Four Downs: NFC East

New York Giants DL Leonard Williams
New York Giants DL Leonard Williams
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

All pressure, blown tackle, blown block, and coverage success data comes from Sports Info Solutions charting.

Dallas Cowboys

Biggest Need: Offensive line

Any team would struggle after losing a top-10 quarterback such as Dak Prescott to injury, but the Cowboys spiraled last year because that loss coincided with a deterioration of their offensive line. From Prescott's first year in 2016 to 2019, the team finished in the top eight in adjusted line yards every season. Last year, they finished 12th, and star running back Ezekiel Elliott suffered his career worst season by both yards per attempt (4.0) and rushing DVOA (-1.0%).

Some of that line decline was bad luck. Tackles La'el Collins and Tyrone Smith played just two games between them because of hip and neck injuries. They should be back in 2021, and that should allow four-time All-Pro lineman Zack Martin to return to his natural position at right guard, but Smith and Martin are also 30 years old now, and the former has missed time in each of the last five seasons. It may be unrealistic to expect them to play to their prime standards. And both center Joe Looney and right tackle Cameron Erving are free agents. Even assuming he returns to the team with a long-term extension, Prescott may not be a cure-all for the Cowboys offense unless they can add some linemen to return their blocking to its previous elite levels.

Major Free Agents: Dak Prescott, QB; Andy Dalton, QB; Aldon Smith, EDGE; Chidobe Awuzie, CB; Jourdan Lewis, CB; Xavier Woods, S; Joe Looney, C; Cameron Erving, RT; Tyrone Crawford, DE; Sean Lee, LB

Those previous paragraphs will prove to be dumb if the Cowboys lose franchise quarterback Dak Prescott in free agency, and that's a real risk since his 2020 franchise tag escalates his potential second tag in 2021 to $37.7 million, but Prescott finished in the top eight in passing DVOA in both 2019 and 2020 before his injury. The team will likely move heaven and earth to keep him, and that could precipitate the losses of some other impact free agents such as relatively expensive backup quarterback Andy Dalton, the offensive linemen Looney and Erving, and defensive end Tyrone Crawford.

Aldon Smith returned from a four-year NFL absence to near-peak form with five sacks and 36 hurries, eighth-most in football. He could command a decent payday despite his advanced age of 31. A year after losing top cornerback Byron Jones to the Dolphins, the Cowboys have another pair of cornerback starters set to enter free agency in Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis. The former will likely earn more as an outside starter, but the latter finished among the top 10 qualifiers allowing 6.2 yards per target with a 60% coverage success rate playing primarily in the slot. The Cowboys may also release linebacker Jaylon Smith for $7.2 million cap savings (post-June 1), although that wouldn't do any favors for their 23rd-ranked DVOA run defense. Smith paced the team's linebackers with an excellent 10.5% blown tackle rate in 2020.

New York Giants

Biggest Need: Edge rusher

As they held consecutive opponents to 20, 17, 17, and 12 points over four straight wins in November and early December, the Giants defense looked like a complete unit that could catapult their one-time 1-7 team to a backdoor NFC East title, but that look proved to be deceiving. That quartet of opponents—Washington, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Seattle—uniformly finished in the bottom third of teams in adjusted sack rate on offense. Across their full slate of games, the Giants were pedestrian bringers of defensive pressure with a 6.6% adjusted sack rate (17th) and 24.9% pressure rate (14th). And pending how they handle free agency, the team could fare even worse in that respect in 2021.

General manager Dave Gettleman has become infamous for his seemingly out-of-date fascination with run-stopping defensive tackles, but that surplus of big men worked for the team in 2020 because Leonard Williams can also rush the passer. In fact, Williams more than doubled any of his teammates with 30 hurries last season. He's set to become a free agent, and so too are defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and edge rushers Jabaal Sheard and Kyler Fackrell, three of the Giants' five defenders with between 10 and 14 hurries. Retaining Williams would certainly help, but the Giants could use an impact edge rusher to truly complete their defensive roster.

Major Free Agents: Leonard Williams, DT; Dalvin Tomlinson, DT; Cameron Fleming, RT; Jabaal Sheard, EDGE; Wayne Gallman, RB

Williams may command top dollar on the open market, but with three years of team control remaining for first-round defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, the Giants could survive his loss or that of fellow free agent defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson. And beyond them and the aforementioned Sheard and Fackrell, the Giants' remaining rotational free agents are on offense. The team could lose its entire 2020 depth chart of running backs with Wayne Gallman, Dion Lewis, and Alfred Morris hitting the open market, but that is less scary of a proposition with generational talent Saquon Barkley poised to return from his ACL injury. Really, the Giants' greater concerns are on their offensive line. Right tackle Cameron Fleming is a free agent. And while Nate Solder may offer a direct replacement if he returns from his 2020 opt-out, he may also retire. And frankly, the Giants may wish Solder would with his $16.5-million cap hit and his most recent effort of a 6.3% blown pass block rate, the worst among full-time tackles in 2019.

Philadelphia Eagles

Biggest Need: Offensive line

It's clear that the Eagles' biggest hole in 2020 was in pass protection. Presumed offensive line starters Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Isaac Seumalo, and Andre Dillard missed a combined 48 games, and the resulting mishmash of elevated backups allowed a league-worst pressure rate of 31.5%. I'm less sure for 2021. All four of those players have several years remaining on long-term contracts. With better injury luck, the Eagles could see a bounce-back in their pass protection to the elite level that enabled their 2017 Super Bowl run. Of course, it may not have been luck at all. Even discounting the 39-year-old Jason Peters—who seems likely to retire for good this offseason—the Eagles have an old line with three projected starters in Brooks, Johnson, and Jason Kelce in their 30s. At this point, they should expect some injuries and use the draft to add a backup plan or two.

In truth, the Eagles will likely choose their biggest hole based on how they handle their $40-plus-million salary cap deficit. The releases of DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery won't undermine the team's offensive efforts, but the release or a trade of Zach Ertz might. At the very least, it would spark some concern for the Eagles' skill positions whose remaining best players—Miles Sanders, Jalen Reagor, John Hightower, Quez Watkins, Travis Fulgham, Greg Ward, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, and Dallas Goedert—are almost universally young and inexperienced.

Major Free Agents: Jalen Mills, FS; Nickell Robey-Coleman, CB; Jason Peters, LT; Vinny Curry, DE; Duke Riley, LB; Nathan Gerry, LB

Despite their veteran-laden team, the Eagles don't have many starters or even rotation players entering free agency. Outside linebackers Duke Riley and Nathan Gerry will hit the open market, but the team already discovered one replacement in undrafted sophomore Alex Singleton—who nearly halved Riley's 32.3% broken tackle rate with an 18.3% rate as a second-half starter in 2020—and seem comfortable with inexpensive players at the position every year in any case. That makes safety Jalen Mills and slot corner Nickell Robey-Coleman the team's most impactful free agents. Mills was a cornerback himself prior to 2020, but he acquitted himself nicely at the new position and likely earned a contract bigger than his one-year, $4-million deal with the Eagles last season. I'm not sure that will be the case for Robey-Coleman after his disappointing year with 9.7 yards per target and a 40% coverage success rate, but the Eagles may re-sign him anyway since he was much better with 6.5 and 55% rates in 2019; they are also thin at the position behind outside starters Darius Slay and Avonte Maddox. Defensive end Vinny Curry is also a free agent, but he never has lived up to his former second-round draft selection. He had just three sacks and 14 hurries in 11 games in 2020.

Washington Football Team

Biggest Need: Passing game

Depending on how much stock you put in his gutsy 300-yard passing performance in the team's wild-card loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, Taylor Heinicke may solve Washington's quarterback problem with the two-year, $4.8-million contract he signed in February to return to the team, but Heinicke will enter the 2021 season at 28 years old and with just two career starts across both regular and postseason play. And even if he wins the starting job, Washington will have to address his backups after releasing top 2019 draft pick Dwayne Haskins in December and poised to likely release Alex Smith this offseason. Smith deserved his comeback player award from 2020 just by making it onto the field, but his -39.7% passing DVOA makes his $24.4-million and $26.4-million cap hits the next two years difficult for the team to justify. They could save $13.6 million in cap space if they released him. And even if they plan to start Heinicke, don't be surprised if Washington adds a veteran as insurance or drafts a quarterback with their No. 19 pick.

Whoever plays quarterback, he will benefit if Washington can add some receiving talent. The team landed the best wide receiver value in the 2019 draft with third-rounder Terry McLaurin, who has compiled 255 DYAR in two seasons since, but sixth- and fourth-round selections from the last two seasons Kelvin Harmon and Antonio Gandy-Golden have had their development disrupted by knee and hamstring injuries. And while the inexperienced Cam Sims, Steven Sims, and Isaiah Wright have flashed potential in their stead, the former Sims has been the only one to do so with even neutral efficiency (0.3% DVOA).

Major Free Agents: Brandon Scherff, RG; Ronald Darby, CB; Ryan Kerrigan, EDGE; Kevin Pierre-Louis, LB; Thomas Davis, LB; Dustin Hopkins, K

Brandon Scherff is the league's preeminent free agent guard and one of the most coveted free agents at any position. He anchored the team's pass protection with a 1.0% blown pass block rate that was the best among their guards and tackles. And with Scherff, that protection was much better than the team's 7.3% adjusted sack rate would suggest. Their 23.0% offensive pressure rate was 11th-best in football.

Beyond Scherff, Washington's other impact free agents are all on defense. Linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis and cornerback Ronald Darby were capable starters in 2020, the former with a 16.3% blown tackle rate and the latter with 7.0 yards per target and a top-12 58% coverage success rate. And pass-rusher Ryan Kerrigan has been a lineup staple for the past decade, but his two-sack Week 1 performance will likely prove to be his Washington swan song. The 32-year-old compiled just 3.5 sacks and 12 hurries over the rest of the season and receded to a rotational role in what may be the most talented defensive line in football.


38 comments, Last at 08 Mar 2021, 9:42am

#1 by theslothook // Feb 26, 2021 - 11:35am

I will admit, I got this division completely wrong a year ago. 

I thought Dallas could be a number 2 seed with some positive regression on defense plus all that offensive talent.

I thought Philadelphia would be a tough wildcard team with a top 10 Qb season from a healthy Wentz.

I didn't like the Giants all that much but maybe Danny Dimes would improve, making them a frisky team.

And I thought the WFT was an abomination that would finish with the 2nd overall pick.

I did not expect all 4 teams to be absolute garbage. In both Dallas and Philly's case, I kept waiting for them to come out of their doldrums. My preseason priors were way too strong in retrospect.

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#2 by Independent George // Feb 26, 2021 - 1:06pm

Hey, do you remember when the NFC East won seven Super Bowls in a ten-year stretch? Or when Tom Brady was 1-3 in the Super Bowl against NFCE? Good times. Good times.

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#4 by Pat // Feb 26, 2021 - 2:00pm

This comment is so confusing if you don't realize those two time periods you're referring to aren't the same.

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#5 by RevBackjoy // Feb 26, 2021 - 2:20pm

And the other 3 were won by... the 49ers!

2 Giants, 2 Skins, 3 Cowboys, 3 Niners. Quite the... tetropoly(?)

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#20 by OmahaChiefs13 // Feb 28, 2021 - 4:57pm

I think that tetropoly comes with a bit of a caveat: it didn't survive the institution of a salary cap.

1994 was the first capped year...Dallas won it that year, SF won it the next, and that was the end of both of those runs.

It's hard to remember how different the league was back then, but a 10-year run of dominance by 4 large-market teams feels a little self-evident through that lens, and I think there's a slight lesson there in that the NFCE isn't renowned for its agile and forward-thinking organizations.

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#3 by Pat // Feb 26, 2021 - 1:57pm

I'm just giving Dallas a pass because of Dak's injury. I totally did not see New York being at all competitive, but a lot of that was having no respect for Jones.

Pretty much nailed Philly and Washington, though, and my reasoning was spot on for both: they were thin at OL before Dillard and Brooks got injured. Afterwards they were "OMFG are you kidding me," and I had them between 6-8 wins. Obviously they underperformed that, but by the end things were so far off the rails that I'm gonna call it a push.

No idea why everyone thought WFT was going to be hot garbage. I figured the DL would win them 4-5 games alone, and then the rest was just a question as to how quickly they'd switch to Alex Smith (took them longer than I thought). Like, "let's take a top-4 sack rate team and, oh, add one of the best pass rushers to enter the draft in years," and people thought that team was going to be bad?

Also, there's a typo in the article under "Philadelphia Eagles biggest hole." They seem to have misspelled "entire team."

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#7 by theslothook // Feb 26, 2021 - 2:45pm

A team starting a quarterback as horrible as Dwayne Haskins can easily lead you to one win out of eight weeks. In Today's NFL, to really win that way, you need your defense to not only stop the opponent but generate turnovers for touchdowns. I also had zero confidence in Alex Smith coming back from a life-threatening leg injury being any kind of net positive. Coming into the season, I thought this was the worst quarterbacking situation in the NFL

Also what exactly is good about WFT's offense besides Terry McLaurin? The rest of their offense is garbage as well.

It's also instructive when you realize that had they lost the last week of the season, they'd be picking sixth so they were a garbage team, just a better version of garbage than the one I had in mind.

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#8 by Vincent Verhei // Feb 26, 2021 - 4:39pm

Passing DVOA, WFT QBs, 2020:

Dwayne Haskins: -40.1% (last)

Alex Smith: -39.7% (next to last)

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#22 by Pat // Mar 01, 2021 - 10:15am

That's really misleading. Smith had a bad game in week 5, which was his first game back, and coming of the bench and, well, they were sucking anyway, and then the last two games were obviously played with a calf strain - where the only reason Smith was playing was because they were fighting for a playoff spot and, well, he was their best option. Those 3 games literally accounted for nearly all of Smith's negative DYAR, at least by the QR accounting at the time.

Haskins started off, well... not horrible, but by the end of the season he was reliably bottom of the Quick Reads list every single week. Haskins wasn't given the option to play when he was healthy and ready, whereas Smith was forced to play when he wasn't. Obviously that's going to bias the statistics.

I'm not in any way implying Smith was good - but with that defense, they didn't need good. Plus again I'm not exactly setting a high bar here, I'm just saying I don't have any idea why people thought they'd be in the running for the #1 overall pick. I figured the Jets/Bengals/Giants had that locked up (yeah, I was wrong on both the Jaguars and the Giants, I get it).

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#24 by theslothook // Mar 01, 2021 - 11:37am

WFT had the 27th ranked defense a year ago. I realize that they added Chase Young, but a) he's a rookie and even HOFers rarely play like HOFers as rookies, b) he could have also been a subpar player and c) no one defensive player turns a defense ranked 27th to 3rd.

I get the optisim that they would likely improve on defense. I also thought they had a chance to creep up to respectable. But then I saw that offense and was horrified. Again, even if you like Alex Smith as a Qb, he was coming off a life threatening injury and hadn't played in very long time.

I maintain, in today's NFL, an average to slightly above average defense + a terrible offense = incredibly bad football team. Basically the Giants this year.

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#33 by Pat // Mar 02, 2021 - 7:13pm

It's the pass rush that I was looking at, and Young "could've been subpar" is, yeah, hilarious. Young's a Larry Johnson Sr. star outside pass rusher. You can just go ahead and check "lock" there. Especially since you've got easy direct film comps. They clearly underperformed on defense in 2019: the pass rush being that good tells you that.

Again I didn't expect them to be "good" or anything. But they were miles away from "worst team" status. Yes, Smith was coming back from a horrible injury. But this is the guy ALEX was named for. He just has to drop back, find guy, get rid of ball. 3 and outs weren't even necessarily *bad*.

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#9 by bravehoptoad // Feb 26, 2021 - 5:45pm

Seems like every year "Offensive Line" laps the field for "Biggest Need."

And again in 2021, featuring half the NFC East, half the AFC West, and half the AFC North all with o-line as the #1 need--and 3 more Four Down articles still to come. 

What's going on with crappy o-line play here in the 20-teens and -twenties?

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#10 by ImNewAroundThe… // Feb 26, 2021 - 6:15pm

Broadest position group only rivaled by defensive line. 

Hard to find 5. And we're not even talking about depth when injuries hit. 

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#21 by OmahaChiefs13 // Feb 28, 2021 - 6:22pm

Is broadly subpar offensive line play truly a 20teens and twenties phenomenon?

Asking because I don't know the actual feels anecdotally like that's been the norm going back to at least the 90s: at any given point, a few teams have great lines, and everyone else largely has marginal lines at best. Then, as now, it feels like great line talent clusters on a small handful of teams.

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#23 by Pat // Mar 01, 2021 - 10:40am

"What's going on with crappy o-line play here in the 20-teens and -twenties?"

I mean, I can't say anything for the other teams, but in the Eagles' case, they've been asking for this problem for years. Ever since Reid left, draft day's had me throwing stuff at the TV, because Roseman's drafting strategy's just totally different (and stupid).

Over Reid's entire career he never - not once - went more than 2 years without drafting a lineman in the 1st or 2nd round. Seriously, go look. In fact there were only 2 times he even went 2 years: 01/02 and 19/20, and usually it's just a long unbroken streak of lineman/lineman/lineman somewhere in the first 2 rounds. Yes, a lot of those didn't work out. Not really a big deal - you're just constantly acquiring talent and figuring out what works. And yes, a lot of those are defensive linemen, and you're asking about OL, obviously. But again, it's more just a valuation issue of line play in general.

Since he left - that's now eight drafts - they've drafted exactly linemen in the first two rounds. Yes, obviously, Reid hasn't drafted an OL in KC since Eric Fisher - their draft picks have all been DL. But again, to me, it's just a valuation issue. When Reid was in Philly you knew the lines - both lines - were always going to be strong because they just constantly acquired linemen. Sometimes they managed to pick up OL or DL late or in free agency, so the need on one side or the other shifted, but you were just always picking up linemen (and don't try to tell me Reid's not influencing the draft in KC, that's just hilarious).

I've just been watching Philly's lines just age and degrade over time, and it's bad. I mean, if I just split the lines into "Reid era" (which was nine years ago) and "non-Reid era," the Reid group is still better. After 9 years! Eagles fans are excited because this random guy who never played football before looks like a viable replacement-level tackle! It's ludicrous.

In my mind the only way you get good lines consistently is just you never stop acquiring talent. Ever. Just. Keep. Getting. New. Guys.

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#25 by OmahaChiefs13 // Mar 01, 2021 - 11:57am

Yes, obviously, Reid hasn't drafted an OL in KC since Eric Fisher - their draft picks have all been DL

Linemen KC has drafted since Eric Fisher:

Eric Kush (6) (technically, he was later in the same draft), Zach Fulton (6), Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff (6), Mitch Morse (2), Parker Ehinger (4), Nick Allegreti (7), Lucas Niang (3).

Now, a couple of those guys were terrible. But several of them were quite good. Two of them have started AFCCGs the last few years...if LDT hadn't opted out this year, the 2020 AFCCG would have featured one on each team's line.

Only Morse was a pick within the first two rounds, but going back to valuation, the goal should be to add sufficient talent, not spend a pretermined amount of capital. I consider LDT to have been a pretty slick 6th round get.

It supports your overall point about Philly largely ignoring the position in the draft, just sayin'...Reid is still constantly picking up O-Line prospects.

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#26 by theslothook // Mar 01, 2021 - 12:16pm

Just wondering - what are the implications here? That team's usually underinvest in offensive linemen? How are we defining "invest"? Is it 3rd round pick and above?  

To me, every team drafts offensive linemen and I don't know if the Eagles are particularly different. As you pointed out, the Chiefs certainly aren't. The team's that "invest" in offensive line make it obvious, like the Cowboys when they spent 3 first rounders and a second. But even in that case, we don't know if they made a conscious decision to draft offensive line versus they just evaluated them as the best player available and its all a coincidence. 

Bottom line - how much of this is just an ex post narrative? One team's draft picks happened to pan out, so therefore they clearly "invested" in the position while another team's draft picks flopped so they did not.

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#27 by OmahaChiefs13 // Mar 01, 2021 - 12:44pm

Bottom line - how much of this is just an ex post narrative? One team's draft picks happened to pan out, so therefore they clearly "invested" in the position while another team's draft picks flopped so they did not.

It's nearly all ex post narrative.

I didn't intend to imply that KC has heavily invested in the offensive line, nor am I prepared to call what investments they've made universally successful...I mean, I watched last season.

If anything, I think KC is a good model for how most teams approach the position. They invest, on average, 1 pick a year to ensure a constant influx of bodies. A few are premium picks, most are day 3 guys. The overall "hit rate" on those mixed picks is a little less than 50%. Opportunity free agents are added where you can (Schwartz was an unquestionable good get), but neither will you keep them all (we let Morse, a 2nd round pick, walk, when arguably he'd have been MIGHTY nice to have a couple of months ago).

That approach can get you a functional line that's still vulnerable to bad luck. Again, the 2020 Chiefs are a great model. Fisher and Schwartz got hurt, and Fisher has never been anything better than basic starter quality to begin with. LDT opted out. Niang, who would have been in the depth mix behind Fisher and Schwartz, also opted out. Depth and swing guys also had injuries.

It was a poor line that still managed 14 wins even with Schwartz being hurt, but that looked historically terrible once we also lost Fisher.

If there's a larger takeaway, I think it's that we agree that's how most teams' lines work. The teams that heavily invest (arguably overinvest) will have superlative lines, like the recent Cowboys or the early 2000s Chiefs. Everybody else will, at best, be left with functional lines that are vulnerable to adverse circumstances like injury, bad cap management, or wild outliers like a pandemic and league-wide opt-outs.

That's why I said above that I don't think poor line play is a recent trend...this model has been how offensive lines have worked since at least the beginning of the salary cap era.

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#29 by bravehoptoad // Mar 01, 2021 - 4:28pm

If everybody else--besides those teams that overinvest--has "functional lines that are vulnerable to adverse circumstances," then would 40% of the teams in the league have o-line as the biggest weakness?  Something more is going on than just dodgy resource allocation. 

Consensus on the thread seems to be that this "o-line weakness" problem has always been there, and that if we were picking a random year in the 80s or 70s then we'd find a similar percentage to what we get today.  Too bad we can't run back Four Downs articles thirty or forty years to see.

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#30 by theslothook // Mar 01, 2021 - 5:06pm

Complicating this is we don't really have a true measurement for pass protection. Sacks and pressures tell us something, but they are also heavily affected by the quarterback and playcalling.

Pff grades are useful, but we don't how their grading system works and it's hard to quantify how much worse is giving up three blown blocks versus spending the entire game giving up ground but never surrendering a sack. Plus scheme and circumstances play large influences as well. If you don't have faith in your o line or qb, you are going to avoid situations that put your line in a position to fail whereas if your line is good, you'll do the opposite. We could be in a world where a line that gives up more pressure is in fact better than ones that don't!


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#32 by OmahaChiefs13 // Mar 01, 2021 - 5:36pm

This subject forces us all further into the realm of anecdotes than most of us are probably comfortable with.

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#31 by OmahaChiefs13 // Mar 01, 2021 - 5:16pm

If everybody else--besides those teams that overinvest--has "functional lines that are vulnerable to adverse circumstances," then would 40% of the teams in the league have o-line as the biggest weakness? 

Honestly, yes, they probably would.

Bear in mind that I used the word "functional"...not great, not good, merely functional; sufficient for an offense to operate...very deliberately. That immediately implies that adverse circumstances can take it to "non-functional" pretty much immediately (again, for evidence, I submit Super Bowl LV).

Now add in the fact that we know offensive performance generally correlates more strongly with winning than defensive performance, and that a non-functional line torpedoes both passing and rushing effectiveness; arguably, an offensive line becoming non-functional has more impact on a team's ability to succeed than any other non-QB position. Even having the league's consensus best QB and one of the most prolific, talented groups of offensive skill position players coached by a legitimate offensive genius didn't save KC from turning into a clown show once the line dropped below minimal functionality.

So, if the vast majority of the league has a line that's only an injury or two (or suspension, or opt-out, or what have you) away from being non-functional...and therefore only a step or two from severely impacting a team's ability to's not a great stretch to then find that 40% or more of the league could legitimately list offensive line as their greatest need at any given point. 

Honestly, that number could be higher and I wouldn't blink very hard.

That doesn't mean teams should all start investing more heavily in offensive line assets...there's still only so much talent to go around, and the salary cap exists for everybody but New Orleans. It's notable that, in the salary cap era, few of the teams with truly dominant lines translated those lines into a championship.

But any given point in time, most teams could legitimately call offensive line a serious need.

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#34 by Pat // Mar 02, 2021 - 7:25pm

So to be clear, I know KC's obviously been picking up OL later: but the point is that Reid *always* is putting a very high value on linemen. Sometimes it's OL, sometimes DL. But he *never* goes many years without grabbing some crazy physical specimen high in the draft.

That's the point: Parcells (I think) had a "planet theory" on linemen- there just aren't that many of these guys physically on the planet. So when those guys are available, you grab them, period. More recently Reid's been picking up DL early and finding OL elsewhere, but that's probably just noise.

I really think that's the only way to do it, and there are *way* too many GMs out there who end up drafting *way* too many skill guys who end up being utterly replaceable.

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#35 by Pat // Mar 03, 2021 - 10:24am

Top 5 linemen on the 2017 Eagles (no real order): Cox, Kelce, Johnson, Brooks, Graham.

Origin: 60% Reid draft picks (from 5+ years previous!), 20% Roseman free agency, 20% Roseman draft.

Philly didn't win the Super Bowl because they stopped drafting linemen. They won the Super Bowl because they had drafted linemen.

Also just to be clear, up until 2017 I thought Roseman did a fantastic job in free agency, and obviously an "incomplete" in drafting just because of the limited resources. Jeffery, Smith, Long, Brooks, and Jenkins were all slam-dunk FA signings. That's why I was a lot higher on him back around then. But since then he's utterly bombed both FA and all three drafts. He's the Carson Wentz of general managers.

(I also don't have a very high opinion of Reid in free agency, mind you, which is also why I had a higher opinion of Roseman back in 2017)

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#36 by ImNewAroundThe… // Mar 03, 2021 - 2:26pm

My link was to point towards selecting them high (top 50 in this case, or 1st/2nd round in yours) isn't really always necessary. Brooks is (was) great, and he was a Reid pick but a 3rd rounder. Same with Kelce but he was 6th rounder. They were big reasons to winning but sometimes you don't always need to draft one high to be successful like the tweet implies. 

I know the old adage is winning the trenches but it's such a blanket statement. Covering like 9/22 starters is a lot. Can cover almost half the starters as opposed to other blanket position groups like DBs, receivers, etc.). You're bound to be lacking at one of those spots among the trenches at almost any given time. And that's just the starters, not depth. And the draft usually provides them at the same high rate. 

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#38 by Pat // Mar 08, 2021 - 9:42am

Brooks was a free agency acquire by Roseman: him and Johnson are Roseman's contributions, with Lane Johnson coming in Roseman's pretty much only successful draft.

When I stressed getting linemen early, I wasn't saying "oh you have to get linemen early, you can't find them anywhere else." Again, it's more the *relative value*. You get those guys early because you know you always need them, and obviously early in the draft you're going to have guys you think are unique at that position, moreso than other positions.

Sometimes it's going to be DL that gets drafted early, sometimes it's OL. Just depends on how things are going. But the point is you *never* stop acquiring that talent in the draft early.

"I know the old adage is winning the trenches but it's such a blanket statement. Covering like 9/22 starters is a lot. Can cover almost half the starters as opposed to other blanket position groups like DBs, receivers, etc.)."

Again, it's Parcells's (... I think) "planet theory." There just aren't that many of those guys available on the planet at any one time. If you see one that shows up in the draft, you get the guy, even if you're already loaded. Yes, you can manage with finding other guys later in the draft, but from a physical perspective you've always got to shoot for that "elite" athleticism in linemen early in the draft.

In the 2017 Eagles case, for instance, 3/5 of the linemen I listed were first-rounders. Brooks and Kelce were bonuses.

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#6 by jheidelberg // Feb 26, 2021 - 2:38pm

Each team's biggest need will be met--that the NFL does not realign.  This will keep the division intact and someone can try like the WFT to make a late season run toward mediocrity (Total DVOA -2.3%, 7-9 record) and then pull off an Eli Manning like championship run.

Heinicke played well enough to win in the playoffs, imagine if WFT had made a couple of more plays, and Tampa Bay instead of being the champs are one and done.

So disappointed in the Eagles for pulling Jalen Hurts in the season finale.  I wanted to see the 6-10 NFC East Champion Giants.  I think this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a 6-10 division winner.


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#11 by almon // Feb 26, 2021 - 8:45pm

Cowpokes 9.5

beagles 9.5

jinx 6

wft 5

Giants are my favorite team. i hope they win 3 and fire GM HC QB and start over

Points: 0

#12 by Sixknots // Feb 26, 2021 - 9:51pm

Yes, absolutely fire Gettleman.  But then the question is:  who hired that boob?...and why?

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#13 by almon // Feb 26, 2021 - 10:35pm

...ravens front office for GM ... and don’t hire anyone who worked at patriots for HC

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#14 by Caw Caw // Feb 26, 2021 - 11:39pm

Giants defense started getting feisty toward the end of last season. With a couple more impact players in coverage they could easily be league average or better next year.

They have good pieces at WR, OL, RB. They were 11th in rush DVOA and 28th in pass DVOA. It's pretty clear the problems are Danny Low-ceilings, his crappy coaches, and his GM who doesn't understand draft value at all.


Points: 0

#15 by jheidelberg // Feb 27, 2021 - 12:28am

I do not gamble, the numbers seemed high to me that you quoted on Vegas.  Eagles going 10-6?  I'll go under.  Then I realized that these numbers may be based on a 17 games schedule.  So for you gamblers out there educated me.  Do you just pick over or under and if you pick over you are lucky that the team has an extra chance to win a game, and if you pick under you are lucky if they stay with the 16 game schedule?

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#37 by DIVISION // Mar 04, 2021 - 6:28pm

We don't know whether Dak will resign with the Cowboys or how good he'll be coming off the compound fracture.  

The Cowboys will not win 10 games.  Their defense is also bottom 5 in the NFL.

Eagles and Giants are both favorites for the division but probably at 9 wins.

WFT doesn't have a QB now, or at least one who is any good.  That could change.  

Points: 0

#16 by AFCNFCBowl // Feb 27, 2021 - 4:04pm

I don't understand why Giants defense (12th in yards allowed, 9th in points allowed) is ranked 19th in DVOA and below the Vikings.

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#17 by theslothook // Feb 27, 2021 - 4:21pm

Playing twice against the NFC east squads is no doubt part of it.

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#19 by Vincent Verhei // Feb 27, 2021 - 5:36pm

Their raw numbers are suppressed because they only faced 157 drives, tied for third-fewest. They were 18th in yards allowed per drive, 15th in points allowed per drive. Next to last in plays allowed per drive. They didn't give up big plays and they were tremendous in the red zone (second-best in TD/RZ%), but while they didn't break very often, they did a whole lot of bending. 

DVOA is play-based not drive-based, but the drive numbers go a long way in explaining what's going on there. 



Points: 0

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