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» The Week In Quotes: December 8, 2017

This week served as a reminder that football is a violent, dangerous game -- but also that NFL players do and say funny things and help out people in need.

15 May 2017

Four Downs: NFC East

by Vincent Verhei

Dallas Cowboys

Biggest Post-Draft Weakness: Pass Rush

The Cowboys' biggest need entering the offseason was in the secondary, but they addressed that concern with a vengeance, signing Nolan Carroll from division-rival Philadelphia in free agency and adding four more defensive backs in the draft. That leaves the defensive line as the biggest question mark on a team that has few other weaknesses. The projected starting quartet of Tyrone Crawford, Cedric Thornton, Maliek Collins, and Demarcus Lawrence combined for only 12 sacks in 52 total games played last year. Journeyman Benson Mayowa led the team with six sacks despite starting only six games. First-round draft pick Taco Charlton had 9.5 sacks in his senior season at Michigan, but was something of a one-year wonder, and there are questions about his consistency. He enters 2017 as Dallas' most talented edge rusher, but even if he meets his potential, the Cowboys will need to find a reliable bookend on the other side.

Notable undrafted free agents: With Tony Romo retiring and Mark Sanchez signing with Chicago, the Cowboys are suddenly very thin at quarterback behind Dak Prescott. As such, they signed a pair of free agents to compete with Kellen Moore for the backup slot: Central Michigan's Cooper Rush and Florida's Austin Appleby. Both stand at least 6-foot-3 and 228 pounds, so they have that Ideal Quarterback Size™ that scouts look for, whether it leads to wins or not. Rush was a four-year starter for the Chippewas, but his stats peaked in his sophomore season, and he twice led the MAC in interceptions. Appleby began his college career at Purdue but lost his job to David Blough. He then transferred to Florida, where he threw ten touchdowns and seven interceptions while splitting time with Luke Del Rio.

In a very literal sense, Arkansas offensive tackle Dan Skipper has off-the-charts size -- at 6-foot-10, he's taller than anyone who played in an NFL game in 2016, thought at "only" 309 pounds he's slender for his frame. He started each of his final 39 games at Arkansas at left tackle, and made the all-SEC team his senior year.

New York Giants

Biggest Post-Draft Weakness: Running Back

New York had only 30 runs of 10 or more yards last year. Only two teams had fewer: the Vikings, who drafted Florida State's Dalvin Cook in the second round, and the Rams, who are hopeful Todd Gurley will recover from his sophomore slump. The Giants? They didn't pick a runner until late in the fourth round, when they grabbed Clemson's Wayne Gallman. Gallman's a thumper who seems to lack the foot speed to generate big plays -- his 4.6 second 40-yard dash was 19th out of 27 running backs at the combine this year. That leaves the Giants looking to their plethora of underwhelming veterans to generate some kind of spark. Neither Paul Perkins, Shane Vereen, Shaun Draughn, nor Orleans Darkwa has run for even 500 yards in a season, and Perkins' 102-yard effort in Week 17 against Washington last year is the only time any of them has run for 100 yards in the past three years.

Notable undrafted free agents: NFL Network's Chad Reuter cited the Giants' post-draft haul as one of the best in the league, specifically naming offensive linemen Chad Wheeler (tackle, USC) and Jessamen Dunker (guard, Tennessee State) as players who could earn a roster spot. Wheeler often played well for the Trojans, but tore his ACL in 2014 and was arrested following an altercation with his girlfriend in 2015. Dunker has had his own off-field troubles -- he started his collegiate career with Florida, but transferred without ever playing for the Gators following the theft of a scooter.

Reuter also praised the Giants for acquiring Florida State receiver Travis Rudolph, Notre Dame defensive tackle Jarron Jones, and San Diego State linebacker Calvin Munson. Safety Jadar Johnson has size (6 feet even, 206 pounds) and athleticism (among the leaders at his position in the bench press and the 60-yard shuttle at the combine), but little experience, starting for just one season at Clemson.

Philadelphia Eagles

Biggest Post-Draft Weakness: Cornerback

The Eagles have bodies at this position, but most of those bodies come with serious questions. To wit:

  • Jalen Mills, a seventh-round draft pick in 2016, played all 16 games in his rookie season, with two starts. Per Sports Info Solutions, he allowed 8.6 yards per target in coverage, 71st out of 87 qualifying cornerbacks.
  • Ron Brooks missed most of 2016 with a torn quad and had to accept a 45 percent pay cut to stay with the team.
  • Patrick Robinson will be 30 years old this season and is on his fourth team in four years.
  • Dwayne Gratz, a five-year pro, spent time last year with Jacksonville and Los Angeles, neither of whom bothered to keep him.
  • Sidney Jones, a second-round draft pick out of Washington, tore his Achilles at his pro day and will likely miss the start of the season.
  • Third-round draft pick Rasul Douglas, a West Virginia product, ran a 4.59-second 40-yard dash -- 27th out of 31 corners at the combine.
  • Aaron Grymes, C.J. Smith, and Mitchell White are likely special-teamers at best.

Notable undrafted free agents: The Eagles may have found a pair of studs, one on each side of the ball. Dane Brugler of CBS Sports named West Virginia center Tyler Orlovsky the best undrafted player in the 2017 class, and suggests he could be not just a player in the NFL, but an eventual starter. Defensive tackle Charles Walker showed flashes at Oklahoma, but suffered at least three concussions and actually quit during his senior season to preserve his health and better prepare for the draft. Mel Kiper has said that if Walker had finished his collegiate career, he would have been a first-round pick.

Ohio State's Cam Johnston was the Big Ten punter of the year in 2016. At 25 years old, the Australian is old for a rookie -- but still 12 years younger than Donnie Jones, the Eagles' punter for the last four seasons.

Quarterback Jerod Evans played only 14 FBS games, but played well -- he completed 64 percent of his passes at Virginia Tech with 29 touchdowns and only eight interceptions, while rushing for 846 yards and 12 more scores. He's a project, to be sure, but the potential is tantalizing.

Washington Redskins

Biggest Post-Draft Weakness: Cornerback

Washington could have as many as five new starters in the front seven, but they didn't do much to bolster a thin group of corners. Receivers tore this defense apart last year -- Washington ranked in the bottom ten in coverage against No. 1 wide receivers, No. 2s, all slot receivers, and tight ends. Josh Norman is a fine No. 1 corner (and with a $20 million cap hit this season, he'd better be), but in three seasons Bashaud Breeland has never finished among the top 30 cornerbacks in yards allowed per target in coverage. The depth chart behind those two is woefully thin. Holdovers Dashaun Phillips, Quinton Dunbar, and Kendall Fuller have only 11 starts in five NFL seasons between them. As for the draftees, third-rounder Fabian Moreau tore his pec at his pro day and will be out until at least July, while Joshua Holsey was a seventh-rounder for a reason.

Notable undrafted free agents: Washington loaded up on wide receivers after the draft, signing four in total. James Quick, a broomstick with hands (he's 6 feet tall but weighs just 186 pounds), was never a clear top receiver in three years at Louisville, but he did average 16.1 yards per catch in college. Levern Jacobs -- another undersized receiver at 5-foot-11, 186 pounds -- was a leading receiver three times for the Maryland Terrapins, though his numbers were stunted by playing on a team that ran for more often than it passed. Old Dominion's Zach Pascal was perennially among the leaders in Conference USA in receptions, yards, and touchdowns, and also averaged 22.8 yards on 32 kickoff returns. Grambling State's Chad Williams was a second-team FCS All-American and led the SWAC with 90 catches for 1,337 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.

(Portions of this article originally appeared on ESPN Insider.)

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 15 May 2017

9 comments, Last at 16 Oct 2017, 4:47am by lynn_libbrecht

Comments

1
by Theo :: Mon, 05/15/2017 - 6:12pm

"In a very literal sense, Arkansas offensive tackle Dan Skipper has off-the-charts size -- at 6-foot-10, he's taller than anyone who played in an NFL game in 2016, thought [sic] at "only" 309 pounds"

For a website that has ridiculed the idea of 'off the charts intangibles' in the past it's weird to read that someone has off the charts size at 6"10 in a very literal sense.

2
by Jimmy Oz :: Mon, 05/15/2017 - 9:30pm

Height is tangible and it's "Notable Undrafted Free Agents" with the understanding that a player taller than anyone else is notable.

3
by Theo :: Tue, 05/16/2017 - 12:01pm

I dont think we are talking about the same thing.
How can someone have off the charts size and be listed at 6'10 and 309lb?

5
by Dan :: Tue, 05/16/2017 - 2:45pm

Intangibles are inherently unchartable, because you need to be able to tange something before you can chart it. So "off-the-charts intangibles" is meaningless as a description of a player.

Height can be charted. Whether a player's height is "off-the-charts" depends both on the dimensions of the player and on the dimensions of the chart. But if you had a height chart which was designed to fit the range of heights of all current players, without any additional space past the boundaries that they have reached, then the height of a 6'10" player would be off the chart.

"Size" is a somewhat nebulous concept, but if you made a chart of player "size" that included height as one of the dimensions of size then a player whose height was off the chart would have his size off the chart as well.

6
by The Ninjalectual :: Tue, 05/16/2017 - 3:45pm

Why would the charts bother going to 6'10" when nobody is that tall?

Also it was a bit of a joke line

4
by Theo :: Tue, 05/16/2017 - 1:19pm

It is worrisome for the Giants that they signed Antwon/Valentino Blake from the Titans, previously Steelers.
This is a horrible football player. When he was with the steelers and you saw a complete breakdown on defense you could count that #41 was near. He was probabky the worst steeler defender I have ever seen. He made some clown plays for the Titas too. A punt he stopped at the 2 yard line comes to mind - while he was on the return team!
He also took a kickoff from the 1 yard line into the end zone downed it... for a safety.
Im not saying you need yo be Einstein to play football but you at least got to know the basics of the rules.
Blake is just horrible and the Giants will know it when they play him.

7
by The Ninjalectual :: Tue, 05/16/2017 - 3:48pm

It seems like "learning the rules" is something that can be coached up

8
by brentjmu :: Wed, 05/17/2017 - 1:48pm

You list running back as the biggest post draft need for the New York Giants, but then failed to mention Khalid Abdullah from James Madison as a notable UDFA.

9
by lynn_libbrecht :: Mon, 10/16/2017 - 4:47am

Thank you for this article!
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