‘Boys Still Best?
ITB NFC East Pre: Defending Division Champs Lost Some Firepower
With the acquisition of multiple Pro Bowlers this offseason, and the drafting of two stars from the reigning NCAA champions, the Philadelphia Eagles have their eyes set on winning the NFC East.
The division title will not come easily, however, as last year’s division champion Dallas Cowboys still lurk.
The Washington Commanders and New York Giants both made big moves to improve.
On the latest Inside the Birds podcast, Adam Caplan and Geoff Mosher are joined by Greg Cosell for a four-part series to break down the NFC East. Up first is the defending champion Cowboys.
Greg Cosell: “I really like Dak Prescott as a player. I think he’s a classic case study of incrementally getting better every year in the league. I just think it’s too hard to ask him to drop back 40 to 50 times a game, not just because of him, but because of the burden you place on your offensive line and pass protection.”
Cosell: “Washington, when he played at Oklahoma State with Mason Rudolph, was a vertical receiver, and I did not think he would be a vertical receiver in the NFL. I just felt like he did not really have the juice to be that guy, even though he was that in the Big 12. And it’s kind of worked out that way. He’s never really become a vertical receiver in the NFL, so at this point in time I’m not sure what James Washington is. I’m not sure that he’s going to beat out [Simi Fehoko and Jalen Tolbert].”
Cosell: “I don’t think he’s a true feature, foundation back. I don’t think you can give Pollard the ball 280 times, but I think he can get 140-150 carries. Pollard, to me, can be used like Alvin Kamara early in Kamara’s career – when he was getting 140-160 carries, but is a really good receiver and gives you a lot of juice on the perimeter. I think Pollard at his core is that guy. I don’t think he’s an apples-to-apples replacement for Ezekiel Elliot if they want to have a back that’s going to carry 280 times.”
Cosell: “Zeke was a master, to me, at taking a run that looked like he would get four [yards], he would get nine. And I don’t think you saw that down the stretch last year. He would get four. That to me was the difference with Zeke. I just didn’t see that same kind of run. He was that way earlier in the year.”
Cosell: “I think he is a volume player more than a matchup player. He’s not an explosive athlete. I think he works really well in the short and intermediate area. But is he a matchup player in a strict sense? Even though they do line up in 1-by-3 sets where he’s the single receiver to the short side of the field, is he the guy that when you think of the Darren Wallers, the Travis Kelces, even the Dallas Goederts of the world? I would say no. That doesn’t mean he can’t be a really effective volume target in the context of their offense, but I don’t think he’s truly a matchup player in that sense.”
Cosell: “Dan Quinn made a clear adjustment in his approach. In the last two or three years, I think he started to change gradually, and last year it became clear. If I’m not mistaken, I think the Cowboys played more Cover 1 than any team in the league. And they were a big nickel defense as their base. They played with three safeties not three linebackers. Jayron Kearse was a hybrid safety-linebacker for them. Those were the main differences with Dallas [under Quinn].”
Cosell: “I loved Sam Williams’ tape a ton. He was surprisingly a second-round pick. I know from talking to scouting friends of mine that he had all kinds of off the field issues. The Cowboys drafted him in the second round because his talent is such that he was a second rounder for sure. His 10-yard split was that of a wide receiver. If you draft a player in the second round, you believe he is going to play for you this year. He may not play 60 snaps, but they believe he is going to play.”
Cosell: “I think Parsons will be a stack linebacker in their base defense because they just don’t have enough linebackers. By week 11 or 12, and I said this publicly, I thought Parsons was as good as an edge rusher as anyone in the NFL. To me, that’s what he should be doing when they go to their sub packages…I thought Parsons was a truly explosive athlete. He was recruited out of high school as an edge pass rusher and Penn State moved him to stack ‘backer. It was hard not to like the athletic skillset. The question is: How does he fit best in the league? And I personally think his best trait is rushing the quarterback.”
Cosell: “He’s a player that needs a lot of technique work…I do remember specific plays where his eyes were in the wrong place. If you’re playing off coverage, your eyes become really important. Diggs has some technique issues. He’s long, athletic, gifted, but I think he needs work on the some of the nuances of playing cornerback in the NFL because he’s going against a lot of really good receivers. Interceptions are an odd deal. There are very few guys who intercept nine or 10 balls every single year for four or five years in a row. He could have two interceptions this year and be a better player.”
– Benjamin Paul is a staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com
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