Not too many fans in the mid-Atlantic would ever think they would see these two words to describe the offseason acquisition of the Washington Redskins: "strategic" and "timely." In my opinion, coach Mike Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen have been brilliant in their approach to free agency and the draft.
They have added solid receivers in Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, and at a good price. They have rebuilt the safety position with Brandon Meriweather, Tanard Jackson and Madieu Williams. They resigned linebacker London Fletcher and added to the corner position with Cedric Griffin and Leigh Torrence. All at the right price.
With pressure from Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and Adam Carriker, the Redskins have a real chance of establishing themselves as a top-10 defense.
The Redskins were a better team than 5-11 last year. If they had adequate play at the quarterback position, it might have shown. It's easy to question Shanahan for thinking he could get by with Rex Grossman or John Beck, but his options were limited. To have taken any of the QBs available to them in last year's draft (notably Blaine Gabbert or Christian Ponder) would have been a mistake, particularly if it meant passing up the chance to get Kerrigan, whom they selected 16th overall.
Moving up this year to get QB Robert Griffin III was brilliant, and the position should be solid for years to come. Griffin likely will begin the season as the Washington Redskins' starter. Shanahan will move Griffin in the pocket a good deal with his bootleg game, much the same way he used Jake Plummer in Denver.
The Redskins faithful will have to be patient, because even a talent like Griffin is going to take his lumps and likely will cost them a game or two, but the upside is worth it. The question will remain can Shanahan (Mike or offensive coordinator Kyle) hold on long enough to reap the benefits.
Finished: 8-8 Drafting: 14th pick
The Cowboys are always active, in some form, in free agency and the draft. Jerry Jones can’t stand to have anything going that he's not involved with. Along with the San Diego Chargers, this team has often been characterized as one of the most physically talented in the NFL. Still, they have a number of issues to deal with.
Job No. 1 is to put together a secondary that can cash the checks that defensive coordinator Rob Ryan writes by way of his pressure packages. During the past two years, they have given up nearly 500 yards a game and 30-plus points to the New York Giants. They also need to upgrade their offensive line, particularly in the middle.
The Cowboys could be close enough to move up to get a defensive end, such as Melvin Ingram of South Carolina. They could also stay where they are and have a chance at defensive backs Stephon Gilmore of South Carolina or Dre Kirkpatrick of Alabama. The Cowboys would have to get to their wheeling-and-dealing history to move up and address their interior-line needs and get guard David DeCastro from Stanford.
If they wait for the second round in these areas, they could be looking at guard Amini Silatolu of Midwestern State or defensive back Alfonzo Dennard from Nebraska. A wild card-pick in this spot could be running back LaMichael James of Oregon to give them a much-needed impact out of the backfield in their nickel passing game.
Finished: 8-8 Drafting: 15th pick
The Eagles are one of the most intriguing teams in the NFL. The Dream Team that turned into a nightmare could be poised to live up to the potential. With an offseason to integrate both the personnel and scheme, the Eagles are in a position to challenge for the NFC East title. The Eagles don’t have to be very active in free agency and have 10 draft choices to move around the board to get any player they think can make a difference in 2012.
The unfortunate injury to offensive tackle Jason Peters was a big hit to take in the offseason. This clearly becomes a need for the Eagles to address in the draft. One area that is a major need is at linebacker, even after they orchestrated a surprise trade with the Houston Texans for DeMeco Ryans.
The Eagles' current starting linebacker corps is made up of undrafted free agent Akeem Jordan, seventh-round pick Jamar Chaney and sixth-rounder Brian Rolle. In the Eagles' wide-9 scheme, the linebackers have to cover the defensive line and the safeties have to cover the linebacker. In this regard, the Eagles also have to address the safety position to improve their defense.
At offensive tackle, the Eagles have limited choices. They could have the option of Jonathan Martin from Stanford or Mike Adams from Ohio State. They do have two second-round picks, so they can move up to get one of the better offensive tackles or defensive ends.
If they stay put, they should have a shot at safety Mark Barron from Alabama at No. 15. If they chose not to address these needs, they could choose Luke Kuechly from Boston College to address the inside linebacker need, but it's beginning to look like he might be snatched up before then. They also have all the ammunition (draft choices) to move up in the second round and add some offensive linemen, perhaps center Peter Konz or guard Kevin Zeitler, both from Wisconsin, or Amini Silatolu from Midwestern State.
New York Giants
Finished: 9-7, Super Bowl champion Drafting: 32nd pick
When you win a Super Bowl, you can’t think in terms of having the last pick in each round. Instead, you approach it as having the first pick in every round except the first. The Giants are in great shape, with needs to supplement the solid team that is already in place. The Giants are rarely a big player in free agency and did lose a couple of key players.
Defensive back Aaron Ross left to go to the Jaguars, and Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham signed with the 49ers. Still, the Giants did address a need at tight end by snatching Martellus Bennett away from the Cowboys.
It's important to remember the Giants were 9-7 last year in the regular season. They were also last in the league in rushing and 27th in total defense. The statistics obviously don’t tell the whole story, but the Giants were forced into multiple combinations in the interior line and, with the departure of Brandon Jacobs, might need to look into running back, as well.
New York has drafted well with its previous first selections. It hit a home run with Jason Pierre-Paul with the 15th pick in 2010 and is still waiting to see what it has in last year's first-round pick, cornerback Prince Amukamara. The past couple times the Giants picked in this area, they came up with Mathias Kiwanuka at 32 in the 2006 draft and offensive lineman Chris Snee at No. 34 in 2004.
Tight end Coby Fleener from Stanford could be available and would be a solid pick, even with the signing of Bennett, who is a solid run-blocking, point-of-attack player. The interior of the offensive line could be addressed by taking center Peter Konz or guard Kevin Zeitler, both from Wisconsin. When was the last time a Wisconsin lineman turned out bad?
Running back David Wilson from Virginia Tech might be a consideration, as would Doug Martin from Boise State. Wilson would add speed to the backfield, and Martin is the type of complete back the Giants like. If they don’t address tight end with the 32nd pick, they might consider Deangelo Peterson from LSU or Ladarius Green from Louisiana-Lafayette with their 63rd selection. Both are receiver-type bodies who would be welcome targets for Eli Manning.