Furthermore, allowing Slay to shadow receivers will lead to considerable scheme changes on defense as they can't play the coverages they've played the last four years while shadowing receivers. What does this look like and how quickly does it come together? Terry McLaurin is the only real commodity at receiver for Washington and he's a tremendous talent. Even when he was the only real receiving threat last year, he still tore the Eagles apart. Another major change for the Eagles is in the safety room with the departure of Malcolm Jenkins. The Eagles added Will Parks to the room but he will miss the first 3 weeks due to injury. They also retained Rodney McLeod; this could be a good thing or bad thing depending on which Rodney shows up. If another year away from knee surgery helps, then he'll be fine. But if last year's version shows up then the Eagles have a big problem. Lastly, the Eagles will be starting Jalen Mills at safety. Apparently, the cure for being a bad cornerback is a position switch to safety despite never playing it in the NFL. All that being said, the middle of the defense is slower and more unknown than it has ever been. LB1 is Nate Gerry. LB2 is Duke Riley. Mills is the new Jenkins. Will Parks is out. Does McLeod have enough left in the tank? Offenses are fast and innovative; the Skins lack a lot of talent on offense but their new offensive scheme could lead to some issues in the middle of the Eagles defense. If I'm Washington, I lean heavily on motions and play action to confuse the middle of the Eagles defense. Get guys who struggle to cover to cover your athletic RBs then take plenty of shots to Terry McLaurin. The Eagles are clearly better at CB than they've been in years but have considerable question marks in the Safety and in the LB rooms as it pertains to pass defense. Better CBs should lead to better pass defense overall but there are matchups to take advantage of. Washington might not be the best team to fully exploit these weaknesses, but they could.
Well, we lost, which means we are back to being bad. Jokes aside, the win last weekend was fun, but as I think today showed, it was merely a mirage. The evidence leans toward Matt Patricia not being a good coach, and I think it will be best that he and Detroit go in separate ways at the seasons end. And to be clear, Patricia still has a chance to turn the season around and get Detroit into contention. I think people forget that the Titans were 2-4 last year before winding up in the AFC Championship Game. I absolutely do not believe this will happen for Detroit, but rather, just being realistic that Detroit's schedule will ease up here soon enough, and maybe that gives them the confidence they need to make some things happen. But unless Patricia makes the playoffs, I am prepared, even eager I dare say, to move on. Now, I am obviously not Sheila Ford. But if I were, this is how I would approach this offseason.
The biggest question, should Detroit falter is what happens to Bob Quinn. While most would probably assume that Quinn and Patricia's fates are tied together, I think it could be a little bit more complicated than that. Allow me to elaborate on this. First and foremost, my view of the role of the GM is to work in conjunction with your head coach to create a vision for what the team will look like. The coach then goes about implementing that vision on the practice field and in games, developing and coaching the team to wins in whatever fashion they think they can. The GM goes about implementing that vision in the free agent markets, on the trade blocs, and in the draft room. In this sense, I think you could actually argue that Bob Quinn has been effective. He has built the Detroit Lions in the image of the New England Patriots, largely by bringing in former Patriots and players with a similar skill set. In terms of swiftly restyling the team, Quinn has arguably done exactly this. He's given Patricia personnel that match the scheme both in the draft and in free agency. As the executioner of this flawed vision, Quinn has managed to reshape them. He is effective in building a wannabe Patriots. Most will focus on the wannabe Patriots, as the issue, and to a large degree, they aren't wrong. But what they miss is that Quinn has done it effectively. Now, there are surely some poor decisions mixed in there. Quinn missed on some draft evaluations like Jarrad Davis and Teez Tabor. He did ship out Quandre Diggs for pennies and missed the window to extend Kenny Golladay before it could get more expensive. This isn't to say that Quinn is perfect, in fact, I'm not even arguing Quinn is a relatively good GM, just that he effectively executed a vision. Personally, I wish he had embraced a better vision, and for that, I'd have no issue firing him. But rather, just making the case that Quinn could stick around for another coaching hire. After all, it was Quinn who fired Jim Caldwell for his utter inability to beat good teams, only to turn around and hire buddy buddy Matty P who struggles to even beat bad teams. If Quinn is gone, let's look at some of the names to replace him....
General Manager Candidates
The first name that usually comes to everyone's mind is Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds. A widely regarded scout during his time in Seattle, Colts current GM Chris Ballard swiped Dodds away by making him his number two in Indy. He's played a big part in rebuilding the Colts roster, whether bringing in guys like Denico Autry or Kenny Moore, or drafting players like Braden Smith and Darius Leonard. While he's clearly a top option for just about anyone, there are some questions about whether or not he even wants the spotlight of a GM position. From Bleacher Report's Matt Miller: "he doesn't particularly like the attention that comes with being a decision-maker and might not even have the desire to be a general manager." Personally, I don't think someone who is hesitant to take on a general manager role in the first place would be eager to go to the Lions, given our horrid history. Dodds was from the line of Seahawks GM John Schneider, and he has a few other deputies who could be interesting candidates, notably Seahawks co-director of player personnel Scott Fitterer. Originally a scout himself, he's been in Seattle for awhile now, and was huge piece of the 2010-2012 draft classes that produced Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Bobby Wagner. Additionally, he serves alongside fellow co-director of player personnel, Trent Kirchner, who also figures to be an intriguing candidate. Detroit may want to consider getting someone with experience running their own show, and if that's the case, Saints assistant GM Jeff Ireland could be an interesting name. Ireland was the Dolphins GM from 2008 until 2013, a time when they weren't as bad as they have been the past few seasons. Over his stretch, they peaked in year one with a playoff berth, and proceeded to go 7-9 just about every year following. So why would Detroit be interested in Ireland? Well, he has had time to reflect on the mistakes made during his time, and spent the past few years working in a better organization (the Saints) where you get an idea of new ways to approach things. I live in Denver, and happen to be connected to a few Broncos employees out here, one of whom would actually have respectable insight, so I texted him and asked "who should Detroit consider for a new GM?". His response was 49ers VP of player personnel Adam Peters who was with Denver for a few years during their Super Bowl run. He ran college scouting in Denver, and now works alongside John Lynch in building the monstrosity that is the 49ers roster. He even made one the "GM candidates to know" lists that people put out, so it seems some others would share the hype. Looking at other successfully run organizations, the Baltimore Ravens and director of player personnel Joe Hortiz come to mind. Horitz has been in Baltimore under both Ozzie Newsome and DeCosta, so he's clearly seen what a well-run organization looks like, one that isn't exclusively tied to a legendary head coach. He's played a large role in scouting (1998-2016), a time in which Baltimore added stars like Ronnie Stanley, Za'Darius Smith, C.J Mosley, Brandon Williams, Kelechi Osemele, and Jimmy Smith amongst plenty of others. If Detroit wants to take a wild swing at the television personalities, like the Raiders did with Mike Mayock, the top candidate there would probably be ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, who was a pro scout with the Redskins for a few years, and worked as director of player personnel for both the Redskins and Eagles. One person I just want to clearly rule out is Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio. First and foremost, if Bill O'Brien survives the 2020 season as head coach of the Texans, Caserio will be named their new GM. Second, Detroit absolutely needs to avoid another born and raised Patriots executive. So no Caserio. If so, we riot. I think, ultimately for me, Ireland has too much baggage, Riddick is too much of a wild card, and Dodds isn't likely to leave for Detroit. Therefore, my top target is probably going to be Scott Fitterer, but I'd be thoroughly pleased with Kirchner, Peters, or Hortiz.
Head Coaching Candidates
Not even debating it. Matt Patricia is out. Between an archaic scheme, contentious relations with star players, and poor awareness with the media, Patricia hasn't shown he's worth it. We will be parting ways with him, and I'm sure he'll end up with the Patriots, Giants, or Dolphins in some assistant capacity. The first name to mention is Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. Everyone knows the deal here, I'm not getting too much into it. Same with Michigan-native, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. We'll be discussing less talked about candidates here. One name that does not get a lot of hype is Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman. He remains one of the absolute best at tailoring offenses to create dynamic rushing attacks with dual-threat quarterbacks. While Matthew Stafford isn't exactly a dual-threat QB, perhaps a pairing of Roman and OSU QB Justin Fields could be a lot of fun to watch. Roman has called offenses for both Harbaugh brothers, in San Francisco with Jim where he created an offense for Colin Kaepernick, and now in Baltimore with John and Lamar Jackson. One Kansas City coach who doesn't get as much hype as he probably should is Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub. He's a trusted assistant for Andy Reid, and historically speaking, special teams coordinators actually have a fairly high success rate. He's been highly regarded for his leadership within the Chiefs franchise these past few years. If Detroit wants to keep a defensive focus at the head coaching spot, then Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus is one of the best in the business. Quoting CBS here, "Energetic and disciplined, he's Frank Reich's most well-rounded companion". Eberflus runs a fairly creative defensive scheme that has allowed guys like Darius Leonard to thrive, focusing on getting elite athletes across the board. His defense is so fun, that in Week 3 they actually caught more touchdowns passes from Jets QB Sam Darnold than Darnold was able to throw to members of his own team. Another defensive mind who should be under consideration is Ravens defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale. He's been there LB coach since 2012, and their coordinator since 2018 as the Ravens have continued to roll out good defensive units no matter who they have at hand. Martindale's defense is quite the opposite of Patricia's, they blitz like crazy and they mix up their coverage often. If Detroit is willing to give a head coach a second chance (the results on this trend are pretty mixed btw), then Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier would probably be the most intriguing second chance candidate. Quoting SBN here, "His three-year stint as the Vikings' head coach saw him lead the team to the playoffs in 2012 followed by a sharp fall in 2013. But it's hard to blame him too much when he was choosing between Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman, and Matt Cassel at quarterback". While Sean McDermott is a defensive-minded head coach in Buffalo already, he's credited Frazier with a major role in turning the Bills into one of the top defenses in the NFL. Turning to offense, we have another Bills coordinator, Brian Daboll calling the shots on offense. Daboll was with the Patriots for a few years as their tight ends coach, before departing and finding success away from Belichick, winning a national title during his time as Alabama's offensive coordinator in 2017, before coming to Buffalo and molded the raw potential of Josh Allen into the dominant player he has been this year. Former Lions backup QB Kellen Moore, now the offensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys at only 32 years old figures to be a hot name soon. He's helped Dak Prescott continue to build his game, going from a steady game manager to a playmaker himself. Moore's a little young, but is one of the most prolific offensive minds in CFB. Also in the rising star mold is Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, a former star QB himself. Leftwich has worked under Bruce Arians for a few years now, and helped create an offense that put up prolific numbers with Jameis Winston (and a lot of interceptions as well). Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni has also gotten some hype from people in coaching circles, as he's helped the Colts manage the unexpected fallout of Andrew Luck's surprise retirement. If he can milk the remaining production out of Phillip Rivers, he'll be an intriguing candidate who has worked under a few quality head coaches already. Another offensive coordinator that merits some consideration is Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. He played a major role in transitioning the Titans from Marcus Mariota to Ryan Tannehill, a move that helped propel them all the way to the AFC Championship game behind the effective duo of Derrick Henry's rushing ability and Tannehill's effectiveness off the play action pass, Usually teams don't hire position coaches, but it's not entirely out of the blue, especially if that position coach does have interim head coaching experience like Saints tight ends coach Dan Campbell. Campbell was Miami's interim head coach in 2015, going 5-7 after Joe Philbin was fired. Campbell also played TE for the Lions back in the second half of the 2000's, posting one of the better seasons a Lions tight end had at that point in 2006. He's considered an exceptional leader in the Saints organization. The Panthers brought in college head coach Matt Rhule this past year, and if Detroit is looking to do something similar, the three names to watch would probably be OSU head coach Ryan Day, a former Chip Kelly protege who has somehow made the Buckeyes even more deadly and efficient than they were under Urban Meyer, Oklahoma heisman producehead coach Lincoln Riley, who is responsible for getting Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray drafted #1 overall, and lastly Florida head coach Dan Mullen, a former Urban Meyer protege who has had immense success at Mississippi State and now at Florida so far. There's probably some other candidates I did not dive into. Though similar to Caserio and the GM tree, absolute pass on Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. No need to try that one a second time. Personally, I like a lot of these candidates. There's plenty of diversity in schemes, backgrounds, leadership styles, etc. My favorite, however, is Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. The work he's done with Josh Allen is fantastic, as he's crafted an offense that fits Allen's style, and whether he'd want to keep Stafford or draft his replacement, I'd have the utmost faith that he'd mold that QB in similar fashion.
For the current personnel, it'll be important to identify which players have a future in Detroit. Whether that's based on scheme fit, age, health, cap implication, etc. Taking a look at the roster, here's my best guess, outside of one position, which is detailed in a separate section below. Running back is a good spot for Detroit, regardless of what happens to current starting RB Adrian Peterson. I like RB Kerryon Johnson, but I am absolutely against a sizeable contract extension. Personally, I don't think paying running backs anything more than like $5 mil per year is a good investment, regardless of what back it is. So, he's fine for another season under contract, but may end up parting ways after that. Drafting his replacement in RB D'Andre Swift was a wise move. I actually like the idea of taking good running backs (2nd-3rd round) every other season. That way you never have to pay them and always have fresh legs. Wide receiver will require some effort this offseason. Quinn massively screwed us by not extending WR Kenny Golladay prior to the season. Only leaves more time for larger contracts to be signed. For example, his spotract market value went up from $16 mil per season to almost $19 mil per season because of additional deals being signed. And with a lowered cap, that's gonna be problematic. The Lions should have at least a WR3/4 in WR Quintez Cephus, and WR Geronimo Allison opted out, meaning Detroit retains his contract for 2021. They'll likely need to draft someone early and sign another veteran, maybe even bringing back Jones or Amendola for a 1-year deal. Tight end is pretty straight forward. TE T.J. Hockenson was a top-10 selection, and is starting to look like a very good weapon for the offense going forward. His backup, TE Jesse James is also simple: his contract is too large to retain him if he continues his mediocre play. If he can more consistently play like he did against the Cardinals, they may keep him. If not, cut for cap space. Bryant and Nauta are sort of unknowns at this point. The offensive line may be Detroit's best spot going forward. LT Taylor Decker has been earning that contract extension so far, looking very good at this point. C Frank Ragnow will need his own contract extension soon, but he's been performing as one of the best centers in the NFL, and should remain an integral part of the unit. G Jonah Jackson looks promising as well in his rookie campaign. Detroit will have LG Joe Dahl under contract for one more year, and has G Logan Stenberg developing behind him. The bigger question comes with RT Hal Vaitai and RT Tyrell Crosby. If Vaitai continues to play poorly, he'll be cut after 2021. Crosby could easily be replaced with a better player by that time as well, but for now serves a valuable role as a decent enough spot starter. Defense is almost entirely dependent on who a new head coach would bring in to call the shots. Many of the players on Detroit's roster are scheme-specific to the old Patriot 3-4 scheme that Patricia loves to run. Let's just assume that, regardless of the new coach, it'll be a bit more diverse, modern scheme. On the defensive line, DE Trey Flowers is pretty scheme versatile funny enough. He can play SDE in a 4-man front or iDE in a 3-man. His contract will also pretty much require the new coach to make it work with him. And who knows, Flowers has had the intentional misfortune of playing under no-blitz Patricia, so chances are a more aggressive scheme could give him some help in pass rushing. DE Julian Okwara is also pretty versatile. He could be a 4-3 WDE or a 3-4 OLB and was a good pass rusher at Notre Dame. His brother, DE Romeo Okwara is frankly just not very good. If Detroit goes to a 4-man front in a new coach, they'll definitely want a replacement for Romeo, who is serviceable depth, but not much more. DE Austin Bryant hasn't shown enough to warrant an opinion one way or the other. Interior, DT Danny Shelton is probably not gonna fit in a new scheme. He's an inconsistent run defender who offers little in the pass rush department. DT Nick Williams is a bit more versatile, but the issue is that he's just not very good. His career is as a pretty bland back-end rotational piece. One good season in Chicago would appear to be an anomaly. Cutting either of these two (each set to make around $5 mil cap hits in 2021) would save a net $4 mil in much needed cap space. Behind them, DT Kevin Strong is relatively versatile, but not that good. He's still young and cheap, however, so could still find a role as depth. The big question will be DT Da'Shawn Hand, who has had an inconsistent, but promising career thus far. He can fill a pretty similar role to Flowers, perhaps even being able to play as a 3-tech DT in some schemes (cough, Dan Quinn defensive coordinator). He's a piece that could at least find a useful role under a new regime, but expect Shelton and Williams to be purged within 2 years. Linebacker is where you can pretty much just get rid of everyone. LB Jamie Collins is clearly the best player in the group, but I still wouldn't bet he'd be a for sure keep for a new regime. He struggled outside the Patriots system, during his exile to Cleveland. I think he could find a role as a 3-4 OLB, rather than the 4-3 ILB/OLB hybrid, but it's still hard to peg him in other schemes. He'll be with Detroit regardless in 2021 because of his contract however. LB Jarrad Davis should just walk at this point. Detroit is better when he's not on the field. LB Christian Jones is similar to Collins, in that he's a poor fit for most schemes, but the difference is he's not nearly as good as Collins. Could probably just trade him to whatever team Matt Patricia ends up on. The hardest part about a transition to a new scheme would be giving up on younger guys like LB Jahlani Tavai. He's shown some flashes, but really isn't much of a pass rusher and is too old school for modern schemes. Trading Tavai this offseason to a Patriots-style team (Giants, Miami, Patriots, etc.) would be best for both groups. Now, two guys who could be interesting to bring back are LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin and LB Elijah Lee. Both are currently fish out of water, as they're not great scheme fits for Patricia's defense. They both are on expiring deals however. I'd probably like to see Reeves-Maybin brought back in a new regime, simply because the chance for him to actually find success would go up in a scheme that fits his strengths a bit better. At cornerback, you have a pretty good foundation. CB Jeffrey Okudah and CB Amani Oruwariye are both pretty fluid athletes with the ability to thrive in multiple schemes. In fact, Oruwariye could potentially be even better in a Cover 3 scheme, should Detroit find someone who deploys that philosophy. Similarly, CB Justin Coleman is pretty versatile, especially out of the slot. He's excelled in the Seahawks Cover 3 scheme (which is honestly my recommendation for what kind of defense to run), but is still good in man coverage. Those three give Detroit a great start. CB Darryl Roberts is built more for Patricia's scheme, so probably won't be back, but I'd expect Detroit to find another veteran like him to fill out the two deep. CB Desmond Trufant is definitely a man coverage corner, and is also old and with a checkered injury history recently. We always knew Trufant was more of a veteran bridge to Okudah and Oruwariye taking over. Safety is interesting. S Tracy Walker is a rising star and honestly can play any scheme. He's a baller. S Will Harris is not. Maybe a new scheme gets him sorted out, but at the same time, his biggest issue is that he can't cover in man and he can't tackle. Kind of hard to be a slot safety when you struggle with that. S Duron Harmon is a quality Cover 1 free safety, but he's on an expiring contract. Detroit will likely need to find a new starter there, as Harris isn't ideally suited to free safety, and S C.J. Moore is more of a special teams piece than a starting caliber player. We still need to see more from S Jayron Kearse looks like before making decisions there. Special Teams will require some investment this offseason. Detroit's punting god, Jack Fox, is an ERFA, meaning Detroit can bring him back for pretty cheap. They may just want to reward him and sign him to a deal for a few seasons (though COVID cap implications may prevent that). Both K Matt Prater and LS Don Muhlbach are on expiring deals, so either new deals for them, or replacements. Lions backup LS Steven Wirtel has gotten some praise as a future NFL LS, so perhaps they hand the reins over to him, given that he'd cost half what Muhlbach would, and the Lions will need every penny this offseason.
Quarterback 2021 and Beyond
If there is a new regime change, then it's not out of the realm of possibility that they look into the prospect of finding Matthew Stafford's successor. Stafford will be 33-years old in 2021, and while QB's are still able to continue playing at a high level into their late 30's, for example, Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan and Brady and Brees have all put together quality seasons lately, despite their older age. However, 35 is traditionally the drop-off age, and for a QB who relies on arm talent, it is most definitely something to watch and consider. I'll say this first and foremost, if Detroit ends up in a position to select QB Trevor Lawrence out of Clemson, you pull the trigger on that and sort things out later. The two options behind him are QB Justin Fields, a dual-threat option out of Ohio State, and QB Trey Lance, an athletic, efficient QB out of North Dakota State. Now, personally, I'm a bit skeptical of Trey Lance. I think NDSU sets everything up for him on a platter, and the more film you watch on Lance, the more I find he struggles on full-field reads. If you can isolate his playbook to a half-field read, then I think he crushes it, but the troubles outside of that, added into the large talent gap between NDSU and literally anyone else in the FCS, makes me hesitant. To me, Lance is a slightly higher upside version of Titans QBRyan Tannehill. In that sense, I don't really think he'd be worth the investment if Detroit is selecting in the top-15. Now, Justin Fields is growing on me, admittedly. Rewatched a handful of his OSU games and continue to find his ability to dissect coverage to be a lot more advanced than I recalled during the season. He has a big arm, and has one of the most coveted traits nowadays: the ability to make plays when the original structure breaks down. I think, at this point, I'd probably be sold on Fields, but not on Lance, though honestly, if they did hire a competent offensive mind like Bieniemy or Daboll, I wouldn't object to it, as I think anyone who can get such massive leaps out of Josh Allen could probably get the most out of Trey Lance as well. The bigger issue I do have is whether or not Detroit should move on from Stafford at this point. A few things can all be true at the same time, and four things I'm going to mention all are true.
Matthew Stafford is not playing as well as he was in the first half of 2020, and the issues don't exactly seem to be tied to any injury.
Despite not playing as well as 2020, Stafford is still one of the better QB's in the league, ranking 11th in passing yards (1,017) and 7th in touchdown passes (8). That kind of production wins games with a better defense.
Detroit would be marginally restricted in the ability to build a roster around a large QB cap hit like Stafford's.
The issues holding Detroit back most (its defense) would not be solved with a new quarterback. There are plenty examples of promising young quarterbacks being broken because they were put in less than ideal situations....Sam Darnold in New York being just the latest example. Unless Detroit can build a competent defense, it will not actually matter who the quarterback is.
All that just to say, let's all chill out a bit when dealing with each other's takes on what to do at QB. We don't have to draft a new QB, that denies so many of the bigger issues. We also do not have to keep Matthew Stafford, that denies the reality that plenty of teams have found a new QB can elevate the play of the team, helping them go from good to great (see Chiefs moving Alex Smith for Mahomes), and that even with Stafford, Detroit remains mediocre. Personally, I think it's better to build a good roster and then make the change at quarterback. Right now, I think Detroit is set-up well for its OL going forward, and probably will be decent at WRB with Golladay and Hockenson and Swift and Kerryon, but the defense will continue to lose us games, and I'd hate to waste the early years of a cheap rookie QB still trying to build the roster around him. And personally, I think every bit as good as Fields and Lance is USC QB Kedon Slovis as a potential QB to target in the 2022 draft class.
2021 Free Agency Complications
Now, truly, I have no clue what's going to happen with this, but Detroit, along with the rest of the league, is not going to be overflowing with cap space. Minimal fans in the stadium means no ticket revenue. Some doomsday predictions have the cap going down as far as $175 million. Realistically speaking, I wouldn't anticipate Detroit entering the offseason with anything more than $15-20 million in cap space. If you're trying to overhaul a new scheme with new personnel, that'll be kind of tough. Detroit has a few pieces it can cut, however. Some have been mentioned....Jesse James, Danny Shelton, Nick Williams. All could open up a little bit of change (over $10 mil if all 3) which would be majorly beneficial. Another one who could go is CB Desmond Trufant, which would free up $6 million. QB Chase Daniel could easily have a restructured contract to open up in between $1-2 million. G Joe Dahl would save $3 million if he was cut, but I don't see that really happening, as Dahl's a good bargain for a quality enough starting G. Maybe if Logan Stenberg develops into a quality piece Dahl could be traded, but that seems unlikely.
2021 Free Agency Targets
To remake the team, I'm first going to identify a few veterans who could help accelerate a quick turnaround defensively. Assuming I've gotten my wish of Detroit Lions head coach Brian Daboll, then the offense wouldn't need much reconfiguration. There would honestly be two players I'd want Daboll to bring with him from Buffalo. They are... Bills G Jon Feliciano - a powerful run blocker, Feliciano could either compete with Dahl outright, or simply serve as the first back-up at guard...the new and improved Kenny Wiggins so to speak. Bills LB Matt Milano - Detroit will need modern linebackers, and Milano would be an excellent one to start with. He can cover, get sideline to sideline, and make plays in the box. I think Buffalo ends up re-signing him however. Now, I don't want to simply switch from the Patriots West to the Bills West. But I do generally believe that any new coach should try and bring 2 or 3 players who are familiar, if for nothing more than putting pieces in place that can help introduce the new system to the current roster. Some others however. Detroit will probably need another starting wide receiver in free agency, and while I would absolutely love to get Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins to Detroit, he'll probably be a bit out of the price range, given how many pieces Detroit could need on defense. Some of the more financially plausible options would likely be Jags WR Chris Conley, 49ers WR Kendrick Bourne, Rams WR Josh Reynolds, or maybe Bengals WR John Ross. Similarly, I'd love to go after Bills TE Tyler Kroft as another piece to work with Hockenson, but he'd probably be too pricey, and I imagine Buffalo will retain him rather than let him hit the market. Jags TE Tyler Eifert, Titans TE MyCole Pruitt, or perhaps Seahawks TE Jacob Hollister would all make a bit more sense. This would be dependent on cutting Jesse James in search of an upgrade. Detroit is set on starting OL, but could use a depth piece with Wiggins and Aboushi both on expiring deals. Chargers G Dan Feeney has starting experience, though most of the options here are pretty mediocre. Could actually argue that retaining Wiggins would be the wisest course of action. Defensive Tackle will be a MAJOR spot to address, as Detroit currently doesn't have a quality group there, and scheme change could make it worse. There are some big names like Saints DT Sheldon Rankins or Michigan-native Raiders DT Johnathan Hankins, whom Detroit should've brought in awhile ago. Broncos DT Shelby Harris is a good interior pass rusher who can play multiple roles. I'm guessing Detroit doesn't pony up the money for Giants DT Dalvin Tomlinson but I wouldn't hate that. Defensive end would be a need if Detroit went to a 4-man front, as you'd want an upgrade over Romeo Okwara. Assuming Detroit isn't going for the big names like Vikings DE Yannick Ngakoue or Titans DE Jadeveon Clowney, a more sensible option would a stopgap option like Washington EDGE Ryan Kerrigan, who can play really any edge spot well. Colts DE Denico Autry would be plenty of fun, and if the Lions hired someone like Matt Eberflus, I'd want them to for sure make that move. One of the more under-the-radar pieces that could be more fiscally responsible would be Saints DE Trey Hendrickson. If they go more of a traditional 3-4, then adding an upgrade over Christian Jones would be the move there. Kerrigan would still fit that one well, but other options could be Chargers OLB Melvin Ingram. Perhaps a head coach Martindale would want to bring GVSU grade OLB Matt Judon to Detroit? Though both those options would be pricy. A cheaper option would Jets OLB Jordan Jenkins or maybe Rams OLB Samson Ebukam. Off ball linebackers, we already mentioned Milano. Bucs LB Kendall Beckwith would make some sense, as would Saints LB Alex Anzalone or Chiefs LB Damien Wilson. None of these guys would be stars, but most teams hang onto good LB's who can play off ball and cover backs, so you're probably looking for a veteran stopgap to hold over until you can draft a guy.
2021 NFL Draft
We're getting deep into this. Depending on where Detroit is drafting and who they pulled in with free agency, these would be the guys I'd be most interested in acquiring. DT Marvin Wilson, Florida State - Like I said, Detroit needs to be a lot better at DT, and Wilson is a monster. DE Aidan Hutchinson/Kwity Paye, Michigan - If one of these two could slip to you in the second round, that'd be great. Both very good edge rushers. Would love to grab Carlos Basham out of Wake Forest if Detroit is mid first. I also like Quincy Roche as an OLB in a 3-4. A starting caliber WR. If they miss out on Ja'Marr Chase, then one of the Alabama wide outs (Jaylen Waddle or Devonta Smith) would suffice just fine. I mentioned the other day that Waddle is my current preferred choice for the draft at this point. Gophers WR Rashod Bateman could also be a fun addition. If they need to hunt for a starting wide out in the 3rd or 4th, Michigan's Nico Collins is an excellent deep threat, not too far from the mold of Golladay and Jones. OSU WR Chris Olave would be a clean replacement for Amendola in the slot. I think Detroit could use a free safety like Trevon Moehrig or Andre Cisco to either immediately start, or develop behind a veteran. Moehrig may end up as a late first round option, but Cisco could be a day 2 pick that pays off immediately. G Wyatt Davis may not stick out as a clear need, but y'all know I am an OL coach, and I think this kid is the best G prospect since Quentin Nelson, so I wouldn't hesitate to pull the trigger, trade Joe Dahl for a pick, and call it a day. If C/G Josh Myers dropped to the second, I'd also be a very big fan of that move as well. I'm guessing most wouldn't like that, as OL is a relative strength to other spots on the roster, and that's understandable, but if we're truly talking best player available mentality, then Davis has to be considered right after guys like Micah Parsons, Ja'Marr Chase, and Lawrence. As far as linebackers go, either LSU's Jabrill Cox or LB Chazz Surratt out of North Carolina could be guys who can slide into starting roles quickly. Same goes for Micah Parsons but unless Detroit's drafting top-5, they don't get him. Few others who have appeal right now as later round prospects...TE Matt Bushman (BYU), WR Dazz Newsome (UNC), LB Dmitri Moore (Vanderbilt), CB Camryn Bynum (Cal), WR Tutu Atwell (Louisville), LB Ventrell Miller (Florida), S Reed Blankenship (MTSU), and LB Rayshard Ashby (VaTech). Overall, a lot of different ways to go, but this would be my proposal at least. Bring in Brian Daboll, get him a veteran defensive coordinator, and then go about building a modern defense. See what you can get out of Matt Stafford, and prepare for a transition down the road if needed at that point.
Will the Philadelphia Eagles win OVER/UNDER 9.5 games? By University Stats Prof!
The Eagles have been a good model of consistency. Over the past 20 years, they have had just four losing seasons. It wasn’t always pretty, but Philly managed to secure the NFC East title with a 9-7 record last year. They closed out the regular season with a four-game winning streak to edge the Cowboys atop the division. Unfortunately, Carson Wentz exited the wildcard playoff game early and the team couldn’t overcome his absence in a 17-9 home loss to the Seahawks.
2. Offensive Position-by-Position Breakdown
2.1 Quarterbacks (QBs) Carson Wentz needs to be applauded for his 2019 performance. He had to deal with numerous injuries to his receiving corps and yet, he led the team to a playoff spot and he finished with a career-high in passing yards with 4,039. He threw 27 TD passes versus 7 interceptions, while playing all 16 games for the first time since his rookie season in 2016. In the season finale, his top targets were Boston Scott, Dallas Goedert, Josh Perkins, Deontay Burnett and Greg Ward. Outside of Goedert, none is an established starter in the NFL. The Eagles still secured the NFC East title with a 34-17 road win in New York. Philadelphia selected Jalen Hurts late in the second round of this year’s draft. He transferred from Alabama to Oklahoma for his senior year since Tua Tagovailoa was projected to be the starter. Hurst was actually replacing Kyler Murray who had just been taken as the number one overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft by the Cards. Hurts did not disappoint in his lone season with the Sooners. He completed 237-of-340 passes (69.7%) with 3,851 passing yards, along with 32 TD passes and eight interceptions. He also rushed for 1,298 yards with 20 TDs on the ground! His weaknesses are an average accuracy, inconsistent decision-making and a tendency to take off as a runner too often (sometimes when a receiver was open). He is likely to be used as a gadget player by Doug Pederson this year. Nate Sudfeld will compete for the backup job. He missed the entire 2019 season due to a wrist injury he suffered during preseason. He was a sixth-round pick out of Indiana in the 2016 draft. He has attempted just 25 passes in the NFL in four years, so it’s hard to tell what to expect from him. 2.2 Running Backs (RBs) Miles Sanders’ rookie season was a resounding success. He led all rookies with 1,327 yards from scrimmage. He carried a heavier workload as the season went on. During the first eight games, he averaged 8.3 carries per game, as opposed to 14.1 over the last nine contests (including the playoff loss to the Seahawks). Jordan Howard’s injury at midseason contributed to the increased usage of Sanders in the backfield. With Howard gone to Miami, the sky’s the limit for second-round pick out of Penn State. Darren Sproles retired and Jay Ajayi was waived. That leaves the door wide open for third-year man Boston Scott. He flashed big time last year and unquestionably passed my eye test. The 5’6’’ back is very explosive. Scott made a name for himself in Week #17 as he had to step in for Sanders who sprained an ankle in the first quarter against the Giants. Scott went on to rack up 138 total yards and three touchdowns. 2.3 Wide Receivers (WRs) This unit was decimated by injuries last year. DeSean Jackson pretty much played just one game, while Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor missed six and five games, respectively. Despite playing under his age-32 campaign, Jackson showed he still has field-stretching abilities in his lone meeting last year. He was spectacular with 8 catches for 154 yards and a couple of scores. He hasn’t played a full 16-game season very often in his career though. Jeffery is another aging receiver coming off a significant injury. He underwent Lisfranc surgery, which requires a long rehab period. He’s questionable for the start of training camp. Since two outstanding seasons in 2013 and 2014 with the Bears, Jeffery has missed four games per year on average, while showing signs of slowing down on the field as well. His 11.4 yards-per-catch average last year was a career low. To be honest, I feel like Jeffery’s time in the league is coming to an end soon. Lisfranc injuries can be tricky for wide receivers, and full recovery is even more difficult for guys above 30 years of age. Nelson Agholor was a younger WR who could have provided adequate depth, but he signed with the Raiders. The former first-rounder has not lived up to expectations, but he was still a decent pass catcher, albeit his drops were a big issue last year. Maybe a change of scenery will help rejuvenate his career. Philly drafted Jalen Reagor with the #21 pick overall last April. He’s a smallish deep threat who is at his best on straight routes. He was good with contested catches, but will it still be the case in the NFL given his size? That’s a big question mark. Reagor opened a lot of eyes by scoring eight touchdowns as a freshman with TCU after being a high recruit out of high school. He followed up with a great 72-1061-9 receiving line as a sophomore. Reagor’s numbers dropped quite a bit as a junior (43-611-5), but you can attribute that to having a freshman QB at the helm. He’s an electrifying player who can take it to the house every time he touches the ball. The competition for the number three role is also likely to involve Greg Ward and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. These two guys have had completely different paths before making it to the NFL. Ward went undrafted before joining the AAF. He eventually was added to the Eagles’ practice squad, and later on promoted to the 53-man roster until a depleted receiving corps forced him onto the field. Meanwhile, Arcega-Whiteside had more of a “conventional” journey by being drafted in the second-round of the 2019 draft. Such resumes would suggest Arcega-Whiteside would be the superior wideout, but that’s not what we saw on the field. He only caught 10-of-22 targets for a disappointing 45% catch rate. He was rarely targeted down the stretch, despite the numerous injuries at the position. On the other hand, Ward filled in admirably late in the season. Over the final four meetings, including the playoff game, he caught 20-of-25 targets (an 80% catch rate). He clearly deserves a shot as a top reserve for the upcoming season. 2.4 Tight Ends (TEs) The Eagles have a nice duo at the tight end position with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. Ertz is a true warrior. He hasn’t missed more than two games in each of his first seven season in the league. Last year, he played with two rib fractures one week after lacerating his kidney. Talk about a tough guy. His numbers are also staggering. His lowest figures in terms of receptions and receiving yards over the past five years are 74 and 816. That’s truly remarkable! Please note that he’ll be turning 30 years old during the season. Just like Ertz, Goedert is also a former second-rounder. However, he is four years younger. He caught 58 passes for 607 yards and 5 TDs, all career-highs. He was targeted 4 times per game on average before the team’s bye week versus an average of 7.9 for the remainder of the year. Granted, injuries to other targets probably boosted his numbers, but he still developed nice chemistry with Wentz. 2.5 Offensive Line (OL) The Eagles have a heck of an offensive line. You cannot blame Jason Kelce for anything over the past five years. He hasn’t missed any start, while consistently being one of the top centers in the league. As a matter of fact, he was rated as the #1 center in the NFL according to PFF grades last year. He’s now 32 years old. Left tackle Jason Peters has been just as good as Kelce. He was nominated to nine Pro Bowls in his career and he finished as the number 6 tackle in the league with his 83.4 PFF mark. Unfortunately, the team decided to let the 38-year old hit the free agency market. EDIT: he was re-signed three days ago (this article was written several weeks ago). He is projected to play guard instead of tackle. Peters will be replaced with 2019 first-round pick, Andre Dillard. Is he ready to take on the full-time job? It remains to be seen, but it will be difficult to fill Peters’ shoes. As for Lane Johnson, the right tackle finished as the 3rd-best tackle in the league based on the PFF grading system. He’s been very good throughout his seven-year career; the former #4 overall pick has not disappointed at all! Brandon Brooks also had a huge 2019 season! He ended the year as the top guard in the NFL with a jaw-dropping 92.9 PFF mark. Much like Lane Johnson, Brooks is another player above 30 years old who’s been reliable his entire career. Left guard Isaac Seumalo started all 16 games for the first time of his career. He’s the one that received the lowest grades on this OL, but finishing 17th out of 81 guards is nothing to be ashamed of! The former third-round pick from the 2016 draft is not as talented as his colleagues, but you could do worse than having him as one of your starters. The team lost good depth with the departure of Halapoulivaati Vaitai to Detroit. The 2019 season was clearly his best year; it would have been nice to retain him but he signed a huge contract with the Lions. 2020 VS 2019 OFFENSE When comparing the upcoming 2020 season with last year, there are some positives and some negatives. Let’s discuss the negative stuff first. I do expect a downgrade on the offensive line. They played at an extremely high level last year with four guys finishing among the 6 players at their respective position (based on PFF rankings). That’s unlikely to happen again, especially with three linemen aged 30 years or above. Also, second-year man Andre Dillard has good potential, but it will be difficult to match Jason Peters’ 2019 performance. I do expect a drop-off here. At quarterback and tight end, the situation remains stable. At the running back position, losing Jordan Howard to free agency won’t hurt too much with the emergence of electrifying Boston Scott. Also, Miles Sanders is expected to take a leap in his sophomore season. Finally, how could you not expect better production from the WR group? They were hit by the injury bug a lot last year. Agholor’s departure is a moderate blow; getting DeSean Jackson back is a bonus! Hopefully, speedy rookie Jalen Reagor can provide a spark to an offense that sorely missed game breakers last year. The Eagles offense scored the 12th-highest number of points last year. My final conclusion, based on the arguments above, is that I expect similar production in 2020. Final call (2020 vs 2019): Stable
3. Defensive Position-by-Position Breakdown
3.1 Defensive Linemen (DLs) Fletcher Cox is an animal. Plain and simple. Despite posting his second-lowest sack output of his illustrious eight-year career, he still graded as the 4th-best interior defenders in the NFL based on PFF rankings. On average, he has recorded 6 sacks per year (he only got 3.5 last year) He has also been very durable; he’s missed just three games out 128. He still has good years to come at age 29. Tim Jernigan was a decent starter next to Cox, but he clearly wasn’t needed on the team anymore after the Eagles signed stud DT Javon Hargrave. The former Steeler showed steady improvement in each of his first four years in the NFL. His 83.4 PFF mark last year put him in the 8th spot out of 114 DLs. With Hargrave entering his prime years and Fletcher Cox being a perennial beast, good luck running the ball inside the tackles against the Eagles in 2020. After playing three years in Indy, Hassan Ridgeway had a below-average season in his first year with the Eagles. He’s more of a rotational player, whom you hope won’t be needed as a starter. 3.2 Defensive Ends (DEs) / Edge Rushers (ED) Brandon Graham is 32 years old, but he refuses to slow down. He led the team with 8.5 sacks last year, and he has averaged six sacks over an eight-year period! The guy also finds a way to stay on the field. Can you believe he has missed a single game in eight years! He’s been consistently good and remains a force, both against the run and rushing the passer. Derek Barnett is a former first-rounder coming off a career-high in sacks with 6.5. However, his 2019 PFF grade was the lowest of his three-year stint in the NFL and he finished as the number 83 edge defender out of 107 qualifiers. He’s an “okay” player. Vinny Curry played 38% of the snaps last year, but it does not appear like he will be back with the team. At the time of writing, he was still a free agent. He did pick up five sacks last year, but teams seem reluctant to sign him because he’ll be playing his age-32 campaign. He actually played pretty well when called upon. With Curry gone, the team must hope Josh Sweat will elevate his game. The 2018 fourth-round selection posted his first four sacks of his career last year, but his 62.5 overall PFF mark ranked him as the 76th-best edge defender out of 107 guys. 3.3 Linebackers (LBs) After playing four years in Buffalo and four years in Philly, Nigel Bradham was cut by the Eagles, mainly for cap reasons. He provided average play at the LB position; he was good in coverage, but he was a liability defending the run. The team also lost Kamu Grugier-Hill, who signed with the Dolphins. You could characterize him as a decent player, albeit far from being great. That leaves the team pretty thin at the position. Nathan Gerry is the lone 2019 starter that is still with the team. He ranked as the 34th-best linebacker out of 89 players. He does not offer much upside, though. It would be stunning to see him crack the top 25 someday. Can Duke Riley and/or T.J Edwards crack the starting lineup? Neither seem to be an up-and-coming star. Riley was acquired for peanuts prior to last year and he played 35 snaps. As for Edwards, he was an undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin that did well in limited time last year. He proved to be stout against the run. 3.4 Cornerbacks (CBs) Philly’s back end has been revamped for the upcoming 2020 season. The Eagles signed one of the best slot corners in the league: Nickell Robey-Coleman. He has received consistently good grades from ProFootballFocus over the past four years. At 5’8’’ he is pretty small, but you couldn’t tell from the quality of his game. He’s a nice addition. Philly also acquired Darius “Big Play” Slay, who played the first seven years of his career with the Lions. He had a down year in 2019, but I’m not worried he can rebound in a new environment. He’s been covering opponent’s top receivers for a while in this league, and he’s done a good job at it. He has 19 career interceptions. Ronald Darby’s career has been plagued with injuries recently and he was let go during the offseason. His PFF grade took an enormous drop last year, all the way from a respectable 70.6 in 2018 down to an abysmal 44.8 last year. He signed a one-year deal with the Redskins. Rasul Douglas and Avonte Maddox are still on the team, but neither has proven to be an impactful contributor. Both graded as very below-average corners in 2019. 3.5 Safeties (S) Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod both played the entire 2019 season. They ranked as the 32nd- and 52nd-best out of a bunch of 87 safeties. The organization and Jenkins couldn’t agree on a deal, so the Eagles had to let him go after six very successful seasons. He picked off 11 passes during his six-year stint in Philly. He signed with the Saints, with which he spent the first five seasons of his career. Even though he wasn’t getting any younger, his present will be missed. McLeod’s 2019 PFF grade was the lowest he had obtained over the past five years, but he still did a decent job. Jalen Mills will be one piece of the puzzle in replacing Jenkins. But let’s face the reality: he has been pretty awful throughout his four-year career, except 2017 where he did better. Another option will be newly acquired Will Parks, who is coming over from Denver. However, he’s clearly not a long-term solution either. He’s pretty versatile, but he’s a below-average player. 2020 VS 2019 DEFENSE This unit was upgraded quite a bit during the offseason at two positions, but it also suffered a severe downgrade at a couple others. First, acquiring Javon Hargrave to team up with Fletcher Cox on the interior of the line was big! At CB, getting Darius Slay and Nickell Robey-Coleman will provide much needed help at a position that has caused headaches for years in Philly. Unfortunately, the defense lost its best safety when Malcolm Jenkins signed with the Saints. Also, even though none of them was a true difference maker, losing linebackers Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill creates a hole. Since the team acquired some big time players while losing good/average players, I envision a small improvement. In 2019, the Eagles finished in the middle of the pack in terms of points allowed per game (15th out of 32 teams). I envision Philly finishing around the #10-#13 spot this year. Final call (2020 vs 2019): Small upgrade
4. Regular Season Wins
According to sportsbooks, the Eagles are expected to win 9.5 games this season. Should we bet the “over” or the “under”? Here is the methodology I used in order to answer this vital question:
Use BetOnline.ag’s point spreads on all 256 regular season games.
Convert those point spreads into win probabilities.
Simulate each of the 256 games, according to those win probabilities, via the R statistical software.
Repeat the previous step one million times (you get 1M simulated seasons).
Count the proportion of seasons where the Eagles won more or less than 9.5 games.
Here are the results:
OVER 9.5 WINS
UNDER 9.5 WINS
Tip: Bet UNDER 9.5 wins Return On Investment (ROI): +13.7% Rank: 19th-highest ROI out of 32 teams Minimum odds required to bet (i.e. ROI = 0%): -136 Here are BetOnline’s point spreads for the Eagles’ 16 regular season games:
HOME: +2 vs BAL, -10 vs CIN, -2.5 vs DAL, -4 vs LAR, 0 vs NO, -5 vs NYG, -2 vs SEA, -10.5 vs WAS.
Note: The “Best odds” from the table above were obtained after looking at 13 well-known online sportsbooks on May 18th, 2020. I invite you to take a look at my other 31 NFL team previews! Good information if you are involved in fantasy football and/or if you want to be up-to-date on player movement and teams' strengths and weaknesses (for betting purposes)! Cheers, Professor MJ
NFL teams most likely to go from worst to first in 2020
We have talked a lot about the draft, biggest remaining needs for every NFL team, some breakout candidates and other stuff, so let’s now get back to more of a big picture and look at some teams from an angle of where could they go next season. In this article, I am analyzing those teams that finished fourth in their division this past year and why they could win it in 2020 or land at the bottom once again, plus an outlook where I actually see them. Of course much of this is about these eight teams and how much better or worse I feel about them than the general public, but it was heavily dependent on their three division rivals as well. The top half I could certainly see earn a playoff spot and surprise some people if everything goes right. After that a lot of my faith is more built around the lack of great competition and giving some hope to these respective fan bases. As the cliché goes – everybody is 0-0 right now. https://preview.redd.it/rs90lt6ckf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=3ddfc8945862472b52b5ef8c69076acde904c44c
1. Arizona Cardinals
Why they can win the division: Let’s just start with the main point here – this Cardinals squad has all the ingredients to make a big jump in 2020. I expect Kyler Murray to enter the superstar conversation in year two, after impressing with his arm talent and ability to extend plays in a (somewhat controversial) Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign. Steve Keim managed to unload a bad David Johnson contract and basically acquire an elite receiver in DeAndre Hopkins for a second-round pick. Kenyan Drake now has a full offseason to learn this offense and make himself a major factor once again, following up an outstanding second half of the season once the Cardinals traded for him with Miami. He perfectly fits into this offense with a lot East-West based rushing from shotgun sets and his involvement in the pass game, including those quick throws as an extension of the rushing attack. Arizona’s defense should be a lot better with run-stoppers being added in the draft that fit their 3-4 base front with Utah’s Leki Fotu and LSU’s Rashard Lawrence, since they can stay in those packages against the other teams in their division running a lot of 12 and 21 personnel probably. Add to that a do-it-all player with ridiculous range and overall athleticism in Isaiah Simmons at eight overall, plus all the other guys being in their second year under DC Vance Joseph. I love Budda Baker as a missile from his safety spot and I think some of the other young guys on that unit will take a step forward, like second-year corner Byron Murphy, who I talked about last week. Now let’s get to rest of the West – every other team in that division has some issues. The 49ers are facing the objects of a potential Super Bowl hangover and some limitations with Jimmy G at the helm. The Seahawks have question marks on the edge on either side of the ball with Cedric Ogbuehi and Brandon Shell fighting for the starting gig at right tackle and Jadeveon Clowney still on the open market, with a bunch of draft picks these last couple of years having to step up. And the Rams had one of the worst O-lines in football last season and they lost some pieces on defense. The Cardinals already gave all these teams issues in 2019 and have now added pieces that were clearly missing when last matching up against each other. Why they could finish last again: Most importantly, I am still not completely sold on the Cardinals offensive line, with D.J. Humphries being signed to a rather expensive deal as a below-average left tackle, third-rounder Josh Jones – while earning a late first-round grade from me – still needing an overhaul on his footwork before he can slide in at right tackle and guard Justin Pugh finally having played a full 16 games for the first time since 2015 last season. NFL coaches had a lot of time to study Kliff Kingsbury’s Air-Raid offense, which when you break it down is pretty simplistic in the amount of schemes they run. Yes, he diversified it a little as last season went along, going under center and running some pro-style rushing plays, but at its core, you can learn how to create some issues for all those mesh concepts and spread sets. As far as the Cardinals defense goes, it is more about pieces than proven commodities. Patrick Peterson is seemingly on the decline, they are thin in the secondary and could Chandler Jones follow soon, after he has been one of the most underrated pass-rushers in the league for a while now? You are staring the reigning NFC champs in the eyes, a team that was a few inches away from earning a playoff bye and another squad that went to the Super Bowl just two years ago. This is probably the best division in the entire league. Bottom line: I still believe the 49ers have done enough to repeat as division champs, re-tooling for all the losses they have suffered this offseason. However, I’m feeling pretty good about the Cardinals earning a wildcard spot. While I believe in the Seahawks quarterback and the Rams head coach respectively to not allow their teams to not have throwaway seasons, I also see enough issues with those squads to make me believe the Cardinals could have the second-best year of anybody in the West. To me they are pretty clearly the best of these eight teams, because they have a young phenom at quarterback, stars at pretty much every position, a different type of system around them and what I’d like to call “juice” coming into 2020. https://preview.redd.it/anrr9erfkf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=5655b4452baff2691a0e060e8d70918d58801a4c
2. Detroit Lions
Why they can win the division: Matt Stafford is back healthy and when he was in the lineup last season, this was a team that defeated the Eagles, Chargers and only didn’t finish the job against the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs because of some crazy stuff going on late. The veteran QB stood at 19 touchdowns compared to five picks and was playing at a near-MVP type level. However, Detroit’s identity will be built on the run game with re-investments in the offensive line as well as adding D’Andre Swift to form a dynamic one-two punch with him and Kerryon Johnson. Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones may be the most underrated receiving duo to go with Danny Amendola as a tough guy in the slot and T.J. Hockenson coming into year two as a top-ten pick a year ago, having shown flashes when he was healthy. The defense is finally starting to take shape with third-overall Jeffrey Okudah as an elite corner prospect being added to an underrated secondary, Jamie Collins being a chess piece in the front seven after already having worked well with Matt Patricia and some young guys up front trying to prove themselves to go with the versatile Trey Flowers. Maybe more importantly than the Lions themselves – Nobody else got that much better and none of the other three really stand out to me. Other than the Vikings probably – who had the advantage of making a record-breaking 15 selections – the Lions might have had the best draft within the division. Thanks to that last-place schedule, they get to face the Redskins in the East (instead of Eagles & Cowboys) and Cardinals in the West, who I just talked about taking a step forward, but are still a better draw than the reigning conference champions or possibly having to travel to Seattle. I believe that new regime in Detroit has finally built an identity on both sides of the ball with the heavy investments in the run game and back-seven on defense. Winning ten games might earn you a division title, if everybody plays each other tough. Why they could finish last again: Can these guys finally stay healthy? Matt Stafford to my surprise played a full 16 games in eight straight years before last season, but a lot of that had to do with his toughness to fight through pain and he had major issues with that shoulder early on in his career before basically breaking his back after putting the team on it for the last decade. Kerryon Johnson has missed 14 of 32 possible starts and he has never carried the ball more than 118 times a season. Their receiving corp has been banged up quite a bit too. More glaring even – how will all these additions of former Patriots players work out? Can Matt Patricia build a New England 2.0 in Michigan or is he just bringing in players he knows will listen to him and the way he wants things to be done? Detroit could also rely on a lot of rookies to be immediate impact players – possibly two new starting guards on offense, running back D’Andre Swift probably sharing the load with Kerryon, Jeffrey Okudah having to immediately become their CB1 and Julian Okwara being asked to become a much more consistent player if they give him major snaps. And I recently talked about how their uncertainty at punter could be an issue for their ball-control, defense-minded style of play. They also have an early bye (week five), which I’m never a big fan of, after facing the Bears, Packers, Cardinals and Saints, which probably includes three playoff teams. If Chicago can get any competent QB play, all these teams should be highly competitive. Bottom line: I don’t think any team in this division wins more than ten games. Unfortunately I don’t see the Lions go over that mark themselves either. The Packers won’t come out victorious in so many close games (8-1 in one-possession affairs), the Vikings have lost a few proven commodities and look for young talent to immediately replace those and the Bears still have a quarterback competition going on. So if Detroit can do any better than just split the season series with those three teams, I see them finishing above .500, but ten wins is the ceiling for me. In terms of the competition inside the division, the Lions may be my number one team in this conversation, but I see a much clearer path to things crashing down for Matt Patricia and them having another disappointing season than I do with the Cardinals. No team in this division may finish below that 8-8 mark. https://preview.redd.it/7ivo914ikf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=d029ddd274b78e78f5bc932d00086b8c697a466e
3. Miami Dolphins
Why they can win the division: When you ask the general public, the Buffalo Bills right now are the favorites to win the AFC East, but they haven’t done so since 1995 and they still have to prove they really are that team. The Patriots lost several pieces on defense and Tom Brady of course, which probably leads them to starting a quarterback, who over his four career pass attempts has thrown more touchdowns to the opposing team than to his own. The Jets are still building up that roster, with GM Joe Douglas trying to plant seeds on burnt earth, and they face a BRUTAL schedule. So Miami has a lot of things going in their favor for an organization that I believe in what they are trying to build. Depending on what happens at quarterback, you could have a veteran in Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was by far the best inside the division in several key categories last season and/or Tua Tagovailoa, who had one of the most prolific careers we have seen from anybody in the SEC. They added at least two new starters on the O-line, they now have one of the premiere cornerback trios in the league with the all-time highest paid player at the position in Byron Jones and first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene to go with Xavien Howard and with some added beef up front, they are finally looking a lot like what Brian Flores had in New England. DeVante Parker really broke out over the second half of 2019 and Miami should have a much better rushing attack because of the additions up front and two quality committee backs in Jordan Howard and Matt Breida being added. They have two other young pass-catchers ready to break out this upcoming season in tight-end Mike Gesicki and a UDFA receiver from a year ago in Preston Williams. Whenever Tua’s name is called upon, he will be a perfect fit for Chan Gailey’s horizontal passing game. Why they could finish last again: As much as I like what I see from this entire organization, it is probably just a year too early for Miami. So many young players could be thrown into the fire and a lot of them I look at as needing that experience – 18th overall pick Austin Jackson (USC) is more of a developmental tackle still with his footwork and hand-placement issues, 30th overall pick Noah Igbinoghene (Auburn) has only played cornerback for two years and was bailed out by his athletic tools at times, third-rounder Brandon Jones has to develop more of a feel in deep coverage and at least one more rookie lineman will likely start for them. Even outside of this year’s draft class, they already had several players on their roster that are still moving towards their prime. Whether you look at last year’s first-rounder Christian Wilkins, a lot of second- and third-year pass-catchers or their young linebackers outside of Kyle Van Noy. The Bills are entering year four of that turn-around under Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane, the Patriots still have the greatest coach of all time and will be a tough matchup solely based on that and the Jets at least have people playing for their jobs, plus a very talented young quarterback I still believe in. As much as I doubt Adam Gase, as long as Sam Darnold doesn’t get mono again, the offense should at least be competent, and the defense could potentially have a top-five player at every level with All-Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams, an 85-million dollar linebacker in C.J. Mosley and my number one prospect in last year’s draft on the interior D-line with Quinnen Williams. Bottom line: As I mentioned before, the Bills are the front-runners in this division for me. As much respect as I have for Bill Belichick, I haven’t seen enough from Jarrett Stidham to make me a believer and he shrunk in some big moments at Auburn. The Jets to me could be a lot better than they were in 2019 and still go 6-10 just because of the type of schedule they are up against. So the Dolphins to me could easily finish anywhere from second to fourth, depending on how some of the players on that roster progress. I wouldn’t bet on them actually making the playoffs, but they could absolutely be a pain in the butt for some of the better teams in the AFC and in 2021 they might be the pick here. https://preview.redd.it/nme3explkf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=3998c6026125c1b9b48438e3fc9afaf9601b116e
4. Los Angeles Chargers
Why they can win the division: First and foremost, this Chargers defense is absolutely loaded with no real hole that you can point to. Derwin James is back healthy after a first-team All-Pro rookie campaign, Chris Harris Jr. comes in to make this secondary one the elite units in the NFL to go with two more Pro Bowlers among it and they have some guys I expect to break out like Jerry Tillery, Drue Tranquill and Nasir Adderley. In terms of having matchup pieces and a versatile pass rush to challenge Kansas City, nobody in the league may be on the same level as these guys. Offensively, Ihave talked about how the left tackle spot is concern for L.A. with a battle between Sam Tevi and Trey Pipkins for the starting job, but the other four spots are as good as they have been in a while, acquiring Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner via trade, signing a top five right tackle in Bryan Bulaga and getting Mike Pouncey back healthy. Tyrod Taylor can steer the ship and even if Justin Herbert is thrown into the fire – which I wouldn’t recommend – they have the skill-position players and willingness to run the ball to take pressure off those guys. While the Chiefs return 20 of 22 starters from a year ago, this wouldn’t be the first time we saw a Super Bowl champion have some issues the following season and as much as we want to hype up the Broncos and Raiders, both their quarterbacks (and other players of course as well) have a lot to prove still. Outside of KC, the Chargers likely have the smallest changes to what they do other than moving on from Philip Rivers and we saw that formula work the year prior, when they challenged Kansas City until the very end for the division crown and the conference’s top seed potentially. While they probably would have liked to bring in Tom Brady over the offseason, the fact they decided against signing Cam Newton to a roster that is ready to win right now, shows you the confidence they have in that quarterback room. Why they could finish last again: I’m not a huge fan of Derek Carr, but the Chargers will probably have the worst quarterback in the division in 2020. And their starting left tackle could be the worst in the entire league. As good as their defense will probably be, you can not consistently win games in which your offense doesn’t put up 20+ points in the league today – especially when all these teams in their division have spent so much on acquiring offensive firepower these last couple of years. I believe all three of their division rivals got better this offseason and the Chargers spent their top draft pick (sixth overall) on a young quarterback, who might not even help them win games this season. As I already mentioned, Kansas City brings back almost their entire starting lineups and they went 12-4 despite Mahomes seemingly having his knee cap facing the sideline while laying on his back. I have uttered my thoughts on Denver several times now, which you can read up on later. As for Las Vegas’ new team, they did start last season 6-4 and just heavily invested into their two major issues – wide receiver and linebacker. And while I don’t like to talk about it – injuries have been a huge issue for this Chargers team in recent years and I don’t really know what it is even, but I can’t assume that they all of a sudden can stay healthy. Bottom line: In terms of talent on the roster outside of the quarterback position, you could make a pretty compelling argument that the Chargers are ahead of all the other teams on this list. That’s the reason they have a pretty high floor of finishing around .500 and if everything works out, they could absolutely be a playoff contender. However, for this exercise in particular, I believe their upside is capped by what they have under center. Tyrod Taylor can be a top-20 quarterback in the NFL this season and in terms of upside, Justin Herbert has all the tools to become a difference-maker once he steps on the field, but they don’t have the explosiveness the Chiefs or the Broncos have for that matter. With so much continuity on a team that has the best player in the entire league, I can’t go against the Chiefs and in the end we are evaluating the chances to actually win the division. https://preview.redd.it/rywropjokf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=ed77a7303af810b862abb2100c4f0b86841a2d38
5. Washington Redskins
Why they can win the division: These guys are very reminiscent of the 49ers with their defensive line, in terms of having invested a lot of high draft picks into the unit these last couple of years and now with that second overall pick bringing in a true stud from Ohio State – this time in Chase Young. When you look at all those guys up front – with the Bama boys patrolling the middle, Matt Ioannidis capable of moving around the front, Montez Sweat looking to break out in year two and Ryan Kerrigan still being there as a productive veteran – they will wreak some havoc this season. Ron Rivera could finally bring some structure to this organization and help them turn it around on defense with the addition of an old companion in Thomas Davis, plus some high-upside players like Reuben Foster and Fabian Moreau looking to prove themselves. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins had a very underwhelming rookie campaign, but he clearly wasn’t ready to be out there and found himself in a bad situation in terms of the support system around him. I like a lot of their young skill-position players the front office has surrounded him with, when you look at Terry McLaurin trying to become a young star in this league, who produced despite shaky quarterback play last season, Kelvin Harmon and Antonio Gandy-Golden being two big-bodied targets I liked these last two drafts, Derrius Guice hopefully finally being able to stay healthy to lead this backfield and this year’s third-round pick Antonio Gibson being a chess piece that you can manufacture touches for. Somebody I forgot to mention in this discussion recently is Steven Sims Jr., who is a jitterbug with the ball in his hands. New offensive coordinator Scott Turner will implement a system that should make life easier on his second-year signal-caller as well, while relying heavily on the run game. Why they could finish last again: Haskins is by far the least proven QB of the bunch, with Daniel Jones even being head and shoulders above him in their respective rookie seasons. No pass-catcher outside of Terry McLaurin had any major production to speak. Counting on a 37-year old Thomas Davis to not only be a leader for them, but also make plays on the field, could create issues, and Washington lost some pieces in the secondary. This offseason is a challenge for any team, that is looking to implement a new system on each side of the ball, but I think especially for a motivator like Rivera, who can give his squad a heartbeat and push them to success, not being there in person with those guys will hurt. Most importantly however, this division to me will be a two-man race between the Eagles and Cowboys – as it has been for a while now. They both will likely have top ten quarterbacks, better receiving corps, better offensive lines and more experienced defenses. The Giants may not blow anybody away coming into 2020, but looking at the two matchups from last year between them and the Redskins, Big Blue beat them 24-3 the first time around, when Daniel Jones threw one touchdown compared to two interceptions and then he diced them up for five TDs and no picks in week 16. The one area Washington would have had the clear upper hand was with their front-four, but New York just invested a lot of draft capital into their O-line to prevent that. Just go through the Redskins’ schedule and show me more than six wins. I dare you. Bottom line: These last two sentences really say it all. Even if Philly and Dallas split the season series and Washington can get a game off either one of them, it will be tough to turn around this squad as quickly as this season – with reduced practice time and team activities – to a point where they can finish above both of them. Both of them could easily win double-digit games in 2020 and while I think the Redskins are on the right track if Haskins looks more like the Ohio State version of himself, other than their defensive line, no unit for them is ready to compete for the division quite yet. Just going through their schedule in an objective manner, it is tough to find any lay-ups and say Washington has some baseline of wins they count on. To not have them any lower than this is more due to the respect for Riverboat Ron and how high I was on a lot of the guys they drafted recently. https://preview.redd.it/szpawv9rkf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=62ca5fe882d8155d83eb3328e9bf1f1681a17384
6. Jacksonville Jaguars
Why they can win the division: I was going back and forth between my number six and seven teams, because the Jaguars are projected to pick first overall come next April for a reason – they did lose a lot of pieces. However, to me it came down to the fact that the AFC South might be won at 9-7 or 10-6 and this coaching staff actually has to win to keep their jobs. There is a lot noise about the Colts, but when you go back to last season, Philip Rivers was a turnover machine with serious questions about his arm strength. Bill O’Brien made some very questionable decisions for Houston and Tennessee is counting on a formula that is built on a 250-banger running the ball 25+ times and Ryan Tannehill finally repeating a career year, as they are coming off an AFC title game appearance. As far as Jacksonville goes, Gardner Minshew was the highest-graded rookie quarterback according to PFF and altogether I would have put him second only behind Kyler Murray. D.J. Chark broke out as one of the young star receivers and I had a first-round grade on Colorado’s Laviska Shenault if he can be healthy, because his talent is off the charts. I think the O-line would have benefitted from another tackle to kick Cam Robinson inside to guard, but those guys are some road-graders to make the run game work. Defensively the only real contributor from that Sacksonville group a couple of years ago who actually wants to be there is Myles Jack, but I really like their young duo off the edge in first-rounders Josh Allen last year and now K’Lavon Chaisson (LSU). There are some questions about the back-end, but they were built front-to-back with a lot of zone coverage behind it and depending on the development of ninth overall pick C.J. Henderson, they can roll away from him matching up with the opposing team’s number one receiver. Avoiding some of the better AFC squads altogether is pretty sweet as well, to go with facing no playoff team from last year outside their division until the middle of November. Why they could finish last again: I’m just not sure if all of these players are ready to fight for that coaching staff and organization. Two of their remaining veterans (Leonard Fournette and Yannick Ngakoue) have openly talked about how they want to be traded, they only have a few actually proven commodities on that entire roster and with the way they have unloaded big cap numbers, they have set themselves up for a true rebuild potentially, as they are expected to be in the Trevor Lawrence-Justin Fields sweepstakes come next April. Even if they can get a few breaks and the division is up for grabs, does this organization even want to win this season? If not for the injury to Jacoby Brissett in the middle of the season, all three other teams in that division would have almost certainly finished above .500 and the Colts are actually the team that improved by far the most among them. That Texans, who have actually won the South four of the last five years, including last season, may be the smallest challenge and still sweep Jacksonville. Vegas rarely misses completely and the Jaguars right now are the odds-on favorite to pick first overall come next April, with an NFL-low OveUnder of 4.5 wins on the season. And as favorable as the early portion of their schedule looks like right, check out this eight-game stretch after their week seven bye – at Chargers, vs. Texans, at Packers, vs. Steelers, vs. Browns, at Vikings, vs. Titans, at Ravens. Ouch. They might go winless over that period. Bottom line: The Jaguars to me are a very interesting team, because I believe they have accumulated a bunch of young talent, which gets lost a little when you see all the names that aren’t there anymore. There is a lot to like about this roster, when you look at what these players could develop into, but that doesn’t mean they will have success this year already. The Colts have the best 53 currently in the division (or 55 now), the Texans have the best quarterback and the Titans are coming off an AFC Championship game appearance. Gardner Minshew could make this kind of a tough decision if they end up picking anywhere after first overall and I think some of those other kids will put up pretty good numbers, but they are still pretty clearly fourth in the South as for now. https://preview.redd.it/5myv276vkf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=7fb25f47d0759e9b5a07876ea01787898c6cc817
7. Carolina Panthers
Why they can win the division: Nobody knows for sure what Matt Rhule and his new coaching staff will throw at them. Joe Brady gets to work with Teddy Bridgewater once again, who he already coached in New Orleans – so there will be familiarity for him in this system and they already “speak the same language”. That young receiving corp with D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, free agency addition Robby Anderson and even an up-and-coming tight-end in Ian Thomas is pretty underrated actually, plus of course they have one of the truly elite weapons out of the backfield in Christian McCaffrey, who is probably set to break his own RB reception record once again. The Panthers defense-only draft has brought them a monster in the middle in Derrick Brown (Auburn), a really talented edge rusher in Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn State) on the opposite of last year’s rookie stud Brian Burns, a super-rangy safety with linebacker size in Jeremy Chinn (Southern Illinois), what I think is a starting corner in Troy Pride Jr. (Notre Dame) and some other pieces in the secondary. The talent is clearly there and now you bring in a scheme that is probably going to be unique for the NFL level as well, when you look at that 3-3-5 Baylor ran under Rhule and defensive coordinator Phil Snow. As much as we want to praise our legends of the game, the quarterbacks of the two front-runners in this division will be 41 and 43 years old respectively and let’s not forget that Atlanta started out last season 1-7. Why they could finish last again: Especially this offseason, without certainty if there will be anything like training camp or even a real preseason, that completely new staff with new systems they are trying to teach will certainly have some growing pains. Bridgewater has been a top-20 starting QB maybe one year of his career and even when he was applauded for the way he filled in for Drew Brees last season, he finished dead-last in intended air yards among quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts. How will that mesh with a lot of vertical targets around him? When he has those guys running free on slants and dig routes, the ball will get there, but will he be willing to throw that deep post or give his guys a chance on go-balls? Defensively they are counting on a lot of young players and they have nobody to even come close to replacing Luke Kuechly, as well as making the switch to an unproven scheme possibly, if they actually use some of those 3-3-5 looks coming over from Baylor. When you look at Rhule’s track-record, it always took him until year two to show improvement and then in that third season is when those teams can really make some noise. And that was in the AAC and Big 12 respectively. Now he is in the NFC South with a team that just went 13-3 in the Saints and a Bucs squad that already was 7-9 and lost six of those games by one score, only because despite finishing fifth in takeaways, they ranked in the bottom five in turnover differential due to easily leading the league with 41 giveaways. That should get a lot better with Tom Brady coming in, who has never even quite thrown half of Jameis Winston’s 30 interceptions in any of his 20 years in the league. Even the Falcons – for as poorly as they started last season – went 6-2 after really coming together and making some changes in their bye week last season. Bottom line: The Panthers are clearly the most unproven team in this division. While new systems that haven’t been scouted yet certainly have an advantage in terms of game-planning early on, especially in this offseason with heavily limited live reps most likely, that might equal a net minus. You have to root for a guy like Teddy Bridgewater and the way he has worked his way up to a starting spot again, but I just don’t look at him as a surefire franchise signal-caller. The other three teams in the South all have top ten quarterbacks in the league in my opinion and much more continuity around them. Until the Panthers finally get to their bye week at the start of December, I don’t see them winning more than four of those twelve games. At that point they may have their eyes on a different goal already, if Teddy B isn’t the clear answer under center. https://preview.redd.it/y7agj2n2lf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=221af0a1f689d3b19d5e250fac0b58a35877edad
8. Cincinnati Bengals
Why they can win the division: We’re not that far away from 2015, when the Bengals won the AFC North with a 12-4 record as the fifth year in a row making the playoffs. Since then this is the first time I feel like there really is change happening with this team. Marvin Lewis was replaced by a young Zac Taylor, trying to prove himself to the league, they drafted Heisman trophy winner Joe Burrow first overall to replace as average a quarterback as we have had over the last decade in Andy Dalton and the front office finally spent some money in free agency. While you would think a quarterback going first overall usually comes into a situation, where he is devoid of talent around him, Cincinnati suddenly has one of the better group of skill-position players in the entire league, assuming A.J. Green is back healthy. Tyler Boyd is a stud in the slot, who will be Burrow’s version of Justin Jefferson, a 50-50 ball specialist in second-round pick Tee Higgins (Clemson) matches perfectly with Burrow’s expertise of winning with ball-placement and if they get anything from former first-rounder John Ross at least as a decoy with his speed, that’s a plus. I expect Joe Mixon to be among the league leader’s in running back receptions and be more effective in space with those receivers around him as well. The signings the Bengals have made on defense gives them a lot more talent and complements very well what they already had. D.J. Reader is one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the league and frees everybody up along the front, they completely overhauled that linebacker group, which was a major issue these last couple of years, they brought in a starting CB2 and nickel from Minnesota to pair up with William Jackson III, who is ready to announce himself as one of the best corners in football, and Von Bell is a great match with the rangy free safety Jessie Bates. Why they could finish last again: As talented as all those guys throwing, catching and running the ball may be, it all starts with what’s happening up front and the Bengals offensive line is still in transition. They could have two of the worst starters in the league at both guard spots and right tackle once again, with the prior ones close to reaching that bust status and Bobby Hart still somehow having a starting job. As great as Joe Burrow was last year at LSU and how clean his evaluation was, how much better than Andy Dalton will he be right away, especially going up against those scary defensive fronts inside his division? Defensively they could easily have six new starters, which obviously can be looked at as a positive sign, considering they allowed 20+ points in all but two games last season, but there is also a lack of continuity and reduced time to fit all those pieces together. Cincinnati’s coaching staff hasn’t really proven anything yet and they will be facing a massacre of a schedule, with three occasions of back-to-back road games and while three of their final four games of the season are at home, they will face the Cowboys, Steelers and Ravens, to go with a trip to Houston in-between. If they don’t beat the Chargers in the season-opener, they probably don’t get that first W until week four against the Jaguars and then they have to hope they can sneak out another one until their bye week. Baltimore is tied with Kansas City for the highest projected win total with reigning MVP coming into just his third season, Pittsburgh is favored to make the playoffs with Big Ben back under center and Cleveland was the offseason favorite in 2019, while fielding an even better roster this year. Bottom line: I feel bad for putting this team last, because I thought Joe Burrow was the top quarterback and definitely worthy of that number one pick and the Bengals finally spent big money in free agency to retool the defense. To me this is less about them than the Ravens, who just were the number one overall seed in the playoffs at 14-2 and haven’t done anything other than get better themselves, a Steelers team that made a run at the playoffs with the worst quarterback play in the league now getting Ben back and a Browns roster that is among the top ten league-wide in most people’s opinion. Still, there is a lot to like about this team at the skill-positions, which is probably behind only Cleveland in terms all the weapons they have, some young standouts on defense and hope that all of this brings a fresh breath of air. If you enjoyed this content, I would really appreciate if you could visit the original piece (with video clips) - https://halilsrealfootballtalk.com/2020/06/16/nfl-teams-most-likely-to-go-from-worst-to-first-in-2020/ You can also listen to my breakdown on Youtube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9kCcuPobNU
The Green Bay Packers surprised just about everyone (except James Jones) with their successful campaign under first year HC Matt LaFleur. Before the season, he hired former Jaguars OC Nathaniel Hackett to fill the same role in his offense, and he elected to keep DC Mike Pettine who served in that capacity the year before under former HC Mike McCarthy. The team ended the year 13-3 on the regular season, including a complete sweep of the division, plus a win against the Seahawks in the division round of the playoffs. Despite their success, there were many critics who considered them to be the worst 13-3 team in NFL history. The Packers were accused of "winning ugly" and not resembling a true contender. Those chickens would come home to roost in San Francisco as they were no match for the 49ers in the NFC championship game. The team gave a horribly flat performance on defense, plus an offense that had no answer to San Francisco's elite defensive front 7. Even though they didn't achieve their Cinderella story, the Packers would go into the offseason with much of the starting roster returning intact for a chance at a second run in 2020. The roster is mostly comprised of players 27 or younger, and only three starters needed to be replaced from the prior season. The team is banking on the growth and development of their young players to help propel the team to that next level. Their upcoming schedule will be much more challenging than 2019's on paper, but working on building more consistency on both sides of the ball will hopefully produce a better overall "team" than the one which overachieved a year ago.
2020 FREE AGENCY
Departures: This offseason saw the end of the road for two longtime Packers in Green Bay with RT Bryan Bulaga (EYE-WAH) and ILB Blake Martinez (aka pussyfucker69). They signed deals elsewhere after giving the team many years of consistent on field play. Replacing them will not come easy. Jimmy Graham, on the other hand, will not be greatly missed. His best games of the season came in the playoffs after two seasons of dropped passes, lazy routes, and non-existent blocking. (But at least he was better than Martellus Bennett.) The only other significant loss was Tramon Williams who played lights out as the nickel corner last year. At 36 years old, it is more likely the team will go with younger and cheaper alternatives to fill his role next season, but a return to the team isn't out of the question. The contracts signed by Martinez and Bulaga, along with OLB Kyler Fackrell, should mean the Packers are in line to be rewarded three compensatory choices in 2021 in the 4th, 5th, and 7th rounds respectively. Bulaga's compensation is capped at a 5th rounder due to being a 10 year veteran. * = former starter
Bryan Bulaga *
3 yr / $30 mil
Blake Martinez *
3 yr / $30 mil
Jimmy Graham *
2 yr / $16 mil
1 yr / $4.6 mil
1 yr / $2.4 mil
1 yr / $1.3 mil
1 y $825 K
1 yr / $800 K
1 yr / $750 K
Additions: The Packers used the $8 mil in cap savings they got back from releasing Jimmy Graham to add Christian Kirksey (ILB - Browns), Ricky Wagner (OT - Lions), and Devin Funchess (WR - Colts) once they were released from their former teams. Kirksey is an athletic ILB with 4.55 speed and playmaking ability, but he has missed substantial time due to injuries recently and only played in 9 games the last two years. Wagner has had one brilliant season with the Ravens in 2017 followed by two average ones with the Lions, but a starter is a starter. Funchess is a former 2nd round pick and still only 25, so hopefully he can finally reach the potential he has flashed now that he has Rodgers at the helm. They did not sign a TE to replace Graham because the team will be using returning players instead. The favored starter is 2019 3rd round pick Jace Sternberger, after he missed most of his rookie season due to injuries. He is accompanied along with the returning ageless veteran Marcedes "Big Dog" Lewis (who is now famously known as the only 1st round player Rodgers has thrown a TD pass to). By making these moves and essentially locking up their starters pre-draft, they allowed themselves some flexibility with their approach to how they would spend their picks. *= projected starter
Christian Kirksey *
2 yr / $13 mil
Ricky Wagner *
2 yr / $11 mil
1 yr / $2.5 mil
3 yr / $2.3 mil
1 yr / $850 K
Gerald Willis III
1 yr / $675 K
Jamal Davis II
1 yr / $675K
3 yr / $13 mil
1 yr / $2.3 mil
1 yr / $1 mil
1 yr / $750 K
2020 NFL DRAFT
1 (26) - JORDAN LOVE (QB - UTAH ST) \pick acquired from Houston thru Miami for #30 and #133 overall* The Packers shocked everyone by passing on a player who may have helped the team right away when they instead traded up for Utah St. QB Jordan Love. This has been an endless point of criticism and even ridicule since the draft ended. But this pick made a lot of sense at its core. I go into much greater detail in regards to this pick elsewhere, but here are the main points that led to this selection:
The team was unable to move up for a WR they were targeting and didn't want to reach for the next one down.
They had a very high grade on Love and expected him to be gone before the #20 pick - he was probably rated higher than any other player in the draft late in round 1.
In 2017, they considered drafting Deshone Kizer at #33 but ultimately chose CB Kevin King instead. Then in 2019, they had a lot of reported interest in Drew Lock – including an official team visit. However, the Broncos moved up ahead of the Packers in round 2 to take him, so we will never know how interested Green Bay truly was. But there is a clear pattern being established of open interest in top rated QB's.
In 2020, the Packers made Jordan Love and Jalen Hurts two of their official “visits” in the pre-draft process, once again showing a clear interest in an early round signal caller.
The Packers do not believe in passing on a high rated player if he is available, especially at QB which is the most important position in the game
"I think it's always kind of been in my DNA that anywhere in the draft, if you have an opportunity to take a quarterback you really think can play, you need to consider it."
-Brian Gutekunst, GM of the Packers Jordan Love is a 6'4 and 224 lb QB with large 10.5" hands and a rocket for an arm. He is a self-described playmaker, which is evident when you watch him on tape. At Utah St in 2018, Love put on a clinic, throwing for 3500 yards, 32 TD's, and only 6 INT's. This put him on the radar as a potential top 10 or even top 5 prospect heading into the 2019 season. Unfortunately, after a coaching change and losing 9 offensive starters, Love saw a major drop in his numbers (3200 yards, 20 TD's, and 17 INT's). Love started to develop some bad habits such as staring receivers down and forcing risky throws, which is what led to the spike in turnovers. However, it needs to be mentioned that Jordan Love put the team on his shoulders all season. He frequently had limited choices available but to either try and make a play or take the sack. Had he not been dealing with this adversity, he probably would have heard his name called much sooner and the Packers would not have had a shot at him in the late 1st round.
"He’s not a bad decision-maker. That was one of my biggest pet peeves in the draft process was people calling that kid a bad decision-maker. He’s not. He’s a kid that’s played with nobody around him and he was competitive and he was trying to win football games. Did he force throws? Absolutely. Did he have to force throws? Absolutely. You didn’t see bad decision-making on ’18 tape, when he threw 32 touchdowns and six picks. You never heard those numbers brought up the whole process. All you heard was 20 touchdowns, 17 picks. Like, nobody ever went back and talked about ’18….. He is the only QB I’ve ever scouted who will be throwing into bigger windows in the NFL than he threw into in college.”
-Jim Nagy, Senior Bowl director and former NFL scout Numbers aside, there are glimpses and flashes of his game that make you swear you are watching Aaron Rodgers himself. He flourishes when the play breaks down displaying the ability to throw off various platforms to keep the play alive. Love has that same gunslinger mentality that Patrick Mahomes had at TX Tech – no throw is impossible in their minds. And when I say that Jordan Love didn’t have any help, it isn’t just making an excuse. He was essentially the only threat Utah St. had on offense in 2019, so Love took it on his shoulders to will the team forward, similar to other top picks like Daniel Jones at Duke and Josh Allen at Wyoming. As far as his fit with the Packers, clearly they have to like his arm talent and his hand size, along with his experience playing in frigid environments - those are three important boxes that need to be checked if a QB wants to succeed at Lambeau Field. One could argue that of all the QB's in this draft, Love may have the most upside just due to his physical traits but is also the least ready to play. I don't think he could have landed in a better position than on a team built to win championships with a future Hall of Famer to learn from. 2 (62) - AJ DILLON (RB - BCU) According to Peter King, the Packers were trying to trade up in round 2 for one of two specific WR's. Once Chase Claypool was selected at #49, they stopped calling teams. We can take this to mean that at that point, the Packers felt all the impact players at WR in the draft were gone. The Packers were content to look for other ways they could improve the offense. The team did not want to simply draft a receiver just to say they took one. And that's where AJ Dillon comes in. Even with the breakout season of Aaron Jones in 2019, there is reason to suspect the Packers view AJ Dillon as the long term primary RB in this offense. Unlike Jones who is a quick and elusive 5’9 and 200 lb RB, Dillon is a north/south runner with surprisingly light feet for his 6'0 and 247 lb frame. He has proven he can withstand the workload of a RB1 posting three 1,000+ yard seasons in college. Similar to Jordan Love, he did it without much of a supporting cast. He led the FBS in the amount of stacked boxes he was facing by a wide margin (46% of the time). He also led the FBS in yards after contact (over 800) because teams knew he was getting the ball but it just didn't matter - he ran it hard just the same. Dillon is best known for his balance and being able to keep himself moving through first contact. He is knocked by evaluators by his lack of presence in the passing game, catching only 21 career passes, but not being asked to do it isn’t the same as not being able to do it. Dillon also has a tendency of not exhibiting the patience to let the play develop, which leads to him missing opportunities for cut back lanes on occasion. These two things are hardly fatal flaws, and he can improve with proper coaching. But why Dillon, and why Round 2? That seems to be what gets people scratching their heads the most. Well, the Packers love to draft athletes, and as far as RB prospects go Dillon is a rare player. He is bigger than Eddie Lacy and faster than Aaron Jones. Dillon posted the best SPARQ score (97%) among all RB's at the combine, and his speed score (117) was in the 97th percentile. Running 4.53 and jumping 41" should simply not be allowed from a RB who is also 247 lbs. I also believe the front office had Dillon rated extremely high on their board compared to other options at RB. Dillon and Jonathan Taylor (96% SPARQ) had to be the 1a and 1b of this class for the Packers. Gutekunst just can't help himself, he loves size and speed. The Packers will also be facing a lot of difficult decisions with their group of free agents in 2021, which includes #1 RB Aaron Jones and #2 RB Jamaal Williams. Drafting Dillon makes it so the team can choose to keep one of those two next year, while potentially grooming their long-term starter. Now LaFleur has his own Derrick Henry that will help him run the kind of offense he wants to execute. Short yardage and goalline situations will be a different story in 2020 compared to the struggles a year ago. Frankly, fewer positions are as NFL ready as RB's are, and few of them are as rare of an athletic prospect as Dillon. He is likely going to be a big part of the offense moving forward. Especially in December and January when it is freezing cold and actual football begins. 3 (94) - JOSIAH DEGUARA (TE/HB - CINCINNATI) The Packers missed on all the WR's that might have made a difference for them, but they were ready to find a pass catcher in an unconventional way. So at pick #94, with only two TE's selected at that point (Cole Kmet and Devin Asiasi), the Packers had their choice of player at the position. It is safe to say the Packers got their preferred one with Josiah Deguara. This pick was considered a reach by most analysts when it was made, but context is important. Matt LaFleur was the QB coach in Washington in 2010 under Mike Shanahan. That year Chris Cooley, a 6'2 and 250 lb TE/HB, had 77 catches on 126 targets for 849 yards. That position was currently vacant on the Packers depth chart, so it can't be underestimated how integral this role could be going forward as LaFleur continues to shape the team to fit his philosophy. Josiah Deguara is the perfect player to fill that Chris Cooley (or Kyle Juszczyk) role in this Shanahan-style offense. At only 6'2, Deguara played in-line TE 60% of the time in college because they tried to move him around to take advantage of his versatility. He played TE, HB, FB, and WR at Cincinnati, where he ended his career as the school record holder for catches at the position with 92 catches in 2 years. The former record holder was Travis Kelce, so he is in good company. It also just so happens that Mike Denbrock, the OC for Cincinnati, coached alongside Matt LaFleur at Notre Dame previously - I bet the two discussed together all the ways Deguara could be a factor within the Packers offense. The main thing that I keep reading about Deguara is how great his character is both on and off the field. The Packers believe strongly in finding players who "carry the G", and Deguara is just a high effort, hard-working, bring-your-lunch-pail-to-work kind of guy that everyone wants to root for. He will play on all the special teams units, learn to play in whatever role the offense asks him to, and he will always give 100% effort. It would be premature to say Josiah Deguara is an impact player as a late 3rd round pick, but he is a wild card who could potentially open this offense up and take it in several new and creative directions. P.S. LaFleur showed this play during one of his team meetings in 2019 as the prime example of what it means to never give up on a play (he starts at the top of the screen as a blocker, then chases the defender down to make the TD-saving tackle). https://twitter.com/ethanthomthom/status/1254590868507557890?s=19 Six months later, the Packers selected him with the #94 pick. It is clear looking back that Deguara was meant to wear green and gold. LaFleur was more excited about this pick in his post-draft interviews than any other player chosen that weekend. 4 (133) - to Miami *traded along with #30 overall to move up to #26 for Jordan Love 5 (175) - KAMAL MARTIN (LB - MINNESOTA) Kamal Martin is one of those LB's that would have been talked about more had he not been battling injuries and been able to compete in the pre-draft functions. Injuries cut his season short to just 8 games, but he still finished with 66 total tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 FF, and 2 INT's - his knack of finding ways to always be around the ball had to stand out to Gutekunst. Jim Nagy, the director of the Senior Bowl, called Martin a top 3 senior LB and a steal for the Packers as a 5th round pick. He has prototypical size for a 3 down LB at 6'3 and 240 lbs along with 34" arms and an 81" wingspan. The Packers scouts estimated that he runs between 4.55 - 4.65 in the 40, but he wasn't able to participate in the drill while recovering from his knee injury. Martin is a former high school QB, and he uses that experience on the defensive side to help give him a unique perspective of the action in front of him. He lined up at both OLB and ILB at Minnesota and was a playmaker at both positions. And that position versatility is what attracted the Packers to him. He will need to get stronger and play with better pad level, but there is a lot going for Martin as a prospect. As the first defensive selection in the draft for the Packers, Martin will be given a chance to compete with other young players, such as Oren Burks, Ty Summers, and Curtis Bolton, for a chance to be the #2 ILB next to Christian Kirksey. Burks and Summers are two very athletic guys who have played mostly on special teams, and Bolton was a UDFA last year who made waves in preseason before getting hurt. This group is young, athletic, and horribly inexperienced, making it the most open of all the roster competitions on the team. Kamal Martin is the definition of a sleeper who could have landed in a fortuitous situation based on the uncertainty surrounding the LB group in Green Bay. He is a proven playmaker who finds ways to get to the ball, and those instincts could serve him well as he fights for a spot. Martin is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Blake Martinez to become an every down starter as a day 3 selection. 6a (192) - JON RUNYAN JR (G/T - MICHIGAN) *pick acquired from Raiders for WR Trevor Davis The Packers have had a very positive track record selecting OL on day 3 of the draft. They had three picks to spend in the 6th round, and considering they have veterans with expiring contracts coming up and nothing but UDFA's as depth, they felt it was an area of the team that could use an infusion of new competition. They have a good shot of one of the next three players becoming a starter down the road. With their first of three IOL choices in round 6, they selected Jon Runyan Jr who comes to the Packers with a great NFL pedigree (his father had a very long and successful career for the Oilers/Titans and Eagles). After being a backup OG for his first few seasons, Jr. made the switch to RT and then LT under the coaching of Ed Warriner who coached Packers center Corey Linsley at Ohio St. Jon Runyan would go on to start 25 games at LT for Michigan over the next 2 years, earning 1st team all-Big 10. While Runyan is a bit smaller than you would like out of an NFL tackle (6'4 and 306 lbs with 33" arms and a 79" wingspan), his agility and athletic ability were near the top of the draft class. He had the 3rd best 3-cone time at 7.57, and his 40 time of 5.08 was 9th best in the class. His 10 yard split of 1.79 met the threshold that you want for OL by 0.01 (good enough by NFL standards and that's all that matters). Due to his size, Runyan is more of a pass blocker than run blocker at this point in his career. He excels by using his quickness and athleticism to keep up with dangerous pass rushers but sometimes struggles with moving bigger guys back in the ground game. Runyan will compete at guard, which is what he was announced as during the draft, but his versatility makes him a potential swing tackle and utility guy in the early part of his career. Fortunately he comes from a zone blocking scheme at Michigan, which will help him adjust to the Packers version. A lot will depend on how well he transitions inside and how he makes the jump to the speed and complexity of the NFL. If he can make a similar leap like he made entering his junior season, the future looks very bright for him in the NFL. 6b (208) - JAKE HANSON (C - OREGON) *pick acquired from Titans for OLB Reggie Gilbert There is always something to be said when the Packers select a true center in the draft because they rarely do. Elgton Jenkins played 4 different positions at Miss St and JC Tretter played OT before the Packers moved him inside. The only true center Ted Thompson ever drafted was Corey Linsley - an athletically limited and undersized player but a consistent technician who played in a big time program at Ohio St. Now, Linsley at 28 years old is heading into 2020 as the 6th highest paid member of the team and 3rd highest paid center in the NFL. He is also entering the final year of his contract. Next year is going to be judgment day for many starters on the team, and decisions will need to be made to see who will be offered an extension including David Bakhtiari (LT), Kevin King (CB), Aaron Jones (RB), and Kenny Clark (DT). The Packers may not have the cap space to keep Linsley around beyond this season. The Packers also dislike handing out third contracts to their players who may be starting to head towards the back end of their careers. That means the search to find a successor is part of the plans, and that leads us to this next pick. Jake Hanson may not have had the flashiest combine (5.5 in the 40 at 6'4 and 303 lbs), but when it comes to centers, it is more about their technique and ability to make the right calls at the line. That being said, he did have 33 reps in the bench press which was #4 among all OL. Hanson comes to Green Bay as a 4 year starter who boasted 49 career starts. He was the anchor of one of the best lines in the country since he first won the job as a true freshman, and Oregon may not have been as successful without him in the middle making sure the assignments were correct. Hanson plays with an incredible motor, even if he lacks the desired size to compete against linemen one on one, but the Packers' zone system should be able to hide some of those deficiencies. He has strong hands and a sticky grip (which I'm sure will make our division rivals happy), and he works well with guards in double teams. He still needs some fine tuning with his snap placement as he can occasionally misfire out of the shotgun. But as a developmental 6th rounder, Hanson can continue working on those techniques while learning behind one of the best technicians in the game. Not to mention he can use this valuable time on the scout team practicing with Jordan Love. Should the time come when both players are ready to start, they would have already developed a rapport thanks to their time on the practice field together. 6c (209) - SIMON STEPANIAK (G - INDIANA) With the selection of Simon Stepaniak, the Packers believe they got a player who could have been selected as early as the 4th round had he not tragically torn his ACL last December. Stepaniak is the opposite of Runyan and Hanson - he is a tough-nosed mauler in the run game who likes to pick fights and look for people to punish. He played RG at Indiana, and it is likely with his 32" arms that he may be limited to play interior OL as a pro. His 37 reps (!!!) on the bench press in Indianapolis frequently showed up on tape where he routinely manhandled defenders in one-on-ones and would flatten other guys out on double teams. (The fact he could even do 37 reps while recovering from his surgery is astounding.) His main issues will be dealing with poor agility when matched up against quicker speed rushers, where relying on his upper body strength alone won't be enough. Despite his athletic shortcomings, Stepaniak allowed a pressure on only 3.3% of passing plays per PFF. With some fine tuning of his game, there is potential that Stepaniak could become the top OL of the three the Packers selected in round 6. Stepaniak resembles a guard in a power running scheme from 1993, who would rather be out hunting for defenders than settling back and waiting for them to come to him. In a way, this could be a pick for the future direction of the offense, especially after the Packers selected AJ Dillon and Josiah Deguara earlier. This shows a subtle shift in the offense away from 5 WR shotgun formations and hinting more towards pounding the rock to punish the new mold of smallefaster defenses. It makes sense that they would take a gamble on Stepaniak late this year. Even though he may wind up on the PUP/IR list, the Packers liked his talent this late in day 3. 7a (236) - VERNON SCOTT (S - TCU) *pick acquired from Browns for OG Justin McCray and #244 Who the hell is Vernon Scott? He was only Dane Brugler's 61st ranked safety out of 62 in the 2020 draft, of course! But really, this is a name that most people just shrugged their shoulders to and probably overlooked. Let me now be the one to introduce you to him. Vernon Scott is a player that is all about two things: versatility and upside. At 6'2 and 206 lbs, he has the prototype size you are looking for in a modern defensive back. He wasn't invited to the combine, and his pro day was canceled hence why he was invisible to the draft community. His athletic testing will unfortunately remain a mystery, but the Packers estimated he ran a 4.40, which would be outstanding for a player at his size. Scott was a one year starter at TCU who lined up all over the secondary. He was primarily a key contributor on special teams for all 4 years before taking over as a starter this past season. While Texas WR Devin Duvernay made him look silly in 2019 (seriously, don't watch the tape), Vernon Scott really started to come on towards the end of the year. In the last three games of the season he had 4 total takeaways, a sack, and a TD. He had a particularly strong game against Oklahoma where he made 7 tackles, a fumble recovery, and a 98 yard INT for a TD. He would finish the year with 44 tackles (4th on the team) and 7 PBU's (ranked 3rd). Where did this sudden playmaking skill come from? Scott moved to the nickel corner role, and he was told to let loose. The Packers are clearly banking that his ability as a slot CB, while also having experience playing the other 4 positions in the secondary, will translate to the NFL and give him an edge to win a roster spot. Not often is a player drafted because of a 3 game stretch, but hey, it is the 7th round so why not? He joins a secondary that is led with Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos but was often exposed when other players such as Will Redmond had to see meaningful snaps. The team also allowed Ibraheim Campbell to walk this offseason who had been with the team for two years. Needless to say, the Packers liked the direction where Vernon Scott’s arrow was pointing, and the more competition in the secondary the better. 7b (242) - JONATHAN GARVIN (OLB - MIAMI) *pick acquired from Ravens for RB Ty Montgomery Jonathan "Spider" Garvin comes to Green Bay with a nice resume from his last two years at Miami. He is an impressive physical specimen at 6'4 and 263 lbs with 34" arms and an 80" wingspan. While his 4.82 probably didn't help him, when you watch the tape his explosiveness jumps off the screen - literally. His 36" vertical was #1 among edge rushers and DL at the combine. Garvin put up 60 tackles, 17 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, and 5 pass breakups his sophomore season (not to mention a fumble returned for a TD) while playing across from Joe Jackson. That sort of production tends to get a player noticed, and so his junior season in 2019 was all about fighting for whatever he could get while dealing with the extra attention. Garvin would enjoy much of his time fighting off double- and triple-teams in 2019, which caused a dip in his overall numbers from the year prior. Garvin ended the season with just 37 tackles, 9 TFL, 5 sacks, 4 hurries, and 2 FF. However, his pressure rate of 14.8% was still 5th best in the ACC according to PFF. The drop in production along with the 4.82 in the 40 is likely why he didn't hear his name called in the early part of day 3. Even so, at his size, length, and explosiveness, he could find a home as part of the rotation at OLB in Green Bay. Kyler Fackrell played over 400 snaps on defense as the #3 OLB last year while 1st round pick Rashan Gary played 245. Now that Fackrell left to join the Giants in free agency, Gary will presumably be in line to pick up the snaps left behind which still allows enough opportunities for Garvin to find a role as a situational pass rusher on defense if he can win the #4 spot. Garvin comes to Green Bay with very similar measurables as Za'darius Smith. He has the strength to hold up on the edge but also the explosiveness off the line to get up field to rush the passer. Garvin has a lot of tools to work with, and having both the Smith's as mentors could go a long way as far as how he learns to master them. The OLB depth has a lot of juice on the team for once, and Garvin makes this group even more exciting. 7 (244) - to Cleveland *traded along with OG Justin McCray for #236
OVERALL DRAFT EVALUATION
The Packers were in an interesting position heading into the draft, coming in as a 13-3 team without any major holes on the roster. All the starting spots were filled ahead of time, which already put this draft class at a disadvantage compared to other teams in the league. The rookies may not be relied upon to start or play much in 2020, barring an injury to someone ahead on the depth chart. It isn't too farfetched to think that the Packers could have selected 9 completely different players and would have received the same level of impact from this class year 1. That isn't to say some of the members of this class can't find a role as part of a rotation - I expect Dillon, Deguara, and Martin to all get involved - but there isn't a need to have any of these guys start right out of the gate. Which can be a good thing. It reminds me of the old school days where rookies yielded to veterans and had to bust their asses to earn playing time, rather than being handed a job as soon as they walked through the door. At the end of the day, regardless of what happens with any other player, this draft will ultimately be judged based on the success or failure of one single player: Jordan Love. The legacy (and possibly the future employment) of GM Brian Gutekunst is also now firmly tied to this selection. The coaching chops of Matt LaFleur will also be thoroughly put to the test to see how he develops. A lot is riding on getting this one right. But in the end, because Jordan Love plays the most important position in the game, if he becomes a successful starter, this whole draft is a win. For now all he needs to do is focus on being the best scout team QB the Packers have had the luxury to have on the team since Aaron Rodgers himself. Nothing will be easily given to Love. Proving to the organization that he is worthy of being the heir apparent to Aaron will greatly depend on how he prepares himself for what comes next.
We drafted him in the first round, we certainly think he has that kind of talent. But that’s not enough in the National Football League. You’ve got to work, you’ve got to earn it, you’ve got to become a good enough player. Again, we have one of the best to ever lace them up, and we’re shooting for championships as long as he’s here, and we expect him to be here for quite a while. -Brian Gutekunst
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles: Week 1 preview, betting trends and notes. The Redskins are 2-4 against the spread in their last six games, with wins against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans. The Eagles are 4-0-1 ATS in their last five games, with a 4-1 straight up record in the same timeframe. The Eagles kickoff a season of great expectations on Sunday afternoon against the Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field. Prior to the game, burgers will be grilled, beers (and White Claws) will be drank, and, for the first time ever, legal bets at PA online sportsbooks will be placed. Let’s get it in our Eagles-Redskins betting preview. Redskins vs. Eagles Prediction: Betting Line, Odds & Pick Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via E-mail More share options Share on Pinterest Share on Flipboard Share on Reddit Share on WhatsApp A $10 wager on Washington will return $18 in profit if the Redskins win. Against the Spread . The EAGLES (-5.5) are being teased at +100, but that’s the bet we’re going with. Haskins is still learning on the job and the Eagles defensive front is no joke. It will control the line of scrimmage and limit what Haskins and the Redskins offense ... Eagles vs Redskins Matchup Report; Opening Odds Analysis. Early bettors jumped on the points to back the home dog in Washington, betting the line down from its opening spot at -6 to Philadelphia -4.5. The Eagles are 1-4 ATS in their last five games against division rivals. The total line remains unchanged at 40 points.
NFL Opening Line Report with Teddy Covers ( Week #12 - NFL Odds and Lines)
NFL Week 17 picks NFL week 17 Vegas lines ATS predictions NFL scores big wins money lines Get right to the picks fast forward real if in a hurry for picks start times for you woo all my straight ... NFL Opening Line Report for Week #12 with Teddy Covers and Drew Martin: In this episode, Teddy and Drew break down the NFL openers from various sports handicapping angles and go over all the line ... The Line's Jimmy Traina and Nick Kostos break down the gambling angles of the biggest games from NFL Week 1 including Steelers/Patriots, Giants/Cowboys, Texans/Saints, and more. This video is unavailable. Watch Queue Queue. Watch Queue Queue Eagles vs Rams betting prediction, including odds and picks for this week 15 match up. ... Eagles vs Redskins Betting Predictions, Odds and Picks ... Line Moves, Barking Dogs and Best Bets ...