Written by The Blitz Team
The NFL regular season is almost upon us! For all the fans that have been waiting to put the 2017 season behind them, besides Eagles fans, of course, this will give everyone a chance at another run at the Lombardi Trophy. For this month’s All32 series, we are giving an outlook on what to expect from each team and give an idea how the season may turn out. The preseason gave us a little glimpse of how some players and teams are looking so far in 2018, but that is in the past and ‘real football’ is back again. We don’t know about you, but The Blitz Team is beyond excited that the 2018 season is here!
It feels like only yesterday when I wrote about the Cowboys post-draft outlook, and honestly not much has changed in terms of what to expect. Dallas is a top-heavy team, as we’ve all seen the past couple of years that when the top tier players go down with injuries the backups just can’t get the job done consistently. Already before the season starts, the resolve of the team will be tested as backups will have to make early season appearances. Travis Frederick, arguably the rock of the offensive line that is often considered the best in the league, will miss an undetermined amount of time while he battles the rare autoimmune disease, Guillain-Barré syndrome. This condition will force backup Joe Looney to step up. The team’s offensive success will be driven by its O-Line, as we all saw what happened last year when Tyron Smith went down with an injury……*shudder*
On a more positive note, the team’s defense has looked nothing short of impressive. I believe that, for the first time in many years, it will be the defense that carries this team throughout the year. Jaylon Smith has looked like a man possessed, and coupling him with a healthy Sean Lee means bad things for opposing offenses. Also, don’t forget that Randy Gregory is back! Yes, you heard me, Gregory is back for the umpteenth time and looks completely focused towards playing football the way that made him one of the top pass rushers in college a few short years ago. Having him and DeMarcus Lawrence off the edge should help to mask any concerns in the secondary, especially at safety.
So what does all this mean? Described as a painting, it’s like a canvas that isn’t completely filled. There are too many injuries, unknowns, and factors that have not given enough insight as to determine how the season will actually go. If Frederick can come back earlier than expected and the defense carries over its preseason success to the regular season, then mark my words: Dallas will be in the playoff picture come December. I see the team doing no worse than last year and at least walking away with a plus .500 record, if there are no huge setbacks.
William Heiges II
New York Giants
The Giants had one of the worst seasons in team history in 2017. They finished 3-13, and had a season mired in injuries, suspensions, and QB drama. But they retooled in a huge way this offseason, and arguably their biggest upgrades came in the front office with General Manager Dave Gettleman and on the sidelines with Head Coach Pat Shurmur.
On offense, Number 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley is considered by some as the second coming of Barry Sanders. Nate Solder and Will Hernandez are massive improvements to an offensive line that was swiss cheese in 2017. Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard will return from injury to join Evan Engram in a dynamic receiving corps. And Eli Manning should see a pretty significant jump in production with a much more creative offensive system. On defense, the switch to a 3-4 scheme makes a lot of sense. Damon “Snacks” Harrison is one of the best run-stoppers in the league, and he is surrounded by a plethora of pass rushers. Kareem Martin and Alec Ogletree join B.J. Goodson and Olivier Vernon to form a very strong linebacking corps, and rookie Lorenzo Carter has looked very strong in preseason. Landon Collins and Janoris Jenkins remain in the secondary as top-tier players at their respective positions.
New York’s season will come down to three issues. 1) Offensive line: While improved, the right side of that unit has looked very shaky in preseason and will need to pull it together. 2) Secondary: Their cornerbacks are extremely thin if Eli Apple doesn’t rebound from last year. Free safety has no proven starter. 3) Schedule: The Giants’ schedule is BRUTAL through week 7 — aside from the Houston Texans, who will be getting star QB Deshaun Watson back from injury, their opponents’ average 2017 winning percentage was 0.667. They have to win at least 3 of these games to have a chance at the playoffs. If these three factors go in New York’s favor, they will easily be a playoff contender. If not, get ready for another early draft pick in 2019.
The reigning Super Bowl champions, who brilliantly played the underdog role last postseason without pre-injury MVP front-runner Carson Wentz, are certainly not underdogs anymore. Instead, they will play this season with a target on their back. They will also face a first-place schedule and try to be the first NFC East team to repeat as division champions since 2004. It’s currently unknown when exactly Carson Wentz will be fully cleared for all football activities, a timeline that could creep a couple weeks into the regular season. Even though backup (and Super Bowl MVP) Nick Foles has looked less than inspiring throughout the preseason, he is still more than capable of steering the ship until Wentz is 100% back. Outside of quarterback, the offense will welcome back All-Pro LT Jason Peters and playmaker Darren Sproles after each suffered season-ending injuries last season. GM Howie Roseman also replaced Torrey Smith with Mike Wallace and drafted Dallas Goedert to take the snaps of Trey Burton and Brent Celek. The backfield will be led by Jay Ajayi, who fills the void of Blount atop the depth chart, but Doug Pederson showed last year he likes to utilize the skill sets of each running back.
Defensively, Philly should once again be a force on the defensive line. Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata step into the roles once held by Vinny Curry and Beau Allen, respectively, both of whom are now with the Buccaneers. After leading the league in QB pressures a year ago, DC Jim Schwartz should once again have a rotation that other coordinators in the league would envy, and there is no reason they shouldn’t compete for that same mark again this season. The returns of Jordan Hicks (Achilles) and Nigel Bradham (re-signed) will keep the linebacking corps steady, and the secondary will continue to be led by Malcolm Jenkins and Ronald Darby, despite the loss of Patrick Robinson.
Overall, GM Howie Roseman did a nice job of filling in the gaps after losing a few notable players this offseason, as many Super Bowl teams experience after a championship. The Eagles will once again be rock solid in the trenches on both sides of the ball, and if Wentz can return anywhere close to his 2017 version in a relatively timely fashion, it’s hard to find much to dislike about this team yet again.
The Redskins are entering a make-or-break year for their head coach, Jay Gruden. The offense will look a lot different this year after deciding it was time to move on from Kirk Cousins. The team traded for Alex Smith, who is a proven winner and is coming off the best year in his career. After seeing Derrius Guice suffer a season-ending injury, the team brought in Adrian Peterson to be their lead back. If he can stay healthy, after seeing his preseason performance, he should be able to handle the 1st and 2nd down workload. Chris Thompson will be their receiving back once again. The trio of Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, and Jamison Crowder will look to help Smith get the ball down the field. IF Jordan Reed can finally play a 16 game season, then we may see the player he has the potential to be. This unit is full of a lot of what ifs, and it could go two ways in my opinion. Washington will either be explosive because of Gruden’s offensive mind, or it will end up as one of the worst offenses in the league because they all fall short of expectations.
Washington’s defense has some solid defenders sprinkled throughout the unit. The defensive line will give problems throughout the entire season as it features two 1st round picks in Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne. These two should make the linebackers life easy and help them flow to the running backs. Ryan Kerrigan is an underrated pass rusher and should be able to take advantage of the guys inside so he can win one on one battles to get to the quarterback. Josh Norman is still a top corner in the league and will trail the opposing number one receiver as the team does lack some depth behind him. They do have some needs on their defense and I see them being a middle of the pack unit. The defense will have some moments but also will give up some plays.
As far as what to expect from the Redskins in 2018, it will be based on if Gruden can get their offense to gel and produce points. Smith will keep them in games, but don’t expect him to lead big comebacks or get into any shootouts. Personally, I don’t have high expectations for Washington this season. I hate to say this about another person and I hope I am wrong, but the Gruden era may be coming to an end this season.