Analysis  

 

NFC East holes to fill: Will inexperienced O-line hinder Giants?

Elise Amendola/Associated Press
The Giants' inexperienced O-line could struggle to protect Eli Manning in a division with many stellar pass rushers.

With the 2012 NFL Draft and the bulk of free agency in the rearview mirror, NFL.com analyst Elliot Harrison is examining each team's offseason activity and identifying remaining holes to fill.

Dallas Cowboys

Draft Grades & Team Holes
NFL.com analysts Bucky Brooks and Chad Reuter graded the draft classes for each team from the 2012 NFL Draft, and analyst Elliot Harrison addressed what holes remain.

NFC East: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
AFC East: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
NFC North: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
AFC North: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
NFC South: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
AFC South: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
NFC West: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
AFC West: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes

Free agency: The Cowboys went out and signed a lot of mid-level players: G Mackenzy Bernadeau, G Nate Livings, LB Dan Connor, S Brodney Pool and FB Lawrence Vickers included. Kyle Orton is a nice addition as a backup quarterback, in case Tony Romo misses time in 2012. But the real headliner was CB Brandon Carr, at $10 million per year.

Draft: Dallas added to the Carr signing by moving up in the draft to get top-rated corner Morris Claiborne in the first round, losing their second-round pick in the process. DE Tyrone Crawford, LB Kyle Wilbur and S Matt Johnson were acquired in the middle rounds to bolster depth on defense.

Holes to fill: Rob Ryan's defense certainly let this team down in 2011, allowing teams to throw at will. While that was partially corrected, Brodney Pool continues the revolving door at safety and is not the answer. Meanwhile, signing two average guards could mean yet another year of mediocre line play. Run blocking was inconsistent last season, particularly from the interior of the offensive line (including center Phil Costa). Why not take some pressure off Romo and the passing game?

New York Giants

Free agency: Tight end Martellus Bennett was the Giants' "marquee" signing of the free-agency period. Some feel the club overpaid, but New York needed able bodies with Travis Beckum and Jake Ballard both recovering from knee injuries. While not a free agent, former Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers was acquired via trade and should start. The team also added Shaun Rogers just before the draft for D-line depth.

Draft: New York filled a void at running back by taking David Wilson with the last pick of the first round. Meanwhile the Giants' best value grab might've been getting Rueben Randle, a first-round talent, with the 63rd overall pick. CB Jayron Hosley, a teammate of Wilson's at Virginia Tech, was taken in the third and could contribute right away with Aaron Ross' departure. Fourth-round tight end Adrien Robinson gives the Giants another body for camp.

Holes to fill: While the Giants got pretty good bang for the buck through the first three rounds of the draft, they still have an inexperienced offensive line devoid of blue-chip talent. Tackles Will Beatty and James Brewer will really have to step up for this team to win it all again, especially in a division with Jason Babin, Trent Cole, DeMarcus Ware, Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo. Eli Manning is clutch, but like any QB, he must have time.

Philadelphia Eagles

Free agency: Re-upping DeSean Jackson was the big news this offseason in Philly, but the Eagles got themselves a pretty good player in LB DeMeco Ryans via a trade with Houston. Tackle Demetress Bell was also signed to fortify the offensive line after the devastating injury to Jason Peters.

Draft: Andy Reid stacked the defense, drafting two promising D-linemen in Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry, a guy who can run in LB Mychal Kendricks and a value grab in CB Brandon Boykin on Day 3. Third-round pick Nick Foles provides depth for the oft-injured Michael Vick.

Holes to fill: Is Foles -- or Mike Kafka -- the answer if and when Vick goes down? If the Eagles are to be a contender in the NFC, having a veteran backup might have been the better route, irrespective of how Vince Young fared in 2011. The Eagles hit offensive line late in the draft (and signed Bell, as mentioned before), but that might not do against some of the NFC East pass rushers. Time will tell if Bell was the right guy to sign. But the biggest concern in Philly might be safety, where youngsters Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman struggled often in 2011. They were not terrible, but in a division with Eli Manning, Tony Romo and now Robert Griffin III, this could be an Achilles' heel for Reid's group.

Washington Redskins

Free agency: The Redskins were quite active in free agency, although they didn't make a huge splash with one big-time acquisition. Mike Shanahan signed Pierre Garçon (with $20.5 million guaranteed), Josh Morgan, Cedric Griffin, Tanard Jackson and Brandon Meriweather. Essentially, it was a market dive to fix both sides of the passing game. Washington also brought in Neil Rackers to compete with incumbent kicker Graham Gano, as well as Jonathan Goff to add some depth at linebacker.

Draft: RG3 finally, officially, became a Redskin, while OG Josh LeRibeus was added in the third round partially to protect the Heisman investment. Washington picked up another guard, Adam Gettis, and tackle Tom Compton in later rounds to fortify the O-line. The 'Skins also selected a second quarterback in the fourth round (Kirk Cousins), presumably for future trade bait. LB Keenan Robinson out of Texas might be London Fletcher insurance.

Holes to fill: GM Bruce Allen and Shanahan did a nice job filling holes this spring, something they had to do. The Redskins have stumbled to an 11-21 mark over the last two seasons, with the passing game being the main culprit on both sides of the ball. Washington still lacks playmakers in the back four -- Jackson and Meriweather are essentially fill-ins, not frontline players capable of making the Pro Bowl. An average defensive line doesn't help matters. While RG3 was a sexy pick, there is no true No. 1 on the outside for him to target. Perhaps it isn't necessary and perhaps second-year man Leonard Hankerson will develop. But in the NFC East, firepower will win the day. Roy Helu has ability, but like most in the receiving corps, the jury is out on whether he's more than just a complementary player.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL

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