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August 22, 2021

A look around at the NFC East: Dak Prescott's injuries, and the Giants' offensive line

Eagles NFL

The Philadelphia Eagles have hit a little bit of a lull during training camp and the preseason, as they had the day off on Friday, and a walkthrough on Saturday, so we'll turn our attention this morning to the rest of the NFC East.

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Dak Prescott 'may not be [100 percent] all season long'

During halftime of a preseason game telecast on Friday night, Adam Schefter raised concerns about Dak Prescott's health, which was amplified by Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk:

During halftime of Friday night’s Chiefs-Cardinals game on ESPN, Adam Schefter made a comment that felt initially like a throwaway line but that, based on the words used, seems significant after playing it back a couple of times.

Regarding Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and his lingering absence due to a shoulder strain, Schefter said, “He’s not fully back, he may not be back all season long.”

Schefter pointed to the shoulder injury and the broken ankle from last year, and he didn’t specify which injury would potentially keep Dak at under 100 percent. However, the shoulder injury quite possibly resulted from the ankle injury.

Most injury experts agree that Prescott's shoulder injury isn't deeply troubling, and that he'll be ready for the start of the regular season, However, Florio — along with partner Chris Simms — theorized that Prescott's shoulder injury was the result of his arm having to do more of the heavy lifting in his delivery to overcompensate for a weakened push-off with his plant leg. If you'll recall, it was theorized that Carson Wentz's mechanics became compromised in the wake of his ACL/LCL injuries in 2017, so that's not much of a stretch.

Beyond Prescott's mechanics and his ability to regain his form throwing the football, there's also the matter of his mobility. Because we haven't seen Prescott play in the preseason (and probably won't at this point), the general public has no idea exactly how mobile he will be during the regular season, as pointed out here by Dr. Jesse Morse:

Prescott has proven that he can function from the pocket, but his ability to make plays with his legs is also a huge part of his game.

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The Giants' OL... 😬

Giants owner John Mara spoke with the media last week, and he got roundly roasted for some comments about his distaste for taunting in the NFL.

When he stopping yelling at clouds and talked about his team, the topic of the Giants' offensive line came up, because significant concerns remain there after the first three weeks of training camp. In case you haven't seen much of the Giants recently, their offensive line has been generally awful, and a big reason they're tied for the worst record in the NFL over the last four years, at 18-64. Mara acknowledged their past deficiencies, but is hopeful for the 2021 season and beyond, via Ryan Dunleavy of the NY Post

“I think all five of the starters, plus a couple of the backups, are good, quality players,” Mara said Tuesday. “I know our coaching staff feels good about them. Obviously, there’s going to be skepticism about them until they do it on the field, and they start producing some complete games and some wins.”

Yes, skeptical fans are tired of hearing about hard work over results. Since 2013, the Giants have used 11 draft picks — including six first-, second- or third-rounders — and agreed to more than $120 million worth of free-agent contracts on offensive linemen. Why has it taken so long to rebuild?

“Some misses in the draft and some whiffs in free agency,” Mara said. “That’s the bottom line on it, but I think we’ve made better decisions lately. Are they a complete finished product yet? I wouldn’t say that, but I think they have the potential to be a very good offensive line.”

The Giants have a nice set of skill position players on offense, which might not matter much if the offensive line is still bad. ProFootballFocus says the Giants' offensive line is the worst in the NFL heading into the 2021 season, and it's hard to argue with them.

The starting five will probably look like this:

• LT: Andrew Thomas (22)
• LG: Shane Lemieux (24)
• C: Nick Gates (25)
• RG: Will Hernandez (25)
• RT: Matt Peart (24)

If that's right, it will be one of the youngest offensive lines in the NFL, if not the youngest, with an average age of 24.0 years old. For a building team, being young up front is nice, but only if the players are, you know, good.

It's worth noting that when the team shed RG Kevin Zeitler's contract, they lost their best offensive lineman, and their lone tried-and-true veteran starter. Hernandez is moving from LG to RG, with Lemieux filling in at LG, likely weakening both positions.

More importantly, Dave Gettleman spent the fourth overall pick in 2020 on Thomas, and the early returns aren't looking so great. Gettleman had his pick of Thomas, Jedrick Wills, Mekhi Becton, and Tristan Wirfs, and there's little debate that Thomas is distant fourth out of those four players, in terms of their play during their rookie seasons.

Gettleman also spent a high pick (34th overall) on Hernandez in 2018, who has been a disappointment overall in his first three NFL seasons. The other three guys along the line are major question marks. All five starters are certainly not "good, quality players," as Mara put it, or at least they haven't shown that yet, by any wild stretch.

In my opinion, if you were to group units into quarterbacks, skill position players, offensive lines, front sevens, and secondaries, the Giants' offensive line is the most concerning in the division, and I don't think there's a close second.

On the bright side, the Bears' offensive line looks equally awful. There were a lot of videos like this surfacing on Twitter during the Bears-Bills preseason game:

And if you'll recall, the Bears recently signed Jason Peters to help fix their major issues at LT 😬. That'll all good for the Giants, since they own the Bears' first round pick in 2022.

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Rookie RT Sam Cosmi seems to be playing well

One of the big question marks heading into the season for Washington is along their offensive line, specifically at OT, where they signed Charles Leno to start at LT, and drafted Sam Cosmi in the second round to play RT. Cosmi is apparently having a good training camp / preseason, as he appeared in a roundup of "11 non-first-round rookies who can pop," according to Gil Brandt of NFL.com

The offensive line was a relative bright spot for Washington in 2020, ranking sixth in Pro Football Focus' end-of-year hierarchy. So the fact that Washington released right tackle Morgan Moses -- a solid veteran who didn't miss a start last season -- tells you how highly the team values Cosmi, who earned the best overall grade from PFF among all Washington rookies in the preseason opener while manning Moses' old position. Cosmi's got a chance to play an important role in this team's attempt to defend the NFC East title.

The Eagles had a player make that list, too, just FYI.

The Eagles have a spotty record when it comes to drafting cornerbacks of late -- but [Zech] McPhearson is in position to reverse that trend after turning heads earlier in the preseason. Even if he doesn't start immediately, McPhearson should be able to contribute in dime packages alongside Darius Slay, Steven Nelson and Avonte Maddox.

My pick for such a list would have been Milton Williams, not McPhearson. Also, "spotty record" is putting it very kindly.


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