In his first NFL start in more than a year, Mark Sanchez came out with guns blazing. On his 28th birthday, Sanchez rose from the turmoil of his now-infamous “butt fumble” to shell the Carolina Panthers for 332 yards and two touchdowns en route to a resounding 45-21 victory.
This past Sunday, Sanchez came crashing back to Earth, and reminded everybody that he is still the same butt-fumbling Mark Sanchez.
The game against Carolina was indeed impressive, but anybody who thought that Sanchez was anything more than a mistake-prone backup was wrong. Known colloquially as the “Legion of Whom,” the Panthers secondary is entirely void of talent. It consists of mostly over-the-hill free-agency pickups: Antoine Cason, Thomas DeCoud, and Roman Harper. Results like those enjoyed by Sanchez are the norm for quarterbacks facing the Panthers. Therefore, it only makes sense that, against a defense with even marginal talent, Sanchez revealed his true colors.
Against the Packers, Sanchez was responsible for four turnovers, two of which resulted in Packers touchdowns. He threw 44 passes, completing 26 of them (59.1 percent), and routinely missed open receivers. He was also sacked three times.
Neither the sacks, nor the loss in its entirety, were all Sanchez’s fault. It was a complete team loss for the Eagles, but the replacement of injured Nick Foles with Mark Sanchez is not helping the Eagles’ situation.
It is true that Foles had not been playing all that well before getting injured. He was responsible for 10 picks of his own before breaking his clavicle against Houston, but he was winning games, and that is the most important thing. His team believed in him, and, the turnovers notwithstanding, he had never been embarrassed as badly as Sanchez was against Green Bay.
While Foles has one stellar year as a starting quarterback in the NFL, Sanchez has game-managed his way to two AFC Championship appearances with New York’s lauded defenses of yesteryear, and played terribly for the better part of his career with the Jets. He came out of New York with 69 interceptions and 26 fumbles in four years (68 touchdowns). Sanchez’s lack of success was no secret, and therefore it is difficult to understand why Eagles brass sought his services in free agency.
Nevertheless, Sanchez is Philadelphia’s starting quarterback now, and it is up to him to keep the 7-3 Eagles alive in the NFC postseason race until Foles can return in week 17 at the earliest. In the meantime, Philadelphia has two matchups with the NFC East-leading Cowboys on the horizon. Additionally, they will have to host the Seattle Seahawks in what could likely be a decisive factor in the NFC Wild Card race.
If Philadelphia cannot win the NFC East, they will be most likely embroiled in a savage battle with Seattle, San Francisco, and either Green Bay or Detroit for the two NFC wild card playoff spots. If Sanchez plays anything like he has for most of his career, the Eagles are at a supreme disadvantage.
Can the Cowboys get over the “hump” and return to the playoffs?
Can Tom Coughlin lead the Giants to success during another rebuild?
Are the Eagles a one year wonder?
Will the Redskins find redemption after an awful season?
My final article of this offseason, is one that the proprietor of this website (and my boss) has eagerly anticipated. So let’s have a look at the NFC East Division.
Free Agency: Having very little money to spend hit the Cowboys hard this free agency period. They now have two somewhat reliable back-up QB’s with Brandon Weeden & Caleb Hanie both from the Browns. DT Henry Melton (Bears) is a good pick-up and re-signing DE Anthony Spencer was key. Unfortunately the losses of free agency greatly outweigh the additions, as the Cowboys were relegated into signing mostly role players instead of starters.
Draft: Things went better for the Cowboys in the draft. Notre Dame OT Zack Martin is probably the most versatile O-Lineman around from this year’s class. Boise State DE Demarcus Lawrence adds speed as an edge rusher, and could become more than that as he progresses.
Pittsburgh WR Devin Street & Stanford DE Ben Gardner are good late picks.
Overview: The Cowboys were dealt some tough blows this offseason. Long time veterans Demarcus Ware & Miles Austin are gone as are Ernie Sims, Danny McCray, Phil Costa, Marvin Austin & Jason Hatcher. Due to salary cap constrictions, the Cowboys weren’t adequately equipped to fill the void. The most glaring of those was not finding a successor for QB Tony Romo, who along with TE Jason Witten are not getting any younger. Depth at WR is another concern as well. The Cowboys are basically fielding the same team as last year, and are hoping that it will be enough to get back to the playoffs.
Free Agency: Out with the old and in with the new, is what the theme was for the Giants this offseason. The new faces on defense: LB Jameel McClain (Ravens), CB’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Broncos) Zack Bowman (Bears) & Walter Thurmond (Seahawks), FS Quintin Demps (Chiefs) & DE Robert Ayers (Broncos) will give the Giants a lot to look forward to. On offense the Giants bought themselves a new O-Line with the additions of: OT Charles Brown (Saints), OG’s John Jerry (Dolphins) & Geoff Schwartz (Chiefs) & C J.D. Walton (Redskins).
Draft: Louisiana State WR Odell Beckham, Jr. may not be the biggest receiver in the class, but his productivity is without question. Colorado State C Weston Richburg has good potential, but was a bit of a reach in the 2nd round. Syracuse DT Jay Bromley will add beef to the D-Line & Boston College RB Andre Williams should be a workhorse in this offense. San Diego State SS Nat Berhe is a good late pick.
Overview: Head Coach Tom Coughlin is hoping that this is a retooling year instead of a rebuilding one. Justin Tuck, Hakeem Nicks, Ryan Mundy, Kevin Boothe, Andre Brown, Louis Murphy, Keith Rivers & Aaron Ross are all gone. Despite that, the Giants did get plenty of quality free agents to take their place. QB Eli Manning has to love the new line in front of him and the new weapons he has at his disposal. If the offense gets into a rhythm, the Giants will not be a team to overlook.
Free Agency: FS Malcolm Jenkins (Saints) & CB Nolan Carroll (Dolphins) are welcome additions to a secondary that needed help. FS Chris Maragos (Seahawks) is good depth. On offense the Eagles signed QB Mark Sanchez (Jets) who gives them a much needed veteran as a back-up. Not a lot of signings, but each one was a need.
Draft: Louisville LB Marcus Smith was a big reach, when you consider that better LB’s were still available. Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews was a gift in the 2nd round and should pay off handsomely. Florida DB Jaylen Watkins has good versatility & Oregon DE Taylor Hart is an overlooked player with great size. Wisconsin DT Beau Allen is raw, but can become a force in time.
Overview: Head Coach Chip Kelly was a busy man this offseason. Not willing to re-sign WR Desean Jackson & QB Michael Vick and trading for Saints RB Darren Sproles were big moves, the latter led to the trading of RB Brice Brown. After winning the division last year, expectations are high. Now can the Eagles meet those expectations? QB Nick Foles proved that he is the man to lead the offense, although now he will be asked to play an entire season. However, the key to the Eagles success will be their defense, which was inconsistent last season. If that unit can perform better, then another division title could be had.
Free Agency: WR Desean Jackson (Eagles) gives the Redskins a much needed deep threat on offense. On defense the Redskins were busy. LB’s Darryl Sharpton (Texans) & Akeem Jordan (Chiefs), CB Tracy Porter (Raiders), FS Ryan Clark (Steelers), and DT’s Jason Hatcher (Cowboys) & Clifton Geathers (Eagles) are all quality additions. The offense helped their line by adding OG’s Mike McGlynn (Colts) & Shawn Lauvao (Browns). WR Andre Roberts (Cardinals) is an up-and-comer and adds good depth.
Draft: Despite not having a first round pick, the Redskins were able to land Stanford LB Trent Murphy, who has good speed and size. Virginia OT Morgan Moses opened eyes during the offseason and should be a quality Tackle. Clemson CB Baushaud Breeland has plenty of potential and Tulane WR Ryan Grant is an overlooked receiver that will get you quality play. Baylor RB Lache Seastrunk adds speed to the backfield.
Overview: The Robert Griffin III trade is complete. Now it is time for Griffin to produce. The addition of Desean Jackson is key, as speed will now be a big factor in the offense. The defense has been given an upgrade and the Redskins are poised to return to the playoffs. In order for that to happen QB Robert Griffin must stay healthy. Another injury to him, would be devastating.
Does anyone know what the Texans are doing?
Are the Colts primed for a Super Bowl run?
Can the Jaguars finally move upwards in the standings?
Are the Titans ready for life after Chris Johnson?
Let’s see what happened this offseason for the AFC South Division.
Free Agency: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (Titans) becomes the new signal caller & RB Andre Brown (Giants) adds depth. The Texans helped their secondary by adding SS Chris Clemons (Dolphins) & FS Kendrick Lewis (Chiefs); NT Jerrell Powe (Chiefs) is a welcome addition. The Texans added a good amount of youth, which is what they needed, after losing a lot of veteran players to free agency.
Draft: The Texans made South Carolina DE Jadaveon Clowney the top pick in the 2014 draft, and it’s hard to argue against that. Clowney’s athletic ability is undeniable, and despite an unspectacular senior season, he should be an exciting member on the D-Line for years. The Texans got plenty more. UCLA OG Xavier Su’a-Filo is one of the top interior lineman in the draft. Iowa TE C.J. Fiedorowicz is a good big body player that can block & catch. Speaking of big bodies, Notre Dame NT Louis Nix should be a dominant force, if he can keep his weight down. QB Tom Savage from Pittsburgh may not be a prototype, but he is a good project player, and Louisiana State RB Alfred Blue should be a good all-purpose back.
Overview: The Texans are difficult to get a full grasp of. They have talent, but had a horrible season last year. Veteran players Owen Daniels, Ben Tate, Tim Dobbins, Danieal Manning, Joe Mays, Earl Mitchell, Darryl Sharpton & Antonio Smith are all gone, which has put the Texans in a complete rebuild. The draft got them several top notch blue chip players, but there is still no legitimate QB on the roster, and longtime standout WR Andre Johnson has been looking for a trade. The Texans have set a strong foundation, but it could be awhile more for them to be considered a top team.
Free Agency: LB D’Qwell Jackson (Browns) & DE Arthur Jones (Ravens) will help the defense a lot. WR Hakeem Nicks (Panthers) will help spread the field.
Draft: The Colts had to wait for the 2nd round to pick and they grabbed Ohio State OT Jack Mewhort, a solid if unspectacular lineman. Mississippi WR Donte Moncrief is a potential steal in the 3rd round, and Western Kentucky LB Andrew Jackson is a good late round pick.
Overview: Despite losing Antoine Bethea & Donald Brown and having only 5 draft picks, the Colts are well equipped to make a deep run into the playoffs. QB Andrew Luck is in his third year, and he could be ready to lead this team to Super Sunday.
Free Agency: The Jaguars had lots of cash to spend, and unlike the Raiders, they spent it wisely. On defense they snagged 3 DE’s, Red Bryant, Chris Clemons (both Seahawks) & Ziggy Hood (Steelers), and LB Dekoda Watson (Buccaneers). On offense OG Zane Beadles (Broncos) & RB Toby Gerhart (Vikings) are major upgrades, while WR Tandon Doss (Ravens) & FB Bradie Ewing (Falcons) add good depth.
Draft: The Jaguars surprised everyone when they selected Central Florida QB Blake Bortles to be the heir apparent. He has the measureables to be a top QB in this league. The Jaguars then drafted a pair of shiny toys for their future QB; WR’s Marqise Lee from USC & Allen Robinson from Penn State. These receivers have bright futures ahead of them. Miami OG Brandon Linder adds beef to the O-Line, while Oklahoma CB Aaron Colvin is a splendid mid round pick. Florida State LB Telvin Smith & Arkansas DE Chris Smith are good depth picks, and Central Florida RB Storm Johnson is the icing on the cake.
Overview: Head Coach Gus Bradley is ready to make his mark on the team, as he has assembled a new foundation of players to get the Jaguars back to winning. The loss of RB Maurice Jones-Drew signals a new era in Jacksonville, and while the Jaguars may not be contenders overnight, they definitely took a big step forward in returning to their old winning ways.
Free Agency: The Titans got more solid on defense with the signings of LB Wesley Woodyard (Broncos) NT Al Woods (Steelers) & DE Shaun Phillips (Broncos). On offense OT Michael Oher (Ravens) & OG Eric Olsen (Steelers) should provide stability. While WR’s Dexter McCluster (Chiefs) & Brian Robiskie (Falcons) will give the Titans some much needed firepower. QB Charlie Whitehurst (Chargers) is a very good back-up.
Draft: Michigan OT Taylor Lewan comes with a successful college career and a big nasty streak. Washington RB Bishop Sankey provides more speed out of the backfield, and Penn State DT DaQuan Jones is a project. The one pick to watch out for is Louisiana State QB Zach Mettenberger. He comes with a lot of success, the right measureables and has played in a pro style offense. He may not have to wait to long to be the future.
Overview: So who are the Titans? With Chris Johnson, Alterraun Verner & Kenny Britt gone, the Titans have fielded some good new players onto the team. Now, can the Titans take the next step, or continue to be an average or below average team? The big question mark is QB Jake Locker. With just one year left on his contract he is in a do or die situation. The Titans have talent, now they just need to recognize their potential.
Chip Kelly came in to the NFL with a lot of question marks. At Oregon, he racked up 46 wins in just four seasons and was highly-regarded for his fast-paced offense. When he arrived last season as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, many wondered if this was just another gimmick offense like the Wildcat that would quickly get figured out. Philadelphia won the NFC East, ranked second in total offense behind the Denver Broncos and finished first in total rushing in Kelly’s first year. With a weak NFC East and players even more comfortable in year two under Kelly, the Eagles offense should once again be at the top of the league as they look to repeat as division champions.
While Kelly’s offense shined in year one, it wasn’t all about his high-octane offense. For any offense to perform well, the talent level must be there. With running back LaSean McCoy, wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper, quarterback Nick Foles and an exceptional offensive line, Kelly had the perfect blend of players for his attack. Following a Michael Vick injury, Foles took over. He responded behind center with an astounding 27-to-2 touchdown to interception ratio and completed 64 percent of his passes. McCoy returned to the Pro Bowl and led the NFL in rushing with over 1600 yards on the ground. Jackson had a magnificent season, using his exceptional speed to rack up over 1300 yards through the air and nine touchdowns. Cooper also had a career year with eight career touchdown catches. The offensive line was a cohesive unit and ranked as the top line in the league, sending their leader Jason Peters to the Pro Bowl last season.
Back to the upcoming season and Foles returns along with McCoy and the offensive line. Gone, however, is Foles’ favorite receiving option, Jackson. Following a rift with the front office and questionable off the field activities, Jackson was released. It is not too often you see a player released following a Pro Bowl season. To pick up the slack, the Eagles return Jeremy Maclin who is an explosive player in his own right. However, he missed all of last season with a torn ACL. They also drafted wide receivers Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff in the second and third rounds, respectively.
The chances of Foles’ repeating his nearly impossible touchdown-to-interception pace from 2013 is unrealistic. However, putting up those stats is not a fluke. Foles showed he is comfortable running Kelly’s offense and performed very well. Without Jackson, he will rely on other weapons but the Eagles should be fine. Matthews will step into the slot role and should perform well and if Maclin is healthy, he is a very good pass catcher. Tight end Zach Ertz provides a big target in the red zone for Foles and of course he has McCoy. The Pro Bowl running back thrived in Kelly’s system and will be asked to carry the load again this year. There is no reason to see him slowing down. Add in jack-of-all-trades back Darren Sproles, acquired via trade this offseason, and the Eagles offense could be even better in year two despite the loss of Jackson. The NFC East is a weak division and all teams have question marks. However, the Eagles have by far the fewest question marks and are poised to capture the division title again.
While Henry Josey has not stolen anyone’s roster yet, if he shows well in the remaining two weeks of the preseason, he will be taking someone’s job and landing on a 53-man roster.
Henry Josey, a small, quick-footed running back, was able to exploit tiny holes with his speed in the second pre-season game against the New England Patriots.
But it wasn’t just his speed that impressed.
He made reads, picked the right hole, and followed his blockers down field, which we got to see a few times as he often found himself past the front seven of the New England defense.
The level of skills displayed is far beyond what you would expect from the undrafted rookie free agent out of Missouri. He looked like a younger, more explosive, version of Darren Sproles as he made his cuts and caught passes out of the backfield.
This type of speedy, dynamic, play is a great fit for the Philadelphia Eagles and Chip Kelly’s explosive offense for all the reasons you hear of how Darren Sproles will be contributing in the 2014 season.
The big question now, and one Howie Roseman and the Eagles’ staff will have to answer in the remaining two preseason games, is can Josey prove his value over the other running backs to get on the 53 man roster. I’m high on him now, but need to see him against better opposing talent, before he kicks someone to the practice squad for week one. Behind LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles on the depth chart are Chris Polk, Matthew Tucker, David Fluellen, and this exciting new talent that won’t last long on the waiver wire, should he get there.
Episode 2 of my daily series this August, talking Andrew Luck vs Nick Foles. Featuring “G4Ds” @EasyPickem app, @ChrisWesseling from NFL’s Around the League podcast, football newbie @Maxximillian, and yours truly. New episodes released every day at 10 PST.
Episode one of my daily series this August. Featuring “G4Ds” @EasyPickem app, @ChrisWesseling from NFL’s Around the League podcast, football newbie @Maxximillian, and yours truly. New episodes released every day at 10 PST.