The 2019 NFL season is officially underway after last night’s matchup between the Bears and the Packers. The rest of the teams are fine tuning their rosters ahead of the opening fixtures. NFC East reporter Clara Lilley, takes a look at the waivers, the pick ups, and the left behinds.
In the NFC East, Philadelphia look like the team going into the season with the most complete team. They have a superstar quarterback in Carson Wentz. The Eagles have depth at running back with rookie Miles Sanders and veteran Darren Sproles. Additionally, four time pro bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox returns from injury.
They were the one team in the division not lacking depth when they have a healthy roster. Instead, they were looking to bolster their strong starters with sufficient back ups.
Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld and veteran journeyman Josh McCown are secure on the starting roster. The Eagles still added former Giants QB, Kyle Lauletta, to the practice squad. Lauletta, who grew up an Eagles fan, appeared in two games for the Giants. He was their pick in the 4th round of the 2018 draft. He’s started two games in the NFL, with five career pass attempts going 0/5 with an interception. It’s likely he’ll spend a lot of time learning from Josh McCown and being moulded into the Philly system.
They let go of running back Wendell Smallwood, who was picked up by NFC East rivals in Washington. Smallwood has been a great running back for the Eagles. He’s picked up 850 yards for 5 touchdowns, with 12 starts in 3 seasons in Philly. It’s likely that Washington defensive coordinator Greg Manusky picks his brain for useful information in preparation for their week 1 matchup.
The Eagles needed very little to complete them, but their small adjustments have set them up for greatness against injury.
The Redskins season feels like a hail mary season. They’re involved in one of the stranger holdouts, with Trent Williams’ radio silence being a bad omen for starting quarterback Case Keenum. Their team is injury prone and lacking consistency on their offense and defense.
For the Redskins, they needed a strong wide receiver core after building on their running back position last season. They’re also in need of consistency on defense, with a mixture of underperforming talent and superstars.
It was surprising to many that they let go of preseason favourite wide receiver Josh Doctson. He was swiftly picked up by the Vikings. Doctson put up 44 catches for 532 yards and 2 touchdowns in the preseason, while McLaurin had nothing. Washington favour spreading their attack around, so they won’t be expecting McLaurin to put up major numbers. He’ll be useful to have as an options alongside Trey Quinn and Steven Sims JR.
On the other side of the ball, third year linebacker Tanner Vallejo was picked up in September. He was cut from Cleveland after the Super Bowl. He was then picked up by the Cardinals, and used heavily in preseason, but was cut while they trimmed their roster. The Redskins clearly like what they see with the linebacker, as it means carrying him on the 53 man roster. He’ll be an instant asset on special teams and provides linebacker depth.
Jay Gruden cited in a speech last season that the time for potential is over. This year, they’re aiming to be a team of production. Whether or not this roster will do it for them, remains to be seen.
New York Giants
Despite the talk to the contrary, this is Eli Manning’s last season as the starter in New York. Shurmer’s losing control that the organisation believes in Manning after rookie Daniel Jones’ sterling preseason.
This year, New York needed to strengthen depth in the receiver core after losing OBJ to the Browns. They also needed to bolster their offensive line – a sore spot that is cited as a contributing factor to their losing seasons.
The offensive line is completely rebuilt. There is always work to do with an offensive line but the starting unit is now comprised of players that should not limit anything Shurmur wants to do with the offense. Nick Gates also spent all of 2018 on IR and made the initial 53-man roster this year, demonstrating the belief in his ability. Gates, Spencer Pulley, Chad Slade and Brian Mihalik provides the team with a versatile group of backup linemen who all have the potential to play multiple positions.
As for receivers, keeping six on the roster instead of seven is a testament to Gettleman and Shurmer’s vision: getting wins. They don’t want anyone around who isn’t going to produce. Rookie Darius Slayton should be good to go despite a hamstring injury. Alonzo Russell had a strong camp, made plays throughout the preseason, and proved he can be a special teams contributor. Adding to this, he’s also a towering 6’4, so it’s no surprise he made the cut.
The Giants may have won a Super Bowl in the last decade, but their team looked far from it in 2018. With their roster brimming with youth, it looks like they’re in for a more promising season in 2019.
This offseason, the story has been Zeke’s 41 day hold out. The day before the 100th NFL regular season, he signs a $90m contract, the largest in NFL history. It’s great news for the Cowboys roster and an ominous sign for the defenses who are tasked with stopping him.
Alongside this story, Dallas have made some interesting signings. Coming off an NFC Championship contention season in 2018, their weakness in their defense was highlighted in their game against Los Angeles.
They signed linebacker Jaylon Smith to a $70 million contract extension with $35.5 million guaranteed. The 5 year extension ties him to the Cowboys for 7 years. Smith was scheduled to make just over $1.3 million in base salary in 2019, and count a little over $2 million against the salary cap. This gives the Cowboys certainty in their linebacker core, with a superstar in the role alongside Leighton Van Der Esch.
On the other side of the team, right tackle La’el Collins was signed this season to a $50m 5-year extension.
He will help keep Dak free from pressure this season, and healthy enough to remain on the field.
The Cowboys would do well to ensure backup Cooper Rush is strong enough to be a starter if that potentially happens due to contract issues. They only placed two quarterbacks on the starting roster, relying heavily on their offensive line.
While not currently an issue with their roster, Prescott may begin to question his current contract after LA Rams quarterback Jared Goff signed a four-year extension worth $134 million. This deal, which included a record-setting $110 million guaranteed, drives the former number one overall pick’s salary north of $30 million. Prescott, who was drafted in the same year, will be looking to up his current contract that guarantees him £2.1m this year. He may take a leaf out of teammate Zeke’s 41 day hold out strategy, so Cooper Rush’s development this season is a priority.
Clara is an avid NFL fan, with a passion for the off the field stories that inform the plays on the field. She used to host a former comedy podcast ‘Ice Up Sun’ combining her love of the game with astrology, and currently contributes to NFL Girl UK. A long suffering Tennessee Titans fan since 2010, she’s hoping this will finally be their year.
Twitter: @yellilaralc Instagram: @yellilaralc
Feature Image Credit: USA TODAY Sports