One Bourbon, One Scotch and One Beer...NFC East Preview By Steel Drama
1.) Bengali Tiger Giants
Stout: Once again the New York Giants showed the football world how to stop the Patriots. Pressure Tom Brady. And nobody did it better than Jason Pierre Paul who could have easily been named Super Bowl MVP instead of Eli. With 21 sacks and four forced fumbles through his first 32 NFL games (mostly as a rotational player) this kid is just getting warmed up.
On the Hops: Eli Manning excels at throwing the deep ball. He led the NFL this past season in deep attempts (109), completions (43), and yards (1,490) on passes that traveled 20+ yards in the air. Eli can elude the pass rush. He led the NFL with 69.4% accuracy percentage on snaps under pressure. Eli is a two-time Super Bowl MVP. Eli IS an elite quarterback.
Tap a Keg for the Big Boys: The Giants offensive line allowed 15 more total pressures than any other in the NFL. Yet, the Giants led the NFL in percentage of total pressure that turns into sacks with just 11.5% (see Eli Manning IS an elite quarterback).
Ice Cold Draft: David Wilson was the first running back drafted in 1st round by Giants since Ron Dayne in 2000. I mean how could Tom Coughlin of all people not be impressed with this kid? Not only was he the only player to wear a suit to his combine interview, but he was also said to wear a suit to class while attending Virginia Tech as well.
Stale Ale: In last years’ preview, I touted Hakeem Nicks as a possible MVP candidate. Though both Nicks and Victor Cruz became the first pair of Giants’ wide receivers ever to top 1,000 yards in the same season, it was Cruz who stole the spotlight this past season while Nicks nursed a variety of injuries. However, Nicks did live up to my preseason hype with 445 yards in the postseason, 148 more than any other receiver. So what does Nicks do for an encore? Breaks his foot in OTA’s further adding to his reputation as a talented but fragile player.
Bitter Beer Face: This is the face Kevin Gilbride made while being punched in the face by Buddy Ryan some 18 years ago. Gilbride may not have liked being lit up by an old man, but he does seem to like his new running back David Wilson saying, “He's got some excitement that I don't know if we've had. In this guy, you've got the kind of explosion that I'm not sure how many guys in the league have."
Bartender: The Giants signed head coach Tom Coughlin to a new three-year, $20 million contract, keeping him under control through 2014. Coughlin has led the Giants to Super Bowl victories in two of the past four years, joining Bill Parcells and Steve Owen as the three coaches to lead the Giants to multiple world championships. Coughlin will pass Parcells for second in franchise history in coaching victories this year.
Drinks are on Drama: Drama was so happy he bought himself a drink after the Giants once again deprived Tom Brady of his 4th Super Bowl ring.
The Hangover: The Giants were far from a dominant team in 2011 finishing 9-7 and needing to win their last game just to get into the playoffs. The Giants ranked last in the NFL in rush yards per game and yards per rush but in their last six games (including playoffs)—ALL VICTORIES -- you'll find a team that averaged just 82.3 yards rushing before producing 114.5 per game. Hell, the Giants were outscored this season and still made it to Super Bowl (see get hot at the right time theories).
2.) Blithering Idiot Eagles
Stout: The Eagles finished 3rd in the NFL with 50 sacks. Trent Cole has 5 straight seasons with at least 9 sacks while Jason Babin’s season was MVP caliber with 18 sacks, 12 hits, and 37 hurries. Is there a better defensive line coach in the NFL than Jim Washburn?
On the Hops: LeSean McCoy, just 23, signed a five year mega-deal after averaging 1,414 yards from scrimmage his first 3 years in the league. He’ll be only 28 when the deal expires. This just in...The Eagles know what they’re doing.
Tap a Keg: Injured Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters finished the 2011 season ranked 4th in pass protection and 2nd in run blocking. HUGE loss for the Eagles.
Ice Cold Draft: The selection of Fletcher Cox marks the 7th time in eight years that the Eagles have drafted an offensive or defensive lineman in the 1st round. The Eagles to me had a great draft overall. Getting UGA’s Brandon Boykin in the 4th round will prove to be a “grand larceny” type of selection. Bill Polian called Mychal Kendricks the 2nd best attacking 4-3 linebacker in the draft after Luke Kuechly saying he’s “blood thirsty.” Gruden at the time of his selection proclaimed, “He’s already on the all-Chucky team.”
Stale Ale: The Eagles allowed 4.9 yards per carry up middle (31st in NFL). The trade for middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans will certainly help fix that stat, but Greg Cosell believes the Eagles simply do not emphasize stopping the run explaining, “ The Eagles’ world view is clear (and has been for some time): You can never have enough pass rushers in a passing league. The brain trust adamantly believes you don’t fail to compete in this modern-day NFL because of your inability to defend the run. That’s not even on their philosophical radar.”
Bitter Beer Face: “Dream team” quarterback Mike Vick after accounting for 18 turnovers in 13 starts called his 70th ranking in NFL networks top 100 “a joke.” Eagles’ apologist Ron Jaworski has high hopes for Vick saying he is capable of turning in “the best year of his ten-year career.” "This offseason is the most important of his career," Jaws stated. "It's the first time since 2006 with the Falcons that he will go through the OTAs and training camp as the starting quarterback.”
Bartender: After an unimpressive 8-8 record with a roster that had so much talent it was deemed the “Dream Team,” I would’ve thought Andy Reid’s job would’ve been in jeopardy entering 2012. But after winning a Tom Donohoe-like power struggle from team President Joe Banner it looks like Reid will not be leaving the Eagles anytime soon. Still, despite last years’ failure, it’s tough to overlook Reid’s five trips to the NFC Championship game and a regular season record of 126-81-1 (.609) in 13 years on the job.
Drinks are on Drama: “Grab that net and catch that beautiful butterfly, pal! What do you like better, Christmas or Wedding Season?” I love weddings, always have. So an ice cold Raging Bitch, a fifth of Mad Dog 20/20, a shot of Greyhound, and a bottle of Valtrex to Mr. and Mrs. Vick. Many happy returns you lucky dogs!
The Hangover: The Eagles didn’t live up to their “Dream Team” expectations last season. The passing game struggled to get on track with Jeremy Maclin’s preseason illness and DeSean Jackson’s poor attitude. On the field, the Eagles blew five 4th quarter leads, a dubious mark that tied the Cowboys for worst in the NFL. They also turned the ball over 38 times, only the lowly Buccaneers had more. However, the Eagles finished on a hot streak winning their last four games. I do think the Eagles can win this division, but I can’t in good conscience pick them ahead of the defending Super Bowl Champs (See Eli Manning is an elite quarterback).
“Sir, if you were my husband, I would poison your beer.” - Lady Astor to Winston Churchill, to which he replied, "Madam, if you were my wife, I would drink it."
3.) Lone Star Cowboys
Stout: Demarcus Ware has 99.5 sacks in his first 7 years in the NFL a mark bested by only the late, great Reggie White.
On the Hops: Rookie running back DeMarco Murray rushed for a franchise record 253 yards vs the Rams and over a four game span rushed for 601 yards the most in franchise history. And then… he got hurt. Count Greg Cosell among those who was surprised by the early success of Murray: "He's certainly not elusive the way you think of Adrian Peterson as being shifty or elusive," Cosell said of Murray. "Or the way you would think of a guy like LaDainian Tomlinson in his prime, being laterally explosive. He wasn't quite like that. But he showed enough of it. Because you have to be able to do that in the NFL. In the NFL, it's more important for a back to be laterally agile and explosive than it is for him to be fast in terms of long speed.”
Tap a Keg: Pocket Wizard Tony Romo won’t know what to do with the extra time he’ll be afforded this season with last years’ top pick Tyron Smith making the switch to LT. Cowboys OL coach Bill Callahan is encouraged by Smith's smooth transition to left tackle. Callahan, who has coached NFL offensive linemen for over a decade, said he's "never had anyone like" Smith. "He is just very strong, very lean, very explosive," Callahan said, "and he can carry those traits over to the left side because of his athleticism." Unfortunately, the Cowboys unit gave up 39 sacks last season its most since 2005 due to the struggles of the interior line. Larry Allen where art thou?
Ice Cold Draft: Only six times in his 24 years owning the Cowboys has Jerry Jones failed to make a trade involving his 1st round pick. This year, Jones traded up to the sixth spot to draft LSU corner Maurice Claiborne making it the 2nd straight year an LSU corner went top six (Patrick Peterson).
Stale Ale: Say what you want about the underachieving Cowboys, but critics can no longer blame the teams’ failures on Tony Romo who had a career season with 31 touchdowns, just 10 interceptions, and an impressive 102.5 passer rating. He did this despite a fractured rib, a punctured lung, and a badly bruised throwing hand.
Bitter Beer Face: Like the Eagles, the Cowboys lost five games after leading in the 4th quarter. New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan couldn’t cover up a talentless secondary that gave up too many big plays including 3,906 passing yards, the second most in franchise history.
Bartender: A less impressive head coach I cannot think of in the NFL than Cowboys head man Jason Garrett. Somebody needs to clue this guy in on how to run a balanced offense. An NFL-high 87 percent of the Cowboys offensive touchdowns were of the passing variety in 2011. For perspective, the NFL average is 65 percent and the Packers and Lions were the only other teams over 80 percent. Carolina's 45-percent mark was the league's lowest and can mostly be attributed to Cam Newton's record setting 14 rushing touchdowns by a quarterback. The Cowboys' 33:5 pass:run touchdown ratio is symbolic of the Goodell Era of the NFL but to me needs to change if the Cowboys want to contend in 2012.
Drinks are on Drama: “It’s five o’clock somewhere.” Jerry Jones needs to find out where Jimmy Johnson’s boat is docked this 4th of July holiday and ship him a case of Corona and a note attached to an expensive bottle of Macallan BEGGING him to return to the Cowboys. Jerry’s last five drafts have netted exactly seven starters. Pathetic Jerry, Pathetic.
The Hangover: So why not the Cowboys? The Giants and Eagles that’s why not. Last year the Cowboys were 0-4 against them, losing to the Eagles by a combined score of 54-14. Hell, their only victory in the division was an 18-16 win over the Redskins way back in September. Two words for you Dallas…and I’ll spot you the N and the C… New Coach.
4.) Horn Dog Redskins
Stout: Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are a solid pass rushing tandem for the Redskins with the rookie Kerrigan flashing big play ability with 7.5 sacks and four forced fumbles.
On the Hops: According to Pro Football Focus, only three running backs graded out with a better pass-blocking efficiency than Roy Helu's 98.1 mark as a rookie. Helu allowed just two QB pressures on 78 pass-blocking snaps, trailing only Fred Jackson, Michael Turner, and Jason Snelling.
Tap a Keg: These days it’s all about RGIII in Washington D.C. Bill Polian said that RGIII will make the West Coast offense “special “because he can “extend” plays. I hope for RGIII’s sake that “NFL Yoda” is right because the big boys up front aren’t exactly Hog-like having given up 41 sacks last season.
Ice Cold Draft: RGIII is the first ever Baylor quarterback drafted in the 1st round of the common draft era (since 1967)and he’s only the 2nd Heisman trophy winner selected in top 2 in last 30 years. RGIII holds over 50 school records including 209 straight passes before throwing his first inception which is a NCAA Football Sub-Division record.
Stale Ale: Plenty of discussion ensued on the final day of the draft after the Redskins selected quarterback Kirk Cousins in the 4th round. Adam Schefter suggested RGIII and Cousins will have defined roles similar to when “Shanny” had Elway and Kubiak in Denver. Mort opined that the Redskins will trade Cousins like Falcons did with Matt Schaub back when Mike Vick was entrenched as the starter. Then there was Ron Jaworski who just wouldn’t let it go calling the selection of Cousins a “Headscratcher.” “RGIII he was their qb. I believe you just created a QB controversy that is unwarranted,” opined Jaws.
Bitter Beer Face: “Great speech. What do we do now?” “Just be yourselves.” RGIII did his best to put on a happy face at his first press conference. I felt kind of bad for him. I mean the kid hasn’t even taken a snap yet and he was already answering questions about the backup quarterback. It’s not like this is the first time this has happened in D.C. either. In 1994, Heath Shuler was drafted 1st by the Redskins and their 7th round pick that year Gus Frerotte eventually replaced the bust Shuler.
Bartender: The “Rat” was expected to deliver big things when he signed a five-year deal with the Redskins back in 2010 worth approximately $7 million per season. Shanahan has finished last in the NFC East the past two seasons and is 11-21 in Washington, a game worse than the records of his predecessors Jim Zorn and Steve Spurrier.
Drinks are on Drama: Drama and his buddies downed enough shots of Jager during our 1995 visit to our nation’s capital to put our host “Fat Doug” in the hospital with liver poisoning. Doug’s wife hasn’t spoken to us since and needless to say we haven’t been invited back.
The Hangover: “Hail to the Redskins, Hail RGIII!” The Redskins have started 21 quarterbacks over the past 19 seasons with only three playoff appearances to show for it. The price the Redskins paid the Rams in order to select Robert Griffin III was steep, but no doubt they had to do it.
”Rugby is great. The players don't wear helmets or padding. They just beat the living daylights out of each other and then go for a beer. I love that.” Joe Theismann