Tag Archive for Fletcher Cox

Why the Philadelphia Eagles Will Win the NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles

Prematurely dubbed the “Dream Team,” the Philadelphia Eagles failed mightily in fulfilling that lofty moniker in 2011.

In free agency, the Eagles landed arguably the most coveted free agent in Nnamdi Asomugha, in addition to netting Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin, Ronnie Brown, Vince Young and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (via Kevin Kolb trade). They already featured an offense stacked with playmakers. Now they had fortified the secondary and defensive line.

Oh, how that potential went ever so unrealized.

Despite winning the last four games of the season to finish 8-8 after a dismal 1-4 start, this was a season rife with questionable coaching, defensive breakdowns, contract disputes and a glaring lack of cohesion.

And to think, the NFC East was so ripe for the taking as the Giants won the division at just 9-7, one game ahead in the standings.

As it currently stands, the Eagles have seemed to ameliorate their burdensome situation with an immensely successful draft and by locking up key players.

More to the point, they have put themselves in position to win the NFC East in a football savvy and fiscally responsible manner (i.e. an intelligent draft strategy).

They alleviated their greatest deficiency at middle linebacker by selecting Mychal Kendricks in the second round of the NFL Draft. Incumbent Jamar Chaney was awful and ranked near the bottom of all MLBs according to ProFootballFocus (and any observer with a working pair of eyes for that matter).

Kendricks is an exceptionally underrated athlete who excels against both the run and pass. He brings max effort, sure tackling, and disciplined play to Philadelphia’s linebacker corps that was often deficient in those qualities last season.

Selecting Fletcher Cox, the top-rated defensive tackle coming out of the NCAA ranks, and Marshall’s Vinny Curry fortifies an already stout, NFL sack-leading defensive line featuring Babin, Trent Cole and Cullen Jenkins.

Fourth-round pick Brandon Boykin provides them with a fantastic slot cornerback and dynamic weapon in the return game. Marvin McNutt (Round 6) provides playmaking ability and insurance for the oft-injured Jeremy Maclin at the wide receiver position, while Brandon Washington was a huge steal near the end of draft as an addition to the offensive line.

Equally, if not more significant, was rewarding the veterans on the team with renewed contracts. They took care of LeSean McCoy (RB), Evan Mathis (G), Trent Cole, DeSean Jackson (WR) and Todd Herremans (T) with long-term deals. Unlike last year where the newcomers received all the love—at least in the eyes of some of the returning players—important longstanding teammates now feel that they have the support of the organization as well.

The readily apparent resentment and lack of chemistry in 2011 due to contractual issues should no longer resurface in 2012.

Now that the team itself has improved in most of all necessary areas, how does it stack up against divisional foes?

The Redskins, despite drafting a franchise QB in RGIII and surrounding him with quality wideouts, will still finish last in the division. Their defense is nothing to scoff at (see: Ryan Kerrigan, Brian Orakpo and London Fletcher), but will experience too many growing pains on offense in an incredibly challenging and competitive division.

The defending Super Bowl champion Giants should be just as formidable in 2012. They replaced the departed Brandon Jacobs and Mario Manningham with Virginia Tech’s David Wilson and LSU’s Rueben Randle in the draft. Re-signing Terrell Thomas will improve the secondary behind New York’s ferocious D-line. While strong in many areas, the G-Men will experience a SB hangover with the help of a much stronger and now unified Philadelphia squad.

Finally, the greatest challenge presents itself in the form of the Dallas Cowboys. They assuaged their most notable deficiency by signing/drafting lock-down corners in former Chief Brandon Carr and LSU’s Morris Claiborne to team up with Mike Jenkins. Boise State’s Tyrone Crawford brings a presence to the 3-4 DE position in front of All-World DeMarcus Ware and the up-and-coming Sean Lee. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan seems to have the personnel to run his complex schemes. The offense should also continue to thrive behind Tony Romo, Miles Austin, DeMarco Murray, a more developed Dez Bryant and healthy Felix Jones.

However, barring injury, the Michael Vick-led Eagles will once again soar to the top of the division (corny pun intended). The Cowboys aren’t quite there on defense and Romo still does not deserve our full trust that he can lead his team to the postseason. New York will not repeat their magical late-season run, while the Redskins will occupy the fourth slot in the division behind a rookie, albeit awesome, rookie quarterback.

The Eagles have made all the requisite additions and will capitalize on a normal offseason and continuity with the coaching staff to capture the NFC East . The defense made great strides under coordinator Juan Castillo late in the season, allowing just 11.5 points per game during a four game winning streak to close things out. Their draft selections will only help advance that defensive success heading into 2012.

And with all due respect to you, Mr. Young, but the 2012 version of your old squad might actually be more of the “Dream Team.”

Just don’t expect your former teammates to say that out loud.

Kansas City Chiefs Draft Grades: Grading 2012 Selections

Dontari-Poe-Chiefs

After an impressive 10-6 AFC West-winning campaign in 2010, the Kansas City Chiefs once again slipped in NFL mediocrity by winning just seven games in 2011.

Much of the reasoning for this regression stemmed from a host of devastating injuries that left the team without their strong safety and defensive leader Eric Berry, as well as leading rusher from 2010, Jamaal Charles.

With a return to full operational health and a fruitful 2012 NFL Draft class, Romeo Crennel’s Chiefs look to recapture the divisional crown.

Let’s take a look at Kansas City’s draft selections, both individually and collectively. I’ll evaluate and grade the picks in Round 1-3 in a more thorough fashion, while summarizing the remaining draftees and providing a comprehensive grade.

 

Round 1 (No. 11 Overall): Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

No single player at his respective position dominated his NFL combine workouts more spectacularly than Dontari Poe.

The defensive tackle pumped out 44 reps on the bench press and ran an unreal 4.98 in the 40-yard dash. The man is 6’3” and 346 pounds.

What?!

Despite some inconsistencies on his game tape, Poe should translate his extreme athletic ability onto the football field as a run-stuffing nose tackle for the Chief’s 3-4 defense. He’ll function effectively as a two-gap NT with his massive size, lateral agility and quickness. He won’t necessarily impress as a pass-rusher, but will improve in this area if he develops his skill set beyond violent swim and power moves.

NT Kelly Gregg ranked in the bottom half of the NFL at his position and departed in free agency. Poe will form an impressive 3-4 front between Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey. Many will speculate whether Fletcher Cox (picked at No. 12) will prove to have a more impactful NFL career. However, I believe Poe is a better fit schematically with his 346-pound frame.

Grade: A-

 

Round 2 (No. 44 Overall): Jeff Allen, OT, Illinois

Barry Richardson, the most certifiably awful right tackle in the NFL in 2011, put a smile on Chief fans’ faces by leaving the team for opportunities else where. Illinois tackle Jeff Allen arrives as a much needed depth-filler behind Eric Winston and the rest of the offensive line.

At 6’4”, 307 pounds, Allen lacks prototypical size for an NFL tackle. With that said, the four-year starter excelled in pass protection in college and looks to continue that effectiveness at the next level. He is balanced, utilizes sound technique with his hands and maintains great awareness.

Scouts project him as a guard until he fully develops. Some indicate that he will compete with Ryan Lilja for the starting left guard spot.  Others might have preferred Mike Adams, Bobbie Massie or Mitchell Schwartz as a more promising tackle.

Either way, his proficiency in pass protection and as a pulling lineman in the run game, Allen should fit in rather well with the Chiefs system as either a guard or future right tackle.

Grade: B+

 

Round 3 (No. 74 Overall): Donald Stephenson, OT, Oklahoma

The Chiefs continued to fortify their offensive line with Donald Stephenson out of Oklahoma. He offers good value and upside as a left tackle down the road.

His initial quickness, ability to set the edge and technique against power rushers all rate well above average. He also effectively pulls and gets to the second level as a run blocker. That bodes well for Kansas City’s zone-based scheme.

This was a solid pick by GM Scott Pioli. I would have liked to see him land a legitimate No. 2 wideout behind Dwayne Bowe. Rutgers’ Mohamed Sanu was an available option.

Grade: B

 

Round 4 (No. 107 Overall): Devon Wylie, WR, Fresno State, Grade: B+

Arguable reach; tremendous explosiveness/speed; dynamic contributor in passing/return game; good route-runner; effective deep threat; somewhat of a Dexter McCluster clone, but a much more accomplished receiver; durability issues

Round 5 (No. 146 Overall): DeQuan Menzie, CB, Alabama, Grade: B+

Nice value; should fill role of slot corner in nickel/dime packages behind Brandon Flowers, Stanford Routt and fellow member of the Crimson Tide, Javier Arenas; instinctual in coverage; closes well; good ball skills; excellent/physical in run support; played in complex system at Alabama under Nick Saban

Round 6 (No. 182 Overall): Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M, Grade: A-

Can do just about everything with the football; RB, pass-catcher, returner, blocker, any role; disciplined stretch runner to the outside; should hold up in NFL with 5’10”, 206-pound frame; commendable work ethic; team player; Chiefs will love him

Round 7 (No. 218): Jerome Long, DT, San Diego State, Grade: N/A

Filler for the depth chart and practice squad; little information available on this prospect

Round 7 (No. 238 Overall): Junior Hemingway, WR, Michigan, Grade: B

Solid value pick; great leaping ability; big body (6’1”, 225 pounds); will provide competition with Jon Baldwin as jump-ball and red-zone target

 

Overall Grade: B+ (depth at safety is still a concern)

San Diego Chargers Draft Grades: Grading 2012 Selections

Melvin Ingram

The San Diego Chargers finished a disappointing 8-8 in 2012 and missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season. They had qualified for January football the previous four years.

Offense has been a strength of this team ever since Philip Rivers took over the quarterbacking duties. With the help of dynamic receivers and running backs, he’s led the Chargers to a top 5 ranking in total offense every year since 2006.

The defense on the other hand has been a different story. San Diego surrendered 23.6 points per game in 2011, “good” for 22nd out of 32 teams. They need major help at cornerback, defensive end, and safety opposite Eric Weddle. In other words, as long as they drafted with high value in mind, any defensive player acquired in the draft would have been a good move.

The Chargers also needed fortification along the offensive line, especially at guard and right tackle.

As such, here are the evaluations and grades for the Chargers selections in the first three rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft. I’ll summarize the remaining picks and provide a final grade.

 

Round 1 (No. 18 Overall): Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina

Great player. Great value.

Ingram is one of the more versatile players in this year’s draft. At South Carolina, he played all across the defensive line and outside linebacker positions. He possesses elite pass-rushing skills and is very disciplined executing outside contain against the run. The man can flat out fly, generating 19 sacks the past two years with his speed. He even recorded a touchdown as a running back in 2011.

San Diego’s 3-4 DE personnel rated as some of the worst in the NFL according to Pro Football Reference. Even with his short-ish 6’1” stature, Ingram will instantly upgrade that position as well as providing depth at outside linebacker.

Once Ingram improves his diagnostic and recognition capacities, he’ll be a major force for the Chargers for years to come.

Grade: A

 

Round 2 (No. 49 Overall): Kendall Reyes, DT, Connecticut

The 6’4”, 299-pound Kendall Reyes will man the defensive end slot on San Diego’s 3-4 front. Like Ingram, he’ll provide a noteworthy upgrade over the existing personnel.

Reyes exceeded his production annually during his collegiate career. He capped it off by tallying 46 tackles (13.5 for loss), 4.5 sacks, four passes defensed and one fumble recovery for a touchdown during his senior year.

The two-time team captain is much more adept at neutralizing rushing plays than bringing down the quarterback, but has a knack for breaking up passes. His intangibles make him a coaches dream—blue-collar toughness, great work ethic, team leader and high football acumen.

With Fletcher Cox, Dontari Poe and Michael Brockers already off the board, Reyes was the right pick at defensive tackle.

Grade: A-

 

Round 3 (No. 73 Overall): Brandon Taylor, SS, LSU

Aside from cornerback, a strong safety to line up next to All-Pro Eric Weddle was the next significant deficiency in the Chargers defense. They shored up that area with Brandon Taylor, easily the third-highest rated SS behind the already taken Mark Barron and Harrison Smith in the 2012 draft.

Taylor excels as an in-the-box safety who relishes inflicting crushing hits on ball carriers. He’s a highly reliable tackler as well. Unfortunately, his coverage skills are lacking. As long as Weddle handles this responsibility while his rookie compatriot incorporates that skill into his repertoire, Taylor should enjoy a successful first year in the NFL.

Grade: A-

 

Round 4 (No. 110 Overall): Ladarius Green, TE, Louisiana- Lafayette, Grade: B

Good value; highest-rated TE on the board; another pass-catching TE behind the oft-injured Antonio Gates; OT Bobbie Massie offered better value and would have filled a much greater need; CBs available as well

Round 5 (No. 149 Overall): Johnnie Troutman, G, Penn State, Grade: C-

Don’t fully understand this selection; impressive physical measurables but could have obtained Troutman as undrafted free agent; so many more accomplished guards left on the board; really needed to fortify this position but reached for a developmental prospect

Round 7 (No. 226 Overall): David Molk, C, Michigan, Grade: A-

Exceptional value; fourth-round talent; Chargers set at center with Nick Hardwick; Molk will serve as successor

Round 7 (No. 250 Overall; Compensatory): Edwin Baker, RB, Michigan State, Grade: B-

Balanced, patience, quick, elusive; fourth- to fifth-round value; much to be desired in passing game; can sit/learn behind Ryan Matthews; why not Chris Polk?

 

Overall Grade: B+ (fantastic picks in first three rounds; neglected O-line, would have been an A- otherwise)

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