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In Philadelphia, it’s a rare situation in which the starting quarterback feels pressure to reclaim his spot from his backup.
Carson Wentz has yet to regain the magic of his 2017 season, a year cut short by his knee injury and ended with Nick Foles leading the Eagles to their first Super Bowl title. Philly gambled big on Wentz by not only letting Foles walk, but paying their former top draft pick a big money contract extension like he was the one who led them to championship glory.
Wentz gets backfield help in the form of former Bear Jordan Howard and still has a bevy of options in the passing game, including DeSean Jackson in his return to Philly. The offensive and defensive lines are stout and likely the reason this team competes for a division title, and maybe more.
But this all hinges on Wentz. If ESPN’s Louis Riddick strikes gold for the third straight year, Wentz will be MVP, and the Eagles will be NFC East champs and then some. If not, it’s Dallas’ division to lose.
In an annual rite of passage into a new NFL season, people are overrating Dallas.
Hell, I probably did, too, by picking them to win 10 games. Ezekiel Elliott isn’t even in the country while he holds out for a payday that likely won’t come, which will likely expose Dak Prescott as the middling quarterback he is. There are few reliable passing targets beyond Amari Cooper, and for some reason, Jason Witten thought it wise to make a comeback even though he wasn’t that good when he retired.
Oh, did I mention the trio of Dak, Zeke and Amari are all due for big paydays and not inclined to give Jerry Jones a hometown discount? This might get ugly this season and beyond.
The trade for Robert Quinn ensures Dallas will endure The Sixth-Annual Suspension for a Key Defender, as he sits out the first two games for a team that should still have a good pass rush without him. The safety position leaves a lot to be desired, and will likely keep this from being a top-tier defense.
Oh, and Jason Garrett is still the head coach, which will continue to prevent this team from being as good as its talent level would imply. The Cowboys are good enough to contend for the playoffs; but even if they get in, their NFC Championship Game drought is likely to continue.
It’s rare, but it’s the Giants’ turn to be the little brother in New York.
The Jets loaded up in the offseason, while the Giants unloaded Odell Beckham Jr. and Landon Collins, neither of whom seem to want to stop talking about it. While the Beckham deal netted Collins’ replacement (Jabrill Peppers), it leaves Big Blue with a big hole at receiver with the newly-acquired Golden Tate serving a drug suspension and Corey Coleman out for the season. Oh, did I mention Sterling Shepard broke his thumb?
That doesn’t leave many quality targets for Eli Manning, who is inexplicably worshipped by the owner and still the starting QB in New York even though the Giants stunned the entire football world by drafting Daniel Jones sixth overall. For what it’s worth, Jones looked really good in the preseason and appears ready to play sooner rather than later.
Fellow first-rounder Dexter Lawrence joins a defense in dire need of his help along the D-line, and the defense as a whole took a hit from all of the questionable moves by GM Dave Gettleman. The only way this isn’t a last-place team is if the Redskins hit rock bottom …
… which I believe they will. There is very little reason to think this is a winning team.
I’ll get the positives out of the way: Washington’s draft was widely applauded, especially the first-round selections of Dwayne Haskins and Montez Sweat, while Terry McLaurin (third round) and Jimmy Moreland (seventh) look like steals. The ‘Skins have a deep and talented front seven, and Landon Collins projects to be the best safety in Burgundy and Gold since his late hero Sean Taylor roamed the secondary, giving the team hope of being really good on defense in what feels like forever.
But the Trent Williams holdout looms over everything like a dark cloud, and it’s far worse than anything money-related. His absence makes an already ordinary offensive line a straight up deficiency for a unit that regressed badly in 2018. Throw in the downgrade at QB (Case Keenum for the still-injured Alex Smith), the annual Jordan Reed injury, and a lack of playmakers at receiver otherwise tampers any excitement over Derrius Guice-Adrian Peterson running tandem.
Plus, do you really trust this team to stay healthy? The ‘Skins placed 24 players on IR in 2018, and 52 over the last two seasons. Their proclivity to mishandle injuries has undermined their own QB competition and alienated their best player (Williams).
The front end of the schedule virtually guarantees the Redskins a losing — and plausibly winless — record going into their Week 6 game in Miami. Expect that to be the start of the Dwayne Haskins era, regardless of whether head coach Jay Gruden is still around to make that decision.
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