Written By- Team Blitz
Rico Gathers (TE)
With all the god-given talent in the world, Rico Gathers certainly has the body-type and athleticism to be the Cowboy’s breakout player in 2018. The Cowboys took a swing on the former collegiate basketball player in the 6th Round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Until then, he had not played a football snap since middle school. He spent 2016 on the practice squad and followed that up by making the 53-man roster in 2017. He showed a ton of promise in the pre-season, until a concussion ultimately ended his season.
Dallas certainly has a dearth of pass catchers, especially ones who are as big (6’8”) and athletic as Gathers. With Jason Witten gone and the Cowboys having a vacant starting role, Gathers is poised to take the step that forward and perform. With the opportunity and skill present, look out for Rico Gathers.
New York Giants
Lorenzo Carter (DE)
New GM Dave Gettleman has completely revamped the Giants defense this offseason, signing and drafting a plethora of tools for new defensive coordinator James Bettcher to use in his hybrid 3–4 defense. While they have a pair of excellent inside linebackers in newly acquired Alec Ogletree and a returning B.J. Goodson, the team had a severe need for speed at the position. Enter Lorenzo Carter, the Giants’ 2018 3rd round draft pick. Carter is an extremely long, rangy linebacker who can go from sideline to sideline very quickly. While he does lack some strength and overall has a smaller frame, he is a willing tackler, has a surprisingly strong punch, and uses his arms well. In Bettcher’s blitz-happy scheme, Carter should provide an important level of support with his tackling angles, athleticism, and awareness. Gettleman loves big, strong, “hog-mollies”, as he calls them, so Carter will without a doubt put some weight on his body. When he does, he will become a force to be reckoned with.
Sidney Jones (CB)
The Eagles’ 2016 second round pick Sidney Jones was regarded as one of the NFL Draft’s best corner prospects that year. He was a consensus top-20 pick ,and teams expected him to be a day one plug and play defensive back. Last season he was considered as the 1a, 1b top corner with the eventual NFL Defensive Player of the Year Marshon Lattimore. Unfortunately, Sidney tore his Achilles tendon during Washington’s Pro Day only a month before the draft, which required surgery and hurt his draft stock quite a bit. The Eagles still decided to take him with the 43rd overall pick, knowing he’d most likely miss all of 2017. Sidney saw a total of 29 snaps and was put on the shelf to protect Philadelphia’s investment.
If Jones could return to his college form of 145 tackles, 8 interceptions, and 6 forced fumbles, look out NFC East. The Eagles will have a high caliber secondary to go along with their already stout front seven, and the defense will be primed to make another Super Bowl run. Sidney is primarily a press-man corner who does a great job of mirroring his opponent’s routes step for step and is very physical at the line of scrimmage, but has shown to be susceptible to the deep threat wideouts. It will be interesting to see how much the Eagles’ defensive success will be tied to the second year corner.
Jonathan Allen (DL)
Washington lucked out in the 2017 draft when Jonathan Allen fell to them at the 17th overall pick, as he was generally thought to be a top-10 lock. Unfortunately for the Redskins, Allen suffered a Lisfranc injury that ended his rookie season after just six weeks. However, he proved to be productive throughout the first five games of his career and was ranked by Pro Football Focus as the 8th best rookie through the first six weeks of 2017 before his injury.
His impact was noticeable against both the run and pass. With Allen, the Redskins gave up an average of 3.94 YPC to opponents and only 88 yards per game (good enough for fifth in the league at that point). But opponents YPC jumped up to 4.71 in the final 11 games without him. What’s even more impressive is the fact he ranked fifth out of all defensive tackles in pass-rushing productivity (and second among all 3–4 defensive ends) for players with at least 50 pass-rushing snaps, per PFF. In his 106 snaps that he rushed the passer (he only played 159 total snaps before injury), he recorded a sack, three QB hits, and 10 QB hurries. In limited time last season, Allen showed he is the real deal, has the potential to be a disruptive force, and will make significant contributions to the overall success of the Redskins defense. Look for him to break out and become a force for years to come.