Preseason has begun. Football is back (nearly). All 32 teams are in the process of figuring out who is and isn’t, making their final 53 man roster. With free agents and rookies signed up and trades still going down, depth charts are starting to formulate. Over in the NFC East, the Giants, Redskins and Cowboys are looking for bounce back seasons as they chase not just the NFC East champions, but Superbowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles. Key additions were made across all four teams, both via free agency and the draft. I’ve picked apiece from each of the four teams and discuss their potential impact in 2018.
Michael Gallup – WR
The exit of Jason Witten and Dez Bryant means there’s a burning question in Dallas; Who in all of Jerry World is Dak Prescott throwing to? Since 2010 (Dez Bryant’s rookie season) Witten and Bryant have combined for a total of 1,162 receptions, 13,958 yards and 114 touchdowns. Big shoes? Just slightly. Going forward it seems the receiving workload will be spread about. This gives rookie 3rd round pick, Michael Gallup, perfect opportunity to be impactful for Dak in 2018.
The talented but raw wide out from Colarado St will offer speed on the outside. His production at college was exceptional (176 receptions for 2690 yards and 21 scores), but the step up to the NFL will take some time for adjustment. Gallup might not get too much time though, as he looks set to become the X receiver across from Allen Hurns.
Kony Ealy – DE
Now where have you heard the name Kony Ealy before? Yes, Superbowl 50. Three sacks, a pick and a forced fumble for the defensive end who only played 23 snaps for the Panthers against the Broncos. Fast-forward to 2018 and Ealy joins a Cowboys defense who are quietly making a name for themselves.
After a breakout year for Demarcus Lawrence (14.5 sacks) in 2017, the Cowboys will look to Ealy to bring relief for the starting defensive ends of Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford and Taco Charlton. With one a single sack in 2017, Ealy will look to revitalise his career in Dallas, as he becomes a key rotational piece in the defense.
New York Giants
Lorenzo Carter – OLB
Rotation of pass rushers was key for the Eagles in 2017, so the Giants look to follow suit in 2018. Lorenzo Carter, a 3rd round pick out of Clemson, will offer that behind star Olivier Vernon on the outside. Carter has already earned starting snaps in training camp, alongside Vernon, Connor Barwin and Kareem Martin, meaning he’s easing smoothy into James Bettcher’s defensive scheme.
Come spring, Carter could well be one of the steals of the 2018 draft. I certainly believe he will pan out to be one of the best picks the Giants have made in recent seasons. Long and athletic, Carter possesses enough speed to be violent off the edge. Like with all pash rushers, his technique needs some refinement, but that will come in time.
Cody Latimer – WR
Free agent pick up, Cody Latimer, could be the forgotten man on the Giants offense, which boasts Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley. Being the “other guy” often isn’t the worst thing. The quartet will demand severe attention from defenders, allowing Latimer to find himself in 1 on 1 matchups. His career never took off in Denver after three years, but 2017 was his most productive, with 19 receptions for 287 yards and two scores.
Outside of his receiving duties, Latimer will look to make an impact returning kick for the Giants. Special teams have been a major issue for the Giants in recent seasons, so it’s a role that could have a big impact for New York.
Derrius Guice – RB
A first round talent drafted in the second round, Guice hopes to be the flame that ignites this Redskins offense. Averaging 90 rushing yards a game, the Redskins ranked 28th across the league in 2017. Clearly, Guice was drafted to change that. Although competing with Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley for first team snaps, it won’t be long before Guice becomes the number one back in Washington. His combination of violent speed, power and balance is rarely seen and much sought after.
Orlando Scandrick – DB
An interesting move from Scandrick, staying in division from the Cowboys to the Redskins. With the loss of both Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland, Scandrick comes in to immediately play the slot position in their nickel defense. It’ll be intriguing to see how the Redskins defense moves on from Fuller and Breeland, both of who had good 2017 seasons.
Quarterbacks will continue to throw away from Josh Norman, who was only targeted 49 times in 491 dropbacks in coverage. This means Scandrick will be taking on a much higher workload alongside cornerback Quinton Dunbar.
Josh Sweat – DE
Superbowl winning teams often don’t have many gaping holes in their roster. This was true of the 2017 Eagles, who possessed great depth across all positions, both sides of the ball. Drafting Josh Sweat out of Florida St is a testament to this depth. Sweat will join a rotating pash rush of seven guys (Barnett, Jernigan, Cox, Graham, Bennett and Long), so his impact may be a minimal one.
But, the way the Eagles interchanged their defensive line in 2017, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Josh Sweat in and out of that lineup. Sweat has a lot of talent, his slide to the 4th round of the draft was more to do with injuries than ability. An ACL injury in high school has put a lot of question marks on his long-term future.
Mike Wallace – WR
The ever-productive Mike Wallace joins Wentz & Co after two seasons in Baltimore. The 32 year old brings experience and speed to the already shifty Eagles offense. Signed for just a one year deal, expectations will be high for Wallace straight away, as he teams up with Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor. The hope is that Wallace’s production overshadows last years veteran receiver, Torrey Smith, who only managed 430 yards from 36 receptions.
picture from Gridiron Now