NFL Teams Looking for Better Results
Every NFL team makes at least a few changes every season. These teams know they are one or two players away from playoff contention. They have undergone personnel changes and filling their needs with upgrading positional requirements. These moves have been made to improve their changes to become more competitive in a very demanding league. Certain teams are good examples of trying to meet the new season with renewed hope and expectations.
The Eagles had to do something after finishing last in the NFC East with a 7-9 record.
It turns out they did a lot of things. They signed former Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount. That’s going to change the look of their backfield which was staffed by often-injured Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. Blount gives the Eagles offense a ball control style of a power back rushing formation. When QB Carson Wentz is not giving the ball to Blount, Wentz could have at least two new targets in 2017. The Eagles signed free agents Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. Wentz now has a big target in Jeffrey and a deep threat in Smith to go with possession receiver Jordan Matthews.
On the defensive line, Timmy Jernigan and Chris Long will complement Fletcher Cox. The Eagles acquired Jernigan in a trade with the Ravens and picked up Long after he revived a sagging career and earned a Super Bowl ring in New England. Rookie defensive end Derek Barnett, the 14th overall draft pick, also might have something to say about the snap distribution.
Cornerback Nolan Carroll is now a Cowboy, but there are new players in the defensive backfield. Patrick Robinson was signed after being released by the Colts, and the Eagles dedicated Day 2 of the draft to cornerbacks. They drafted Sidney Jones in the second round and Rasul Douglas in the third round. Jones tore his Achilles in March and he is doubtful to get on the field in 2017. The Eagles are hoping that Douglas (eight interceptions at West Virginia last season) can take over for Robinson sooner rather than later. The Eagles had to shuffle their roster to compete in the formidable NFC East. They had the best record of any last-place team in 2016. Wentz and the Eagles got a good start last year but Wentz was a surprising rookie early on but he could not sustain the early success. Even an 8 or 9 win season would be a success in the difficult NFC East — Dallas, NY, Washington. But other teams are also setting the tone for improvement and better results.
New England Patriots
The Patriots lost LeGarrette Blount to the Eagles, but do not expect the defending champs to miss a beat. They have re-tooled their backfield rotation, adding free agents Rex Burkhead from the Bengals and Mike Gillislee from the Bills. James White and Dion Lewis are still around, but Burkhead and Gillislee should have their moments in the spotlight. With Blount gone, the Patriots could go back to rotating featured backs from week to week.
The Patriots’ decided to trade their first-round draft pick to the Saints for Brandin Cooks, who caught 78 passes for 1,173 yards last season and averaged 15 yards per reception.
The Patriots haven’t had a wide receiver catch at least 40 passes while averaging 15 yards a catch since Randy Moss in 2009. Now they do. Tom Brady will connect again when he sees an open Cooks. The Patriots just know how to fit the pieces into their winning system.
New England’s headline move on defense was the signing of cornerback Stephon Gilmore from the Bills. He will replace Logan Ryan and start opposite Malcolm Butler who is playing in a contract year. The addition of Kony Ealy in a trade with the Panthers was a low key move but Ealy is an under-rated defensive player. He was very impressive with three sacks and an interception in a losing effort in Super Bowl 50 against the Broncos. The Patriots need to rediscover the Super Bowl version of Ealy, or just wait until the Super Bowl that they’re favored to reach again next year. The beat goes on !